Thursday, December 31, 2009

As One Dies, Another Is Born

Happy New Year

Tomorrow a new day, month, year, and decade begins. As the 2000s wind down to their final night, and as 2009 stands in its last hours, I find myself amazed and a bit sad that this time is coming to an end. Everything in my life, everything of significance, everything of excitement and joy and tragedy, everything that has made me into who I am, happened in this decade.

It was when I left Dirty Town, when I went through high school, when I turned eighteen, when I got my license, when I had my first kiss, when I started college, when I entered adolescence and discovered myself. I was a teenager of the 2000s.

In a way, the passage of the decade has a sorrowful taste; it is final confirmation that the time of my generation's youth has passed. The era of our childhood is gone, leaving us with a new time in which we must go forward as adults. That sadness does not predominate, however, for while much has passed much is to come, and the greatest passages of my saga at least lie not in the wilting decade that will breathe its last tonight, but in the nascent one that will wail a newborn's cry with the morning's dawn, and in the years beyond it.

It has been my tradition on these New Year's Eves to reflect on the past, but that is inappropriate now. 2009 has been a year of liberation for me, the first year in which I made good on my promise to live differently. It is enough to say that, and then look forward to the action I will take, must take, in 2010.

If the ups and downs I've experienced since 2000 have taught me anything, it's that the moment you live in is precious, and that it can be lost. If a person squanders his present, it will one day become his past regret, as much of the 2000s became for me. I don't dwell on those mistakes, though, for dwelling is an error in itself, and diverts attention away from the current day.

I have overhauled my life, and my greatest goal as this new year and new decade start will be to continue in that vein, to persist in doing things that are new, things that I never thought I could try or accomplish, and to not let fear, that most crippling and limiting of all emotions, cow my efforts.

My specific resolutions for the New Year are four:

1. Taking greater care of my body, seeing to my health through improved diet and exercise, and improving my physical person even when that is difficult.

2. Making more of the tremendous gift that is my writing ability, and devoting the regular time to my projects that they require for completion.

3. Ensuring my future success and prosperity through excellent grades, participation in internships, and other actions that will help me secure a fulfilling career after college.

4. Pursuing with full devotion my passion for music and love for singing; for too long I've dreamt of but not labored toward achievement in this area, an area in which my vocal talent and ear-catching songs would enable me to do well. A year from now, as 2011 is rung in, I want to have made significant strides in music.

I can do it if I believe and work, as I can do many other things. I'm confined to nothing. An important era is ending, but I don't mourn it. A more important one begins.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Oh, Brother

I loved you immemorial
And loved you since you were
And not even the deepest fall
Could that full love deter

From cradle side when you became
To separate beds we shared
In moments wild, moments tame
I loved you and I cared

In synching laugh and joining cry
You were my heart, my helping hand
Through wounds we kissed and cheeks we dried
You were my earth, my grounding sand

Because you are a part of me
And in our arms flows sacred blood
When you're subsumed in anarchy
You cannot be the only one

Did I not whisper words of warmth
To mend your fears when we were small?
And did not you with child hands
Bring comfort and my woes dissolve?

Half of my self, my sight, my soul
I will not get another
Slips into thunder's crashing roll
Come back to me, oh, Brother

Christmas Day

I'm having a very merry Christmas, and I wish a merry Christmas to all of my friends in the blogosphere.

Thomas, Powell, Pie, and I were awake this morning around eight-thirty with our parents to open presents. The gifts for Powell and I were scant (though I did receive a globe set in metal casing and magnetically positioned to mirror the actual tilt of the Earth, with the one flaw being that the polarity is in reverse, causing the South Pole to constantly face upward no matter what I do), but Pie naturally made out like a bandit.

She benefited from the profusion of supernatural creatures apparently lining up to give her presents; not only did she receive packages from my parents and Santa Claus, but the Chocolate Monster who lives in our kitchen pantry left her a book of “monsterology,” so she can "learn more about all the wonderful monsters who live in my world" in exchange for some Ghirardelli chocolate we left out last night.

