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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Potentially Airborne Eyeballs

In days gone by, I have experienced something I call “Hot Face” – a physical sensation that onsets with anger and frustration, resulting from a direct association with idiots. Perhaps you remember this, I may have talked about it before. And perhaps you can empathize with me, having experienced "hot face" moments of your own. That being said, I must inform you that I have now encountered something called “Potentially Airborne Eyeballs.” I’m not exactly sure how to describe this sensation to you, but I must try. You need to be aware of this, in case it comes upon you. I think the best I can do is this:

Potentially Airborne Eyeballs the pressure of internal stress and tension growing so great it builds, like blocked air, directly behind one’s eyeballs, creating a sensation that said eyeballs may very well fly out of one’s sockets across a conference room table, with vortices and contrails of unexpressed yet righteous anger (that may even appear as blue flames) behind them, as they literally stare down the void of nothingness that is contained in the soul of an empty headed, though quite possibly insane, antagonist.

Warning: presently, this is just a sensation, but be advised, were the eyeballs to take flight out of one’s sockets, authorities will be notified directly (perhaps even the local exorcist) and the individual will most likely spend the remainder of their days in a science lab.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost In The Shuffle

I've been awake since three. I'm sick again (thanks to Pei Wei's "gluten free" dish that I'm convinced wasn't gluten free, but that's a rant I'll save for the day I'm not wishing I could just give it one good vomit and be done with it all). And while I was lying in bed wishing my eyes would just close, I started thinking, "I'm not writing the way I need to. I'm getting lost in the shuffle again."

I say that to myself a lot -- lost in the shuffle. I say that because it happens to me a lot -- caught up with work and the politics of work, and motherhood and the duties of motherhood, and staying alive and what life demands to stay alive (not eating the "gluten free" meals at Pei Wei is now added to that list). Most of the time, when I say this to myself, I have a visual of shuffling my feet while walking shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Earth's sheeple (like leaving a sold out show after three hours in front of a big screen watching a movie about blue people that live under a giant tree the evil white man is about to destroy). This morning however, in the darkness of my bedroom, I had a visual of my own hands shuffling a deck of cards.

I love to play cards, not just Spider Solitaire on my computer but real card games with real people and real cards in my hand. Rummy, Contract Rummy, Hearts, Spades, Euchre, Poker, War, Speed, Golf, Crazy 8s, Go Fish, Black Jack, Slap Jack... you name it. If it requires a deck of cards and it's a game you love that I've never played before, teach it to me. I love them all. I love sitting at a table full of people, watching and listening the rise and fall of conversation as we all shift from simply being social to concentrating on the game because, let's face it, we all want to win. I love keeping track of who played what, when, and where, and pride myself on my ability to predict what they will do next. I love winning and I love watching people win (card games draw out personality traits that people often hide in an average social encounter). I love the smell of the cards, the feel of them in my hand, and I love to shuffle them.

I started playing cards as a little kid. My parents had given me a deck and, like most children whose hands seem too small to hold a full deck, I shuffled by spreading the cards all out on the floor and swirling them around in a big pile. It didn't take long to learn that smearing the deck all over the floor, though it looked like I was mixing them up, wasn't an efficient way to break up the pairs or "matches" created in our last Go Fish round. Because of that, I decided to teach myself to shuffle properly -- like an adult.

I remember shutting myself in my room for hours with cards flying all over the place as I worked to teach myself "the bridge" of the shuffle. I remember impressing all the little neighborhood kids because I was the only one on the block that knew how to shuffle a deck like their dad. I remember teaching a couple of them how to do it too.

The shuffle is important. It's to be done fast, efficiently, and it doesn't hurt to have a little style while you're at it. And if you think about it, if you're a real card player, you want all of the previous cards in your hand and the hands of your opponents to get lost in the shuffle -- part of the silent thrill of the game is watching and waiting for what you need to turn up.

So as I was lying in my bed, feeling the burn in my stomach, thinking of all that I miss while I'm down for the count, and writhing in a bit of self-pity, I realized, as I saw my own hands shuffling the deck, it isn't about being lost in the shuffle (that stupid face in the crowd image), it's about playing the cards in my own game. It's about being fast and efficient, so I don't slow the game, and it's about shuffling the different aspects of my life around with style. And once I deal the cards for this round, I need to remember that each aspect has a place and purpose in my endeavor to come out on top. Sometimes I have a hand full of nothing but numbers, but I need the deuce through ten to complete the series. And I am the face card, the nobility of my own life. And the Ace In The Hole is my creativity. Like an unexpected jolt of inspiration, I'm sometimes lucky enough to hold all four aces in the first round of play, but most of the time I'm lucky if I have one. And when it comes to the days I've had lately, I need to remember that the Ace isn't really lost in the shuffle, it's always a part of the deck -- the thrill is in the watching and waiting, and sooner or later I'll draw the Ace into my hand.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stalkers & Valentines II

(Two weeks ago: Pandora is walking down the hall when she notices Admin and WhiteNoise standing off to the side gleefully smiling at her.)

