Thursday, April 26, 2007

please hang up and try again

On Monday, I had lunch with a friend of mine named Shirley. (Mrs. Spag if anyone from my high school is reading this.) Shirley is from Texas, and she's got a pretty distinctive voice. I wouldn't go so far as to say she has a drawl, but I might use the word "twang." Because that's kind of a funny word to begin with. Anyway, as I was on my way to meet her at the restaurant, I got a call on my cell and I answered it without looking at the caller ID.

"Hey!" said a lightly Texan voice.
"Hey! I'm on my way. Are you there already?"
"What? Where are you going?"
"Wait, what?"
"Okay, you're not Shirley, are you?"
And then the woman started laughing hysterically.

"Okay, so to recap, you have the wrong number and I'm just stupid...we're an awesome pair!"

And that's how I made friends with the wrong-number lady. Someone remind me to tell the story about how I rear-ended a guy's Jeep and then he hugged me. (Please refer to subtitle.)

So as Ron White once said, I told you that story to tell you this story.

About...I just counted on my fingers...about seven years ago, I answered the phone at home, which at that time was the house where I grew up. We had one of those old rotary phones. The kind that since the late '50s, no one has used except for my dad.

So the phone rang seven years ago.

"Boy, get yo' mama for me."
"Who is this?"
"Boy, don't you know yo' grandmama?!"
"This isn't, what number are you calling?"

At this point, I was wondering why my grandmother suddenly sounded like an elderly black lady. But who knows what old people do with their spare time.

"Boy, get yo' mama for me!"
"This isn''am, I think you have the wrong number."
"Boy, this yo' grandmama! Don't you know the sound of your own grandmama voice?!"
"Ma'am, I definitely do know my grandmother...and you're not her."

I hope that somewhere in Wilkinsburg, there's a black family who tells the story about how Grandmama accidentally called some white person's house. That story probably ends with how they then bought Grandmama one of those giant phones with the numbers the size of your arm that you have to dial like Tom Hanks in "Big."

In conclusion: I want to be called "Grandmama" when I'm old, regardless of whether or not I have kids.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

little miss manda sat on her veranda, eating her curds and whey. a little old spider sat down beside her, so miss manda nailed it with raid

If any of you in the Pittsburgh area (and also those of you in Texas, New York, and Taiwan) hear screaming, sorry about that, but there are spiders in my bed.

Let me repeat that in case you missed it the first time. In my bed, where I sleep, often unconscious when I do so, there are spiders. Last night as I was lying here trying to convince myself to go to England for one of my grad-school residencies (which I'll have to do if I want to MFA it up in a year and a half) I felt something brushing my hand. My brain instantly yelped "SPIDER!" and I had a hand seizure and the sensation stopped. I figured it was just my imagination -- I sometimes get little feathers popping out of my pillows that tickle me. Then a little while later, still trying to imagine myself getting on a plane, I got the same feeling and did the same hand flick...but this time when I let my hand rest on the mattress, I felt something I can only describe as "sickening" because if I use any further adjectives in an attempt to fully describe what I felt, I may have a stroke and vomit at the same time.

I flicked on the light and saw the now-smashed spider (just one of those "little old house spiders," as my mother calls them, as in the sentence "Amanda, come down off the top of the refrigerator; that is just a little old house spider.") I sat shaking in my bed for a good couple of minutes. Madison, my guard dog, didn't even wake up. Although he is 15, so technically, he's retired.

And just now when I came downstairs to get in bed and do a little blogging and some actual writing and possibly wind up awake till dawn again, I moved one of my pillows and found another little old house spider swiveling its 10,000 eyes at me from atop my lovely peach-colored sheets. So I whacked it with a Kleenex box till it was a disgusting little ball of -- you know what, I'm stopping there, because I don't want to start shaking again. And I also need to change the sheets.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

maybe i'll have the hysterectomy anyway

Just when I thought that it couldn't get any worse, I got a message from some guy literally asking me if I'd like to "have his nerdy babies." How is it that these freaks find me? And why in hell would one think I want to breed with him? Especially when in the next line he alludes to his apparent fetish for women dressed in Star Wars outfits. Oh, yeah. Because if there are two things I love in this world, it's Star Wars nerds and having their babies.

He makes me want to have my uterus scraped out as a pre-emptive strike against his DNA.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

some folks call it a sling blade; i call it a kaiser blade

And some folks call it Speedball; I call it Cecilball.

One of my favorite high-school stories is the saga of Mr. Cecil. He was my gym teacher for one or possibly several years of high school. One of those years, I had gym first period. Because who doesn't want to begin her day in the pre-dawn winter hours of western Pennsylvania shivering on the track field with the majority of the football team playing what else but football?

