the twenty-fifth question

July 27, 2010

Do you have any insights on how you could help younger versions of you? -- ERW

I've felt as though all of the less attractive physical and personality traits my parents possess were bestowed upon me -- my father's teeth, his fair skin, the prominent angle of my chin, my mother's sunspots, the thinness of her hair, the longness of her face...I could go on and on.

I used to stare at my reflection and study it like I would a composition I had to draw for an art class or a piece of literature I had to analyze for a report. Like my peers would. If there was a flaw to be found, I would hone in on it in seconds.

What I should've considered is that I was created out of love. My parents have been married for forty-seven years next month. They met in high school. My mother was the valedictorian of her class. My father was a musician. I got intelligence and artistic talent from them. I got compassion and generosity. I got loyalty and love. I got my father's curly hair, eye color, hair color and bone structure. I got my mother's height, her laugh, the brightness of her smile. One of'm gave me freckles. I love my freckles.

There's a book called Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams which I had read years before, in the same semester during which I'd written the inquisition essays. I wish I had it here today so that I could quote the passage for you rather than summing it up. I'd been sitting in a T.G.I. Fridays restaurant in San Antonio, reading for my classes. When I'd read this, I was so struck by it, so affected that I had to hurry to the restrooms to hide and recollect myself. The author, at a young age, was teased by her peers for the color of her hair. She came home one afternoon upset because of the ridicule she'd endured. Mother dragged daughter into the bathroom, sat her down on a stool and made her face her reflection. Then the mother said that she saw a beautiful little girl and instructed her daughter to stay there until she saw her, too.

My mother told me often that if I'd focused more on my studies and my talents rather than on what I lacked, I would've felt better about myself.

What I think now is that it's an insult to my parents to say that I got the less attractive pieces of them, to think of myself as ugly. That's like saying love is ugly, that their love is ugly. I should've thought of the grand insult I'd given them by thinking that way. I should've thought of the beauty of the love and passion they'd felt for each other when they made me. I should've thought of the luck and the miracle that I was, that I am. I'd chosen instead to marvel at how two beautiful people could create something so flawed. I should've thought of how happy they were to have a little girl. I should've focused on my gifts. Should've forced myself to stare at my reflection until I saw what my mother saw.

I am a griffin -- a magical, mystical, marvelous creature. I should've thought of that.

did you miss an essay? for the list and links, go here.

twenty-fourth and wisdom

July 26, 2010

What is your ideal vacation in the U.S.? In the world? -- Jenn

One of these days, I’m going to take this incredibly long road trip, from Texas to California to Washington State across the top the continental United States to New York, along the Atlantic Coast to Florida then back to Texas. One without any schedules or time constraints. I could linger in those places that appealed to me and leave behind those that didn’t.

As for the world, I want to visit the countries of my ancestors: Wales, England, Austria, France. As well as those I’ve read about: Ireland, Greece, Germany. Again, this quest would be free of schedules and constraints, allowing me to see all those things I most want to see and hurrying past the things I don’t care to.

Maybe someday.

for the twenty-third inquisition essay, go here.

and the wisdom:

and let us not grow weary while doing
good, for in due season we shall reap if we do
not lose heart (galatians 6:9).

the twenty-third

July 25, 2010

What was your childhood like? -- Jamar

that which does not kill us makes us stronger.

she would be better off
in an institution for people like her.




you should kill yourself because the world would be better off without you in it.

nobody’d ever wanna marry you because you’re too ugly
and nobody wants to wake up next to something that ugly every morning.

god, you’re bitter.

hey! are you a hermaphrodite?

you’re the strongest woman i know.

When I was born, there were a number of things wrong with me — my eyes were crossed, my hips dislocated, my skin yellow. The doctors poked and prodded at me so much they could no longer find a vein to poke or prod. After they’d examined me, they told my parents I had Cerebral Palsy and recommended I be placed in an institution for people like me. My parents thanked them and took me home.

