Saturday, February 26, 2005

*

I’m running short on inspiration these days. The painting thing was going well, but I want to incorporate this awesome paper I bought** and need to procure a protractor (not the semicircular ruler thingy that helps find angles, the circle-drawing thingy with the pencil and the really sharp metal point. Are they even allowed to sell those things anymore? I have a bad feeling they went out with paste, which is, in the long run, a much less dangerous school supply.) So I’m at an artistic standstill until I can fully outfit my studio.

Also, freakin’ television has taken over my life. If only I would have known American Idol was going to be on three days a week instead of two, and that Top Model was starting anew midseason, and that I was going to get addicted to reality slop like Wife Swap and Super Nanny… well, don’t know what I would have done. But strides to prevent an after-work life that revolves around TV would most definitely have been made. It snuck up on me, though, and now I am addicted.

Speaking of… I’m on my seventh or eighth Diet Cherry of the day… feeling a little jittery … and cancerous… from the aspartame.***

Anyway (tangents!) I know some of the orange pylons road-blocking my creativity come from this inability I’ve had since moving back to Texas to finish a book. I’ve started – heck, I’ve gotten two- or three- or four hundred pages into – five books since I moved back, but I haven’t finished any of them. Cavalier and Klay turned disappointing three-quarters of the way through; Vanity Fair was ruined when I saw the so-so movie and lost interest; I took a break from Bend Sinister and reread Lolita (one of the only things I’ve been able to finish – the others are The Cheese Monkeys – again – and Magical Thinking, which I read in its entirety on an airplane); and I’m trying with JR, I really am, but every time I pick it up, I have to backtrack 10 pages to remember where I left off, and end up further behind than ahead. Agh!

It’s gotten to the point where I won’t let myself look at the fiction section at Border’s because I know I’ll buy something on my to-read list**** and have to add another half-read (OK, OK, quarter-read) book on the pile on my nightstand. I’m running out of room, so the new motto is, “only 553 pages left to go.” And I will finish. Sometime next year.

* I’ve become lax in my footnoting, I know. Your concerns have been duly noted, and now, duly footnoted.
** I know I said I threw all intentions out, but I really want to do something that looks like it belongs in Suede magazine. Haven’t heard of it? I’m not surprised. It’s new. It’s for black women. Most would define its design as “nauseating,” but I think it’s daring and pretty. Not like this other magazine for black women, which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent (i.e. me).
*** Or, as some pronounce it, “aspartamine,” as in “I grew up on the asparta-mean streets of suburbia, and now look at me: facing down this addiction.”
**** Naturally, I can’t generate the list now that I actually want to; when I try to deny the existence of the list (list? What list? I don’t need a list because I’m perfectly happy reading what I’m reading right now!) it’s quite easy to spout off and make additions to. And of course, there is the second list, the one of books I want to read again (Travels with Charley, Pride and Prejudice, White Noise, All the King’s Men, Invisible Man….), that I can’t even think about right now. Shoot! But I obviously am! Crap!*****
***** I originally typed, Carp!, which is, I think, on the fast track to exclamation glory. Everything should cycle back to fish (“I caught you a delicious bass,” “My bass feels seaworthy,” etc. etc.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

WTF, Cezanne?

I got the lowest grade of my college career in Basic Painting. I took it because I thought it was a sure thing, an easy elective credit that would pad my senior-year GPA and let me relax a little during Rush quarter. Yeah right. Five painful critiques, a couple hundred dollars, and a few art building overnights later… a B+ and a painting of a peanut butter sandwich that ended up in the Dumpster (the painting, not the sandwich – well, probably the sandwich, too.)

For the record, I still hold that I’m as creative as any of those Art Theory and Practice snobs who take the same classes as the rest of us but call them “practicums” and who use “workshop” as a verb. I just had execution problems.

My relative failure at painting stems from the same thing that made me hate On the Road. You can’t expect someone to take an assignment like “paint three floating eggs on a background using only blue and orange” (real assignment) and be creative with it, just like you can’t expect someone to love a book about escapism and freedom from consequence when there are consequences to not reading it.

Anyway, I’ve decided I’m pretty much over the B+ and ready to give painting on my own terms a go. I need a creative outlet outside of work, and Mary didn’t seem to keen on my wanting to paint the apartment (she has a point about the heaviness of our furniture.)

So yesterday I headed to Michael’s, picked up some basics (I’ve toted my collection of half-full tubes of oils and acrylics from Evanston to Chicago to Colleyville to Dallas, just in case this fancy ever struck) and went home to construct a makeshift (and collapsible) studio on the back porch. (Side note: I’d never spent any time on that back porch until yesterday; it’s pretty spacious, but there’s nowhere on the porch that isn’t under the tree. That makes me nervous.)

