Wednesday, November 19, 2014

flour mill

my work would keep me in stockholm for the next 7 months. i sent word ahead that my only requirements for a living space were that it be immaculately clean, totally quiet and within walking distance of the studio. a flurry of worried emails littered my inbox regarding the impossibility of fulfilling my request since all the best hotels were on the opposite end of the city. my terse response was a copy/paste of the original post. i subsequently automatically deleted any emails regarding the subject as i was too busy to give it any more thought.

3 weeks later when i arrived in stockholm i was met by a small dark man in an ill-fitting black suit and a chauffeur cap holding up a placard with my misspelled name. he loaded my bag and we traveled in silence as i concerned myself with answering all the emails that had piled up since i'd stepped onto the plane. as the car rolled to a stop in front of the studio, i knit my brows and tilted my head as a question. 'you're over there across the street on the top floor. they found you a spot in the graduate student housing.', he answered directly. i gave him a tip, thanked him, extended the handle on my bag and rolled it behind me toward what looked like an abandoned flour mill. as i passed through the glass doors into the cavernous space, i became aware of the sound my leather soles made on the worn, silky smooth cement floor. sssss-clip, sssss-clip. it made my ears feel relaxed and i let my eyes wander over the beautiful decay left by the flour industry. giant stainless steel vats, the still rollers of gravity conveyer belts winding through the space like a massive sleeping python and the walls of small paned windows three stories high flooding the details of the factory with golden hour light. by the time i'd closed myself into the freight elevator, i felt myself smiling.

when i stepped out onto the top floor, i saw a row of louvered doors. here and there they would open or shut as some preoccupied grad student shuffled through. 'perfect,' i thought,' everyone is as busy as me.' i walked down the row until i found my room. a bed, a closet, small desk, sink to brush my teeth and a key to my personal toilet/shower directly across the hall.

i unpacked my things and headed over to the studio.

Monday, November 17, 2014

the master

with incredible skill, speed and precision, he grabbed, dispatched, gutted, scaled and extracted two perfect filets from each fish. into a large bucket went the heads for stock, the tails got tossed over his shoulder to the gallery of hungry cats. his head was bent toward his task and his little white cap was pulled down upon his skull so firmly it made his ears stand nearly straight out. his tiny fingers, impossibly nimble were glistening with water and blood. his every movement was artful and full of grace. his apron was wet and glittered with cast off scales. the waiting buckets of writhing gills and fins kept getting pushed nearer as he emptied the ones closest to him. i watched him for many minutes and only realized my mouth was hanging open when i started to speak, 'he's-', 'he knows he's a raccoon.' interjected the man standing next to me. 'no, not that...' i said, 'he's amazing.'

Sunday, November 16, 2014

favorite niece

my favorite teenage niece had been behaving strangely. her last few visits had found me with my house too full of people and activity to do anything but observe her from a distance, but i was absolutely sure she was under the influence of something.

this day when she crossed my threshold, i resolved that no matter what was going on i would focus solely on her. she was (as always) delicate, sweet and beautiful, but her pale blue irises were almost entirely obscured by her dilated pupils. when i asked her to follow me to my office she did not hesitate. i closed the door for privacy and before we'd even sat down i asked her what she had been taking, she answered immediately, 'klonopin and benzedrine'. i was completely floored but i commanded every corpuscle in my body to remain steady so i could help her. 'do you know why?' i asked. 'to be crazy and have fun- like you did when you were my age' she answered sincerely. i squeezed my temples with the tips of my fingers and knew she was referring to one of my books. she admitted that she didn't really know what the drugs were, but that she enjoyed the effect. i opened my laptop and she sat next to me staring at the screen while i googled the drugs. soon i'd read enough and quietly closed my laptop. in the next few minutes, she told me that all her friends took the combo and there were literally hundreds of the pills available for practically nothing since the kids were stealing them from their parents. i thought for a long moment. 'if i asked you to come with me when i go to india for 6 months on the condition that you put all of this down and gave some serious thought to not picking it up again, would you?' 'YES!, absolutely!' she gripped my arm and asked me if i was certain and i assured her i was. as she ran out the door, i picked up my phone and started making arrangements.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

