Thursday, January 29, 2009

Surprise, AZ

My grandmother passed away last night, and right now I'm in that strange expanse of time between a death and a funeral where I'm not sure where to proceed emotionally. I admit that I have spent entirely too much time in this in-between place, and I am not fond of it. It's worse than the wake and funeral and burial, and worse than the feeling that comes from all of that being done. As a result of being in this state, I'm not sure what to say, but I needed to say something. So I'm going to post the lyrics to a song (I can't find a link to the actual song) that I listened to a lot after my mom died, and the version I listened to so much was a cover of this song that just absolutely destroyed me every time I heard it, and when I say "destroyed," I just mean that it affected me so deeply that I was moved to tears. So here are the lyrics, written by Richard Buckner, and the cover, if you care to find it, is by Cynthia G. Mason and appeared on the Believer magazine 2005 music issue.

"Surprise, AZ"

"Mother, do you see
what's about to happen?
I'm gonna turn us around,
and we'll be gone.
Put your arms up, dear,
and they'll keep the casket open
when they take us back to Oklahoma,
where we belong.
Surprise, Arizona,
put us out of our sweet misery.

In '34, you were 21.
You know, he told me once
that he knew
when he first saw you.
But were you happy then?
I'd like to know.
I think about it still
when I see you alone.
Surprise, Arizona,
put us out of our sweet misery.

And you knew about me, at only 23.
You saw her come and go
as I went through
everything I had.
But mother did you see
what was gonna happen?
She let me down so far,
I never quite made it back.
Surprise, Arizona,
put us out of our sweet misery."

I don't know what it means, but I know it has a blues that I felt and still feel.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Neil Gaiman Wins Newbery Medal

Congratulations to Neil Gaiman, comic-book luminary and creator of "Coraline," whose "The Graveyard Book," a re-interpretation of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," won the Newbery Medal. I seem to remember a recent online argument about the Newbery, asking if it was awarding books that kids actually want to read, the books that will make them seek out more literature. Well, I think this is exactly the type of book that will get kids to read. Neil Gaiman has a great voice, and I'm glad that he's been awarded this prize. Plus, I love that Gaiman posted several videos from the book tour online, the equivalent of having a free audiobook floating around the internet. And (music industry: take note) it seems to have only helped sales!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Post-Flood Update

Well, the trip to Boston was great, but when I got back, I found that my house had a disaster at some point over the weekend. Thanks to the extreme temperatures on Friday and Saturday night, the pipes leading to my bathtub exploded. The control knob on the shower popped off, letting water flow freely into the tub, and when it was too full to keep up with draining the water, the whole bathroom flooded. So: my ceiling tiles on the first floor (six of them, I believe) got soaked and fell out, and my couch became waterlogged. It was one of those moments where I opened the door, looked inside, and immediately wished for a do-over. What a mess. The good news is, the couch is (mostly) dry, with the exception of the mattress, which is still sitting in the (now-repaired) shower. The ceiling tiles should be replaced this weekend, and normalcy will return.

Another casualty of the weather has been my health--I am home sick as I write this, fueled only by DayQuil. I guess working outside in single-digit temperatures can really make you susceptible to illness. Who knew?

I am working on an article for the local publication I write for, which will appear in the March issue. My first article turned out really well, and I'm looking forward to seeing how my second one will look in print. I'm also hard at work on a new short story, and waiting patiently to hear from MFA programs. It will be such a relief when I start getting responses.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hello! I am Exhausted!

Well, after trying (unsuccessfully) to work on a ten-minute play for the Lincoln Theatre's "Emerging Voices" contest, and also failing to get a short story rolling, I think it's official that my mind does not have the agility or focus to work on anything substantial this week. I think it's just the general exhaustion/malaise of hating my job and having to put so much energy into it that's really wearing me down. I realized on Tuesday, when I had to work late in obscene temperatures, that the only things that keep me going when I'm on jobs are a deep well of negativity and the promise of getting enough done that I'll have a little time off to concentrate and work on stuff I'm even remotely interested in. It's rough when you have a job that you don't want a future in, that you're doing for someone else's benefit. There's no satisfaction in getting a job done, only the knowledge that the next day, you'll do it again. That's no way to go through life. I need a shake-up or a change of pace, or...I don't know. I can't wait for the day I can stop fighting my alarm clock.

I'm really looking forward to going to Boston this weekend. I'll try my best to recharge my batteries.

Let's end this with Belle and Sebastian:

"Oh, Get me away from here I'm dying
Play me a song to set me free
Nobody writes them like they used to
So it may as well be me"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Two Movies

Now that the Pocono Cinema and Coffee Shop--or rather, the Pocono Community Theater--is back open, we finally got a chance to go inside to see a movie. We saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The last hour is extremely sad, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it. The way the movie is directed is the best part--I really think David Fincher is one of the most talented directors working today--and although there were a few directorial flourishes (there is a recurring character who always talks about the seven times he's been struck by lightning, and each time flashes to an old-fashioned movie clip of the lightning strike) that were obviously just thrown in for Fincher to show off, they didn't detract from anything that happened in the plot. There's one subtle touch as the movie goes on, which is a little difficult to notice at first: when Benjamin gets injured in World War II, he gets a scar next to his left eye, which changes as he gets younger, until when he is a child and it's just a few dots where the shrapnel hits him. There's something about the fact that this never gets mentioned, it's just always there, that really stuck with me when I left the theater.

Over the weekend, we saw "Doubt." The directing wasn't as great as Benjamin Button, but the script was outstanding. When we left the theater, Allison turned to me and said, "I expected there to be some question at the end about whether he did it, but it's pretty clear that he did." And I said, "What do you mean? I don't think he did anything!" I like that kind of ambiguity in a script, the kind that makes you talk about the writing after you've left the theater. Of course, it helps when your script is being performed by three award-winning actors.