Grad School Woes (#141)

Today, during the first 15 minutes of class, I knocked the following things off my desk:

  • my phone (fair enough, not supposed to be there)
  • my pen, 3 times (s/o to my neighbor for always picking it up)
  • a fresh cup of coffee (luckily, caught this on the way down; minimal spillage)
  • 2 poems printed out to read next class (fell directly into aforementioned coffee spillage)
  • a protein bar (that I then felt obliged to throw out)
  • gray water bottle (a normal occurrence, but spillage was large)
  • my dignity (originally lost to Claire in 2011, but re-lost tonight after having to spend 7 minutes cleaning up water bottle flood)

On the bright side, we took a class vote and everyone agreed it was time for me to go to bed.

Human Nature (#140)

On the Sixteenth of January
In Two Thousand Fifteen,
Rory the Rabbit and Dempsey the Dog
Were finally forced to meet.
At first glance,Dempsey saw a new companion
Finally someone else who’s covered in fur!
Rory saw big teeth and a body flailing
Stop getting so close, excuse me sir!
It was a classic case of misread intention,
Rory saw predator, but predator saw friend;
Inaccurate assumption led to unnecessary tension,
But luckily this difference was quick to mend.

Further evolved the human brain ought to be,
Yet such a flexible mind would be a surprise to me.

Wenches (#139)

Today was an important day. Today was the day that Alyssa, Tori, and I stormed the Renaissance Faire in full costume. Tony was there too, but he refused to wear a costume so he’s kinda irrelevant. I had such a fun time running around the Faire with a mug full or mulled wine to hoist in my wench costume. With Halloween right around the corner, today was a cool reminder of how much fun it can be to dress up, pretend to be someone else, and act like a kid all day. I fully recommend it next year to anyway who starts to get in a slump when winter is approaching, because it was kinda invigorating, as long as you’re willing to embrace the ridiculousness of the whole situation and drink to the King’s health.

Also, the buffalo mac n cheese was delicious and as your trusty tavern wench, I highly recommend it.

A Writer’s Addiction (#138)

Do you ever meet someone and wish that you knew them? My best friend Mary likes to say that she falls in love every day, and I’m starting to understand what she means.

Sometimes I look at people and I want to know their life story so bad it feels like the worst type of obsession. I become greedy for details about their Grandmother’s grumpy cat and what caused the scar behind their ears. I long to feel the inside of their coats, if only to discover how a twenty-something came to own what looks like genuine fur. I want to ask them about their favorite birthday party, the best Christmas present Santa ever left them, their preferred breakfast cereal, and what they think about the news these days. I want to steal their eyes and their names and their crooked smiles and file them away to put on some character I haven’t written yet.

This type of lust is starting to drive me to extremes. I’ve been late to class because a couple was breaking up in the library and I couldn’t stop listening. I am now a master eavesdropped and have shamelessly put in headphones that are playing nothing to hep me out. I read the text messages of strangers sitting next to me in class or on the bus or waiting in line at Panera, and I play the question game with drunk people to hear their sober truths. I realize that this all makes me sound a bit crazy, but it’s not my fault human beings are so interesting.

I read somewhere once that a famous author’s best advice to aspiring writes was to notice everything. Go out into the world with a little notebook and pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, feel…the world already contains every story that needs to be written. This makes sense to me, because at the heart of writing is detailed observation. I think it’s fair to argue that someone who writes characters the way Austen, Steinbeck, and Toslstoy do has to be slightly obsessed with human beings and what makes them tick.

So really, the people who have called me nosy my whole life were mistaken. I was simply honing my future craft by following the examples of those who had mastered it. Yeah, lets go with that.

World of Whiskey (#137)

Authors Note: S/o to Christine for helping me write my first Sestina for class, and generally reassuring me that my writing doesn’t suck. Hope you enjoy our self-indulgent trip down memory lane!

She always imagined it would be a twisted brass key
Unlocking the world of clinking glasses and a coaster
To greet you. That crazy Irish pub tucked away where
Travelers find repose in an Eternal City. Three or four
Wander in for a pint, a shot, and Green Spot on the rocks,
Yet through the spinning room her eyes stop short on Lee.

