Thursday, October 29, 2009



There were supportive girlfriends and there were bitchy girlfriends and Joy Michelle was something in between. She thought of this as she stood in the back of the bar by the doubledoors with her arms crossed and pressed against her chest, watching Michael make a damn fool of himself.

He had gotten the notion to be a stand-up comedian when they had gotten cable. He said comedy “awakened” him, and he was awake alright. Staying up all night to watch comedy specials; angry men talking about dull things and swearing. Joy Michelle hated them. She liked sitcoms. Michael did too, before they got cable. It was a string she pulled with her dad, a little thing to make Michael happy and add a little flair to the home life. Cable is nice to come home to when you work long days. In theory, you get more choices. In reality, you get more crap. This is what Joy Michelle ended up thinking of cable.

When Michael had announced one night while stumbling into bed that he was funnier than half the people on TV, even David Letterman, Joy Michelle had said: Prove it. She’d said it into the pillow, and was mostly thinking out loud. She loved Michael, and she thought he was funny. She laughed when he acted goofy with her. She laughed when he laughed. She liked to hear him talk. But she couldn’t remember a time he had ever cracked an honest joke. She could remember a million times he had told her he could. She could remember a million more where he had blanked out everything around him, soundly focused on whatever angry man had caught his fancy this week, shouting comedy to him from the flickering flat screen.

He had blown up at the Prove It. It exploded his heart. It terrified him, but of course this he did not let on. Instead he laughed meanly and said, I will. Fuck yes I will. They went to sleep with him thinking he would Prove It, and her thinking he used to swear less. He used to be more pleasant. He used to seem happier. He used to make her laugh.

For two days he seemed to prepare to prove it. He sought out an open mic night. He invited their friends. He bought a pack of index cards and a bottle of whiskey. He wrote notes and smoked cigarettes and did not ask Joy Michelle about her day at the hospital. He used to like to hear about the babies on her floor, the names people gave them, if any of them had young brothers and sisters who pretended they were theirs.

But here they were at O’Hallorans and there he was on the stage not looking at his notecards. Not saying what he may or may not have written. Not saying anything, really, except what a drag girlfriends are. Not much more than that. And something hardened in Joy Michelle that she never had expected to. Something stuck in her side. Here she was, wasting her time, watching Michael make a fool of himself and not even having the decency to try.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

tea + whiskey

I'm sorely unpracticed at writing short stories, but I want to get into it. My challenge to myself is to write one little story a day, and eventually get to a point where I write a bit meatier of a tale a month. Because I'm the precious type that likes to name everything I do or make, I'm gonna call these little guys tea & whiskey tales...because they were probably written while consuming a cupful of one or both. I present tea + whiskey tale 1...

Places You No Longer Fear

1. The drum closet in the Band Room.
2. The car, pretty much anywhere.
3. The back of the away-game bus when parked.
4. Your own house at night.

There is still something terrifying to you about the school parking lot. First off, it’s lit up like a 24-hour grocery store. And there is almost always another car there. A janitor, someone from the team, another band kid. There’s a girl in all AP classes who is rumored to never leave the school. They say she sleeps on the rolled-up wrestling mats, stored away on the stage…or with Coach Lanza in the Pool Office.

The parking lot is small but open. The forest preserve stretches out behind it, endless wooded black. Neighborhood homes stand watch just across the street, dark and quiet but full of people you know. Maybe sleeping. Maybe seeing. The place stirs you up and you try to avoid it.

But if you’re there long enough after a game and you’ve managed to wait out the crowd and see the band room exit open, you start to feel good. And those times when you kiss her you pretend you are a soldier defying a general’s command. Advancing instead of falling back. Or just quitting the war. Because you found something better. Even if it’s something you’re still a little afraid of.

Monday, October 5, 2009

100th post!

And all I've got to say is

WORD, Elvis Costello-by-way-of Sondre Lerche. WOOOOOOOORD. (100 times.)

All you toy soldiers and scaremongers
Are you living in this world sometimes I wonder
In between saying you've seen too much and saying you've seen it all before

PS...You know I love you more than slightly.

Yo Teach

I started a new teaching job last week, and it's been rough.

Not just The Kids Like Klimt Better Than Ernst, How Do I Get Them Interested In Ernst rough. The Kids Have Never Had An Art Class in their Lives rough. The Kids Are Sick of Being In School With No Breaks Except for A Half Hour Feeding Period rough. The Kids Think They're Stupid and So Does Everyone Outside of Their Immediate Neighborhood rough. The...the emphatically capitalized letters could go on.

There's only so much taking shit from 7th graders on the chin you can do without feeling something internal start to twist or crack. Today and last week have been a test, of what I am not sure. I knew this would be an "intense" bunch but didn't realize how much threatening, promising, cajoling and handclapping would have to be done to gain even the most pathetic purchase on the 7th/8th grade psychological stomping ground. I'm not a teacher. I'm a candy-briber. Detention-taunter. Square.

It's a wholly bizarre experience to be the authority figure to a group of people who were born when you were in 6th grade. Also: to help said people with math. I'm very far from them in age and maturity, but not so far that the girls shy away from touching my clothes and snatching my tattooed wrists, asqueal with delight at the fashion options available to them once they get out of junior high. The boys ask if I'm romantically involved with virtually any male teacher over the age of 35 (the mean age of most of them), which actually isn't as outlandish as it seems in the moment.

Still, my name gets forgotten. I'm not one of them, not in age or race or style. I'm called Miss...Miss...Mrs...Uh....or Teacher. I had to swallow my giggles when I heard my first Yo Teach, and my bile when called Mrs Lady Person.

Not all of this is completely new, but this time I'm catching a whole new group and dynamic at a time when they would rather do anything but stumble through the next set of algebra problems or Outsiders chapter. They're tired, they're annoyed, they're disheartened, and the scary part is they have every reason to be. These are the kids my friends are afraid of, even though they're sweethearts and nerds and goofs. These are the kids that will grow up hard, either slow or all of a sudden.

These are the kids it's EASY to call stupid, mean, jerks, little shits.

They're not, and I know they're not, but in the middle of getting conspired against and lied to and tricked and begged for candy and sneered at for ruling with a soft lead fist the stuff you know darkens in the bright light of the swift, mean, blinding part of you. Because it's easy then. Because fates were already sealed, far before you arrived on the scene.

So I buy the candy and I do the work and I calm the shrill in my voice. Smooth the hipster librarian sweater out and focus on three things:

1)The good true part
2)What I can do
3)the compliment Juan gave me on my brooch.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I think all I am good at is lying and being a good person. But I still could be better at both.