Friday, April 30, 2010

spelunker


\spih-LUNK-er\

noun

: one who makes a hobby of exploring and studying caves

I don't go in caves. I mean, I would if I had the opportunity, but that doesn't come up very often. So I'm going to talk about crypts (not as to say the opportunity to visit crypts comes up often, but I'm more interested in mummies than stalactites).

Can one be a SPELUNKER in a crypt? I don't know. Perhaps there's another term for regular crypt-diving.

A while back I read a profile in National Geographic about a famous crypt in the depths of the Capuchin monastery in Palermo, Sicily. The catacomb holds nearly 2,000 dead, most from the 19th century. Apparently this is somewhat of a Sicilian phenomenon; the author states the greatest collection of preserved corpses in Europe occurs in Sicily, "where the relationship between the living and the dead is especially strong."

I wonder if my being Sicilian has anything to do with my innate fascination with death. I say "innate" because, since I can remember, I have had an attraction to death. Okay, that's admittedly vague—I suppose everyone is somewhat enthralled by the illusory qualities of the unknown, but I was really interested as a child, even before I had experienced it first hand. Halloween was always my favorite day of the year—not because of candy or dressing up, but because it felt like this moment when two worlds, the living and the dead, somehow met. And I wanted to be at their junction. I was preoccupied with ghost stories and films that dealt with the thin lines between life and death. I remember first seeing Beetlejuice at around age nine and thinking, Finally. Someone gets it.

I have always been attracted to the aesthetics of death—skeletons, specifically. So it doesn't surprise me at all that I want to SPELUNK the Capuchin catacombs. It excites me when I think about being in the presence of all that death. But I wonder where this attraction comes from; maybe I was born with it (although it could be Maybelline). Is it my Sicilian roots that render me so propelled toward the world of the deceased?

I don't know. It's a long shot. But that National Geographic article said it before I did. I'm just an Italian that wants to go look at a bunch of 200-year-old corpses.




Thursday, April 29, 2010

palimpsest


\PAL-imp-sest\

noun

1 : writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased
2 : something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface

I passed and received a lot of notes in junior high school. Writing notes was this strange phenomenon that seemed almost exclusive to this era. I mean, I'm sure there was some note passing in high school, but I have an entire shoe box full of saved notes, mostly from the seventh and eighth grade.

One had to be careful of what was revealed in these notes, of course. This risky passing of signed, documented evidence had to be meticulously executed, in case the paper ended up in the wrong hands. Notes were often vague, coded, or written in a language only the recipient could understand. It was even tougher when there was info to which the recipient could not be privy—in the case of a spurious note written on behalf of someone else attempting to gain information. Since you are sort of friends with her, I need you to write her a note and find out if she likes him. This was common, if not frequent.

One thing I was always careful about was the crossing out of words—an act that always raised suspicion. Since most notes were written with ball-point pen, mistakes were difficult to conceal. If one had to cross something out, it had to be done completely— the word could inevitably be deciphered from under a half-assed attempt. Using dark marker to cover up a word was useless—all one had to do was hold the paper up to the light, and the ink-pressed letters were clear as day. If you wrote in pencil, you were simply a fool. An erased word only rendered the note a PALIMPSEST; an attempt that made us laugh to ourselves thinking, nice try.

My method was to draw a rectangle around the questionable word or phrase and fill in the center with ink, first vertically and then crosshatching. This ensured both that the word was indecipherable and the originally pressed letters blended with the hard-pressed second layer of ink. This was really the only way.

And if the material was particularly perilous, I would begin on a new sheet of paper.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

clement


\KLEM-unt\

adjective

1 : inclined to be merciful : lenient
2 : mild

This is one of those words that I normally see in the negative form—as in, INCLEMENT weather. I cannot say I have found myself commenting, while taking in news of mild weather: "Huh—the forecast calls for CLEMENCY all this week."

As expected, the proper name Clemente translates to a similar meaning: merciful, mild, gentle. My mother dated a man named Clemente once. He was rich and wore a gold ring on one of his pinky fingers. For Christmas one year (I was thirteen or fourteen) he bought me a $100 gift certificate to BOBS—a clothing store in Connecticut (the kind of place where you can buy any brand that is considered "cool" at the given moment). This was unheard of, not only under our Christmas tree, but in my life. It actually may have been the first gift certificate I ever received. At the time I couldn't even imagine how to begin spending $100. I think he got my sister a huge teddy bear twice the size of her four-year-old body.