Stuck behind the bar slinging drinks and Irish charm faithfully,
He could make you believe one more shot of Jamison holds the key
To escaping this mess of spilled drinks and Frat boys promising to rock
Your world. But salvation is found in the strangest places, like a coaster
Flying through the air with a message and a grin, an eager summons for
A cigarette break taken out back, hidden in a peaceful alley where

His friends joke “I know American girls don’t like to smoke where
People can see them,” but she laughs and grabs his pack eagerly.
Too soon they’re interrupted by barbacks looking for
Someone, anyone to pour a beer, and needing the key
To the top shelf. A drink gets left behind on a stray coaster
Resting on a window sill, waiting for the next group to rock

And sway dizzily against this pub’s foundation rocks.
Closing down, she waits for him at an empty bar where
Desperate for an occupation her fingers fumble with coasters
Stacked to the side, until she hears the final “Goodnight, Lee”
And sees him lock the large oak doors with a forceful twist of the key,
Their real night finally beginning at half past four.

Spilling out onto cobblestoned streets, they head for
The land of Trevi, an impressive combination of rocks
And water, deserted at this time other than the smokey
Air breathed out by lads stumbling anywhere
Still serving up another pint, but Lee and his girl rest contently
Listening to fountain water rush upon a marble coast. Her

Hands search for warmth inside his pocket, but find the coaster
Instead with his inviting message scrawled on the back and before
The sky can lighten anymore, they toss the token together blindly,
Praying that it lands in wish-fulfilling waters, a drunken shamrock
Flying through the air as he begins to spin her, blissfully unaware
Of where it lands, choosing instead to take her hand and feeling lucky.

Next morning before the sun rises on that wild rock,
A police boot kicks the Murphy’s coaster left lying where
The night trailed off hazily, a streaming song of whiskey.

The Little Green Man (#136)

To get our creative juices flowing, a recent creative writing class I took gave everyone the same prompt and then gave us 4 minutes to right whatever came to mind. I don’t remember exactly what I had written, but I do remember the prompt so I thought it’d be a fun exercise to give myself another four minutes and see what happens, plus nothing happened today that I feel like writing about. Feel free to play along at home, friends. The prompt is:

On an average day you hear a knock at the door, you open it to find the Little Green Man of lore.  Write what happens next.

By the middle of July in suburban PA, I was used to green. Green lawns separated our neighborhood from the even greener state park across the street, and the green of dollar signs reflected back at me from every Mercedes or  Range Rover parked in our neighbor’s driveways. Even the community pool had recently swapped out all the lawn chairs for brand new green and white stripes.

What I was not expecting was to see green in the form of a little green man, angrily banging on my door. He was not quite tall enough to ring the bell or reach the brass knocker, so he resorted to kicking and punching whatever parts of the door he could reach. In an effort to save my door from further assault, my hand reached out to open it before I had fully gotten a chance to process what I saw in front of me.

“Well it’s about time someone came to answer this lousy door! I’ve been knocking out here for hours.”

His voice was deep, not at all like the munchkin-like squeak I was expecting. As he was stood with his tiny hands on his tiny hips glaring at me, I realized he expected an answer.

“I’m sorry, but what are you?” I finally ask, “Leprechaun? Goblin? Garden gnome?”

“A goblin?!” he yelped, clearly insulted, “Do I look like a goblin to you?”

“Well sorry, I don’t have a lot of experience identifying little green creatures.”

As he opened his mouth to respond, his chest puffed up an impressive amount for such a little man.

“Listen lady, for starters I’m not a creature and I’m not a what. I’m a man, a normal man, with all the normal parts, just a little bit smaller and couple shades off.”

His face was starting to turn an interesting shade of purple, which I guess was a sign that he was starting to get mad. I took a deep breath; clearly I was going to have to be the calm one here.

“Okay, okay. Sorry for insulting you, but you still haven’t explained why you’re green and why you were assaulting my door for that matter.”

“I’m here because you hired me, and usually when people hire someone they expect them to show up.”

He pulled out a tiny business card from his pocket and handed it to me. “Lawn Wizard” it said, and I had a vague recollection of filling out an online request form.

“Alright, so you’re here to cut my lawn, but are we really just ignoring the fact that you’re the color of fresh guacamole?”


Ahhhh, the timer just went out but I actually had so much fun writing this, I’m probably gonna do something like this again.

We March On (#134)

This is where I live!
our youngest tour guide
proudly gestures
to a 6 by 6 tin hut
viciously reflecting the African heat

Inside, a sun-beaten woman rests
against four ceramic jugs brimming
with water that’s almost fresh
carried from the well we passed
a mile and a half back.

