journal, summer of 2000 through winter 2002

January 27

I am staying with my folks for a few days -- I moved out of La Concha last Tuesday night, was not due to skip town until tomorrow evening, and wanted to be free to pack and settle some affairs without the social distractions West Philly promises. Once again, my heart has been made heavy by my hateful and bigoted father. I've been doing a good job at avoiding any sort of political or religious topic for quite some time, but today something on TV led to an ugly blowout in which he once again resorted to personal attacks to prove his point -- that I was a pathetic excuse for a human being who was "living in sin", intrinsically evil, and bound for hell. I'm sorry to say that at this point, the only reason this whole business troubles me is the fact that I have all of my stuff in storage in their basement -- but alas, this era will end soon enough. My dad told me tonight that I had until September to remove it all, after which point it would be discarded if I failed to oblige. A fifteen-foot U-Haul truck's worth of books, clothes, records, old letters and photographs, art supplies, furniture, and trinkets. I suppose some of it is expendable to me, but not very much of it. It's both a scary and liberating ultimatum -- I'll have to either buy a small rickety shack somewhere by the fall or commit to living in a rented apartment for several years: a huge decision, but one that allows me the freedom of never returning here if I should choose not to. And to be honest, the way things stand right now, I don't think I want to. Even a few days' visit here fills me with self-doubt and self-hatred, bad memories of my brother holding my upside down by my feet and throwing me down the steps while babysitting, reminders that my father has instilled an irrational obsession with what I now deem "excess" body-fat within me, and the continual pulsing truth that, if I can get away from genetics, it will take generations. People in my family cannot write or spell; they cannot use reason or logic effectively. They cannot exist independently of the Catholic Church or its influence. They haven't the most remote conception of what "culture" is. And, too, I am resentful of the more physical things I have inherited: large-pored skin full of scars from cystic acne, weak Irish teeth with thin enamel, a shapeless midsection with no waist or hips to speak of that insures that any amount of weight I gain results in a "beer belly", thick and dark facial hair to contend with that increases in volume and courseness with each passing year, an overbite, a bunion, severe asthma (thanks for smoking while you were pregnant with me, mom), severe chemical sensitivities that make me a difficult person to live with (no perfume, hair spray, paint, rubber cement, nailpolish, solvents..), and a weak bladder. Ha! Bring some organic spelt bread to the fucking pity party already, won'tcha? I'm not a hypochondriac, believe it or not, and feel like I take decent care of what I have, but I'm saddened by my knowledge that it would be cruel and inhumane to pass on my genetic material to a child who would no doubt be tormented by the same anxiety, depression, and disgust with themselves that plagues me.

It makes me so sad, so sad to see my mother and father interact, to see their loveless marriage and know that she won't get out of it because she has become too complacent and can't make it on her own now, in her mid-fifties. It makes me sad that she has no friends -- "I don't need them, I have my sisters," she says -- and as a result invests herself in her children emotionally in a way that is both unhealthy and stifling. It makes me sad that I am told that I am "irreverent" and "patronizing" and that I "think I'm intellectually superior" when in reality I am simply trying to converse with some rationality, objectivism, and logic. "Honor thy father and thy mother," the despot says, and I know that in his mind "honor" is synonymous with "defer to" -- but I can't tell him that, he just busts out another bible quote and turns up the Eagles game and tells me that he's "not having this conversation anymore." And the Iggles lose, and his night is shot, and he falls asleep on the couch with four dogs crawling around him and candy lodged in his false teeth, and I'm left with his idea that I am "a loser" for not having established myself in a career, married, and become a homeowner by the age of 21, as he did. But the evidence just isn't adding up. I'm not seeing how this would be ideal when I look at his sad little life, the cluttered house full of knick-knacks and trash, the dysfunctional and depressing marriage, and the four kids who are all just as sad and confused as me in their own little ways. And maybe I haven't gotten my shit together, and maybe I haven't figured my life out, and maybe I don't know what the fuck I'm doing six months from now, and maybe my credit is shot and my life is loveless and the girl I wanted to marry doesn't give a fuck and no one else does either, and maybe I have sixty zillion fans and acquaintances and a mere two friends, and maybe I've squandered all my potential, alienated all my idols, gained weight, lost pals, and accrued more debt with each passing year, but I'll be darned if I end up as broken as he is.

January 25

Top ten pointers for men who are trying to court women who are fives (I wrote "sixes" originally, but I thought it had seven points) on the Kinsey scale. Hey Ocean -- our kitchen?!?

1. Please, please do not say "I fully understand why you don't want to date men, most men suck - but I'm different."

2. Do not talk about how all of your exes are lesbian, how you LOVE lesbians, how tough butch girls turn you on, etc. It's fucking patronizing and annoying as all get out.

3. For the love of God, please don't EVER say that you are a "lesbian trapped in a man's body" or that if you had been born a girl, you would've been a lesbian too. I'll wretch. You are a hetero/bisexual dude, and an unskilled one at that judging by the lines you're trying to execute. Deal with it.

4. Don't assume that most of us are waiting to be "saved" by a sensitive man and/or an amazingly good deep dicking.

5. Don't be a cocky prick who exhibits blatant machismo, of course, but also don't be a whiny emo boy who talks about how all girls fuck him over at great length or malign the lot of womankind trying to gain solidarity with me, saying things like "Man, women are enough to drive me to drink!"

6. Do not go off about how ugly/hard men's bodies are and congratulate me on my good taste in choosing to date women. Truth be told, I look at faggot porn more than most homo guys do, and I like butch women, not soft flaxen-haired shaved-and-made-up caricatures, so your point is moot.

7. Realize that the harder you try to get into my pants, the greater your chance of failure is.

8. Do not: sign up for a women's studies class, go to Ladyfest, put all your Riot Grrl CDs in heavy rotation when I come over (I hate most of it), or start a zine in which you apologize for having "white male privilege."

9. Know that if I like you, _I_ will take the initiative of approaching you. I am creeped out by men who pursue women who have stated that they are not looking for relationships with men. If I do not approach you, it means that I find you unattractive and do not want to fuck you. If I do not make any suggestive comments or offer a plethora of very unambiguous compliments, you can assume this as well. Give us mostly gay gals the benefit of the doubt and swallow your overinflated ego unless you have serious cause to believe that you are one of the very notable exceptions of a 5-on-the-Kinsey-scale girl. (Note: unless you are tall, thin, brilliant, exceptionally attractive, and articulate, you aren't.)

10. If by some chance you succeed, realize that it's most likely because I am a) hard up for some action in the absence of a particularly appealing local dyke poputation or b) having an off day. Don't gloat or assume anything.

January 24

Things I learned at my first doctor's visit in a decade, by Erin McWilliams:

* The weird lump in my throat is most likely a thyroglossal cyst. This means that a tube which usually dissolves while a fetus is in utero failed to disintegrate and has now become infected. But we'll see; the ultrasound's tomorrow.

* The fact that I have to pee every fifteen minutes is not normal, even for someone who DOES drink a lot of water, and is most likely directly tied into general anxiety issues.

* My septum is indeed severely deviated, obstructing my right nostril by more than seventy percent and greatly raising my chances of infection. (That explains all those thick and bloody scabs I pick off because I think they're just big crusty boogers!)

* If I don't start using an inhaler my lungs will develop severe scar tissue.

* My blood pressure is not low after all, just on the lower side within the average range.

* I weigh 134 pounds in full clothing, shoes, and coat, which means I probably weigh about 131 without it. (This is more than I would like, but probably a healthy enough number. I do realize that my singleminded sexual preference for extremely underweight people is probably anomalous.)

* The fact that I sleep with chicks means that I'm "not sexually active" according to my doctor:

MD: How sexually active are you?
me: Well, I'm a lesbian, and I'm sexually active that way.
MD: So, no you're not.
me: No, I _am_, just with women.

* There is someone with eyebrows three times thicker than mine alive in the world.

January 23

Moving is a bitch. It's not happening again until I buy my own house. Mark my words, and make sure I follow through.

Man, the last person I thought I'd gather inspiration from is Ayn motherfucking Rand -- but since I'm staying at my folks' off-and-on until I leave for Michigan on Monday, I watched an obscenely late documentary on her life last night, and some of the stuff she said made quite a big of sense. The selfishness inherent in objectivism obviously has its limits, and I'm not about to go out and get my own hardbound copy of Atlas Shrugged and join the libertarian party, but the idea that there is neither a point to nor glory in suffering rings true with me. Martyrdom for its own sake is foolish.

I'm gonna miss all those goddamn bearded babies running around West Philly, damnit. I'm gonna miss Saad's Falafel, and injera (mmm...), and the twenty cent book sale at Second Mile Also thrift shop. I'm gonna miss making fun of the "Anarchist Perspectives on..." series at the A-Space, free boxes full of cat-piss clothes, the sixty-some top ten lists decorating our walls at my house, and my friends -- who, let it be said, are coming out of the woodwork as my departure is imminent (go figure) -- but I have a good feeling about leaving. Calumet inspires me in this crazy way. I'm thrilled at the prospect of impassioned solitude, of taking in two dollar old movies at the Calumet Theatre, of the intoxicating, almost technicolor green of a Keweenaw Spring. I am elated thinking of two dollar cab fare, the only-open-on-Friday three thrift store, the yard sales, and the fact that everyone, even right wing gun-toters, has my back when it comes down to it -- when I've dropped my grocery bag, fallen off my bike and skimmed my knee, come up twenty cents short at the post office. Those small town fuckers come through, damnit. And I've come to miss that.

January 21

There are so many ghosts within the walls of this building.

One of them is famous. He stayed here long ago when this was a hospice for AIDS patients. He once counted Madonna as a daughter in law, has a million movies to his credit, and has a son who is forever checking into the Betty Ford clinic. The red ink on the white walls is beginning to fade, though, fourteen years later. Before much longer, someone will surely paint over it. When new tenants move in and the lease changes hands, the landlord may forget to relate the legend of its onetime celebrity guest, and they won't bother to scour the wall for the faint scrawl he's left behind. The legend will bear no visible evidence.

Some of them are long dead. They were the victims of a disease our government has failed to take seriously, failed to prioritize finding a cure for, and reduced to a concern of both sexual and racial minorities. They roam the hallways of people who can only echo the song "I want to live and I want to love -- I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of," -- a lyric that was written before "shameful" diseases were fatal.

Some of them are new. They make their presence known, though, with photographs and paper scraps; handwriting and rotting food. I curse their names, but only because I think so highly of them. I wish there was a way to reconcile the fact that I feel their influence still with the fact that their shackles make such a loud clatter. They are laughing, well-intentioned, but with a certain malice evident beneath the surface. I respect them; I admire them -- but I do not trust them. They have derived too much joy from haunting me.

Some of them are old. Not old, perhaps, as far as ghosts go, but older than all but a few ghosts I know. They are not of this world -- little wonder, being ghosts and all -- and it is evident to all who come into contact with them. They are regarded highly in paranormal circles, if often feared. They are rarely seen but often heard. They make my sleep fitful at 4 am; they come into my dreams against my will. They are the most elusive ghosts, for though I seek to commune with them, they are unreachable -- in that slippery place between realms -- and I am stopped by my awe as much as their indifference. They have a million homes to haunt, a million seances to creep by, and most all are more prestigious and possessing a more handsome facade than this one. They live in the walls and creak the floorboards and make me curse my life, not because I'm afraid of ghosts, but because it's criminal that they should hold such unyielding power over me.

And here in the world of the living, the same old voice drones in the background over the same old pedal steel. And here in the world of the living, a bath is drawn, and the hot water runs over aching calves and fingers and with its kindness makes life seem bearable for a few more hours. And here in the world of the living, a stomach growls, wishing the refrigerator held something more than wilted romaine and carrots. And here in the world of the living, a little girl goes to bed -- too numb to cry, too sad to fight, too tired to sleep.

January 17

I tried to archive this since y'all were whining about the extra ten seconds it takes to load, but it backfired and no text at all appeared for ninety percent of you. Philip, the cutest Halegonian I know, was kind enough to point out the html errors preventing it from loading successfully, but since Pitas doesn't allow people to edit their archives, I was pretty much out of luck until Heidi, the cutest Guelphite I know (to be fair, the other one was a weasely, stocky, 4'11" whale-watch tour operator on the Bay of Fundy who was one of the creepiest people I've ever met) extracted the necessary words from the source code and e-mailed them to my sorry html-illiterate ass. Moral of the story: Canadians come through every time.

(This just in: Heidi and Philip had a beer together in Toronto recently, apparently, unbeknownst to me. Well, small fucking world -- especially for those Canucks..)

January 14

"And you find when you've organized your feelings that the people who didn't like you then do not like you now."

So hermitXcore that I forget what life outside this house feels like. I haven't left it in days, in fact.

A nightmare about a photograph of a Latino man with an afro and a large cock hanging out of his swim trunks last night.

Staying up all hours with Ocean using playing cards to make predictions about everything and nothing, anything to distract us from living life.

That cute girl I saw at parties, the one who always paid me compliments and told me I looked nice? She jumped off a bridge last night. There was no evidence of foul play. I won't see her at another potluck; she won't say "that dress is really pretty on you!" anymore. Her bright eyes won't shine on the unworthy faces of West Philly punks, who will talk a good talk about community and support now but who fail to acknowledge the complex emotional trauma and mental health issues plaguing the people who are still alive. Rest in peace, Seera. I had a crush on you, damnit -- why'd you have to kill yourself? I'm sorry I never got to know you.

Another premature morning, another sleepless night.

January 11

Somewhere deep inside, I must know that I can't just stay in my room forever, playing Mark Eitzel's song "Anything", playing with myself looking at bad teen-girl porn, eating unsalted peanuts out of their shells, and salivating over coffeetable picture books of Manitoba prairies. That still doesn't stop me from doing it, though.

Trying to find a subletter and feeling trapped in Philly by the utter selectivity of my housemates -- they're not sure how the person I have in mind will work out, but I tell them that anyone will work out better in the house right now than me if I don't get the fuck out of here _pronto_. They want someone who is queer, female, has no issues with body fat (their own or anyone else's), and willing to deal with a three-month lease in a dirty and hectic household. I am supposed to make this mythical person materialize in the next several weeks: needless to say, I find the task somewhat daunting. I am overwhelmed by the clutter and chaos of living with eight people. I am overwhelmed by the oppressive nature of being too close to where I grew up, to my family. I am overwhelmed by all of the ghosts from my past floating around this town, most of whom I either actively avoid or selectively ignore. I am overwhelmed by the stigma of getting a necessarily demeaning job in my hometown -- the idea that someone I went to school with or a relative could stroll in and see me working at CVS, or, worse, the cashier at some porn video store, is too much for even me, the queen of menial employment, to deal with.

When I do leave the house lately, I usually make it a poin to leave West Philly, too. I feel decidedly alienated by the punks and activists that live here, and the alienation is admittedly largely aesthetic. The allure of body modifications proves elusive for me, as do colored hair, white-kid dreadlocks, and dirty clothes. Am I a snob? If I am, then I'm just as/more broke than most of them, and I suppose this is where a lot of my disgust stems from: with the advanced degrees their daddies paid for, they can afford to have four pieces of metal in their face, ink covering their arms and legs, matted clumpy hair, patch-covered clothing, and unemployment. I can't, and I spend a lot of time and effort trying to stand up straight and use proper English and wear matching socks, and I guess that part of me just feels straight up jealous/resentful that they can get by socially and financially without having to.

I was rather surprised to hear Stove and Theresa confess that they would miss me if I left Philly, as I feel like I'm but a drain on everyone's energy right now -- but I know well enough by now to see this time of reflection and solitude as both requisite and temporary, and that it will soon enough be over. I will be productive and functioning and at least passably social once more, and I will miss the long days of reading and bathing just for the sake of it.

January 9

"there's a lot of you about at the moment/ is there anything that you will not endorse?/ and everytime i see your face before me/ it reminds me that we once had intercourse

i can see that same old bed where we lay tangled/ our hands, our limbs, our bodies entwined/ and i still have the book that you once gave me/ it's a shame, perhaps, that i never got it signed

my mother always calls when you're on tv/ yes, and this was charming long ago/ back when we would pull off of the highway/ just to hear you on the radio..."

I think that John Wesley Harding intended for this to be a funny song, but I find it horrifically sad.

"I wanna get out of this place if it's the last thing I ever do..." Now there's another one I can empathize with.

A bunch of goddamn toy instruments about my room -- mini-accordion, washboard, xylophone -- masking the fact that I consistently ignore the one real one sitting in the window seat.

Tell me about the secret hiding places in your hometown.

I like taking all my unfolded clothes and just-washed laundry, piling it all on my bed, burrowing my legs under it, and drifting off to sleep. Better than a million blankets, and more colorful too. Who needs a bureau?

When you leave you don't worry about the good friends or the acquaintances. You'll necessarily keep in touch with the former, and latter needn't be paid much mind. It's the people who fall squarely into the category of friend, sans embellishments, that trouble me. The people I know well enough to make plans with, but perhaps not well enough to correspond with. Those are the ones who sadden me. I have a lot of them here in Philly, and some of them I've barely begun to explore, and here I am about to take off.

The harsh light of day is coming through my windows! Enough!

January 7

It's too easy to just leave now, leave and walk into the perfect situation, the perfect job hook-up. My lease is up on May 1, anyway -- it feels strange to look for a job, knowing I'll necessarily have to either take something I don't feel good about or screw my (cool) employer over in three months. But I'm being a hermit in Philly anyway -- why not do it somewhere that's prettier and cheaper?

The crack in my bedroom window develops more branches and I wonder when or if it'll just give way...hopefully not until spring. It makes me irate, paying heat that I never get to feel. It's never gotten above fifty-five degrees in here.

She calls and talks to me like nothing has changed, but we both know things have. I say things I shouldn't say, tell her the proposal still stands, tell her about all the girls (and the odd fey boy or two) I've got lined up to pass the time -- the dozen options I amuse myself with, because I know that even if any of them stood a remote chance of working out, my heart wouldn't be in it anyway. I can't talk to anyone else in the world until daybreak, dehydrated and exhausted, without realizing how many hours have passed.

I have been shirking responsibilities in favor of comfort lately -- dare I say complacency. Skipping my physical therapy appointments, not looking for work as hard as I should, sleeping until I wake up -- no alarm set. It's not a sustainable situation. I don't even have the small but built-in discipline of daily bike rides that kept me sane through the summer -- it's too cold, and I've nowhere I'm obligated to ride to besides, and truthfully I've been scared of dodging city traffic since the accident. This cannot go on for very long without something snapping...

I bought a book about Burma Shave signs and a pair of pleather pants. I am ready for the revolution, damnit.

January 1 (!!!)

I have such a good feeling about this year. I really do.

Resolutions? Oh, I suppose. I'm predictable like that.

1. One postcard, parcel, or real letter a day, every day.

2. Outdoor sex. A lot of it.

3. LEARN TO PLAY THE FUCKING GUITAR. I mean it this time.

4. Go to Maine in the summertime already, god damn it, and stand on the rock by the Cape Elizabeth Light House, and speak in tongues again and feel like everything is right.

5. Go to the dentist. For the first time in eight years.

6. Convince Cera Beth to come on my train trip in May.

7. Refrain from falling for housemates and/or co-workers.

8. Leave North America at some point, for some duration.

9. Spend more time outdoors, and dress for the weather.

10. Cut people, including myself, a little more slack.

I'm being realistic this time around, but at the same time, if I can accomplish half of these, it'll be a hott year.

December 31

It's dangerous to put me around a TV. Since I go months without seeing one more often than not, I'm liable to get sucked in against my will. Last night found me strangely enthralled by a Madonna "Behind the Music" on VH1, and I realized something: most of the music that gets to the core of me on some really basic level is pure, mainstream pop. I mean it -- Wham!, Madonna, Duran Duran, Prince -- it's the stuff I want to dance and fuck to, if I don't find myself picking apart the lyrics at 3am, feeling particular zings of the heartstrings, or patting myself on the back for my discriminating taste. I also noted that Madonna gets away with just about any look, from trashy glam to sophisticated pixie with short black hair. Excuse me for saying so, but the woman exuded pure sex appeal in her "Borderline" era.

Watching it made me sad that I'm not famous. I suppose I could strive for some sort of minor fame, like being a big cheese amongst professors of folklore when I'm 35 or trying to kiss the ass of the drag king community or doing another zine and making it slicker and more accessible, but I don't have much interest in minor fame, as it would only serve to whet my appetite and make me thirsty for the kind that is necessarily elusive. And that'll have to be okay, somehow.

December 30

Saw Amelie tonight and remembered that anything's possible when you're skinny and you have good skin; oh well. Back to reality, now -- I enjoyed the film, though. Anything with a plot that centers around photobooths can't go too wrong.

Going through one of my e-mail accounts, dealing with the seventy-some letters, some dating from October of 2000, that I need to answer. My heart stopped to break a million times as I read flirtatious letters to and from several different suitors, now that all those flirtations have fizzled out and those romances have failed. I came across notes from people who had known me years back and found my website who I'd never responded to -- I came across letters from people I'd loathed and people I'd idolized; I came across photos from realtors and photos from boys in Oregon who thought I resembled their friend. Mostly I just pressed "delete", stopping here and there to jot down an address or a bit of pertinent info. There are so few words I regard as sacred anymore, and even fewer friendships. The wide margin of life, as Sarton once paraphrased Thoreau as saying, is only achieved by the ruthless cutting away of non-essentials. And I know, in my heart, who and which they are, if I don't always heed my intuition. I spread myself too thin, and that is my resolve for the forthcoming year: to pay more attention to those deserving of my love and less to those who fail to captivate me on at least one level. It is so much easier said than done. I want to give everyone a chance to prove their worth, but who has the time? Even a jobless bastard like myself is too busy.

Visiting my parents tonight. My dad has fixed up an old one-speed bicycle from his shop for me, a faded red "Resident". It has a rack with clip in front, perfect for holding a sturdy basket, and a rear pannier rack that's just peachy. I will ride it proudly and in style. Mom bought me a simple boombox for Christmas, even though she knows I won't bother to celebrate it, and rendered my musicless life brighter: I've been hatin' it ever since my stereo gave out for good a few weeks back. I know my dad loves me and it's so hard when he does something this selfless (staying late at work on Saturday to fix up a rusted diamond-in-the-rough despite the fact that I've fucked up so many of the bikes he's given me -- gotten them stolen, totalled by cars, and otherwise ruined) to reconcile his kindness with his hatred, his homophobia. I avoid thinking about his politics as much as possible, as I'm sure he does mine, and try to walk the blurry line of civility and peace.

Cubby throws her paws around my right calf when I come in. Her temples are greying; I know she mustn't have long in the world, and I know she's going somewhere else soon. Anyone who tells me that animals don't have souls can eat my hat. Look through a fence straight into the eye of a cow that has dared to get within a foot of you on a farm in Northwest Arkansas, as I did one day in August of 1997, and tell me you can eat steak again. I challenge you to. When I have a hard time with carnivores and yes, even ovo-lacto vegetarians, it's not because I'm a hater -- it's because these creatures break my heart in half consistently and, if there was a time when we didn't have any other choice, we're too full of options now, here in one of the world's richest and most well-educated nations, to justify the consumption of animal products. It defies all rationality, and the continued indulgence of the senses at the expense of life and decency makes me so depressed some days that it is all I can do to keep from lashing out at the seemingly heartless people surrounding me.

I am trying so hard to come from a place of love. Some of the things I wrote recently make me cringe when I re-read them. Some of the things I think sometimes, the criticisms I make of people in my head, make me question the pureness of my own heart. I only want to accept loss without willing it on others; I want to be open to good things that don't come in the form or person I would've willed.

This time last year is too much for me to think about so I don't, I ignore the imminent holiday and think about books, summer trips, the lonely border collie sleeping on the sofa.

Wednesday, December 26

My asthma's so bad that I don't want to leave bed. I should probably be making an appointment with a respiratory specialist, but I know I'm no position to pay the doctor's bill anytime soon if I do. I'm scared, wheezing, and at a loss for immediate relief.

