Saturday, November 16, 2002

Have you ever listened to the Osmonds?<
I heard them on the radio while I was driving through the countryside. It's very disturbing. I'd heard of them but never heard them. Well, you know what they look like but they sound exactly like the Jackson 5. It left me shaking for hours.

Men Have the Best Material

I want to acknowledge to myself a taboo least in certain circles. Oh, how I wish I were a man sometimes. There are things...things I want to do as a man . What are they? Be in high speed car chases, kick the shit out of someone, be in a war, be in prison. Oh sure, sure you say. You can do those things as a woman. Except they're no good, they're no fun that way. There are some things you just have to do as a man. I grew up on literature and films celebrating raw masculinity in all its ugliness. Maybe...subconsciously I assumed I would

have two women at once,

visit prostitutes in between plane flights,

assassinate someone,

get blow jobs from my friends in between taking drugs and picking up chicks,

cheat on my pregnant wife,

have sex with the teenage babysitter,

have an affair with a young punk in prison,

be responsible for a brutal massacre,

.feel guilty for another guy's death after he drove off a cliff playing chicken

Sadly, I never wanted really had any overwhelming desire:

to fall in love with my employer while governess to his children,

warm the heart of an arrogant man with ten thousand pounds a year,

be brave and spunky while caring for younger sisters.

I wanted to shoot to kill. I wanted to survive against the odds. I wanted to engage in sheer brutality but keep my jaded dignity intact and still be capable of love and compassion. Oh, how desperately I wanted to be in a war in spite of my need for lipstick, nail polish and good conditioner, my meek nature, my horror at actual violence and bloodshed.

It's even worse than that. I think I want to be a pre-war man, no a mid-war man. A man before 1967. A pre-second wave feminism man. A man's man. A shameless man.

In a causal setting it is obviously easier. But a chick dressed as a man is never Yossarian, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac.There are always...options. But it is never quite the same. Faux manhood used to be easier to get away with and pre-19th century there was a coolness to it will never have now. The army, prisons do physical exams so it won't work now.a>

Friday, November 15, 2002

A Natural Affinity

I think there is a natural affinity between older women and teenage boys.

OK, maybe it's just me.

The other day I was at the drugstore and there was this wan, pale boy with a lovely sculpted face but very washed out coloring. His hair was auburn but perhaps dyed. He looked sensitive and shy. He reminded me of a boy who loved me in high school. I was thinking: Gee, in high school I simply could not appreciate teenage rawness. You had problems? I just was looking for someone to listen to my problems. I was in hell and didn't know if I would survive. When other people spoke I was just counting the minutes for them to stop so I could ask them to save me.

Thus, not a useful companion for someone in the same boat. But then I see the teenage boys in all their sorrow and think: You will survive. If you could just listen to me, I'll tell you how you can make it through. Hide, wait and avoid major addictions and gun purchasing. In fact, I feel this way about teenage girls. I want to rescue them all from their idiot parents, lousy high schools and dead end jobs.

Now I suppose that for some of them it is a fun and happy time. But what is wrong with those types? It's sheer misery to those with any perceptiveness. I thought it then and I can say it now.

When my friend Randy died I was still technically a teenager but no longer in high school. I wished I could have saved him simply by being his friend. It still breaks my heart. I thought: There should be something to do for this...condition. Can I grow up to save the tormented teenagers.

The answer was no.

But what is the condition of tormented teenagerhood? Is it that you are too sensitive and thus notice too much about the ways in which the world is a pit? It can't be so simple as having a semi-adult mind without adult freedom. I don't think hormones cuts it either.

Someone might say: Yes Miel...but does it get any better? Aren't you at least somewhat carefree when a teenager in a semi-affluent (though inegalitarian) country with a free education system? You lack adult responsibilities, your body is young, strong...You have your whole life ahead of you, etc., etc. {I'm leaving issues of child labor, etc., aside here. Talkin' 'bout the lower middle to upper middle class just to be fair to whatever naive fool would make this argument.}

Isn't life just as bad. Nay, worse? At least when you were a teenager you could tell yourself you were going to be a rock star. Now you know that it's just day in and day out forever and ever. (Maybe it bothers you less...because you're dead inside.)

Unless you are good at denial. As I am. I made some kind of scary vow that I would always be an impulsive wreck and thus never boring as the adults I knew. I've come to regret that vow but just can't seem to get out of it.

All I can say is...for many of them, for myself back then: Whatever it looks like to you, adult-person, to be young for them it is often hell. What can I tell you? I don't know why.

