Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Baja sunrise

This is an exercise I wrote a few weeks back. I'm posting it here with Carrie's permission.

Carrie is one of those lifelong friends you can say anything to, anything at all. She loves me even when I'm my worst self (amazing in itself), and our friendship is one of those where, no matter how much time it's been in between phone calls or emails, you just snap right back into it - even when it's been months.

That's about trust, I think - about trusting that we each have one another's best interests at heart, no matter what. It's about meeting fear with kindness, hurt with love. It's about always, always being as true to one another as we could be.

That has served us well. Even when there's a problem between us - and through 13 years, there have been problems - even though it's tough, we work it out. We always do; otherwise, we would lose something important, vital even. We would lose one another. And that, we cannot do.

Carrie, you mean the world to me. Thank you so much for being you.
My best friend Carrie and I went to San Jose del Cabo, at the southern tip of Baja, the winter when we were 25. She went with her husband Dave; they were actually on their honeymoon, but since they were staying at his best friend Ty's place, and Ty wanted to come, they invited me along too.

It is warm in Baja in winter - 70-80 degrees, beautiful balmy air that smells like salt and sand and tequila. We'd come from central Washington state, where it was 9 degrees in the sun and we worked for a slave-driving publisher.

We went for the best of reasons: true love. I'd met Ty earlier that year, and fell in love with him the moment I met him, I said yes in a flash. We pooled our funds and bought the cheapest tickets imaginable, and before I knew it, Ty was picking us up in a beat-up Bronco and handing us Pacificos from a cooler in the back. "Welcome to Mexico," he said, and I think I fell in love again.

A few days later, we decided to go fishing, which is how we ended up on the boat. We left at an unimaginably early hour, but as we were clearing the harbor, admiring a church lit up on the hillside, the sun started to rise, and with it brighter colors than any church could produce.

We didn't catch any fish, but it hardly mattered. We saw a whale leap up entirely out of the water, its fluke rising in a somersault against the far morning sky. I'd only known Carrie for 6 months, but already we were thick as thieves, and that morning sealed it: the way we saw the sunrise reverently, the way we stood swaying on the bench of the boat like seafaring adventurers, the way we giggled about Ty and her new husband Dave, secretly, so they wouldn't hear.

Carrie is someone who is very guarded; it's hard to get into her heart. And yet, of all the people who worked at the newspaper where we worked, she let me in. She says she had no choice, but I know she did, and I know it was that morning that changed things, that bonded us. We saw sameness in one another, that morning with the sunset. We saw the colors of the sunrise and the salt in the air filling the hole we both had, the tear in the 20s, where you are between childhood and adulthood and you are lost and alone and not sure where to turn.

Carrie had tried to fill that void by getting married. She chose well; they are married still. But friendship is different from marriage, and she still needed someone who could be a friend to her, rather than a husband.

And me -- I didn't have anyone. I'd moved out when I was 17 to go to college, and I never really went back, not to live. I'd bounced around the Pacific Northwest, going through jobs and men, not sticking. I didn't know how alone I was; I was so far in the pit that I couldn't tell I was in it.

But that morning, when Carrie and I saw those colors shimmering and moving across the sky like the Northern Lights, when we saw that and looked at one another in wonder that anything could be so perfect and so good, that void was filled.

We are still best friends, and we still talk about that sunrise.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Modern America

If I have a bruise above my brow
It is because I spent
my morning
my head
against a wall.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sound familiar?

I posted this exercise in an online writing class I'm in, and all the women in the class (admittedly, there are only 5 of us out of 10 students) chimed in to say they loved it, and what a sleazeball, and they could see it coming a mile away, etc etc etc. It's a girlfest of "Me too!"

The men are being uncharacteristically quiet. Hee hee. Take a hint, fellas. Headphones mean back off.

Here it is:

I’ve been bumped up to first class on the plane back to Seattle. The man standing in my row takes my bag from me without being asked and stows it above the seat.

I am thanking him, and feeling lucky, when I realize he’s looking down my shirt.

“I think I’m the window,” I say, avoiding his eyes.