To lessen the yellowness of my skin, caused by too many red blood cells in my system, they placed my bassinet by the window during the daytime so that the sun could color it a little better.

They found an eye doctor who could correct my vision. I remember he had curly brown hair, a kind smile, a kind voice, wore glasses and a white lab coat over muted-colored clothing. First, he tried to straighten the muscles of my eyes by having me wear patches over my eyes, alternately. One day, I would wear one over the left, the next over the right. When that didn’t work, I had surgery. Twice. I remember visits to his office afterwards where he tested the results by holding up certain objects, things I considered to be toys, like a spinning wheel that made revving noises and a Donald Duck that flipped over a bar. The thing that looked like a pen but was really a light that he would shine into my eyes to see back behind them.

My mother says I cried all the time, because every time I moved, the balls of my hip joints would slip out of their sockets. She found a doctor who put on these ugly metal braces. The moment he put them on, I smiled. This was the first time I’d done so. She was so amazed, so happy, that she hurried across town to my father’s office, ran inside and held me up in front of him to exclaim, Look! Look at her! She’s smiling!

She jokes the first words I learned weren’t Mama or Dada, but What would happen if…? That I assaulted her with questions that began with these words frequently, not so much because I was curious, but because I was afraid. Of everything.

I didn’t know about this stuff until later, though.

We moved around a lot. I have vague memories of a house in Houston. Or Clear Lake. I’m not sure which. When I was three, we moved to a small town near Tyler, called Hawkins.

Mom says that when Jon started school and left on the bus each morning, I would cry because I wanted to go, too, and couldn’t, of course, so the bus driver, Mrs. Mooney, would come back around to our house after she’d taken the kids to school and let me ride around for a bit. I had trouble learning how to tie my shoes the right way — the loop, swoop and pull method, the way that most everyone else uses — so she taught me how to tie them using the bunny ears method.

I remember catching the bus with Jon one morning, opening the kitchen door to find the ground covered in snow and being terrified that I wouldn’t be able to walk down the hill without falling and getting snow all over me, so I clung to mother and watched, peering out from behind her legs, as Jon easily made his way down the hill to the bus. And he waited there, just at the door, to catch me as I slid down the hill on my jacket. I remember my turns on the bus when Mrs. Mooney would let me pull the handles that opened the doors, standing next to her, talking with her in my curious, excited way about nothing in particular.

My Kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Terry. I remember her being tall, dressing in dark colors, with a perfectly rounded afro. I always thought her hair was cool. She was always kind to me, but stern, too, because I would’ve rather played than learned, and I had a really short attention span.

My First grade teacher was Ms. Crumpler, one of my friend’s mothers. She’d actually been my Pre-Kindergarten teacher, too. She was also tall with dark auburn, perfectly styled hair. A rather simply-dressed woman who had a kind voice and an easy smile.

I didn’t really like my Second grade teacher, Mrs. Bailey. She was a short, old woman with a harsh voice.

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Vonner, a heavy, short woman with an even bigger fro than Mrs. Terry had and a soft, sort of melodic, high-pitched voice that, when she wasn’t yelling at us, and believe me she could yell, was really quite nice. She also had a thick wooden paddle and wasn’t afraid to use it. She used it on me often, because I was always causing trouble. I’d cry like a little baby before and during my whooping, but then, she’d give me a big hug afterwards and let me sign the paddle, which made it all okay. I wonder, still, if she has that, if my signature’s stuck.

My favorite times of the school day were nap time but only because I liked the mats we laid on — those ones that were red on one side and blue on the other, with white trim and folded up, that made neat noises when you moved on them. Nap time and recess because I could play and not get into trouble for it.

My least favorite time of day was P.E., but only when we played ball sports because I couldn’t catch or throw and the kids laughed at me for it. My favorite game to play was Red Rover, Red Rover. I loved that game. I’d run as fast as I could and try my hardest to break the line. And I’d have this huge grin on my face whenever I did.

