The Neighbors

Today is the seventeenth day. I didn’t mean to begin counting but after the tenth day, I couldn’t help but notice. It’s been seventeen days since I saw any of my neighbors. In theory, there should be five humans, one for each of the five doors besides ours in this building on the second floor, but of course,  it could be more. It might not seem all the strange to you, that I haven’t seen a single soul in the hallway outside of our apartment for seventeen days, but as an unemployed person who spends most of her days going in and out, it’s becoming more and more bizarre. When we first moved in, I saw the man across the hall at least once a day as he was taking his small dog for a walk. He always spoke, or least nodded, and he seemed like a good omen.

But I haven’t seen him or anyone else for seventeen days. I know that I’m hypersensitive to neighbors. A few months ago I was living in the motel my boyfriend was renovating. Our neighbors changed daily; it was important to take note of who was gone and who was still there for personal safety reasons. And yet the upstairs neighbors at the motel, who apparently practiced their WWE wrestling moves before bed each night never left. Even before living in the motel, I was working and residing on a college campus. Read more »

Cali

In 2006 Dodge released its replacement of the Neon, a compact car, with the Caliber, a five-door Sedan with a hatchback. It wasn’t until a year later, after graduating from college when looking for my first used car I noticed the vehicle that would become my closest friend. It was happenstance that I was working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where the latest cars come first as a kind of test market for potential buyers. In my short time with the company, I saw the Nissan Maxima switch body styles, and the reluctant respect given to the newer Kia models like the Optima. Customers were quick to show their approval of a car by asking for one more day on the rental, or leaning over the return counter and waxing on about “pressing the metal to the floor.” They were even quicker to dislike a car – I’d picked up more than one set of keys that’d been thrown to the ground at my feet.

cali

I knew more about automobiles than I ever would’ve without the job and yet, when it came time to make my purchase, despite my technical knowledge of things like gas mileage, safety ratings, and even future repair costs, I made a choice that was purely emotional. It was the cup holders – they light up at night, green orbs floating in the center of the car. And it was the gear stick, which instead of being down by the cup holders, was up high — even today, my right hand will gravitate to the silver knob immediately after merging on to a highway. It was the hatchback trunk with windows on all sides, so nothing was hidden; it was all there to be seen. I found out later that the Dodge Caliber had been marketed to young men in their twenties and extra features of that theme included things like chrome accessories, speakers that came down from the open hatchback door, and huge rims. Read more »

Happy Almost Mother’s Day

If you haven’t already watched the acceptance speech of MVP Kevin Durant, do yourself a favor and check out the short version below. KD uses his moment to thank each of his teammates as well as others who made an impact on him, but in the end,  it was one person in particular that made him believe in himself. Make sure you have tissues and safe space, and maybe someone to give you a hug. Don’t fight the urge to call your mother or someone else who has always been in your corner.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuNEdiMkIgA[/youtube]

What Distance Creates pt. 2

Every Morning When I Wake Up

Every Morning When I Wake Up

There’s this wonderful/terrible app called timehop, that every day will tell you what your Facebook Status(es), or Tweet(s), or Instagram(s) were from a year ago, two or three years, and even five years ago. For example two years ago today (4/28) I told Cathie Smathie, “If we were dating I’d take you out under this clear night sky, and we’d make out.” To which Cathie replied, “We’re not dating?” And it amused me so much that I tweeted it. I also Instagrammed a dinner I made for my friend Garrett, a year ago, a huge white gamecock in the centerpiece of his table and the picture. Garrett has since taken a job in Salt Lake City.We don’t talk often. Three years ago, I was up late writing a Bark post, and procrastinating by updating my Facebook status. Five years ago, Maxwell had recently released his first single in almost ten years. I would later attend his concert in Charlotte with my mother, one of my favorite moments with her to date.

If I am honest with you, and I try to always be honest with you, timehop hurts. Timehop reveals that I make the same mistakes, sometimes every year like clockwork. Timehop shows pictures of a skinnier, and more youthful me. According to timehop, I used to write Bark posts more frequently, yet they stress me out just the same. Timehop plainly states that I am not 25 anymore, or 26 or 27 and soon enough, not 28. Timehop has reminded me of the time I was fired from my job, and when I got a new job. Timehop has made me think of someone I loved then lost, made me reminisce on falling in love, and when I fell in love, again. Timehop has shown me how much coffee I drink, how seldom I call my closest friends, that maybe I use social media too much. But timehop has also shown me how much I’ve grown, and how little I’ve changed at my core. I find myself, more often than not, glad I have timehop to remind me of where I’ve been.

 

Don’t Wait to Be Sleepless: A Review of Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

Black Moon

The world is a waking nightmare – Sweet!

