Thursday, October 28, 2010

october all over...

The colors are already fading and the cold is here. I've been out everywhere it seems, catching up on front porches, watching the World Series and the first Cavs game with some of my old Kentinistas, sitting all night nursing a beer a friend of mine said I'd like as we listen to R.E.M and the Pogues at the Irish pub around the corner as we ponder the universe and tell stories with the bartender, alternately wide-eyed and laughing.

I come home to my lonely apartment, savoring the peace, realizing that cooking for one isn't so bad and that I'm really not as lonely as I thought I'd be when I visualized my life in earlier years of being single, working, and eating alone. I'm sure I will have nights where it will hurt, but I had those even when I had six roommates, and life is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined even in its sadness and disappointments.

All these questions we try to answer about our world, our cities, ourselves, and the way that we connect and disengage with each other. We know we don't know everything but that's never stopped us from trying.

And I try to keep my head up and my mouth from saying everything that wants to come out knowing that not all of it is good or useful. There's times I wish I could really say what I'm thinking or vent to someone else about how this person does that thing and how lame it is. But what good does that do all the time?

And I attempt to make sense, to seek beauty, to love better and truer. There has been so much I've learned, and I realize more and more why wisdom is such a priceless thing. I'm not there yet, but what I've tasted of it makes me want more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The wind was hot and the talk of tornado warnings and high winds made me want to skip out of work early and run down to the lake and take pictures of blowing sands, bending trees, and roaring waves.

But I'm at my desk getting stuff done and realizing that my camera may not survive that onslaught, knowing that I only have a few more minutes here. I look out at the grayness of the sky, the sheets of rain, and I long for my apartment full of warm light, a cup of tea, some good music, and one of my dad's frayed flannel shirts, missing the conversation of roommates but hoping to find some inspiration in the peace and maybe start painting again. As much as I enjoy the company of other arty types, I do my best work alone.

For some reason I've been really wanting to hear some Ani Difranco, and the pallor of the day brought this song roaring back to me. I tend to be more ideologically square than my musical taste alludes to, and there's no album of hers that I can listen to all the way through but the way she plays a guitar and grabs some of those emotions hits me.

i guess i've only got three
simple things to say:
why me?
why this now?
why this way?
with overtones ringing
and undertows pulling away
under a sky that is grey
on sand that is grey
by an ocean that's grey"

"what kind of paradise am i looking for?
i've got everything i want
and still i want more
maybe some tiny shiny key
will wash up on the shore..."


There are many times when someone is angry at you for a legit reason, like you not using your turn signal or giving them the wrong change, or forgetting something important.

And then there are other times when it is just so absurd that even my occasional tendency to shoot my mouth off doesn't even happen because the accusations are so crazy I'd only be lowering myself to respond to them.

And this has been happening a lot, mostly involving grown adults old enough to be my parents acting like children or teenagers, embodied in the form of meddling parents, catty colleagues, bitter customers who know they can be nasty and get away with it because we know we'll get written up if we talk back, or those who just have nothing better to do than spread the hate.

And then I'm coming home up my street when the lady driving the SUV in front of me stops suddenly and gets out screaming that I never learned to drive and that what I'm doing "isn't funny" and I don't know what I did at all and it seems like she's just trying to pick a fight and I look confused enough that she eventually gets back in her car and drives away. I don't want her to see that I live there so I cut down an alley and of course see her at the stoplight a block over where she proceeds to give me more dirty looks and my friend who's in the car with me is just as confused as I am.

I'm just glad she and these other people don't own guns because this world just seems to be getting more crazy. And it just makes me laugh because it's so absurd. Can't make this stuff up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

fall leaves and fish heads

My sister has her first ultrasound photo, and I can see this little body, with its tiny arms and legs and think about how I was once that tiny and yet smaller, and while I've never experienced what she is seeing right now, it gives me the shivers to think of the creation of life and how beautiful and strange it is.

I was so many places this weekend, spending a day away with some girls from church to alternately contemplate and hang out by the lake, stopped home to see my sister, walked around in the woods where the leaves were fragrant and the canopy of forest glowed like stained glass.

I did another English tutoring session and ended up having dinner with the family whose kids I used to tutor and who gave me a huge piece of fresh-cut goat meat to show their appreciation. The baby of the family is now running around and showing off his gymnastic skills, the kids are showing me what they're learning in school and I'm trying to explain words and cultural things I take for granted, and as customary of east African hospitality, I get a can of Sunny Delight and dinner, which is always good and this time is a spicy stew that has what turns out to be little fish mixed in with the vegetables.