Although Clemente may have appeared generous (he was just rich), I wouldn't call him merciful or mild. Even at thirteen, I could tell he was sleazy by the sugary sweet tone he used in speaking to me. I didn't trust him. I even felt a little dirty spending that $100.

It turned out Clemente had a kind of INCLEMENT past—the former mayor of a nearby city, it was rumored that he embezzled many of his riches and left office with a bad reputation. He moved away and fell off the radar for some time, returning a few years later to live in a quieter town, where people may not have remembered his misdeeds.

And then he dated my mother. This didn't last very long; They dated casually for about a year. I imagine she was onto his sleazy ways as well.

I remember using part of the gift certificate to buy a long, old-fashioned white night gown. I think I was going through a phase in which I wanted to be "old-timey." When I got it home, I put it on and stared at myself in the full-length mirror. I didn't feel old-timey as much as I did ridiculous. I laughed at myself in the mirror and changed back into my ripped up pajamas. I returned the nightgown the next day and probably used the credit toward a new pair of Chucks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

soi-disant


\swah-dee-ZAHNG (the NG is not pronounced, but the vowel is nasalized)\

adjective

: self-proclaimed, so-called

Ah, "Ma Vie SOI-DISANT," one of my all time favorites, a show that died too young, as only the good do.

I've thought recently about writing a profile on "My So-Called Life," in defense of how it has absolutely stood the test of time. A few years ago, Josh got me the entire series on DVD for Christmas. Like many other things I was fond of in my childhood (pringles, the film Mystic Pizza, Spencer's Gifts—to name a few), I was worried the show might have lost its grandness a bit in the fifteen or so years that had passed since I fell under its spell.

Not so.

Creator Winnie Holzman did a pristine job at capturing not only the zeitgeist of the post-grunge nineties, but the dynamic intimacy among all of her characters. While Angela Chase is clearly the center of this dynamic, all of Holzman's characters are given the spotlight at some point, and rounded into strong figures that are hardly obscured in Angela's shadow.

Every time I watch this show, I can't help myself from thinking—this is so...real. Even fifteen years later, this has hardly faded. I watch it and I think, that is really what it was like to be fifteen—unlike other shows in which teenagers have the wit of people in their early twenties. Holzman's characters are trite and naive and unassuming and foolish—just the way fifteen year olds should be.

But, really, what I appreciate most in this series is the intimate attention to detail—the scene that comes to mind is the one in which Jordan Catalano is going off about something and Angela can't help staring at a thread unraveling from his flannel and thinking about how much this says about his life, and what her noticing says about herself. This intimate observation, this self-implicating reflection, is what really, really makes this show unmatchable.

Go and watch some, if you can. It will remind you that we are all still fifteen somewhere inside, and sometimes we need that humility.

Monday, April 26, 2010

spilth


\SPILTH\

noun

1 : the act or an instance of spilling
2 a : something spilled b : refuse, rubbish

I really, really want this word to be "spilleth," as in, "the milk spilleth over," which would be close to "my cup runneth over," which I just learned is actually a quote from the bible. Who knew! This is what happens to children like myself who don't grow up religious and don't know things like Christmas is the birthday of Jesus until they are fifteen.

So. SPILTH.

This word is confusing me a bit because I want it to be a verb, and it is not. I keep thinking things like, "I SPILTH my coffee," but this is not the case. It would be, "Watch out for the coffee SPILTH." What a weird word.

This reminds me of a story (surprised?). One winter day when I was unfortunately still living in Providence, Rhode Island, I was coming from a coffee date with my friend Robin. Walking back to our cars, I slipped on a patch of black ice while carrying a close-to-full cup of coffee. Somehow, I don't remember the logistics, I orchestrated my fall so that I totally fell hard on my ass, but the coffee stayed upright, and only a SPILTH the size of a tear drop splashed out of the lid. It wasn't that I even cared so much about the drink as I did the $2 that could potentially be wasted.

And herein lies one of the many differences between Portland and Providence: in Portland, I could go back into most shops, plead my case, and get a refill. Faced with this situation in Providence, most people would stare at you—blankly. If you are lucky, they might offer, "that sucks." Unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to know someone's friend. Then you might get some sympathy.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

repartee


\rep-er-TEE\

noun

1 a : a quick and witty reply b : a succession or interchange of clever retorts : amusing and usually light sparring with words
2 : adroitness and cleverness in reply

At the end of a witty exchange with a customer the other day, he said to me, "You know, I really appreciate your witty REPARTEE. It's refreshing."