I had a handful of friends there — Kelly, a small girl with short, blonde curls and brown eyes, with whom I often played Barbie dolls; Julie who had short, straight, thin, mousy brown hair and a thin frame; Deborah, a beautiful girl with dark brown curls and dark brown eyes; Jennifer with dark reddish-brown hair and brown eyes.

I was fairly good friends with all of them until I was eight. By then, they’d started growing, their bodies getting taller, becoming more girlish. But mine was still small and straight.

I’d begun to think this boy, Joel Simmons, was sort of cute. He had thick, straight brown hair, brown eyes, a big smile and gap between his two front, top teeth.

He picked on me for liking him. By the time I was eight, most of the boys picked on me because I was so small compared to the rest of my classmates and not as pretty as the rest of the girls in my class.

On the day after I learned that we were moving, I went to school really sad. By lunch time, I was so upset that I couldn’t keep from crying. I went back to Mrs. Vonner’s classroom, sat down at my desk, folded my arms across it, rested my head on them and cried. Deborah and Jennifer came over to ask what was wrong, and after telling them, they went and got Mrs. Vonner who took me out into the hallway and held me tight and said it would all be okay, that I would make new friends.

We moved to Natchitoches, Louisiana when the first semester was over, not long after Christmas.

I hated it there.

My parents, because they weren’t too happy with the public schools there, put my older brother and me in a private, Catholic school. I wasn’t really happy about that. I didn’t like my teacher who had an incredibly plain appearance, an unsmiling face and an abrupt, rather cold manner. I remember being segregated. Mom says when she'd picked me up one afternoon and asked how my day was, I'd said it was fine, but that I didn't like being in that box. I never did my homework, but would ace every test. The teacher wanted to put me in Special Education classes. After a few conversations between my father and my teacher, my parents decided that the public schools weren’t so bad because Jon wasn’t happy there either and enrolled us in regular school. We did a little better there. But I, being the new kid, a rather ugly runt who was quite upset with my parents for uprooting us, began to develop a rather surly disposition, which only worsened over time.

No one wanted to play with me. So I would invent games to play with myself. My favorite toys were my Barbie dolls and all the things I’d gotten to go with them, Fisher Price’s Little People, Richard Scary's Townhouse, board games, coloring books and fresh boxes of Crayolas, Hot Wheels and Mattel cars — me and Joe would trade off, sometimes. He’d play Barbie with me, if I played cars with him.

I felt useless, sort of. Not good enough, really, for anyone, for the first time in my life. I thought about death. At eight years old. Not suicide. Just sort of wished that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. But I wasn’t really all that serious about it. Because I had hope, could hope, could believe that it would get better.

We moved six months later to Roswell, New Mexico. Things were worse there because my disposition was becoming surlier as I grew more withdrawn and angry. The only friends I'd made were my next door neighbors.

My father was missing Texas, so a year later, we moved back, to Conroe. But I doubted the permanence. I’d begun to think that this uprooting would be our way of life. By this time, I was much, much smaller than my peers, shorter, skinnier, clumsier. I looked like a boy, a bony, pale, awkward boy.

When we’d first moved to Conroe, I’d befriended the girl living across the street from us, Stephanie, who was the same age as me. She would come over to swim most every day. If she didn’t come to my house, I would go to hers. I rode my bicycle all the time. Loved to feel the wind on my face. And for the two months before school started, I’d thought I’d found a friend. But not too long before school started one of the families that lived in our neighborhood had a Back-to-School party and had invited quite a few kids my age. I went, somewhat unwillingly, because by this time, I’d expected rejection. Maybe because I’d expected it, maybe because I’m an inherently shy girl, I got it. And so when school started, she and I ceased to be friends. In fact, she’d joined the forces of the peers that perpetually taunted me.

I could do nothing right. Could not satisfy my peers, teachers, or parents. My older brother and I had never really been that close, because when we moved to Conroe, I was ten, going to O. A. Reaves Intermediate. He was fourteen or so, going to Conroe High School. And my younger brother, at five or six, was still young enough, still at that age where looks and parentage don’t really matter. They both made friends easily enough. They didn’t need me hanging around.