She's a fantastic cook and I know that if I don't finish it, it'll be considered deeply rude so I bury the little fish with their eyes and fins inside a pile of rice and spoon it quick like I'm eating sushi and I can't help but think of this song.

The kids want me to sleep over and come back every day, and I can't do that realistically but I do need to see more of them.

And tonight, I'll be attempting to fashion beautiful and useful things out of clay and then babysitting two hilarious little boys for a friend of mine while she and her husband go out with some old friends. I haven't babysat in a long time, but it should be fun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

best of the blotter 29: fall shenanigans

DISTURBANCE, PONDEROSA LANE: A female resident of Ponderosa Lane was having trouble with raccoons in her attic and heard that the critters don’t like loud music. Her solution was to place loud speakers in the eaves of her attic and blast them with loud music. The speakers, however, were outside her home, and the loud music disturbed her neighbor who complained to police Sept. 29.

The homeowner told police that until she had the raccoons at bay, she had planned to continue playing the loud music. Police told her to keep the volume level down, and she complied.

THEFT, INDUSTRIAL PARKWAY: A John Deere sign, valued at $2,000, was reported stolen from a company sometime between 5 p.m. Oct. 5 and 7 a.m. Oct. 7.

ANIMAL COMPLAINT, RIDDLE ROAD: A man complained of coyotes in his yard Oct. 6.

He had two bags with deer parts hanging in his orchard to deter deer. Police advised him that the coyotes were attracted to the bags.

BOWLING BALL, W. LIBERTY: A caller told police that there was a random bowling ball resting on the sidewalk in front of a W. Liberty St. restaurant around 2 p.m., Oct. 8. An officer responded and took the unattended bowling ball into property.

COMPLAINT, DETROIT AVENUE: Police were unable to locate a man reportedly leaning on the side of a building eating tacos at 9:13 p.m. Friday. The man was reportedly intoxicated.

Monday, October 18, 2010

everyone knows this is nowhere...

My dad and I took a roadtrip to beautiful Belmont County to visit relatives and get out of the city and it was the perfect day to drive around listening to "Everyone Knows This is Nowhere" and "The Joshua Tree," as I'm wondering why these two records feel so American when they're not, but they sound so good and epic when driving through tiny towns under huge blue skies as the colors turn to yellow and rust.

I wonder how these towns hold on, and I see creeks where the water is rusty and hills that have been carved out by strip mining, empty farmhouses with torn curtains waving in the breeze, old cars rusting in back yards.

We stopped and visited relatives and I heard stories about working in coal mines, the way that things have changed since then, and caught up on the family gossip, since my grandma's passed away, no one knows what everyone's up to anymore since she was the link between us in Cleveland and them in Maynard.

A lot of people weren't home, so we didn't end up staying overnight like we planned, but it was good to see the aunts, uncles, and cousins that I did know, and to end up in places that I've never been to before as we took detours and back roads so steep and narrow I wondered if we were going to get stranded and also how my relatives drive their big old Cadillacs and Crown Vics up and down these steep gravel roads on precarious hills.

We stopped by to visit a few of my uncles but nobody was home. I'd never been to some of these places before, but my dad knew every watering hole and uncle's house including Joe's where he jokes about his six Cadillacs that rust in the yard along with all the ephemera he's picked up over the last few decades.

The drive home was beautiful and I got to have some great conversations with my dad and indulge my artistic id by taking photos of everything I could snap from the car windows. I'd love to get down there more, to be somewhere so different and yet so familiar, the place where my roots were and where I came from.

I crashed on a friend's couch that night when I came home and then painted my new kitchen and moved more stuff over. I couldn't stay over that night and didn't want to go home so I studied for my Latin American History midterm at a coffeeshop and walked around Lakewood talking to the partner in crime on the phone before tiring myself out sufficiently.

My dad and adopted uncle and a couple friends of mine helped me move the big stuff that morning, I got free tickets to see "The Screwtape Letters" that afternoon and then picked up my former college roomie to go see Greg Dulli do an "intimate set" at the Grog Shop, which made me realize that I am still more of a fan of the full band setup (even though the violinist/cellist was amazing) and that his fanbase has a surprising amount of very drunk and obnoxious people.

I mean, really, it's the first time my personal space was blatantly violated, the women (I say "women" because they were older than me) were trying to throw themselves at this aging rock icon with a serious self-hating streak, the dudes were completely wasted and couldn't keep their hands to themselves, and I was a bit cranky and sore from having moved all day and seen enough dysfunction in the past few months to really not want to hear about more of it.