Now my mother is preparing dinner as my grandfather Hick Family, Aunt Eighties Hair, Slow Uncle, and Hick State Cousin (Beautiful Cousin's family) chat in the kitchen. Uncle Car Salesman, Aunt Ostentatious, Blonde Cousin, and Pretty Hair were due to be here from Native State around one o'clock, and we're expecting them at four or five. Pretty Hair and Uncle Car Salesman will leave tonight for Humid State, where they lived for two years before moving back north this year, but Aunt Ostentatious and Blonde Cousin will stay with us, for which I'm excited.

I'm working later on today, but it's not until after our dinner this evening and I'll only be in for a few hours.

While my presents were few, they were interesting and enjoyable.

Thomas and I, due to our shared fourteen-year-old boy’s stature, have made a habit of wearing one another’s clothes, and in some cases these exchanges have become so frequent and so long-lasting that ownership of certain items has transferred in everything but name.

Thomas decided to formalize this arrangement today by presenting me with two different Christmas gifts.

The first was a winter coat that he promised would be elaborately wrapped.

When he handed it to me this morning, however, I saw no ornamentation whatsoever save for a single tag stuck onto the chest addressing the garment to me and listing the provider as “Thomas,” scratched out and replaced with “Santa.”

“Nice, Thomas,” I said.

“Thanks,” he laughed.

The second thing was square shaped and wrapped in candy-cane paper. When I tore off the plastic sheath, I saw to my great surprise a shoe box.

“Thomas!” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe you bought me shoes!”

He just stared at me, a wide grin on his face.

My eyes alight with joy, I opened the container, took in what was inside, and turned a serious look at my brother.

“Where’d you get the box?” I asked.

“My room,” he answered.

“I figured,” I nodded.

For in the alluring structure, behind the misleading wrapping paper and bright colors, all so suggestive of purchase in an actual store, were a pair of my brother’s shoes that had been sitting in our garage for months.

“I thought you actually went out and, you know, bought me something,” I noted dryly.

“Oh, of course not,” he replied.

Our house is full now, and so is my stomach, but I’m sure before long more room will develop there. A merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Day

The snow wasn't supposed to start falling until midnight, but when I emerged from the movie theater I was in with my family at around 9:30p.m. streams of white had already begun coursing down from the sky.

"You guys," I whispered when I returned from the bathroom. "It's snowing!"

"Right now?" Pie asked, her eyes wide in the glow of the feature.

I nodded as my mother shushed her.

About half an inch had already accumulated by the time our movie was over, and driving home proved more hazardous than we'd thought it would. The whole point of going out Friday night had been to do one last thing while the roads were passable and before we were snowed in for several days, but conditions were already dangerous as we made our way home.

Snowing in the Yard

After we were safely back in our house, leaving quickly-falling snow and freezing roads behind us, I headed over to see my neighbor, Black Boy.

There are two young men around mine and Powell's age who live on either side of us, and they could not be more different from one another.

Ghetto Boy, a nineteen-year-old former classmate of Powell's, has been in trouble most of his life, and he brought that trouble to Mountain Town when he came here from Native State to escape a violent past that included gang membership.

At sixten, he had an opportunity that many young people in his situation could only dream of: removed from a destructive environment and settled in a small town where his history was whatever he chose to tell, he got the chance to start over.

Instead he got involved with drug dealing, was caught, and then found himself expelled from Mountain Town High School after only several weeks' attendance. Ghetto Boy is smart as well; he's perfectly capable of doing well. His bad example and indulgent manner proved to be a negative influence on Powell, nurturing my brother's already curious nature regarding alcohol and marijuana. It was this aspect of Ghetto Boy's behavior that finally ended our friendship; I considered him a close companion for a long time and could handle his illicit activity because I wasn't susceptible to it, but his conducting himself in such a way around my young brother was something I could not abide.

Now, Ghetto Boy spends most days sitting at home or looking for another party to go to, the only things left to someone who has no job and is not enrolled in school.

