Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New Home

Find me now at Vacationland.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Onward, Upward

Things have gotten better. Considerably better. I haven't had any more days where I've just wanted to stay in bed listening to The Band, armed only with a carton of ice cream and a bucket of vodka. My real life has started. School is in session. I have people to talk to. I have work to do. I have things that tell me this will all start to feel normal very, very shortly.

There are moments when I catch myself thinking that all of this--the move, the new job, the whole idea of getting what I want--seems strange but wonderful. There were times over the past year where I thought this life was impossible, that I was doomed to live in my bedroom in my father's house for the rest of my life. There were times I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to heave myself out of the adjunct world, that my friends would all go on to bigger and better things without me, that I would be left behind as the one who didn't do so well for herself.

But it's okay now. And even though I might have held on to a secret terror that I might be living in my father's house for a few more years, I know now (just as I knew then, but was in too cranky a state most of the time to admit out loud) that the last year was very important for me. Not only did it knock me down a couple of pegs from my grad school high, but it also grounded me, reminded me what was important, put me back in my family circle.

Last year was like a free pass. I had no rent, very few bills, and the ability to run around with my oldest friends, with my family. It was time for me to take stock, to remember what is most important in life. It was like a spa visit: I rested, I rejuvenated, I filled myself with all the best that Buffalo has to offer.

I think I was given last year just so I will never forget where I come from and how important the place and people were (and are) to making me who I am.

My year at home gave me a new kind of steadiness. When I came back to New York in August of '06, nothing about my insides was solid. I was a wobbling mess of emotions. I didn't know where I was going, how I was going to get there, and what I was going to do without all the people I left behind in the Midwest. But I learned. I had time to come down, to take several deep breaths, to realize it's all going to be okay.

I understand now. I understand why that year was important, and I am here to admit once and for all that, even though I complained and whined and moaned, living in my old room for a year wasn't that bad. At times it was even fun. Being in the house in the middle of the country, where the crickets and frogs sang their songs at midnight, was the best little vacation I could've asked for. There isn't any other place that smells as green and lush and beautiful as my home, and I often caught myself standing out on the porch as the sun set and breathing deep, deep, deeper than I ever had before.

But it's time for my new life now, and I'm ready. I'm in the place I've been dreaming about for years. And because I'm in a new place, and because I've got a new home, I've made a new blog so this one can stand on its own, so I can page through it remember the year that set my head on straight, that got me ready for everything that's coming next.

From now on, you can find me here, at Vacationland.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today Is a Tough Day

Today is not a good day. Today is a tough day. Today is the type of day where I find it incredibly difficult to remain upright and out of bed. Today is the type of day where all I want to do is draw the curtains, put in a CD by The Band, and drink Absolut Peach from the bottle with a long straw.

Did I have these kinds of days when I moved to Minnesota? It's tough to say. A move is so busy, and down-time that isn't devoted to cleaning or rearranging or unpacking is hard to come by, so my diary from the time after my move to the Midwest is kind of sketchy. Most of it revolves around me thinking one of the older TAs was cute, cute, oh so cute. There are a few days when I wrote a snippet about it being hard, about it being a little tough, and about being worried I might not make friends, but those kinds of entries weren't around for long.

This time I feel sort of wrecked. I feel exhausted and wrung-out, like there's very little left to me that hasn't evaporated into the coastal air. I miss my family, I miss my friends, and I miss my boyfriend, who was good enough to come spend the first week in Maine with me. That might have made it harder, watching him go, watching him get on an airplane, then having to turn around and drive back to the new place alone. For real this time.

Everything here is beautiful. The weather, the flowers, the sky. I recognize that, but all I want is a dark room and my not-yet-hooked-up-to-cable TV showing fuzzy network channels and their midday soap operas.

Moving is an awful, awful thing.

But school starts soon. Tomorrow we start department meetings, so I'll have people to talk to then. I'll have social interaction and sound. I've been missing sound. It's been so quiet here in between phone calls. But there will be sound again soon, and this weekend my father rolls into town with his fiancee and a load of things that didn't fit in my car. There will be lobster then, I hope, and a trip to the coast where I will stand on some craggy rocks and breathe in the salt and wind and remember one of the reasons I wanted this so badly in the first place.

Rocks on the Ocean

Sunday, August 26, 2007

No Moose Yet...

But I have seen these things:

Maine 030

Maine 037

Maine 032

Lobster Ross

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ready to See Some Moose

Well, this is it. I have packed, I have loaded the car, I have bruised myself in every way possible while packing and loading. I guess that means I'm ready to go.