The first four years we lived here were the ugliest years of my life.

My fifth grade teachers wanted to put me in Special Education classes because I was so difficult a student. I hit and bit and kicked people. I never did my homework. I spent my time in school organizing my school supplies, probably because I needed some sense of order in a world that seemed to be so miserably chaotic, so unhappy, and drawing, because that, too, made me happy.

In the summer months, I swam from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep, because swimming, too, made me happy. Rode my bicycle a lot. Listened to music. Sang. I did a lot of singing, because that was one thing I knew I could do well.

I had a third surgery over Spring Break in Fifth grade right about my birthday to correct a navel hernia, a hole in the diaphragm, the lining that separates the stomach from the intestines. I remember not really caring that the hole could be lethal. But my parents cared. And so, when my peers were taking family vacations to California or Florida or Colorado, I was going to Doctor’s Hospital and getting cut open.

I started thinking about death more often. I started praying that God would let me sleep forever. And if He wouldn’t let me go to Heaven, I prayed that tomorrow would be better, but my hope was diminishing. I’d started to doubt that I would ever really know what better was.

In the morning, when I woke, I would greet the day with a bit regret, sadness and disappointment that I had woken up to greet it, rolled out of bed and dressed. Ate breakfast, took the lunch my mother packed for me, hugged her and caught the bus to school.

She says that some mornings she would cry after I’d left, because she knew I was going to hell and hurting, and she hurt for me. She marvels that I never once said, Mom, I don’t want to go today. But how could I say that? My parents were teachers. My father was the Superintendent. They expected me to go. And apparently, since I had woken up that morning, God expected me to go, too. So, I went. But I hated going.

Junior High was the worst. In seventh grade, one of my peers told me that I was really nice and I wore all the right clothes, that if I’d just gain a little weight and wear some make-up, I’d be popular.

But, popular isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t care about that so much. I did want to fit in, though. I hated being the proverbial dartboard. I hated that I was so sensitive to the insults. I wanted a handful of girlfriends to have sleepovers and go shopping and see movies with. I got rejection.

Seventh grade English was the worst class of all of them. I’d been placed with the most popular of folks in this class, and took insults from most every one there, especially from two boys, Matthew and Brian. The first asked me at every available opportunity if I’d go out with him. Every available opportunity meaning pretty much every time he took a breath. And every time he’d ask, the question would be followed by a snicker and a look of disgust. The other boy, Brian, had taken a liking to calling me Sweetums. So that was added to the list of nicknames.

I recall, after eating one afternoon, stepping out onto the football field, which wasn’t far from the cafeteria, for a bit of peace. It’d been a beautiful day, really, climate-wise. The sky was this rich blue, unmarred by clouds, and, though the sun was blazing, as Spring had begun to turn to Summer, the air was still cool, with a lingering breeze. I’d gone outside to pray. Because just after lunch was English. And on this particular day, I’d grown weary of the badgering, the constant nagging and snickering,

Once, for a second, I found my gumption, sort of. I’d thought that if I’d said yes — not that I wanted to go out with him; I despised him — Matthew would’ve been so surprised that I’d had the audacity to say it that he’d be speechless. So I’d asked him what he would say if I said yes. He busted out laughing, which I expected. And five minutes later, he asked again.

So on this day, I was exhausted and despaired. I needed a bit of beauty. I also wanted God to send this lightning bolt straight out of the sky and zap me dead, right then and there. So I went out to the field and sat down on the tires to pray, because, even though my belief was weakening, I still had faith in Him then.

I’d been sitting there for maybe five minutes when I found myself surrounded, sort of, by a dozen of the most popular kids in school. They stood in a semi-circle around me, facing me, looking down upon me. I couldn’t stand up, they were so close. Couldn’t stand up and walk away. Wouldn’t turn and try to walk over the tires because I was certain I would fall. So I sat there and listened while they begged me to go out with Matthew, insisting that he really did want to go out with me and that if I did so, I’d be the most popular girl in school and that they’d all look up to me.

