Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SOS!

Last night I came home from work, ate some chips and salsa, opened a beer and then ate a piece of cold pizza. I fell asleep in my clothes with the laptop on top of me.

I think the fatigue and breakneck speed of my summer work schedule is turning me into a dude.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Free Association

Get ready for lots of sentence fragments.

Crazy busy here; no time to craft a well-written elegy for Michael Jackson. He was my first love, though. I was infatuated, deeply in love with him when I was eight or nine years old. I was convinced that if I wrote him enough fan letters that he would meet me and insist on marrying me right away and Janet and LaToya would be the coolest sisters-in-law in the world. All my girlfriends love him as much as I did. There was a shop in downtown Eureka Springs that sold all manner of Michael Jackson paraphernalia. We were all over things like lavender pleather slouchy purses with his photo screenprinted on the front, huge posters (the yellow sweater vest poster and the Beat It jacket ones being the most popular).


Even after all these years, his music is what you want to play when you want every last person on the dancefloor.

Rest In Peace, Michael. I mean that. Your life seemed anything but peaceful and I believe you carried around a great deal of emotional pain. Please know that your music brought happiness to the entire world and that is incredibly special.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not All Doom and Gloom

Far from it, actually. Here are some highlights from the past few weeks:

Okay, so everyone in Fayetteville will know what I'm talking about here. This was the night of the crazy sky. I've seen much better photos of it, but had to at least take a stab at capturing it.

Two weeks ago, we took students to Silver Dollar City. Stella came with us. We hadn't been in like six years. It's silly, overpriced, and tacky and we wouldn't have it any other way!
At the end of a long day of crappy food, roller coasters, and water rides.
We drove through Beavertown. I am forever in love with this bridge.

Last weekend we spent the Summer Solstice driving out to my favorite spot probably in all of Arkansas: the Kings River. Something changes inside me, deep into my tissues and cells, when I start driving down Rockhouse Road. I can feel my body relaxing, my brain slowing down, my thoughts untangling....

Stella took most of these photos:
Here's Stella's friend Chloe. I love her. And not just because we share a birthday. But that helps.





We sat in the sun and swam for hours. Stella and Chloe kayaked downriver and then paddled back upriver. We made sushi for Jessica's birthday.


I am hungry all over again looking at this. It was SO GOOD. You can't even believe how delicious these rolls were.
I also let Stella practice driving on the dirt roads. It's the best way to learn - no traffic, you have to drive slowly...

See? There's a lot of good out there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Father Of All Posts

Father's Day on the longest day of the year? Awesome.

All that extra time to reflect on the notion of Fathers. My biological father disappeared from my life when I was around seven, giving me barely enough time to love him, miss him, but never know him. It took me years to accept my step-father. Of course now that I'm adult and realize what a difficult and thankless role step-parenting is, I am flooded with gratitude that not only do I have a step-father who is loving, supportive, and kind but he was always there. Know how they say just showing up is half the work? Ain't that the sad truth with parenting, at its most basic level? Kids will forgive all sorts of transgressions as long as they are secure in knowing that their parents will always be there for them. Take that away at a young age and you get an adult with all sorts of trust and intimacy issues (oh, hi). I could be pretty awful when I was little, "You're not my REAL dad!," as a tame example. Now, I can say with certainty, "...and thank goodness, because he couldn't handle the job...and you could."

So, Papa (Richard) - thank you. I love you.

Don't you love family legacies of self-inflicted pain, secrets, and history repeating itself? I know I don't. But here I am with a daughter who does not know her father (by his choice). And here I am, for the first time, dealing with parenting with a partner who is not my daughter's father. Stella is much older than I was when I was put in this situation. She's had a long time (uhh, her whole life) to come to terms with the fact that she does not have a father who tries to be in her life. She doesn't have that little-girl craving for a father's affection and support. She has a teenager's tendency to not trust adults, to be cynical, and to dislike abrupt change. However, I must say, we have a peaceful and harmonious household...usually.

I have massive appreciation and admiration for men who raise children they didn't conceive. It takes an open heart, dedication, and plain ol' decency. You are the men who should have your own holiday.

Oh well...no matter how badly all this troubles, angers, and haunts me (don't mind me; I might be going through early menopause, or craving another baby, or just displaying early symptoms of an undiagnosed mental illness), I can rest easy knowing that I'll never reach the depths of Sylvia Plath. Any other English Majors remember this gem?

Daddy

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.


Hey! Still with me? Can't you just feel a snake of anger and hatred coiling out from that poem and suffocating you with its icy strength? I can only read that poem every five years or so.

Good times.

