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.

Friday, September 4, 2009

getting up early and liking it.

my body has been waking me up between six and seven every morning. there's no point in fighting it unless i get off on being defeated. it was frustrating for a while, but i'm learning to accept it.

this is what i saw this morning. a rainbow. i got excited like a child.

i'm going to make a great old lady. waking up early. making tea. reading on the front porch. going for a walk. i'm already there. it's not really about growing up, just growing into yourself. nothing's ever really changed; i'm just more comfortable now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

an ode to my old bike

today i sold the first bike i have ever owned in my adult life. it was a blue schwinn traveler that i bought off craigslist back in 2007. i paid way too much for it ($120) but i was so excited to have a bike that i didn't care. the people who sold it to me had toddlers and a garage full of bikes. the woman didn't even know which one i was coming to see.

one time brody and i were sitting on the east bank docks eating pita chips and talking and making out. when i walked back to my blue schwinn, someone had slashed the tires. it was one in the morning. brody walked me all the way home.

the nice guy at seven corner's cycles always fixed my flats. one time we talked about laughing cow cheese wedges. he was confusing them with babybel cheese balls. i had to tell him he was wrong. i kinda hate doing that. but i have to, if i know i'm right.

on a really, really hot day, bobbie sue, rikki and i rode up to the bluffs to have a picnic with food we bought from trader joe's. there was provolone cheese and bread and ritter sport. and some sort of flavorful condiment. we talked about boys and sat in the dirt. on the way home, we rode by the godfather van and took pictures.

i eventually wanted a new bike. the blue schwinn was too short. and heavy. and rickety. when liz and eric were in town i found another schwinn on craigslist. we walked in the chilly december air to some girl's apartment building near my neighborhood. she was selling her bike because she was moving to new york. i wanted to tell her it was probably a dumb idea, but had she changed her mind, i probably would not have gotten my new bike.

i tried to give gwen the schwinn, but she doesn't like riding bikes. yet. so it sat locked up on our porch all winter. i also tried to sell it to colleen, but she was comfortable with her cruiser. i finally put it up on craigslist yesterday and got way too many responses. the first person who called was ashley, who couldn't come see it until today at four. i wanted to have allegiance to her because she called first, but a bunch of people called this morning, offering to come at any time. i ended up selling it for $50 to erin from colorado who moved here to student teach. in her email she said, "it's meant to be!" i liked that. though when ashley called back, i felt bad. i felt like i was letting her down. i'm bad at craigslist.

sorry ashley. i'm sending positive vibes out to you on your bike search.

erin asked if i had any last words for my old bike. i just said "bye." i mean, is there really anything else to say?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

i used to know someone who was notorious for referring to himself in the third person. perhaps you know him, or someone like him. anytime he did it, it drove me to anger. i perceived it as fairly egotistical and somewhat sad, actually. as if by doing so, he only understood himself as viewed through everyone else's eyes.

on the way to the mailbox this morning i heard a man refer to himself in the third person as "papa" three times in the company of his son. i guess this is normal with children, but it made me think of my old friend, and hence the above thoughts. but then i felt bad. because, really, don't we all just understand ourselves in terms of the confluence between the self and everything/everyone with which we interact? the idea of "candace" is most certainly a construct of everything i've ever seen and done. and a good amount of that is interactions with other people, who then both have an understanding of "candace" as well as an impact on said "candace." the use of the third person to refer to one's self in speech or writing can thereby be looked at as a sort of commentary on the lack of command one has in how the self is constructed, represented or received.

i still cannot condone my friend's usage of this method, though. only because i know he used it purposefully to annoy me, having admitted so after finding out i was irritated. i cannot credit him for any deeper motivation. although i wish i could.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

on boredom

i waited for this book, A Philosophy of Boredom, to come in used at powell's for some time. i finally scored it for $12.50 and there were human bite marks in the cover. lucky for me i draw the line at saliva.

lars svendsen has won my heart with this enlightening read. i initially stumbled upon this title while beginning to research on my own piece about boredom. restlessness has always plagued me, dating back as far as i can remember (see "about me" section). i was thinking about writing a collection of anecdotes about the endless desire to fill my days with literally anything in an attempt to avoid the ailment that is boredom. as a child i felt pigeon-holed by the phrase, "You're only bored if you're boring." i knew i wasn't boring. i knew this because all of the people i knew who were boring were never bored. they were easily amused by anything. and it wasn't that i couldn't be amused as much as it was that those moments of amusement just swept boredom under the rug, they didn't cure it. i always knew it would creep back in. because my boredom wasn't just dissatisfaction with a given situation, it was dissatisfaction with everything.