I felt extremely honored he had said that to me.

Although I feel my knack for REPARTEE has always been present, brewing, eating at my insides, it took many years to emerge. I was a shy child and there were a handful of reasons I never spoke, even if I did have something to say (I will attribute the bulk of this to Marcie Gellar once asking me, "What's the matter Candace, cat got your tongue?" Why would I ever speak after that. Why?).

Now that I have warmed up to the human race a bit, a bit, I find it easier to be, well, honest. And honesty is usually funny. At least in my case, because I don't take myself very seriously, or seriously at all, really. Hence the REPARTEE. I'm not trying to be witty, per se. It just comes out that way.

People like honesty.

Here's some more honesty: I think this blog entry is lazy. I actually rode my bike around town all day because it's really nice out, and I think that's more important than sitting in my room writing about REPARTEE. But, I came home and still went through with it. The blog, that is.

I apologize for my laziness. Well, not really, I had a good time.

Can't...stop...telling...the...truth...


Saturday, April 24, 2010

hale


\HAIL\

adjective

: free from defect, disease, or infirmity : sound; also : retaining exceptional health and vigor

The etymology of this word suggests that, unlike synonyms "robust" and the general "healthy," HALE applies specifically to exceptional vigor present an older person who retains physical qualities of youth. Someone like Keith Richards comes to mind in the most generic sense, but what I really want to talk about here is my parents.

My parents as individuals (they never existed to me as a unit) both pride themselves on their HALENESS. My father spent a portion of his youth as a semi-professional boxer (I don't really know what semi-professional suggests; I know I've heard the venue Madison Square Garden mentioned with reverence). When I was a child he would always prompt me to feel the concreteness of his arms; "That's all muscle," he would say, as though this made up for what he lacked as a father. His figure felt domineering to me as a young girl. Hugging him was like getting folded into the side of a mountain.

My mother exudes a similar pride, although she is hardly as showy about it. Her claim to HALENESS is that she bore four children while barely retaining a pound after each pregnancy. Her self-satisfaction centers around will-power and moderation—the ability to maintain in a world of temptations. She rolled her eyes when Snackwells cookies hit the market: "I don't understand why these people can't just eat one real cookie instead of an entire box of fat free ones." We once had a car with a dysfunctional driver's side door and my mother used to climb in and out of the window. She was less exalted about her audacity than she was about her ability to fit her body through the small space.

When my parents appear together in shared space (highly infrequently) they, without fail, validate each other on their good looks and youthful shapeliness, usually in the form of telling me the other one still looks great. "Your mother doesn't look a day older than she did when I met her," or, "Your father is strong, Candace." I just nod my head.

For some time I didn't understand this impulse to boost one's ego based on his or her ability to physically maintain. I thought this was shallow and not worthy of commendation. But the fog clouding this notion is clearing a bit. Approaching thirty I begin to notice the effects that beer and eating out and taking the elevator have on people my age. As our metabolisms join in a chorus moving toward the larghissimo, I have begun to pride myself on being ahead of the game. I already eat healthy and exercise, probably because of my parents, so I can skip the lapse into overindulgence and, essentially, maintain.

I feel like this should make me feel vain or shallow, but it doesn't. I actually just feel conscientious.

Friday, April 23, 2010

collogue


\kuh-LOHG\

verb

1 dialect : intrigue, conspire
2 : to talk privately : confer

I am having trouble looking at this word and not wanting it to be something else: colloquial, cologne, colleague, even kellogg. But it is none of these words. I'm not really giving it a fair chance.

Sometimes people just see or hear or comprehend through too subjective of a lens. I don't know why I want to see this word as all of these others, but I do. Here is another example: My name is Candace, right? Most people know and understand this, and they pronounce it phonetically—kan-diss. However, I would say that about seventy percent of people who write my name out spell it C-A-N-D-A-N-C-E. Can dance. I don't know why this happens. They don't say my name with an extra "n" involved, they only spell it that way.

This could be that they are confusing my name with the similar name Cadence. Or they could just be negligent—all seventy percent of them. Or they really just want my name to be a phrase—can dance—because that is more interesting. Or perhaps they have all COLLOGUED in advance, agreeing upon the common and irritating misspelling so as to document my reactions in a psychological case study.

If so, I would enjoy seeing the results.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

alacrity


\uh-LAK-ruh-tee\

noun

: promptness in response : cheerful readiness

When I conducted a google search for the word ALACRITY, I came up with a slew of businesses that had adopted the word as their title. The ventures ranged from consultant firms to bioscience to capital investments to equestrian services, among others.

