Tuesday, 30 April 2002
Something unlikely happened: my camera
was recovered at a pawn shop. Apparently the bored-sounding police
officer actually wrote down the serial number I gave her over the
phone last Tuesday. Despite the fact that whenever we spoke the
police could never remember anything about my case, somebody put
the number on the appropriate list, the pawn shop owner made the
appropriate call, and I was notified. People did their jobs! Weird.
After work today, I drove to the police substation to pick up my
camera. While I was waiting for the cop on my case to arrive, I
sat on the curb and ate a scoop of ice cream. I never buy scoops
of ice cream, and I'm rarely in a good mood when I am in the Wal-Mart
parking lot and/or I'm about to interact with the police, but today
was an exception.
Two officers arrived and one simply stated, "Lisa." "Yes,"
I answered, and that was all that was said until we had walked through
the building to the sparsely decorated back room, where there were
three metal desks and one man for each.
My officer didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor. While I
was waiting for him to fill out some paper work, I found out the
pawn shop did actually pay for the camera and doesn't get any money
back until the case is tried in . I reminded him about the $100 exchange with my vigilante
father (which he had never heard about), and now my dad can
look forward to sifting through mug shots in the coming week. The
officer took a Polaroid picture of my camera, and I mumbled something
about it being ironic, taking a picture of a camera, and he said
seriously, "It's for court evidence." I asked if the guy
who pawned my camera was in custody, and he answered, "Not
And that was it. I have my camera back, though the Bubblesoap
sticker has been scraped off the back and the camera case was missing.
Oddly enough, my film was still inside it. I'm excited about getting
the roll backI wonder if the thief took any pictures with
it? I mean, he answered the stolen cell phone, why wouldn't he make
Monday, 29 April 2002
I used to enjoy telling my friends that my mom punched a boy
when she was little and that she'd spent some time in jail. Only
the first of those is true, but I had proof of the second. Of course,
the uncritical eyes of my young friends did not recognize how obviously
fake my proof was; actually, it wasn't until today, when I saw the
picture for the first time in years, that I ever noticed that fact
myself. She's the one in the middle.
Last night The
Faint played virtually the same set as the last
time I saw them; they even played the same again. One of the guitarists had changed his hair, though,
so that was different. And I guess it was more crowded, because
this time I couldn't seem to keep the two inches directly in front
of me free from bouncing strangers. It was still a good show, and
many people did their part in terms of creating atmosphere, by wearing
all black of course. Including me.
Incidentally, today this weblog is one
Sunday, 28 April 2002
Tried to dye the red streaks in my hair blue, careful to completely
cover the red so that my hair wouldn't be mistaken as a show of
patriotism. However, all of it is completely black; only parts of
my scalp are blue. My mother will be relieved.
All day on Saturday, the frat boys down the street drank and
whoo!ed and played The Devil Went Down to Georgia at full
The woman at the thrift store accepted the things I donated
without the slightest hint of thanks. I mean, presumably she's going
to make money off of it, right?
So far I haven't found my camera in any of the pawn shops.
I learned right away not to mention "stolen camera" to
anyone I spoke with on the phone. I'm not sure what I'm going to
do if I find it anyway. Buy it back?
Martin and I drove through a poor black neighborhood on the
way to recycle magazines and newspaper and I heard a woman yell,
"What are y'all doin over here?"
At the recycling bins, there was a giant pile of boxes lazily
built beside the trash dumpster, five feet from the cardboard-eating
One of the guys who lives in the apartment beneath me plays
the same practice riff on his bass guitar over and over again, every
day. He doesn't vary it, and he doesn't seem to improve, really.
Today was no exception. I've decided that I'm going to learn the
riff myself, plug my bass into my amplifier, and play it back to
him. I wonder what he'll do.
Went out last night, only to question some of my friendships
and wonder about people whom I didn't even run into. I think I'm
partly to blame, because I was already feeling rather bad before
I got there.
On Saturday, April 27th, 2002, people sucked. And I didn't even
read the news yesterday.
I came home by midnight and sat up and watched Deliverance
for the first time. At the end of the movie, when I stopped the
tape, I caught the end of a commercial that said, "North Carolina:
Discover the state you live in." If only Deliverance
had been about backwoods North Carolina, instead of backwoods Georgia.