I have some Ephedra Ma Huang, which I took several months back while working at Essene when my sinuses were acting up. It was like a godsend. My bronchial passageways were instantly opened. I also felt like I could conquer small nations bare-handed and took to dancing in the aisles, exclaiming "this is what it must feel like to be on drugs!", but that's besides the point. Ma Huang is, after all, a close relative of speed. Now my tincture bottle is sitting here, and I'm looking up all this information on accidental death resulting from its usage on the internet, and there's this back and forth argument going on in my head -- take it, knowing the side effects, and gain enough energy and wellness to move on with my day -- to shower, look for a job, call some doctors, eat -- or play it safe and continue building scar tissue in my lungs? Not such an appealing set of options. What I wouldn't give for health insurance right about now. I'll probably end up going to school in Canada solely for that reason.

Today my mother told me that my cousin Theresa asked my aunt if I was gay. She said that she could "tell" by the way I dressed, which is funny because I tried to don some feminine apparel the last time I visited them. More likely it's due to my short hair and distinct lack of makeup, two things which are decidedly conspicuous in my trashy family, where Farrah Fawcett is still revered as an idol tresswise. Interestingly enough, my mom was also hit on by a woman at Trader's Joes since letting her natural grey show...ha..

My aunt told another cousin, her daughter, that I was "bisexual". I cringed upon hearing this. I've been having a hard time with that label and what it means and whether it fits me at all lately. I call myself a lesbian, for the most part. I know that I'll end up with a woman, I pour most of my emotional energy into women, and my crushes are mostly on women. Very occasionally I find men attractive, but they are almost always gay, and when they're not I often find their takes on life/women to be distasteful. I find most women who do call themselves bisexual to be both insincere and tacky. Notice I wrote "most". Seriously, though -- most of the ladies I know who identify that way have never had a serious relationship with a woman, are not really planning on or open to having one, and latch onto the label because they want to prove they are "openminded" or because it will impress their boyfriend and/or circle of "liberal" friends. They are the same kinds of women who say things like "If you're going to date a butch woman, why not just date a man?" or "If you're going to use a strap-on, why not just get fucked by a real cock?" They don't get I came out to my family as gay, and have to deal with inevitable shock and "I told you sos" if I ever end up dating one of the three or four males in the world I would bother with. I think it's worth it, though. Otherwise, they'd have too much "hope" to latch on to -- hope that my involvement with women is a phase, that I'll end up married to a guy, that I just got the idea off of MTV.

In other news, I haven't left the house in several days. I tried to, to get some Goldenberg's peanut chews, but Fresh Deli was closed. I can honestly say that I've logged more internet-time this week than I have in most months, and that I've put more housecleaning hours in than your average maid service does in a pay period. I can also say that I'm starting to go stir-crazy as hell and would do well to have contact with another human being sooner rather than later.

I'm paying insane gas bills, yet my bedroom's temperature never climbs above fifty-five degrees. It's just not fair.

I think I'm gonna go ahead and take the Ephedra, dude.

December 21

Homefront update time, since this place has consumed most of my time and energy for the past three months.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas: everyone's skipping town. I'm looking forward to having the house to myself for more than a week. I may go a bit crazy, but at this point it'll do me better than any vacation possibly could -- I'll clean all four floors thoroughly, mend torn clothing, get a job, and cook for myself. I can't wait.

It's weird to think that Tiffini and Caroline are really leaving. The place won't be the same without them. Ca was rarely around anyway, but Tiffbop is the only member of the household rivalling me in terms of intensity and volume. I expect the dynamic of La Concha to change considerably in her absence. Theresa will likely be less of a beast without her weak link to take her out for cheesesteaks and pot.

At our house meeting earlier this week, I griped for the better part of ten minutes about how I felt disconnected from everyone, but articulating that aloud seemed to be the necessary step in changing it. I don't know if it's that people have been nicer to me or that I've just been less paranoid, but I appreciate the shift either way.

T&T and I crawled out of bed at the obscene hour of 7am, after about two hours of sleep (slumber is rarely achieved before 4am up in this piece), and headed to the Columbus, NJ flea market. My plan? To be a purveyor of "fine vintage frames". It didn't work out quite so well -- with Christmas fast approaching, the Cherry Hill mall was more of a draw. We decided it would be less than fruitful to even set up shop, and after looking at some one-dollar bootlegged CDs and the racist graffiti in the porta potties ("Tunnel to Puerto Rico" above the toilet, "Fuck Affganstan" on the fiberglass wall, and "Chink cheepee: charge no more than two dollah!" above the roll of bathroom towels. Offensive.), we headed back home for some sleep. We have a new homepage for our house, which I'll link from The Lower Case N, and which I still need to edit -- I'm the only proper-spelling terrorist living here, apparently.

(Way too personal, fucked-up, ugly stuff that I removed.)

I have to narrow my college choices down to six and send my FAFSA in. The approaching new year reminds me that time's a wastin'. Will next year find me in Canada, Ireland, or the plain old US? I don't know, but I'm getting an Amtrak North American railpass for the month of May. $425 bucks or so for 30 days of unlimited travel -- can't beat that. If you'd like me to visit you somewhere en route, let me know. Actually, if you're a regular reader of this and you've never bothered to tell me so, go ahead and do that too. I'd like to know I'm not writing for ghosts.

I can't believe that the house smells of marijuana brownies. I have a good feeling about 2002, though. And lest that confuse you, it's completely unrelated to the cannabis confections.

December 10

When I am busy and surrounded by people, I'm alright.

When I am alone late at night staring at my wall, it's another story. A black and white photo I made on a color copy machine of her smiling -- a profile view. The most perfect features I've ever seen. The girl who tore me open and made me feel promises I never thought I'd make -- and I'd still make them, only now it's a moot point. My tears are no longer dramatic -- they well up in my eyes and then, before they can wet my cheeks, I've picked up a book or trinket or piece of clothing that needs mended. I've changed the subject. I've forced myself not to dwell.

I'm trying to find some comfort in the permanence of memories, but all I can empathize with are May Sarton's few good poems, cheezy-ass Phil Collins songs, and other people's misery.

That fucked up feeling of your hands instinctively reaching for something that isn't there and never will be. That fucked up feeling of wishing you'd left her voice on the answering machine so you could play it over and over.

When I think of what I most remember about this year, and what I most loved, it is me with my eyes closed at some obscene hour, listening to her voice and smiling widely. No one could see me. Her voice, the only sustenance I needed. Her words, the only thing of value.

My baby has gone away on a long trip and left me no word.

December 6

I give it away when I won't let them touch me -- won't let them probe the suspicious mole on my back, won't let them bump their hips against mine on the dance floor, won't let them sit next to me on the couch.

Sometimes I'll up and leave the room, even.

Sometimes I'll lock myself in mine for an entire day, emerging only to use the bathroom and get water.

Today I made a list of 38 reasons not to kill myself yet. Most of them were humorous -- "It would be interesting to see if someone else will ever make me come," and "I don't know any adequate eulogists." Some of them were serious -- "My mother is still alive and it would break her poor little heart," and "I haven't left North America yet." The only thing I really have to live for at this point, it seems, is travel. Exploration. Other continents. Adventure. Conversely, the only thing I really want in the world right now is home. Stability. Domesticity. It seems simple -- rent a house, get a job, save to buy a home. It's more complicated, though. I can't get a good job because I don't have a degree. I can't go back to school because I can't get out of debt and need to work. I can't get out of debt very quickly because I can't get a job that pays well enough, because of the aforementioned lacking degree compounded by my resume full o' holes. Even if I do manage to go back to school, move into a cute little house, and discipline myself to be responsible, I have a hard time remaining productive and free of depression without friends and intrigues, dare I say potential loves. As much as I want to believe that finding a wonderful girl who would reciprocate my ardor would not solve my problems, history has proven otherwise. The very few weeks in my life when I have felt safe and loved, and the substantially greater but still very rare months in which I had some thread of hope to grasp have proven to be my most productive, creative, and happy ones. I am a nurturer by nature. I live to dote on beautiful creatures. I am a cowbird, picking at scabs and knotty hair and backne. And lately, nothing in the world seems greater than a little wifey to come home to, to cook for, to make art for, to give me a reason to break free of my narcissism and a reason to be good to myself simultaneously.

I'm told I'm too sweet, too kind, too giving, too ready. I'm told I should play head games, fuck around with people, lie to them, act like I don't give a fuck. I want to say I wish I could do it, but I don't. I just wish I could find someone else who found it all exhausting and offensive.

Staring in the bathroom mirror flossing. Noticing lines in my face for the first time in my life. Thinking about how men have never seemed right, how they have always made me profoundly sad and paranoid, how hard I tried with them and how terrible I ended up feeling. How I tried to date women unsuccessfully for a spell, gave up, and went back to men. How one girl surprised me, snuck into my life, showed me how women could devastate me and rock my world on so many levels I couldn't have comprehended...which brings me to now, staring in the bathroom mirror, thinking simply of how amazing women are, how strong and yet yielding, how perfect and pliable and supple and fluid. How much I want one, my very own. How tired I am of pretending I want a casual kiss, a quick fuck, a "fun date". How over it all I am.

Does it make me desperate to admit that I'd just as soon be done with it all and get married tomorrow if the right woman entered my life? Does it make me less of a feminist if I admit that I don't want to celebrate being single and learn how to be "happy alone" because I've been doing that very well for 26 years and have very little to learn from it anymore? Does it make me sound pathetic or seem less than feasible when I say that finding a permanent co-dweller for my futon mattress would singlehandedly and permanently catapult me from sporadic depression to consistent euphoria?

Burlington, Vermont in 1997 in my head right now. The gold capitol dome in Montpelier. "The Magdalene Laundries" pulsing through my head, Joni's rich smoky latter-day voice and the unmarried mother's story. Time for bed.

November 28

Someday, I'll go through here and edit all the paragraphs in which I alternate between first and third person with no particular pattern. For now, live the chaos, dude.

Why is it that Massive Attack's "Mezzanine" is the cheap floozy soundtrack of the century, making me want to go out and have pornstar sex? Hot damn.

I felt like killing myself earlier today, but I feel better now that Kim and Michelle came over, one at a time, and hung out in my room doing a whole lot of nothing. Actually, Michelle helped me alphabetize my CD collection, which was pretty goddamn great of her, and let me vent about my myriad boring issues, which was even sweeter of her...Kim, on the other hand, gave me hott gossip -- which made my whole week, sadly -- and talked about FBs (friendship books, a holdover from the world of pen-palling that I spent sixty percent of my afterschool hours living in as a youth.) The combination of silly and serious that the duo provided was the perfect antidote to the self-pity and depression that had been bogging me down for several days. Making a doctor's appointment, researching colleges, and eating some bitter greens helped too -- proactivity was necessary to counterbalance my current feelings of total uselessness.

A good friend of mine had a dream about me the other night, an intense dream in which she came to a "house in the woods" owned by me and a certain girl and felt overwhelmed by a sense of peace and security. She told me that she woke feeling "very confident that something had transpired" and said that her REM vision had included some sort of ceremony. It was a ridiculous, far-fetched scenario, but I blushed and stammered as she told me about it -- the colors and energy, how I held my bride, the still air about us.

A month prior, I had dreamt that her and her current mate, who she'd never viewed as anything but a platonic friend at the time, were entwined and all about each other. It went on to happen.

Having my own attorney for the first time in my life is odd.

I am obsessed with Finland and can't stop reading about it.

I had a dream that I slept with a Down's Syndrome patient, and, that same night, one that I had tested HIV positive.

I think that pre-printed postal cards from the USPS may well be the best thing since marzipan. They certainly make it easy for me to write a lot of postcards quickly, at any rate.

I got creeped out by men hitting on me since my hair was getting longer in front, and chopped off the little pieces that stood between me and total butchness. No one likes my new 'do, which is really just the same 'do I had early this spring, but I won't have to deal with sketchy femme-centric men making inappropriate comments anymore. (Reactionary? Who, me?)

I got asked out by a fifteen-year-old girl, agreed to go out with her, and then found out how old she was. Bad. I mean, I love me some youngins, but illegality is where I draw the line. 18-20 is the prime demographic I'm goin' for here, kids. If you're old enough to drink without a fake ID, you're too old for me.

I just want to live in a world of fabric and thread, bread and clementine juice, framed photographs and hardwood floors. I want me and a beautiful little wife in our little two-bedroom house in the rural midwest or south, her pregnant and me barefoot, scurrying around with a hammer. Or me pregnant and her barefoot, scurrying around with a hammer. I fall in love with kids so much lately; I know I want my own once I've gotten my master's and can afford one. I fall in love with houses so much lately; I know I want my own once I've gotten my master's and can afford one. I fall in love with girls so much lately; I know I want my own once I've gotten my master's and can convince one that I'm not just an aimless complacent punk who is satisfied with living in decrepit houses and working dead-end jobs forever. Cause I'm not, I swear it. I'm just having a hard time moving away from the only world where I've found any measure of comfort or acceptance.

More dancin' in my socks! More yams! Less internet!

November 19

You intellectualize your way out of believing it for months: she's not my type, in any way, shape, or form. She neither looks nor behaves like someone I'd usually be into. Liking her is a bad idea, and most likely a doomed one to boot. She's barely legal, for chrissakes.

You do it so successfully for so long, and then one day you find yourself staring at her back for what seems like hours and you have to take three baths to wash the dirt from your hands, you have to tell three people to get the dirty secret off your chest, you have to eat three chocolate bars just to settle your stomach and quell you for awhile.

You envy your former oblivion; you curse your sudden conspicuous strangeness -- but you know it always happens this way. The minimal maximizes, after a several month delay. The hues go from celery and apricot to emerald and blazing, blazing orange. You start monitoring your words, you start monitoring your motions, you start noticing hers' and analyzing them. You keep your eyes peeled for things she might like at the thrift shop, all the while knowing that your very investment in these sorts of token actions is the very thing keeping you from ever finding success through them.

November 6

What remains when the only thing that has made being alive okay in years is gone?

Warm baths, good books, a new faded red hoodie with a turnip patch covering the Old Navy logo. Your favorite music and its ability to put its finger on the exact location of your emotions, Chinese paper lanterns, weathered license plates, and organic almond butter. The sound the leaves make when your bicycle tire crunches them against the pavement, your relative youth, your mother's constant love. New shelves that used to hold brandy, a ceramic pen-holder made by "Naomi" in 1999, a personified shark cookie jar that plays a sound byte from "Jaws" when you open it. The warped consolation of having plumbed the depths of your heart and finding they were even deeper than you dared to fear they might be.

None of it serves as much comfort. I curl up under my insufficient blankets, hide my face, and rock myself back and forth until I've burned off the token calories I forced myself to consume.

What is in my head: walking up a hill in Seattle on the way to the liquor store, 1996. Walking past the juice smoothie shop in Tucson after dark and feeling how cold it had gotten, 1994. Taking the shortcut through the woods on your way home from school, backpack too heavy, 1986. Blocking out the past fifteen months of my life for a moment and trying to remember that I was alive and somehow valid before September of 2000 and will be alive and somehow valid now, too. _I will find meaning in other faces, terrain, and voices._ If I repeat the mantra enough it will necessarily be true, won't it?

"There's more to my life than what you hear in my songs -- like that time that I woke up not thinkin' 'bout love."

I first heard Pam sing it in 1996, and the phrase still comes to mind again and again when I realize how singular in focus I must seem, how predictable and tiresome. I do care about other things, though. 1950s primers, Sacramento in the spring, Scattergories, secondhand merino wool, community theatre. I care about them, I just don't talk them. I assume those things are a given, and I know that they lack the urgency of this, this huge thing that hinders my ability to file my taxes and fold my clothes and pay my bills. This ever-morphing need that makes it hard to eat a balanced diet and brush my teeth before bed and get through a whole song without pressing the pause button to go back and relish the first half all over again.

*** I would try to steal your words, the way you wear your pants, your beauty and brilliance from you -- in little bits -- and promise to give them back all back after I soaked up enough to make me passable and redeemed.

*** I wonder how it would feel to be the girl that everyone wanted, to have an air of mystery about me, to be an enigma. Instead I am left with ink on my skin, a running commentary that spares no details, and a growling awful stomach that manages to lend meaning to Woody Allen movies.

I don't know what I'm thinking when I go for the beautiful people, I don't know how I think I'll get one over on 'em.

October 28

"He's just too good-natured and...he's got too much money, and...he's got too many girlfriends -- I'm jealous, that's all!"

Oh, Steven Patrick, how do I love thee?

I got run over by a Chevy Cavalier yesterday. I have, miraculously, broken no bones. I am at my parents' suburban home recuperating, leg elevated and crutches handy. I am terrified of the many aspects in which this accident is going to fuck up my life for the short-term: no more commuting to work via bicycle, possibly no more job. A totalled bike. Several weeks of complete dependence on others. Financial ruin, huge hospital bills...I won't know if the bastard who ran over my right leg even has insurance until Monday. The short story is that he hit my bike and screeched to a halt after seeing that I was thrown from it...but as I was trying to pick myself up, he was in such a hurry to leave the scene that he crushed my calf. Still dissatisfied, he added insult to injury by proceeding to yell at me, claiming it was my fault, something that the many witnesses loudly disputed. Crying and shaken, I told him to get out of my face as he had probably just broken my leg and I was in a lot of pain, and before I knew it I'd been whisked away by an ambulance to Pennsylvania Hospital.

The thoughts going through my head right now are multitudinous. Here are several:

* Anyone who says vegans don't have strong bones is full of it, and now I've got proof.

* I need to tell everyone I love what's up, and soon.

* I am scared about paying my rent in the near future.

* I am scared about what this means to my bike-centric life.

* I am frustrated and bored by my current state of utter dependence on other people. I am annoyed that I need to use a bedpan because my contusion (deep bruising) renders me unable to place weight on my right limb.

* I am lonely and wish more of my friends were offering well-wishes right now. I am keenly aware of how few people genuinely care about me, because I've gotten but two phone calls here, and as many emails. The plus side is that I feel incredibly lucky to be alive, as trite as it sounds. The vehicle missed my head/torso very narrowly, and a few inches more would've meant great catastrophe. Sometimes, with all the near-misses I've had, I swear I must have a mole on my shoulder acting as a talisman.

Robert's American Gourmet's Veggie Booty is a fine snack.

October 16

Baby, stop reading my web journal, I'm all yours.

For real for real. I big like you. F, dude.

Let's go live in a small town and get a cat and be typical lesbians and cultivate herbs on the windowsill.

love Erin

October 15

Motherfucking Marrakesh Express by CSNY is going to land me on the underside of the South Street bridge sooner rather than later if I can't get a new cerebral soundtrack up in this piece.

When I'm overworked, sleep seems like the great love of my life. Everything else but the need for slumber falls away.

With X there is all of the awe and wonder without any of the discomfort, and I'm as calm as I am overwhelmed. I can't understand it, but I laugh a lot and loudly, and breathe deeply, and sigh under my breath.

With Y it makes perfect sense but only on paper, you know?

With Z there are enough things wrong to fill a book on the bad day but I don't mind any of them very much at all, I'd still offer my hand in marriage and a snap pea garden if that wasn't enough.

I've gone through enough bicycles this year to fill the southwest quadrant of Beijing, and I can't for the life of me figure out where the bad bike karma is coming from.

Obsessed with abandoned Australian mining settlements and fluffy sweaters. Had a revelation last night that I _must_ be a travel writer, somehow. It is my calling; it combines my two greatest passions, it is what I was born to do, if I was born to do anything. A bike with a bouncy seat and handlebars that don't make me arch my back would be the best gift in the world about now.

Theresa told me the other day that I was like Marilyn Manson trapped in the body of George Clooney, and that I seemed to come from "one of those Beaver Cleaver families, the kind that only exist in the movies." I laughed for about ten full minutes, and then told her that was exactly the effect I was going for.

October 13

Sometimes I just want to be all "I'm not even _trying_ to hear that."

October 9

She just waltzed into my kitchen and mentioned it off the cuff, having no idea of the many levels on which it would fuck up my evening. To her it was just a casual observation, a laughable injection into the conversation, somewhat out of context though it may have been. It made me rush to the bathtub, though -- my first impulse in the wake of hearing devastating things -- to drown my sorrows in the scalding water. It made me have nightmares about hiding in coal bins during shoot-outs in Pasadena, and letters hidden in my po box only to be found years after the fact, and being two hours late for important events. It made me come to work puffy-eyed despite the fact that I hadn't shed a tear, and Jenny noticed as much. "You didn't sleep much, did you?" Oh, I did, but probably not very well.

Working every day, with no days off -- none! -- except when I call in sick. No phone at my house -- walking to a corner payphone in the bitter cold, dodging Sketchmaster Generals, to check my voicemail. Confessions from people I don't know very well that are too big to tell but also too big to keep secret, confessions that weigh down heavy on my chest and in my heart and threaten to make me cough up blood. I suppose it could be said that life can't get much worse. I've achieved a semblance of discipline -- curbed my compulsive thrift-shop habit, started working twice as much as I did, and bitten my tongue -- but life seems like a string of monotonous days without bright spots right now, but for a few moments when I'm teased, when something wonderful is dangled in front of my eyes for a few brief minutes only to be yanked away as soon as I give in and bite at it.

I thought about getting a suit to protect me from the chemical and biological warfare that might ensue, but decided against it. I'll take my chances.

I've managed to botch up everything on this continent that has ever meant anything to me. My only course of action now is to leave it. There is no longer anything keeping me here -- the few remaining things of worth have been devalued or screwed up completely -- and I need a new lease on life. I don't want to give up on life completely, but maybe I'm ready to move to Galway.

Melodrama never seemed so utterly necessary as it has today.

September 27

I want a wall of thick paper to punch repeatedly on nights like this -- I have work for the next two days, need to move out in three, haven't slept enough or well in awhile...there are going to be four houseguests staying with us tomorrow night, at least one of whom I've got issues with, and one of their dogs just wandered in my room and pissed all over my bedroom floor, narrowly missing a pile of shoes. I'm coping pretty well all told, but I'll be glad when this week is a distant memory.

Lemur sits in our living room, so calm and yet jovial, adding perspective and humor to everything. I wish that he'd become a presence in our house far earlier -- his rationality serves to diffuse potentially volatile situations without fail. A mostly gay man talking to his mostly lesbian girlfriend, working on bracelets made of nuts and bolts and washers, all porkchop sideburns and teeth and gangly limbs. He rarely stops smiling and laughing, and it's certainly contagious.

Life is a string of ambiguities lately. If I am not saying "let's not analyze this too much" or "let's not discuss the elephant in the living room" on various fronts, I am certainly implying it, dare I say hoping for it. Plenty of things seem tentative, potential, and open to interpretation; few things seem set in stone, actualized, and clear. If indeed nothing seems very definite, everything seems very affecting. Sometimes the dog will wander in and look up at me, hoping for a few kisses or a belly rub, and I'll think he's got it all figured out. Everyone is having post-crisis sex what with all the terrorist bombings, but me, I'm moving away from the casual-sex era of my life. Kisses seem like contracts now, in the best possible way. I fall in love with a look or light touch; I ignore objectivity and common sense and obey my deepest gut. It means that I go for many long months with very little physical contact, but I prefer it to bunkmates whose hands make me feel hollow.

My whole body aches tonight ; I take a long, hot bath and the aches become less dull, less spread throughout me, and more distinct and sharp. I put rope sandals and a bathrobe on because I need texture to keep me awake and keep me feeling; I scrub my face with the tail end of a loofah and wash my scalp with the points of my fingernails. I need the soft skin and doughy belly of a girl to counteract all the hardness, the harshness, the abrasion. Knowing that I can close my eyes and imagine her up is the only thing that keeps me from losing it sometimes.

The ornate menorah sits on the plexiglass, heralding Hanukkah a few months too early. I look up at the pieces of drywall hanging from our kitchen ceiling, see the rotting wood. Only a couple more days in this house, a couple more days until I open my window and hear the trolley and open my door to hear eight loud girls scurrying about my new house. I feel it's not premature to say it might be the last time I live with other people. My patience with compromise and frustration is waning; I think a lot about buying a house in the U.P. and even more about leaving the U.S. I know that something huge is going to shift in the next twelve months, but I'm not sure what it is.

Sometimes the answers seem very clear: bitter greens, weight-bearing exercise, an extra dose of empathy. Sometimes I want to just go to sleep, crossing my fingers that I'll wake to some semblance of clarity.