He stands aside to let me pass, smiling down at me. He is a tall, thickish man of about 50, wearing pressed chinos and a brown silk sweater. The silk smells tangy as I ease past him.

I sit down and dig out my laptop and headphones. After talking to people for five days, all I want to do is tune out.

He drops into his seat with the grace I lack, leaning toward me, crossing one leg over the other, sliding his hands together so they lock. When the steward comes by, he orders a double Scotch, neat. He orders it while looking at me.

I call my husband. “I love you,” I say to him.

My seat-mate fingers a complimentary bottle of water, then offers it to me in a voice that’s smooth as good dark rum. I refuse and slide a DVD into my laptop. I put my headphones on. They are large; they send a message.

“What’re you watching?” He asks.

I don’t look at him. “First Wives’ Club.”

He laughs a salesman’s laugh. “I’ve been married a few times myself. It’s all a matter of perspective.”

He polishes off his Scotch and orders another. It’s gone ten minutes later, when I’m asked to turn off my laptop for take-off. I plug into the plane's sound system and watch the gold trees of Ohio get smaller and smaller as I count down two minutes from takeoff: one one-thousand, two one-thousand, until we reach altitude. I am waiting to turn the movie back on.

But the steward never comes back around to tell me I can turn my laptop on again. I hit the call button, take off my headphones, and look for him.

My seat-mate takes this as an invitation.

“So, finish your movie?” He asks.

“Not yet.”

He nods, drains his glass.

I search for the steward, punch the call button again. Nothing.

“So, you from Cincy? Cincy’s a great town,” he says.


His brows draw down in a small V. “You’re not working, are you?”

“No,” I say, my voice clipped.

“Look.” His voice is no longer like rum. “Do you want to talk, or do you want to be left alone?”

Relief! “I want to be left alone.”

He sits back, spine straight. After a minute, he takes the water bottle he’d offered me and shoves it in his briefcase. He pulls out an iPod, turns it on, and plugs in.

Later, he deplanes without helping me get my bag down. He is on his way to more welcoming women, ones who like to chat. Ones who won’t mind him looking down their shirts.

I call the steward over and this time he comes right away.

Drunk on rum cake and love

My mother was here this weekend. The sun shone the entire time; the dog was charming, my stove cooperated, and the leaves were brilliant, everywhere we turned.

In fact, everything we touched or saw or smelled seemed more vivid, better, funnier, the whole weekend long. Just another perfect, charmed October weekend; another jewel-box of memories for us both.

Mom made rum cake and mashed potatoes and mock. She gave me a bracelet from her own arm and earrings she was wearing. Now she's gone, and Seattle is gray and bleak without her.

Sometimes I think her goodbyes are just more lessons: some day, it'll be goodbye for a good long while, until we meet again as ectoplasm, or worm food, or spirit. Other times, goodbye is just goodbye, and sad.

But I know she'll be back. After all, now she knows how good my home-made gingerbread is. She'll be back, all right.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cost Plus: Tool of the devil.

I just dropped a bucket of cash at Cost Plus World Market in honor of my mother's impending visit. What did I spend it on? Well! Let's see.

1. Cranberry silk duiponi sheers for front room. Hey, they were on sale. This was the original reason for going in: they're lightweight, they're cheap, they go with the rug.

2. Because that's not enough, a soft cranberry throw, not on sale.

3. The most adorable wooden chicken for the kitchen. Wooden chickens always remind me of my BFF Carrie and that time in Santa Fe that they were everywhere. I want to make one some day. Maybe this weekend! With Mom! She's a wooden chicken kind of gal.

4. Potholder with a chicken on it. Because, you know, it's a motif.

5. A cranberry-red candle for the front room, because it smells so good and hey, red accent.

6. Two blue candles that I have no idea where they're going to go but they smelled good too.

7. Big tin dog with holes all over it and a space for putting stuff inside it. Possibly one of the blue candles. Why? Could not leave store without it.

8. Belatedly realizing I have nothing to put the candles on, three silver candle plate thingies.

9. And then realizing that I have nothing to set my ginormous white candle on (this candle, thankfully, is already at home), a somewhat larger silver candle plate thingie.