Black Boy, on the other hand, is an eighteen-year-old college Freshman whom I met as an overweight fourteen-year-old 9th grader. Over his four years of high school he joined the track team, lost a significant amount of weight, and worked hard toward making it into college.

It was to his house that I went after my family returned from the movies. I hadn't seen him in months, and the two of us talked for over an hour about his university experience (he's transferring because the all-black school he attended this semester is "too ghetto") and my brother Powell, whose actions the last few months have troubled and distressed me.

He helped me gain some insight, and I told him I hoped he'd keep me informed of what twenty-year-old Powell does, keeping Powell of course in the dark about our collusion.

By the time I trooped home at around three o'clock in the morning, my feet sank through the snow all the way to the ankles.

The next morning, my front yard was a sea of white, undisturbed save for the occasional wind that blew the crystals around in a fine, cold mist.

Our Front Yard

For the entire morning, our only interaction with the snow was through our windows; we much preferred to stay inside eating warm food than go out into the intensifying storm, much to my sister's agitation.

"Alright," she said the moment she was done with her breakfast. "Time to go out."

"No, Pie," my mother answered.

"Okay," she said once breakfast was cleaned up. "Time to go out."

"No, Pie," my mother repeated.

When my parents were attempting to pick a movie to watch and couldn't agree on a selection, Pie shot in, "Well, I guess we'll just have to go outside."


It was around one o'clock that we actually left the house. All four of the children, with the rare inclusion of Powell, piled into my father's huge company truck and headed out into a town that had been abandoned to the snowdrifts by its residents.

As we approached an intersection near downtown Mountain Town, we saw a truck broken down in the snow. We stopped to ask its driver if he needed help, but he told us he was calling friends who would come for him, so we made a right onto Main Street.

Main Street

Ploughs had made no dent, and even if they'd tried, the snowfall was only getting stronger. We'd spotted one of our neighbors shoveling his drive Saturday morning, only to have it submerged again within hours. The roads were more spaces between the buildings than they were actual streets.

We drove around looking for an empty parking lot in which to repeat an activity we once engaged in thirteen years ago. During the Blizzard of 1996, when I was eight years old, my father tied an inner tube to the back of his truck and hauled us around in the field behind the local middle school, giving us a winter thrill ride as we clung to the sides of the plastic bowl with bumps in the road sending us airborne and the wind and flying snow searing our faces.

After a half hour or so of looking, we located a desolate space adjoining a book-binding factory behind a dead apple orchard.

Desolate Parking Lot

We had a great time taking turns braving the biting wind and threat of capsizing on our small plastic toboggan before a curmedgeonly security guard emerged from the almost-empty factory to tell my father we were on private property and had to leave immediately.

Going home didn't end the fun, though.

My father, Powell, Thomas, Pie, and I grabbed sleds and headed off in search of hills to slide down.

The Abominable Snowman

Thomas Gets Ready to Sled

Pie Playing in the Snow

Powell wound up turning back, but that still left four of us to trudge through the two-foot snow down to what used to be a lake and is now an empty sodden bowl. Filled with snow, though, it made for a compelling sledding opportunity. It was challenging at first, as the deep powder collapsed under us when we tried to sail across it, but after we'd tunneled a path down the incline and flattened it out with repeated use, we found ourselves flying atop the snow with ease.

Even my father got in on the action.

Behind The Houses

Going home, it became evident that the storm was far from over, in fact hadn't even peaked.

The neighborhood was drenched in rapidly-rising snow, and as we walked down the street to our house the precipitation was coming so fast and so thick that the forms of my father and sister were obscured in white-gray haze.

Pie and Dad Walking Home

By this time it was three or four o'clock in the afternoon, and with sunset coming before five we resolved to stay inside.

Sort of.

While no one actually went out in the sense of going anywhere, Thomas and I had vowed as soon as we heard of the snow to get in the hot tub, located conveniently in our backyard, before the storm ended. The fact that two and a half feet of snow was on the ground by Saturday evening in no way nullified that commitment.