They're very different, you know.
Saturday, 27 April 2002
The bartender looked barely twenty, wore delicate heels and
a tight skirt with a split up the side. When she spoke, she held
her face at an angle so that she had to look up at you, her smile
almost pointing at the floor. Now last time I took a check I
got in trouble, but if you're sure it's good, I'll let you do it...you
just have to promise me you won't get me in trouble, she said
in a soft accent. My name's Megan. She looked like the type
who puts her hand on your arm when you speak to her. I liked her
When the jukebox ate my quarters, she gave me a dollar bill and
told me to try again. If you just tell me what song it was, I
might be able to tell you the number, she said as I pressed
the delayed arrow button on the machine. I've worked here for
a little while, you know. Just after she walked off I found
the first song againPsycho Killer by the Talking Heads. 4-8-0-1.
Almost as soon as I pressed the final digit, I heard the first few
notes of music blare out of the speakers. But instead of the Talking
Heads, I heard a twangy-voiced man wail, "ain't nothin wrong
with bein a redneck..." She ran back over with another dollar,
explaining that I'd chosen the only album they didn't actually have.
In the back, old men playing poker at card tables with empty Budweiser
cans, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, folded-over Jokers
littering the floor. A man put in a Jimmy Buffet song and danced
with a plump woman wearing overalls and sang to her about four lonely
days in a brown LA haze, his arm wrapped around her waist. A golden
retriever panted under one of the pool tables next to where I was
playing. Richard Petty watched all of us with a grin on his face
from several spots on the wall, always from behind dark glasses.
Friday, 26 April 2002
Thursday, 25 April 2002
I think Michael's got me beat. He lives in a "nicer"
neighborhood than I do, and a few days ago, a cab driver got stabbed
in front of his house and left blood all over his front porch. (Apparently
the cab driver is fine.) You'd think that with all of the crime
I've been hearing about lately, that I would at least have some
of the core benefits
of living in a . But you'd be wrong about that.
Ginna's in town for a couple of days, here to pick up her car and
take it to Alaska with her. Had things worked out better, I'd be
helping her drive it across the country, visiting friends in Chicago
and Seattle, adding a to the list, watching the land swell and straighten underneath
the tires. I think it'd be good for me to get out of here and to
find that reset button, which I suspect is hiding somewhere in the
middle of Nebraska.
Wednesday, 24 April 2002
few of the things I'm happy to have back.
Three of the friendly neighbors from the came by tonight with the following information:
one of their VW vans has been broken into three times this week,
the neighbors across the street had their car stolen, and there
is definitely a man living in the crawl space beneath my house.
So this isn't the first time something's
been stolen, and that's not the first
man who's made himself at home next to the water heater. In
fact, the first year I lived here a man actually walked in my house
and into my room and asked me for money. But those things have been
rare, spaced out, unusual. I've always been on guard but felt relatively
safe. I want to be able to live in a community and feel safe. I don't want an apartment
complex or a pool or white walls and beige carpet. But I also want
to keep my car from getting stolen.
So far the plan is to use the
club, carry my CD player inside
whenever my car is parked at home, and to leave a note for the man
downstairs, to warn him of coming locks so that he can collect his
Tuesday, 23 April 2002
I'm trying to remember everything that was in there, one item
at a time: my driver's license. Thirty bucks. My ATM card, teacher
ID, student ID, Ingo's old Berlin ID. My address book and phone
numbers, my only copy of either. My check book. My cell phone. My
passport, pages of smeared airport stamps and work visas. My Elph
camera. The keys to my house, my car, my bike lock. My Swiss army
I'd gone to play tennis with Richard and Martin. We'd locked Richard's
van, and the moment I heard to locks click, I wondered why the hell
I'd brought that thing along anyway. It's all gone now. It's been
a little over two hours, and I've only started to make the necessary
phone calls, including one to my cell phone, which didn't tell me
much. I half-expected someone to answer, like on that Seinfeld episode,
when Jerry's car was stolen and he called his car phone and chatted
with the thief.
Martin's busy changing the locks on the house, since my address
and my keys were in my bag. It only happened two blocks from here,
after all. I keep looking out the window to see whether my car's
still there. So far it is. In a moment, I'm going back to check
dumpsters, to kick dumpsters, and to scour the area in the dark.