10. And finally, like 4 cheap necklaces that have red/purple/brown beads on them of varying sizes, which I will dismantle and scatter around the white candle on its (somewhat large) candle plate thingie.

And Bonus Thing #11: An unexpected cab ride home, since I took the bus today and now have 20 pounds of stuff to lug home.

My friends are downsizing. I am absorbing all the throw-off karmic energy--a family trait, I must point out. In years to come, economic circles will speak of this as the Brannon Effect.

I love me some prophetic horoscopes

Check out today's horoscope:

You are on the edge of something big, even if you don't yet know where it will lead. You'll need to have faith and take the leap into the unknown, for you must initiate any change that will happen now. Remember, there's no need to hang onto your old goals if they no longer have as much significance anymore.
God, I love Truth be told, I've been trying to figure out what kinds of stories I should be writing, because while I love romantic comedy I don't think it's my bag, and paranormal is fun but all of a sudden, everyone and their mother is writing goddesses. Although I do love the Persephone story. I just need to find the right way to write it.

So I'm thinking I write about friendships between women. I just wrote a short piece for a writing class I'm in about Carrie and me and this moment in our friendship that I might post here. There's love and marriage, and then there's friendship, and they are equally important. If there's anything last week taught me, it's that for women, it is vital to be among women.

The ebb and flow of friendship among women has so much impact. When things aren't right between you and one of your friends, it hits you where you live. And when things are right, it makes everything so much better.

I think the same is true of men (albeit in a much more subterranean, nonverbal, some might say beer-drinking noogy-giving form). I'm reading The Sportswriter by Richard Ford, and his narrator says that after his divorce, he joined a divorced men's group, where the conversation is surprisingly not about women. Instead, there is a sense of relief about just being a man among men. So it's a rich vein to mine.

It's also a full moon today, which means anything can happen. It's just too bad the full moon couldn't wait until Halloween. Although it did make for lovely driving last night, after C took me to one of Seattle's swankiest restaurants. He actually had to wear a tie. I actually wore heels, and not my kick-ass cowgirl slides, either. Dainty little Steve Maddens with a rounded toe. I wore a wrap. It was brilliant.

We spent all night fulminating about politics and whether Hillary's got a shot and the problem in Africa and that nutso geneticist who made awful claims about blacks. My masters-student husband made deliberately provocative statements; I freaked out; he said "I am making deliberately provocative statements, you dope," and we had a good laugh over the whole thing. I fear we frightened the other patrons. In other words, we had a great time, and then drove home happily full of wine and really good food, through the balmy breezy Seattle fall.

Seriously, I was born in the best month of all. October: what's not to love? The trees are beautiful, Halloween's next week, my mom's on her way here to spend a goofy stolen weekend with me (our plans: walk around the lake, get Mom on scooter, bike up to the corner bakery for doughnuts Saturday morning), and I just turned 38. Beautiful! Lovely! My favorite, favorite time of year. I get all this good energy this time of year; it's renewal and goodbye, all at the same time. October: blessed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And it only took 38 years!

We present this short break in my lifelong series of neuroses to give you this news flash: this morning I realized that a lot of people really dig me. And rightly so.

Here's my horoscope for today, the day before my 38th birthday:

The Sun enters your birth sign today to mark the beginning of your astrological month. It's time for you to review the previous year and think about the upcoming one. You are still moving through a time of great transformation, so the impact of therapy, yoga or other spiritual pursuits is greater now than at other times of the year.
I woke up happy, and my husband and my dog just added to that. I know, blah blah blah, bluebirds routinely fly out of my ass. Then I realized I had maybe 20 seconds to run to the bus, spent 5 of them reading my horoscope, and split.

Now, my bus is not like other buses. It's gorgeous. It winds through my neighborhood, which is all Craftsman homes with leafy deciduous trees turning scarlet and gold and flaming sun orange. The breeze made tiny locust-tree leaves drift like gold snow across the quiet streets.

Cue bluebirds.