Pandora: What?

Admin: (big smile) You have an admirer.

WhiteNoise: (stupid giggle)

Pandora: Pfft... (goes to her cube)

WhiteNoise: (steps into Pandora's cube) You don't even want to know who it is?

Pandora: (puts the files on top of her desk) Not really, no.

WhiteNoise: Are you kidding me? Someone has a crush on you and you don't want to know who it is?

Pandora: There's a certain policy that I live by -- don't shit where you eat.

WhiteNoise: Haha! You crack me up. (sits down) So, want to know who it is?

Pandora: (logs into her computer) Someone in Survey?

WhiteNoise: Yes.

Pandora: Dillon.

WhiteNoise: Oh come on! That's old news. Why would I tell you something that you already know?

Pandora: (turns around) It's someone new?

WhiteNoise: (smiles) Yep. Kurtis.

Pandora: Who?

WhiteNoise: Kurtis. You know, Kurtis Thomas?

Pandora: Kurtis who? I don't know anyone down there named Kurtis.

WhiteNoise: Oh my god! You don't even know who he is???

Pandora: Should I? Is he working on one of my jobs or something? I swear, I've never worked with a Kurtis. I've worked with Dillon, Manny, Rooster, and Troy. A couple times I've worked with Marna, but other than that... I've talked to no one down there. I go in, talk business, and come back out.

WhiteNoise: You've never even said hi to the guy?

Pandora: (shrugs) Maybe I passed him in the hall or something and said hello? I don't know, but I do know that I have no clue who you're talking about. Are you sure it's me he's admiring, or someone else?

WhiteNoise: Who else would he be admiring? You're the only Pandora up here. I wouldn't get that wrong!

Pandora: He said something to you about it?

WhiteNoise: Girl, he walked right up to me and asked about you.

Pandora: Huh. (turns around and starts working)

WhiteNoise: Are you serious? You're not interested in this at all?

Pandora: I don't date men from work. You know that.

WhiteNoise: He's good looking.

Pandora: I've never seen him.

WhiteNoise: He's 37. He's a single dad. He has an 8 year old daughter.

Pandora: I'm not interested.

WhiteNoise: He's a really nice guy! You could be missing out on something.

Pandora: What did you tell him?

WhiteNoise: (sits up straight) Nothing, really. I was shocked. I was down there talking to Dillon and he came out of nowhere and asked about you and I felt really uncomfortable saying anything with Dillon right there.

Pandora: Fabulous.

WhiteNoise: So you're not interested.

Pandora: No.

WhiteNoise: What do you want me to tell him?

Pandora: I'm not available.

WhiteNoise: That's it? You're not available.

Pandora: Yep. I'm not on the market.

WhiteNoise (disappointed that the juicy gossip was stopped short, leaves Pandora's cube)

(Today, two weeks after that conversation, Pandora comes back from lunch and opens her email only to find the following message: I heard you like sushi. Would you like to go sometime? :-) Kurtis Thomas, Survey Dept.
Pandora stares blankly at the email, trying to figure out who this person is, when she suddenly remembers the previous conversation with WhiteNoise. She forwards the email to WhiteNoise saying, "Is this the guy you were telling me about a couple weeks ago?" After hearing a distant "Oh my god!" followed by some girlish laughter, WhiteNoise steps into Pandora's cube.)

WhiteNoise: (half whispering) Oh my god, Pandora! Yes! That's the guy! Have you been talking to him?

Pandora: (a bit confused/concerned) Uh, no. I've never said two words to the guy and I still have no clue who he is or where he sits or what he even looks like.

WhiteNoise: What??? You haven't been talking to him???

Pandora: No.

WhiteNoise: Well how did he know you like sushi? (dramatic gasp) Oh no! He must be doing his homework on you! Oh no! Girl... that's kinda creepy.

Pandora: um... what's really bugging me is that I have never even spoken to the guy, nor do I even know what he looks like, and he's asking me out on a date.

WhiteNoise: Hahahahaha! This is crazy! Did you respond to him?

Pandora: No.

WhiteNoise: You didn't??

Pandora: What am I going to say? "Uh, sorry dude. I have no clue who you are."

WhiteNoise: Well you've gotta say something!