svendsen defines boredom as an existential crisis that occurs when a need for meaning remains unsatisfied. boredom henceforth presupposes self-awareness, occurring only in a subject that perceives him/herself as an individual demanding a greater meaning from the world and the self. this temporarily boosted my ego, finally discrediting the above cliche that adults force-feed any child that might want/need more out of life than a t.v. twelve inches from their face.

i am only temporarily relieved, though; svendsen ultimately suggests that the search is pointless, as (he believes) there is no greater meaning to be sought. he puts simply, "an awareness of loss doesn't mean anything has actually been lost nor does it mean there is something to be won back." i suppose i have encountered this realization on smaller scales, but have yet to apply it to the grand scheme.

the only cure for boredom suggested in this far from boring study is a general acceptance. one cannot run from a boredom that infects the entire human race. for those of us who have not chosen to fill the eternal void with religion or work or babies or t.v., it is suggested that we simply succumb, that we accept boredom as a fact of life and try to develop a new configuration of self in this acceptance.

"All humans are lonely, some more than others, but no one escapes loneliness. The crucial thing is how it is encountered, whether it is encountered as a restless absence or as a possibility for serenity...In loneliness there is a possibility of being in equilibrium with oneself rather than seeking equilibrium in things and people that have such a high velocity that they constantly slip away."

i am left contemplating my sense of self, trying to make peace with my restlessness, and wondering what made the previous owner of this book bite into the cover. i wasn't at all compelled to do so. hopefully it was extreme joy.

thumbs up, svendsen.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

i'll teach you to be happy! i'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!

the other day i was thinking about how, as an adult, much of my happiness comes simply from relief—the relief of having gotten a good night's sleep, the relief of the end of the work week, the relief of being regular, etc. this is sad to me. happiness should come from joy, not relief. so i set out to make a list of things that purely bring me joy, coming up with only six answers. which, according to most i've talked to, is about average.
1) dancing with friends, specifically to soul music or bad early nineties dance hits, but really anything,
2) singing loudly to the radio while driving in a car,
3) spontaneously breaking into song with any given company, the more the better,
4) making out,
5) going for late night walks during the summer; better if instigated by someone else, and
6) watching Ghostbusters. 1 or 2, really.

i would say this is a good start.

on friday i unexpectedly had fun driving around aimlessly with stacey, jeff, and noah from minneapolis. it was simple—lunch, ROSS [dress for less], Heathers, and a hideous picture of me in a periwinkle skirt suit—but really fun. and it didn't include anything from the above list. i felt relieved that i am capable of something other than...relief.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

on why i quit facebook and did this instead.

at the end of the eighth grade, mike grande wrote in my yearbook, simply, "Have a good life." nothing else. he was to go off to prep school and chances were i would never see him again. that year brought many of those cases, and i spent many lazy moments that following summer thinking about the reality of having to part with scores of familiar faces, off to bigger, better and navy-blazered futures. i would always look back at the sincerity and genuineness of his message, that hid not behind "have a good summer" or "maybe i'll see you around." to me, it just read, "this is life. get used to it." and so i did.

i recently stumbled upon mike grande on facebook. i instantly requested his friendship, and we wrote brief messages to each other. but after the initial excitement that comes with finding an old friend, i began to feel dissolute. the image of his pencil-scribbled yearbook message kept flashing in my head, and i felt like i was betraying the natural order of things by reconnecting with him. and then i began to survey the motley crew [sic] of people in my friends list—from elementary school, junior high, high school, college, new haven, providence, portland and countless jobs—and i started to feel like i was at my own funeral.

with the internet comes the notion that we never have to part with anyone, that there are now countless ways of "keeping in touch" while exerting little to no effort. i dislike this for two reasons:
one, i am willing to exert effort to keep in touch, and i do so. i call you, or i write you letters, or make you cards, or stop by your work—you know who you are. and i appreciate that you want to do the same for me. i think it means something. the effort, that is.
two, i don't feel the need to keep in touch with everyone. i think saying goodbye and closing doors and compartmentalizing is, well, healthy. hence the dissolution i've recently experienced. i think having everyone i've ever known in one venue is nothing short of confusing. in my head you all mean something distinct and unique. you do not all appear on one list titled: People I Have Known. you belong to different memories and different places, and therefore should not all appear together. it just rapes you of your individuality. and i don't think any of you want to be raped.

so, i deactivated my account, and with concern facebook asked me, "why?" and i replied, "because i don't ever want to see mike grande again." not because i don't like you mike, because it's just the right thing to do.

i moved to a blog because i have a lot to say, a lot more than can fit into an update on facebook. and if anyone wants to read it, awesome. if not, still awesome. i'm writing it for selfish reasons anyway.