Lately I’ve lost the deep peace that comes with having time and energy to burn. And with it, some creativity. People say that creativity needs time and space to breathe. I always thought that was pretty much B.S. — an excuse for lazy people. But it’s totally undeniable: I just started a second, 10-hour-per-week job, and those hours have indeed soaked up those excess brainwaves and made me the kind of person who’s determined to get from one stepping-stone deadline to the next but who’s missing all that empty time in which to daydream. We’re plum out of original thoughts ’round here.
-myopic negativity disguised as being realistic
-insecure bragging disguised as telling-you-a-story-about-me
-antibiotics that are made of sulfates
Yesterday Kevin and I saw Wanted, the new movie with Angelina Jolie and what’s-his-face… James McAvoy. It’s filmed in Chicago, and the whole time I’m seeing places I know; I know exactly how it feels to step around that corner with the Irish pub, or hear the el grind along next to your window. So maybe the movie’s location compounded the Superpower Effect, as I call it: Any time I see a movie where people have mad fighting skillz (like The Matrix, or Kill Bill, or Spiderman even), I leave the movie and think my body should be able to act like that. Like, maybe there’s some switch I forgot to turn on that lives just below the skin on my abdomen and can be activated by pressing my belly button just right, ready to turn me into one of those people who can kick a lot of ass and floss their teeth at the same time. So I have to sorta talk to myself as we’re leaving the theater and popcorn is crunching underfoot and teenagers are jostling each other out the door, and tell myself in a firm but soothing internal conversation: No. You do not have superpowers. It sucks, I know, you want to be able to curve a bullet with your mind and knock out the bad guy with a kick in the jaw and walk away all casual — like man, you could really use a cheeseburger. But you’re here. In Chicago. Without superpowers. And getting on the escalator in the lobby suddenly seems like the lamest form of transportation ever. Worse when Kevin rides down by lifting himself, like a gymnast on those parallel bars, no feet on the moving stairs, and I’m totally spooked out, because for another nanosecond I think we can fly and kick and walk up walls… and then I remember, again, that we’re not in the movie.
the good: got a second job, take that you crazy government trying to make me all poor and shit, guess what I’ll work harder. vegetables are growing from the ground, maybe we’ll all live if we need war gardens again, especially if tomatoes can fight. people are getting married, see this love garbage works, you’re endeared by the cadence of their voice right before a joke, the way they look in snug t-shirts, their morning eye crust. david sedaris wrote a new book i don’t like, so let’s joyfully chalk up more imperfections to good writers. i washed a bunch of laundry, ate a bunch of bright fake orange sun chips, took the laundry out of the dryer and only streaked a few things with my bright fake orange fingertips. that is called good karma.
This weekend was Midsommarfest, the annual street fair in my (ancestrally Swedish) neighborhood. The theater where I work was supposed to have a table there in a booth with a few other nonprofits, a “Fliers! T-shirts! Raffle tickets!” kind of thing. Saturday morning we arrived at the nonprofit booth to find that several other neighborhood nonprofits had already arranged their displays and wares on all available table space. Holding armfuls of merchandise and papers, plus a hollow plastic hen (receptacle for all completed raffle tickets), I was troubled. A large, glossy-tan booming-voiced man from a local community counsel declared, “Didn’t y’all hear? We only get half a table each this year.” The three other nonprofits looked around sheepishly. I adopted a deer-in-headlights look. An elderly man and woman from the Edgewater Historical Society started slowly condensing their large science-fair-sized display into one half of a table. The elderly fellow pointed at my companion, a young red-haired man with a rolling suitcase full of t-shirts. “The girl can stay. No room for you though.” We chuckled like he was kidding and set up, moving piles of fliers and raffle tickets slightly left and slightly right as though square centimeters were the last food on the island.
I found two reps from the event company running the street fair. They were approximately 16 years old and wearing shiny lip gloss and tight t-shirts with the name of the event company on them. They had another space for us, a large space. But no canopy. As it was approximately 100 degrees in bright sunlight, this too was troubling. Especially since we’d paid for a space with a canopy, being fair-skinned theater wimps. But we packed our things, moved them to Space 2, a luxuriously large space. A patch of pavement with a beat-up folding table in it. Home. Without a roof. A half-hour later, the sixteen year-olds returned with a canopy that they’d borrowed from the people running some of the concerts, a bright blue overheard tent called “family-style gazebo” on the vinyl zip case. Sweet. For the next four hours, we were lounging amidst the glory of Midsommarfest.
But this was a 2-day street fair. And there were thunderstorms overnight. And we arrived Sunday morning to find that our borrowed, blue family-style gazebo had completely bent and blown up against the side of the Alamo Shoe Store. It was still raining and storming, we were again carrying armfuls of supplies, and now our loaner roof was in a tangle of angular metal and canvas.
Kevin had volunteered to help me carry stuff over that morning, and I bet he immediately regretted it, because we were then stuck trying to track down those sixteen year-olds to tell them, Yo. This tent. It’s busted. And we don’t know whose it is.
Two hours later, the rains had mostly stopped and we were back in the nonprofit booth. The Edgewater Historical Society hadn’t shown up for day 2. So we could have the whole table. At 1pm, I made an executive decision to simply go home. I only went back to the street fair that night, for a margarita and to listen to Hairbanger’s Ball sing that song about pouring some sugar on me.
Some poems have stuck with me for years, remembered and forgotten, phrases popping into my consciousness at random times: I am sitting in the diner and the poem comes on the jukebox; I am walking down the street and the poem floats down from an open window. “The Patience Sutra” has stayed with me that way; I read it in high school and have never quite forgotten the feeling of possibility it gave me.
Let’s steal a car
and drive to the mountains
Let’s do it right now
We’ll buy a bottle of wine
and sit on a railroad bridge
and sing songs to the moon
We’ll find a fuse
and we’ll set it on fire
Come on right now
Coffee cigarettes whiskey sex
Let’s eat everything that makes us crazy
Come on we’ve got to go
We can’t wait even a minute more
Tonight is the end of the world
So let’s dodge this catatonia
that sings us into dangerous sleep
We can sleep when we’re dead
We can diet
when famine rolls into town
Enough of this comfort and anesthesia
Enough of insurance
Can’t you see the beautiful body
you’ve been assigned
Don’t you want to test it?
Run it like a race car?
Despite planting tomatoes, my thumb, it is not green. My houseplants must consider themselves miracles. They know they’re living in a household that claims to love them but, when times get busy, forgets about them entirely.
Eliina and I used to live in one-bedroom apartments stacked on top of each other like a cheap apartment club sandwich. Often she would venture from her piece of bread up to mine, and when I opened the door she’d instantly lock eyes on the plants. They never looked good. At best, they were pale and limp. At worst, dead. She would pick them up (in my memories, she’s murmuring to them, but maybe she doesn’t do that) and put them in the sink, where she’d fill the whole pot with water, let it filter through the soil, fill it again and then let it sit in the sink to drain. Emergency resuscitation.
I always imagined that this soaking/draining process felt so good to the plant. A few hours later, they’d be deep green and perky again, like the drought never was.
On Sunday night, I spent hours wandering around Lakeview by myself with a book, an apple pastry from the Chinese bakery near my house, and nowhere to be, the first non-scheduled time I’ve had in a while. Then Oriana and I met up and took a walk to the lake, where we laid next to it and looked up at the stars, the satellites, and the lightning in the approaching clouds. Laying near the lake does something to my brain, like the moment after the ambulance passes and there’s space where the sound was. Or like a wilty plant flooded by the faucet one time, and then again, and then left to wake up in the sink.