September 20

(Neither of us are getting any younger and your eyes remind me of my first severe infatuation in high school, the way they're set, and I think a lot of how sex with you would involve both of us laughing out loud a lot, laughing at our own ineptness, sex so awkward that it would manage to be perfect. And then I quickly reprimand myself for letting myself think about what sex with you would be like. And sometimes Joni Mitchell lyrics get mixed up with Cleveland Bound Death Sentence melodies and vice versa, but talking in present tenses sounds pretty okay at any rate.)

Today I told someone that whenever I'm about to eat food that isn't organic, I make myself visualize a huge field getting soaked with tons of gallons of pesticides. I do. He probably thought I was a wingnut, but it's very effective in curbing my conventional-produce cravings.

Dreamt: I am catching several dozen crabs in a plastic shopping bag. I have plenty, and plan to release them, but not until I catch one more. I frantically search for the new Madonna CD, Music, which has a song about crabs on it (not really) which I want to serve as a soundtrack to the act of capturing the final crab.

September 18

Lately I wash all my clothes after one wear or the appearance of the faintest stain. It gives me some facade of control over my life. It helps me forget that I don't have an education, job skills, a cultured background, or the resources (social, financial, mental) to get out of a situation I feel trapped in right now. Sometimes I look around and see the dirty punk kids and I feel so at home, I know these are my people. Other times I'm disgusted. On the rare day when I'm in a good mood and people are being kind to me, I don't much mind either way. I meet most folks with acceptance; I don't critique the hell out of them right down to their pinky fingernails. When I'm feeling insecure, though, I pick apart my pimples and I pick apart their soiled clothes and I find fault with everyone. When I'm not, I allow them their dreads and malnourished puppies and excessive piercings and bad tattoos and sinfully ugly earplugs, and conversely, I even let the high-maintenance yuppies slide -- I don't care much, I just want to hang out.

Today I feel like nothing in the pile of clothes on my floor says what I want: I'm either a sorority chick yuppie or a scrub, nothing in between. Today I want a uniform that says what I stand for without scaring off the general public. I want a sign that's only readable to those who need to know.

September 18

Sometimes I feel old. When I haven't slept enough and I've forgotten my moisturizer and I look too closely, I feel old. When I look at pretty eighteen year olds and want to know them in the biblical sense, I feel old. When I think about what I was supposed to have done by now, I feel old.

Sometimes I feel young. When I'm well-rested and well-fed and well-exercised and dressed in clothes that hug my still-resilient body, I feel young. When pretty eighteen year olds look at me and make googly eyes, I feel young. When I think about how much time I've got left to do everything I want, and what a head start I've got already, I feel young.

Sometimes I feel helpless and alone. When everyone goes but me, when letters are unanswered and calls unreturned, when my family says my friends have corrupted me and my friends ask me why my family is so fucked. Sometimes I swear that one person would be enough to reverse all the bitterness, and sometimes I know this isn't close to being possible. Sometimes I want to be back on a Greyhound outside of Globe, Arizona, half-starved and tired and surrounded by wingnuts, full of wide-eyed wonder, and sometimes I'm glad that I've seen enough to know what's worth seeing and what's worth leaving alone.

I stay far away from the people I like best. I don't come close to touching them. It's more than I could bear. I place hands and heads and approving glances on everyone else, I hug and snuggle, I compliment and seek out. With the few that matter it is only awkward words, forced mechanical embraces, and curt niceties. I stay away, but there are always longing looks, and I'm afraid I'll get caught in them one of these days. Longing lingering looks and an open mouth and palpitations in my chest and a neck too warm for mid-September.

September 12

I'm about to start working seven days a week.

I owe too much money to think I have the luxury of doing otherwise.

Emily is angry with me for paying rent late, and I need to come up with first, last, and security by November 1 for the place I'm moving into. I know I've budgeted poorly, but I also know that it's pretty tough to budget $550/month.

I am, by all accounts, a financial fuck-up. Little things get the better of me -- a four dollar vegan cheesecake, a trip to the thrift shop on my lunch break that I can't really afford. I get bored, lonely, and depressed and think that buying something will temporarily ease my malaise -- and temporarily, it does. For about five minutes. And then the quick rush is gone, my life hasn't changed, and I've got fewer bucks mixed in with my pocket lint. I feel like I'm on the verge of breaking this destructive cycle, but I need to be in a healthy, clean environment. This punk house -- ceiling falling in, dirt and clutter everywhere, makes me feel like I'm going insane. It makes me feel like I need to leave and go buy food because I can't stand to be in the kitchen; it makes me feel like I can't get anything done because the stuff spilling out of every room, disorganized and dirty, jumbles up my thoughts. Obsessive-compulsive? I don't deny it, but I also doubt that this kind of chaos is conducive to good mental space for anyone. I'm really looking forward to moving out, more than words can detail. There are a few less-than-prime things about the new space, but I can stress out about them later. For now I'm just glad that I'll be able to sleep without worrying about a strange man climbing on my roof at three am and into my window and that I'll be able to take the trolley directly to my house instead of a series of sketchy buses that might not leave Lombard for an hour or two. I'm hoping I might even have a social life, though that seems like too much to dream of at this point. I'm still so paranoid and fearful of people. The age-old monsters linger in new incarnations, more subtle robes. I know I have a few people I do trust -- I'd do well to concentrate on strengthening bonds with them, learning to listen more and talk less, refraining from criticism that isn't invited. A lot of people have voluntarily removed themselves from my life because I've proven to be but a blow to their ego. It's very sad, but I'm not sure I, if anyone, can blame them. I almost stopped talking to Pam when she confessed that she thought I was actually only "average" looking after I bragged that I was having a "cute day".

There are a bunch of new people in my soon-to-be-old house, signaling the forthcoming change, and I say things that anger them despite my attempts to walk on eggshells. Devil's advocate seems to be the name of the game -- I hear that vegans are obnoxious, straightedgers are obnoxious, people who eat strictly organic are obnoxious. I espouse all these things fully and proudly, hold them close to my chest. They are ideals which beat through me and keep me sane. I am put off by all the empty black label beer cans, the cigarette breath, the dairy-laden pastries. Perhaps I'm just as bad as them, but all of those things speak of denial to me -- just as all my austerity speaks of anal-retentiveness and an inability to have fun to most. I often feel like I am not of this world; I often wonder if I'll ever feel at home in any subculture, any community, any circle of friends. Too political for all the rock and rollers and never political enough, or in the right ways, for the activist kids. I glean what I can, discard what I don't need, clutch my blanket close to my chest when I sleep, and dream the vivid, comforting dreams that enable me to live through another day. And then I do it again.

September 8

The loss is so big it hasn't fully hit yet.

There isn't a whole lot to say -- sadness is coupled with relief from emotional exhaustion.

I can wear sweaters at night now, and take comfort in thick blankets.

I shaved my legs so I could see what it would feel like to be inconspicuous, but I just get tons of creepy guys making cat-calls, and there are bloody scabs and bumpy rashes.

I think I found the perfect overalls at a yard sale today.

I am moving house, away from this place where I won't sleep in my room because it's positioned next to a second-story roof with an easily accessible window, the first place a burglar would enter. After all the rapes and murders in Parkside in the past fortnight, sleep has proven elusive. There was one night where I hid in the pile of clothes on my floor, put my fingers on 9, 1, and 1, and finally broke down and called Chris and talked to him until the day broke. He was in a talkative mood for once and happy to hear from me, and his perfect soft sweet voice that I'll never quite be over lulled me back to a state of calm. I remembered comfort and goodness and things feeling right, and if it made me a little sad, it made me more hopeful.

Tomorrow it will be Sunday and I will clean and declutter and cook a healthy meal. This week I will go to bed early every night and I sleep in. I will hit on that gorgeous, soft-spoken Julie Andrews clone who is most likely straight, refrain from cursing out the mice who have taken over our house, and make one of my journals into a datebook so I'll have one less reason to be irresponsible. I'll cut my green polo shirt into a lovely scoopneck and think about Lena, Wisconsin and the house I dream of in the U.P. and I'll cut my dirty fingernails off finally.

August 29

I think I'd like living in Montreal, like really and for real I might want to move there. Problem is I'm not really fashionable enough and I don't know French, but these can both be worked on.

I need to see so many different doctors: urologist (why do I pee so goddamn much?), gynecologist (haven't had a pap smear since I was 17 or 18, which is pretty sketchy), dentist (haven't seen one in eight years and I have a big old surface crack that is scaring the fuck out of me). I don't foresee getting a job with benefits in the near future, so this need may remain unfulfilled for awhile more.

This morning I had the most fucked dream about deciding to do one big drug deal to get out of debt. Unfortunately, it was conducted in a fancy restaurant with tons of mirrors and cameras. I woke up, relieved, just as the cops came for me, and then drifted back to sleep to dream that I lived in a ramshackle little wooden shed which was being knocked down by high winds. Dreams about money and shelter worries, imagine that.

Lately I have seriously considered joining an intentional community just because it would more-or-less solve most of my problems (job/housing/social) at once, but I really don't want to live amongst hippies when it comes down to it.

Last week I weighed myself and found that I was at 125 lbs., a weight I have not enjoyed since high school, but fortunately I ate so much on this trip that I am back up to 128 or so. That's a lot of fucking food for one week. Wow. I am impressed with myself, but when you are around exotic vegan desserts with French ingredient lists, how can you resist?

In Hamilton, Ontario, what I thought would be an uneventful bike ride turned into a momentous one -- my bloodhound nose sought out the one freak in town and ended up perusing his junk shop as he pelleted me with free gifts, told me about his phone-sex-operator wife who was "only a few years older than me" (he was about 60), and drank beer through his few remaining teeth. Gary was an amazing hippie holdover whose shop was full of treasures; I was amazed to find him in such a seemingly dull burg.

I am insanely terrified about life in so many ways right now, ways that are too big to write about, and lately I find myself wishing that I would get into a freak accident. Perhaps I shouldn't wish for that, though -- if I end up paralyzed and close to death, I'm sure I'd change my tune.

Getting enough sleep would be a good start.

August 23

Riding down Lombard Street with one hand on my handlebars and the other on my dress -- holding it down as a light wind blows, keeping the glances of strange old Italian men off my legs. I hear someone call my name and look up to see J standing there in someone's doorway, ushering me over.

J introduces a friend, a beautiful Latina girl I've never met before with cowlicks just like mine, and asks if I'm okay -- if I want a hug. For once, I accept. I _do_ need a hug; I need a hug badly. All I know how to do anymore is ride my bike. Food doesn't hold my attention long enough; books only interest me a few pages at a time...but put me on a two-wheeled machine and you won't see the likes of me for hours. I ride and ride and work, from work, on my lunch break, after I'm done, on my days off, out to the suburbs, back to the city, past an abandoned warehouse, to the thrift shop, into a stranger's backyard. Part of me must think this is going to solve something, make some of the monsters go away. It is clear that there are unsolved mysteries brewing in my head and frustration welling up in my belly. I trip over explanations, keep everything topical, and omit the necessary words always. I've forgotten how to talk to people like a normal human being.

Lately I go to bed an hour early just so I can lie awake wondering about the universe and my place in it, wondering about some of its fellow inhabitants, wondering about their lives. There is so much I want to know that I don't dare ask. All I can do is bond with babies anymore -- strange little creatures strapped to their mamas' backs with tufts of carrot-colored hair springing from their heads. We have a dialogue that needs no words; for once I feel understood.

Speech has only managed to destroy my life.

I love how it feels to come home to an empty house. I value alone time more than anyone I know. I don't go anywhere with other people; I rarely make plans. When other people creep into my life it's largely by accident. I bump into them; we attend the same show; we like to eat at the same restaurant. It makes sense, then, that the only people I develop an affinity for are those placed in my life by circumstance. I think of how Pam and I grew close mostly because we lived together five years ago. Left to my own devices, I'm fairly terrible at making friends. This wasn't always the case. I used to have a mailbox full of accolades and stories and inquiries; I used to strike up conversations with hosts of strangers and have at least a few new voicemail messages everyday. Somewhere along the line, I got tired of the surface-level interactions. It would be inaccurate to say I gave up, but I certainly don't try as hard, on the whole. But sometimes, I want to.

All I know how to do to express my appreciation of people is to give them gifts. I resort to presents, because I can't figure out how to tell people I care about them.

Nearing the South Street bridge, I look up at the sky. The air, though still warm, is certainly hinting at fall. Maybe it's the smell of it; maybe it's the way the breeze blows. All I know is that it makes summer's brevity very clear. Makes clear all the missed opportunities, the classes I didn't take, the moments I didn't grasp, the time wasted feeling sorry for myself, the hours spent reading trashy magazines instead of finishing books I've started. It's been awhile since I've felt much of anything at all, but as I round what surely must be the only bend in South Philly, my heart accelerates to keep pace with my bicycle. This melancholy focuses everything, makes Philly seem beautiful, makes me proud to call it my hometown. It makes autumn seem exciting (if too speedy in its approach.) It makes sweaters seem worth looking forward to. It makes me want to grab everyone who has ever had an impact on me and shout out the hows and whys and wherefores and spill my fucking guts out. It makes me want to swing my legs to one side of my bike, hop off, throw it to the wayside, and curl up in the fetal position on the sidewalk, letting the old Italian men come over to comfort me, letting the homeless men steal my bike, letting the last Septa bus of the night go by as I lie there, wide-eyed and wondering, staring up at the stars and figuring out where I figure into this whole equation.

Instead I just swallow hard, keep pedaling, ride over the Schuylkill and past Penn, ride under the leafy trees on Walnut, ride past a million strangers who don't know of the wars being waged inside of me as they give me a cursory glance.

It is all very humbling, enough to turn a cocky, dogmatic, egotistical girl into an apologetic one, enough to make me want to take back all the bad things I've ever said about everyone and get down on my knees to beg the world for a little mercy.

This is the last day of my first quarter-century.

I won't have to think about all of this when I'm in Canada.

August 20

Crafty girls: girls obsessed with sewing and altering and stationary supplies. They are finally in my life, and it is a wonderful thing.

Lately the overflow of emotion has been all but unbearable -- people long gone from my life in it again; people who have been in it for awhile assuming new roles. There is always an excuse to ride my bike at some obscene hour, but the only one I need is the heat. Still, there's always that hope that I might run into the four or five people around these parts who are capable of making my day.

I'll be twenty-six on the twenty-fourth. I recall being 19, thinking that if I hadn't found love and self-acceptance by age 25 I would end my life and get the misery over with. Now, though, a quarter-century has come and gone. I'm still largely friendless, and even when I _am_ loved, genuine reciprocation seems elusive. I still do battle with my body most days of the year, allowing disgust to seep into the cracks between the cobblestones of self-confidence that are more evident to the casual passerby. Every year I tell myself that this will be the last year -- the last year I scribble things into a journal that makes no sense, the last year I work slacker jobs, the last year I sabotage every good relationship that comes into my life. Every time I say it, I mean it, but the years come and go and they're all beginning to look like vaguely different castoffs from the same template.

I fucking miss the Upper Peninsula; some days more than others. I miss it when I am talking to Ashley and remembering the ease of my days there. No obligations, no schedules, and -- as he reminds me -- no social life. There was no need to feel the cold sting of rejection; I wasn't putting myself on the line. Now, with the summer winding down, it is easy to long for thimbleberries soft and yielding against my tongue. It is easy to walk past the wilted, diseased city trees and long for the birch and pine forests of the Keweenaw.

I have nothing novel to say tonight -- my head is filled with old thoughts in new combinations, combinations that seem challenging and confusing to me but would surely reek of predictability to everyone else.

I stay up far too late, and with no good excuse.

What I want: someone sweet and kind to come into my room right now, crawl into my cosy chair, and tell me their stories, tell me of their life. For once I want to shut up and listen, right now while it is still dark and I can hide under the veil of the blackened sky.

The ceiling fan whirs around and around. I never have the right words. I never leave a wide enough margin in my life.

August 17

"After the first time we kissed, I drove for an hour in the wrong direction..."

Playing Ida's "I Know About You" over and over again, it feels just like 1997.

Leila and Lemur sit and touch playfully, reading a bad sex-instructional manual called "Making Love" complete with pictures of seventies-styled couples intertwined. I call her a bitch and she says that I'm one too. We both laugh and say that we meant that as a compliment.

Emily and I stay up all night and talk about my failures at communicating. For once I don't bristle at every criticism, but listen intently, wondering how I might take these observations to heart and behave in ways that are less selfish to the people who care about me.

There are no less than nine bicycles in my living room, and almost as many crusty punks in my house. My fervent desire to impose order hits sharp and swift, but I remember that life and summer are more important than a neat den...and so refrain a little.

Summer is in full effect. I am lovesick for something -- maybe the heat itself -- in a way that makes me ride my bike faster and harder and further. Ride down Kelly Drive until I can't figure out where I am, past East Falls and almost to Manayunk and back against opposing traffic. Through horse manure, past creepy old men hiding in the bushes, through the rain, dehydrated and needing to pee at the same time. I sing less-than-stellar songs I make up on the spot: "...and you blazed a trail to Halifax/just to rampage all the clearance racks". I think about dressing up like an early-80s Sex Pistol punk complete with fishnets. I never sleep before daybreak. I ingest very little other than soymilk and fruit. I sleep on an unmade bed. More dreams come, and some of them weigh heavy on me, lingering in my consciousness long after waking. I feel more in dreams, and everyone seems to love harder than they do in real life. Phrases pop into my head at random intervals: "Who was that masked man?" , "...queen of the wild frontier.", "I meant to do that!"

A faint rustling sound on the porch...leaves? The window screen? An intruder? I've begun to feel too safe here. I leave my laptop on the desk, in plain view, and don't bother to close all the windows. In a few weeks, I'll make a new neighorhood home. I might miss Viola Street more than I suspect I will.

The other night, during that long and difficult talk, I might have come closer to changing my life for the better than I have in half a decade. Out loud, I simply stated "Sometimes I think I let myself get caught up in all these issues and all this low self-esteem bullshit because I'm terrified of how much I could actually achieve if I stopped worrying about it all." I think I hit the nail on the head, for once.

August 10

It is the dreams that are going to kill me, in the end.

I dream of someone telling me that X used to hold the same job I hold now, and I am filled with relief, with a sense that I can have a wonderful life someday too, that I can escape this rut of slacker jobs and minimal ambition.

I dream of Y in bed with me and several other people, saying that the fact that we'll never sleep together doesn't mean that I'm not beautiful. I wake near tears.

I dream of Z's hand between my thighs, sliding back and forth, and I wake up wet; everything feels fluid and overwhelming; all the colors are blurred and the light is not quite right. I am queasy and sick. The rest of the day feels like a dream; the dream feels more like real life.

You can ignore people in your waking hours, you can try to push old memories to the backburners of your brain, you can know things aren't possible and mourn your situations and feel hopeless, and REM sleep will school you regardless.

Sometimes it's too much; it makes me stay up all night so that when I finally do bed down it is a furtive, dreamless sleep; sometimes it's more than I can be expected to bear.

August 10

My bicycle is where I make sense of life, make the decisions that mean everything to me, figure out who I am and how I want to live, what my priorities are and what really matters. My bicycle is more of my world than I care to acknowledge. When I am without one, I realize this fully.

On my bicycle is when I write songs -- I don't care if they come out all wrong when it's 2am and the only people out on their doorstep are crackheads and wingnuts; the only people on the street hookers trying to sell me their services, mistaking me for a rich white man. It is sad and beautiful and warm, riding the streets at 2am. There is no way to refrain from singing, and there are so many things to sing about. I climb the hill, the one that leaves me out of breath in the daytime more often than not, and I feel as light as a hummingbird. For the first time in six months, I don't need grease in my hair to keep it from looking silly. It is long enough to go pomade-free now, but still short enough to keep my neck cool. Considering that the mercury reached 101 degrees, this is no inconsequential thing.

When I stand in front of the mirror lately and lift my skirt I do it with a new kind of confidence. I know I am sexy now, even on my off days. I love watching my muscles emerge as I ride my bicycle more and more and eat purer, cleaner food -- no more breads and fewer sugars, but real, whole food. I love watching my body turn into something that I have always felt -- I have never felt comfortable with extra fat around my stomach or on my thighs. It is not that it was ugly, but that it wasn't _me_. I like my body more these days, but it's not just because it's changed. It's because I've looked people in the eye and vocalized my desires, or, when I haven't been able to, looked them in the eye and made my desires very clear.

My need to return to college has become less of a vague idea and more of a pressing obsession. I'm hoping I can do it as soon as January, though this might be unrealistic. I am tired of hating myself, thinking I'm not smart enough, thinking I'm not beautiful enough, putting my real life on hold because of doubts and insecurities. I want to earn an advanced degree; I want to do it soon. I want a wife by the time I'm thirty. I want an orderly home, a few damn good friends, a good vegan restaurant a stone's throw away, and a city park that moves me. I want to be in Canada.

I love interacting with children, and they take to me just as easily and surely. Today, after fewer than five minutes of interaction with Meridian, she threw her arms around me and said "I love you Erin!" Unfortunately, she slammed her little head into my browbone in doing so, but I survived.

This afternoon I bled all over my lime green linen skirt when my cousin from the cuntry stopped by unannounced. There's a half-full jar of Navy Rit dye in my basement, true, but I really liked the lime green. Too bad.

When all is said, the only ones who matter are those who move you to action, to passion, to improving your life.

August 3

Who is that sexy motherfucker on the bike?

Lessons learned:

* Though you think you can visit your family and maintain your sanity, experience has again proven this improbable.

* Limbo can be far worse than hell.

* I can't be friends with people when I have wanted to fuck their brains out at some point and failed. I just can't.

* You don't know how much a functioning bicycle means to you until you live in Northwest Philly without one.

* I would do well to get out of my instant gratification mentality and need for hyperstimulation of every variety.

July 19

macktivist: sometimes I think I'm a dyke, and other times I think I'm just asexual except for like five people in the world

macktivist: cause like I don't think most girls are very hot either

macktivist: tonight i wore a catholic school girl uniform to the show -- one person said i looked like i went to the sock hop and someone else called me a cholla

macktivist: but the best part: when i was walking home, these kids screamed "THE SEA AND CAKE IS AWESOME" and awaited response

macktivist: when they got none, they screamed "SAVES THE DAY RULES"

macktivist: I think they were trying to make fun of me for looking indie-rock

ride a dove: hahah

macktivist: I felt like a grade-A schmuck, for sure

macktivist: a cholla is one thing but an indie-rocker is another

ride a dove: dude

July 9

I break out an album I haven't heard in at least five years, which I certainly once owned but definitely got rid of during my extreme-minimalist phase: the same regrettable phase during which I threw out favorite mix tapes, wonderful zines, cherished love letters, and rare 7" records. Bad calls on all counts. This LP? Chris Isaak's San Francisco Days. The tape sleeve bears a picture not of San Francisco, but Stockton -- ironic, as the Central Valley town is the very furthest thing from the City by the Bay in every sense but a geographical one. "Can't Do a Thing" fills my cluttered room with its sweet drone, and images of two stressful days in New York City fill my mind: the massive digital billboard across from Penn Station showing images of a gorgeous brunette with her hair flying in the wind. Plenty of gorgeous brunettes with their hair flying in the wind, in real life. A man in a wheelchair attempting to swim like a fish with his two good limbs, but failing to get anywhere very fast.

Billy and I sit in a wooden children's playhouse in the park, talking about creative goals -- mine are so loose right now, and though I get defensive, I don't much mind this. I know I'll do great things before I die; I have confidence that this quiet, uninspired lull isn't time wasted -- most of the time. Occasionally, though, I'm terrified -- terrified that all these years have slipped by leaving me with nothing to show for them. The past three years' growth has been so slow and accidental compared to the urgency of the more transient life I lived from the ages of 18 to 23, as a travelling zinester/kleptomaniac/spendthrift/full-time couch resident. Now that I am no longer occupying other people's space nor tagging along living bits of other people's lives for a day or week or fortnight, I'm not quite sure I know how to live my own. "What's new?" Stephen asks, and I don't know quite what to say. My bike got stolen, for one. I cut the mock turtlenecks off of eight shirts this week, and sewed the torn seams of a vintage dress. I started a book about traditional Irish music as well as Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer-winning blockbuster, Interpreter of Maladies, and moved over a thousand articles of clothing from one room to another. I taped both Team Dresch albums for a young dyke in the Upper Peninsula, rode lots of buses, hosted a Californian visitor, marginally avoided lots of marginally sane customers at work, and people-watched like a motherfucker. In retrospect, my life hasn't lacked excitement, but the most appropriate answer to Stephen's question still seems to be "not much". How very odd.