My parents are crazy, I think, but in a good way. While I was out,
searching for my bag in the park and along the tracks with a dim
flashlight, my parents were busy calling my cell phone so that I
might hear it and locate what was left of my things. Instead, the
thieves answered, just like on Seinfeld. My dad offered them $100
for the bag and its contents, and my parents drove to Raleigh to
make the exchange outside a nearby convenient store.
No money left, no ATM card, no bag, no Swiss army knife, and no
camera, just my IDs, address book, keys, cell phone, check book,
and passport in a plastic bag full of cigarette butts. They admitted
to making a few calls and to feeling guilty about "messing
with" a teacher and a student (neither of which I am at the
moment, but OK) and pretended to be the third party that had retrieved
the bag from a rebellious nephew. They tried to con my dad out of
more money, but he maintained his initial offer of $100. I'm disappointed
to have missed out on that meeting. I'm really impressed.
My parents came by and dropped off my things, and my dad laughed
about his encounter, his shaking hands and introducing himself to
a car full of people who'd stolen his daughter's things. My parents
turned around and headed for home at 1:30 a.m.
Strange, how the return of a large percentage of my things can make
the loss of $130 and camera easier to take.
Monday, 22 April 2002
It used to be that I could tell who sold my name. In high school,
I was briefly a member of a music club, the kind that gives you
an advance of 10 CDs but obligates you to buy 15 more. To them,
I was Lisa Winterman. I never lied about my name; they just got
it wrong. During the first few years of college, Lisa Winterman
got a lot of mail. She never bought much, though, so the campaign
wasn't cost-efficient, and Lisa Winterman was left alone.
Lisa Whiteman, on the other hand, still gets lots of mail she doesn't
want. She doesn't buy a lot either, but I guess since she actually
exists, her name is recycled and passed around a bit more; perhaps
it is written on a bathroom stall at the giant marketing headquarters
in the sky. Whoever designed her profile, though, should look for
In the kitchen, currently buried in a pile of glossy paper filled
with unnaturally good-looking couples having lots of fun, is a catalog
designed for someone who has a lot of money but doesn't know what
to do with it. The catalog's main strategy seems to be to take an
ordinary object, add the buyer's initials to it, and then charge
three times as much for it. A monogrammed robe and slipper set for
$125. Three tiny smelly pillows tied together with a ribbon for
$36. A volcanic rock sachet for $65. A monogrammed silver-plated
The captions are nauseating: "For the woman who tends to carry
the weight of the world on her shoulders, we've found the perfect
contradiction."; "These days it's not just celebrities
who have cameos."; "If she's going to wear your heart
around your neck, shouldn't it be filled with diamonds?"; "Moms
(and Miss Manners) know that a lady always has a hanky handy."
I should've done this
Sunday, 21 April 2002
Foregoing the last run-through of the house, to make sure I
didn't forget anything. Remembering to tell the driver to turn left
in time, so that we would've taken the shorter path. Not stopping
at two different gas stations to try to get the ATM card to work.
Any of those things would've given us the five minutes we needed
to get that last campsite. But we didn't get it; after over an hour
of driving, we watched the people in front of us get it instead.
The ranger directed us to the second-best campground in the area,
located at an old water treatment plant a few miles down the road.
The park consisted of a modest patch of woods and a reservoir that
harbored a cluster of dirty paddle boats. Inside the park office
was a "museum" of local wildlife: snakes, an opossum,
red-tailed hawks, squirrels, and owls in crudely made cages of fencing,
boards, nails, and glass. Dot-matrix printer paper covered the floor
of the opossum's 4 ft x 3 ft cell, and the birds were confined to
spaces in which they couldn't fly. I left the city to enjoy nature
only to find it in captivity.
There was only one other group of campers at there, yet the parking
lot was full of cars, presumably there for the wedding in progress
on the grass just next to it. We surveyed the area on foot to a
soundtrack of the wedding march. No Cape Fear river, no Robert DeNiro,
no getting lost in the wilderness.
It was fun anyway. And we had running water.
Saturday, 20 April 2002
Project submission has been posted. OK, leaving now, going camping.
