Thursday, July 24, 2014

MFA Submission Excerpt

Once upon a time I thought I was going to get a creative writing MFA. This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for my application back in 2009, when I still thought the world could be a beautiful and hopeful place. It’s based on a two-week tour I went on with a Gainesville band. I wish so much that I could go back to that day, if only for a few minutes.

     I sat on a swing at the far end of Jay’s backyard, breathing in the smells that perfumed from the keg of homemade beer that Jay and Dan had rolled out just in front of the back door, as the two dogs ran playfully through the crowd.
      Here, amidst the vines and weeping willows left over from a simpler time, it was easy to fantasize about being a high-browed southern belle fanning away the heat with my wide, lacy cap, while talking about my day at the Kentucky derby. The people in my family were northerners, and so everything that I found here seemed more novel and singular, and wholly foreign. All the while, the others flourished in the familiarity of the setting with their quilted ancestries spanning over the expanse of southern cities that, if mapped out, all flowed across the Bible belt as a self-proclaimed river of morality. This country was theirs’ before it was mine, with their sixteenths of Cherokee and their eighths of Suwannee and their great great great’s that fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War and the French and Indian War.
      I could hear the Georgian twang in Celia’s accent reach up into the night with new levels of guttural zeal, as they all rehashed memories of Christmas dinners and family reunions where this uncle flew in from Arkansas and that Cousin drove down from Tennessee. They were my other, the managers and owners of the sweatshops that my Great Grandparents worked in as immigrants from Poland and Russia. And now, generations past and I was welcomed in with them, the Ashkenazi Jew, fled from a continent-worth of hatred, and at home in Kentucky. I smiled to myself, the over comer of truths that my grandma had promised to me when I was young. “You can be friendly but never friends. They don’t care for us.” Teaching me the words to hate them by, “Goy,” “Gentile,” “Them.”
      Celia slipped from the group and settled in a seat next to me, and we both rocked back-and-forth and sipped at our drinks and smiled. “I’m so glad you came with us,” she said.
      “So am I.”
      The boys set up just as the whispers of crickets crept up around the tiny party, and so I moved back inside to film. Dan had just changed into a sequined jumpsuit that Jay had given him, the pants bell-bottoming out over his shoes further encouraging the spectacle that Dan had already set out to create with his rainbow bathrobe and red spandex one-sie.
      I balanced my camera in one hand, as I sipped at my homemade beer, swishing the strong hint of hops between my teeth. When they had finished, I found a chair placed off in a dark corner of the living room, meaning to disappear into the shadows and watch them all interact. It was there that Josh found me. Everyone else was crowded around Dan and Jay, who were back to laughing about family quirks as friends came up to congratulate Dan on an excellent performance. It was not long before I noticed Josh at my side.
      “Hey.” He spoke first. I looked at him, but could only see two white half moons snaking over the top rims of his glasses, a reflection originating from the brightly lit room off behind us, and that is precisely what I spoke towards.
      “Good set.”
      “Thanks.” The background sound of laughter and conversation filled up our silence until it seemed almost not to exist. “I noticed that you liked science fiction.”
      “Yeah,” I replied and wondered whether he noticed my beat-up paperback of Ender’s Game poking out of the corner of my purse or that I had lent Neil my copy of Dune somewhere between North Carolina and Tennessee. “I like science.” I felt dumb at my reply, but I didn’t know what else to say.
      “Cool.” His half moons disappeared as he looked down.
      “What kind of stuff do you read?” I wanted nothing more than for those two moons to reappear.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