If memory serves, I found the nearest bathroom as soon as possible, and spent several minutes in it crying. I’d come out to find a bit of peace. Instead, I found another piece of hell. I'm pretty sure I faked being sick that day, got a nurse's pass to leave school and walked to my father's office which was just down the street.

I should’ve stood up. Should’ve found the strength to shove them out of the way. A few years before, I would’ve been angry enough to do so. But I was weary. And that memory, that one there, best typifies my childhood. Taunting from every direction, this great sense of inadequacy, and an inability to take it well enough, to stand up for myself.

I had another surgery that summer, on my eyes, to raise my eyelids so that I could see better, so that I could look better. I got braces, long after everyone else had gotten them, and they stayed on through my first year of high school. The braces earned me yet another nickname. I had hundreds of them. But apparently, a girl can never have too many.

Every night, I would cry myself to sleep and pray for it to be over. Every morning, I would dress for the day and do my best to survive it.

for the twenty-second inquisition essay, go here.

the twenty-second

July 22, 2010

as a reminder, the inquisition essays are a creative nonfiction writing project written six years ago. the year before this project was written, my older brother passed away. the year before that, i royally screwed up the first romantic relationship that had ever really mattered to me and quit the job for which i'd moved to san antonio the year before to take. can you say floundering?

How do you compare with what you envisioned yourself to be when you were a child? -- Tammie

When I was fifteen, I imagined that by the time I got to be thirty, I would be married with at least two children, possibly three, living in a nice house in a nice neighborhood driving a fairly expensive vehicle — something like a Jaguar — with a job that I loved — I never really had a clear understanding of what sort of job that would be, because there were so many career opportunities that interested me, like teaching and interior design. I saw myself as being beautiful, happy, content.

At thirty-one, I am single, childless, residing in an apartment, albeit a rather nice one, because having a house when there’s no one but myself to live in it seems impractical, driving a truck, working at a movie theatre, because my confidence has been so shaken by the choices I’ve made in the past few years, by my lack of direction, this sense of worthlessness I feel that my peers predicted decades before, that I have no desire to do anything else, work-wise. Not until I figure out what it is I really want to be doing.

I am constantly mistaken for a guy, and I know why this is, but I do not see myself as beautiful, and when I try to dress more appropriately, when I try to dress like women my age, I feel more inadequate, like I’m trying to be something I’m not. Bitter, ugly, hopeless. Those are the words I would use to describe me. Unhappy. Unsettled.

previous inquisition essays: the nineteenth, the twentieth, the twenty-first.

picky's on facebook. so far only two people like it. one of'm's me. i'm thinking that's pretty lame, which is making me think i'm pretty lame. don't let that happen.

the twenty-first question

July 21, 2010

Why do you like driving so much? -- Adam

I feel this need to get out, to think, to clear my head, to see the world. There is this overwhelming restlessness in me, and it is most often quieted and soothed by finding some winding country road, far from the chaos of the city.

There are times when I want simply to get out of the house, but I don’t really want to go anywhere, don’t want to do anything, don’t want to see anyone. So, I go drive for a bit, then come home again. I drive when I am frustrated or upset. When I feel lost and need to think things through. When I need to cry or scream. When I’ve been working on a scene and I’m blocked and can’t, despite my efforts, find the right the thoughts, the right words to paint the picture in my head, or worse, when I can’t even see the picture.