Pandora: What? What am I going to say? This guy came out of the shadows! I don't even know what he looks like! He could be standing next to me in the elevator and I wouldn't know who he is, but he obviously knows who I am and somehow thinks we're acquainted enough to go out for Sushi? What do you say to that guy? Why is this even happening to me right now?

WhiteNoise: Hahahahahaha...

Pandora: Oh yes, laugh at me. This isn't funny.

WhiteNoise: Hahahahahaha... I'm sorry. I am. But this is kinda funny.

Pandora: I thought you were going to say something to him. I thought you were going to tell him that I wasn't available.

WhiteNoise: Me??? What was I going to do? He asked me right in front of Dillon! I couldn't say anything in front of that guy!

Pandora: Whatever! Dillon draws up my maps. So he asked me to dinner once and I said no. What difference would it make to him if he watched you tell this new guy that I'm not available? He already knows because I shot him down a year ago. If anything, it would probably make him feel better. At least it would be better than sitting around wondering if I'm going to say yes to a dude I've never even spoken to!

WhiteNoise: Hahahahahahahaha! You heart-breaker you!

Pandora: What? How can I be a breaker of hearts I never get involved with?

WhiteNoise: Hahahahahaha!

Pandora: More laughing... This is serious! I'm going to get quite the reputation down there if these dudes don't get a grip on reality.

WhiteNoise: (catching her breath) okay... so what are you going to do?

Pandora: (stares at the email for a minute) Nothing.

WhiteNoise: Nothing??

Pandora: Well, if I respond to this then more will follow. So... I think I'm just going to let it go.

WhiteNoise: ...

Pandora: What?

WhiteNoise: That poor guy.

Pandora: Poor guy???

WhiteNoise: He's going to be so disappointed.

Pandora: Noise... I have never even talked with the guy.

WhiteNoise: (sighs) Okay. I'll go down there tomorrow and break it to him gently.

Pandora: What?

WhiteNoise: Don't worry. I'll take care of it for you. I'll tell him you're taken. I just feel bad for him, you know? He likes you. And you gotta admit it, you got it goin' on! These guys really dig you!

Pandora: whatever.

WhiteNoise: Oh come on! It has to make you feel good, doesn't it?

Pandora: No. It doesn't. It annoys me. I'm here at work. I work here. I go down there and I talk business. Sure, I smile and I'm polite, but I'm strictly business. And in this guy's case, I don't even have a working relationship with him. So I have no clue how this even came about.

WhiteNoise: It's the Something About Mary complex. Hehehehehe...

Pandora: It's the annoying complex.

WhiteNoise: Well, don't worry about it. I'll take care of it tomorrow. (leaves Pandora's cube)

Pandora: (stares at the email for a bit) I'm cursed. It's Valentine's Day. That's what it is. Stupid Valentine and Stupid Cupid always missing the mark.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Block

I just deleted the whole thing again.

Sorry.

The life is being sucked out of me via Power Point projects and city politics.

I need to take a ride on the flyin' spoon, doo doo doo...

(that's a line I just stole from Creedence Clearwater Revival, in case you didn't know)

Really, maybe that's my problem. I don't have a back door to look out of.
(well, I guess I do, but there isn't anything but a few trees and a parking lot and there's certainly no happy creatures dancing about anywhere)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Explaining The Postmodern

The poem is entrenched in metaphor and symbol. Think about how a light shines in your eyes so badly you can’t look up at it. Light is supposed to help a person see clearly, it literally “sheds light” on something that was otherwise hidden in the darkness. But still, if we look directly at it we’re blinded by it. In this situation, the only thing the speaker can do is look away from it, or down.

The first thing the speaker realizes, when trying to shade the eyes from the light in an attempt to see what lies beyond it, is a force that prevents the hand from doing so – the cable attached to a brace on the wrist. At that point, the speaker realizes all limbs are bound by something unseen, controlling and limiting her ability to move. Once she realizes that, she sees herself strapped in a chair on top of a cracked concrete slab.

The picture should leave the reader with a sense of being interrogated – the chair, the bondage, the blinding light in the eyes and the force in the shadows controlling it all.

Now think about the symbol of the chair and the concrete. The chair is wooden, the thought being that a wooden chair is made by hand, by a carpenter, and therefore “man made.” The fact that the chair is “weathered” indicates that it’s been there for quite some time. The fact that the speaker is strapped to it, belted in, and “woke up” in it could also indicate that she’s been sitting in it for an equal amount of time without knowing it. And what does the “concrete slab” represent? A foundation, something solid. Houses are built on concrete slabs. Freeways and bridges are often made of concrete. It is a support for our lives but it’s a “man made” support, a “man made” foundation. Concrete by definition is “an artificial, stone like material used for various structural purposes,” but it can also be applied to concepts and theories (also “man made”) as in a concrete idea, a firm notion, etc. But if the concrete is cracked it must not be that solid, right? Something that is cracked is flawed and defective.

