Life Goals: Grace and Frankie

I watched Grace and Frankie on Netflix partly because I was hard-up for something to watch and partly because I had heard such good things about it. There was also a part of me that wanted to support a show with two female leads in their 60s. As you may have suspected, the show is very, very good; how could a show led by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin NOT be good, you guys?

I didn't know it was going to give me fashion goals.

Lily Tomlin's character, Frankie, has a career doing art therapy with ex-convicts. She also does meditation, owns at least one Ramones t-shirt, and could probably teach you a thing or two about vision quests involving peyote. I am a goth chick easing her way toward 40. What is a goth chick to do once she has to retire the schoolgirl skirts? While there are plenty of roads that could be taken (industrial ass-kicker, historical costume fan who favors Victorian clothes), I find myself favoring “old hippy goth,” aka “dress like an old art teacher.” It's comfy, it allows for a healthy use of patterns, and it justifies my taste for patchouli and large, chunky rings.

But what does that LOOK like? And how do you do it without looking like you just came back from a Phish show? How do you do it without looking like you'd almost assuredly smell like armpits?

Like this:

Or like this:

Or this:

And yes….there are also caftans:

And could we maybe all agree that her hair looks AMAZING here?

Secret Creativity

Secret Creativity

Every now and then, I have to play the introvert card and have a veg out day. So, what did I do with my veg out day?

Played two hours of video games. Cooked almond crusted cod and a pasta casserole. Went to Nashville City Cemetery to take some pictures. Watched Cake (the movie with Jennifer Aniston), which was a really good movie but also really heavy, so save it for when you don't mind sitting around crying for a while.

I have a long, long, long way to go with that camera. Today was my first time using the zoom lens in any real way, and I still can't help but feel like the pictures always come out being not quite contrasty enough. I don't know if that's because my whole experience with black & white photography has been on an old 70s camera, or if there's just something about the Rebel’s default settings that just don't have enough oomph for me. In school, they taught us that the darks should get down to a true black, but not so dark that you lose all detail in the shadows. See this:

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I would expect the dark spots in the flower shadows to be a bit darker. Maybe this is because I have yet to use this camera in really strong sunlight? All of the examples I have are from indoors or cloudy days, so who knows. It's just kind of frustrating because you don't really know what you've got til you get home and a picture that might have been decent kind of goes "wah wah" and flops down limp. Yes, there's PhotoShop, but if you're just going to Photoshop everything for an hour to make it look decent, what's the point? I don't recall having the "I wish I could PhotoShop this" impulse in art school, but maybe my bar was lower then. Maybe I was happy with anything decent because there weren't 5 million people on the internet doing epic shit with their phones.

I didn't get much good stuff today, but that's ok. The city cemetery isn't nearly as fancy as some others in the area, and that was the idea. I wanted to force myself to try to find good stuff where there initially appeared to be a bunch of nothing. How'd it go? OK, I guess. If nothing else, I got re-familiarized and learned my way around my camera bag a little better. I'm just trying to do whatever I can do so I'm not completely fresh once school starts.

It will be interesting to see how that goes. Like, I don't really take "pretty" pictures. We had an Earth Day photo contest at work where people could submit stuff in a given category (Earth, Air Water) and people kept asking if I was going to submit anything. I mean, people submitted some amazing stuff: underwater pictures of coral, panoramic shots of glaciers, close up pictures of flowers…but, fun as that stuff is to look at, I don't see myself doing it at all. Any time I take a nature picture, it's never as cool in the picture as it was in real life. I like doing portraits or weird stuff and I wish I could do that super-slick looking old school fashion photography stuff, like Richard Avedon or Cecil Beaton. It's like, when I did this stuff before, it was just homework for a required class. If we got ANYTHING usable, we were stoked. Now, it's like you have the entire internet in your head going "this is nowhere near as cool as X." The only way to fight it is to be like "yeah, but this is mine, and I'm not trying to be X…I'm trying to be me." Right now, I'm just like "look, just go do it. If you don't get one interesting picture, that's ok. You only fail if you don't try."

That said, I had a good time out there, freezing my paws off and crawling around on the ground to get the right angle on things. There was nobody else out there and there was room to think. Here are my three favorites from today. 