Friday, 19 April 2002
Spent the evening over at Stef's eating strawberries and and drawing up lists of camping items we'll probably
forget. Just as well, since whatever I remember I'll have to carry
2.5 miles to the campsite. I'll be back on Sunday, with stories
of bears and failed fires and the Cape Fear river and Robert DeNiro.
Thursday, 18 April 2002
1. A batch of praying mantis the size of dimes were born this
morning underneath a bush by my office building. I watched one crawl
across a forearm, its body bright green and fragile and bent. 2.
Listening to Sigue Sigue Sputnik does not make sitting in a cubicle
typing seem any more rock n'roll. In fact, I think it makes it harder
to be there. 3. I have a Sigue Sigue Sputnik CD! 4. There was no
spring. It's already summer. It was today.
Wednesday, 17 April 2002
I live on a street with century-old houses on one side, a YMCA
parking lot on the other. I live on a street two blocks long, with
an IHOP at one end and railroad tracks at the other. Between the
IHOP and the first house is a field of grass and clover. On the
IHOP-side of the field sits a large metal creature that drinks bacon
and french fry grease and lets off a perfume if you come too close.
On the house-side of the field is a fraternity known as "Farm
House," a white photograph-of-a-house framed by trucks with
tires the height of my car.
There are chipped concrete stairs leading up to the field from the
sidewalk, stairs that must have once led up to a house, though they
are the only remaining evidence of one. It is in this field the
strange white rabbits hang
out almost every evening. Humans are not of much interest to them,
unless you approach them, or unless you throw carrots their way.
This morning on my way to work, I swerved around a white lump of
fur in the road and stopped my car. I wasn't sure how I was going
to move it, but before I got very close, I saw one of the Farm House
guys approach it with a shovel. "Might need two shovels to
get this thing," he said in a thick southern accent with a
hint of amusement, as he tried to wedge the shovel under the large
rabbit. From the way its body reacted to being lifted, it looked
like it had been dead a few hours. I got in my car and drove to
work. One more left to worry
man with the floppy hat visited my desk again today, this time
to show me a black widow he'd caught in the yard. He carried it
in a glass jar, and as soon as I saw the eight busy legs, I rolled
back in my chair a safe distance. It seemed a bit frantic, its legs
working at the lid of the jar as if it were swimming. held the jar at an angle so as to balance the spider
on its back and show me the dark red spot and the sack of eggs.
Cycling through my head: The legs. I don't want those legs on me.
I hope it has enough air in there. What could be done with it, so
that it's both free and far away from me? How many spiders are in
that sack, anyway? Until he walked away taking the spider with him
to show someone else, I hadn't noticed the roll of lifesavers he'd
left for me.
Tuesday, 16 April 2002
Monday, 15 April 2002
So yeah, here's that goofy
picture of me and Kimya Dawson of the Moldy
Peaches. I'm hoping it qualifies as a picture of an afro, because
I get quite a few visitors looking for just that. And, until now,
I'm pretty sure my site has been sadly afro-free.
For the past month, I've been sporadically reading parts of Fast
Food Nation and am really enjoying it (though I'm sure "enjoy"
is not the right word). I was happy, though, to hear some information
that counters the bleak statistics presented in the book, despite
the fact that I never completely trust "positive" news.
You know there's no such thing as positive news, don't you?
Sunday, 14 April 2002
It was sunny and lightly raining when I left. I pedaled to the
farmer's market, past a body on the grass that I didn't see until
I was right beside him, distracted by the police car on his other
side, by the cop standing over him. I kept going (looking back until
they were out of sight), past hordes of ten-year-olds playing soccer
and up into the tree-lined streets of the mental institution, where
I saw a tombstone for the death of a graveyard.
At the market I filled a bag with "pink ladies," a kind
of apple I'd never heard of before, washed one in the water fountain
and sat on the curb and ate it. Back up the new yet little-used
four-lane road between the market and my house, past the empty bus
shelters, empty bike racks, empty sidewalks, browned kudzu and bright
green grass, through a ghost town that has yet to be inhabited.
Back through the mental institution, again past the soccer players,
no rain this time. The body and the cop were gone.
It's Sunday evening. The house is clean and organized, ready to
be slowly undone over the course of the coming week.