So back to the natural affinity. If only my brain could have been put into that self-absorbed and tormented 15 year old so that I could actually listen to that poor kid who said he was in love with you. I was so busy trying to figure myself out. Now, I've just lost interest. I can't get to the bottom of things, of me. There is no bottom, there is no me. I'm finally capable of sympathy. I only hope that kid isn't dead...though he's no longer a kid. He was already on the verge of drinking himself to death at 20 (last time I saw him). If he's still alive, it is some genuine miracle.

(OK and then there's this)

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Calling it earth is propoganda...Chinese communist bullshit

"...Freddy peered through the metal mesh gate that bisected the lobby. 'I'm not kidding, if I could push a button and never have been born, I'd push. The deal is this: We are in hell. It's just that they call it earth. If they called it hell, it would make more sense.'
'People could take it better if the right information were put out,' Mrs. Gordon said. 'I agree with that. Calling it earth is propoganda. Chinese Communist bullshit.'"
--Thom Jones, "A Midnight Clear" in Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine

Excuses, Part II

I said I would post some excuses I haven't used yet. There's lots more theorizing I need to do before I can advise you on whether these will work. These are beta excuses. If anyone stumbles across my blog and decides to use these--go right ahead. However, it would be great if you could send me feedback as to how successful they are.

Specifically, I'd like the answer to the following questions: (1) Was your excuse accepted immediately without hesitation?
(2) Did you phone it in or give it in person?
(3) Was sympathy expressed and other signs it passed the 'authenticity' test?
(4) What context did you use it in? What did you get out of?
(5) Do you feel it was worth it to use this excuse?
(6) Would you like to share any of your own excuses--used or unused-- with the general public?

My husband pointed out to me the other day that a good excuse is like pepper spray: It just makes you feel safer. Maybe you won't use it but it is good to have it on hand. Right now I have a postcard sized burn on the front of my stomach. Second degree. Likely to blister and leave a scar. How did I get it you ask? That's the great part! It was an early morning injury--perfect for those days when you just didn't make it into work.

I was using a fancy-schmancy coffee press. You know, the kind with one of those foreign names...can't think of it right now. I pressed down and something was wrong with the plunger. Hot coffee water sprayed me all over the front of my stomach...It was agonizing.

At first I did my usual thing of assuming that it was just one of those many injuries I incur due to the fact I usually sleep 2-3 hours a night. (E.g., I fell face forward yesterday after 45 minutes of sleep and a 12 hour day, landing on my kneecaps.) When the pain became excruciating I finally realized I should call the doctor. My stomach will likely blister and there is a possibility of scarring.

Oh, this is boring...These are not the facts you need to fashion your own excuses. I merely put them in to give your excuse the ring of authenticity. (Remember--it is painful...the best way to convince people you really experienced this is not to play up the pain. If they ask: "Did it hurt alot?" Just say "a bit." But in an ironic way so they know it hurt like hell. Understatement is always a good excuse strategy.

Authenticating details: The doctor gave me silver sulfadizine cream in 1% strength.

The fact is: I have a great excuse for tomorrow. But I will probably need this excuse more later on. So should I save it? You may be thinking: They'll want to see the burn! But that is the great part! You have to cover the burn with a non stick bandage. Thus, all you need to authenticate this excuse is a non stick bandage and a bag of ice.

If it scars I can show the scar later...removing all doubt.

I probably can't save the story for later. It is so painful that I have to walk around with a bag of ice on my stomach. Unless I can explain the bag of ice I am carrying around at work tomorrow this excuse may have to be an actual incident which gets me out of nothing.

Other excuses you may find come in handy

--Explosive nosebleed. Normally, this isn't a good excuse. But it is when you are wearing nice clothes and have to show up somewhere fancy.

--Knee injury. Falling down on your knees is something that happens to me all the time. Ankles also work. The great thing about this is that all you need is some basic equipment--an air splint, some crutches, etc.

--Epilepsy. I got this one from reading an amazing and excellent book of short stories by Thom Jones. He seems like an author who does his research. According to "You Cheated, You Lied" epilepsy can knock you out for awhile. (Don't tell me I'm insensitive. I do have it just not a severe case of it.)

--Food poisoning. This one is truly excellent because it doesn't require that anyone around you be sick.

--Fender bender--great for those days you are late to work. Not all fender benders result in police reports.

--Mild concussion. Backstory: Stood up and hit head on cupboard. Fell down while listening to walkman because you were wearing slippery shoes in the rain. (Someone was telling me how this happened to her--I guess I should have paid better attention. It helps alot to say exactly where you were and what you were doing.)

Basic question I struggle with in my research: Why don't these work?
It is a question I grapple with. Why do some excuses work and others don't? Why does depression and mental illness not work? (Except for excuses to oneself--see What's New Pussycat's vignette for confirmation of that.

Let's face it--You are trying to prove to everyone that you have a role in this industrious world. Thus any truly disabling excuses are bad. Why does an electrical outage not work to explain why you overslept? It happens all the time in real life but doesn't really get you off the hook. My hypothesis: Raises doubts about one's productive capacities.