I forgot how much prep-time painting requires. Of course, there’s the actual paint-mixing, but there’s also the change in attire – because, like all true artists, I can’t focus on keeping paint off my clothes – and the all-important Diet Cherry Coke positioning (must be within reach, but also far enough away from the brush-rinsing cup to avoid any dangerous ingestion mix-ups.) By the time I got set up, there was only going to be enough time to paint a background before it got dark out, but I forged ahead.

Who would’ve thought painting an 18x24 area a solid color could be so engrossing? For the hour or so I was outside, I didn’t think about work. I didn’t think about how my mom would be disappointed that I didn’t come home for the weekend. I didn’t even think about how fire ants were treating my bare toes like the cheapest all-you-can-eat buffet on the Las Vegas strip.

All I thought about was this: Once this glob of $2.99 student-grade lime green acrylic paint hits this canvas, I have exactly eight seconds to get it where I want it to be before it starts getting tacky.

For the most part, I didn’t get the paint where I wanted it within eight seconds. But I didn’t care. For the first time, this perfectionist, who’s used to snap-to-guides and gutter-widths and lines made perfectly straight by technology, didn’t care about blotches or brushstrokes or even the dirt that strategically maneuvered itself into my drying paint (hey, I’m down with mixed media.) I didn’t care because I realized something that would have helped me out last winter quarter when I was tearing my hair out trying to mimic in paint the floating egg I saw in my mind.

I didn’t care because I realized this: in a race with chemistry, intentions will almost always come in second.

So I threw intentions out. I thought I knew what the finished painting was going to look like – I am, after all, the girl who can’t start a project and then just leave it sitting, knowing it could be closer to conclusion. But now I have no idea how it will turn out. I know, I know, it’s a huge risk, right? I’m really living on the edge now. Living on the edge with a blotchy, lime green, dirt-flecked canvas and no expectations for a flawless finished product.

Who knows … maybe I’ll give the sophisticated sandwich genre another stab. Now that I don’t expect a masterpiece, I’m open to anything.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Catered by FontDiner

If you’ve ever spent any time muddling through free-font websites (and who among us hasn’t, really?) you understand the beauty of sample phrases. I’ve been muddling through said websites all week (looking for the girliest, swashiest, most tasteless font on the free market, nonetheless), and the sample phrases are becoming eerily applicable to my life.

Maybe I’ve looked at so many lines of ugly type that I’m imagining things, but I am beginning to suspect there is a legion of free-font sample phrase-writing geeks out there tracking my every move. Sneaky little bastards, stealing my thoughts and publishing them on the internet where anyone can see them, free-of-charge! Well, I’m taking them back, and I’m going to go a step further: I’m going to organize them! (There’s no need for you to point out the self-fulfilling prophecy here; I am fully aware that I am just republishing my thoughts on the internet where anyone can see them, free-of-charge.)

Anyway, a poem of sorts, in three parts:

On work...
Staff levels dropped
Work with machines and look
There’s nothing I’d rather do than sit
Viewing time makes it grow
From the sharks in the penthouse
I miss the point of things they have planned
Best they’ve ever done seen

...and on relationships...
I’ve been indulging in ostentatious display
Change and we need it fast
Are you so edgy?
So nobody gets hurt
Change but you stayed the same
Adorable you’re deplorable
Let him run around until he drops

...and on life in general.
Let me kick out the jams!
Another night, no clocks
Infinity goes up on trial
I’m staying home this evening
You run to meet the bills
Medication for my sleep deprivation
...and call it a gift
The handiwork of those little Dachsunds

(And one that doesn’t apply, but is still quite poetic: she’s in that bedroom with that boy of hers, though her face is creased and her eyes seem strange.)

Are you getting the chills yet? Good... neither am I. I know this post is kind of a cop-out; I didn’t even write most of it. Rest assured, though, that I had something great on the burner. I think it was about how the spectrum of sepia tones in Carnivale (and two beers) inspired me to take up painting again. Good stuff, I know, but it’ll have to wait until the painting has actually been taken up.

‘Til next Saturday, then...

Sunday, February 13, 2005

"Nobody puts Baby..." Aw, forget it.

Ack! When did this become such a downer blog?! Gross! Must repair immediately!

I'm home now -- rested, laundered, ironed (!!!) and in a much better mindset in general. I'm watching Dirty Dancing, which can make just about any problem seem mundane (it's a biting social commentary, after all, when you strip away all the stellar acting, timeless catch-phrases, and classic soundtrack.)

I remember begging to watch Dirty Dancing when I was 5 or 6, and, after much needling, actually getting to. I was, of course, sent out of the room for all those steamy love scenes ("have you had many women?") I wouldn't have known what was going on, but oh well. I'm sure that my toddler self didn't fully appreciate the core of the film: the rich-poor dichotomy, or the courage it took for Baby to tell her father she was doin' it with the dance instructor.

If there's one thing I did understand, though,it was this: I was born to reinact that lift.