Saturday, 13 April 2002
At the hardware store, a small, cluttered building with insufficient
parking and friendly old men with slicked-down hair who know every
square centimeter immediately surrounding them. Buckets of bluish
nails, letters and numbers on hooks in rows, Beware of Dog
signs, old fashioned mousetraps. I went to buy screws and bolts
and to get a spare key made for my car, even though I've never locked
my existing key inside. When I was in Austin, a girl I knew locked
her keys in her car while it was running, and didn't even notice
until she got off work, when she found her car, still there, still
While I was walking around taking in all of the dusty displays,
I overheard an outspoken woman telling how she used to make 50 cents
per hour at her job, sometime during the early 60s, I think she
said. At another job, she said it was 10 dollars per week that she
took home. "Well, I got you beat," one of the old men
said. "At my first job I made only 27 cents an hour."
I ran errands all afternoon, satisfying that increasingly frequent
urge to dedicate at least a portion of my weekend to doing something
productive. It seems to take a lot of time and energy to keep up
with my existence, though I'm not sure why that is. That Amish
bread isn't making it any easier.
Friday, 12 April 2002
In a break from my usual TV-less Monday through Saturday, last
night I watched Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I enjoyed
it, mainly because I like trivia, but it made me realize that I
prefer being impressed with the contestants rather than "feeling
smart" because the contestants know so few of the answers.
I'd rather acknowledge that they deserve to be on the show more
than I do, you know? Like the people on Jeopardy. Those are some
people who belong in front of a wall of TVs that flash trivia at
Last night on ...Millionaire, there was a hefty pony-tailed
guy who'd worked at a grocery store for thirteen years, and I couldn't
help thinking, there's a guy who's probably really smart but
just doesn't work at a place where he gets a chance to use his head.
He probably has some insane hobby, I don't know, like playing a
wizard in Dungeons and Dragons or hacking computer programs. I hope
he blows everyone away with his knowledge and that he wins a lot,
because he probably needs it. He even highlighted his underdog
status by making a self-deprecating comment about his girth (there
was a lot of it). I really wanted him to do well.
Well in the first two minutes, he mentioned that he drives an SUV.
Hmmm...my loyalty to him waivered, but then I considered that maybe
he was feeling some class pressure, since Regis kept bringing up
the grocery store. Wow, he doesn't know as much as I'd hoped. He
sure is doing a lot of that train-of-thought talking (Well I
know it's not D, and it's probably not C, which by the way I know
because my best buddy blah blah blah, and maybe it's B, or A, but
I think it's B, so I'll go with that, and that is my final answer).
I finally gave up on him when he had to ask the audience on which
political party's ticket Ralph Nader ran for president. He didn't
know, and, worse than that, only two-thirds of the audience got
it right. I was reminded why the TV usually stays off. If I turn
it on, it might suck information out of me.
Thursday, 11 April 2002
I'm always a little surprised and uncomfortable when one of
those poor people who has to work with the public gets annoyed with
me. Sometimes I'm impatient or frustrated or incredulous, but none
of that makes it to the surfaceout of my mouth or to the muscles
in my faceat least not until I'm out of range, groaning and
narrowing my eyes. On the surface, I'm understanding and patient
and careful with my words. (Then again, my second grade teacher
literally hated me because I always rolled my eyes at her, and I
never even knew I was doing it.)
For years I worked behind counters, an apron tied around me to hold
tips, pads and pens, getting refills and scooping ice cream and
wiping tomato sauce from plastic booths. I know what it's like to
have contempt for the public, to watch them stare at menus with
their mouths hanging open, tightening them only to ask you some
ridiculous question, or to want to be sarcastic or honest, but to
be forced to refrain. I was insulted and harassed and blamed. I'm
sorry your meat is overcooked. I'm sorry the popcorn is expensive.
I'm sorry this restaurant has a C sanitation grade. No, I don't
want to go to the beach with you this weekend.