Victoria and I have said "That didn't happen..." and "That's not true!" more times this week than the rest of my family has this year, and believe me -- that's a whole helluva lot.

July 7

"But most of Wainwright's love songs were inspired by one person. "I met this guy, and it was one of those 'one look at him and you're dead' scenarios," he says. "That's only happened to me one time; I don't think you ever get more intense than that. He was totally unavailable and ... you know the feeling. You know it will never work, and it'll end tragically, but you can't help yourself."


Two stolen bikes, a U-lock cut in half, some really good pad thai, one catastrophe caused by my dad sticking his nose into my business and his truck into my neighborhood, some free soy yogurt, six yoga mats beneath my weary back, sixteen broken bicycles carried down the basement steps, three Lonely Planet travel guides, several cat-calls, one pair of tight spandex dance pants, five hours of sleep to look forward to, and one thoroughly exhausted McErin. Amen.

New York City, here I come.

July 5

Harsh accusations:

Customer at work: "You have a moustache. I used to have one too, but I got rid of mine. Yours is nice, though. I'm on Prozac. Are you Italian?"

Victoria, visiting Sacramentan ex-housemate: "You look like an indie-rocker."

Noelani, visiting Hawaiian internet friend: "You have more issues than anyone I've ever met."

As the great Kwame said, "just another day in the life.."

do not lose awe watch them sleeping notice the new shirt listen to the slight changes of intonation wake up in the middle of the night sick and hot try to imagine life without them feel your stomach lurch churn make plans fight your urge to freak out stay positive wonder why no one else is cute cross your fingers pray hope dream worry stand pigoen-toed think about your old best friend talk about being gay too much make up for lost time idealize the real realize the ideal wear things that are a stretch for you add new characters to the cast of your favorite comic notice your own legs get an extra-big toothbrush press the snooze button think about canada press your hand to your chest everytime you look at them breathe deep sigh loudly never lose awe never lose awe

June 30

Full-time work turns me into an underslept, malnourished, cranky bitch.

Sugar makes me insane and paranoid.

The sticky heat makes me irritable and slow-moving.

The pollution makes me short of breath and sick.

Watching someone get bludgeoned nearly to death with a metal rod down the street from my house makes me scared.

Everything else just furthers my fear of dying alone.

I want to go to bed and not wake up for three days, and when I do, everything will be better -- or, at the very least, I'll be less tired.

Somebody tell me the right thing to say the right way to say it the right fucking way to climb out of this hole.

June 28

(Shon is telling me about how you got so drunk on whiskey that you started banging your head against the wall and screaming, about how sad it makes him that you're so overly cautious about expressing yourself that you virtually explode when you finally do. I am learning specifics that I did not want to know. We don't talk for months at a time anymore, and sometimes this makes me sad. If I call you, you'll talk to me, but you never care enough to deal with four or five bucks' worth of long-distance bills: you'd rather spend the money on ramen, or, worse yet, liquor.)

(You are flirting with me and I want to slap you very hard, tell you that you are the last person on earth who should dare to flirt with me, but I don't. I just stomach it and then go home and feel my gut distinctly ache. It is the ache of deliberate mockery. This is how you make fun of me; this is how you remind me of all my glaring shortcomings, of what I will never have and who I will never be.)

(They are chasing me on their bikes, a whole gang of them. There must be eight or nine kids in all. "Stop on Broad Street!," one of them yells as we approach the busy intersection. The biggest one of the bunch is cackling; they are threatening to do things if I don't hand my bicycle over. This has happened too many times to count, but something about this time feels more real, more immediately threatening. I cut over to Bainbridge and cross my fingers.)

Black linen pants, sleeveless cotton lavender shirt, small cut on my face, bruises everywhere, hair needing a trim.

Plywood is the work of the devil and should be banished from our house.

For the first time in your life you look at porn and feel distinctly repulsed by, not just indifferent to, penises.

I want to cook everytime I feel compelled to buy a fancy dessert. I want to listen to a record I own but have never played everytime I'm tempted to buy a new one. I want to read all the books on my shelf before I set foot in an another used bookstore, and mend all the torn clothes sitting in my basement before I shop for new ones. Even if I am trash-picking and thrifting and eating organic, I am still far too caught up in acquisition: I need to start utilizing the things I've acquired over the past several years.

What I want most in life is simple and pure. I pray every night, pressing a ratty cotton undershirt to my ear. I wonder how Neal is holding up in Dublin; if I'll ever see him again. I welcome the heat: it gives me a chance to sweat out the demons.

(You have a short attention span and are easily annoyed lately, but still you remember to brush and floss before you go to bed every night without fail. The holes in your floor and ceiling both grow bigger. You simply block out things that are way too insane for you to even try thinking about, play Dylan's "New Morning" over and over again and wish he had never divorced Sara Lowndes, and only press down with your one good leg when you ride your bike.)

June 25

If I have any secret admirers out there, they should buy me the one copy of _A Singer and Her Songs: Almeda Riddle's Book of Ballads_ that is on currently. They can email me from their secret email account and I will send them my secret po box address, and we will all be happy.

June 26

Since I am not getting any younger, I've been listing the things that I should prioritize in my head. I'm a dabbler by nature, but here are the things that excite me most:



linoleum prints


bike repair

Irish history

mountain peoples' culture and folklore

eventual home ownership

raising a child in a healthy manner

quality, not quantity in friendship

As the old Youth Crew bands would say, fuckin' GO!


I notice the grammatical errors on here more often than you'd think, and often consider going back and changing them, but ultimately refrain from doing so: that would require spending more time on the internet, and I'm trying to stay away from the beast as much as possible lately.

June 20

My dad told me that Freud said "Psychoanalysis will save everyone but the Irish." On a seemingly contradictory note, he also told me that someone said "God invented whiskey to prevent the Irish from ruling the world."

After looking for it actively for several years, I literally stumbled upon Juliette Huxley's autobiography, "Leaves of the Tulip Tree", today in Bryn Mawr. Making small-talk with the store's owner, I mentioned that J was "acquainted" with May Sarton -- a little diplomacy never hurt in strange territory. She, however, jumped right in "Oh yes...she was ACQUAINTED with her, alright." We both laughed, as my mom looked on nervously, afraid I might betray the deep dark secret of my sexuality in public, unaware of both the fact that I already had and that this woman couldn't have cared less: this is fricking Bryn Mawr, for Christ's sake -- straight women are an endangered species.

I used a digital camera for the first time tonight and went a little crazy. Some of the forty photos should be appearing shortly on my website, provided I don't take it down. It seems that my narcissistic, public days are coming to a close -- at least, I can only hope so. There's nothing I'd like more at this point in my life than to just settle into contented domesticity and a drama-free existence. Alas, I fear that life has other plans for me..

*** I wish I could get you singing that fucking song out of my head already. It's a good song, and you're ruining it for me. Not that you can't sing, but...well, you know.***

Some days I am obsessed with the smell of my own body. I sit with my legs spread and press my cheek against my shoulder and just revel in my unperfumed self.

Often, I realize that if I could just get over myself, I could achieve great things. It's criminal that I can do a lot of things with about ten percent as much effort as most people and don't even bother to push myself that hard. Of course, there are other things which I expend ten times as much energy on as the average individual and still come up short in. Math qualifies here, as do bicycle mechanics.

June 11

When the birds chirp they are telling you to go to bed.

Most of my best friends are pretty dysfunctional people, I mean in the sense that they have a hard time getting the most basic things done, a lot like me, but can seemingly do extremely complex stuff with relative ease. Go figure.

I consume enough sugar in a day for several small states.

Fuck abuncha people who ask me how I am but don't really want to know the answer if it isn't "good" or "fine".

Tonight, two boys charged their bikes towards mine in the wrong direction. When I managed to swerve enough to avert their attack, they loudly questioned my gender. Over it!

Timothy McVeigh is getting executed this morning, and I am going to say a prayer that this time he gets reincarnated as something better.

There's this hippie band called Fairport Convention that are actually fucking incredible. They cover "I Don't Know Where I Stand" by Joni Mitchell and I quite enjoyed singing along to their version of said song with my fag produce-slingin' homeboy Dave at work today. Rock on psychadelia.

June 6

Malawi has nine million people.

Grenada has a mere 92,000. The US chose to decimate this small nation-state, however.

Chad is largely unacknowledged country, by all accounts.

Shon has been reading the Collins World Atlas, complete with commentary, aloud all night, and now he is leaving with Sarah and Laura to watch a building be blown up -- an explosion which was postponed a full month, and which they have risen early for twice now. Me, I am choosing sleep.

All I want to listen to anymore is Irish folk music, the same songs which haunted me growing up, which I all too frequently cursed:

"And you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow...with smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go...turn to and bring forth all your strength of arm and heart and brain and like the Mary Ellen Carter, RISE AGAIN!"

Something almost cleansing about losing all your money, expectations, friends, idols, and hairclips, although I wish I could find at least one or two of those, 'cause this growing-out business is a bitch.

This month's plan: Ohio for the Underground Publishing Conference, establishing a strict budget for myself, looking for a better job. Next month's plan: Septa pass, excursions throughout the tri-state area every weekend, and an on-tape interview with my grandmother.

Such a peace in at least one corner of my life since I've come to terms with my need to be involved only with women in a sexual/romantic manner. A decade of wondering what's wrong with me, why I've long been obsessed with physical conquest but loathed even the very idea of intercourse, why I could never make it work with boys has all come to light -- though I do wonder how any couples of opposite genders do manage to make it work. A new fag friend confessed to me that he felt women needed to suppress an awful lot of their true selves to be "successfully" involved with men, and I can't help but feel this is true. Still, there are exceptions -- a married couple I know, of which the man is certainly the less aggressive member, in which there is such equality -- task-splitting, shared childcare, genuine communication of feeling -- that almost made me tear at the eyes out of sheer relief when I witnessed it. Sad, though, that it struck me as such an anomaly. Who knows, really? I'd be foolish to think my sexuality, which has shifted so many times, will remain stable for the rest of my life, yet I can't help but fantasize that this could really be true.

I love the older buildings here, though our American notion of old is enough to cause laughter amongst Europeans. I don't like the trees that smell like cum quite so much, but they're growing on me -- they remind me of the ones outside the co-op in Sacramento. Riding my bike to work is a great joy when I give myself fifteen extra minutes, insuring that I can stop at a yard sale or two or just pedal as slow as I'd like. I'm in a better mood today than I have been as of late -- could it be the blood that is finally flowing from me? I hate to embody a cliche, but I can't help but notice the change. I bought a pair of smart dark-blue bootcut Gap jeans from a thrift shop on my lunch break -- $4.50, thank you very much -- to celebrate, and I repeat words like "Keweenaw", "Ojibwa", and "Calumet" like mantras when I need to calm down. I have the feeling that if I can just get through this summer, everything will be okay somehow.

June 5

Hi JT!!! Your pestering finally paid off!!!

As all of you faithful readers (all five of you) may have noticed, I haven't updated this in awhile. I probably haven't emailed you, either...and if you're used to seeing me frequent a certain punk message board, I haven't been there. In short, I'm hardly ever traversing the information superhighway anymore...a good thing, by all accounts. I wish I could say that my booming social life is the cause of this net-absence, but I just haven't had computer access. Someone sent me a virus that destroyed my hard drive, for one thing...I lost lots of letters, photos, and essays that I hadn't any spare copies of. This seems to be the year in which my life goes all to hell...debt mounts. Important records are lost. I finally give up on answering letters I got three years ago, while I've deluded myself up until now that I'd answer them sometime soon. Since I'm only working twenty-odd hours a week (as a shelf-stocker at a natural foods store in center city Philadelphia, for the record), I can't claim a jam-packed schedule for my inability to manage my own life...but I do know that I was much better at all these things when I was 19 or 20, with fewer complications and more hopeful illusions in my head.

Everyone's been asking me how Philadelphia has been treating me. I'm not sure what to tell them, really. Nothing overly traumatic has occurred thus far -- should I count this as a victory? All the people who didn't like me I've simply avoided instead of worrying about incessantly, and all the people who did, even those with reservations, have been nice -- but it hardly seems like much to justify celebration. The few friends I did have when I came here have been off the slate of my life: I only find it odd that friendships worth pursuing on paper and via telephone wire are neglected completely when they finally might be fully realized. I felt less lonely in the U.P., where I was surrounded by far fewer like-minded souls...perhaps that's not so strange, though; perhaps it is all but expected.

A wave of anger washed over me this weekend, a deviation from the standard melancholy. I went to a yard sale and went off on a tangent after a fairly benign comment was made by the owner of the yard. The only girl in West Philadelphia whose appearance I have been moved to compliment since moving here (she met it with indifference) visited my housemate and touched my shoulder and I yelled "Don't touch me! I'm having a really bad day!" at her.

And I wonder why I haven't any friends left.

Indeed, that's what it seems like some days. The very few people in my core group of friends have largely fallen out of my life. I am too different from all of them now, and for different reasons. There is little malice, just a slow growing apart -- and I am terrified, because no potential replacements are waiting in the wings -- or, if they are there, I am too blind to see exactly where I ought to be directing my energies, and into whom. I am twenty-five and I haven't yet acquired any job skills, have only been above the poverty line for a few fluke weeks once when I worked overtime at my best-paying job to date. I need to return to college but lack even the resources to do that. I am starting to think about having a child, and it is a terrifying, who is hardly able to manage her own life both emotionally and financially -- me, who has never had a relationship that has lasted more than half a year. My grandmother and several of my aunts found out I was gay recently. Gran reacted with considerable sympathy: "Well, I guess that's why she was travelling for all those years." Sure, Gran. Homos like to take trips more. I'm not seeing her logic -- I've never denied or run from my queerness -- but I'm glad she's so sporting about having a deviant in her family.

So that's that. Who knows what will come of this hometown experiment? Maybe I'll get a better job. Maybe I'll make some friends, finally. Maybe I'll leave in September, when my sublet-of-sorts is up. Maybe I'll stay another year, find another household, alienate and yell at some more people, or -- more optimistically -- go to community college, like I hope to. I only know my current situation: cursed with herpes simplex on my upper lip and downing L-lysine to rid myself of the beast, in possession of roughly a thousand books but not a single bookshelf, madly in love with someone who lives very far away, and walking through life with an anemic heart and (almost always) a black backpack with three or four trashpicked gadgets strapped to its sides.

Thinking about Scandinavia and homemaking (intermittently) and immersing myself in warm water seem to be the only coping mechanisms available to me, and so they suffice...or, at the very least, I'm still alive. Don't laugh: sometimes it's saying a lot these days.

April 29

True facts:

My body is covered in bruises and scrapes.

I have not had sex in four months.

We put out about three hundred pounds of trash tonight.

I have a hard time making myself do stuff that isn't fun.

There are a few crushes I have never really gotten over.

I have been thinking about growing my hair long again.

I very rarely ever think girls with long hair are cute.

I'm horrible with names but great with faces and voices.

Sometimes I have impure thoughts about off-limits girls.

My neuroses border on obessive-compulsive far too often.

I am not a star-fucker, but too many of my friends are.

I plan on buying a scale at a thrift shop rather soon.

I didn't eat any leafy greens today and feel very guilty.

Amy's (frozen) organic entrees are my expensive weakness.

I have about eighty-seven projects awaiting completion.

I would marry my girlfriend in Vermont if she'd agree to.

My Philly "friends" don't seem to care that I live here.

I have been achingly lonely and terrified of life lately.

I am often seemingly incapable of completing basic tasks.

I have occasional dreams and fantasies about Pocatello.

April 27

I got hit by a SEPTA bus today. Longest ten seconds of my life -- being dragged between it and an illegally parked car, then thrown to the ground as it careened way too far into the bike lane. I took down the bus' number and plan to report it this evening. I missed getting sucked beneath the wheels very narrowly. After it was all said and done, no one bothered to ask if I was okay. Some stocky Italian dude muttered "No one cares; this is Philadelphia!" when I commented on the sketchiness of the situation. I longed for a moment to be back in the safe arms of Houghton, where on a much less busy street no less than thirty people would've gotten out of their cars to bring me a drink and dust me off and ask if I needed them to call the police on their cellphones. Sigh. Welcome to the big city, indeed.

Another frat boy asking if I was a man or a woman and then snickering today...just two days ago, it was a much different story. The woman at Second Mile thrift store was kind enough to tell me my haircut was "sharp", as it accentuated my dramatic eyebrows. The eight-year-old boy standing by the register didn't agree, though he was far more tactful than most about it. "Why'd you cut your hair?" he asked, adding "I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but I thought you were a boy." I simply told him that long hair was too much for me to take care of and that I hadn't the time. This answer seemed to satisfy him, so he inquired further: "Why don't you get your ears pierced, then? Then people will be able to tell you're a girl." I told him that I liked my ears the way they were and didn't mind if someone thought I was a boy, as long as they were nice to me. "You should be a teacher, girl! You go, girl!," the complimentary cashier remarked. The difference between the kid and the frat boy on Penn's campus was that one knew very well what my gender was, and simply wanted to comment on his disapproval of my aesthetic expression, and that the other was genuinely confused because of his conditioning.

Last night all my gender insecurities came to a head again when I threw a tantrum about the fact that all the celebrities my girlfriend finds attractive seemed to be thin and have long hair. After assuring me that this was inaccurate, she added that I was foolish to obsess over such things since she clearly finds me immensely attractive, and that I oughtn't impose my strict adherance to one physical type on everyone else, as they are often more open-minded. She touched upon a point that many others have addressed with me lately, and yet I can't seem to get it through my thick skull. I'd better, though -- the last thing I want to do is ruin yet another relationship because I am obsessed with insuring that I am entirely my partner's "type", especially since my type changes significantly everytime I fall in love.

Filling out a job application today, I couldn't help but sigh over the fact that I've got so little to show for my twenty-five and a half years when I'm required to account for it on paper. My resume doesn't read as impressively as my anecdotes sound; my charisma isn't evident in Times New Roman chronological lists. Going back to college seems like taking the easy way out, but it might be necessary for someone who doesn't want to get a driver's license or work in environments containing cigarette smoke either.

It is spring; I ride my bike, now considerably less functional than it was, everywhere. I sing songs I started but never finished writing aloud: " missed your call. And you wore clothing from Finland if you even wore clothing at all." I want to spend money but need to curb the impulse, as I have none and cannot afford any more credit debt. I want to kiss random women, but I need to curb the impulse and wait for something and someone far more important to come here and bless my bed. I want to live in center city and leave my windows open to let the breeze in, but I am stuck out in Parkside dodging litter and broken bottles and screaming children, further from the illusory beauty of life but closer to its core.

April 22

Sometimes you want to put your head through a plate of pane glass -- sometimes you don't.


Rules for the revolution:

No more fried Mexican wheel pretzels.

Joni Mitchell in moderation, Morrissey in abundance.

Avoid public transportation and ride your fucking bike.

Pretend you're capable of more than you actually are.

Would you stop fucking staring already?!

Douse everything you eat in heavy spices.

Hang up hot women from National Geographic on your wall.

Play on swingsets.

Pretend you're in Chicago when it's nice out.

Go to New York and act like you own the town.

Go to the dentist.

Let people hold delusions about you; don't set them straight.

Eat lots of bitter leafy greens.

Get a Martha Stewart Living subscription instead of just browsing all the new issues at the library.

Find a good ceramics studio. Resume playing with clay.

Start writing postal letters again.

Write a not-so-secret admirer letter to someone cute.

Remind yourself that not everyone is as unforgiving as you.

Start thinking about it more before you insult people.

Get a crappy bike for when you have out of town visitors.

Find that one Philly photobooth that Emily mentioned.

Don't keep comparing yourself to other girls.

Don't feel self-conscious about your armpit hair.

Put a two-per-week limit on Goldenberg's peanut chews.

Look at daily without fail.

Stop fucking around and become an Irish citizen.

Hang up clothing bars in your room.

Craft clothing shelves in your room.

Pretend the fact that you've been mostly alone and largely celibate for the past twenty-five years has just been a fluke and the whole world is about to start waking up.

Pretend that you haven't already alienated everyone who might potentially like you by loudly vocalizing your insanely specific attractions that exclude them all.

Allow yourself to make bad art and hang it in your house.

Go to the Andrew Wyeth museum. Play in Brandywine Creek.

Sing aloud even more than you actually do.

Stop making lists and live your life.

Don't put your head through that pane of plate glass if you can help it, things are on the up and up.

April 21

All the maxims about fish in the sea and time don't apply to you.

You are only seriously attracted to someone every two years or so. There have only been five people in all your life.

You're terrified of continuing to try when it might be for naught, and giving up only to realize nothing else feels okay.

It seems like every decision is wrong; you feel trapped.

You walk around looking up at the buildings and they all seem so tall. You'll never be able to touch any of them. You walk around looking at all the beautiful women and they all seem so sterile. You'll never want to slide your hand under any of their shirts.

Today you ate and ate ate and ate. Cookies and sweets and salty and fried foods. You brushed your teeth in the middle of the day, even; you never do that. Today you looked in the mirror again and again, unable to reconcile what you saw with what you expected or hoped to see.

You forget how to go through the motions pretending not to care. You forget how to touch like your life doesn't depend on it. Something in the creases under your eyes tells a story no one's prepared to hear.

It is the saddest thing in the world; career goals and geographic preference and ideologies and relationship styles and children and everything else, all seeming inconsequential and secondary when you are faced with the concept of losing a girl, of not being able to look to a day when you come home to find her sleeping, waiting up for you, expectant. It is sad when she doesn't know what she needs and if you can fit into the picture of her life, but can't say for sure that you definitely don't either. You only know that you have reduced everything to its essence: skin, hair, voice, eyes, touch. All the intricacies and dramas fall away and there is a skeleton of truth screaming that nothing else matters but consuming love, not even the definitions or the pre-defined limits or expectations or hopes. You want to stand on a podium and let your clothing fall away as sure as your trappings, and scream it for everyone to hear, but you know your words will fall on deaf ears.

Everyone hears a vaguely similar rendition of this song.

Everyone thinks their situation is the most terrifying one.

April 18

..and I am in the shower at my parents house thinking of you and I haven't touched myself in four days which is a record for me and I come harder than I have come in three years thinking of you, thinking of pushing your head where I want it, of you looking up at me, of being in complete control.

..and I am riding my bike standing up thinking of you and I can feel the seat rub against my crotch and I can feel the wind whip against my single curly white eyelash and I can feel my heart pump and I love the fact that fantasies exist.

..and I am in Houghton thinking of you and you can tell by the way I pace around my apartment, by the faces I make in the mirror, by the songs I put on the stereo, loud but sad.

..and I am in Philadelphia thinking of you and there is a big gaping hole in the floor beneath the tub where I lie, and there is mold in the cracks where the wall meets the floor, and a million questions hovering over my head: what will become of me in this city? And sometimes I get caught up in those thoughts and forget to think of you, but never for a very long time.

April 17

Been getting emails from strangers who've stumbled upon this lately, which is both neat and scary -- I initially started this website as an accessory to Tastykakeman, as something to share with friends instead of the public at large. But some of them linked it, more still found a passage they liked and told a friend to have a look. I am not destined for anonymity in any area of my life, and this will have to be okay. Even more frightening, ironically, is finding out that some of my friends are reading this -- I thought that only the die-hard internet geeks would bother, and now I think I should be censoring myself more...nah.

So far so good on the Philadelphia tip. I really can't complain. Of course it kills me not to make that daily walk down Shelden, and that thrice-weekly walk down Quincy, but the company of old ornate stone facades has been replaced by the company of wonderful human beings -- so much in the way of physical affection these past few days, if only of the platonic variety. Clay and Susie and Sara and I lying on a couch with our arms draped around each other, playing with each other's hair, hugging long and hard. I've needed this for so, so long...just the simple touch of fellow human beings that says "you're okay, really you are." The warm reception with which I've been met has surprised me -- maybe it's because I'm coming to the table with a whole new attitude, or maybe the changes I've made within myself over the past few years have finally become evident, and people meet a mostly-confident and happy human being with a few difficult quirks instead of a mostly paranoid and depressed individual with an occasional manic burst of brilliance.