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Me vs. Dirt, Part 1

There is something about having sore shoulder muscles that can make one feel especially broken, like you’ve been in a car wreck or had a bad turn at one of the bungie jumping things they have at big malls. Luckily, I do not feel all broken today because I was in a car wreck. I feel broken because I went toe to toe went mother nature yesterday and she won the battle.

I tried this once before, a couple of years ago, only to find that I just don’t weigh enough to get a shovel through unbroken ground. My boyfriend at the time ended up having pity on me and (after I bitched at him outright) busted both beds out in about 20 minutes of anger-filled digging. Now that my irises have gotten totally out of control and I’ve decided that monkey grass just looks like weeds, it’s time to expand.

“I’ll get a little tiller! That will make it easy!”

OK, it didn’t make the process easy. It just made the process POSSIBLE. That poor tiller jumped around, hopping about until I mastered some sort of technique, ripping through 70 years of weeds, bush roots, and some broken glass from when the front window got smashed while the house sat on the market for nine months. It only clogged once, choking on weeds and too-wet dirt until the blades locked up, a burning electrical smell began, and I was forced to unplug the tiller and clean it out with a pair of pruning shears and a long fork-like tool that I’m guessing is for cutting roots. The new bed is roughly 27 square feet and needs to be about 4-6 inches deep.

Then it was time to remove mother earth’s dirt and get a flat bottom on the beds. Far as I know, “the way” to do this is do get down and scrape at the bottom with a flat-edged shovel. Thing is, that job is almost completely fueled by body weight and upper body strength, aka “two things I’m not so great with.” After half an hour of scraping and shoveling out dirt, I was done. A steady stream of sweat was pouring out of my work gloves, and sweat was running into my eyes. It was only 11:00, and I was exhausted.

When I woke up to pee at 3am this morning, every muscle in my back screamed. In an effort to turn this into a leg-muscle game (a game I can win), I’m going to get a hoe after work. Dig it in, pull with legs, repeat. Mother nature will not win this one. We will not be calling in the mothers and boyfriends. It’s you and me, dirt, and I’m moving these damned irises.

I have resolved to spend an hour and a half out there each night after work, considering this my gym time, until the new bed is finished and planted and the old beds are de-monkey-grassed and mulched.

Hospitaltown Revisited

(Reading Hospitaltown first will make this make more sense.)

I remember the days in the country
with the silent phones
the sleeping computers
the conversations over Thai food.

I remember the feel of tension
brought by Sunday night
and the way the world felt cold
on a Monday morning
after a Sunday afternoon
in his arms.

They weren’t so long ago.

The city limits of Hospitaltown
expanded so quickly.
Blasting and exit ramps
and freeways and pollution
and stress.

It extended to the country.
Bustle woke the computers
phones chimed endlessly
It was deafening.
We were tired.

We stood looking at the progress
the hideous urban sprawl
choking the landscape.
We just shrugged.

This was inevitable.
Hospitaltown would chase him,
track him, hunt him down.
Hospitaltown had a relentless
insomniac mind of its own.
Hospitaltown would have its man.

I moved to somewhere new,
somewhere quiet.
Where there is space to remember
soft hands, broad shoulders and a velveteen voice.

One day, Hospitaltown will free him.

When that day comes,
maybe he will make use
of my forwarding address.

——————————————

This marks the end of my time with Male Suitor. Maybe he will be back when circumstances are better, maybe not. I cannot idle, but I would welcome him back. He was kind to me, and I will miss him.

Hospitaltown

He mainly lives in Hospitaltown
but he visits on the weekends.

Hospitaltown is a lot like Manhattan
abuzz with conversation
cell phones, computers, machinery.
A swirling eddy of technology
and fast decisions.
Patience is expensive.
Eating is expensive.
Sleep is expensive.
The pay barely covers
the cost of living this way.

Saturdays and Sundays, he visits me
in the country.

There is no buzz in the country, no beeping, no machinery.
Phones are quiet.
Meals are events.
Sleep is so cheap even the computers do it.

In that silence,
we converse
we touch
we learn each other
in tiny steps
measured in weekends.

Sunday evening brings a dull sadness,
a sound like a roller coaster car
clicking to the top of a hill.
Click. Click. Click.
Like the ticking of a distant clock
all of the tension
without the giddy anticipation.
From the top of the hill
the next Saturday is so far away.