I'm still working on this question. I welcome any input from the outside world.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

What Is Love?

Carlos loved the Aztec princess. At first it was just lust. When his housemate put the calendar up he hardly noticed. But one day, eating his cereal at the kitchen table he began to see her, yes truly see her hanging there on the wall next to the phone...her juicy body. Soft succulent limbs, warm giving form. He imagined himself as a midwestern prince who would be given her hand in marriage, of kissing her passionately on her ruby red lips...soft Nahuatl words murmured from her mouth.

In January it was only lust. By February he noticed the language barrier. By March, she had begun to speak a few words of English. She was demure and yet spunky, honest but sympathetic. In April, he began to realize it was love. Occasionally, at dinner parties his friends would notice him glance up at her picture. They ridiculed him, calling her 'the Aztec showgirl.' How he hated to hear his crude friends speak of how hot she was. Or even worse--to politically analyze or deconstruct the content of the picture.

Their scorn could not interrupt his dreams. As the warm days of May came he longed to walk with her through the verdant fields, to take her with him on blueberry picking jaunts. He imagined her moist lips stained with the juice of the berries. He no longer fantasized about her in a disrespectful way. Their connection was much too deep for that. Rather, he thought of sensual moments where they only touched one another's skin...of complete spiritual understanding.

It hurt him to leave her for a month in the summer. He left reassured that she was his and his alone...that he would return and she would be there. On the kitchen wall, waiting patiently for him. Lonely but uncomplaining.

The fall came. He was busy with work but he always saved a little time for her each day. He saw that the time was coming where he would have to leave her again for Christmas. Again, he trusted in her faithful heart, her gentle soul, her pure and trusting love for him.

Upon his return he was horrified to find that the Aztec showgirl was replaced by another. A saucy Spaniard with a frilly mantilla. January, 2001 it said.

Where's the calendar? he asked his housemate. Trying to be casual though his voice broke slightly.

"Oh, I got a new one for new year."

"But what did you do with the old one."

"I threw it out. Sorry I didn't know you wanted it." This was his kinder. less nosy housemate--there was no condemnation or undue curiosity in the voice.

While he could not see her everyday he never forgot her for as long as he lived. She was within him, guiding him, living in his heart forever.

It's true she was just a girl on a calendar but somehow she was so much more.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Cool Place

We went to the cool place.

And this is what we said:

We're so cool we can breath underwater.
We're so cool we forgot our own names.
We're so cool our underwear is a color you've never seen before.
We're so cool we read English from left to right.
We're so cool we've never touched metal or wood.
We're so cool our bed is made out of concrete
We're so cool we shower in orangina.
We're so cool we had foie gras for breakfast.
We're so cool grasshoppers follow us home.
We're so cool we speak an invisible language.
We're so cool we're the uncool cool that is so uncool you wouldn't even know it was uncool cool.

We were cool when you were asleep last night, we were cool in those moments you were putting gas in your car.
We understand cool enough to transcend it and then we became so cool we are unrecognizably cool.
We transcended cool so much we almost stopped existing

And suddenly, cooly, we vanished from sight right before their eyes,
physically reconstituted ourselves on a street with a French name,
burst into flame
and were reborn anew from the smoldering ashes.

And still everyone was cooler than we were.

That's how cool this place was.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Nicotine Patch

I try to use the patch during the week.

Oh, I have a good story about a nicotine patch. My father one day just dropped dead.

That's terrible I'm sorry.

Well, it was a while ago. One of those states where they don't do autopsies for sudden death. The coroner listed the cause of death as myocardial infarction. I called the coroner. I was going to have to pay him anyway for hauling away the body! I asked him why he listed the cause of death as myocardial infarction. He said 'well, he had a patch.' "You idiot" I said "it was a nicotine patch." He must have thought it was a nitro patch.

Couldn't he read? It says it's a nicotine patch right on there.

I guess not. Anyway, I was glad I got to call the coroner an idiot.

(One more reason not to quit smoking--all those good conversations/bonding with strangers. Remember to add this to the list.)

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Excuses, excuses...

Yes, for many years I have come up with many excuses...I think a good excuse is a brilliant thing. It's true I don't use them all but I like to have them in reserve.

Major excuse question: Should one's excuse be elaborate and improbably or simple and likely? After all, the world is a strange place...Most excuses will not defy natural or logical laws and thus are likely to happen.
And yet...The extreme rarely does happen. Thus, it may make more sense to keep one's excuse simple.

Luckily, I am married. I usually try out excuses on my husband first. He has a preference for the simple excuse. He often chides my flights of fancy.

