Tuesday, September 21, 2010

AWOL in Oregon.

After an internet-free weekend of deliberation, spent driving south along the misty Oregon coast, inland through the Californian redwoods, and back north through the fir-spotted mountains, I've decided to draw my Vernacular blog to a close. My last post will remain September 16th, my thirtieth birthday.

This fin de si├Ęcle came about for a few reasons, the most practical being that I intended to have a weekend free of internet, which would put me three days behind on the blog. For 259 days I have posted the word blog, or at least begun the entry, on the date the word arrived in my inbox. If I was away on trips I made it a point to locate some web access—in an internet cafe, in the depressing "technology lounge" in the lobby of a Seattle hotel—so I could at least begin the post on the correct date. However, I craved a severance from the intricate machine of interconnectivity. And in order to do that, I had to break the pattern.

The thought of returning from my trip to three words in my inbox waiting to be analyzed, with another on the way in twelve hours, was nothing less than daunting. I could feel anxiety tightening my skin as I thought of spending the last hours of my four day weekend catching up on the blog. Instead, I went for a bike ride and finished watching the second season of True Blood. Then I slept for ten hours.

Now, of course, I do feel a bit guilty of abandonment. I intended to commit to this blog for one calendar year. But here are the circumstances:

1) In one week I begin the fall term of my second year in grad school, a term I anticipate to be my second most overwhelming (nothing will beat out that first clueless few months in the program). My coursework will eat up about 80% of my time;
2) I have just accepted an editorial internship which requires at least 10 hours of my focused mental energy a week;
3) I have a job;
4) I must sleep;
5) I want to have at least a few moments of free time for eating, showering, perhaps pausing for a moment, looking out a window, going for a walk, and if I'm lucky, maybe even having sex.

The word blog had to go.

But, like everything in life, this is an opportunity for a learning experience. I intend to write an essay on my experience with the word blog, focusing on my motivations for wanting to expand my vocabulary, my utter inability to do so, my relationship with words and language, and the realization that, as a grown adult, it is hard to learn and retain new things.

I'm thinking of calling the piece, "For Lack of a Better Term."

Thank you to everyone who read/followed/commented.

This blog (Candace Was Here) will live on as a venue for my written explorations into subjects of my choosing, at my own rate (whenever the fuck I please).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

this blog is laughing at me

it's cold in portland. 13 degrees. i rode my bike to the video store the other day, and by the time i got there my fingertips felt like they had each been delicately and precisely slammed with a hammer. i rented nothing but trouble in celebration of finishing my first term of grad school. the film and my completion are not at all relevant to each other. i just wanted to watch something mindless. and funny. i made some udon soup, courtesy of annie chung. i ate a fudge pop. i watched dan akroyd play the pipe organ with digital underground.

over these past few months, every few days i have gone from feeling like

i can totally do this to
why the fuck did they even let me into this program to

this is totally normal. what you're feeling is totally normal.

i spent the last weekend in my room revising my essay. stretching it, tearing it. shaving it, cursing it. i even called out of work on saturday. the essay seemed to be laughing at me, shaking its head, mockingly, as if to say,

"the answer is right there. just open your eyes."

my band teacher in junior high school had a magic eye picture on her office door. i was the only person who couldn't see what it revealed. everyone had a theory as to how i should twist and contort my eyes in order to see the hidden picture. but i could never do it. i grew frustrated with my inabilities and felt alienated amongst my peers. the picture became the enemy. i would avoid looking at her office door when i passed. "whatever. who cares. seriously."

on sunday, in the midst of my battle, i received a phone call informing me that one of my coworkers had died of a heart attack on saturday night. jerry.


"jerry it's candace in the bakery."
"hello candace in the bakery."
"i'm calling out today. i'm not doing so great." the essay laughed at me in the background.
"all right, ma'am. you take care of yourself."
"thanks, jerry."

the world shifted in that way it does when people die. everything looked slightly off. like an overhead light has blown out, or someone who never wears make-up decided to put on eyeshadow. something is different, but you can't quite place it.

i sat on the staircase and broke the news to bobbie sue. she was sitting on the living room floor, writing at the coffee table. we sat there in silence for a few moments. it felt like a play.

i've spent a lot of time in my life thinking about death. too much, really. i've spent years feeling a loss, an emptiness, a hole, a halving of myself. after years of grieving a tragedy, i decided that i would no longer view death in this way. i think about how jerry was a happy man. he lived a full life. he brought a lot of good to the world in which i knew him. he died in his sleep. i feel a small sadness and loss, but more so, a great appreciation for having had the opportunity to have him in my life.

but i'm still standing in front of that magic eye. i feel as if i'm supposed to be devastated and angry. i feel a loss of not feeling more of a loss. i feel guilty for not crying enough, for not breaking down. i feel like an emotionless, heartless, careless human being. i feel like a stranger.

and i realize that i have also spent a good portion of my life feeling like this. feeling...for lack of a better term, weird. like i operate on some inhuman level, and everyone can tell, and they're all judging me for it. like there is some formula for feeling, and i just don't get it.