To Peter

Peter often forgot to knock when he’d come into my room. He was always looking down at his green phone. He’d laugh because I would usually scream (I’m easily exciteable) and then I would laugh too. He would then take my desk chair, the one with wheels on the bottom, and clear off whatever I wore the night before and plop down, still looking at his phone the whole time. “Whats up, dude?” Peter loved the word “Dude,” it was the only proper noun he ever used, other than my name, “Alexandra.” Peter called me Alexandra because I told him once that I wished more people would call me that but that it was too much of a commitment because it is such a long name. Peter and my cousin, Craig, are the only people that have ever consistently called me “Alexandra.”
Peter and I used to watch bad movies till late into the night and talk over them. No one else could stand to watch with us unless they were very drunk or tired. One time when Peter walked into my room without knocking he found me sobbing on the bed. “What’s wrong, Alexandra?”
“I didn’t get into this art show.” So silly now how absolutely sad I was, then. I’m sure Peter even knew it was silly but instead of telling me that he went out later that day, when I was at work, and bought me a dozen blue daisies or tulips or whatever those flowers with the 6 pedals and the petite stem are called. He left them in a vase at my door. I didn’t even know it was him and wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t thanked the wrong person, my other roommate, Erin.
“No, Peter bought those for you, because you were sad.”
That was the kind of person that Peter was. He would have never told me that he had left the flowers because it wasn’t about him buying me flowers, it was about me feeling better.
This is the sixth close friend that I have lost. I know this because I counted between whiskey drinks last night. You think by now I’d be a professional at losing a friend, but the honest truth is that death is death, and Peter is gone, and the door that he always kept open is sitting right down the hall from me, shut. When I first noticed he was missing I went in and found a dirty plate he had obviously left because he was in a hurry and planned to clean when he got back. Stupidly, I thought he would be coming back, to clean his dirty plate. I don’t know why.
Sometimes Peter would just sit quietly next to me as I drew. I didn’t mind, because I knew he was lonely and so was I. The truth is, I needed Peter, I needed him there, silently playing on his phone, every so often interrupting my drawing to show me a cute picture of a bunny or puppy he found on instagram. Peter was always the most consistent thing in my life.
I’m not one to really talk about feelings, I much rather listen to slayer and smash down a door than to say the same cheesy things that we’ve all heard all of our lives. But I owe it to Peter to just say that life is fucking short and whatever choices you make are your choices, but just make sure that you are filling your time up with what you want to be doing because when it comes down to it, life will never be easy, but it’s worth the struggle.
I miss you, Peter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy 60th Birthday, Dad

            If you are an intimate friend of mine, or now that I think about it, just know me in passing, you probably know that I am accident-prone.
            When I was two I pushed myself down a flight of cement steps, which brought my bottom teeth through my bottom lip. A year later, I decided to surprise my mother and jump on her, to which she responded by instinctively kicking, catapulting my body into our coffee table. My dad had to sew up my head in our living room. I’ve been flung out of gulf carts, hit by cars, bitten by horses, fallen UP stairs. Before I moved to Baltimore, I went to jump off my friend’s roof into a pool and missed and instead hit the side of the pool and bounced in (a whole separate story).
            Then, in 2011, I got a job, which allowed me an unlimited supply to free booze. On my first week, I tried to bike home but instead hit the curb and had a large scrape/bruise on my cheek for two weeks as well as a slight concussion.
            Let me preface the rest of my story by saying that I never broke or even fractured a single bone throughout any of these misadventures.
            So, now that you have background, here is the rest of my story: I must have really messed with the dynamic order of the spirit world because my luck has been completely fucked lately.  It started at the beginning of January. I tried climbing on some rocks down by Fall’s River, a river in Baltimore that is comparable in disease-ridden sewage to the Hudson River in New York, and fell in.
            The next morning my car got broken into. Not to steal, I have nothing to steal in my car, just to ruin my day. I also managed in this time to accrue two separate parking tickets. A day later I went biking with my friends and my brake went out while crossing North Avenue, a major road in Baltimore, and got hit by a car, injuring my right wrist. Then, that weekend, I went roller-skating and fell on that same wrist pushing it to the limit and forcing me to spend the entirety of the night carrying my hand. This didn’t worry me and instead of going to a doctor to have it x-rayed I went to Rite Aid and bought a wrist guard and a shit ton of Ibuprofen and took off two days of work. After that, I went into work for a mandatory meeting and found out that the restaurant that I worked at was closing. I then spent the next two weeks working as much as possible with my bum hand, which incidentally is my writing hand, therefore I was practically useless. Got good tips out of sympathy though, “sympathy tips.” Ok, so I lost my job, I was low on money because I spent it on the tickets, my replacement car window, and taking off work and ultimately losing my job. I figured it couldn’t get worse. Mistake.