But now I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me introduce you all to Mr. Cecil. Mr. Cecil is what I imagine Mr. Potato Head would look like if he became a real boy. He had the sensitivity and grace of a retarded Kodiak bear. He liked to add extra syllables in the middle of his words. He also had a somewhat skewed concept of what I was willing to do in terms of a 7:00 AM gym class.

So, getting back to football with Mr. Cecil. Now, I'm what you might call a "hardy" woman. Or "mooselike." I'm built like a Steeler, except I wear my cups farther north. But there's no amount of money you could pay me to play football with the Woodland Hills football team.

So one of these mornings, Mr. Cecil suggested we do just that. There was some guy roughly the size of a Volkswagen Bus across from me. I don't remember his name, but we'll call him Tyrone. Mr. Cecil looked at me and at the array of football players before him. I think the rest of the girls in the class were off menstruating or something; I'd been abandoned like a three-legged zebra. Mr. Cecil conjured up a mental image of John Madden and said, "All right, Amanda, you're going to run a buttonhook pass."

I looked at him. We both blinked. No words were necessary.

"All right, Tyrone, you're going to run a buttonhook pass."

So now you have a pretty good idea of Mr. Cecil and of the kind of relationship we had; to say that he didn't much care for me would be to say that the universe is roomy.

Mr. Cecil had a bit of a penchant for combining things, like the aforementioned extra syllables. But he also liked to combine several sports together. And by "several," I mean all of them. Plus several things that were not sports. I base this statement on the lack of scooter events in the Olympics.

We always knew when we'd be playing Cecilball because it looked like a small bomb had been set off in the equipment closet. The floor-hockey goals, basketballs, badminton racquets, kickballs, hockey sticks, and, of course, scooters, would be strewn about. Also, those horrible green mesh shirts were always out -- because in a game like Cecilball, you need to not only keep score, but have huddles with your teammates concerning strategy:

"Okay, you go down the left and then I'll pass you the kickball --"
"I thought we were using the basketballs."
"No, just the basketball hoops."
"Then what are the hockey goals for?"
"Those are base."
"Wait, I thought whoever had the badminton racquet was on traveling base."
"No, we're going to use those to kill Mr. Cecil."

And of course, that was all supposed to be done on scooters. Who remembers scooters? Even in second grade, no one's ass fit on those things. And there was always someone whose finger had been broken, so we got the safety lecture. ("No one put your hand on the ground.") Because when you set a bunch of 18-year-olds on paper-sized pieces of plywood with swiveling wheels that didn't swivel all the way around, you need to be mindful of their well-being. And everyone's hands were always on the ground anyway because being on a scooter is just doing a crabwalk, only more annoying and less attractive. Only slightly more humiliating than being on the scooter is falling off a scooter. You only fall two inches, but somehow it's never expected and extremely painful. And you can't just get back on the scooter. You have to stand up and completely readjust yourself. And that's if you were lucky -- generally, one person falling set off a chain reaction wherein every other scootered person in the room would crash into that first person like water droplets running into each other on a pane of glass.

Sing it with me now: Glory days! Well, they'll pass you by, glory days! In the wink of a young girl's eye...

She's not winking -- someone just broke her thumb with a scooter.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

seriously, never the same again. ever

Bad news travels faster than good news, no matter where it's coming from or going to. That's why I got my rejection letter from Bennington yesterday and my acceptance letter from Fairleigh Dickinson today. If you're wondering what that noise is, it's the peasants rejoicing.

I'm one step closer to actually having a really strange moment when all of a sudden at the end of a class, a giant binder of blog enties gets whonked down on my desk and I get to meet one of my fan club members. I've always wanted an entourage.

On an unrelated note, my mother ran into a woman whose kids I used to babysit after school every day for a couple years. The younger kid, Matt, is a sophomore in high school. Hang on a second. I need to put my head between my knees.

Monday, April 16, 2007

las vegas: don't forget that we have whores!

All right, Las Vegas, I get it: you have whores. What I don't understand is how you've based an entire advertising campaign around that fact. And why are you advertising, anyway? Is there anyone anywhere in the world who isn't aware of Las Vegas as a travel destination/place to get syphilis? No. The answer is no.

So how many crappy television ads are you going to force upon us wherein the sole point is to remind us that we can go pay for sex and have convenient ways to cover it up? Because it's legal, but who wants his friends to know that the sole reason he went to Vegas was to pay for sex? Las Vegas: Now With Plausible Alibis!