This, to me, screams of process. I visualize an individual, or a group of individuals, brainstorming in search of the perfect name for a business. ALACRITY—zeal, enthusiasm, "cheerful readiness." When I think of ALACRITY, I think of the joy exuded when the mailman arrives at your front door with a long-awaited package. This joy is unique. It is different than the joy experienced opening birthday gifts or going on a much-anticipated date or finally getting your period after it is three weeks late. Only the mail carrier (or UPS or Fedex in other cases) is privy to my ALACRITY.

I try to imagine bottling and selling that emotion, which is what I believe these businesses are trying to achieve—as though to say, If you work with us, every moment will mimic the sound of the mail passing through the slot and hitting your foyer floor. When we all know perfectly well that this is impossible.

These businesses have robbed ALACRITY of its meaning. They have tried to make it their own, and failed. I motion that we take back ALACRITY and put it where it belongs—sitting by the window, patiently awaiting the sound of those soft black sneakers ascending our front steps.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

hawthorn


\HAW-thorn\

noun

: any of a genus (Crataegus) of spring-flowering spiny shrubs or small trees of the rose family with glossy and often lobed leaves, white or pink fragrant flowers, and small red fruits

Mirriam-Webster is no fool—spring is most definitely sinking its flowery teeth into the soggy winter earth. Although I know nothing about this shrubbery other than what is offered above, I appreciate M-W's thoughtful sensitivity toward the changing of seasons.

However, I'm going to write about drags.

Entry number 35 on dictionary.com defines drag as:

Informal. a street or thoroughfare, esp. a main street of a town or city.

Every city boasts at least one of what residents usually refer to as a "main drag" or "strip." Sometimes this is the city's busiest or most accessible street. I want to get even more specific and reference the city drags that are known for their alternative shopping, restaurants, and general accessibility for those who want to "hang out." In Providence this is Thayer Street. In New Haven it is where Broadway meets Whalley Ave. In Portland it is HAWTHORNe.

Wikipedia tells me (be wary) HAWTHORNe street (note the "e") was apparently named after a Dr. J.C. Hawthorne who co-founded Oregon's first mental hospital. It also says the street was once referred to as "Asylum Avenue." This seems too interesting to be true, but I'd like to give wikipedia the benefit of the doubt in this case.

HAWTHORNe is not unlike any other busy alternative retail/food/hang out strip that I have had the (dis)pleasure to stroll. The street showcases the usual spectrum of people: women dressed in matching jogging suits en route to get their eyebrows waxed, sidewalk environmentalists in navy wind-breakers, runaway teenagers wearing tight black jeans and disinterestedly holding up cardboard signs that read, "I just want a burger," and people like myself who know all the back routes to get to the places I need to go while avoiding all of the above.

In truth, I loathe strips like HAWTHORNe. I hate having to push my way through slow moving hordes of people carrying drippy ice cream cones from Ben & Jerry's, who woke up in the morning thinking, "Let's go to HAWTHORNe today—it'll be fun!" I hate that it's a destination. I hate that, at sad, bored moments in my own life, I too have utilized it as a destination. I have walked 30 minutes out of my way to get a cup of coffee on HAWTHORNe when I could have walked across the street.

Why is this? Why is it so attractive to be on a strip like HAWTHORNe? A bike shelter on the corner of HAWTHORNe and 37th showcases a neighborhood attraction map that bears the title, "SEE AND BE SEEN." I suppose this is the poetic justice of HAWTHORNe—a place that's cooler than the mall, but inviting enough to cater to a variety of people who just want to be seen. This is fair, I suppose.

I still wouldn't mind if they plowed the whole mess and planted a bunch of spiny flower-bearing shrubs in its place.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

tousle



\TOW-zul\

verb

: dishevel, rumple

TOUSLE is a word I am used to in its adjective form—TOUSLED. I associate it almost exclusively with my mother's many fashion/beauty magazines that I read as a child while sitting on the toilet. Sometimes with the seat down. There were stacks of these magazines in both of our bathrooms, so this reading venue was convenient and ideally peaceful.

Obviously, TOUSLED would appear in some article about hairstyles or "looks." These articles would often have four options to choose from, something like: shiny and sleek, tousled, bombshell curls, and dangerous waves (keep in mind that tousled, curled and waved are ENTIRELY different concepts). TOUSLED eventually became the modern "bedhead" or "the messy look." This, I love—the "I want it to look like I did nothing even though I actually did a lot and probably could have done nothing for the same effect" look. Classic.