A kiss goodbye.
A quiet understanding that his chaos begins again.
He drives away
back to the buzz, the phones, the machinery.
I wrap myself in quiet
and get back to work.

I will see him in 6 days
when he returns to the country.

Everyday is Halloween (unless you buy pants at Sears)

Working on the 10th floor means a couple of things. First, it means I have to watch my back when getting off the elevator in the morning since it’s dreadfully easy to step out on the wrong floor. Working on the 10th floor also means waiting for the elevator each afternoon when it’s time to leave. 

 
Today is Friday, casual Friday, and I’m standing at the elevator bank in a t-shirt, black skirt, high-top black Converse and knee socks. Knee socks that are gray and emblazoned with purple and orange argyle and bats. Bats with fangs. 
 
The man standing next to me is eying me top to bottom, looking down his nose in that way that old ladies sometimes do at Kroger. He is looking at me as though he’s sure I’m up to no good, I’m not really authorized to be in this building and I’m probably high.
 
“You’re a little late for Halloween.”
 
If I had been on my toes, I’d have pointed out how it’s not Halloween but it IS Friday the 13th, so my socks are technically still apropos. I was not on my toes. I generally not on my toes when people fill me with a cocktail of hate and embarrassment.
 
Fantasy response: “I’m sorry, I don’t take fashion advice from people wearing pleated pants.”
 
Actual response: “But they’re whimsical, no?”
 
What I’m feeling is silly. Working in the MIS department, it’s easy to forget what goes on outside. That people wear suits and have serious, adult meetings about serious, adult things like “accounts” and “clients.” We live in a bubble where everybody pretty much gets along. We don’t have office politics. Or maybe we do and I don’t notice because I have headphones on and I don’t have a beef with anybody. All I know is that this guy I don’t know is making me feel wrong and stupid in a place where I spend almost a third of my life, and that I kind of want to tell him to quit harshing my buzz. It’s casual Friday. Get off me.
 
I don’t tell him off, of course. Never tell anyone off unless you know who they are and whether they can fire you. I just get in the elevator and play with my phone, ears feeling sort of red and burny. It’s like being in high school, only you can’t put anyone up against a wall and yell at them.
 
I later told this story to a table of coworkers.
 
“Who was it?”
“I don’t know. People in pleated pants all look the same to me.”
“You should report him to HR for creating a hostile work environment. Seriously, who DOES that?”
 
Their reaction was one of offense, like how DARE that guy offer unsolicited fashion advice. Like what business is it of his? Like “please tell us his name, so we can make fun of him AND his Sears pants.”
 
And this is why I have no office drama with people in my own department. 
 
I still have no idea who the guy in the pleated pants was. He is a faceless mass of Random White Guy In Pleated Khaki Pants. Perhaps I’d remember him better if he’d worn something interesting. 
 
You know, like some argyle socks with bats.
Bats with fangs.

Ephemera

Every time I move, I find a few things I’d forgotten that I still had. A movie I borrowed and forgot to return, an old card, a shirt I don’t know why I never wore. The last time I moved, I noticed how few pictures I had from the previous few years. I felt sad for a minute, missing that moment of going to Walgreens or Kroger to pick up an envelope of glossy pictures to see what I’d snapped. And can you imagine finding a used roll of film and then having it developed? The excitement! Right?

 
Upon noting my sadness, I thought, “but no, Amy…you’ve taken MORE pictures. Tons of them. They’re just all on Flickr or Facebook.” 
 
Life in the digital age means that we document more, but reflect less, maybe. Almost everything I’ve done for the last 10 years is represented in a blog, picture or video. My favorites are the videos, which I go back and watch when I miss Jen (she’s one of the few people who never had a problem acting a fool on YouTube). 
 
Life in the digital age also means that everything is so easily disposable. I mean, you can have 100 pictures of you and your boyfriend and you can remove every single one of them in 5 minutes or less. Just type in the tag, select all, and hit delete. POOF. It’s like you never even knew him. That’s what everybody says you should do. Delete, delete, delete. I just put everything aside. All of the pictures, videos, songs and other ephemera were burned to a disk and safely tucked away on the closet shelf, next to a couple of prints, some shirts and a couple of cards. I did what they told me to do. I figured there was always time to throw things away later.
 
Facebook has changed us all over to the timeline layout, as of today. I’m guessing that a lot of people are being smacked in the face by the permanence of what we thought was so easy to delete. Someone has written a lovely blog about it.