During the summer after my freshman year in college, I was working
at a café known for its pastries and chicken salad that was
located in the corner of a large department store in the mall, of
all things. I was there for the $5 wage plus tips, an anomaly in
waitress land. On two occasions I was scheduled to work completely
alone during dinner. Granted, dinner was the slower meal, but it
was still relatively crowded, and I was by myself, waiting on tables,
being the cashier, taking orders at the counter for coffee, frozen
yogurt, and doughnuts, bussing the tables, and making sandwiches
that I'd never made or even eaten before. I'd stand in the kitchen
lightly panicking, hoping no one was robbing the cash register,
and I would read the menu as if it were a cookbook. It didn't go
as badly as it could have; the customers were actually sympathetic.
So the result of all this is that I am polite to my former peers
almost without fail. Today I went to pick up a roll of film that
wasn't ready, and I gently asked when I could expect it, and I got
a really exasperated "I DON'T KNOW! THE MACHINE IS BROKEN!
WE'RE TRYING TO FIX IT!" Right. I'll come back later.
Wednesday, 10 April 2002
When I was younger, had I had the mind I have now, I would've
taken interesting pictures during my two weeks in Romania. I would've
told my grade-school teachers that praying in public school is illegal.
I would've told the truth when asked whether the shirt I was wearing
was Esprit. I would've written in my journals daily. I wouldn't
have "gone with" him, or him, or him. I would've learned
where the brake pedal on a car was, so I could've stopped a few
of those driverless cars and perhaps a few of the nightmares. I
wouldn't have paired my brother's GI Joe Barbie with my ugly, mullet-haired
Barbie. I would've realized that just because someone is adult,
it doesn't mean they are 200 years old and therefore uninteresting.
I wouldn't have gotten mad at that kitten for breaking a dish, because
yelling at it was my last contact with it before it died. I would've
paid more attention.
I remember once being too scared to go down the sliding board at
the pool. I don't know how old I was, maybe 4?, and I can still
remember the black two-eyed box that sprayed the water over the
smooth, light blue fiberglass. I'd reluctantly climbed up the ladder
and, with my face next to the black box, I stared in fear at the
water far below. I don't remember climbing back down, but I do remember
not being able to sleep that night, regretting my cowardice, and
vowing to make up for it during my next visit to the pool, which
couldn't come fast enough. I did, and it was fun. Of course.
From ages 2 to 12, I lived on a paved dead-end street surrounded
by forest carved with trails and with enough backyard hills to go
sledding in winter. The neighbors all knew each other, the kids
all played together, and it was basically a harmonious, sub-middle
class enclave. So my neighbor was surprised when she watched my
mother drive over their terrier, Tramp, without stopping to see
if it was okay. (My mother was completely oblivious of the little
dog.) Later, my mom saw my neighbor at a local store. "Tramp
is dead," she informed my mother. "Oh no, what happened?"
My neighbor said simply: "You ran over him."
Tuesday, 09 April 2002
A girl at work has given me a large Ziploc bag full of soupy,
off-white liquid along with a page of instructions. It says I am
to squeeze and massage and regularly deflate the bag over a period
of ten days before adding a long list of ingredients and exposing
the mixture to intense heat. It says that after I have done this,
I will have two pans of Amish cinnamon bread.
I don't doubt something will be wrong with my bread; I will go through
all that trouble only to have my unusually hot oven turn the bottom
inch to black ash, or I will forget to take it out until I smell
it, or my error will occur during the ten-day preparation, a result
of neglect or confusion.
I don't like to cook, I'm rather impatient, and I like to work on
projects from start to finish in one giant lump, rather than working
on them in daily segments. So, considering that this girl knows
me fairly well, why did she choose me as a recipient of the batter?
I have no idea. I'm somehow flattered, though. I've decided I'm
going to see this through, all ten days, until my kitchen smells
like oxidized matter.
Tonight, after getting home from work, (and after giving the batter
a healthy squeeze), I got out one of my old German textbooks and
began reading aloud, answering the exercises as I went. They're
among a few of the textbooks I can visually picture without opening
themthe drawings and the pictures, where the words on the
page belong, the charts that make sense of articles and cases. While
I read over the lessons, I can remember sitting in class in Berlin,
my teacher's , and the sentences the boys from Peru would
invent. Once I secretly recorded my class, by hiding my Walkman
and microphone in a bag beneath my desk.