I layered myself in three pairs of pants, a tee-shirt, two sweaters, and a jacket before pulling on some boots and going out to clear, unclip, and take off the hot tub cover.

The plan was for us to do this in full winter attire, come in, strip to our underwear, and run like the dickens back out to the tub.

I hopped atop the cover and swept thirty inches of snow off with my arm, then got down and unfastened the side farthest from the house. I walked around to do the same with the opposite end, and that is when the snow-covered fire escape from my basement room collapsed beneath me and I fell five feet to the bottom, the plastic door and two feet of snow coming down on top of me.

Oh, no, I thought. For a moment I couldn't move.

"Help!" I yelled.

No one heard.

Then I took a breath, got my wits about me, and lifted myself out of the snow with some effort. That experience, however, was nothing compared to running in boxers through thigh-high snow with temperatures below twenty degrees.

"Oh, oh, it hurts so good!" Thomas cried as our bodies sank into the 104-degree water. Every inch of me burned as if it were on fire. In that hot tub, that small square of heat surrounded by deadly cold, the world was a warm and comfortable place. Inches outside of it, though, wicked winter reigned.

Thomas and I took turns reaching out and gathering huge handfulls of snow that we dumped into the water, watching them melt within seconds as our hands singed with the sudden transition from frigid to boiling.

It wasn't the smartest thing that either of us has ever done.

When the day was over, though, we had no regrets. The only thing we mourned about the snow was that there wasn't more of it, and that this weekend's storm was likely to be the biggest of the season.

Hair Update

Only a little late this month.

Here is what my hair looked like in November:

My Hair



Here is what it looks like now:

My Hair

My Ponytail

My Ponytail

It's now well past my shoulders, and people have started asking me how long I'm going to let it get. I'm not really sure. Someone told me the other day I ought to let it continue down to my waist, and while I'm not so sure about that I'll definitely let it get longer than it was before I cut it three years ago, back when it looked like this:

Enormous Ponytail

It's almost there already.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It Begins

It Begins

As the Storm Approaches

I'm sitting at my kitchen table, eating a second bowl of my mother's famous chicken noodle soup, a huge batch of which she made in advance of the serious winter snow storm headed this way.

Our entire metropolitan area is under a winter storm warning, this rural town in the mountains bracing for a snow total expected to exceed twenty inches. As of this afternoon, the Mountain Town region was slated for one to two feet of snow.

My mother rushed to the grocery store today to stock up on food and other essentials, and tonight she's herding the family out to the movies while the roads are still clear, before we're hit around midnight.

"We're going to be stuck in this house for two or three days," she said when I objected to accompanying them. "We should get out and do something while we can."

All throughout Saturday, we're expected to accumulate one to two inches per hour, and possibly more.

Once the deluge begins, our family will be well supplied with soup, meat, snacks, toilet paper, soap, DVDs, and anything else we need to remain self-sufficient during what is sure to be a blowout.

I'm quite excited.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Eight Inconsequential Things About Me

Gaston Studio, a blogger who's had a long and fascinating journey in life, recently tagged me in a meme asking me to list eight unimportant things about myself. Here it goes:

1. This entry will be very brief because I'm just starting to study for my exams tonight despite the fact that they start tomorrow and I've had since Thursday to review.

2. I've never done a meme before, not counting Twenty Things About Me on Facebook.

3. I am 5'10".

4. I am cultivating a love for Lady Gaga that I never expected to develop when I first heard of her.

5. I feel that the government of the European Union as presented in the class I am taking on it is perhaps the single most boring subject in existence.

6. Everyone thinks I am a huge pot-head. All the time. This Halloween I dressed up as a surfer and everyone assumed I was a stoner. People tell me it's my hair.

7. I discovered honey mustard this semester and am now addicted to it.

8. For lunch I have eaten a turkey sandwich on rye bread almost every day for at least the last two weeks, and the sandwich makers in the dining hall know me well enough by now to pile on the extra turkey without my even asking.