We embark on a two-step tour
across the tiny space
where a dozen relatives sleep,
pausing at the single mattress
reserved for ouma,
eldest in the village at 52.

Her call for questions
reverberates in silence
against the camera hanging
from my neck, and the Cliff bar
peeking out of my pocket.

Our guide kisses his mom
before closing the door,
a relieved sigh slips
through my teeth,
we march on.

90 Day Fiancee (#133)

I am very aware of the fact that my taste in tv shows and movies can be described as ridiculous. I love a good, stupid reality show and prefer rom-coms and musicals over more serious movies. But here’s the thing, why would I want to watch something serious or sad when I could turn on the news any given day and see that nonsense? Plus, I get so much more out of reading about certain topics, that I would rather save my tears and brainpower for the books I read. And, in defense of my love for reality TV shows, I just think that human beings are so interesting. I have always loved humanity as a whole and looking at how they think and act is intriguing. Obviously, I realize that reality tv shows are heavily produced and that the people are encouraged to say certain things, but still they have to be the type of person who is willing to say such a thing. While most scripted TV shows are the result of a few brilliant people, reality TV shows are a result of a multitude of strong personalities and what happens when they interact and are just being themselves.

That long intro was basically my way of making sure you guys understand why I’m about to spend a whole blog post talking about a insane reality show, because that’s exactly what I’m about to do. Tonight at Ally’s house I watched 90 Day Fiancee for the first time, and it was quite the experience. There’s a whole mix of people who, for whatever reason, are willing to give up their entire lives and move across the world to marry someone they’ve barely met. Naturally, that’s an insane concept and it’s easy to dismiss this people as dumb or trying to manipulate their way into American citizenship. But I still can’t help asking myself why they are doing this. What events or circumstances have led them to this point? How did they meet these people overseas? Are they gullible people in general, or are these people they fell in love with special? Which of my friends could I see ending up on this show?

That last question is interesting, because I feel like if we took a group survey most of my friends would say me, and I kinda understand why. In a way, I relate to the earnestness of these people to believe in the best in people. Also, I’ve traveled enough to realize that many people in other parts of the world are kinder, more compassionate, and less close-minded than Americans. Obviously this isn’t a universal truth, just something I’ve noticed based off of my own interactions. The point is, these people didn’t just spontaneously decide to be on this reality show and do the things they are doing, which makes watching them that much more interesting.

Also, typically the people on these shows are undeniably entertaining. That’s why they work. I feel like most people have that one friend in their friend group who is just genuinely entertaining to watch sometimes, and reality TV takes all those people and forces them interact with these people. And, on 90 Day Fiancee, you get the added element of Americans trying to figure out how other cultures work and why, if you’re visiting future in-laws in Morocco, sometimes you just have to eat a pigs head. Coming from a girl who had to eat an eyeball in South Africa, I totally relate to this.

In conclusion, reality TV is great and I will continue to watch it and be entertained as long as the real world continues to be sad and depressing.

Painting Rocks (#132)

It’s pretty obvious to most people who know me that the whole artsy thing has never really clicked for me. I still struggle to color inside the lines, my handwriting is pretty illegible, and any project above stick figures is outside my ability. Because of this, when my cousin suggested that we start painting some rocks, I was skeptical. Not because I didn’t think it would be a good time…I can have fun doing pretty much anything, especially when my family is involved. I was skeptical that any rock I painted would be worthy of hiding, as part of the Pittsburgh Rocks project on Facebook. This is actually a pretty cool project that involves hiding and finding painted rocks all over the city, and adding a little brightness to someone’s day.

Luckily, I was decorating rocks alongside children aged 4 and 7, so mine were able to blend in pretty well. Kendal, who is is 6th grade I think, completely blew my rocks out of the water, but that’s to be expected. Surprisingly though, I actually really enjoyed the process of painting the rocks, even if they weren’t pretty. There is something relaxing about just doing something creative and carefree for a couple minutes. I feel like we’re told that we always have to be doing something productive, working towards something, or else we are wasting our time. I think the intense relaxation we found taking 20 minutes to paint some rocks shows that we are actually in desperate need of a slower pace. There is value in creativity, and creative things, and I am happy that I decided to pursue such a career, despite all the wonderful, pragmatic people in my life asking me “but what are you going to do with that.”

Moral of the story, go paint some rocks and discover stuff about yourself. And if you do, hashtag #pittsburghrocks on Facebook.