Me vs. Mont Eagle

Facebook is a lovely invention. Yeah, I know, the code is clunky, the privacy level gets more and more questionable, and the chat function sucks like a Dyson. I forgive all of this, though, because Facebook is doing what a 12 year-old (and then 15 year-old) Amy didn’t think was possible: finding all those people we left.

We left Indiana when I was 12. My friends from there kept up letter writing for a surprisingly long time, and I ran up some seriously hellacious phone bills, but eventually people go about their lives and the letters slowly stop. It’s not that your friends don’t love you anymore; it’s just that you’re not there and there’s no promise of you being around ever again. If we kept up letter writing campaigns with everyone who ever moved away, we’d never get anything else done.

When we left Georgia, I was 15. Even more badass phone bills were run up (I think my record was 180 dollars) and countless numbers of letters were written. Many nights, I would be notified that mom and dad were going to bed while I was typing. “Time to shut it down,” they would say, and the loud, electric Smith-Corona would have to sleep for the night.

The internet didn’t exist yet. You kids have no idea how good you have it. You have instant communication with people in other countries. I just spent a lot of summers waiting for the mail to come. Sometimes, there would be huge manila envelopes filled with random things like balloons, action figures and homemade jigsaw puzzles. Sometimes just bills for mom and dad.

At 15, you type letters about what happened in school or what boy you have a crush on but will never, ever talk to. You don’t have the vocabulary to say what you mean. You can’t just write “oh my God, please help me” in red marker and mail it to someone. You don’t type letters about how lonely you are because it’s summer and you can’t even go to school to meet some people. You don’t type letters about how you feel like part of you lies strewn along the highway on Mont Eagle, glittering there like a shattered champagne glass. You think it in disjointed pictures, but you don’t type it.

When you are angry with your parents, your friends are all you have. Oh, God, was I angry with my parents.

That feeling of losing an entire group of the best friends I’d ever had never really went away. I didn’t think about it much, but every time I did, I pictured that glittering glass strewn along the highway. It was a wound that would never be healed. When you hit one of those, all you can do is try to learn something from it and use it to your advantage. It’s not going to go away. It becomes part of who you are, so you may as well have some sense and let it make you a better person somehow.

Now, in 2010, we have Facebook. The people I left are slowly finding me. It’s never going to be anything even close to the way it was, but it’s nice that they didn’t forget. Each time one finds me, one little piece of Mont Eagle highway glass gets picked up. A little piece of that wound gets fixed.

I have since driven that stretch of highway, addressing it like some old nemesis, looking for glass.

I never, ever forgot any of you.
I still have those letters.

The Lottery (not about stoning people)

The Lottery

You all know the conversation. The age old “what would you do if you won the lottery?” question. Someone recently told me that my list was a bit odd, so I thought it might make a decent blog post. If nothing else, it’ll allow me to sit here and fantsize about what I’d do if I happened to hit the Powerball that I never attempt to hit.

1. Pay off student loans, house/condo, and car for the immediate family.
I know, it’s not very sexy, but first things first. I guess mom wouldn’t really need to have anything paid off, so I could just pay back the money I owe her (thanks, recession) and upgrade her BMW. Maybe also some sweaters for her Mini Schnauzer. I’d also invest a chunk of money so I could live off the interest later if I needed to.

2. Fun with lasers.
First, I’d get Lasik. Oh my GOD, would I get Lasik. I wear a -11. For those of you who don’t speak nearsightedness, that means that the lady at the eye doctor always thinks she’s pulled the wrong file when I come in. Then, I show her my glasses (over a quarter inch thick, despite being the thinnest lenses science can muster) and she understands. Mom and dad gave me teeth that didn’t need braces, but I got effed in the a on eyesight and, the older I get, the shorter the time I can wear my contacts. I’m tired of avoiding ceiling fans, for Pete’s sake.

Also, I’d get laser hair removal of everything that needs shaving on a lady. I’m sick of doing it and I’m German and pale. Translation: you can see the hair when it’s still in my leg. SEXY.

3. Material Stupidness
I like my house, but I’d like my house more if it had new siding and light fixtures. I’d like an old castley church or a custom built gingerbread-style art house even more. Besides, you can’t tell me that you don’t think a gingerbread house would be totally kick-ass. One with pink flamingos in the yard that look like lollipops, gutters that look like Twizzlers, and a tile path made of fake peppermints. Do not harsh my ornate fantasy buzz, man.