I don't really know where I want the blog to go from here. It's like a choose your own adventure book (I totally want to write one of these, by the way). I could talk about how women care too much about their hair, I could talk about my mother's unusual consistency with fashion subscriptions, or I could talk about the ways in which these magazines train women to both care about their hair and want to subscribe to their magazines. Actually, I think I may have said it all in this paragraph. I'm not sure I want to get any more involved on this particular morning.

I will leave you with this: I once spent close to forty minutes in front of a mirror in my mother's dining room hairspraying my bangs into the perfect shape. I was eleven and on my way to a carnival, of all places. I honestly felt like if I didn't get it right somebody would: a) notice, b) care, and c) not like me because of it. It sort of devastates me thinking some grown women still feel this way about their hair.

Or grown men—I shouldn't generalize.

Monday, April 19, 2010

frowsy



\FROW-zee\

adjective

1 : musty, stale
2 : having a slovenly or uncared-for appearance

On easter when I was a year old my father gave me a stuffed animal rabbit. The rabbit's tag (pictured above; it normally resides in a cheap frame displayed on my head board) reads "Tubby Rabbit"—more than likely a reference to the rabbit's chubbiness, but the name stuck.

Tubby is the only thing I own that my father gave me. I'm sure he gave me other things during the short interim in which he wanted to be my father, but this rabbit is the only object that absorbed any significance. Tubby was always my favorite stuffed animal; I cannot remember a time I did not sleep with him in my bed. My family treated him as a member (this is not unusual), throwing small birthday parties in his honor on easter. My mom would construct two three-dimensional cakes in the shape of bunnies, nestled in a bed of coconut shreds dyed green like grass.

I had a younger cousin, Megan, a brat in the truest sense of the term. One time—I was probably ten years old, making her five—she was visiting, and I locked myself in my bedroom because I was sick of her bothersome and insulting behavior. She banged incessantly on my door, screaming that if I did not let her in she would kill all of my stuffed animals, especially Tubby (I still don't understand how one "especially" kills something). My blood boiled. I honestly thought that if she came near Tubby I would have ripped every dirty blond hair out of her five-year-old head. And probably dislocated both of her shoulders.

I used to have dreams as a child that I was in a spaceship heading toward the sun. The only way to turn the spaceship around was to sacrifice Tubby by throwing him into the sun's flames. I was devastated; I never made the call, always feeling more comfortable with accepting that I had to die a fiery death. I would wake up sweating and holding Tubby against my chest.

I'm almost thirty years old and I still sleep with this rabbit. At this point, he is ragged, FROWSY, and molded to my body*. I sleep with him more out of physical necessity (as one who habitually sleeps with the sound of a fan, or a pillow wedged between their thighs) than out of companionship, although I still have an undeniable fondness for the animal. He has most definitely seen better days (see above), but at this point his degradation seems to have reached a plateau.

When new boys come into my life, I often show them Tubby right off the bat, as though to offer two things:

1) To say, I still sleep with a ragged old stuffed animal. If you think less of me for this, you should leave now; and
2) This may be what you resemble if you also sleep with me for 28 years.

Just a forewarning.


*He also lost one of his cheeks about 20 years ago. I don't know how this happened.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

paean


\PEE-un\

noun

1 : a joyous song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph
2 : a work that praises or honors its subject : encomium, tribute

I woke up with the song "No Rain" in my head this morning. This is always a good sign.

In the tenth grade, Liz and I sang "No Rain" at one of Amity High School's functions called the "coffee house" (I think). This was the late nighties; still riding the train of post-grunge, the BOW* community was trying to do something...cool, I suppose. I can't remember whether there was actually coffee there, but the atmosphere was supposed to be that of an intimate acoustic performance. The event was held in some weird room that stuck out like an appendage from the main cafeteria. Organizers strung x-mas lights around the room's perimeter to replace the harsh fluorescents—so coffee house-like. This is really amusing to me since I now live in the land of the coffee house.

Anyway, we had our little hearts set on doing this song. This was my first time playing guitar in public—I had my brother Heath show me the three basic chords I needed to know for the easiest rendition of the Blind Melon song, and I practiced them relentlessly on the Opper's communal acoustic that had been floating around our house since a time before my memory can reach. D, C, G. The song, of course, is more complicated, but these three chords get the point across.