So what does all this mean? We have a speaker who has woken up to find herself strapped to a weathered wooden chair atop a cracked foundation with her arms and legs bound by some sort of cables extending out to an unknown source of control? And the only thing the light allows her to see is that fact that she’s bound up against her will. So a voice plays, Defiance and Defiance and Defiance. She may not know how she got there or who or what is behind it all and controlling it all, but she has no intention of staying there. So she slowly and successfully unbuckles herself from the chair, fearing nothing but whatever jerks her limbs from the cables. But the moment she takes a step or two, perhaps her attempt to get past the light and see who’s manning the cables beyond the shadows, that concrete slab, her foundation, falls apart and she falls down with it. And all she can see is the light getting farther and farther away and that the cables are still attached to her. Until she finally reaches the extent of the slack in the cables, causing her body to buckle and bend (like a fallen puppet). And as she dangles, there is just enough light left for her to see that there is “ground,” not cracked concrete, not “man made,” but something real, something true and solid. The problem is, she can’t get to it. It’s the so close and yet so far idea. And why can’t she get to it? Because of the cables. Because of the unknown force that’s holding the strings.

So, again, what does all of this mean? It’s basically my commentary on what I perceive to be the human condition, if you will. I wrote this after spending a few years studying theories like Postmodernism, Feminism, Marxism, Fascism, Capitalism, Liberalism, Humanism, Monotheism, Polytheism, Agnosticism, Atheism, and any other ism that comes out of the human intellect and is then forced upon us at the University.

Postmodernism was my favorite theory to study because it was a never ending puzzle and no two postmodern theorists ever said the same thing, nor am I even sure they truly understand what it is they’re trying to say. The theory sort of falls in on itself regularly, which, in some strange way, is part of the point. But the easiest and most common idea to explain from the theory is that it states there is no absolute truth. Everything depends on one’s own perspective – what I perceive to be right you can perceive to be wrong but somehow we’re both correct in our perceptions because there is no truth, there is no right or wrong. My truth is my truth, your truth is your truth, and that’s as good as it gets. There is no such thing as a lie because, well, there’s no truth to prove the lie wrong.

My problem with this theory is that it holds no practical application to life. It’s fine in the University where all we do is sit around and read books and use language to suit our purpose as academics, but when it comes down to the victim of a crime, when it comes down to the person that has to get to work on time because they’ll get fired tomorrow if they don’t, when it comes down to the person who experiences a great injustice in their everyday life it simply doesn’t work. For example: her truth was that he broke into her house, raped her and murdered her daughter, but his truth was that he grew up beaten and abused his whole life and he didn’t know any better and so he didn’t really commit a crime in his mind. By her standards he committed a crime, by his standards it was normal behavior. You see? Doesn’t work too well. So, for my purposes in this poem, the “cracked concrete slab” and the “abyss” she falls into is Postmodern thought.

The cables represent all other schools of “man made” thought – basically all of the isms I listed above. These are the thoughts that control all of our lives, even if we’re not aware of them. The best example of their daily presence in our lives that I can think of right now is “political correctness.” They are all “thoughts” born out of bad human behavior. Capitalism -- born out of government oppression. Feminism – born out of patriarchal oppression. Marxism – born out of socio-economic oppression. And so on and so forth. “Man made” thought processes put into motion to correct a past mistake but all bearing flaws of their own. The trouble is, they are so dominant, interwoven into every aspect of our everyday lives, there is no way to shake them and there is really no way to control them. Hence, the braces attached to the wrists and ankles and the cables extending endlessly to some unseen force.

The wooden chair represents old time organized religion. I am a believer in God, a follower of Christ, but I am not a believer in the organization, particularly the Americanized church. Too often it is used as a masquerade, a fa├žade to house and hide bad behavior. Even more often the people inside the church building are the most judgmental and uncaring people to their own kind. Jesus was a teacher and a healer of the broken and the lost, “let him without sin cast the first stone,” and yet the organization somehow breeds a people that stand with stones in their fist. The organization is, more often than not, a social club more than it is a hospital for the broken or a light in the darkness. This is why, once the “ground” is seen there are remnants of broken chair and concrete strewn across it. The ground is reality, a solid truth made by God, Earth, Natural foundation, not something thought up and written in a book. But even so… the speaker is left dangling there because, well… the point of the entire poem is that humans and their self-sustaining systems will never be able to exist without their own organizations. And I can sit here and say what I believe all day long, but I’m just a person in a cubicle and I can’t change “the world,” and so… I’m just dangling.