"the answer is right there. just open your eyes."

it seems too easy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

friday morning

my head is spinning with projects. being in school makes me feel like i've been offered an all-exclusive pass to something—i'm not sure what.

my future as a writer?

in the last few months i've seen my work torn to shreds. i've seen myself reconstruct it in a way i wouldn't have thought i could. i've seen my own potential. i've seen my style peeking out from under the intricate mathematics of words and language. i've seen some beautiful stories, some beautiful essays. i've seen myself a thousand miles from that beauty, and then i've seen that i'm already on my way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


things are busy. grad school is keeping my days full with writing, reading, analyzing, re-reading, more writing, reading out loud to myself, reading out loud to others, printing, stapling, re-reading, re-writing, critiquing, laughing, crying, self-deprecating, writing some more, making some tea, reading, correcting, underlining, emailing to self, organizing thoughts, re-writing, maybe i should make an outline?, margins, font, should this be in italics?, notes, library books, walking up four flights of stairs to obtain library books, sitting, quiet, reading again, writing in my head before i sleep, when i wake up, when i cut trays of brownies at whole foods, writing, writing, writing.
it's glorious, really.

here is a short essay from my workshop. it's a first draft. it may sound familiar to some; it's adapted somewhat from an older piece. read if you like:

Bottle, 1977

(Artist Unknown)

My mother’s kitchen cabinets are eleven inches deep. As compared with other more modern cabinetry in the neighborhood, they are shallow, falling one to three inches short of the contemporary industry standard. To describe their interior space as crowded is as if to say the same of Times Square on New Years Eve.

The cabinets were installed in 1970, after she and my grandmother discovered a large sum of my late grandfather’s cash wedged into the pages of one of his novels. I picture them falling to the floor in tears and laughter—neither woman was fond of the man. To spite his insistence on a bright, sterile home, they used this money to remodel the kitchen into darkness—black counter tops, deep cherry cabinetry, beet-red wallpaper—hoping to erase the evidence of his presence. Since then, the kitchen and the cabinets have remained untouched.

Life has arranged the cabinets’ contents into layers, from the familiar to the archaic. The first layer consists of everyday items: the mugs with rings of coffee stains an inch below the rim, a rainbow of plastic cereal bowls purchased from the dollar store, a motley stack of ceramic dishes—the orphans of innumerable sets of flatware. These items are intimate and worn with use. Their cracks and flaws are comforting, and we find ourselves often reaching for the chipped mug with sharp edges that occasionally cut our tongues, because it is predictable. It has nursed us through years of hard, tired mornings. Through the flux of these moments, the cracked mug tethers us to the familiar.

Behind these objects, the second layer sits idle, waiting: virtually unused dishes reserved for extra guests, ice cream bowls set aside for late July, novelty mugs with price tags still stuck to their bases. This layer often inspires nostalgia. It reminds us of Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties and childhood trips to the Empire State Building. These are saved for special occasions because overuse would rape them of their sentiment and leave them for ordinary. We depend on these items to transport us to a different time and place. We can see them when we open the cabinet doors, stoic behind our everyday dishes, but they beg to be left alone.

What lies beyond this nostalgia are the depths of the cabinets we may not wish to reveal. They are the thick patches of the woods that begin to block out the sun; we look back from this thickness, and we can barely see the clearing from which we came. My curiosity had led me to clean out one of the cabinets, only once, anticipating that my mother’s tendency to horde would greatly affect what I would find. After removing the first two layers of contents, I was faced with a cluster of random objects, many of which were caked in a residue of disuse: shot glasses, faded grocery receipts, a snow globe, a vile of vanilla extract stuck to the surface of the shelf. Behind everything, in the furthermost corner, a bottle of prescription pills dated July 1977 stared out at me. This bottle predated my birth by three years. I pulled it from its corner and shook it; pills rattled against its sides. I imagined it had been thrown back there and forgotten long ago. I had the urge to pocket the bottle and bring it to my own home to display as an artifact. “I found this in the back of my mother’s kitchen cabinet,” I would say. “It’s from nineteen seventy-seven. Isn’t that crazy?”

I stared at the bottle for a moment, suddenly feeling the weight of three decades in my hand. Excavating the bottle could have dangerous repercussions. What would take its spot? Would its removal send waves through the intricate system in place? Who was I to start that revolution? I placed the bottle back in its corner and hastily returned all eleven inches of family history, careful to the order in which it was removed. Shutting the dark cabinet doors I felt secure in that the forgotten bottle remained forgotten, the delicate ecosystem still intact.

Friday, October 9, 2009

the only poem i may ever learn

don't you ever laugh as the hearse goes by
for you may be the next to die

they wrap you up in a big white sheet
from your head down to your feet

they put you in a big black box
and cover you up with dirt and rocks

all goes well for about a week
but then your coffin begins to leak

the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
the worms play pinochle on your snout

they eat your eyes, they eat your nose
they eat the jelly between your toes

a big green worm with rolling eyes
crawls in your stomach and out your eyes

your stomach turns a slimy green
and puss pours out like whipping cream

you spread it on a piece of bread
and that's what you eat when you are dead.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

[and she was also wearing capris]

while sitting in JFK international i was thinking about how new york is like the hub of the world, and henceforth JFK is like the hub of the hub. i was in a sea of people, thinking about how they were from all over the world, just temporarily paused in between one place and another. a girl walked by in a gap sweatshirt. she looked like every-girl-USA. but who was she? where was she from? where was she going? what's her story?

this same girl ended up sitting next to me on the plane. i didn't tell her that she had been randomly singled out in one of my previous thought patterns, nor did i ask her anything about herself. she watched TV all night and had clean finger nails and seemed simple. i didn't want to share this strange coincidence with her.

so i'm sharing it with you instead.

it's good to be home.