I was thrilled. I didn't care if we sucked (I actually can't remember if we sucked, that's how much fun it was). We sang Blind Melon, complete with our emblematic harmonies (Liz and I always rocked at harmonizing) for a crowd of stoned teenagers on a Friday night. And it was awesome. I don't remember anything except how much I enjoyed playing and singing that silly little song with Liz.

***

Bobbie Sue and I sometimes talk about our funeral playlists, as though we will get to pick them in advance (this, by the way, is entirely possible). "No Rain" is always the first song that comes to my mind. It's just so happy and full of life—a PAEAN to the nineties, to happiness, to simplicity, and to a love of life.


*an acronym for Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge—the three towns that comprise the Amity school district.




Saturday, April 17, 2010

omnium-gatherum


\ahm-nee-um-GA-thuh-rum\

noun

: a miscellaneous collection (as of things or persons)

Every time I have attempted to throw a party in my adult life, it has been somewhat of a disaster. The reason behind this, I believe, is that I have too many unconnected friends. Throwing a party is easy and fun if all your friends know each other. In Connecticut, parties are like this. But in other places I have lived, not so much.

On my 25th birthday I tried to have a housewarming/birthday party. Tim and I had just moved into a new apartment. I invited 10-12 random people, some from work, some from school, some from home, some friends of friends. We sat in a circle in the living room, desperately trying to converse. It was painful. Tim had to work late and, at some point, burst into the party carrying a new microwave. It was my birthday gift. This night was not very fun.

After I graduated RIC, I had a graduation/moving to Portland party. Like the party above, I invited an OMNIUM-GATHERUM of people from various origins. We made grilled pizzas. It was painfully boring. There were lots of mosquitos. People clustered in groups and wouldn't talk amongst each other.

I like having lots of different friends from different places. But I have come to realize that I am not the greatest common denominator. And I have decided that I will not attempt to throw larger-scale parties based on this reasoning.

I apologize to anyone who has to attend the hodge-podge that will be my funeral. Awkard....

Friday, April 16, 2010

cap-a-pie


\kap-uh-PEE\

adverb

: from head to foot

I will leave you with an excerpt of an essay I am writing. I have added the word CAP-A-PIE in an appropriate spot, for the readers of this blog. I hope this is not considered lazy blogging. If it is, so be it.

But if there is any day of the year that I should be forgiven for anything, it is today.

*

I wake up and Brian is sitting on the edge of my bed. I’ve been waking up at 7 o’clock every morning this week. Sometimes even earlier. The room has this weird, ominous glow, as though warning me it’s too early to wake up. I can see shapes but not lines, objects but no definitions. I am supposed to be sleeping, so the world has no obligation to present itself in any way resembling reality. I think of this story I read as a child in which a young girl, Ida, wakes up on a Sunday at the sound of church bells alerting her of the morning service. She notices it’s darker than usual, but quickly gets dressed and runs out of the house without looking at the clock.

When Ida arrives at church she doesn’t recognize anyone, except the woman next to her, Josephine Kerr, whom she remembers died a month ago. She suddenly realizes that the church is filled with dead people.

This is a service for the dead, Ida thinks. Everybody here is dead, except me.

Josephine Kerr warns Ida to run for her life right after the benediction. As she leaves, the dead chase her from the church, tearing off her hat and coat in the graveyard, but the sun is rising and the dead disappear. Later that day, Ida wonders if it was all a dream. She returns to the graveyard to find her hat and coat torn to shreds.

It was simple. Ida had actually gone to the earlier church service, held exclusively for the town’s dead community. She overstepped her boundaries. She crossed some invisible line between one reality and another, and suffered nearly fatal consequences due to her inability to decipher where that line is drawn.

Reading that story as a child, I was angry with Ida. I thought she was being foolish, inattentive. I wondered how she couldn’t pick up the cues—the bare streets, the darkness before dawn. I wondered where her parents were and why she didn’t wonder the same thing. I wondered what a benediction was (I still don’t know) and why she had to wait for it, risking her life, instead of escaping the minute she realized she was in a church full of dead people.

But let’s leave Ida for a moment and return to my shadowy bedroom.

“Hi,” I say to Brian. My voice is grainy with sleep. I clear my throat and push the warm clump of blankets further from my face. “You’re here.”

He smiles at me. He is dressed CAP-A-PIE in camouflage, a matching jacket and pants. I notice he is wearing his boots. Anyone wearing shoes near a bed makes me nervous. I know shoes mean the person is going somewhere, most likely soon.

“You’re wearing the camo,” I say.