April 1

Friday night. 500 people show up to the first ever drag show this town has seen in a building with 311 seats. Four professional queens from Milwaukee are brought up for the event. The amateur competition finds me terrified as a succession of carefully-groomed people who have carefully rehearsed for weeks takes the stage. I haven't rehearsed but once, though you can be sure I've known all the lyrics to "Piccadilly Palare" for years. I go on dead last, without any schtick let alone sideburns, and just decide to make up for in charisma what I lack in aesthetics and song accessibility. No one here has heard of Morrissey, save the one girl who screams "Oh my god! I love you!" when she hears the name of the song that's going to be performed. It all starts innocently enough, me prancing around the stage like a queen who just took the throne, but within a minute I've got my shirt off, displaying my thick tufts of pit hair for all the frat boys in the house, and I'm flexing, sliding my hand over the organic zucchini tucked in my tighty whities, and accepting dollar bills from various ladies who stuff them in my pants. One offers me a kiss. I invite my fag friend John to the stage and, during a musical part of the song, quietly whisper to him a command to simulate giving me head. He attacks my pelvis and we begin to buck, sending the crowd into uproarious applause/laughter. Just when they think it couldn't get any racier, I turn around and we're getting our fake sodomy on. I end up winning, despite my ace bandage coming undone and exposing my nipples towards the end of it all, and taking home a hundred bucks. The announcer says "Who are you? I want to take you home with me!", and the head drag queen, when presenting me with the accolade, says "aw, look, he's not even old enough to buy me drinks!" to which I remark "Naw, I'm 25!" She is taken aback and screams "OH MY GOD! IT'S A WOMAN!" I guess I've done a convincing job.

March 29

Dear God,

Please help me to not be bitter. I'm trying soooo fucking hard, but it's a tough struggle sometimes. "When will you accept yourself? For heaven's sake..." The snow has been melting for days...there is always a drip-drip on balcony covering Huron Street that sounds like rain. You listen to Modest Mouse songs from 1997 that have long ceased being hip and sing along, smiling quietly, remembering the girl you lived with for six weeks in Chicago who you've heard has gotten married and had a baby and moved to rural PA.

God, I can't seem to get motivated to get any shit done for more than an hour at a time these days -- I let the dust collect on my books, the crumbs on my kitchen table, the cobwebs in my brain. I am reverting back to old habits and belief systems I thought I had outgrown. Sometimes, I know I have regressed. It's not that you want to be a man, or a femmy woman with shaved legs and short bangs. It's that you want people to be okay with the fact that you are not either of these things. You envy people who feel like subscribing to traditional forms of gender expression, and yet you also realize that few people really _feel_ like it. They just do it. Most women hate having blood run down their shins when the razor slips; most men hate never being able to cry. But most of them reckon there are bigger battles to fight and just do it so people won't give them shit. I envy the fuck out of these people, but never do I wish I was one of them. I envy the fuck out of people who feel like it's okay to stop at vegetarianism instead of being vegan -- they can still eat out, people know what the word means when they describe their diet, they are not branded as "extremists". I envy people whose sexuality is binary and has always been set, is not constantly in flux. And as for me, although the concept of a political lesbian does bother me somewhat, the way I have been treated since I have increasingly identified with women disturbs the fuck out of me. As soon as I made it clear that I was no longer catering primarily to male sexuality, I more or less lost half of my "friends". Could I really be that naive? I am too good-hearted to believe that most men have ulterior motives and will invest nothing if there is only platonic friendship in it for them, but this has proven to be a delusional belief on my part. I will call myself a dyke to strangers; if I end up, five years down the road, sleeping with a man, it will be because I pursued him and not vice versa. I want to be treated as a human being, not prey, and I never want to get a girly haircut or wear a shirt that makes my tits look bigger to impress a man. If indeed there are any boys in the world who are not too misogynistic to date, they will appreciate the butch aesthetic and in fact prefer it. I do not find value in contrast, as so many seem to -- even with girls, I do not appreciate the butch/femme dynamic. It is not even that I like the butch dynamic. It is that I think it is foolish to ascribe certain traits to one gender or the other, and feel a constant confusion about the fact that the rest of the world doesn't agree.

I am trying to refrain from writing people off because they have not arrived at the same conclusions as me regarding gender and sexuality. I am consistently disgusted by all the bisexual women who have only dated men that hit on me. I would never even consider giving them the time of day, and yet until recently I was one of them. I'm a hypocrite.

Today, emerging from the shower, I stamped down hard with my feet, disgusted by my body. There is not an excuse for how out of shape I have let myself get. There is not an excuse for my laziness. There is not an excuse for my skin ravaged by acne-scars because I showed no restraint in picking my zits five years ago. There are no excuses for dwelling on all of this instead of exercising, using some alpha-hydroxy or what-have-you, and moving the fuck on.

It is not that I like thinking about all of these things constantly. It is that I have to because no one else does. It is not that I resent anyone their attentive, blissful love affairs. It is that I want one of my own. It is not that I hate being alive, but that I am in the wrong world.

I love the smell of the ground here in the early spring. I love the dripping sound the melting icicles make. I love the femmy bisexual girls who fancy themselves infatuated with me for making me feel beautiful and wanted, even if I cannot return the appreciation. I love the people who read what I write here, even if it is most likely a waste of their time. I love my lover passionaately and deeply and fully, even when I feel starved. I love my mother even when I feel overwhelmed. I love all the people who pour energy into me that I fail to return, and I love the people who quietly accept the energy that I pour into them that they cannot reciprocate, the whole handful of them. I wish these people could be the same. I wish I was inspired by the people whom I inspire, but I don't suppose that's the way life works. I love you, God, for giving me lungs that work even if their capacity is limited, and for letting me ride my bike to Hancock on an almost-warm Wednesday, and for letting me carry two ten pound barbells home in a flight bag balanced on my right handlebar without crashing or breaking the bag, and for making me unbeautiful enough to have to struggle and kick for what I want sometimes. And I love you for putting me in this shitty place to scrape and whine my way up, for the friendships that rear their heads after years of hell and crap, for small daily blessings.

Yours, Erin

March 27

Every Monday night I take out the citrus-colored trashbags -- little orange ones, big yellow ones. They cost fifty cents and a dollar apiece, respectively, and are made of a shoddy quality plastic. I took a hot bath tonight while listening to fiddlers. When I emerged, I put my heavy Sorel boots, sans socks, on before I'd so much as toweled myself off. Trudging into my room to retrieve my robe, I was unconcerned with my atrophying thigh and ass muscles for the first time in weeks. I found sexiness in my utility, and longed terribly to have a live-in lover, waiting on my futon clad in a nightgown, to distract me from my duty. It wasn't mad, passionate sex that I desired, thought that would've been fine too, but domesticity. Something, someone to get used to -- to add meaning to the daily chores and routines and infuse them with a sense of sacredness. Instead I slipped into my kimono-like robe, snatched up from a free pile at a yardsale, which it had been relegated to because of the highly visible coffee stains which covered it. A bleach bath had made it like new, and then it got caught in a washing machine with the cerulean blue organic cotton Indian throw rug and turned a lovely shade of lavender -- providing a nice background for the navy Japanese characters imprinted upon it. Going outside with the knotted sack firmly in my fist, I immediately noticed the perfect stillness filling the air. It would only be a matter of days before that stillness would be something to dream of, rarely within reach, denying me something and magnifying my loneliness but giving an irreplaceable gift all the same.

March 21

"I have often imagined May during those 27 years of silence, and wondered what it is that enables some of us to be faithful to love in its absence. Part of the answer, I think, likes in what she said just after we had watched _Les Enfants du Paradis_: after a parturient silence, she declared definitively: "The only pure love is unrequited love." As an indirect gift from the muse, there was something in the absence of resolution, the yearning toward it, that impelled her toward poetry; it is what she means when she says, "What we are not drives us to consummation."

Well damn you, Susan Sherman! I couldn't have said it any better myself. On that note I officially forbid myself from reading any more May Sarton for the next month. I'm fucking obsessed with her biography and correspondences and all the parallels between her life and her personality and mine are too overwhelming for me to fully comprehend and/or deal with. I just hope that I, too, don't end up to be a cranky old lesbian writing mostly bad if occasionally genius poetry.

March 17

Happy St. Patrick's day from someone whose very name means "Ireland Forever". This year I'm getting my Irish citizenship, enabling me to work in all of the EU countries sans visa, and that's certainly something to celebrate. I went to a dance tonight at the Community Arts Center in Hancock and found out how much I stick out like a sore thumb amongst older people and/or non-punks. They pretend to include me in conversation, but I notice they never look me in the eye. Everytime the middle-aged mom with the British accent spoke, though, I listened with rapt attention, trying to think of something impressive I might say to convince her that I was worth talking to. Instead, she just praised my green vintage dresses. Good enough.

This week has been so full of sadness and confusion that any attempt to delve into it would prove futile. Tonight the failure seemed particularly acute when the love of my life phoned, making plans to visit me in Philadelphia. "I'd rather you come visit me while I'm still here, actually -- once I get to Philly my life will be really stressful." He quickly jumped in: "Well, then I can cheer you up." Hmm. Obviously homeboy isn't getting it. "No, I mean...there's really no tactful way to say this, but seeing you always causes me a lot of stress for me. I mean, I'm over it, but I'm not over it, you know?" Okay, let me spell it out: I have never gotten over your rejection of me completely. I have moved on, yes, of course. I know that the end of our relationship was for the best, yes. But I'm still not ready to have you come visit me and mack on other girls, possibly friends of mine, in front of me. I'm just not. And really, if I'm honest, sometimes it's too much to even hear from you at all, because you felt/looked/sounded perfect to me in a way that no other boy ever did or will, and the fact that you fell out of love with me makes me really sad when I stop to think about it too much even though you're one of my very best friends. And talking to you brings out all the old demons in a bad week, Sparky. And this week was bad.

Today I met two Cantonese girls, illegal aliens, who have been living in New York with their families for two years. They have spent the past three weeks living in Hancock, just across the bridge from Houghton, and waitressing full-time at one of the two local Chinese restaurants -- the same one from which I've been ordering bean curd with mixed vegetables for the past nine months. Today, though, they weren't waitressing. They were standing outside on some dirtied snow, crying their eyes out. They motioned to my new friend Mike to come over -- Mike, who always looks so approachable. In broken English, they told him that the boss had slapped and pushed them, commanded them to leave after a petty disagreement with him, and refused to pay them for their three weeks of work -- promising instead to give them a Greyhound ticket with which to get out of town. It's an impossible situation: if they sue him or call the cops, they're in legal trouble. Realizing my helplessness, I simply resolved to do what little I could to weaken his business and offered my friendship and phone number. I didn't think they'd call, but upon arriving home after a day of thrifting with my Milwaukee visitors, there were two messages from giggling girls on my answering machine. I remembered them sticking their hands out, saying shyly "We want American friend!" I was only too happy to oblige.

The notion of moving has thrown me into a last-minute panic. Am I doing the right thing? Is it too late to even worry about it? What will become of me in Philadelphia? All of these questions are far too complicated to answer, and far too scary to even think about. In the past week I've lost several friends permanently, questioned every element of my life and goals for it, redefined my sexuality, had countless critical exchanges, and realized that I might have killed myself long ago if it weren't for my mother, my dear mother who saves my life with her unconditional love even as she frightens me with her overprotective ways. At the dance tonight, someone asked me why I came to Houghton. "To get away from real life for a year," I chided. "No, you've got it all wrong -- this _is_ real life. I think you're making a big mistake." I knew it too, even as I plot my escape. "Houghton's the kind of place where you come when you're ready to settle and have a life partner," I offered. She wasn't convinced "Well, some of us come here and find our partners." Let me spell it out, lady: I'm a gay-ass vegan teetotaler weirdo. I haven't gotten laid while living here except when I've left town.

I am consumed by self-hatred right now. I have, as noted below, a very difficult time distinguishing what's real from what I'm perceiving. I am having a hard time of it. I look around at all the imperfect people who are happy, in love, creating, and gainfully employed -- despite their girth, their receding hairlines, their sub-160 IQs, and their other inadequacies. I wonder why I can't do it too, and why I seem so shocked that they can -- why I'm always so consistently shocked that imperfect people have a place in this world too, and why I can never seem to learn that this privelege carries over to substandard Erin as well.

March 16

I have a very tenuous grasp of reality right now...hmm, I just heard a loud crash outside my window. Horns are honking. Someone is cursing. Maybe I'll write about it later.

February 27

Dear Steven Patrick,

As you can tell, I've sort of rekindled this obsession with you recently. All of my other favorite music is sitting and collecting dust -- poor Ollie Gilbert must wonder what's come over me. See, the thing is, your songs affect me in a very distinct manner. I only listen to them, and I listen to them only, when I masturbate. It's not that I want you, really -- I mean, honestly, you're really old and you're getting a gut and balding, all of which I find decidedly unsexy (being that you're a gay celebrity, you don't care much, I imagine) -- but I identify with you in a big way.

I've been obsessed with British culture for as long as I can remember despite being of Irish lineage (just like you). British accents are among my greatest fetishes, and the mere site of words like "Devonshire" alone can cause me to get slippery crotch syndrome. Lately I've been feeling very much like a gay dude, which is confusing and somewhat distressing. I mean, I'm pretty trans-supportive, since I can't really understand what that feels like and therefore shouldn't judge it, but I'm also repulsed by how trendy it's become in the butch dyke community -- becoming an FTM, I mean. I wear men's underwear and tight Levis with white Hanes undershirts, and I put pomade in my hair, but I'm also okay with having a cunt. Most of the time. So you can imagine that all of your homoerotic lyrics inspire great passion in me -- passion for things beyond my grasp: public cruising, clandestine meetings, a place in Uranian culture.

You also make me want to study British poets, which is funny because I accidentally picked up a Robert Burns collection at St. Vinnie's yesterday after I opened it up and it the first poem I caught side of was an ode to a woman who shared her name with my ladyfriend. I bought Oscar Wilde's biography and I really like it -- his fella of many years, Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), was really hot. Dark hair and light eyes, thin with aquiline features. Too perfect. I guess that's the look I'd like to have, but there are a few things wrong. I was cursed with short stature -- I'm a mere 5'5", almost 5'6" on a good day -- and I have breasts that are barely detectable but obscure my otherwise straight-up-and-down profile considerably. I'm not trying to get some sort of drastic surgery -- I think that stuff is for the birds, really -- but I sure wish these little fatty lumps weren't there at all. Resistance training seems to be the answer -- if only I were more motivated. When I watch your videos and I see all the people riding bicycles about, it just seems like the way it's supposed to be: thin, attractive if quirky people with short hair and turned-up jean-cuffs riding around on one-speed bikes. I thought it was so cool that you included a dyke for good measure; she's totally a babe too. Even that red-headed guy in "Ask" is pretty hot, and I'm not usually much into redheaded boys.

So, I'm not sure what I'm saying. I guess you fill me with extreme self-loathing sometimes, because like you I would secretly love to be famous. Most of my friends have said that they're fairly sure it will happen for me at some point without really trying -- I've just got that kind of personality, and it seems to be my destiny -- but I'm not so sure. I don't have any hawkable skills or talents, at least none that I'm aware of just yet. Robert says I'm going to go down in history just for being "a character". I like his idea best. You were never happy with the level of fame you achieved, because it was only "cult-following" status -- Mark Eitzel was the same way, on an even smaller level. I think y'all both had it all wrong, though. That's the way to go. Anything more turns you into a monster. I made a promise never to sleep with anyone famous or infamous again, even on a local or small-time level. It's a fucked-up dynamic. There's this sense of entitlement there -- you get me off and I don't do shit for you unless I want to, because it's a privelege for you to be seen with me. There's also the knowledge that they can get someone more attractive than them just because they've got that kind of name-recognition. I despise this, but only because I envy it. I would love to command younger, more beautiful lovers than myself -- like Tennessee Williams and Andy Warhol did -- on the sheer strength of my charm and repartee. I know it's not going to happen, I just listen to you and sit here awed by your seemingly contradictory life: supposedly tormented by self-hatred, but keenly aware that you could end the self-doubt deal at any moment. It's not that you're faking it, it's that a small part of you is terrified to let go of it because the things you'd be capable of achieving if you were to direct the energy you invest into questioning yourself elsewhere, you might have the power to destroy small cities. And that scares you.

So in conclusion, I'm really glad you exist. I wonder who that first girlfriend you had was -- she was really lucky, kinda like Kathy Jeung, who is pretty much George Michael's only well-known serious female lover. I feel like that's the route I'm going, S.P. -- I had one serious relationship with a youthful, beautiful boy five years my junior. It was magical in a way that will never be replicated. I don't even want to try to repeat that kind of experience. I had it, and now it'd be creepy to try for it again. I'm twenty-five years old and I need to stop trying to get with people more than two or three years younger than me. Give me a break, that's just predatory, and I'm not trying to be all Mrs. Robinson and shit. I don't really want to go out of my way to get with people of the opposite sex either. If it happens, I suppose it does, but it would only really be precipitated by extraordinary circumstances, I think. I had my barely-legal androgynous male ideal in my bed once: the memory of that alone is enough to sustain me.

When I told Emily I wasn't sure if I wanted to sleep with a boy again in my life, ever, I was like "well, there are two or three men that I would definitely get with." She was like "Um, let me guess -- Morrissey?" I thought that was pretty great, but not really accurate. It's more like I want to be the person you were at age 25, with gladiolas in my back pocket, a strut in my step, and gorgeous androgynes being like "Damn, who's that?" while I feign ignorance.

It's nice to have aspirations, isn't it, Steven Patrick?

Sincerely yours,


February 25

"I'm writing this to a gentle way, thank you but NO! I will live my life as I will undoubtedly die...alone." -- Morrissey

Romanticizing loneliness and/or depression got real old about seven years ago, when you first started to probe its depths. A basement in Bloomington, Indiana, unable to breathe, calling your mom with a stolen calling card number trying to get her to talk you out of suicide. It's tired.

Last night you realized that, although recently you've begun to think you were over this sort of thing, you're still in full-on "I push you away before you can do the same" mode. Talking to the girl you love about the lesbian community, you say that you wish it was far more like the gay male one -- full of aesthetes who take good care of themselves. But no, the dyke community is full of women who are more overweight than the average woman, according to statistical studies, and less clued in to fashion, according to my findings. I like the fact that fags worry about their shoes, that they take care of their bodies and work out because they won't get laid if they don't. I like the fact that bathhouses and sleazy bars exist, because gay men have acknowledged the fact that sex is not always love and does not necessarily always need to be. Lesbians too often lend credence to the classic "What does a dyke bring on her second date? A U-Haul!" joke. I want to be part of a community that prizes fitness and fashion more than having five psychotherapists, alternate spellings of the word woman, and godawful music. She tells me this makes me shallow and unempathetic; she doesn't understand where I'm coming from -- I am coming from a place of frustration, of wanting to see women with good hair and trim waistlines, of wanting to see my appearance -- or rather, my physical _aspirations_ -- reflected in fellow queer girls. Perhaps this makes me a terribly cruel and unfeeling person, as she would have me believe. Perhaps. I just think it makes me someone who prizes beauty in all of its forms, and wishes that I wasn't in the minority in my own community.

February 23

When does life begin? No, for real? You used to think it was 18 -- then, 21 -- then, 25. All those landmarks have come and gone without you acknowledging that you've got to start living already. It's not that you haven't ever been spontaneous -- you've been hitchhiking for years, you've harmlessly stalked people (and occasionally succeeded) on the basis of a smile or a few words, you've eaten dessert first always. It's just that you're still stuck in this vicious cycle -- you're not valid until someone else loves you for a long time, you're not valid until you are thin. These two are the most common, and they're also mutually exclusive, since you will never be as thin as you'd like, but of course there are myriad others: You're a terrible writer until you've earned the approval of a small group of people you admire. You're unattractive until you sleep with so-and-so. You will never have a decent, respectable job that earns a living wage, because you are intellectually inferior and uneducated and come from a family that didn't prize book-learning and diplomacy -- rather, television and trashy food. You try to think of how far you've come, but how far you've got to go seems so much more glaringingly obvious. You try to think of all the places you've been, but the fact that you've never left North America reminds you that you're a miserable failure in at least one regard. You try to think of the people who are fond of you, but it's easier to dwell on the fact that several hundred acquaintances and three actual friends is a proportion you're less than proud of. You try to remember all the people who've complimented your sexual prowess and told you how much you've turned them on, but you're more inclined to dwell on the boys who couldn't get erections and the girls who never responded to your advances and the fact that you've never had an orgasm with another person in your life. You try to think about how well you treat yourself compared to the average person, but on bad days you're angry with yourself for not eating one hundred percent organic and engaging in physical activity for at least an hour every day. You get so goddamn angry that you turn everything into a question of black and white, of extremes. If brunettes are pretty, blondes can't be. If short hair is good, long hair is necessarily bad. If butch women are hot, femme women can't have their charms. If X is smart, you (Y) are stupid. You listen to Nick Drake in the bathtub and think you don't deserve to live because you haven't quite honed your songwriting technique quite yet and probably won't learn to play guitar well before you're thirty. It's as if you believe that you should've had time to be the Jill of All Trades, the master of everything, even though you're a dabbler by nature -- you can't write fifteen letters a day and have them all be of substance; you can't change jobs four times a year and ever command a good salary. You wonder why you're so confused by things that should be so obvious, and sometimes, even in the midst of chastising yourself for not achieving knightdom just yet, you're simultaneously amazed but the diversity of the life you _have_ led. But you're a Virgo -- a perfectionist, too analytical for your own good -- and you know it well. You hate Sydney Omarr for pointing out the obvious, and you fear life will pass you by without you ever having been comfortable in your own skin.

February 22

We are in impossible love, she and I. It has been doomed from the get go, and both of us have suspected it all along. There are the differences that could be suppressed, and then there are the ones that exist at the root level, the ones which would bring swift death to the plant itself if eradicated. There are several months' worth of four hour phone calls, six hours phone calls, nine hour phone calls even. The unspeakable truth has now been vocalized; the unbearable now acknowledged. She says no one else has ever made her dizzy this way, not even the girls she spent years with. She passes out and drops the phone when we speak. I tell her that there are damaged nerve endings in between my legs, that I wake in fevers and can't fathom wanting anyone else this much, ever. It is a scary place to be, a scary thing to feel -- a most certain hopelessness. I want to believe that love supersedes knowledge or understanding; I feel sure it does when clarity doesn't elude me. She says our natures cannot be reconciled, and I suspect she may be right -- mine demanding concrete things, occasional public acknowledgement of our love, physical proximity, and verbal communication. Hers thriving on the inexpressible, privacy, and that which is implied. Neither is good or bad, right or wrong, and in the ideal world they might complement each other, but something is not quite right. I screamed aloud the other night, as I am wont to do, at the gods or something bigger: Why did you put her in my life if we can't be together? Why did you give me ambrosia and then force me to reconcile myself to gruel? They don't answer me, and at nine am the phone rings thrice after minimal sleep. We cry some more, call out our regrets, apologize for our insensitivities. Neil Morris says that music has no end, but I know that love and music are indistinguishable. I wonder if she'll think of me, plucking strings. I wonder if I'll close my eyes when I take another love and picture her there, her warm body coming down over me like a perfect blessing, making things sing that have only eeked out small protestations in the past. Warmth, goodness, everything. Things that made me pray, made me bite down hard on my lower lip, made me change my very nature -- an immutable punk heart, and Almeda Riddle singing so sweet and true -- "...the only girl I ever loved is down in Arkansas."

February 21

The concept of an eating disorder is really subjective, when you pig out one day and barely eat anything at all the next but don't really do either very consciously. The other day I wrote this:

After years of grappling with body issues I still come back to the same conclusion: health is key, and any disgust for fat that comes from mistreatment of my body is justified. If I eat chocolate for hours on end and neglect to exercise, and then have stomach rolls, this is not excusable. The "fat liberation" movement that's so in vogue would have me believe otherwise. I am not talking about people who eat moderately and are physically active and still have a large frame. I am talking about an imperfect body (my version of perfect allows for small tits, lots of body hair, and flawed facial features, unlike most people's) that is the direct result of abuse and outright idleness. I owe it to myself to eat organic whole foods and do both cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise at least several times a week, and if I fail to do so, any self-hatred stemming from said shortcoming is justified.