So here's an idea: let's legalize prostitution everywhere. I know, I know: "Cops" will not be nearly as hilarious. No longer will coked-out morons stumbling around town at 2:00 AM in platforms and mini-skirts get to claim they're just waiting for the bus for our collective hilarity. But we can possibly have our law-enforcement officers working on things that actually matter. And, most importantly, we'll never have to listen to another goddamn ad for Vegas whores. And isn't that what we, as a nation, truly want?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

the soup is not amazing and that snowflake is not a poem

I am sick of useless adjectives. Not adjectives in general, but just the handful that my generation relentlessly uses to describe everyfuckingthing. They're not bad words; they've just been hanging around the wrong crowd. (Idiots.) They're always positive words, because sorostitutes with coke-rotted brains like everything. Words like amazing, awesome, fabulous, fantastic, and so on.

Those are just a few I heard today. Someone in a show I was captioning used the phrase "amazing farmer." Really? He's amazing? What the fuck does he grow? Invisible carrots? Gasoline trees? No, I do believe those were just some winter greens. And the mushrooms, while they looked delicious, are not "awesome."

Martha Stewart is particularly guilty of this. I once heard her use the phrase "fabulous drop cloth." I've seen drop cloths. I've used drop cloths. In fact, I used one just this weekend. And I can assure you all that its ability to keep paint off my kitchen floor did not astound or otherwise impress me. It just did what it was supposed to do -- actually, it did that and more, because it was an old shower curtain. It came out of retirement to protect our laminate. And even that I did not find amazing.

While we're all at it, everyone can stop using the word "miracle." Everything is a goddamn miracle. A baby is a miracle, a sunrise is a miracle, not getting hit by an asteroid is a miracle.

No. Just, no. Things can be positive without being a miracle -- and they also don't have to be wonderful, amazing, or any other lazy adjective.

And as a sub-diversion, I'd also like to point out that not everything is a poem. Sunrises are popular here, too. Flowers are poems. Children's laughter. Snowflakes.

Again, no. The people who insist on perpetuating this kind of bullshit are the same people who insist that all talent is supernaturally doled out; that honing a craft is useless. They reduce everything to the simplest definition possible because thinking is way too hard.

This has turned into a new rant, but that's okay.

A while back, I stumbled across and found what I thought was going to be a forum of intelligent discussion. The way it works is this: anyone can write anything on any topic they choose, and other writers/readers rank those articles. Unfortunately, the other members (or at least those who are active in the poetry discussions) are complete and utter morons. I wrote an article a topic called "Why is poetry so hard to define?" Here is that article. It's currently ranked 45 out of 63 because apparently Jack Nicholson was right and they can't handle the truth.

Here's the number-one ranked article, which is complete bullshit. The eye of the beholder? Um, no. Art can be subjective, but a poem means what the poet intends. If there's ambiguity in a poem, it's intentional. (Well, in a good poem, anyway.) How in fuck does a number-one ranked article on poetry assume that every poem rhymes? And contain misspellings and incorrect grammar and punctuation? What the fuck? "A writer uses their skill to convey a message." "Their" is plural, asshole. I'd really like to round up every breathlessly passionate poet I have ever met and have an intervention for every one of these jackasses. We'll see how impossible they find the definition of poetry after that.

I guess we all know what kind of professor I'm going to be. I hope I don't ever hit my students, but I'm not going to promise anything.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

of bungalows and other extraordinary dreams

Today I went to work wearing sandals. When I left work, it was snowing. Ahh, Pittsburgh. How I will never miss it once I finally move away once and for all.

Speaking of moving, my new favorite hobby is looking at the real-estate listings on Craigslist. There are a handful of places I've always wanted to move to...Seattle, Portland, Santa Fe, anywhere in New England. Subsequently, I now have a little collection of dream homes. Because I don't feel like making a bunch of cleverly inserted links, here:

Hello, my name is Amanda, and I'm addicted to bungalows. I also have a fondness for farmhouses and refurbished schoolhouses. Those are my New England dream homes. So, on to how I'm going to become rich enough to afford anything remotely similar to these gorgeous homes.

[ wind howls at the windowpanes ]

Right. Perhaps when I finish the next book I'll send it directly to Oprah. (Speaking of which, I am working on what I suspect may be a novel. It's the story of my life if it goes horribly, horribly wrong in a way I almost wish it would. I'll put that on the dust jacket.)

Sunday, April 01, 2007


This is Harrison. If you happen to see him, please send him home. I miss my puppy. And feel free to pass on my number, email address, and the fact that I'll pay a reward to anyone who finds him.