“You know I was wearing the camo,” he replies. His voice is hollow, like a fuzzy tape recording of itself. But then again, it always sounds like this. We stare at each other for a moment, the way two people do before they are about to embark on a voyage after which their lives will not be the same. I move my knee so it brushes against his thigh. Only a blanket and a sheet separate us. In the cloudy remnants of night, this is what I believe.

Of course, Brian is not actually sitting on the edge of my bed. He has been dead for sixteen years—as of today. If I ever tell you something like, Brian is sitting on the edge of my bed, you should realize I'm on the other side of what I will now refer to as the Ida line—the barrier between two realities that is as obscure as the titles of my books in the darkness of 7 o'clock on an April morning.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

scour


\SKOW-er\

verb

1 : to move about quickly especially in search
2 : to go through or range over in or as if in a search

When I was a kid, my mother and I often spent Saturday mornings SCOURING the interiors of cardboard boxes and the sun-warmed surfaces of fold-out card tables for junk. Specifically—jewelry. We would drive around looking for yard sales (which we always called "tag" sales, but apparently that terminology is not universal), and usually spent most of our minimal cash on gaudy costume jewelry. My mother usually had an eye out for clip-on earrings (she never pierced) while I liked big, draping necklaces and, more importantly, rings.

My most cherished tag sale find was a vintage mood ring that I acquired when I was 11. The mood element no longer functioned, but I loved the gypsy-like look the ring possessed. There was something about the ring that I thought was kind of...mystical? magical? I was going through this phase in which I really, really wanted to have magical powers. I thought maybe this ring could bring me there. (Not so.)

Anyway, at some point I had carved the initials C B on the back of the ring with a sewing needle. This was during my major crush on Jonathan Brandis. (Candace Brandis. Classic.) I lied to my friends saying that the letters were on the ring when I purchased it, SO OBVIOUSLY JONATHAN AND I WERE MEANT TO BE. (Also not so.) I lied about random stuff a lot; I often wonder how believable I was, or if they were just laughing at me behind my idealistic back.

I eventually grew a distaste toward JB, but the ring gained an even greater significance when I fell in love with a boy named Brian* two years later. Then I thought the ring really did mean something, although I was too in love to share that with anyone. It was too private. I wanted that knowledge only for myself.

I am the kind of person who never loses anything. I could draw you a map of how to arrive at the precise location of any one of my belongings, here in Portland or even hidden away in a crate in my old bedroom in Connecticut. I am organized. I am meticulous. But somehow, probably by some horrible circumstance outside my power, I lost that ring. The day I realized I had lost it I was still living and sleeping in the same bedroom I had since the ring came into my life. I tore that room apart. I SCOURED every inch of that space, looked in every box, moved all of the furniture and then moved it some more, pulled up the edges of the carpeting, felt the undersides of surfaces in case I had taped it under something in some attempt to hide it from myself (I have no idea why I would have done this). But it was gone.

The SCOURING happened at regular intervals. I would let myself be sad for a while, and then I would grow insanely angry and proceed to rip the room apart, thinking that I may have missed a spot. I called everyone I knew hoping that someone had borrowed it, or even stolen it, and I could beg them to give it back. But I had no luck.

This is the only thing I ever lost that I still want back.

It may actually be the only thing I ever lost.

IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS RING OR HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON ITS WHEREABOUTS PLEASE CONTACT ME.


*I feel like this is a good time to point out both Jonathan Brandis and Brian committed suicide. (I have to confess that it crossed my mind it may have had something to do with the ring...)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

vulnerable


\VUL-nuh-ruh-bul\

adjective

1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2: open to attack or damage : assailable

When my friend Julie and I were in college, we had a lot of boy drama. There were many afternoons spent in the front seats of my Nissan Sentra, parked in a crowded lot behind Rhode Island College, me with a mug of earl grey (some things never change), her with a diet coke (also unchanging), overanalyzing whatever confusing thing some given boy had said to either of us, pausing every once in a while for me to say, Okay, I really have to do some work now, seriously.

One of the rules we had in all of our rants was never to use the word VULNERABLE. We both believed the V-word was a self-fulfilling prophecy—if you said it, you were it.

The hilarity of those moments is that everyone is VULNERABLE, whether you say it or not. And it's totally subjective—points of attack are as diverse as the current selection of frozen dinners in the freezer aisle of your local grocer (choice is a serious issue in our culture, but I digress...).

It's something to take comfort in, you know, being human. As much as I hate to accept it, I suppose we're all in the same boat.