A few weeks ago, a Twitter friend of mine followed one of my book recommendations by picking up Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments — a book about an IT worker who unintentionally begins reading the email exchanges between two coworkers, and then falls in love with one of them. It’s a mostly feel-good novel with just the right amount of misfortune to keep it from being too bouncy, and I genuinely enjoyed watching the two main characters blunder through their lives. I don’t know, maybe I could relate. Anyways, it was through Goodreads, the social media site for book nerds, that I learned my friend had finished the book… and hated it. I was surprised to find myself upset. Not that I disagreed with her assessment of the characters (for being more than a little unlikable), or the plot (for being front-loaded) –, no I was upset because she had picked up the book because of my recommendation. She had even put it down, and come back to it — a task I was never up for, once a book was put down, it was down. I felt I had disappointed her, and that maybe my taste in books was awful.

So when I finished Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon, and was hopping around my apartment in anticipation of recommending it to my friends, you’ll understand why I hesitated before actually screaming from my car window about it. I was even more cautious because I know Ken, in a hey-the-universe-is-weird kind of way, and I almost never trust the opinions of friends of writers, no matter what sense that might make. Friends should be cheerleaders. Friends should have a mostly positive outlook of your work, even if they don’t always like what you write. Why would a friend of a writer tell you not to read her friend’s work? Maybe a frenemy would tell you not to, but a real friend would walk you into to the bookstore, guide you to the shelf, and place the book in your hands. Read more »

Imagining Will Burns

Will Burns, a tall skinny white boy who dipped in, and dipped out of our MFA program between our year one and year two. Will Burns of the perfect bedhead, Will Burns of the grey smoke, Will Burns of the vacant stare, the smirk. I haven’t told anyone, but after he left one summer night between first and second year of grad school, I kept seeing Will around town. And even after I left Spokane, moved to Arizona, and eventually to North Carolina, I kept seeing Will.

 

  • In Roseaurs, the Spokane grocery store, from behind, heading down the cold pop/warm pop/chip aisle. I called his name, and the man who turned around happened to be a Will, too, but he was not Will Burns.
  • Riding a bike down Spokane Falls Blvd in the middle-to-left lane with no regard for drivers in cars behind him losing their shit, flipping him the bird, and riding his bumper. As I drove by I saw it was not Will Burns, but instead a woman, and she was smiling.
  • In the reflection of glass in the lobby of our Riverpoint campus building. I kept looking, and looking. He had on a sweater, he was there, but I knew when I turned around he would be gone.
  • Standing at the top of the Big Red Wagon in the middle of Riverside Park surrounded by children.
  • As I was leaving the Phoenix municipal courthouse, he was across the road looking west up Washington street. How did he find me? Did he know what I’d done?
  • Coming down the trail in running shorts, scrawny legs eating up the distance between us. The sun was at his back, and I turned to TJ to say, “Look, it’s Will.”
  • Sitting at a table in the Wendy’s in a small town outside Oklahoma City.  I was driving round the side to the drive through, the first meal I’d be eating all day, but I kept going round and then out. I could not eat there.
  • Gazing into the driver’s side of my car where it was parked in my mother’s driveway. He must have felt my stare, because he turned to look up at me. I moved away from the window.

The Regulars

photo

The Drink Dictated By Rob On His First Day

Walking into the Starbucks on Huffman Mill Rd, we three are all noisy conversation, laughter, and relief. People look up from their laptops, take sips from their white cups, then get back to work. We move to the counter, studying the menu as if looking at the Rosetta stone — like we discovered a new language, like we weren’t here yesterday or the day before.

“What are you going to get today?”

“I don’t know. Something hot. Whip. Lots of whip.”

“Whip is a good word.”

At the counter is the new guy, Rob. I remember Rob’s first day, as he was shadowing Sherri, an older women who I knew to lean in when speaking to because she never spoke above a whisper. Sherri told Rob to ring our order, whispered to the floor, “Help them. They’re regulars. They won’t mind you being new.”

****

When I worked at Macy’s in Spokane, there was a woman who came in every morning, just after we opened. She always wore a blue knitted cap and sweatpants. In my first few weeks, this woman drove me bonkers. I’d watch her walk in with a Macy’s bag, knowing she was headed to the closest clearance rack, where she would go through each item before moving to the next rack. Only after she had inspected every single clearance rack in the ready-to-wear section would she approach my counter. Some days, she exchanged a sweater for a vest. Some days she bought three turtlenecks, returned a pair of pants. Some days, despite an hour or more in the store, she left with nothing. After several attempts I stopped trying to help her — she always found me when she was ready to checkout.

One day in the break room, I mentioned to my favorite coworker that I didn’t understand why this one lady came in every day. My coworker looked at me over her vending-machine-Coke.

“Blue hat lady?” Read more »

Five (Kinds Of) Fiction Books I’m Not Reading

When we entered 2014, I didn’t make any resolutions — at least not out loud. I did strengthened my resolve regarding healthy living and work/life balance, but who doesn’t reevaluate those things when they’re shoved in your face at the beginning of each year. It turns out the biggest decision I made was not what I would call a resolution, but a declaration. And it was about books. I told myself that I would be more intentional about the books I read, that if a book wasn’t holding my attention I would not waste my time. Avid readers know that there will always be another book to read, and the list will never get any shorter. So off I went on my quest, happy to rid myself of the books I felt like I should read but wasn’t really into. But then it came to me — there are books that I am just straight up avoiding, and they all fall into certain categories. I don’t know what these categories say about me, but I don’t mind sharing.