Youth is beauty, but barring the possibility of that, I would like to live in a body that is not aged past its actual years. Taut muscles, a low degree of body fat, and the complete absence of cellulite are not only desirable, but necessary. When I am honest with myself, I must admit that it is also essential for a potential partner to have these traits for me to be attracted to her, which is hypocritical as I have failed to completely achieve them. Were I more disciplined, I would refrain from coupling until I had achieved true physical well-being.

Hi, I'm Deepak Chopra's long lost cousin.

I feel like I need to add a postscript to that and say that I'm not only attracted to women who are of moderate weight, trim, but who are significantly below average in size. I suspect that my supression of this reality is the reason I have long been romantically involved with men rather than women despite being strongly queer-identified: I always felt like it was some grand betrayal of womankind to acknowledge that I have a type, and that my type excludes chubby women and even "healthy"-sized women like myself. Now that I feel free to get with androgynous, flat-chested girls lacking defined hips, my libido knows no bounds. I've been confused about self-identification lately -- I like what Mark Eitzel has to say about this: "I wish straight and gay culture could both come to a place of understanding that love is love. When is love ever a lie? On this planet nobody really gives a shit what sexuality some ugly old fuck like me has." Touche, my brother.

Been finding so many qoutes in Sarton's journals, which I'm savoring again as in early '99:

"She reminded me in some ways of myself at her age, the extravagant gestures towards those I admired, in spite of very limited means. She arrived here without a coat or a raincoat but with a bottle of horribly expensive champagne, a recording, and a few books for me to sign as presents. I gather she and her friends eat almost nothing, no breakfast, rarely lunch, and live on granola, I suspect." -- May, referring to a woman writing a thesis on her

Before I stop with the quotes already, I mean to mention that the past several days have me finding comfort in this passage from Elyse Gregory's journal about her dead husband. I seek only in these confusing times to love strongly and clearly, in whatever form that may take with various people, and remind myself that if I have done so then the rest is beyond my control to a certain degree.

"I went out, my heart destitute, longing only for death, knowing that love alone has reality, that our words have meaning only when there is another to give them value. Blind with suffering I walked through the streets, and suddenly saw a very old, very ragged man chopping sticks with knotted shaking fingers, doing his wonted task as best he could. A dog with a blind eye came to him to be stroked, a shy dog with a silky coat, half spaniel, half hound, and the old man gave it the affection it asked for, calling its name and caressing it with gentleness; and this scene took the sorrow from my heart, and I knew that our misery comes too often from the foolish claims we make, and that if we can contemplate existence with a pure heart, seeing everything in its process of change, objective and compassionate, we can cast away misgivings."

February 19

more from _A Divorce of Lovers_ by May Sarton


What price serenity these cruel days?
Your silence and ungiving, my small cries,
Followed by hours when I can lift some praise
And make the wound sing as in Paradise.
What price the poise you ask for, the unharried?
Four rooted years torn up without a qualm,
A past not dead perhaps, but quickly buried:
On one side anguish, on the other calm,
Both terrible because deprived of hope
Like living eyes still open in a grave.
And we shall lunch, you say, that is our scope.
Between what we have lost and still might save
Lies, very quiet, what was once too human,
And lovely, and beloved, a living woman.

February 6

Girl, you are fucking obsessed with reading about homo history and queer slang, and with getting your Moz on: lovely eek and lovely riah

February 1

February! I've got to go skiing more while I still have the chance.

Last night I went on a spontaneous walk -- I had my Dickies one-piece quilted coverall on, but no layering beneath it save boxer briefs and a wifebeater tank-top. Consequently, I came back with my ears almost raw, and my fingers not far behind. Mental note: coat optional, hat and gloves are not. The snowflakes were coming at me a million per minute, it seemed -- some so big that they made a noise as they hit my cheek. Today the Portage Lake Library closed at 6:30 pm instead of 9pm because of the weather. Closing early on account of snow is rare up here -- them/us Yoopers (not sure if I can really count myself among their ranks just yet) are used to the fluffy white stuff; it takes a lot.

I've been filled with a sick feeling today that something I suspect might have happened did indeed occur. I have no evidence, or even hints, of this, but my gut tells me so.

Today a woman came up to me at the library as I sat reading the Daily Mining Gazette and offered me a copy of Pearl S. Buck's _Kinfolk_ after I'd answered her "Do you like good books?" question in the affirmative. "How old are you?," she then asked. She didn't seem surprised when I confessed to being twenty-five, surpringly -- this is rare -- and took it upon herself to go on with her banter. "I used to dress like that, so that no one could tell what sex I was, when I wanted people to leave me alone. I work at Tech, you know -- men bother me enough as it is!" Finding her urge to comment on my androgynous state boring but feeling less than compelled to defend myself, I simply said "yeah, well, it's cold -- practicality triumphs over fashion". I keep forgetting that having neither long hair and nails nor wearing tapered pants almost constitutes a political statement up here.

Filled with the dread of being completely unable to escape from the incestuous nature of my social circle. Nearly everyone I have ever cared about, lusted after, despised, idolized, had a falling out with, etc. etc. knows each other at this point. I want to think "oh cool, one big happy family", but truth be told it makes me positively nauseous. Finally, I felt close to being free of the paranoia that used to all but paralyze me -- now, I feel as if I must leave the US if I expect to find any peace from the demons.

January 27

Why my girlfriend rules, by Erin McWilliams

- puts both Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen on my mixtape

- not obsessed with being lesbian; has straight friends

- we can masquerade as junior high boys together

- she will stay in bed with me for over eighteen hours

- most amazing curly hair in the entire world, bar none

- calls in the middle of the day just to "check up on me"

- has many bizarre and random obsessions much like myself

- frequently wears a sweater with dog ears made of yarn

- is small enough to wear my clothes that barely fit me

- has toes of abnormal length that are supremely adorable

- pure sex when she plays the rock guitar

January 20

"Are you surprised that I still like you?," she asks. I've got to be honest with her. Yes, I am. I tell her I've got an abandonment complex like the dog who sits unadopted at the shelter for years despite all the people who pet him and marvel at how cute he is...none of them take him home, make him theirs for keeps. At first it's just coincidence. They want a springer spaniel; they've come with their hearts set on a basset hound, and he's just a border collie. There's nothing wrong with him, of course...but after a few months of bad luck, he stops wagging his tail, retreats to the back of his cage and sulks, wondering what great flaw has rendered him unworthy of affection that lasts for more than a moment or two. There is none, but by this time his fate is sealed -- he's too forlorn to woo his potential adoptive parents with a spirited bark or tender lick. What's the point? So he makes a mess of his cage, breaks free from his chain on the tree, figuring that a bit of attention will make up for the lack of love. Instead, it just angers the shelter workers, who used to pray he'd get placed sooner rather than later -- now, after the trouble he's caused, he's hardly likely to get "pet of the week" in the local gazette. The broken look in his eyes is all everyone sees now, but just beneath it is that vital, loveable pet so desired by everyone who comes into the kennel. One day, he prays, he'll get his lucky break.

The second girl I've ever been crazy about likes me a whole lot, and I'm still having a hard time believing it's really true. I still think that when we don't talk for a day, it's because she's changed her mind -- that when I'm too tired to make stellar conversation, I'm alienating her. Again and again I'm reassured that this is not the case. I'm trying to believe it, to know it, to trust this. I've sabotaged enough good things in my time with my insecurities, but I know if I sabotage this one I'll never forgive myself. I've upped the ante; there's too much at stake this time. I sleep with her shirt tucked beneath my ear; I send her packages every single day. Her voice is too often the first thing I hear when I wake and the last thing before I go to sleep. I get sick in the best way when I think about touching her face, her body -- both so perfect, perfect in the way that used to make me hate myself for falling short but that, I now realize, don't render me imperfect just for looking different. I had no idea any of this would happen, even though a small part of me dared to hope for it, and now that it has it's all I can do to pray to the gods that it stays, that she stays, aweing me with her little nuances and her obsession with diatomaceous earth and her capacity to make me promise things I never thought I'd promise to anyone. The rules are all changing, and if I'm just a tad bit confused, I welcome the chance to stumble through life with new ones, all the while with her weighing heavy on me like the softest quilted down blanket that comforts without overwhelming, that covers without smothering, that warms me just right. I hold my little southern girl in my heart; it is beating out of my chest so hard that I'm certain she must be able to hear it way down there in the Ozarks.

January 12

I sit with my pants at my feet, reading a book of poems about Maine, and then, leaving the bathroom, slip on my Dickies coverall with the salt-stained legs. I go out to the patio to spend twenty minutes wrestling with a particularly ornery Balsam fir on which two strings of lights are entwined -- stepping on one bulb, knowing that the whole strand will likely fail to work now. My hands get scratched up, penetrated, covered with a thin layer of tree sap. I smell like Christmas, a few weeks too late, and I want to be one of the Maine authors, writing about life on Penobscot Bay -- or a solitary heron, or the lobster towns, or an old beloved wife. Suddenly the temporal nature of youth is no longer something to mourn, and lines on a face seem something to be envied rather than dreaded, and bloody hands seem the ideal. I can feel my heart beating out of my chest with the promises of creation, evolution, industry, fir trees, freshly baked pies, and the sea. I haven't been to Maine in nearly three years; it has been far too long.

January 10

I want it to be summer -- I want drippy fruit, apples from the Annapolis valley picked straight from the tree, not the kind from the co-op that have been in a truck for weeks and taste of diesel and dry rot. I want all my friends to have peace in their lives, to stop cutting themselves and starving themselves and trying to love people who are cruel to them, or maybe just not wonderful enough. I want to throw my arms around my friends when I see them and embrace them warmly, not worrying that they will be afraid that I'm in love with them if I touch them with platonic tenderness. I want to see the Aurora Borealis before I leave the Upper Peninsula, and I want an Arkansas girl to see just how many stars are up here before I leave it for good. I want to find more tight t-shirts that don't cinch up at my armpits, all uncomfortable-style, and I want cashmere gloves that aren't itchy, and I want a bigger bladder, and I want to remember to open my window before I go to sleep more often, and I want to climb out of debt.

January 9

I promised myself I'd start writing more when I'm happy. It's a hard promise to keep. When I'm happy, all I want to do is sing out loud, dance in no particular style, and take showers instead of baths -- but I'm keeping my word now.

There is little more to say than that I thank the great god above for girls who quote holy texts in reference to their affection for me, who don't seem to mind that the fuzz from my hat sticks to my shorn head and that I have a hobbit's share of hair on my big toe. They've melted my bitterness all but completely, and that's no small feat. Of course, there's a lot more and less to it than that, but yeah.

December 27

After a depression there comes a period where I am capable of superhuman feats -- sending out ten parcels, all including mix tapes, in a two day period. Cleaning my entire house thoroughly, doing two loads of laundry, creating folders and organizing all the documents on my computer, finally tackling the dried enchilada sauce caked to the bottom of my toaster oven, reading the Chicago Tribune in its entirety -- or something. I'm glad to be feeling far better, at any rate.

December 26

Rich boys ruin your life. That is the goddamn truth.

I had it right the first time -- my 16 year old Northeast Philadelphia love for a boy with a Marvin the Martian obsession who lived in a duplex and had a funny Italian last name and a fucked-up eye (cause he'd gotten shot with a bow and arrow when he was a little kid.) I should've stuck with the working-class boys. I knew best then.

Since then, every single boy I've liked a lot has been either upper-middle class or plain old upper class. I'm drawn to their fashion sense, knowledge of the world and culture, education (self- or otherwise) and speech. Dozens of crushes on strangers I've known nothing about who all inevitably turn out to be rich boys -- I don't look for them, but they seem to find me, and it's always doomed from the get-go. I know it when they look at me disdainfully when I've been oblivious to a seemingly obvious social grace; I know it when I meet their parents, who bombard me with questions for which they don't approve of my answers. I know it when I try to enunciate my words and end up sounding like I have a lisp; when my teeth are more yellow than theirs because I haven't been able to afford to see a dentist in seven years. I can't escape my dysfunctional Irish Catholic family, ridden with alcoholism and abuse of various sorts, no matter how hard I try -- and so I let my heart get broken over and over by boys whose parents vote Democratic and have copies of the Utne Reader lying around; drive BMWs and live in the distant suburbs and listen to NPR. And then there is me, forgoing "big" words because I'm afraid I'll use them in the wrong context, even when I know I know the meaning. Following in my mother's footsteps -- eating dropped food because damn it, those are perfectly good calories, but forgoing the part where she'd say "Kiss it up to Jesus!". Feeling a fucked-up shame (that I'm ashamed of in itself) everytime I clamber upon a Greyhound or hitchhike instead of driving or flying. Thinking about all the rich boys I know with beards and dirty Carhartts who can groom themselves that way and dress themselves that way and get away with it, because they are well-bred. I can clean up, but the dirt still creeps out from beneath my fingernails and behind my ears -- my mother grew up in Fishtown, my father grew up in South Philly, and my grandpa had his house in Belfast burned down by British soldiers. Half of my family has suffered with alcohol abuse; more than one of them has died from it in some indirect manner. None of them knew what a vegan was before I told them, and none of them care now that they know. The fact that I am not married by 25 is considered something of an anomaly. I hate myself for always picking out the spoon-fed fucks to obsess over, but it's hard to avoid in the punk scene -- most rebels of that sort -- most Green Party members and anarchists and agit-prop makers -- come from money. Dying your hair blue and being a full-time activist isn't much of an option when you've got two kids and a deadbeat dad of a boyfriend, or even when you're living in a town where minimum wage is a given and you don't have a degree. And so I meet more rich boys, and I fall for more rich boys, and they all laugh in my face and leave me always picking at my scabs, and so the scars never really get the chance to go away.

December 25

Fuck abuncha Christmas; I'm just happy that the nights are going to start getting longer. In the spirit of festivity, a few posi things, some of which are questionable:

*listening to CSNY's "Judy Blue Eyes" and rocking out

*realizing that like half of my favorite people are Jews

*cleaning up the mess in the hallway that isn't mine

*reminescing about yard-saling in Chicago

*usually having people guess that I'm younger than I am

*having a friend relay tremendously flattering, sincere comments that another, mutual friend has made about you

*not from concentrate orange-tangerine juice with Calcium

*going back to sleep

December 24

Songs you should make me a CD of if you can burn CDs:

Inside Out - "No Spiritual Surrender"
Michael Penn - "No Myth"
That "Saturday in the park" song by who the hell
that "Animal Liberation! Earth Liberation!" etc song by Chokehold
any old Chumbawamba
Aimee Mann stuff
Crucial Youth
Good Horsey
Shelter - In the Name of Comfort
Into Another - Two Snowflakes, William, Running Into Walls

December 24

It is the all or nothing that causes more pain more than anything -- either you worship me, or you hate me. Either you think I'm the most beautiful woman you have ever seen, or you think I'm ugly. Either you want to be good friends with me, or I glare at you and hiss when you walk past. Either I'm in perfect shape, or I am too fat to deserve to leave the house. Either I can listen to the record forty times in the space of a month, or it outright sucks. Either you can accept everything about me without question or criticism and praise me excessively (even though I will cut you down right and left), or there is no room for you in my life. These are not rational thoughts, I have very little control over them.

No wonder I only have two friends left. (Pam and Chris, I love you guys more than anything. Thank you for putting up with me.)

December 24

"There are ways of committing suicide without dying, you know? If you don't care about your life as it is, then you should end it, and start over living a new life with new goals and a new attitude."

A random stranger wrote this on the internet somewhere. I have been thinking about it a lot, about abandoning all my current plans and moving to Brittany and adopting a new persona. I will learn how to play the drums and dye my hair red and become an au pair. Except not really...I couldn't pull it off even if I wanted to, and that's not the right way to go. Still, I know that something's got to change.

Reading the Gloria Steinem book I found in the fifty cent bin at the library. She's hardly someone I'd usually pay much attention to, but for some reason I picked this up tonight, thinking I'd read a chapter to help lull me to sleep. Instead, it has my head buzzing with new thoughts. I concentrated my efforts on the chapter Ruth's Song, about her mentally ill mother:

"She worried terribly about being socially accepted herself, but she never withheld her own approval for the wrong reasons."

Had a few moments of clarity tonight, a few glimpses of hope. Made some pumpkin mousse with extra firm tofu instead of silken and realized one should never break one cardinal rule: Always follow recipes to the letter -- no exceptions ever. Listened to old favorite songs, beautiful songs, that I'd all but forgotten about. Found strange comfort in a cotton flannel nightgown, a quick bath, an investigation into the local ski trails.

I am trying to squelch the voice within me that says I would feel better, that this sense of doom would lift, if I had someone to cuddle with, but I know it's true. Alas, it will be months before anything of that nature even has a chance of transpiring, and I'd do well to channel that neediness elsewhere.

I made the mistake of putting my yard-saled down comforter in the wash several weeks ago, and it turned a wretched shade of puke green in parts, dirt-brown in others. I had to discard it; even a duvet cover wouldn't save this sorry thing. Now it takes all five of my wool blankets to even approximate the warmth of that one -- I sleep below them all, and they separate in the night and scatter across my bed, and I wish I had three dogs.

December 23

Things not to do when you're depressed, by Erin:

1. Listen to songs by the bands of everyone you've ever slept with in succession, whether by accident or not.

2. Stand in harsh lighting and pick all your blackheads.

3. Play "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" over and over.

4. Talk to, call, write to, or email anyone who you'd like to keep as a friend.

5. Only eat cereal because you are too depressed to cook.

6. Try to make long-term plans.

7. Read trashy women's magazines like Cosmo and wonder why you don't look like the women in ads when you wake up.

8. Go interview at the only place that will hire you now.

9. Avoid said interview.

10. Masturbate to songs about revenge, lust, and obsession.

December 22

Dear Joni Mitchell,

I want to thank you for always saving my life. I mean it. When I am freaking out, and want to die, I listen to your music and I feel like I can deal with the monsters well enough to keep alive another day or two. I think you are the most amazing songwriter that ever lived -- I mean, Bob Dylan is probably tied with you, but you are a chick, so you make me sad and empathetic in ways he fails to do. I really wish I could give you a hug tonight and tell you that I understand where you are coming from, sister. Us manic-depressive bitches know what's up.

I have a picture of you on my kitchen cupboard. You are holding your guitar; you are like 22 or 23, and so beautiful. You make me take back everything I say about long hair, and blondes, being a terrible scene. Of course, you peaked in the 1970s, so I guess it was okay back then.

I came to see you at the Rosemont Theatre in Chicago last spring. My tickets cost like fifty bucks apiece. I got two, but I couldn't find anyone to go with me. It made me feel really sad -- I even tried to give the tickets away, and no one would accompany me still. It was one of the saddest nights of my life. I ended up handing the extra ticket to the guy at the box office, and telling him that if anyone came late and wanted to go, they could use my extra one. A chubby Asian man in his 30s overheard me. He must've thought I was cute or something, because he came in and sat next to me and tried to make small talk during the intermission. He asked if I wanted to go have a drink with him. I was really confused and freaked out. Later I talked to the box office dude and found out that he had just been passing through the theatre to pick up tickets for some R&B show. He was totally trying to scam on me. I got really angry. Other than that you put on a good show. The outfit you were wearing was pretty busted, I mean, who picked out that dress? Sure, you are getting a little meat on your bones in your old age, but that doesn't mean you need to wear these weird angular tents. You sang all these weird new love songs that you recorded. I guess they were okay, but I wanted to hear your originals. You did five of them. When you sang The Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig's Tune) I could feel my heart break in half and make a million new hearts and they spilled out all over the floor. I saw all the hippie girls and the short-haired dykes in overalls at your show. I wanted to go and put my arms around them and thank the lord above for all the women in the world who let heartbreak wash through them everyday and kick and deal with mental illness and struggle and class and race and imperfection. Sometimes I hate you for seeming so perfect, but when you sing I know that you hurt just as much as all the ones who don't look or sound so pretty while they're doing it, and I guess I can't hold it against you.


PS -- I hope you finally found someone to be nice to you. I know how hard it is to think and feel more than the rest of the world seems to.

December 22

During the epic highs I always forget that manic depression earns its name for a reason. When I am having my delusional fits of high self-esteem where I think I am the smartest, most clever, sexiest person on earth, it's easy to forget the abysmal lows -- the days when I am hard-pressed not to physically hurt myself out of sheer self-hatred, when all of my friendships seem like a sham and everything inevitably gets taken the wrong way and I ignore the most basic of duties -- paying my phone bill so that it doesn't get shut off, doing enough dishes so that I can eat, eating itself, getting groceries, going to work, realizing that my floor is not a receptacle for everything I am done reading, wearing, and eating. And then, when it subsides, I am back to being extra fastidious, scrubbing every nook and cranny of my apartment. Today I will say that living in the Upper Peninsula has been bad for me; at other points I would be apt to disagree.

When I am angry and bitter I take my feelings out on the wrong things -- on women who subscribe to societal pressures to look a certain way instead of on the society and media that has compelled them to do so. I feel frustrations towards all the girls who tweeze their brows, wear make-up, shave all their body hair, and diet -- and towards the men, even women, who look at them and celebrate their artificiality. But really, they are not the issue. They are given God's free will to do what they will, as are the onlookers. It is my responsibility not to care, and on the surface it would appear that I do not, as I continually fail to subscribe to the same standards. But time and time again it kills me when even my friends who dare to call themselves feminists criticize me for not measuring up. On days like today I am left to feel ugly -- me with my shorn hair, thick eyebrows, hairy legs, unadorned face and body, utilitarian clothes. The same things I find so attractive on other women; the same kind of girls who make me swoon. You'd think it would translate, you really would. But today now I am bathing in irrationality, crawling deeper beneath the blankets, realizing that it has been two years since someone has held me and meant it, feeling like I don't deserve to eat because I am swollen; because I have let my muscles atrophy too long in this Arctic hell that I find so beautiful in the warmer months. The Keweenaw, so much like myself -- given to extremes in mood, in temperature. So hot or so cold, very little in the way of a spring or a fall, knowing nothing of balance and the space in-between. I don't want to leave the house this week; I don't want anyone to see this body I feel I have let grown so out of shape, this face cruelly exposed by my lack of hair for what it is -- plain, simple. I am terrified and shaking, I am crying, no one is home to talk to and I am banging my head against the wall and I know I'm too old for this.

I only feel like I have two real friends in the world right now, I am choking on my own breath and I can no longer type.

December 20

Today I finally said something mean to the seventysomething Dutch Boy haircut man who stalks me at work. I was getting tired of hearing him talk about how "the Norwegians should kill all the whales because they're eating up the codfish" night after night.

I stole a magazine from the employee break room to pass the hours more quickly -- Glamour, the trashiest of them all. I found a real gem contained within the "Your 2001 Sex Life" horoscope: "Solo? Virgos are the kinkiest sign in the zodiac." So that explains it. August 24, baby. Mark it down on your calendars and send me some toys to go with the flannel sheets.

Been having bizarre nightmares -- last night in a beautiful area of French Canada, with a fellow twentysomething woman and two babies (one on each of our arms), trying to keep from sliding towards a waterfall by sitting in front of a ledge on the rock formation. Finally we crawled to shore, babies in tow. Also dreamt of picking snot from my nose only to wake with a tight chest and clogged nostrils, completely out of breath. I've got to see an asthma and allergies specialist soon, and a respiratory specialist about my suspected deviated septum as well, lest I stop breathing completely in my sleep one of these nights. I get very scared sometimes; I've eliminated milk from my diet, try to pursue both aerobic and weight-bearing exercise, and have been getting enough sleep -- but breathing well and easily is something I've never been able to attain. I've been reluctant for years to use an inhaler, but lately I've been thinking about returning to one before scar tissue forms in my lungs, as it is apt to do with constant wheezing. It's very scary to struggle with a health issue everyday knowing that you might be seriously hurting yourself just because you can't afford even a preliminary visit to the doctor.

December 21

I like the feeling of being bald -- knowing most men won't bother with me, knowing I won't have to put grease in my hair to prevent the monchichi look from going on, knowing that shampoo and dandruff are non-issues.

I have had a bad stomachache all day, thinking too much.

Someone is crying loudly outside. I can't tell if it's for play, out of drunkenness, or in earnest. Living so close to the bars, though, this occurs so frequently that I've all but learned to ignore any questionable behavior.

If someone would send me flannel sheets, I'd fall in love with them. If you've got some extras, let me know via email. I'll make something nice for you in return.