But mostly, I like to drive because it is when I am driving that I least mind being alone. I prefer it, actually. Just me, the road, some music to sing along with, cigarettes, a caffeinated, carbonated, canned beverage, preferably Dr. Pepper and a full tank of gas. Just me and the world I choose to see.

for the twentieth inquisition essay, go here.

twentieth and wisdom

July 20, 2010

What would it take for you to call yourself successful? -- Brian

To me, success is having confidence in myself, in all of my traits and talents, not just some of them. It’s being the best daughter, sister, friend, writer, coworker, student…the best woman I can be. It’s facing challenges instead of running from them. It’s standing up for yourself, believing in yourself when no one else will.

for the nineteenth inquisition essay, go here.

i've been forgetting my bits of wisdom. i've thought quite frequently lately of this book and the woman who gave it to me. i miss her.

i'm a bit behind in this. i believe i have missed five weeks. sorry.

this week's wisdom is thus:

but i do not want you to be ignorant
brethren, concerning those who have fallen
asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no
hope. for if we believe that jesus died and
rose again, even so god will bring with him
those who sleep in jesus. for this we say to you
by the word of the lord, that we who
are alive and will remain until the coming of the
lord will by no means precede those who are
asleep. for the lord himself will descend
from heaven with a shout, with the voice of
an archangel, and with the trumpet of god.
and the dead in christ will rise first. then we
who are alive and remain shall be caught up
together with them in the clouds to meet the
lord in the air. and thus we shall always be
with the lord. therefore comfort one
another with these words (1 thessalonians 4:13-18).

have you seen oscar lately?

barcelona and madrid

a long time ago, the architect antonio gaudi was employed by a fairly well-to-do dude in barcelona to build a housing development. he fixed up the land so it was all kinds of pretty and built a couple of houses, and then the economy went to shit. so it was never finished. the thing's been preserved as a park of sorts. so that's the first picture.

the second is of the cathedral he began but never finished. the country is working toward completing it. then there's one of barcelona's beaches.

from madrid, i give you the statue of don quixote and a street scene.

avignon, nimes and carcassonne

the first is a view of avignon from the gardens at the papal palace. the second is of the roman aqueduct in nimes built more than two thousand years ago. the rest are of the fortified city of carcassonne and its modern-day counterpart.

the nineteenth

July 18, 2010

If a good book were a fruit, which type of fruit would it be and why? -- Jason

I picked the orange for a variety of reasons. The best books are packaged well, they’re vibrant, almost shiny, pleasing to the eye, drawing my attention — and I’m not just talking about the packaging of them, but the first chapter or so, too. Then they make me work to maintain that interest. The best book is Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend because it grabbed me from the beginning, but I had to work to get through it. It’s not always so easy, so interesting. I had to make an effort. Had to peel away the tough shell of the idea before I could enjoy it. And when I did, I enjoyed it immensely.

A good book sort of comes alive, melts into and nourishes me. I don’t have to eat it all at once; I can section it off. I don’t have to read it all at once, but in bits and pieces, so I can savor it a bit more.

If it’s a good book, it’ll leave me with ideas, pull things out of me, inspire me to write more, to know myself more. It’s like the tree — it blossoms, it grows, it bears fruit...more ideas, more books.

I’ve always associated the color orange with happiness. Reading makes me happy.

previous essays: the sixteenth, the seventeenth, the eighteenth.

cannes, nice and monaco

the first is of cannes. the next two are of nice. the next is the mediterranean sea, seen from the gardens built for grace kelly. and the last is of monaco, part of the route of its grand prix.

the eighteenth

July 15, 2010

What would you say your worst trait is, and why? -- David

I have made so many horrible choices because I have not been brave enough, strong enough to make the right ones. I have not usually thought enough of myself to obtain those things that I’d most like to have. On the rare occasion that I do think enough of myself, and I find my courage to try and obtain them, I end up asking for those things in an awkward manner, either by phrasing my request in clumsy language or using a voice that lacks volume and wavers tremendously.

I cannot distance myself, the woman I have become from the child I once was. I fail to see how the two are so different.

My mother thinks I’m the strongest woman she knows. I think I am the weakest woman I know.