And need I remind the reader that velociraptors never attack the same spot of the electric fence more than once.

Clever.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

cordial


\KOR-jul\

adjective

1 : tending to revive, cheer, or invigorate
2 a : sincerely or deeply felt b : warmly and genially affable

M-W neglected to mention that CORDIAL also refers to a candy in which a fruit filling is placed in a chocolate shell. This is most common in the genus: cherry CORDIAL. (The above image strikes me as both violent and sexual) I did locate a more exotic huckleberry CORDIAL made by the Farr Candy Company ("Quality since 1911"). I also found other CORDIALS that break the traditional boundaries: the rum CORDIAL, as well as the vacation CORDIAL mix, which includes pina colada, strawberry, daiquiri, and mojito candies.

CORDIAL also refers to a popular UK drink more commonly known as Squash, which is a fruit concentrate mixed with water or seltzer. A glorified Italian soda? We used to make this horrible drink at the coffee bar at Whole Foods called "Dr. Smoothie," which was almost exactly this. Perhaps it would have sold better under the name "Squash."

The word CORDIAL also describes any number of sweet liquors flavored with fruit, as well as many sweet fruit-based cocktails, most of which use said liquors. Here are some varieties I discovered:


As to what any of this has to do with sincerity or genial behavior, I have yet to determine.


Monday, April 12, 2010

frog-march


\FROG-march\

verb

: to seize from behind roughly and forcefully propel forward

Whole Foods outsources a loss prevention staff from whatever kind of place supplies a loss prevention staff. Since I began working there about three and a half years ago we have gone through at least five different LP dudes, some of which were far more effective than others. But I'm not going to talk about them. I'm going to talk about Denny.

Denny is our current LP specialist. And I call him a specialist because this man lives and breathes loss prevention. Denny is a small, yet solid, Chinese-American man. He wears nondescript light gray pullover sweatshirts or navy wind-breakers. His sneakers are white and clean. His methods seem instinctual; he does not watch for shoplifters—he hunts. I have had the pleasure, more than once, of watching Denny tackle someone to the ground. And it is pretty amazing to witness him FROG-MARCH a man twice his size.

When female shoplifters are prosecuted, the law requires a female witness to be present while Denny writes up his report and waits for the police to arrive. Somehow in the three+ years I have worked there, I have managed to avoid this task until very recently. While I sat on the loading dock and "witnessed," I took notes about the experience, thinking I may want to use them someday. I suppose that day is today.

This is what I wrote:

Her name is Michelle. She has stolen bread, tomato sauce, five-dollar meatless soy-free chicken cutlets, and various baby items. I have to sit here and be a witness, watch to make sure Denny, the LP guy, doesn't molest her. Or rather, that she has no opportunity to lie and say he did.

He asks if she has a baby, a husband—
"Where's your husband right now?"
"I don't know," she says.
"What's he gonna think?"
"I don't know."

She is not homeless. She has a job. She filled up a tote bag with groceries and tried to leave the store. Denny is a hawk—a second generation Chinese immigrant, 5'7", solid. I've seen him throw people to the ground twice his size. He wears white sneakers. FILAs. They're clean.

She cries and says she's very sorry. She's never done this before. I wonder if she'll ever tell her kid she got caught shoplifting baby wipes and those bland crackers meant to dissolve in toothless mouths?

I can't see her from where I sit, on a stained computer chair outside Denny's office. I'm glad. I don't want her to meet my eyes. I don't want her to see how bored I am, getting paid $14 an hour to be her babysitter.

Denny tells me to put on the space heater if I am cold. His office is on the loading dock.

Denny explains to her that stealing over $25 worth of merchandise warrants an arrest. She begs for an exception; she asks to talk to the manager.

Greg is a young man, mid-thirties, a round face with a persistent layer of stubble. He seems nice enough, but I could also see him maybe 10-12 years ago, drunkenly talking a college freshman into his bed.

Greg comes up to Denny's office. She begs him. He explains the strictness of our policy:
"If we make an exception for you, we have to make an exception for everyone."
"Can you find it in your heart?" she sobs.
"It's not an issue of my heart. I'm sorry."
He exits.

I am surrounded by machines. Generators. Perhaps a furnace. The loading dock is loud. I hear only fragments of what is being said. She pleads with Denny. He says:
"You made a bad choice, Michelle." and "You're wasting my time."

I cannot hear her timid voice over the chorus of motors.

He lectures her like a high school principle until a cop shows up.

"Am I done?" I ask.

"You can go," Denny says.