1. The Round House by  Louise Erdrich

I’ve checked this book out of the library, brought it home, placed it on the kitchen counter, and walked by it for weeks before taking it back, unread. I have purchased a copy for my Kindle. I have recommended it to other people. I cannot read past the first three pages. Melissa and Karen have both spoken expressed my fears better than I can.

2.  The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Having read EPJ’s Lost in the City and being so moved by it, that I gave my copy to my brother, I felt honor-bound to read one of his other works. It didn’t take long before I was walking in a wide berth around the chair where I’d set down the book. I don’t mind admitting that if I sit, and think about the American Slave Trade my emotions vacillate between anger and humiliation — not what I’d like to feel for an extended period of time. Avoidance? Hell yes. Read more »

Hi 2014, I’m Looking Back

In October, Cathie reached her 100th Bark, a milestone I’m sure neither of us could have predicted when we volunteered to write for our MFA’s blog a few years ago. For me Bark has been an accountability tool, a community, and also, at times, an escape. As days, then weeks and months passed and I got closer to my own 100th post, I started looking around for ideas — what could I write about to mark the occasion? The pressure was making me sick. One night, I was up late, surfing the internet and I starting reading old posts — then it came to me. As we head into the new year, I thought I’d share with you my favorite Bark posts, the ones that still sit with me in the dark, the ones that made me laugh or cry. I’m really proud to share space with such talented writers. It was hard to choose, but I thought ten was a nice round number. Take a seat, right hear next to me, and let’s go for a ride.

1. Michael Bell Public Space and How to Use It

Featuring Moose the dog, this post by Michael Bell is quietly powerful.  The theme in writing that really grabs my attention is vulnerability, and Bell’s here is subtle and endearing. He’d roll his eyes at me.

2. Tim Greenup Claustrophobia: Sleeping on an Amy Cot, Writing Formal Emails

I’d forgotten how funny Tim can be — sardonic, sarcastic, self-deprecating, slapstick and witty all in one paragraph. But again, the vulnerability creeps in beneath the humor, making what seems on the surface to be a complaint about an army cot really the honest exposure of the every writer’s insecurities so compelling.

3. Leyna Krow I do not want you to hit me as hard as you can

It helps to know Leyna to imagine her in a boxing ring, all wonderfully long arms and legs, but even not knowing her I think this post speaks to another writer’s dilemma: taking on experiences for the sake of  having something interesting to write about. It’s a road most writers travel, and have to learn to move on. Also, this post contains one of my favorite pictures.

4. Cathie (Smatherton) Johnson Someone to Catch You

This is classic Smathie. When she’s not schooling us on some Hitchcock movie, she’s breaking our hearts with posts that punch straight in the gut.

5. Amaris Ketcham I’m Fantasizing about You

I used to share Friday post days with Amaris, and every week I’d be bowled over by her posts. She takes risks, leaps from the highest ledge, and always executes the swan dive. I considered a post with her photography, but went with this post, because it’s the perfect example of how she takes a risk and pulls it off.

6. Karen Maner The (as if by magic) Masters of Sex 

Always well-researched and not afraid to lead you down a rabbit hole, this particular post by Karen on the TV show Master of Sex is probably one of my favorites of all time. After my initial reading, I sent it to two of my girlfriends and we sat together laughing and quoting lines. Her commentary on sex is hilarious and scathing.

7. Asa Maria Bradley Who First Called You Writer?

I enjoy posts that vocalize thoughts I’ve had but been unable to verbalize. This one speaks to the moment when a writer becomes a writer to herself in the eyes of another.

8. Shira Richman Oh, the Places You Won’t Go

Consistently compelling, I looked forward to Shira’s posts each week. This one is set in Germany, involves manners and boundaries and in the end, left me looking over my shoulder.

9. Kristina McDonald The Trouble with Tin Men

Dark and twisty, this awesome post by Kristina is based on the real characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

10. Scott Eubanks How to Be An MFA Student

Forever a classic.

 

If I could go on forever, I would mention this post by Melissa, this post by Jason, and this post by Casey(fitzy) are worth a read, too! What are your favorite posts?

 

The Twelve Days of Secular Christmas

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye3PSUdW2pg[/youtube]

  1. In the South, you are looked in the eye and wished “Merry Christmas,” and any response that is not “Merry Christmas” is not acceptable, and is greeted with polite disdain.
  2. For the first time in four years I was not in a retail store to hear the collective moan of my fellow employees when the first Christmas song of the season played at exactly 12:01 am on Black Friday.
  3. In 2000 Charlotte Church’s Christmas album “Dream a Dream” made history by being the one and only album by a white artist that was played consistently in my mother’s house. My eyes prick with immediate tears whenever I hear her version of “What Child is This — Greensleeves.”
  4. I have a scale of whiteness, on it a range of activities and idioms that determine how acculturated I have become to White America. Buying an ugly Christmas sweater means I have gone too far. Read more »

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