I never learned to believe in myself. And when one cannot believe in herself, she can never be secure enough in her world. She can never be brave enough.

for the seventeenth inquisition essay, go here.

did i say there were twenty questions? i lied. it's been quite some time since i've looked at this project. there were two dozen of'm. the question erw posed in the comments of the first essay's post makes twenty-five. so this will go on a bit longer. hope you don't mind. :]

the seventeenth question

Which author(s) influence or inspire you the most, and why? -- Suzanne

Nora Roberts, because she weaves such fascinating tales about such interesting people. Her characters are so immediately likable. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in one of her stories. Easy to forget that I have all these things to do. It’s usually hard to put one of her books down. She has established herself as the leading romance novelist in the country, having written well over a hundred novels (this includes the futuristic romantic suspense series written as J. D. Robb, which is marketed in the mystery section) over a period of approximately two decades.

Charles Dickens, because he had completed and published a novel by the time he was twenty-five or something like that, because he was a fantastic storyteller, having created the most interesting characters, the most intricately woven plots, with incredible detail.

Hunter S. Thompson because he was a clever, amusing badass and an incredibly gifted writer.

for the sixteenth inquisition essay, go here.

random quarter

July 14, 2010

one. munich is lovely. it's so clean. the weather was perfect. there seemed to be a great sense of community in the people there. it's got great architecture.

two. i'd expected dachau to feel chilling, oppressive and haunted throughout. i was only chilled when we approached the camp and at the gate. inside the main building, i grieved, but not nearly as much as i'd expected. outside on the camp's grounds, i felt an amazing peace, a great sense of forgiveness. i was surprised by this.

three. neuschwanstein is amazing. best castle ever. i loved it. it's a pain in the ass to get to it. really. HUGE pain in the ass. but the hike is beautiful, so that makes it okay. and inside, oh, the interior of that castle is incredible. the whole thing is a shrine to the works of richard wagner. every room was designed with one of his compositions in mind.

four. wagner never saw it. king ludwig the second, the man responsible for the thing, died before it was completed. he was deemed insane, though he'd never been officially diagnosed as such. the day after he was declared mad, he was found dead in a lake.

five. kamps bakeries in germany make the best sandwiches.

six. the beach at cannes looks remarkably like the beach at galveston, sans oil, of course. the waters near monaco are much prettier. nice has one of the best beaches i've ever seen. this could be because it's comprised of pebbles. i think california's malibu beach is the best. then megan's bay in st. thomas. but that one you have to pay to be on it. not cool.

seven. i liked france least of all. we saw more of it than germany or spain. figures.

eight. paris is ugly. REALLY, REALLY ugly. i hadn't expected that.

nine. there's an aqueduct in nimes, france that was built by the romans more than two thousand years ago. the french have taken really, really good care of it.

ten. one of the goals of the united nations educational, scientific and cultural organization is to protect sites and structures designated as world heritage sites. there are nearly nine hundred sites and structures chosen. of those, i have seen the palace and park of versailles (though i only saw its exterior), pont du gard (that aqueduct i just told you about), the cathedral of notre dame in rheims (pictured in picky's previous post), the parisienne banks of the river seine, the papal palace in avignon, the fortified city of carcassonne, the works of antonio gaudi, westminster abbey, st. margaret's cathedral, the tower of london (only its exterior) and mesa verde national park. for the full list of world heritage sites, go here. for more information about unesco, go here.

eleven. i had never watched a major (and i emphasize major) sporting event in a bar until having taken this trip. my cousins and our tour guide watched spain defeat uruguay in a bar in barcelona. good times.

twelve. i liked france's countryside better than its cities. i liked spain's cities better than its countryside. i liked germany's countryside and cities equally.

thirteen. antonio gaudi is my favorite architect.

fourteen. i'd be more inclined to give a beggar money if he learned to play a musical instrument well enough that he could entertain passersby with a lovely melody.

fifteen. in spain, musicians camp out in subway corridors and on street corners and brighten up the environment with their tunes. the best example of this was a woman who was singing opera music outside the shops in madrid.

sixteen. i liked barcelona better than madrid. barcelona is a much more vibrant, social city. madrid has a lot of culture. it looks pretty enough on the surface, but it's not as pretty as barcelona.