Sometimes I am amazed by the strength of the women I know, who have been through pure hell and keep kicking harder. It makes me wonder why I bother with boys at all, when I have found that, across the board, they don't love nearly as much, try nearly as hard, or expect anything realistic.

If I eat any more salt this week, I'll turn into a sea.

December 20

I was walking on Lake Michigan with Keith last winter, telling him about you. The lake was frozen in bizarre formations, as if to replicate the moon's surface. I told him that I would be content to spend the rest of my life with you, never being able to touch you, if I could just listen to you talk all day, watch your limbs move and hear about the others and sit quiet, or maybe sometimes spill out my dreams or tell you about the others or about a crow or a hammered dulcimer or a needly pine I saw that day. And somehow, I would be content. I'm certain of it. Like the nuns in the convents who are in love with their fellow sisters but can never consummate it, like a monk who thinks he loves Buddha best of all and needs no physical gratification. I never dared think about you in a sense much more passionate than that, I never thought I could fully handle it...still you've got to know, innately, that I was always staring when you couldn't see me, when your girlfriend had left the room, when my stomach wasn't already sick from the perfection and the unattainability of it all. I don't think I ever touched you, even as friends do -- if there was one instance, I would remember it well. And I certainly never gave you a hint of what I felt, not even in a casual and understated context. There was always too much to risk and nothing to gain, and I never felt I had the right, and maybe I didn't, but today the ghosts are out rattling chains long lain dormant; I am doing that thing where I dive headfirst into my futon mattress while playing sickly sweet songs and thinking of things I shouldn't, I am thankful for having an apartment to myself to drink water glass after glass and leave all the doors open so I can walk through them all in a circle, remembering, and being glad more than anything for my silence and restraint -- two things that, you must know, are uncharacteristic of me.

December 19

Roused from sleep by always seem to calculate our time difference the opposite way, thinking it is early where I am. You are crying; I am scared. You tell me about the girl you are in love with. She has girly blonde hair. Big breasts, blue eyes, and a cynical sense of humor. She makes you laugh and she ruins your life. She shoots heroin.

I feel my heart rip open, remembering how your father's addiction ruined your life. You tell me that you almost did it yourself, and I feel a sick searing pain shoot through my side, daring to pray to whatever's out there that you stay safe. Wanting to fly you here, scoop you up in my arms and cradle you close to my chest to insure it.

Sometimes I don't know what to say. You tell me I am the best girlfriend you've ever had and ever will; you tell me that remembering good times with me brings you comfort when you are scared and afraid, and most of all heartbroken. I try to forget all the nights we slept on different floors in the same house, those spent pulling my hair out as I tried to understand why my depression made me love more and yours made you pull further and further away. It's all very bittersweet, but I'm glad to hear the kind things, even well after the fact. You thought it would always be like that -- that girls would treat you well simply because you were around. Now that you've been out in the world awhile, you're surprised to find that it's the exception rather than the norm.

I moved on long ago, but sometimes you say things that kill me, boy. I realize that we're more alike now than we ever were two years ago; I realize that the timing was all wrong. You tell me that you called up the free "ghetto" party line to have phone sex with a random stranger and told her you loved her as a joke; I laugh and imagine you drunk, saying sweet things to her in your near-falsetto voice, wondering how it feels not to have your entire life hinge on the tone and slant of those words.

"I can be that happy with someone again." I tell it to myself a million times a day, but I'm not sure how much of me ever really believes it. Thinking of a small mountain town in the autumn, me in a bigger body and us sharing a sweater because we only had one, being called sweetheart for the first time in my life and having everything feel perfectly new, perfectly perfect.

You are my best friend; most of the time that's all I know.

December 16

"Float one fully opened flower in the water." A phrase so benign, yet so loaded. Sitting in the lobby of a midwestern chain store reading Ntozake Shange's novel about three sisters growing up in Charleston, and remembering just what it is that makes me come most alive -- heat. Sticky, Southern heat. The daytime kind that beats down on your back and scalds your shoulders; the nighttime kind that makes you giddy for syrupy beverages and drawn out kisses in the out of doors, terrified that someone might catch sight of you and your blue moon lover. And that very idea -- a camellia flower gliding across the surface of some bathwater. Two rusted bicycles and a hill with a gradual incline but a sharp decline. Girls with round faces and rounder bellies walking around in shirts too small to accomodate their girth, a flash of skin here and there on the main street and the catcalls of the neighborhood boys. And here, the snow keeps falling. Well over a foot outside, and it shows no signs of relenting.

December 15

"...and if you ever need self-validation, just meet me in the alley by the railway's all over my face."

I am quite bald, wasting too much time on inane tasks, and wondering how I can manage keep "my slim figure" when the cold makes me both lazy and prone to chocolate cravings.

December 7

My favorite girl from Houghton wrote from her new home in Vermont. Apparently, the non-monogamy lessons are paying off:

"I feel like I have a lover in every state or something and whoever wants to come out and visit can come get laid. It's a good feeling overall. I've never been this liberated about sex before."

You go, girl!

December 7

I have more free time than most people I know at the moment -- I work thirty hours a week and have no local partner(s), kid(s), pet(s), or demanding social life -- but I still manage to feel like I don't haven't enough hours in the day all the inane things I want to do, like sit on my easy chair reading House Beautiful and Modern Maturity magazine, whose slogan is "all you have to be is over fifty." I'm only half that, but I'm keen to read about I.M. Pei's late-in-life architectural achievements and Paul McCartney's thoughts on sustaining creativity well into old age. I've really got to stop with the home decor rags, though -- I'm starting to feel like there's something wrong with me because my apartment doesn't reflect the efforts of a full-time live-in housekeeper and interior decorator, not to mention that it's neither in the Hamptons nor nestled beside a fjord on the outskirts of Oslo. I remarked to Pam tonight that I'm in a rather laughable situation -- always feeling starved for friends, attention, and affection, but simultaneously overwhelmed by letters, emails, and phone calls I'm too slow to return from people who clearly want to be in my life. It comes down, then, to quality over quantity. I long for the easy rapport I have with people like Chris, whom I addressed a package to tonight -- I knew he was just the person who needed an extremely spotty recording of the Muncie Marimbe Orchestra for his noise performances. Tonight I skiied on an ungroomed trail with unwaxed skis, and made something of an ass of myself...tripped over my own fiberglass appendages several times, criss-crossed my surrogate limbs. Still, it feels so good to get out in the open air and exercise...I return home with a wholly new rosy glow, with reddened lips and translucent skin...find myself standing in front of the foyer mirror with my hand down my panties, smelling like cunt and fantasizing about people who'll never see me like this, admiring the muscles in my thighs and the curve of my belly and the color in my face.

I have been eating too many nuts and seeds lately and not enough fresh fruits and vegetables. Fattening up for the winter, I suppose...the woman comes to where I work and calls me "that guy", then trips over her next twenty words, avoiding eye contact with me. She's far more embarrassed than I am. I look at myself in the glass door, the way I stand and walk, the way I hold my head, searching for clues to my supposed masculinity, and all I see is a lack of excess frill.

No more time to feel sorry for myself; I'm getting older. I know it by the way my friends are marrying and getting pregnant, buying homes and combing their hair towards their foreheads in an attempt to hide its backward creep. "Time to stop hitchhiking and get a license, a car," part of me thinks -- but I know I've still got a few good years in me, I know I'm still a kid -- even if my youth is now increasingly fleeting. I know it because I can still pass for a high school student, and qualify for the discount Eurail pass, and buy clothes from the kids' department. But the vibrancy is threatened by my increasing desire for matching linens and curtains, my continued insistence on non-synthetic fabrics in my wardrobe and home, my sudden interest in moisturizing my face to keep my skin smooth. When really, Doctor Brooner had it right: "Enjoy only two cosmetics, enough sleep and Doctor Bronner's 'Magic Soap' to clean body-mind-soul-spirit instantly united One! All-One!" I'm failing him on the first end, if I do use his almond castile soap faithfully, but what does he know really? This is the same man who recommends lemon juice mixed with his soap as an effective birth control method. Clearly a fellow to watch out for.

People I've been told I look like:

Hillary Swank.

Judy Garland.

Joan Crawford.


Guess which one is my favorite?

December 3

boy named ashley (6:20:06 PM): do you do anything except wonder how cute you are compared to other people?

DAMN, bitch!

December 3

Right before I woke up I dreamt that Richard Marx was on the radio singing "We spent the first night down at Eagle River and the next down at Sunset Beach." Eagle River is a town here in the Keweenaw. What the fuck.

November 28

I am thinking about you and smiling, thinking about being silly and feeling young and kissing you in the most wildly inappropriate places, thinking of how I plan to properly ravage you when I see you again, or perhaps just sit and talk and look you in the face and know that I have yet another good friend in my life. Eating junk food and drinking syrupy sweet things and loving the way I feel pressed against your chest and having my head fit just below your chin. Knowing I should have gone to bed hours ago but not particularly caring. Wanting orange juice desperately and wishing I was a professional ballerina, never having to do any work other than dancing, stretching, moving. Wishing I could sleep nine hours every night and wake to fresh organic fruit, and wishing that tomorrow morning you would be there lying in my bed with a big goofy grin on your face. Midwest boys are always the very best.

Thank you for making me fucking happy tonight.

November 27

If I have a crush on one more fucking boy who turns out to have a major Asian fetish, I am going to...oh, I don't know. Get mad? It has been like thirty in a row now. WTF. Get over it, boys. All women are hot, and when you fixate on one particular ethnicity it creeps the fuck out of both white girls and the "exotic" women you seek to impress.


November 26

Sleeping isn't easy when you have both asthma and a deviated septum. The complete and utter lack of humidity in my apartment doesn't help matters much. Regardless, there I was asleep, dreaming of stealing notebooks by accident and reading his diary on purpose. He kept writing about things being broken, and how "the house was so empty, so full of ghosts," with all of his housemates gone for the week. I felt certain I could empathize, but really that's not true. My apartment has no ghosts. While it's true that a family lived here for six years, and the father of the family for twenty before that, it's also true that I don't associate this place with them. Last night at 2am, some strangers parked a vehicle outside, put on some Indian synth-pop very loudly, and got out to dance for about half an hour. Then, they disappeared as quickly as they'd come. It was quite random and caused me to scratch my head a bit while laughing.

November 21

Dear X, X, and X,

Almost all my memories of you are good ones. You always pay me compliments. If we have a conflict we resolve it in a mature manner and without resorting to character assassination. You always make me feel like I lead a charmed life even when there are thousand-leggers crawling out from the cracks in my room. You are smart and attractive and talented, which add merit to your respect for me. We are never going to sleep with each other, nor does either of us want to sleep with the other. Perhaps it is partially because you are not interested in girls, but word. Tonight I am thinking about you and feeling happy.

Thank you. I wonder why it can't always be this way, yo.


November 21

I've been in a positively lovely mood for the better part of the last week, and for no good reason whatsoever. I have grown to embrace two other songs from Dylan's "Desire" LP --Romance in Durango and Black Diamond Bay -- and I play each of them at least five times a day while I fill the bathtub with water. My faucet isn't running now, and my apartment's been so cluttered that I haven't felt comfortable inviting my landlord in to fix it just yet. Tomorrow I start the least illustrious job of My Jill of All Trades career thus far: ringing a bell and saying "Help the Homeless!" in front of a Salvation Army kettle outside a local grocery. The winter weather grows from grey and cold to bitterly icy with foot-high snowdrifts. The reality that there will be no more bike-riding for me sinks in once and for all, and I seriously deliberate how I will get to the co-op for groceries. I haven't any snowshoes just yet, nor boots for my cross-country skis, nor the money with which to purchase either. I do have a pair of trusty Sorels, men's size 8 (*just right*), which I found in a Chicago alleyway last summer on a hot and sticky day. I reckon that I could walk all the way there in forty-five minutes, but suffice to say I won't be getting groceries more than once a week during the winter. (Public transportation is exceedingly limited here, but cabs are quite cheap, and I can get to Hancock and back for five bucks.)

It brings me great solace, comfort, and joy to visit the Portage Lake Library, located directly across the street. I do take it for granted sometimes, but what bliss to pore over picture books of tropical locales, and even Finland, responsible for so much of our local culture and place names! I look at photos of schoolgirls frolicking in Helsinki fountains midsummer, and I have a whole new lease on life. It's also encouraging to see all the books they're getting rid of at their booksale -- outdated volumes on the role of a wife and mother, homosexuality, and AIDS that express archaic viewpoints.

Some days I am still terribly lonely, and ache to touch another human or just have tea and talk with one, but I know that this time alone is so valuable and vital to my life. I will very likely not have a year quite like this for a long time to come -- probably not until old age, and possibly never. I try to honor this chance to hang out with my badself. I wish I was more prone towards cooking little feasts up. I think I'll make myself a special dinner on Thanksgiving -- nothing fancy, just a vegan lasagna and some peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, perhaps, both of which I've got just the right ingredients for. (It doesn't look like I'll make it to the co-op to replenish supplies before Thursday!)

I have been positively ecstatic lately about the role that former crushes have been playing in my life. Failed affairs have blossomed into deep, rich friendships. Once-obsessive crushes have turned into respect-filled alliances. Things left pleasantly unresolved with myriad people have reared their little heads in my life at every turn, adding some mystery, intrigue and a bit of fantasy even in this time of loneliness. I have to check myself, perhaps, when I find vindication in watching people who have rejected me hook up with and pine for people I perceive as far less attractive, but I can't help but see this as a preferable alternative to feeling even more dissed, to thinking "God, I sure hope that HE'S not better looking than I am." At any rate, thank god for romance gone awry -- that's how I've acquired far too many of my good friends!

Home decor has become a positively consuming passion but I restrain myself, as I won't be in this apartment after June. Instead I read LIVING and dream of days to come, making small handicrafts and sending attractive mail and finding great satisfaction in folding my clothes just so.

November 13

Punk rock girls are always portrayed as thin.

Even when punk rock girls who aren't thin draw themselves, they draw themselves as waifs.

When I look at myself in the normal world, amongst normal women, I see myself as average-sized, healthy, just right.

When I look at myself in the punk world, and what's more, the activist scene (where it's considered indulgent if you eat more than enough to fill your belly), I consider myself fat. It's fucking sick, and wrong, and pointless, and bad.

I'm more tired of talking about weight, and thinking about weight, and fucking obsessing over weight, and hating myself because of my weight, than anyone else is. I'm more tired of assuming it's the reason I've never been in a lasting relationship, and losing fifteen pounds when I stopped compulsively overeating (6000 calories a day isn't healthy unless you're an Olympic athlete or a sumo wrestler!) only to have it turned back around on me and suddenly having everyone say "girl, put on some pounds, you'd look better." I feel like I can never win. I'll never be a "BBW", and I'll never be a waif. I am stuck in average in-between land, right in my "target range" on all the insurance charts, but nobody's "type". Not the fucking indierockers who are looking for a prepubescent schoolgirl type in kneesocks, not the chubby chasers, and not even the average creepy American male -- my hair is too short to that, my aesthetic too boyish.

A says he is tired of hearing me talk about how obsessed I am with hating the way I look because it's unfounded and tiresome. There are plenty of other people, he says, who aren't conventionally attractive that don't dwell on nearly as much as I do. Others have said the same thing -- "Stop portraying yourself as a victim," -- in some way, shape, or form.

I have been putting forth the image of a confident, self-assured woman for years now. I've hitchhiked thousands of miles alone and gotten hundreds of rides without being touched even once. I hopped a freight train cross-country. I have slept in the woods on forty degree nights in a tank top and shorts without a sleeping bag. I have pulled food out of dumpsters, impossible situations out of thin air, a radical consciousness out of a traditional Irish Catholic upbringing. I can kick the world's ass, but I can't stop hating my own.

Have I really learned a damn thing after all?

Everyone who has ever called a woman ugly, told her to lose weight, bought her clothes two sizes too small implying she should go on a diet, asked her if she was anorexic (weight issues go both ways) when you knew very well she just had a metabolism faster than Flo-Jo, or otherwise contributed to her negative self-image is guilty. I am just as guilty.

I am torn between an intense desire to wake up one morning perfectly content with the way I am and the desire to one day succeed at looking better than I do. I am caught between a desire to modify things about me that will no doubt attract many vapid, superficial lovers and a desire to tell everyone to go to hell for not realizing I'm as beautiful as the handful of people who love me claim I am. But really, nobody's baby is uglier, nor is anyone's pal. I am always so sure I'm over all of this, and then I see someone I fancy with a girl who is bigger/smaller/shorter/taller/prettier/chestier etc. etc. than I am, and I think "If only I looked like that, I wouldn't be alone."

It is all bullshit, and I know it well, but I don't have any other answers, so I cling to the easiest one. I blame my inability to look in the mirror and live with my body on other people's failure to find me attractive, but conveniently ignore the people who do, claiming that their opinions don't "count" for whatever reason.

Everyone knows that beautiful people aren't alone; I won't even bother to break out the Morrissey quotes. I come to the conclusions I come to by the power of deduction.

Not giving in to the monsters, just doing battle once again.

November 11

"It gets really cold up there," they told me. "It's gonna be a long, long winter," everyone said. I would just shake my head and look at them disdainfully. Of course, of course. I knew this already. Did they think they were telling me anything new? But here it is -- the long winter, already well underway, and it's only early November. The leaves have been almost entirely gone from the trees for almost a month now. It's too cold to leave the house, and even if I wanted to, there would be nowhere to go. I visit the library several times a week and the post office every few days. I buy groceries on credit when I have too few things to make the assembly of a meal I will eat very likely. I occasionally go into stores, at the Copper Country mall or on Shelden or Quincy streets, and gawk at things I can't afford to buy. I read books and listen to records and wait for the days to pass, all the while half-hoping they never do. I am caught in a time warp up here. If I died, no one would know it for days. This delights me in some sick way. No one is here to monitor my behavior, to tell me that it's not healthy to spend so much time alone, and if I know it well I'd rather ignore it for a few months more. I am recovering from years and years of travels and punk houses. Never having my own phone line or bathroom, and often not having my own bedroom. Crashing on couches for days or months at a time and only catching a bit of privacy during a long soak in the tub or a bikeride to a field on the outskirts of town. I am confident that I will come away from this year completely rejuvenated, but while it sprawls out before me, less than half-completed, it seems so long and thankless indeed.

I string some puppetheads on a length of copper-mesh ribbon and hang them to my shower rod as if they were chili peppers on the porch of an adobe home. Little dead people greeting me everytime I take a bath. I gave up on showers long ago -- the water pressure is too weak, and when you consistently pay your rent mid-month you tend to shy away from complaining about anything to the landlord.
I wake from dreams that my brother has had his legs amputated by crabs, and that I have found him covered in blood in the trunk of a car with a tag attached to him. The same night, I dream that an old lover has become chubby, and sits with me eating miniature lemon and lime cupcakes on the black macadam of my childhood home as my mom calls him "Neil", despite my claims that it's not his name.

I curse the fact that there are a few people in the world who have, for all intents and purposes, treated me in a completely reprehensible manner but who I am quick to shower attention upon the moment they have uttered so much as a mumbling that they might let me back into their life on some small level. A great part of me wants to tell said people to go to hell, but the biggest part of me is all to happy to oblige them.

I have watched the Umbrellas of Cherbourg far too many times and listened to the soundtrack even more. I know that, as some dead white guy once said, we always end up kissing the wrong person goodnight.

I feel I am too old to pay heed to the whims of chance and fate and destiny. I see relationships as formulaic and rational things now, and discard the people who are lacking the requisite variables from the pool of possibilities. I cannot help but feel this is terribly limiting, but as with arranged marriages I have learned that love which grows over the course of many months and years is far less volatile and far more fulfilling than the sort which jolts, starts and stops, causes people to bang their head against walls and curse the muses and wish bitter death upon anyone involved in their very birth. Once in awhile I meet someone who challenges this finding. A lot of pacing ensues, my thighs become bruised from self-inflicted slaps, and many songs are written, but that is the only productivity that comes of it. I cannot help but see this sort of love as a beautiful weed, welcomed if unintended, which brightens a spring day but ultimately threatens to destroy the rest of the garden with its invasive root system. I swear again and again that I am no longer a creature of passion, that I have allowed my intellect to override my loins, but life continues to prove me wrong.

I have seven windows in my apartment, and seven different colored curtains.

November 10

Eating with Billy, I couldn't help but feel I had my priorities all wrong. It's amazing people like him who deserve my love and attention -- not the countless folks I've gone way out of my way to placate, impress, gain the respect of, and seek validation from. Is it possible for me to finally accept the friendship and flattery from the people who give of it freely, and stop worrying about those who will never be happy with my efforts?

November 9

You hear a knock on the door but don't answer it. The phone rings but you don't pick it up. It's not so much that you're depressed, but that you feel very overwhelmed by the ten million things going on in your head and don't feel ready to bring any additional heads into the equation at the moment. I say that I have no friends here, but I don't think that's fair as I all but ignore the few who do try.

I am letting myself have privacy and alone time for the first time since I left high school. It's long overdue.

Listening to the Coroner's Gambit..."Bluejays and Cardinals" makes me play air drums in such a fast and furious manner that I think my arms will fall off. Strange, it's hardly a percussive song. My biceps grow very sore.

"Stars come out of hiding for you...and I would too."

Normally I hate songs about stars, as they've become a bit of an emo cliche, but in this one they fit just right. I move the needle to that line over and over again and know that's just what I need, someone to make it worth it for me to come out of hiding. If only I'd a clue as to just who.

The library is open until 9pm on Thursday, giving me ample time to head over and peruse "Help Wanted" classifieds.

November 9

Leave the record player going long after the music's gone just to hear the crackle. Lie on the floor in the bathroom just to feel the cold. Eat sparingly just to feel your stomach growl.

Your heart's not quite broken, but your ego's a bit bruised.

November 1

The last day of October was crisp, cool enough to be a lovely fall day but not too cool to bother me (think sixty degrees), and beautiful. The children were all out trick or treating, and although I was disappointed to see that most kids don't put much effort into it, being content to simply hold a mask up to their face, it was still nice to see them out and about. I rode my bike slowly down Quincy Street in Hancock and remembered the bizarreness of Halloween in Chicago last fall -- one or two youth without costumes knocking on our door, looking for candy. Elon had purchased some to give them just in case, but very little of it went to Trick or Treaters in the end. They simply never came.

A copy of Joni's "Court and Spark" and one of Dylan's "Desire" sit side by side on my kitchen table, next to the toaster oven and the glass Oster blender. I only favor one song from each -- the title track from the first, and "Sara" from the second -- and I play them over and over again, alternating. One is about the thrill of the chase, the conquest, and the other is about the dissolution of a damn good thing. They both leave me giddy as I wash the dishes without any soap (too broke for that); doing the occasional two-left-footer's pirouette of sorts, wearing navy blue underwear with red, red roses and nothing else. My landlord pays for the heat, and it's cranked so high to make July in Florida seem like no big deal. Positively balmy: it thrills me to the core. Sometimes I feel like my heart is about to beat out of my chest for no reason but the music, and I realize that, more and more, this is how I've been feeling lately. Gone is the constant loneliness, the aching for a lifelong companion and a few others, too, just to make the days pass quicker. I feel very whole, and can honestly say that I've come to positively cherish and honor my solitude, neither looking for partners nor pushing them away. I let things come into my life on their own timeline and don't try to drastically alter this too much one way or the other.

I find a certain satisfaction in going into stores where I can't actually afford to buy anything just because it's good to know that I deserve to look at nice things too.

Ammonia to make the kitchen floor shine...a picnic basket on the highest shelf of my boudoir waiting for next summer to arrive. Thoughts of California's central valley in the springtime and how nothing can compare. Wishing I could take these hardwood floors and this pure, pure air everwhere I go with me. A postcard from Sarah in Kandy, Sri Lanka that makes me smile. So many friends scattered across the globe, and yet sometimes I manage to forget I have any at all. Feeling so full and bursting at the seams with love for anyone and everyone who can make me laugh or put me in my place. Finding inspiration where I least expected it.


"in silence,
in a bell jar,
still a song"
I just realized that I always forget to write about all the things and people who are making me happy. There are many.

October 30


It's that stuff boys are supposed to have. Only I'm a girl, and I think I was born with the wrong amount of it...or something.