It's back to the daily for me after two days off and a weekend of moving and movement, trying to impose order on the jumble of boxes and bags, adjust to living upstairs and taking into consideration that the floors are thinner than I thought, and the little kids living below me need to go to bed early, that my gas doesn't get turned on until Thursday when I can be home and therefore I have no heat, hot water, or a working stove, so I pile up the covers and my grandma's feather bed, eat takeout, and wait for things to start to feel a little more stable than they do right now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

acquisition / reposition

These past couple months have made me better at learning how to do things on my own. I don't know what the future brings as far as life and love, and I've given up on trying to even figure out all that, and just want to keep growing and learning even when it's hard.

I went to see a friend's band play down the street last night and had a great time just sitting there by myself letting the sound wash over me. They said it was the worst show they've ever played, but the guitars sounded so beautiful and it was just cathartic to hear. I'm looking forward to checking out Greg Dulli on Saturday night too, indulging in my love of all things angsty and 90's and I hope he does this cover...

This past week I signed my lease and got my key and moved anything I could fit into my little Toyota... boxes and chairs and did I really have that many paintings and blank canvases, all these dishes and CDs, why are books so heavy? I know people are willing to help me move but since this is going to be temporary, I don't want to ask too much of people. And it was just easier and gave me something to do, to not sit at home and eat alone thinking of all that needs to get done.

I did my last big purge six months ago so there was nothing to get rid of except some coffee mugs I'm giving to a friend whose house was broken into and everything including ceramic mugs you can get anywhere was stolen.

My downstairs neighbors are a family I've known awhile, who have cats, two little boys, and two husky mixes. I still have a porch to sit on and a little balcony off the back. A kid my landlord knows is crashing there and cleaned up the floors for me and started painting the kitchen so it smells all chemically lemony fresh. I haven't even unpacked and it already feels like home.

Me and my dad are making a road trip down to the Ohio/West Va border tomorrow, with my camera, a stack of CDs, a two liter bottle of Coca-Cola, ample supplies of apples and tortilla chips, to see his relatives, hear stories, hang out and eat way too much food. I need a change of scene, and the hills outside of St. Clairsville with all the fall colors sound incredibly inviting right now.

I never planned to be moving out in six months or expected to be on probation or that a lot of things in life would have worked out the way they did, but really, I have everything I need and more...

Saturday, October 9, 2010


We had a family party last night, everyone converging at my parents' house for fried chicken and pumpkin pie and hanging out and afterwards I crashed on a friend's couch because it just felt better being there. It felt good to laugh and just be with others.

It's hard for me to be in the apartment all alone, and I have to admit that sometimes I cry for no coherent reason, and I've just been out everywhere I can be to be away from the jumble in my living room and all the brokenness it represents. I went shopping with my sister, aunt, and mom, and the only thing I could think of looking at all these things was the pile of life's possessions sitting in my living room.

I moved out in 2007 loading everything in the back of the Sexy Saturn wagon, and now, well, I have furniture and stuff. I can't imagine enough stability to really bother with anything nice and it just doesn't interest me even though I am excited that my dad is passing on his giant 70's era stereo speakers that his brother built and covered with aqua green fabric.

And fall is beautiful especially when the light is golden and the weather is one last gasp of beautiful before the inevitable onset of rain and cold. Edgewater with its waves and trees is so perfect for contemplation as I can sit there and not feel weird for just staying there awhile.

Thankfully tonight wasn't as lonely as it could have been. My friend that I reconnected with a couple days ago needed some help with his English 101 assignments so I packed boxes while he did his homework at the kitchen table and I had to remember how to structure paragraphs, explain sentence structure, and all the writing I did in college as we end up in layman's linguistics as far as the mixed-up-ness of Kiswahili and English and he talked about how the longer he's here the more he feels like he's losing his connection with home.

And I'm here, in that purgatory of waiting and longing, wondering what I even want anymore besides God because that's about the only sure thing. Everything seems to fall apart so quickly and I'm getting to the point where I wonder if it was ever together to begin with.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

twelve years later...

I've been reading these discussions about bullying teens and kids killing themselves and senators wanting to pass laws they can't enforce because it hits a nerve. I was one of those kids who got more than my share of awfulness in those years.

Middle school was bad enough, and I remember thinking that high school would be better. I was a nerdy freshman at an all-girls Catholic school who didn't know anyone, and was there on a full scholarship rather than my parents' incomes. I had thought I would thrive there taking Latin and all that, but it was a year of hell. Girls are mean and cliquish and smell blood so easily. Since there were no boys to be an outlet for that energy, it was turned inward.