            Now, a few weeks after the fact, I have a hand that still hurts and not much money to spend on fixing it. But still have a pretty great attitude on life. I’ve hurt myself too many times to get too bogged down with bullshit.
            And then I sprained my knee. Actually, more literally, I dislocated my kneecap; I felt it jump around in my knee before twisting it back into place. That wasn’t fun. It was after performing a particularly awkward dance move at a friend's dance party. Soon afterward I flew home to South Florida. Half for my dad’s birthday and half to be taken care of and shed off some of this bad voodoo.
            Getting on the plane was hilarious alone. As my readers should know, I HATE PLANES. I had to go through security in a wheel chair with a wrist guard, knee brace, and my crutches balanced across my knees. They let me skip out on the metal detector and instead subjected me to an in-depth pat-down. Then they tested my various braces for explosives. Both came back positive. That is when two cops appeared and escorted me into a private room for further searching and interrogation. Explaining my injuries only made them more suspicious of me, “Roller skating and dancing? Seriously? So then how would you roller skate after hurting your knee while dancing? Ok, so let me get a timeline? So you hurt your wrist before your went dancing? So then why did you go dancing? Are you sure you want to stick to this story?” Despite the fact that my respective braces continued to test positive for explosives they let me go, realizing that I was not a bio-terrorist, just an idiot.
            In Florida, my mother freaked out when she saw me, not knowing how bad off I actually had been and quickly jumped into action finding an appointment with anyone with an x-ray machine.
            So the next morning I went to the doctor, a friend of my father’s and incidentally the very same doctor that treated my back when I fell off that roof.
            They asked me to fill out a form with questions like social security, address, and occupation. For occupation, I put down retired (it sounded better than destitute).
            After my x-ray, the first thing the doctor said to me after hearing me out was, “Roller-skating and dancing? Really? You don’t have a better excuse than that?” Then laughed at me for at least two-minutes as he went over my chart and was reminded of my last reason for a visit.
            This was the last straw for my diminishing pride and so I interjected with, “Well, I was also hit by a car!” Forgetting that I had chosen to omit this detail along with a few others to my hysteric-prone mother, who immediately interrupted his sustained laughter with a falsetto, New York- Jew “What??”
            Then, he looked at my x-ray and told me that I had broken my wrist and required surgery because I had waited too long to treat it, to which I responded with my own falsetto, New York-Jew “What???” (Three question marks instead of two).
            He told me that I was tough, which reinstated my pride then pulled out a huge needle in order to drain my knee and watched me slip into a panic. I admitted that I hated needles; so to distract me he asked me what I wanted to do as a career. I told him that I planned to become a professor. He said, “A professor, eh? Well be prepared to always vote democrat, then.”
            “Oh, don’t worry, Obama definitely has my vote.” I thought that his comment meant that he was on my side.
            “Are you kidding me?” Nope, that comment was actually meant to be translated as “be prepared to be poor the rest of your life.” And so we fought. We fought while the man had a needle in my leg draining about 60 CCs of blood out from under my kneecap. I couldn’t feel a thing over his over-confident accusations, “See? You’re totally brainwashed!”
            After yelling back that I watch Fox News as well as the other sources, he passed me off to the nurse so that he wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore.
            His nurse whispered in my ear, “We like you,” referring to the rest of the doctor’s staff (apparently they’re all democrats) while putting my wrist in my first-ever cast. I used my good hand to pick up the cup of all my blood and asked if I could keep it to which my mother responded with an adamant, “No!” 
            The doctor then began his dictation which turned out to be a 10-minute excuse to make fun of me, his laughter filling the pauses after period and comma.
            Afterward he called my dad to tell him that I was going to need surgery, finishing the conversation with “Oh, and happy birthday Paul!”
            At some point in all of this, his wife came in, the daughter of a former Hitler-youth, and consistently reiterated how much she loved the Jews as a sort of penance for her family’s history, her adulation climaxing in “I wish I was a Hassidic Jew.” To which I could only respond by laughing. 90% of this woman was make up, breast enhancement, tight, revealing clothes, and oh yeah, a Jew-hating father (I guess that’s technically just 50%).  She also gave me the worst metaphor for why Obama shouldn’t be re-elected, “Imagine you had an ‘A’ in school and a guy that was slacking off decided to trade his ‘D’ for your ‘A’ so that he got your ‘A’ and you got his ‘D’. So you guys switched grades. That is what our economy is like right now.” That isn’t how our economy works. I didn’ t correct her however, knowing that she actually was incorrectly citing a famous article from a professor at Harvard.
            After my appointment, my mom brought me to my dad’s office, in crutches, a knee brace, and a cast. He introduced me to his patients as his daughter that just got back from Afghanistan. One of the women actually believed it and patted me on my shoulder and whispered, “Thanks for serving us.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her how I actually got this way.
            Happy 60th Birthday Dad!



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

I'm keeping my funny stories to myself this year, but I feel like my costume is more than enough of a story.
It took me two weeks to hand sew, It's really cozy and warm, I want to wear it everyday.