That's it for right now. Important things are going on, but I won't have time to write about them until the end of the week. Thursday is my last day of exams, and my only objection is that they couldn't be over sooner.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Step

I've loved to sing for some time, as my bathroom walls and family will attest. The feeling that I get when I sing is incomparable, and the satisfaction of caressing and maneuvering a note in just such a way as to convey the emotion of a piece is without peer. Along with writing, I consider singing to be my greatest passion.

Until November 30th, however, I had never actually performed for an audience.

Around the beginning of November, Blonde Journalist Friend started work organizing a holiday charity concert that would be performed at our school. She'd heard me sing before so enlisted me as a vocalist (I am musically useless at anything else), a request I agreed to despite my nervousness. I've had perpetual stage fright when it comes to my voice, but my urge to actually perform finally overcame my reservation, and I realized turning down an opportunity that had landed so blatantly in my lap would be something I'd intensely regret later.

"A few songs" turned into four solos, and a week before the event she took me to her apartment to figure out which arrangements would be best. She asked me to warm up using some of my favorite arists, and I did, belting out hits from Avril Lavigne and others.

"Wow, you have a range," she said. "Maybe we should try O, Holy Night?"

I was a bit more apprehensive than she; the song was by far the most challenging in her repertoire, but she wanted to attempt it.

"Can you hit this note?" she asked, plucking a string on her harp. "It's the highest in the piece."

I opened my mouth, thought about it, asked her to play it again, and then produced the matching pitch.

She smiled.


The concert was under-attended to say the least--there were probably fifteen or twenty people listening to us, but I was happy for the small crowd; it allowed me to go on in front of a real audience for the first time without being too terrified to make a peep.

In spite of my worst fears, I got through the entire thing without messing up, and the high notes produced no problems. In fact, my only vocal failing of the night was on the low notes, several of which I noticeably struggled with. My lower register has never been great, and as my upper chest voice has improved with greater vocal use the deeper part of my range has actually gotten worse, if that can be imagined.

We were videotaping this event and I had every intention of posting a revised, pseudonymity-conscious version here. I figure if I can put myself out there in real life, I can be myself out there in the blogosphere. Unfortunately, the camera died halfway through the night and I wasn't recorded.

En lieu of that, I have posted a two-part cover I did of Kelly Clarkson's new song, "Don't Let Me Stop You."

I am so proud of myself for doing something I've dreamt of doing for a long time, and of managing to put my fear aside.

When I finished my numbers, a young man who'd been watching commented, "You have a powerful voice. I wish I could sing like that."

Given that I'd just been hoping I wouldn't ruin the event, this compliment made my night.

It's true that I was shaky and heavily blushing when I first stood up to sing--but several moments later that feeling went away, and I didn't want to stop. After the initial barrier had been pushed down, I found myself high on the energy and the exuberance, a high I'd like to continue pursuing. I want more of this.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The First Blogger Meetup

United States Capitol

I'd been wanting to do one of these forever. I've made many blogging friends in other regions of the country, and every member of my circle seems, with the lone exception of myself, to live in a geographic community of bloggers with whom they are in contact.

Every time I'd read about two bloggers coming together, a jolt of excitement and envy would go through me. The blogging world and the real world are two separate spheres, one orbiting the boringness but intimacy of everyday life, the other entailing all the mystery, crafted images, and speculation of a fable tale.

Many times I wondered at what a fellow blogger actually looked like, or how their voice would actually sound, or if in person they could possibly live up to the aura we all create for ourselves online. Some days I found myself wishing for conversations with Jo(e), or Secret Agent Woman, or Calling People Names (who somewhat alleviated my suspense by recently posting several vlogs), pondering how those meetings might go.

When the opportunity arose to actually come face to face with a writer I'd grown acquainted with through their entries, I was determined to make a good impression. I picked out a nice outfit, exchanged e-mails, and planned on getting a good night's rest the day before.

Not so was my fate.

An extra-large caramel frapuccino consumed at ten o'clock on Thursday evening was enough to keep me bright as a flourescent light bulb all night, and after laying in bed for hours and failing to fall asleep I at last allowed myself to get up for the day at six-thirty.