Today will be a whirlwind. I'm going to bake some cupcakes, attend a family reunion, go to a soccer game, say goodbye to the girls and Josh, and then I'm going to take some Tylenol PM and attempt to fall asleep early because the Boy From Work and I have to be on the road by 4:30 AM just so we get into town tomorrow in time to sign my lease and get my key.

The next week will be filled with furniture-shopping and apartment-decorating. There will be updates, of course, and there is a new blog on the horizon. I just think this blog and my year back in Buffalo should stand on its own, should remain in its own place, just like the original Where's My Sponge Candy blog that recorded my three years of graduate school. I'd like this year and all its ups and downs to stay right here, right in its own nook, looping like it was some song about drinking and hockey and love gone wrong written by The Lowest of the Low.

And for now, here I go.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Foul Boy, Bad Liar

Last night was another going away party for me, this one hosted by my mother. She had pizza and spinach bread and a bucket of fifty wings. She had my aunt and uncle and grandfather and his girlfriend and some cousins and my friends and the BFW and, and, and, of course, my brother.

Adam left the party early. He had an agenda. He had a party. He had to get there fast.

Still, as my party was breaking up, my brother strolled back in the door. We were all standing in a group near the door, so when he walked in we asked him what he was doing home when there he could be drinking, snacking, and making out with vaguely skanky underage girls.

"Well," he said, brushing past us, "I forgot something."

"What did you forget?" I asked. It would have to be something really important to make him leave a party where there was free beer.

My mother's boyfriend mumbled something under his breath. "Condoms," he coughed out. "Condoms!"

That started a chain reaction of exclamations: Eeew! Gross! Foul! Blecch! that only stopped when my brother reappeared in the room.

"So," we asked again, "what DID you forget?"

My brother raised his left hand. In it was clutched the belt clip for his phone. "My cell phone holster," he said. He kind of just stood there. We stared at him. "Well," he said, "I guess I should go."

When the door swung shut, the guys started laughing. "Cell phone holster," they said. "Yeah, sure. Right, kid."

I had to admit--the boy hadn't planned that excuse very well. He hadn't given the lie enough thought, enough time to breathe and seem realistic. To come home from a party with thumping music and hoochies and bottles of cheap tequila just waiting to be guzzled--to come home from that for a cell phone holster seemed not only improbable but really, really stupid. But, of course, forgetting to take condoms to a situation like that was also really, really stupid. Not running to the corner gas station for a three-pack and instead opting to come home where you knew your annoying relatives would be clustered nearby, just ready to grill you about your suspicious arrival home was also really, really stupid. But that's my brother.

We walked people out to their cars then, and that's when we found out my brother hadn't yet left. His car was up a ways, obscured by a pine tree, but we could hear him talking. We thought he was on the phone. We thought maybe he was orchestrating some general sluttiness, a hookup with a girl, the getting-it-on with some little blond whippet.

We ignored Adam and said our goodbyes. Some of the family started packing up the trucks and Becky went off to her car, which was parked up somewhere near Adam's, and we thought that was it for the night.

Oh, but it wasn't. When I got back inside, I realized my phone was ringing. It was Becky.

I answered. "What's up?" I asked.

"Just so you know," she said, "your brother isn't alone in that car. He's got a girl in there."

"Oh my God," I said. "I may vomit."

Of course I got off the phone right then and there and told the rest of my family that not only had he sneaked back home to get his condoms so he would be prepared for whatever the night would bring, but he also brought the girl along with him. If I were that girl, I'd be wondering why he was driving all the way home to get his condoms and why he wasn't just popping into the closest Kwik Fill, why he was dragging me along and telling me please, for the love of God, just stay in the car so I wouldn't run into any of the people who were at the house at that moment. If I were that girl, I probably would've handed him a ten dollar bill and told him to go to the Rite Aid and stop being a big lame cheapo.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Words "Grandma" and "Twat" Should Never Go Together

Last night my father had a going-away party for me. There was pot roast and corn, several bottles of wine from my favorite winery. My father's fiancee came over, and so did her extremely hot son and his very skinny, very tan, very perky girlfriend. My grandmother came, and her husband--the farmer she married after my grandfather died--came late because he'd been delivering bales of hay all day.