Let's see. I got acne so severe in my late teens that I had to take Accutane. I have five times as much body hair as the average woman I know. I never work out and have more muscles than most girls who do. I masturbate to orgasm an average of five or six times a day (well, more when I'm unemployed, and only two or three times when I've got a hectic schedule!). My waist-to-hip ratio is like 31 to 33. A drag queen once complimented me on my tits in the ladies' room. I thought she just liked them, but it turns out she thought I was a male to female transsexual who'd grown my mosquito bites with hormones. I objectify both men and women constantly. I always do the pursuing. My period is about one day long and requires maybe two low-absorbency tampons for the entire duration, and I never get cramps.

I know I'm a girl. I mean, I have girl parts, and I do get my period (albeit very briefly), and some semblance of breasts (albeit minimal), and sometimes I even like to wear sundresses, so nicely contrasting my short, spiky hair.

It's confusing, though. I go in the store and I can't find any pants in the women's section that fit for the life of me, so even if I didn't want to be butch I wouldn't have a choice. I look at other girls and they have things I've never experienced: cellulite, curves, a predisposition to only want sex with someone they're in love with. I can't understand them, and they can't understand me. I think they are wusses, and I can't comprehend their soft bodies, and they think I am masculine and hard; they think it is strange that I don't go through forty-three maxipads during my average menstrual cycle like they do.

And I'm trying to be open to diversity and and celebrate variety as the spice of life and all that junk, but I think we all secretly learn to like the way we're born and reach the point where we couldn't conceive of anything else.

October 30

Dear City of Houghton,

Since you insist on thinking I am something other than a girl, please at least call me by the respectful title of "Sir" rather than "young man". I am twenty-five years old, for Christ's sake!

Respectfully yours,

Erin Mcwilliams

October 27

Dear John Doe,

Please consider divorcing your loving wife, remarrying Exene, and hiring me to be your live-in naked housekeeper.

Love, Erin

PS -- In the event that this isn't possible, I'd settle for a discreet and tawdry affair in Los Angeles' northern burbs.

October 24

Recipe for pure sex:

Full lips. Creatively executed double entendre. Finger foods fit for a picnic. Fruit, fruit, fruit -- preferably the messy kind. The motherfucking Yuba river. Shade trees. Prince coming from a car stalled on the highway just out of earshot. Clarks of England shoes in both brown and black (to match mine), left on when everything else comes off. Staring too long, someone on their knees, someone begging, someone succumbing, someone putting their glasses back on because they want to see everything. Leaving the light on. Union songs. Being hairier than you and having you love it. Biting my lower lip. Watching you bite yours. Big teeth big mouth big tongue. Coming only because we don't care if we do or not. Someone's hair is wet. Someone's is dry. Gangly limbs. One concave belly and one convex one. Fitting together. Spying a typewriter off in the corner. Newspaper ink on your forehead, your cheek, my fingers. Freshly showered but without deodorant. It's a dry heat. Or maybe it's not. Maybe it's humid. Excessively so. You take one finger in your mouth, quickly release it. I bite into your shoulder blade as if to make a meal of it. The parched soil eats us up and no one can see us and there is no one else in the world and the collection agencies all take note and grant me reprieve and your psycho exes all stop calling and my hand is in the small of your neck and yours is somewhere it shouldn't be and something about it sends me reeling and jars me into consciousness and I wake up and I'm all like

Fuck. I live in the Upper Peninsula.

God damn it.

October 19

Can you say manic? I can't concentrate on a singular task for more than five minutes at a time. I love this feeling, and it's a damn good thing because I pay the price for it.

Had the best talk with Emily last night about class issues and finally came out and admitted what I've never been able to articulate: that so much of my self-hatred is rooted in the fact that I'm from neither an upper middle class family nor a particularly "cultured" one. We talked a lot about what education means, and I confessed that I feel so far from articulate or knowledgeable -- she was surprised that I felt this way, as she claimed I was one of the most eloquent and well written/spoken people she knows. It means a lot coming from her: an amazing, brilliant woman who, at age 22, has found a way to make a living doing what she feels passionate about (community organizing) and far surpasses most people twice her age in both life experience and capacity to be fully human. We discussed how our upbringings tied in with and affected our feelings about gender and being a member of the queer community, too -- in far more direct ways than one might think. Talking to Emily is always a true treat -- there are so few people in this world with whom I can openly express how I'm feeling and not only receive empathy but engage in constructive dialogue.

A few hours later, though, I threw all my lofty ideals out the window when one of the five cutest men I have ever seen in my life knocked on my door for a shameless booty call.

October 10

(A silly off-the-cuff song about old age in the Keweenaw.)

A house should always carry scents of cashew and vanilla
Winter coats should be evocative of burning leaves and bark
And a gal should never tell the truth
about what's in her recipes
and why she never sleeps while it's still dark
It's surprising when your critics prove to be the ones who love you
It's a shock when your naysayers benefit you most of all
and it's common sense that's lacking from the bulk of your decisions
Your will is all but hanging on your wall
Fairer nights have yielded restless sleep in downtown Eagle River
Colder days have failed to freeze the lake and stun the hardy fish
Older women than Dolores
join the Laurium church chorus
hoping Jesus might grant them a single wish
Lord, just let me keep this house that smells like cashew and vanilla
At my age, they say, I need assisted care
For I'm prone to broken bones, and surely I would like somebody (after all) to help me wash and comb my hair
But I'll have them shave my head before I ask them for a barber
And I'll have them dig my grave before I ask them for their help
And I'll sell my harpsichord,
and my 78 Ford
just to be here when I give that final yelp
Lord, just let me wear that winter coat for 2 or 3 more seasons
They'd have me believe that I belong downstate
for this fate I'll gladly pray
half-a-dozen times a day
but I fear that all my prayers may come too late
Lord, I hope you're taking care of Howard
(He's been gone for eight years)
I do hope you've let him know I'm on my way
For I've realized as of late that I've got little say in fate
It could be ten years; it could be any day
Just let me eat my remaining meals in downtown Eagle River
just don't let them carry me off to Detroit
for I'm sure that in this land
as I swear by my right hand
there are far more sick old women to exploit
I recall how Howard loved the scents of cashew and vanilla
I remember how he always had a smile
Sure is lonely without anyone to ramble 'bout my day to
Sure is lonely -- sure has been a long, long while

October 9

I am going to make a concerted effort from this day forward to stop investing ridiculous amounts of effort into a select few people who will never reciprocate my earnest attempts at friendship. Fuck abuncha one-sidedness.

I wonder often if I will ever be able to get over my ego long enough to let anyone love me, care about me, or at least make me come.

I don't like most people, nor do they impress me at all.

Erin is feeling a little bitter, sad, and jaded tonight.

If I am ever to retain a job for more than a few months, it'll have to be one in which interaction with people is seldom required.

October 5

Maybe being a bushy-browed Irish gal isn't so bad really:


October 4

The little details of living simply and cheaply -- making popcorn instead of buying chips, throwing together my own batch of hummous instead of buying it from the co-op, swiping rolls of toilet paper from the occasional Kinko's copyshop -- aren't nearly as fun without co-conspirators.

Yeah, I guess I do kind of miss living with other people.

I've been thinking a lot about this sort of thing today as I contemplate adopting a pet. My life right now seems so selfish -- I take care of me, do everything for myself, and come home to an empty bed. I want someone or something to be concerned for, whether it's a lover, a housemate, or a pet. I may not need to, but I'd like to matter to someone or something besides myself -- I just don't want to jump into the wrong situation out of desperation. I want to hold out for something that rewards me while I invest in it.

September 27

My good friend is kissing a married man. It's no good. She asked me if I've ever been in a similar situation. I have not. I've never been physical with someone in an exclusive relationship with someone besides me, knowingly at least. It got me thinking, though -- would I ever go there? I can honestly say that there are at least two people in the world for whom I would discard all semblance of morality and do just about anything they asked of me, even if they had eighteen wives, but ironically enough, those people aren't even spoken for. They just don't like me. Oh well.

Haven't felt like food much lately, except for cereal and spoonfuls of peanut butter. It's no good, but my stomach is definitely close to flat. This can't be the healthiest way to achieving abs of steel, I'm sure, but I'm lazy.

Lately everyone I know is either dying, learning of terminal diseases, or becoming famous. Maybe I should write a letter:

Dear God,

Please don't let anyone else I know keel over or become a rockstar. I get sad when both things happen, because then they're not in my life anymore. Thanks for listening, yo.

Love, Erin

September 17

When I think about it, I realize that it's never been men who have caused me the most pain, but jealous women. Sad.

Listening to Phyllis Hyman, remembering her interview with Donnie Simpson on BET circa 1993 or so, a few years before she committed suicide. Too bad; she had an amazing voice.

Freaking painters in my apartment eight hours a day, latex fumes permeating the air, and a crazed Christian screaming out the eventual doom of the nonbelievers outside my window for hours on end..and I thought small town life was easy!

September 15

Though I am, of course, partial to the aesthetics of pre-1960 issues, the June 1986 volume of National Geographic might very well be my favorite ever content-wise: it features articles on the displacement of Bikini Atoll's onetime residents, Leo Tolstoy's Russia, and Australia's Tea and Sugar Train. Reading about life on the Nullarbor (treeless) Plain makes living in the U.P. seem positively centralized and cosmopolitan--indeed, I can very easily identify with sentiments like this one:

"I can go all day without talking to anyone. But it's lonelier in a city than out here--if nobody calls you in the city, you get upset." -Gloria Plant, gang foreman's wife

A very exciting thing transpired today: I discovered that I am indeed qualified to become a citizen of Ireland, and thus the European Union. Watch out, all ye Danish women!

Last night I went to the Keweenaw Pride meeting on campus and was elated to discover the existence of other queers in the area. True, none of them were radicals, punks, or other flavors of Freak, and most of them would shun the use of the word "queer", but here they were -- some gay people, the only out transsexual in the western U.P. (and perhaps the entire Upper Peninsula!), and a supportive straight girl who was into the idea of making Houghton more habitable for non-heterosexuals. A gay man in his early 40s named John is my new favorite Yooper ever, simply because he has two boyfriends (I thought I was the only person who had even HEARD OF polyamory up here, let alone practicing it!) and is a vegetarian. Me and his fellas are going to meet at their house on Sunday for a vegan potluck, and I'm positively over the moon about it.

My mother told me that if, after consulting a doctor, I am told that I will benefit from surgery on my suspected deviated septum (I've been breathing almost entirely through my mouth since birth), she'll try to help me out financially since it is considered a pre-existing condition and covered by no major insurance policies. The thought of breathing more easily makes me happier than almost anything I can possibly imagine: between severely obstructed nasal passageways, asthma, and allergies, getting a lungful of air is more often than not a chore for me, and has been for as long as I can remember. I am elated by the prospect of being able to bicycle uphill for long periods of time without losing my breath, by the notion that I could swim without severe pain and discomfort, and by the idea of singing in the manner that singers are supposed to and being able to do Kundalini Yoga at long last.

September 9

I dare say that Art wins the HOTT VEGAN OF THE MONTH award for September.


September 8

Saw John and Ben in Madison--got free color copies and cheap Hmong food (amazing!) at Vientiane and had the chance to hang out with two of my favorite Wisconsinites. Hitched out of Madison Wednesday night and got one ride straight to Stevens Point, putting me well within the city limits by nightfall. Steve proved a good host, but I had the unusual experience of waking up among lots of animal parts--pheasant tails, taxidermied deer heads, ram skulls, etc. His housemates made up for their avid hunting tendencies with their penchant for some damn fine bluegrass, and I got to tape old-timey Arkansas folk and Southern ballads both off of the one who was studying to be a cop. Welcome to the Northwoods. My Thursday morning shower contained a few surprises in the forms of nice, plump ticks...apparently, they'd been stowaways in my pubic hair on the trip up from Arkansas. It was an unpleasant discovery to say the least. I'd thoroughly checked my crotch while still in the Ozarks, but when you're as hairy as Wolfman Jack and the ticks are about as small as Rush Limbaugh's brain, there's no finding 'em til they're fattened for slaughter.

I was delightfully surprised to find two cute, young dykes holding hands at a Stevens Point coffeehouse, and found the fact that the ATM machines are called "Tyme machines" to be rather amusing. Unfortunately, my card didn't work in but a one of them. Guess I simply wasn't meant to be whisked away to the future at a moment's notice...

Went to a Death Metal yard sale replete with Harley gear up the ass, a Man is the Bastard t-shirt, Scandivian black metal CDs, and the really nice chick bassist of Eternal Silence, who fancy themselves "Brutal death from the Northern Midwest". Nothing will surprise me after this.

The trip home from Stevens Point got off to a fairly late start. I got to go through Rhinelander, the town I'd once had a dream about, and found it quite charming (if unlike the Rhinelander of my REM sleep.) Nightfall found me about five miles from the Michigan border, and at the advice of a man with a Filipino mail-order bride (ugh! She was so smart and cute and could've done much better than this bossy Ugly American slob!), I spent the night sleeping in the Conover Information Center, a secure building with a face of stone mixed with hand-hewn pine logs. Shivered all night and had what ranked in the top ten Worst Sleeps Ever only to wake and discover the thermostat perched right above my nose. Talk about kicking myself!

Who knew that wild Ginseng grew rampant in WISCONSIN?!?

Rode with a pervert who was too shy to actually get his sleaze on when I didn't respond to his less-than-clever innuendo, which he threw around with amazingly little flair. Chalk up Bad Apple #3. Not bad for a few hundred rides, but still no fun. A fairly benign sleazeball still, though. The ride that took me straight to my door was from a German visitor named Dominic who came to visit his former fiancee, a Brainerd, MN-area resident who he met as a high school exchange student. He figured he'd see a bit of Lake Superior while in the region, and we commiserated about love lost. If only Dominic had been sleazy instead of his fat, middle-aged predecessor--I would've fallen for it in a second. As it was I made a vague dinner invite to which he responded ambiguously at best. I don't think he fancied me much; I reckon preppy blondes are more his type. Oh well.

Today JT disproved my suspicion that no one in the world is capable of making packages as random and amazing as mine.

September 6

Unsent postcard to Emily. Fri., Sept. 1, O'Hare Airport:

"I got one ride straight from the U.P. to Chicago yesterday--score!--and showed up in time to catch 2/3 of Skid Row's set. Oh no! It was a pretty scary scene, yo--luckily Rusty got us in for free. I missed my bus to this town where I'm meeting my friend Geoff today by about 30 seconds, so I've got to wait five hours--pretty depressing, especially since I got up at 8 am to try catching it. About ten minutes ago I was all listening to Blonde on Blonde in the 95 degree heat and when "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" came on I got goosebumps on my arm, for reals, and started obsessively wondering what Edie Sedgwick's deal was. All these gym/p.e. teacher dykes are running around the bus station today. There must be a Xena convention or something, like the one that was going on in Minneapolis druing the anti-genetic engineering thingy I was at last month. X Erin"

Funny how I can go from on top of the world to bitter as fuck in the course of just a couple days. Geoff and I had pretty great hitchhiking luck--while I was missing my bus, his ride's car was breaking down. He made it to Normal (the town, not the state of being) about an hour before I did and we had our respective falafel and grilled tofu sandwiches at a local coffeehouse before hitting the on-ramp. As dark neared, we decided that this was no time to fuck around and headed straight for the highway. Fifteen minutes of cursing our existences before a benevolent trucker pulled to the side of the road a good eighth of a mile in front of us, and we had a straight shot to Arkansas, more or less--a much-needed opportunity for me to sleep (in the cab's spacious, comfortable bed) after a good week of four-hour slumbers. It didn't all go exactly according to plan, but we made it there, and got to see a bit of the Ozarks to boot. Tickstock proved that I wasn't as ready to be around people as I thought, or maybe just certain individuals. At any rate I had a weekend-long anxiety attack of epic proportions, plummeted back into severe self-hatred mode, and stayed out of the way to insure I wouldn't burden too many people with my sob story of alienation and uncontrollable tendencies to freak the fuck out. Before the rock show in Conway was moved and Tem Eyos Key delivered a stellar set, I had time to slip into the coffeehouse's tiny library and read a bit of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and it spoke volumes to me...

"But when his eyes were clear, she saw Quasimodo's monstrous, one-eyed face peering in at her from the window. She gasped in surprise. 'Don't be afraid of me,' he said gently. I only want to watch you while you're sleeping. That way, your eyes are closed and you don't have to see me. But now that you're up, I'll go away.' And he turned and walked away from the window." --Esmeralda

Some people hate what they cannot have, but I just hate myself for wanting it.

Caught a ride with some Arkansas kids to Gays Mills, WI, nestled along the Mississippi with a food co-op and a beautiful public park complete with wooden merry-go-round. A hot girl reared her face in Sunrise Farms' apple products outlet, and no sooner had my southern friends staked their claim than cutie announced that she was the boss' daughter. Whoops! I sense some danger ahead, if I know Zach and Henson half as well as I think I do after a mere day with them.

In Madison en route to Stevens Point, glad to be returning to a place where there are no people who affect me enough to impact my mood for the better or worse, glad to be alone for yet awhile more. My thumb has been serving me well, my belly is full, and I have been among friends and apple orchards and wonderful junk shops and rolling hills for two days.

August 31

There's this point where you stop giving a fuck about whether or not someone is cool and likely to gather you scene points or social standing and just start hanging out with people who make you laugh. Some of us get there sooner than others.

I'm taking the "forgetting to eat" thing a little too far lately, just like I did when I first moved into my house in Chicago. It comes down to me having only bulk foods in the house, no convenience foods, and being too lazy/tired to cook lately, but it'd be silly to pretend that I don't secretly welcome the opportunity to become thinner.

Tonight I masturbated to World of Morrissey: "Jack the Ripper" in particular, and three times in a row at that. Something about that song conveys mushy emotional junk and raw rut-like-beasts lust at the same time: a total coup. I always look in the mirror when I spank the little monkey: apparently my ego's a bit off the hook.

I'm about to hitchhike to Arkansas and I seriously feel like death warmed over. Inadequate food, sleep, composure, money, lovins, and real social interaction. Hopefully this week will change four outta five. (I don't expect to make much cash by taking off and shirking responsibility..)

Time to play music really fucking loud to wake myself up.

August 28

Wanted: long-distance lover who can spell, knows the difference between than and then, and doesn't think it's silly to pine for someone you've met either briefly or not at all. Younger, musically inclined, hyperlibidinous a plus. Ideal candidate has special place in their heart for high phone bills, Priority Mail, Pacing like maniacs at work and getting sick to our stomachs while we fantasize about each other to get through our Thursdays optional. To apply for this unique position, please send resume to listing qualifications and experience.

August 27

American Music Club's "San Francisco" may very well represent the entire spectrum of emotions. Hot damn.

I'm in ridiculously high spirits today, and I can't help but think that it has something to do with having slept for more than five hours for the first time in a week. I dreamt that my mom and I were at the Gap looking through the clearance racks, finding cute shoulder bags and pedal-pushers. Shortly afterwards, I was awaken by a phone call from her. She was in Killarney, Ireland.

It made me happy to hear both her and my father sounding so well. Even if he is a born-again Christian homophobe, it's futile to dwell on it much longer. He's not going to change anytime soon, and he thinks he's in the right: I'd be hard-pressed to do anything to change this. I hope that they can find some peace in their marriage through this trip, maybe even a few romantic moments--they've been married nearly 35 years now, and the last ten have been rocky. Ever since my dad decided to "let Christ in", he's been a very different man, and not quite the one my mother married.

My mom is clamoring for me to go to college in the British Isles--I'm not averse to the idea, and after receiving a postcard from her in Edinburgh, I looked up the city's own University on the internet. If a foreign education might prove affordable, then it's something that I should consider by all means. I was so tickled to hear of the utter hospitality our distant relatives had shown her in Ulster--going far out of their way to be accomodating. "Sheila" is the name of one of them--and what a great name it is.

My twenty-fifth birthday has come and gone without too much fanfare--an Ivy plant from Anitra, three more fruitful rummage sales, a nice-enough trickle of letters, cards, e-mails, and phone calls. I feel very loved right now, and it's a damn good thing because the detractors I do have are more vocal and obvious than ever--but I won't go there now! It's been an admitted relief to actually BE twenty-five as opposed to just being terrified of it. The other night I took a long, rambling, bike ride--to Chassell and then back via Paradise Rd. It's no misnomer: the far-off hills, Lake Superior, and the haybale-covered farms combined to create something akin to heaven. My weak lungs were taxed, though, and it was no small relief when I finally neared town and could settle into my cozy apartment, tall water glass in hand.

Suitors seem to be plentiful, though virtually all are, of course long-distance, and I'm feeling particularly affirmed by the butch handsomeness my new haircut affords.

I now own enough 1930s-1950s era National Geographics with which to wallpaper the Louvre and then some. The other day I purchased about sixty for a grand total of a buck.

"Don't tell me that you don't wanna hear the clock ticking on the shelf by our bed..."

Isn't there always a clock ticking somewhere, though?

August 23

Half of the Beaver Island House Party CD is great and the other half is fucking horrible. Great Lakes shanty songs and broadsides, the lot of them, and most of them tied in with Irish Catholicism to boot. I'm not sure whether Beaver Island is considered part of the Upper Peninsula--were I forced to venture a guess, I'd say no. It lies much closer to the mainland of Lower Michigan, in the heart of Lake Michigan some twenty-odd miles from port at Charlevoix. At any rate, it was due from the library yesterday, which means I have to get it in the drop box before 9am this morning. It's 5:40 at the moment. Christ have mercy I'm a vampire. The following myriad typos are not mine:

"In evening I drove out about 4 miles to home of J. W. ("Johnie") Green a farmer about 70, native, who has spent his life except last few years on Lakes boats in the sailing season and in lumber woods winters. This was my 4th attempt to see him, setting on his porch smoking and not in a very friendly state of mind, and could get nothing out of him for some time until I intentionally misread the opening stanza of "The Gallagher Boys" whih I had been told he knew very well. He corrected me on it and then I had him check the rest of it and a couple of others and after that he was quite agreeable. Knew most of the songs I now have and a large no. of lumber camp songs. Had a letter from (ballad collector Franz) Rickaby about a year ago wanting to see him about some of them, but "he didn't show up." Said a large number of Lakes sailors worked in "Woods" in winter and sang sailor songs there and woodsmen were on boats in summer and sang lumber camp songs aboard the schooners. Both sailors and "lumberjacks" were anxious to hear new songs. Said he usually could sing any song after he'd hear it twice....He used to be able to sing over a hundred different songs."

I mean to note that Earl Grey brand imported English biscuits--the Lemon Bergamot flavor specifically--are akin to heaven, and vegan to boot. If only they weren't two dollars per dozen!

August 22

Note to self: do not buy "local wild watercress" for your salad mix ever, ever again. It makes arugula's flavor seem almost MILD. I practically poured the balsamic vinegar on tonight, but even a gallon couldn't have saved me from the taste of this green, which is no doubt a virtual powerhouse of nutrients.

When I moved up here, I came to Houghton because I reasoned that living in a college town would make the transition to the Upper Peninsula that much easier. I didn't realize, however, that Houghton doesn't really count as a college town. Engineering schools might count as colleges, but the student body is more homogenous than any I've ever encountered--very little semblance of diversity here; very few progressive-minded people. Saying that I am lonely as fuck would be an understatement, but I've found some degree of peace since I resigned myself to the fact that I most likely won't make many friends up here and simply retreated into the world of my head. It's very reluctantly that I admit defeat: I hoped that moving to a small town would decrease my alienation. I felt constantly lonely in Chicago, because although the city was crawling with nice people they all seemed to be too busy or live too far to hang out with any regularity. Most of them had significant others that ate up most of their leisure time, to boot...a common pitfall in making friends when you're in your mid-twenties. I'm currently listening to a bunch of tapes I yard-saled to determine which I'll toss/tape over and which I'll keep. Would it be horrible to admit that Jethro Tull is currently on the "undecided" list? I don't know, the little tribute to Dharma is almost compelling in its utter cheeze.

Tomorrow I am going to try to hitchhike to Ontonagon and Silver City, the cheapest towns for real estate that is actually located on Lake Superior up here. There's also White Pine, a former company town a few hours away. It's practically a ghost town now, and littered with homes from the 40s and 50s that are all but abandoned. They're all built ranch-style, unfortunately, and from what I hear the downtown is less than charming--a sharp contrast to Ontonagon's alleged quaintness. I wonder if hitchhiking with my bike is a completely horrible idea?