But I don't want to spread my darkness to other people, especially since it's often fleeting. It's important to note that there is an abundance of good in my life. I have so much to be thankful for. And I never, ever want to take a bit of it for granted. Love is all around us, if we choose to see it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hot Blooded

It's already painfully steamy and muggy every day. I'm not prepared for summer: mentally, physically, or emotionally. Things are not so smooth on the home front. Because I was always told, growing up, that I'm "too angry" or have "anger issues" or that my anger is "frightening" to others, I never know if I'm justified in my anger or not. I feel guilty for being angry and try to quash it and deny it. Because that's always effective, right? I am afraid to show anger until it builds up and becomes unavoidable. I wonder how things might have been if I'd been taught that anger is a natural and normal emotion, the same as sadness, curiosity, happiness, and love....or if I'd ever had proper counseling to work through my history and how it informs my present...instead of just bumbling around trying to fix myself in my 30s. And failing miserably. I just don't know.

All I really want to do is swim in a river and talk about True Blood. I couldn't make it through the first book in the Twilight series and teased Stella for liking something so cheesy and poorly-constructed and now look at me, hooked on the southern gothic, sleazy version of the forbidden-love vampire story. But...Alan Ball! Come on!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Attention!

Dear hate-filled, delusional, gun-toting bigots,

Please leave my country. Immediately.

Sincerely (extremely sincerely),
Alannah

Seriously - WTF is going on lately? George Tiller, the Army recruiting office in my own state of Arkansas, the Holocaust Museum....is this some kind of latent reaction to our new president? A sign of increasingly angry and violent fringe groups?

Whatever it is, I want it to stop. I would be more than happy to organize mass tolerance and diversity workshops....or just send them all to Gitmo.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not A Lot...

You'd better prepare a big cup of coffee (or dose of amphetamines) before reading any further. That's how stimulating my life has been.

I've got to hand it to D., though. Maybe he's been taking amphetamines or maybe he's just been super-motivated, but he has been a whirlwind of activity and production the past few weeks. He's transformed the garage from a dark, moth-ridden den of junk piles into an organized storage space/practice space/recording space/man cave. He sectioned it off, put up framing, insulation, dry wall, and siding. He painted the new walls and then laid flooring. It's amazing. I really should've taken Before pictures because the Afters will blow your mind.

I've been watching a lot of movies from my sick bed (thank the lord for Netflix Watch Instantly - I love you and anxiously await the addition of new titles). Puccini For Beginners, Man On Wire, Interview, Sex and Lucia, oh and I finally saw the Grindhouse movies: Planet Terror and Death Proof. I normally don't like gross-out scenes, murders, rapes, or a lot of blood but I LOVED those flicks. There was something in the sleazy, fun, 70s-era energy that I just really enjoyed. Maybe I was in the right mindset. Maybe I just get a kick out of Quinten Tarantino (always have). It's not like any of the violence was realistic, either.

More than anything, I've just been gearing up for my insane summer season at work. Look out, 80-hour weeks - here I come!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Six Four

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests.

I was my daughter's age now, 14, when the indelible image of the lone man facing the tanks was broadcast all over the world.

From what I gather from my older, more political Chinese students, China has not changed much, if at all. They live in fear of their government and feel powerless on a daily basis.

Fear of loss of power (in this case, the government's) is probably one of the biggest causes of aggression, war, and violence.

Interesting how, if you look to nature, it's perfectly "natural" to want to gain power and keep it, and destroy one's rivals, but we humans are also gifted (cursed?) with consciences that guide us toward peace and justice. How messed up is that?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Copycat

I love reading about what my friends cook for dinner. In the past few months, both Stephanie and Jennifer have both written about making Salad Niçoise so it had been kicking around in my head for a while. Here in Arkansas we're in the early stages of summer and it's already past 80 most days. This means that I only want light, cool things for dinner. It also means that I can eat watermelon all day, every day....but that's probably for a different post.

Tonight I wanted to make Salad Niçoise but wasn't going to worry if it wasn't perfectly traditional. I stopped at ONF and got some key ingredients and headed home, where I could (nerdily) set up my still life:
I used this recipe as a template, but veered off at times. Here we have sherry vinegar, cider vinegar, and rice wine vinegar mixed together to equal 1/2 cup, 2 TBS minced shallots, 1 large pressed garlic clove, and 2 tsp. mustard (not Dijon, but some whole mustard mixed with the squeeze-bottle kind). I whisked this together, then added nearly a cup of olive oil, whisking constantly to form an emulsion.

After all that whisking, I added chopped basil & Italian parsley:

I boiled new potatoes and eggs and lightly steamed green beans. I grilled two tuna steaks as well. Then: the assembly. I layered chopped romaine lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, brined olives, and the tuna steaks. I made sure to mix each ingredient with a little dressing to make sure it was all lightly coated. I sprinkled more chopped parsley and basil, and then some capers on top. Voila! Delicious. Light, savory, crunchy, and very much a full meal.

Served with my favorite extremely affordable Pinot Grigio, Gabbiano. This goes for like $9 a bottle here.