When I first rose, I looked awful, ashen-faced, red-eyed, haggard-lipped, like Death with a ponytail.

"He's going to think I'm a complete loon," I mused to myself as I bustled around my dorm at a time when some other students were likely just turning in.

After I'd gotten some food into my system and walked around a bit in the refreshinghly cold morning air (I haven't been up so early since high school), my face started to release some of the taught hardness of the recently deceased and assume its more customary condition.

"You should have seen me this morning," I told my blogging buddy when we finally located each other in Washington, D.C. "I was so cracked out. I looked like a common street hooker."

He laughed.

In person, Woozie was surprisingly demure.

If you haven't checked him out, his well-written, informative, funny, and compelling blog is more than worth a peek. In a community where, for better or worse, there are no standards for publication, his site sets a rare bar.


When his words are conveyed through the medium of writing, this nineteen-year-old is witty, observant, and sharp, with a keen grasp for and understanding of current events that exceeds that of most of this country's adult population. Given his deadpan delivery on his blog, and the effortless way with which he tears conservative arguments to pieces, I excpected him to have an outsized personality.

Instead, he was friendly but quiet, suggesting for our lunch a small but very crowded sub shop where we bought sandwiches, chips, and rootbeer. We talked and ate our food on a set of church steps for want of any place to sit inside the restaurant.

"You look like I thought you would," he said.

"Really?" I asked. "It's usually the other way around, that people never look how you'd think they would."

"You act different, though," he told me. "From your writing, I expected you to be really serious and reserved. But you're actually talking like a normal person."

"Thanks," I laughed.

Though we'd never actually met before, we found ourselves in the unusual position of knowing a great deal about one another.

One of us would start in on a story, and then halfway through the other would exclaim, "Oh, I remember that!" even though he hadn't been present when the event occurred.

We'd both forgotten enough, though, or just paid slack enough attention to one another's blogs, that the conversation remained interesting and revealing.

Attempts to discuss mutual favorite bloggers stalled when we discovered that we didn't read many of the same people.

"What about Mo.Stoneskin?" I asked.

"Nope," Woozie answered.

"Oh, he's this really funny British guy," I replied. "How about Ally at Calling People Names?"

He looked perplexed.

"A Woman In Search Of?"

No trace of recognition.

"All of those crazy sex stories?"

"Sorry," he said.

"How about Jo(e)?" I put.


"How do you not know Jo(e)?"

"I just don't."

"Well, you should. Secret Agent Woman? 'Blogging Incognito?'"


"She used to go by Name I Won't Repeat to Protect Her Identity."

"Oh, I know her!"

We shared sexual horror stories (blog post coming soon--and for the record, I did not lose my virginity), discussed issues concerning parents and siblings, talked about our respective friends and schools, and generally tried to keep warm while walking around the chilly capital city.

In Marble City

Woozie at one point had the ingenious idea of standing atop some large vents in the ground near the National Mall, which we did. The metal grates were probably blowing asbestos into our faces, but it was worth losing our lungs to feel the temperature from our feet to our heads suddenly rise by about ten or twenty degrees. It was almost like being indoors, viewing in comfort the shivering citizens of Washington, D.C. who walked the streets around our massive heater.

It was a fun day for the both of us.

At my insistence, Woozie tried sushi for the first time (his reaction was mixed; he liked the taste and disliked the texture, but the restaurant we went to was lower-end), while we bantered back and forth with details of our personal lives and all the normal things that new acquaintances talk about.

He's now one of two bloggers who knows my actual name.

We got along surprisingly well (for which he was relieved, as a previous in-person blogger meetup had not been to his liking), and when the time came for me to return to school to fulfill an obligation at the student paper, I didn't want to go.

"This is going to sound really weird," I said. "But I'm having so much fun that I wish I didn't have to leave. Today should keep going. I kind of want to have a sleepover and stay up late watching movies and eating popcorn and telling scandalous stories."

"Me, too," he smiled. "You know, I'm here until January 3rd..."

I Swear I'm Not Really That Much Shorter Than Him