I've been meaning to read through these books for a while, to slow
the steady evacuation of German from my brain, but it's one of those
things I never get around to doing. Today, though, I automatically
took one off the shelf and collapsed with it on the bed. The words
looked familiar and friendly and it was fun to drag up the strange
noises, the hisses and umlauts. As I read, my cat sat beside me,
distracting me, purring while she stared at me with big, round eyes.
Monday, 08 April 2002
Sunday, 07 April 2002
There's a tree on Interstate 40 just west of Raleigh that is
considerably higher than the others. The top of it pokes maybe 30
feet out of the rest of the forest like an overripe teenager, just
next to the east-bound lanes. I notice it almost every time I approach
it, but, as I get closer, I am a victim of angles and it disappears.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone else sees the gangly, symmetrical tree,
or if I am the only one who appreciates its dissimilarity.
Well, today, I found out it isn't a tree at all, but a radio tower
dressed like a tree. Just to be sure, I found my way to its metal
base, and stared up at it in disappointment, feeling foolish. I've
Saturday, 06 April 2002
The slogan of the documentary film festival I'm living through
this weekend is "How much reality can you handle?" Today
I discovered the answer to that question is about eight hours. From
nine-thirty to five-thirty, almost like regular job duty, I traveled
from Afghanistan to a World War II Japanese internment camp to Pittsburgh
in the 40s to the financial district in New York City on September
11th to Attica Prison in 1971, and, finally, to 1985, to a seven-by-twelve
room in Beruit somewhere near the airport.
By the time I'd taken pictures of the question-and-answer sessions
after each film, I had an average of fifteen minutes to stand in
the sun, squinting, and digest what I'd just seen before being yanked
into another time and place. My brain began to make connections
between the films that weren't there; during the Attica
film, there was a shot in which I could see the Twin Towers
looming above, and I half-expected a plane to crash into one of
them, which of course didn't happen.
The antidote, of course, was to wear a t-shirt and flannel pajama
bottoms underneath a few pounds of blankets, sleep for two hours,
wake up to Back
Porch Music playing on my alarm clock with my cat sleeping next
to my hip, and to listen and think in the dark, so that's what I
Today my parents have been married 34 years. So, happy anniversary
Friday, 05 April 2002
I wandered into the lobby just after watching "Journeys
with George," a documentary about the Bush campaign from the
perspective of a correspondent in the Bush press corps. There I
found standing near the middle of the room surrounded
by a small cluster of people asking her questions and giving her
feedback. The absurd thing about it was that while they spoke, both
Pelosi and the audience members filmed each other with hand-held
cameras; the former correspondent was reflecting her paparazzi like
a mirror. I pulled out my camera and took a few pictures of the
exchange, and as I looked through the viewfinder, I heard a stranger
say in my ear, "This is so postmodern."
There are a few familiar faces at the festival,
people I recognize from school and bars and , but most are new and remote. Tonight I had to
escape the $2 cans of Diet Coke, the awkward standing in the middle
of a sea of stylish black clothing, the giant camera bag pulling
my right shoulder toward the center of the earth. So I'm home now.
For a little while. I don't know why I'm not sleeping. Which reminds
me: this morning, as I flung my legs over the edge of the bed, a
lens cap fell off the mattress and rolled across the floor.
OK, something that's not festival-related: on my way to work, I
saw a bumper sticker on the back window of a gigantic red truck
that said: NUKE THEIR ASS. TAKE THEIR GAS. I'm glad the man in that
truck is using his right to free speech in such a diplomatic, thoughtful
manner, aren't you?
Thursday, 04 April 2002
So I have a pass to the entire festival,
but for a frustrating portion of it I have to sit in my cubicle
one block away, looking over citizenship questions and changing
names to make them sound more international while there are documentaries
being shown about Jasper, Texas and September 11th and memory loss
as captured by recorded answering machine messages.
This afternoon I walked over to pick up my pass, just before the
festival actually began, and I could feel the anticipation descending
like a cloud over the concrete patio in front of the theatre. There
were only about thirty people there, picking up passes and buying
tickets and sitting behind folding tables wearing friendly badges,
and, oddly enough, I ran into the DJ whom I photographed last night
in . Actually, I didn't quite run into him; I was at
the top of the stairs and he was somewhere in the middle of the
patio below me, and we both glanced toward each other at the same
moment, paused for recollection delay, and then offered a timid
wave before continuing on our respective paths.