Don't worry, I didn't remove any of their tags.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Parents' First Time in Baltimore

            My parents came to visit me last week. As soon as I picked them up I could tell that my dad was heavily sedated. “He had to take Valium. We had a hard time getting through security,” my mother explained.
            “Why?” My parents aren’t terrorists but for some reason they always have a hard time getting through airport security. My dad was almost arrested twice for having a knife in his bag – he likes to pack like the apocalypse is coming, in an hour.
            “They were extra brutal this time.”
            “Yeah, why?”
            That’s when my father awoke from his sedation, “The sensors kept picking up something around my belt so I offered to show them that there was nothing there.”
            “They thought he was undressing,” my mother cut in. “They started yelling, ‘He’s trying to get naked!’ And your father was just standing there holding his pants and staring at them.”
            “I hate planes,” my father declared. So that’s where I get it.
            That night I took my parents to meet my roommates. My father decided that since he wrote a very beautiful Eulogy for my mother’s cousin and wasn’t allowed to read it at the funeral that a good icebreaker would be reading it to my friends. So he did. It was really a good eulogy.
            My parents came to visit in order to celebrate the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur, together. We all fasted from Friday night to Saturday night. Not because we are religious, to quote my father, “Organized religion is a joke.” But because, “It’s good to fast for a day every year. Good for the soul.” My dad considers himself highly spiritual.
            And so we fasted. By noon we all had terrible headaches. My father decided that we needed to chant. He chants, a lot. Ohm Mani Pad Mahoom, over and over again. When I was younger I used to join, but I’m not much of a joiner anymore.
            We broke fast at Tapas, a Tapas-themed restaurant. They served us Sangria. My father doesn’t drink but if he does he drinks Sangria. “This is the best Sangria I ever had!” He told our waiter as his lips began to redden with the stains of red wine.
            He got pretty drunk.
            When our waiter came back to take our order for another round of Tapas, my father tried to get him to sing the song “Tomorrow,” from the play Annie with him. Then he explained to my mother and I how that song is one of the best songs ever written other than the use of the word “Always,” as in, “Tomorrow is Always a day away.”
            “That’s so stupid! Why does tomorrow always have to be a day away! That song is so hopeful otherwise. I bet it was written as only but some pessimistic asshole decided that Annie had to have a bleak future. Pessimistic assholes! This is why America is going to shit. It’s because of pessimistic assholes!” He was drunk.
            Our waiter came by again and my father ordered another pitcher of Sangria, punctuating his request with, “My wife is trying to get me drunk so that she can have sex with me!”
            Then my father introduced me to Mel, some sort of proper noun that he had been alluding to the entire trip.
            It was an electromagnetic field detector. Like what people use to hunt for ghosts. My father had one and was excited to have it in Baltimore since according to him, “South Florida isn’t haunted at all!”
            And so I brought him to a few places on the Charles strip and apparently for anyone that was wondering, Baltimore, or particularly some businesses down Charles Street are pretty haunted. Especially that back mirror at Club Charles.


            We had a following. I overheard people say, “There goes the ghost people.” As I was forced to reassure everyone that my father was a doctor NOT a ghost hunter, I don’t think that helped.
            I was sad to see my parents leave.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