only acrimony

Thursday, November 13, 2014

young teacher

i was frustrated. i'd gone through at least a half dozen teaching assistants and the semester wasn't even half over. the leaves of the palm trees outside glistened in the sunshine and bent enticingly in the warm trade winds. the sapphire blue of the ocean could be clearly seen through the floor to ceiling windows that took up an entire wall of my classroom. my students were distracted and screwing around and i knew i was wasting my time even going through the motions. i sighed deeply as i wrote the days work on the board. i tried not to listen to the chatter from the class behind me and stay focused on getting the correct information up in front of them. as i turned around i caught the tail end of the descent of some unknown object that had been tossed across the room. i walked over to the windows to draw the blinds so the projection screen would be visible. as the room grew dark, i saw that all of my clothing had been outlined in one of the fluorescent dyes we used for experiments. i looked like a glowing rudimentary drawing. i started to try and figure out how in the hell they had accomplished the feat, but stopped myself when i realized it was just pushing me further off track. i pressed my eyes closed as the class erupted into laughter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

one more year in LA

faty and mario had lost another tenant. she begged me to take the house for a year but i resisted because i as much as i wanted to help her, i had my heart set on leaving LA. 'just come and look' she implored. after saying no a dozen times, i finally relented figuring i could at least spend some time with her and assure her that everything would turn out alright.

two giant eucalyptus trees flanked the walk leading to the house and rustled their leaves in a peppery greeting as we passed. we walked into the house and i couldn't believe how adorable it was. it was a turn of the century california bungalow in a great neighborhood near the ocean with all the right elements and tons of natural light. though it wasn't a green and green, it was pretty darn close. when you stood at the front entryway, there was an unobstructed view all the way to the screened back door. the mature foliage that surrounded the property gave it a feeling of luxurious privacy. faty said she and mario had restored it before the last tenant had moved in and it truly was beautiful. i couldn't help but picture myself padding barefoot on the wide plank hardwood floors with an unhurried cup of saturday coffee cradled in my hands deciding what route to bike to the farmers market. 'okay,' i said, 'let's work out a price.'

faty hugged me and the deal was made.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


i had trained to be a flight attendant though i had no idea why. the phone rang me out of a deep sleep one morning and i heard 'this is your maiden voyage! today is your first day! be at the terminal in an hour!' my mind was still jumbled from being yanked awake and i wasn't even sure whether or not i had dreamed the call. i ran around my quarters getting ready- hopping into my shoes, brushing my teeth, whipping my hair up into the regulation weird swirl and just trying to focus enough to remember everything. it was only when i was boarding the plane that i looked down at my feet and saw i had on two different shoes.i frantically checked my little black cross body bag and realized i didn't have my phone either- which was an actual disaster since i was flying across the world. as i passed through the hatch i was handed my duty roster by one of the other stewards. i saw arleen's name on the crew list but not mine. i decided the first thing i would do was find her, but as i looked up from the paper i realized the plane was freaking HUGE and she could be anywhere.

i started to hear my name being called and looked around and was surprised to find some of my friends. i pointed out my shoes and we all laughed. howard said, 'my god, your dress!' i already knew it was awful, but i instinctively looked around to catch my reflection in something and reaffirmed the strange, puffy sleeves and pink/brown/green woven pattern and said, 'jesus, i look like i'm wearing imelda marcos' sofa cover!' we laughed again. one of the flight attendants passed by and gave me the stank eye so i told my friends i had to go do my job. they all asked why i was working and i said i had absolutely no idea but i thought it might be for research.

paper in hand, i moved through the plane trying to find arleen. i observed that there were several different uniform styles that seemed to coordinate with specific areas of the plane. great! i'll just find the imelda marcos sofa section and i can figure it out from there! i walked and walked, but nothing. i spotted a napkin that matched my awful dress and got excited that i was closing in, but it was a false alarm. i picked up the napkin anyway and held it in front of me like a ticket as i wandered aimlessly through the plane. i was really getting sick of looking for my station, so when i heard paul's voice say, 'hey, lady, take a load off and share a cocktail with me!' i did. we joked about my uniform and my shoe mistake, caught up on some personal stuff and then i started to feel guilty. i took another quick sip of my martini and left paul to continue on my mission.

eventually i just gave up wandering and started to do flight attendant 'things' in the wrong area- but really, it wasn't helpful because i didn't actually care (or even know what flight attendants do...) and since people were hopping in and out of jacuzzi's on the floor i chose, i was only moving clean towels from one spot to another. finally i said to another flight attendant, 'this job is meaningless. i can't do it.' she looked at me like i was crazy and said, '5 grand for two hours of work, you must be loaded to turn that away.' i stared back at her with my mouth open as i did the math in my head; over two million a year!? god, i could finish my book in costa rica and live like a queen. i decided to double down and at least look like i was working.

fast forward and i was still useless. my friends kept finding me and making me laugh and i was directing passengers to wrong areas etc. when the plane landed i left with my friends to find a great restaurant and laugh some more.