I don't know if it was the leaves or the horoscope or the fact that running for the bus had finally shunted some blood to my head, but what I realized - my emotional transformation, if you will - is that I take on a hell of a lot, most of which I have no business taking on. There's a time and a place for emotional baggage, and you know, I think my own personal train has left that station.

I was 25 when I saw a photograph of my favorite cousin standing with a girl who looked like a real sweetheart, like someone you'd immediately be friends with. I hoped they were going out, so that I could meet her.

And then I realized he was standing with me.

It was a photo from a few years back, during an unfortunate perm period. And when I recognized myself, I immediately started ripping me to shreds: I need to lose 20 pounds, I look like an idiot in that picture, my nose looks bizarre, why did I make that face?

It was shocking, how unkind I was prepared to be, how wildly judgmental, now that I knew I was looking at myself. That hurt like a punch to the stomach. How could I not love myself? And if I didn't, who ever would?

I'm not there anymore, thank God. Years of therapy closed that particular pit. But every once in a while, I find myself feeling that way again. The withdrawal of a friend feels a lot like that, actually. Even though her reasons for withdrawing have nothing to do with me, it still affects me. And it affects me like that: unloved.

But last week, five friends got together and started taking photos like crazy, left and right. And you know, I do need to lose 20 pounds - thank you, chocolate babka. I frequently look like an idiot - because it makes them laugh. Sweetest sound ever. And my nose? I've got Dad to thank for that.

Now, back at home, I look at all those photos of that chubby, crazy, imperfect me, and I am thinking, I'm so lucky. I am lucky that I am me. And I am lucky that I have all of you. So thank you, thank you, CherryCon Five.

And now, the night before my 38th birthday, here's a present for you: I hope you have the kind of friends I have.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Home from heaven

My friend Ellen just wrote, "I have never felt so carefree, so lighthearted, so joyful, so loved, so consumed with hilarity, so exactly where I wanted to be. Fabulous."

She was writing about the tiny writer's conference/retreat a bunch of us went to, and as usual, she nailed it.

I was lucky enough to be in the company of women I respect, admire, and in some cases truly love, for five whole days. I met two people who I hope will be lifelong friends, and hung tight with another 5 who already feel like lifelong friends. We had five days of nonstop laughing, and if I could have one wish, I think I might just spend it on reliving that entire week.

And now I am in black armband mourning over the fact that these wonderful people are scattered all over the country: Ontario, Maryland, Dallas, London, Yorkshire, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania. You know, WAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ME. Those places get great people! Can't they share? I find it very selfish of them. Selfish states! No biscuit!

Eventually I will secure permission to post some photos, but for right now, all I've got is this octopus, and a wacky photo of me acting on a dare (Ellen: "I dare you to stick one of these tattoos on your face." Me: "I'll do you one better!"). I'm the one wearing green.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wax + collage

Collaged the buildings, built the hills and sky out of layered wax. I love how vibrant it turned out. When you see the painting in person, the buildings have this sort of misty glossy look to them that's really appealing.

Leaden voice! Voice of lead!

What is with me lately? I can't get up a head of steam here. I write posts and my voice comes out all wrong, either lead-heavy or off the beat. It's funky, and not in a good way.

But that's about to change, mi amigos. I'm heading off to Ohio to spend a week in the company of some of my favorite people, although some of them can't come, which makes me cranky and irritable. Why can't you people just drop everything and SHOW UP? GOD.

In other news, I got in touch with my best friend from the second and third grades the other day, and she's just as fab now as she was then, although now she has boobs and sons and a husband and a dental practice and even better dreams than she had back then, which is saying something. And she FINALLY copped to having a crush on the same guy I did, which she never would back then, because she always did know how to play it cool. Unlike moi.

Apparently, the crush stayed cute throughout the rest of elementary school (I moved away, tragically, and thus was unable to make him marry me like I always planned), but then got all sullen and gawky in high school. To which I say, join the club, baby.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The woman at the precinct

The woman is about 5'4, slight build, 50ish with silver-white hair in a tidy bob. It's still damp from the shower. She is dressed entirely in black: black riding breeches, shiny black equestrian boots with a two-inch heel, worn, quilted black jacket. Her accent is American but polished, and she is carrying a designer bag. Small gold drop pearl earrings and chunky tortoiseshell glasses. Also designer, I suspect.