My aunt had one of those old brown-on-brown-plaid chairs with wooden arms just wide enough and flat enough for a 5-year-old to stand on. It was as close to a log over a ravine as I was going to get. Perfect. So -- without any warning -- I climbed up there, found a semblence of balance, yelled out "LIFT!" and flung myself, chest first, at the nearest adult. It happened to be my mom. Lucky her.

Lucky me, actually. She caught me (barely), and, in doing so, branded herself as my lift partner for the rest of the night. I don't know how many lifts we did, but I do remember asking before bed (all that dancing eventually had me all tuckered out, I'm sure) if we could continue the routine the next morning. The answer was decidedly no. Alas.

When I saw the movie again as a teenager, I understood more, but more was lost, too. The lift doesn't seem so awesome when it's set in the midst of abortion, shame, and that horrible "Hula Baby" rendition. Actually, though, I suppose understanding all the sociopolitical underpinnings of the movie makes the innocence of the lift all the more meaningful.

Ah, stark contrast. You make Dirty Dancing so... meta.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

...Because she has to update her website.

(That's the answer; if this was Jeopardy! the question would be: "What is the reason Erin goes to work every Saturday?").

So I'm back, sitting, staring, stalling, and getting up every 15 minutes to dance around in the lobby and turn the motion-sensor-activated lights back on. At least it's something to do. My other option: do my taxes (or, more accurately, watch my dad do my taxes while being lectured on my stupidity in fields with even the most remote connection to numbers.)

Song in heavy rotation: Maroon 5's "Must Get Out." I'm ready for a vacation. Or a two-day, work-free weekend. I'd settle for that, and I'm not one for settling. It has been stressed that now is the time; "our busy season" is fast approaching (no-day weekends?) so vacation should be taken at earliest convenience (therein lies the rub, of course.)

Where does one vacation in mid-February? Mardi Gras is over. Skiing has never been a viable option (though I've always been a proponent of emotional balance, physical balance is not a strong suit.) Chicago's in its slushy period, and I can't afford to ruin the bottom of another pair of jeans. Vegas is rife with white-trash Valentines taking a number to walk down the same aisle as Britney. And the beach... really? The beach? Now? No.

So, it's dancing (solo) in the lobby for me.*

I'm actually kind of surprised at how bored I am. Things ("things") are up in the air for me right now, and -- hark back to the whole balance issue -- that just doesn't work for me. I should have plenty to get all worked up over and consumed by. But my state of mind right now is decidedly "meh."

I guess I'm going through a paradox-is-sexy phase (that's what I'll chalk it up to, at least.) I mean, what's the real reason I come to work every weekend? It's not because I'm swamped; it's because I can't stand to start a project, then sit around knowing it could be closer to finished. So that's the thought process I should operate in under all circumstances, right? Nope. Because the second any kind of confrontation becomes necessary, I freeze. So I'm frozen. Frozen in "meh" mode. I'm sure I'll thaw, probably at the least convenient time. Can't wait.

Last night I turned the water pressure in my shower up to full blast, just to make sure it still hurt. It wasn't as painful as I recalled.

*At least now that I've been doing the Grind, I can bring in an awesome routine.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Hearts of Darkness

Or: Are Warlocks and Strong Mayors Taking Over Boca Raton?

Wow. What a week. I should have known as soon as the first Sprint fiasco of '05 hit on Monday that this week was going to be a little off. And by a little... I mean a lot.*

Many long stories short:

1.) Sprint will act all tough and turn off your phone, but if you yell (or, as in my case, get a friendly customer service representative), they will remove unnecessary charges without putting up any kind of fight whatsoever. In retrospect, that customer service representative was a pansy; I wish he would have let me argue a little more -- I was so ready to kick some over-the-phone ass.

2.) The Medill prophecy is coming true: punctuation can, in fact, make or break you in the journalistic world. Misplaced question mark? You're gone. (And for the record, that question mark after 'misplaced question mark' was not meant to represent a misplaced question mark.) It would be dangerous for me to elaborate any further.

3.) You know what's hilarious? Talking about how I was dumped for a Wiccan-vegan,** and how my ex-boyfriend is now a Warlock. Go ahead -- laugh it up. Everyone else has been (more than usual this week, I've noticed.) Thanks in advance for the friendly reminder that Valentine's Day is fast approaching. It's shaping up to be the best ever.

4.) Doing the Grind for three days in a row can make you feel great (especially when you spend half the warm-up laughing at Eric Nies and his anatomy lessons -- "hamstrings!") That great feeling can easily be negated by four vodka tonics on day 4.

5.) Violin-and-synthesizer duos playing the longest tango ever have no place in a tiny restaurant in which no meat is served.



* I've been doing that a lot lately -- you know, the thing I used to do where I'd say, "A, and by 'A'... I mean B." It used to be a little gem of trademark phraseology, but then I got over it for awhile. But it's appaarently making a comeback (I have no control, it seems), so never fear.

** For the record, that was five years ago, and yes, I was told at the time that I would look back on the whole bizzare scenario and laugh. Someday...