Here's an example: So should you just 'have the flu' or should you rather go with this story: 'I was getting out of my car and I didn't notice the seat belt hanging down. It tangled around my leg and I tripped and fell face first onto the ground. I threw my back out! This is so weird! I've never thrown my back out...'

Husband didn't like that excuse and it remains in reserve for emergencies.

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #1: Try out excuse on neutral audience.

Of course, excuses have many genres: Illness, mechanical failure, tragedies (DON'T use these. Bad karma.), travel difficulties--such as weather.

But the important thing to remember about excuses is that: The event must lie outside your control. E.g., if you live in a city with reliable public transportation your car breaking down will not be a good excuse (whereas a car accident will be one) if used more than once. Because if your car breaks down regularly, you should stop using your car.

Responsiblity is a tricky issue. On the one hand, a determinist (or social determinist) might say we are truly responsible for nothing. Others might say we aren't responsible for our character. But remember EVEN IF YOU AGREE WITH THESE VIEWS that we all live within the facade of personal responsibility--and thus you must 'play along.' Even if you cannot help yourself...and believe your life is utterly out of your control. Pretend it isn't. Pretend like you are trying very hard to control it.

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #2: Avoid complaining except as a way to create plausibility for your excuses. Complaining will make you seem like a 'sad sack'...People will begin to question whether you are truly a responsible person. It is very important to cause people to believe that you are responsible in order to be as irresponsible as possible.

My personal view is that I am responsible for everything--global warming, the ozone layer, the rice in oil prices. Thus, I take responsibility for any minor illnesses I may contract since I should have been taking better care of myself. At the same time, I realize most people's view is more moderate and thus I fashion my excuses and use them in light of the commonly-held view that many things are outside of our control.

Now for a rule that is obvious for the veteran excuse maker but may not strike the novice:

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #3: DO NOT RE-USE THE SAME EXCUSE TWICE WITHIN THE SAME 2 YEAR PERIOD...Even illness has a statute of limitations. You can be ill once or twice a year tops and still maintain your image as a responsible person who is likely to succeed in your career. Of course, the problem is that you probably truly become ill once or twice a year. Thus, you should realize that excuse-making's success means that you must take particularly good care of your health.

But this brings me to a crucial aspect of excuse-making: Back-story and character building. You should think of yourself as creating a character for whom the excuses will be probable. E.g., a person who really works hard but works so hard she struggles with a slightly compromised immune system. (Thus, creating space for your future illnesses). Or someone who can't afford a good car but truly truly wants desperately to come to work.


Never forget this: Getting out of work IS work. You are not lazy if you want to get out of work. It isn't laziness that compels you--it is freedom from the tyranny of others. Your reason to get out of work is to actualize and realize your own personal freedom--the thing that makes you human...The most valuable aspect of your own character..

Final point: Making excuses to self...Remember that getting out of work is a noble quest. This is your excuse to yourself (whether or not it is true is another story)...Thus, don't WATCH TELEVISION during the time you map out for yourself. The contradictions will start to become apparent. Rather, start your novel...Read Dostoevsky...paint, practice the piano...visit nature [remember to make sure if you have claimed illness...that you will never, ever be seen.]. Catching up on much-needed sleep is OK. But not optimal.

Again, excuse making is about consistency. It is a creative exercise. You want to have a consistent story to tell yourself and others. You are creating yourself--and thus must evaluate your own actions to consider what they say about who you are becoming. This is about your life...everything you do creates the life you lead and will have led...Because I think if you do ever feel guilty about making excuses try to remember: WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

You ARE dying. Just...a little bit further in the future (I hope...this won't apply to everyone as some of you are going to die relatively soon. Try to make this a time where 'anything goes'. And remember we are all coming too no matter how deluded we are about this fact.)

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #5: REMEMBER YOUR EXCUSES. If I have to explain this one to you, frankly...You should just forget about entering into the discipline and quest that is excuse making. You're hopeless. You can probably remember the plot line of a TV show--If you can't remember that your own life is much more crucial than what is going on on 'Buffy' forget it!...Please go elsewhere for help.

Up next: Some actual excuses I haven't used yet...You are free to borrow from this list but I take no responsibility if they do not work. Excuse making is not something you should enter into lightly. It is a craft, an art form. The backstory for your excuses...the plausibility of the excuses depend on YOU and how you have lived up to this moment. Do not just go tomorrow and use the excuses I am going to post. If you do this, you have learned nothing, I tell you, nothing! You should be planning your excuses for 2003, 2004. These should be in reserve for the future...(However, I will give you some ways to set things up now so that they become plausible in the hopes that you will be careful with them.)

Finally, the most important rule of all RULE #6: A BAD EXCUSE CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE. If you aren't careful and if you throw this power around like it is can ruin your life. In future chapters, I will post case histories in order to make this point clearer.