We ate, we passed out dessert and coffee, we chatted. Then my grandmother announced she wanted a copy of my book about Russia. I went to dig one up in my room, which, because of my scattered way of packing, looks like a tornado or some other weather disaster whipped through it. I found a copy, but when I brought it out, my father was showing off his copy and--to my dismay--a literary magazine that one of my stories recently appeared in. The story in this particular literary magazine is one of the Wily Republican stories. It's the one that features the cardboard cut-out of the George W. Bush that lived in the Wily's room. It's the one that required me to use one of my least favorite words--twat (eew)--in a list two of the characters were making. There's two sex scenes in the story, there's all sorts of swearing, there's all sorts of stuff that a grandmother does not need to read.

Not too long ago I wrote a post in which I appeared all brave and ready for my family members to read my work. My logic was if I could survive my mother's reading of my thesis--including a story which was loosely based on our relationship post-my parents' divorce--then I could survive anything. Back when I wrote that post I was working on a story that was inspired by Christmas parties at my grandmother's house, and I said I wouldn't even mind if she read it. I was ready. Bring it on! I thought. I was sure I could handle it.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

I am a pussy.

If I cringed when my father forked over a story that used the word twat and had sex scenes that featured the ever-popular hoist method, I'm pretty sure that means I won't be ready for grandma to read a story that features a grandmother and three close-in-age granddaughters who might resemble my own grandmother and her three close-in-age granddaughters.

I don't know what happened to me in that moment when my father slid the magazine toward my grandmother. I lost it. I froze. My entire insides turned cold. In my head, I saw the word TWAT!!! in giant letters on the page. I couldn't get over the fact that my grandmother was sitting across from me and undergoing a revelation that I am a foul, sicko pervert who cusses like a sailor. Then I remembered the rest of the story: the sex, the expletives, the blatant mocking of a political party that my grandmother and her husband no doubt associate with.

I glared at my father. I tried to send him a Look. I tried to say, Rip that from her hands! I tried to say, Are you crazy? I tried to say, Do you want to be written out of the will because the fruit of your loins writes pornography?

He finally got the hint. "I think," he said, "Jess might be nervous about what you're reading."

Yeah, that helped.

I stood up. "I'm going to go into my room for a second and try not to throw up," I said.

My father followed me into my bedroom. "What?" he said. "Come on. Who are you kidding? Your grandmother loves this."

I wanted to tell him no, my grandmother wouldn't love that. I'd put money on the fact that she'd love me to write little stories that could someday be made into Hallmark Channel movies. I'd bet a lot of my savings that she wouldn't be psyched that her granddaughter was writing lines about it feeling pretty good to be slammed up against a wall during sex. I was pretty sure my father wouldn't like it either, but he hasn't really finished anything I've written. He tries hard, sure, but he is easily distracted and often has to put the book down before he's made it to the real offensive stuff. He's been trying to read the Wily-based story since last August when I came home.

"Dad!" I said. "I use the word twat in that story! TWAT! And there's sex in it!"

"Your grandmother is a woman," he said, as if that made it somehow okay.

"She's seventy-eight!" I said. In my experience, seventy-eight year olds are fans of the Chicken Soup books or Anne Geddes, not the f-bomb and out-of-wedlock lovemaking.

Eventually I went back out to the kitchen, and my grandmother was still there, busily reading my story. She was even laughing. I wasn't exactly sure what she might be laughing at, so I wracked my brain to think if there were non-disgusting funny parts in that story. But I didn't have to think about it long because my grandmother explained what she was laughing at.

"This is funny," she said. She giggled. "She puts her bra on the cardboard cut-out of the president. Ha!"

"Oh," I said, "yeah. The main character certainly does do that, doesn't she?"

Well, really, the main character puts her underthings on the cardboard George W. whenever she is having sex with her boyfriend--she doesn't like the way George's eyes follow her if left uncovered.

And my grandmother read that. It made me want to poke my eyes out with a stick. Of course, she thought it was funny, and funny enough to mention out loud, and funny enough to make her giggle as she was sitting next to her almost-deaf, hay-baling husband who would punctuate the silence every few minutes by talking about corn, manure, or the air conditioning unit in his tractor.

So maybe it wasn't quite the disaster it could have been, and maybe I was being overly sensitive while I worried over my grandmother's reading of that story, but I think I've learned a very important lesson: I'm not exactly ready for some stories to make the family rounds. A nonfiction book about Russia is one thing. I'll gladly autograph it, and I'll gladly discuss reading and sifting through the research so I could write that book, but I don't think I'm quite ready to sit in front of my family members as they leaf through my collection of stories and come across dirty words and dirty scenes. I'll get on a stage and read those things out loud to strangers--hey, that's no problem--but I don't want to sit in a very small kitchen and watch my grandmother's eyes scan the page, drinking it all in. There wasn't enough wine in the room to prepare me for that. Not even close.