George Washington's House

            My family gets kicked out of a lot of places. Pretty much because of my dad. When he was 12 he set off a small bomb at the local Hassidic camp, twice. The first time he got away by jumping off a 20-foot cliff into waist deep water. The second time, the rabbis actually got a hold of him. Rabbi Goldfarb, the founder of the camp, broke the ancient Hassidic rule and used a phone on the Sabbath to call up my grandmother and inform her that my father was no longer welcome within 30 feet of his camp. His exact words were, “Your son has gotten into this camp twice.”
            To which my father responded, “Correction, you’ve only caught me twice.”
              Because of statute of limitations he is now officially allowed back in Chicago. We can’t go to the Museum of Discovery and Science anymore because he was illegally climbing on one of the exhibits. Actually, now that I think of it, we also can’t go back to the Aquarium in San Francisco for the same reason. My dad likes to climb.
            Off the top of my head here’s a list of some other places we can’t go back to: two of our neighbors’ houses, the community basketball courts, The White House, Certain parks in Disney World, Tom’s Video Rental, I’m sure I missed a few.
            The best place we got kicked out of was George Washington’s house. I was 10. My family had decided to take a trip to Virginia for vacation. My dad had just bought a new VHS video camera, his obsession at the moment.
            George Washington’s house was my mom’s idea, some history for my sister and I.
            The place was boring as hell, not just because I was 10, but because it was a house. The tour guides took their job very seriously. Each room had its own guide dressed in authentic colonial garb, who made sure to start off their history lesson with a warning that videotaping was prohibited. We probably wouldn’t have noticed if they didn’t repeat the same warning in every friggen room in the place. It also felt weird since otherwise they were very strict to keeping to their colonial theme. “A phone? What is that? Is that a new trend in Europe?”
            My dad decided that it would be funny if he went up to every tour guide in every room and ask them on camera if we were allowed to tape in the room. He explained it to me as, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we had a video of a bunch of people saying no? I bet it could go on Letterman!”
            And so he did this. We taped every single tour guide in every single room in that fucking place. Every one of them just said, “no,” and then my dad obediently turned off the camera.
            It wasn’t till we got to the third to last room, I think it was Washington’s study, that a tour guide didn’t cooperate. Instead of smiling and saying, “no,” she flipped out. “Sir! Sir! Get that camera out of my face! Sir! No taping! Sir!” She shoved us out of the room. She was a serious tour guide.
            We thought that was the last of her, but when we were finally through the entire place, walking out of the stables and bathing in the sunlight, my mother apologizing and promising that we never had to do anything like that again, three police officers stopped my family.
            Behind them was the lady tour guide. She was using the large men as a shield against my father.
            They asked for my dad’s camera. He just laughed. “I wasn’t taping anything in the house. I was just taping the tour guides. I thought it would be funny.”           
            The cops didn’t laugh. They didn’t get it. “Show us the footage.”
            So my dad showed the police the video he took. When they finished they looked at my father like he was insane and firmly told us that we were no longer welcomed at Washington’s house.
            “Thank God,” was all I thought. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I HATE PLANES

I hate planes. I hate having tiny seats with no legroom. I hate having my elbows touch a complete stranger for 3 to 6 hour intervals, especially when those neighbors think that a seat assignment is a new opportunity to make a friend (Mormon). I hate male stewardesses (stewardii) who feel emasculated by their largely female profession and thus overcompensate and police everyone. I hate turning my ipod off because theoretically it “might” throw off the pilot. I hate that you can’t go to the bathroom if the seat buckle light is flashing even though all of the stewards are free to move about the cabin. (What makes them the masters of balance? I graduated from that school at the age of 3). I hate the tiny toilets that feel like they might take you and your excrement with them into their fourth dimensional vortex. I hate that on every plane there is a baby and that baby is irritable.
            I got on a plane today.
            “You’re out.” Was the first thing the welcoming stewardess said to me simultaneously putting her arm across the walkway to block my entry.
            “I’m out?” I watched as the person ahead of me innocently walked on into the plane.
            “You’re out.” She pointed at my shirt. My boob was hanging out, not only out of my shirt but out of my bra. My hardened nipple was staring up at the stewardess with calm stillness. “You need to tuck in.” She illustrated this with hand movements like she was showing me how to buckle my seat belt. I watched a 50-year old man use the Washington Post to cover his boner as I remembered that I probably should not have worn the same bra that a naked lesbian had tried to tear off of me at pride two days before. I tucked in and walked on.
            That incident threw off the rest of my flight. The stewardess didn’t waste any time in warning the rest of the staff about me. I could see her hanging out at that alcove behind the pilot’s seat touching her shirt then pointing in my direction to the rest of the staff. I was not taken seriously for the rest of the flight. I had to ask twice for pretzels and when I got up to use the bathroom was stopped because of the largely arbitrary seat belt sign. If I don’t think I can handle turbulence then I remain seated, simple. The same judgmental stewardess waited for me to walk all the way up to the front of the plane, hand literally brushing against the handle to the bathroom, to stop me and make me return to my seat. Of course, the light went off as soon as I sat back down, and when I returned she refused to make room for me while tending to the precious first class.
            I‘d like to think that we live in a classless society but planes still practice the caste system further illustrating the capitalist issues of America with the catered to “first class.” I looked at the first class –they were all seated long before I boarded the plane. One of them was talking about how great the movie Super 8 was, another was reading the latest issue of People magazine while simultaneously brushing her hair – Brangelina are fighting again! A third was scarfing down some Auntie Anne’s and wiping his bald forehead with the paper bag it came in. Is this really representative of America’s elite? If so, I want in.
 **note: This photo is a picture of a Hassidic Jew who has just grabbed his hat box off of the conveyor belt.**

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