seventeen. i've never had luck sleeping on planes. the last time i flew overseas, before this trip, i took two benadryl and two tylenol pm (not at the same time), and i still couldn't sleep. on the way over this time, i took the benadryl in the car on the way to the airport. i almost fell asleep at the gate. couldn't on the plane. on the way home, i didn't take anything. i did manage to fall asleep. yay! but the damned public address system woke me up when the pilot made some sort of announcement.

eighteen. i hate sinus infections. i get them with much more regularity. on the way home, on the flight from d.c. to houston, i got one. it's like i'm allergic to texas.

nineteen. that badass table i was showing off a while back, my mother gave it to my brother. i am not happy.

twenty. i understand why campbell's uses mm, mm good! as their slogan. today, i made chicken noodle soup. sitting at the old kitchen table, which now looks ridiculously little compared to the other (which is why mom gave the other away, because she'd thought it too big), i was so eager to get it in my mouth i said, mmm. imagine a baby jonesing for a bottle. i took a bite. mmm. good. and then i realized i'd just reinforced that slogan.

twenty-one. yes, i talk to myself. i think we've already established that i'm a little crazy, right?

twenty-two. oroweat one hundred percent wheat bread rounds are the best breads ever. yummy.

twenty-three. i got my copy of the unusuals on dvd today. YAY! i am so excited. i would watch the whole thing tonight, but my dad handed me a thirty-three page document to edit. yay.

twenty-four. i hate it when people spell yay incorrectly. yeah is pronounced yeh-ah. yea is pronounced yay. they are used to express agreement, not excitement. yeah and yea mean yes. yay means hot damn, that's awesome! put it in your funk and wagnall's.

twenty-five. according to imdb, the unusuals has a ranking of eight-point-two out of ten. i cannot fathom why abc would broadcast a show like detroit one-eight-seven rather than bringing the unusuals back from the dead. and don't give me this crap about how there's a reason it's dead. did you ever watch it? do you know who amber tamblyn and jeremy renner and adam goldberg are? you don't? amber tamblyn: joan of arcadia and the sisterhood of the traveling pants one and two. jeremy renner: the hurt locker. yeah. that film that won that oscar. adam goldberg: dazed and confused, how to lose a guy in ten days ... saving private ryan and a beautiful mind. two more films that won those oscars. you wanna watch an episode? email me. maybe i'll let you borrow my copy.


so there are notre dame cathedrals all over france apparently. this one is in reims. this is the one at which joan of arc met some king. this is where the coronations of the kings of france took place. this one boasts the stained-glass handiwork of marc chagall.

paris and versailles

notre dame cathedral, the eiffel tower, versailles and the champs elysees.


July 12, 2010

the sixteenth question

July 11, 2010

Why do you want to be a writer? -- Jeffrey

Because I can’t imagine doing anything else. Not really. Not for more than a day or two. There have been lots of things I’ve considered — editorial assistant (or something in publishing), architect, interior designer, elementary or secondary education language arts/English teacher, nurse (this one’s laughable, really, given that I take such lousy care of myself), singer, psychologist, bookstore manager (come to think of it, everything from nurse on is laughable — I hate getting up in front of people, can’t get my own head straight and couldn’t hack it as a bookstore supervisor, probably because, in reality, I didn’t want to.)

Honestly, I’d much rather be doing something that paid well. The six-figure kind of well. And in those moments where I’m either thinking in terms of being able to support myself financially, or doubting my own talent and ability to persevere, I have to say, writer doesn’t seem to be the wisest choice. So, I rack my brain, trying to think of something better.

And I can’t. Nothing else seems right. Nothing else feels right. The only thing that comes close, I guess, is professor.

Unfortunately, it’s not a solid decision, but, I’ve accepted that my mind, because it is such a curious thing, will always wonder if there’s some sort of career out there for which I am better suited and, despite that curiosity, will always, after the wondering, sway back towards and linger upon, writer.

previous essays: the thirteenth, the fourteenth, the fifteenth.


the first three photos are of nymphenburg palace. the last are of the munich rathaus, aka new town hall.


July 9, 2010