If I were 12 years older and had serious money, I like to think I would look like this, but I could never be that severe. Some turquoise would find a way onto my person; there would be a headband or a neckerchief, something. Artsy earrings, or strange European shoes.

I am behind her in line at the Seattle PD's precinct on 5th between James and Cherry--the new one, right across from the new city hall, in the same building as the new muni court. This precinct doesn't look like the ones I used to hang out in when I was a crime reporter. It's clean, for one thing, and it's been beautifully designed with poured concrete floors and textured concrete walls, recessed lighting and nice chairs. It's the money precinct.

She goes to the window and she asks, in a voice that doesn't seem to carry but does in the bank-lobby atmosphere, for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. From her demeanor, she might be shopping for melons at the farmer's market, but she asks whether felons are allowed to join the military. She asks someone else a minute later.

I look at the girl in line behind me. She is about 20 with badly dyed red hair, cheap black synthetic pants, and a knock-off bag. Her name is Monette, I will learn when the police call her name. Her eyes have grown wide as she listens to the woman at the counter, and we giggle at one another very, very quietly. She gestures to her boyfriend to tell him about her. They whisper fervently for a moment.

"You do not need a concealed weapon," he tells her, and walks back to his chair.


Here's some recent work - the one above is called Foundering, and the next few shots are details from it. I painted it thinking about a couple friendships that are currently on the rocks, in my circle. The colors are more vibrant than these pictures suggest, and there's a lot more texture than my crappy Instamatic camera captured.

This one above looks like souls, to me. People who've been washed away by waves, and this ephemeral little nothing is all that's left.
Below is a detail from Extinct, which I've been working on. It never seems quite right. Even the camera isn't cooperating: it's way too flashy!

So that's enough of that one. Below is one called Sense and Sensibility, which I wasn't sure of at first, but now it's hanging in the dining room and I love it more than I love wine, which is saying something. Not sure you can see, but the lighter area on the left was impressed with a long strip of cheesecloth, which I then ripped off the wax (all these are encaustic) while the wax was still warm, which left the imprint. Then I fused and now it looks like charred earth. Excellent.

Detail from Sense. C isn't a fan of the 5 little pegs in the corner, so they may go. I'm on the fence, myself.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My office

Jenny started this a while ago by posting photos of her office, pre-cleaning. I've cleaned mine because October is the month of Family Visits, and no one in either my family or C's needs to know just what a packrat I am.

On the other hand, the fact that I consider this "clean" may tip them off.

My office, and yes, those are 8-foot curly willow branches on either side of my desk:

You can't quite see it above, but that's an eensy Ganesh in front of the monitor.

Below is my writing altar, which is equal parts things that attracted my magpie eyes (including Jerome, a hand-carved wooden angel head) and little things that remind me of my friends:

  • Sterling silver sacred-heart charm from Santa Fe, bought when I was there with my BFF Carrie
  • Fabulous Demeter Sex on the Beach candle from Eileen
  • Two tiny pigs from Heidi
  • Two tiny mermaids that Molly and I picked up in Capitola (which I was probably supposed to give to Heidi but ended up keeping because they're such a lovely reminder of a wonderful night) Here's the expanded view, with a collage from Pere up there on the left (see skull).
    On the other side of the monitor is the business end: stationary, notebooks, a small wooden cow, monks hard at work, little woo-woo things from Carmel, and a little Good Witch figurine Mom gave me last spring. Also, snacks.
Monks, sacred hearts, an Easter cow and Ganesh by the keyboard: my grandmother would be so proud.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Death by babka

Babka is my latest obsession, thanks to Deb. It's the heroin of the baked-goods set, all swirly and dark and dense, like your richest fantasies come to life. Yeah, that fantasy.

I mean, if that's not bondage on a plate, I don't know what it is.

But know this, lest ye follow me down the path of chocolate sinfulness: babka kills, my friend, and it does not leave a pretty corpse behind.