As for the dream car, that would be a sensible hybrid of some sort for everyday use and a baby pink hearse for “special.” Or maybe a pink Prowler. Or a 57 Chevy which I would name Christine.

Hair. Purple hair. Expensive, huge purple hair. And roughly 20 grand in delicious shoes and clothes that I’ve never been able to afford. I really don’t mind my Goodwill existence (if I had 300 bucks to blow on a coat, you know I’d just save it anyway) but every now and then I kind of wish I could just go to the Betsey Johnson store and buy some completely impractical dress, just to wear it to the grocery store.

Also, a 9-foot concert grand piano, a kick-ass computer, a 60-inch flat panel tv, a gang of big vintage picture frames, and a piece of woven hair mourning jewelry. And a pony! (OK, not really a pony.)

4. Tattoos.
My right arm isn’t anywhere close to being finished. Eventually, it’s going to be a charm bracelet that wraps all the way up and gets anchored to a bolt on my right shoulder, maybe with some girly flowers thrown in for color. Then, I’ll add charms to the bracelet as situations arise, eventually turning my arm into a timeliney scrapbook sort of thing. The left arm stays blank. Yin and yang, you know.

5. Travel
WHAT? Yes, bitches, I said I would travel. She who has not been on a plane in 16 years wants to see Europe at some point, though she can’t guarantee that she’d ever actually come BACK from Europe. A couple of friends who live in Sweden tell me that it’s dark and cold much of the year, so that sounds good. Then again, they also say that there aren’t any good Mexican restaurants there. Wait, where were we?

I want to go to London and have enough money to shop. I want to go on the goth cruise, if only to say I did. I want to go to Wave Gotik Treffen. Whitby Gothic Weekend. Scotland. Ireland. Germany. Toronto. Yes, I DID just list Toronto as though it’s some far away fairy land. Humor me.

Oh! And Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead festival. And Japan has sushi and the Metamorphose store. Maybe also India, because why not? I just won a bajillion dollars. Then maybe to some posh hotel where I could sit around drinking blue drinks and getting manicures and seaweed wraps all day before heading out to have an entire dinner of desserts. Those special rich people desserts that don’t have calories. You know they exist; I refuse to believe that Nicole Kidman lives a completely cakeless existence. She’s eating magic rich people cake.

The Special Kind of Hurt

When you’re famous and your boyfriend beats the hell out of you, that’s a special kind of hurt. Blogs fill with speculation, pictures circulate on TMZ and people you will never even meet start offering you advice. All this happens instantly while you try to figure out how to walk away from your best friend who swears he just slipped. It’s all the hurt of getting beaten coupled with the knowledge that everyone, everyone knows.

It’s a special kind of hurt.

She could have crumbled into a ball. She could have taken up drugs and booze. She could have gone into hiding and been a fabulous fashion gargoyle in the privacy of her own home.

Jay-Z and Beyonce wouldn’t tolerate that for a minute. I imagine something like, “girl you are an artist…take this in and use it” came out of their mouths.

Instead, she rallied her troops and made a career-crowning pop album. The Special Kind of Hurt drips down between notes, like spent motor oil. The bruised face from TMZ has healed, and is now going to tell you everything. In lawsuit-unfriendly metaphors, of course. The Special Kind of Hurt is going to drip down on you in small, measured doses in a way that breaks your heart while also making you marvel at the honesty that is still possible in pop music.

All of this is why I didn’t simply slap this video into a YouTube link on Facebook. That’s fast food, and fine for keyboard cat videos, but I don’t want you to skim over this. I want you to roll it around in your mouth and get a good taste of it. Whether you swallow the wine is completely up to you, but you should at least check out the bitter undertones.

Listen to the whole thing. You have to let the song play as it will or you’ll miss the impact at the 4-minute mark. You will die a little, but it’s that kind of death that gets filled in with something productive. Pain is what makes us who we are, and joy keeps us going. Pain makes us evolve. Pain makes us stronger. Vulnerable. Open.

If she were standing next to me, I would turn to her and say, “you did it…you turned it into something good…and you’re killing me with it.”

(click here if you can’t see the embed.)