All day long I've been trying to fill in every spare moment of time
I have, not even wasting stoplights. It's almost 1 a.m. now, and
I'm back at home after regrettably skipping out on the end of Yo
La Tengo's live accompaniment to French underwater documentaries.
But I kept wishing for my bed and to throw away my contacts, and
my mind started drifting when the music was mellow and the sea urchins'
spines were waving in the water. There's more to tell, but maybe
Wednesday, 03 April 2002
I realized today that I shouldn't be relaxed at all, but that
I should be panicked and stressed, because I'm suddenly enormously
busy. No time for personal projects like sleeving negatives or burning
CDs. The trash is going to have to quietly stink under its lid,
and those clothes on the floor will remain a colorful heap at least
for a couple more days.
Most of it is about photos. Two assignments for the Spectator,
four days of shooting patrons and filmmakers at a documentary
film festival, and one ten-picture compilation for Colectivo,
in addition to regular working hours and feeling sick and starting
that new website and finishing my parents' anniversary present.
And all of it I want to do, with the exception of getting sick,
Tonight I went to a dance club in Chapel Hill to take pictures of
tightly-clad long-haired smiling drones who danced in circles and
posed when I pointed my camera at them. And pictures of the DJ,
his fingers lightly gripping the record, pushing it back and forth
on the turntable, next to knobs and switches and crates filled with
vinyl, while the disco ball lights scraped over everything.
It's an hour-and-a-half after I told myself I would be in bed.
Tuesday, 02 April 2002
Strange, how you could be holding something one minute, it gets
weighed and stamped, you scribble an address, it gets passed between
hands and between vehicles, and just a few days later, someone else
far away is holding that very thing, eyeing it and turning it over
the way you did just before sticking it in the envelope. It makes
transport seem easy, as if all I would have to do would be to cover
myself with stamps and wait at the post office, and I could go anywhere
I wanted to go, just as long as the postage was right.
What about the things I've dragged around with me while traveling?
Mainly, the things that I take and never usebarely even seewhen
I'm digging through my things. I pack for all weather, all occasions,
so it's inevitable that I section off a corner of unwanteds. The
pointless kind of transport. Why did I take that shirt from Germany
to Raleigh to Austin? I never even wore it. Is it fair that a shirt
is more traveled than some people are? Did the red, sore dent in
my shoulder appreciate that extra shirt in my bag?
I'm sitting in Raleigh, North Carolina, in my room, at my desk,
and you are not here, but you can read what I've been thinking,
because I put these words where you can see them. I still haven't
gotten used to this kind of transport.
Monday, 01 April 2002
During college, I was required to take four physical education
classes: "PE 100," a running/weight-lifting nightmare
that was forced on everyone, and three electives. I ended up taking
bowling (which was by far my favorite), target archery (during which
I was perpetually bruised from snapping the bow's chord repeatedly
on my forearm), and tennis. I'd played tennis for a year in high
school, but I signed up for beginner's tennis anyway, since I didn't
know what to expect of the intermediate class.
Two weeks into the first semester of my
freshman year, I got into a in which I'd made the glass of my windshield spider
by banging it with my tough little head. I wasn't hurt badly, but
for a few weeks following the accident I was told I had to wear
a neck brace, a scarlet letter to attest to my offense.
So I did what I understand kids do with headgear: I wore the neck
brace at home but religiously removed it before going in public.
My tennis class was the only exception. I didn't want to permanently
screw up my neck for freshman year vanity, so I wore the giant white
collar while on the court swinging my racket around. Apparently
the tennis coach saw the combination of the neck brace and my relative
skill as an opportunity to raise the morale of the class, as he
was fond of declaring, "If the girl with the neck brace can
do it, you all can do it!"
Tonight I played tennis for the first time this year, actually the
second time in two years, and my body sort-of half-remembered what
it was supposed to do when that little yellow ball came flying at
it. Most of it was warming up or becoming sluggish from exhaustion,
but there was a small window in which it felt natural to be out
there, the ball and the racquet made that hollow-sounding connection,
and the net didn't appear to be abnormally high. But then my energy
melted into a sticky puddle on the court that grabbed at the soles
of my inappropriate shoes, and my motivation slid away.
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