This was at the height of the boy band era and I was utterly unattracted to any of those teen idols with the frosted hair and the corny music. I've never really been attracted to 'beautiful people' anyway because I usually assume they're arrogant or mean, and found myself drawn more to the misunderstood musician types like Kurt Cobain.

But freshman year, this meant that if I didn't have a crush on Justin Timberlake or Nick Carter, I couldn't possibly be straight, and this being at an all-girls school, meant social suicide of the highest degree and everything that goes with that, the rumors, the eating lunch alone, threats in the locker room, and the way that girls could be so cruel.

I am so thankful that the dynamics of web 2.0 that's so pervasive now didn't exist then, because I can't even imagine how much worse that would make things. I wanted to drop out after one semester but the way my course schedule was set up, it would have messed up everything else.

This was also the year that Columbine happened so there was all sorts of paranoia regarding lonely outsiders with a love of doomy rock music and I was sent to the guidance counselor because of the bruises on my knees and the scars on my arms and wrists from the cat. The only time teachers intervened was when they feared that I would do something violent and vindictive. "You've got to watch those quiet ones..."

My dad let me cut class a lot and that helped me survive, and we'd spend Wednesday afternoons going to the art museum and driving around listening to Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Led Zeppelin on the radio so I wouldn't have to go back.

I transferred out at the end of that year, did a correspondence homeschool sophomore year to catch up and then transferred into a large public high school where I had no history with anyone. There were so many people that I blended in easily, was almost invisible being neither at the top or bottom of the pecking order, and slowly found a group of people that I got along ok with.

I don't know what the answer is. Kids are mean and cruel and they probably always have been. I never sought help from teachers because it got old to hear "well you've got to stand up for yourself" knowing that at that time I didn't have the toughness to do that without looking even more lame, knowing that if I protested too much it wouldn't do any good. I don't know if you can legislate this kind of thing either. It's like declaring a war on drugs or terror, you can't win. Thankfully, I had parents who loved me and found some support in other areas and I guess got through by the grace of God if nothing else in those times I'm so glad I never have to relive.

And it does get better. That doesn't mean that grown adults don't act like schoolchildren or that things don't still happen, but generally it's not so bad. All the drama that happened made me stronger and more sure of myself and gave me more empathy for others than I maybe would have had otherwise. If I ever have kids, I want to be sure to tell them to treat others the way they want to be treated, even if the way other kids treat them is terrible, because it seems so often that the ones who hurt are so often hurt by others.

playlist 10/5/10

gil scott-heron - where did the night go

bonobo - eyesdown

blue sky black death - skies open

little dragon - fortune

martina topley-bird - something to say

bat for lashes - two planets

willie isz - i didn't mean to

pariah - detroit falls

bomb the bass feat. mark lanegan - black river

ernestine deane - praha paradise

sade - by your side (cottonbelly remix)

esthero - i drive alone

pete rock - pete's jazz

morcheeba - blindfold

julieta venegas - eres para mi

savath & savalas - balcon sin flores

hello seahorse - bestia

the xx - crystalised

astrud gilberto - gentle rain

madlib - piano garden

lamb - gorecki

massive attack - live with me

nneka - your request

fugazi - the argument

dry & heavy - landing

cut chemist - sound of the police side 1

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

girls go to mars

I went up to church early for music practice and played the drums for awhile. I got a very basic crash course from a friend of mine awhile back about the whole snare and hi-hat bit so I just tried playing around with beats and time signatures and the sheer pleasure of hitting something and hearing something good come out of it.

I started my journey of musicianship with piano lessons as a kid, had an unsuccessful couple years of flute because my mom thought I might make friends in marching band, and started playing guitar at 14 because I was bored and a boy I liked played guitar, and picked up my uncle's bass when I was 16 to play in bands that thankfully never left the living room or basement.

And now, the drums. Now that I've learned to keep time, and actually have a kit (that I wish I played more but that's another story), I'm starting to learn the rudiments of keeping a rhythm, of being consistent and not showing off too much. The djembe's been a good start for that too, but someday, I hope to play as slick as this.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

that's me in the corner

"Oh no I've said too much / I haven't said enough..."

If I could sum up most of my dealings in life, it would be with those two lines.

There have been so many times when I should have said something, and so many times I should have just shut up.

It's hard to know which one is the right one to do in any given situation.

I have said so many things I regret so intensely when good intentions get tied up with strong emotions and everything comes out in a jumble of salty language and half-baked arguments. And I have not spoken up so many times when I needed to, when I needed to tell the truth, be honest, stand up for someone. I'm getting better at speaking out without getting overly emotional, but there's times I wonder if my honesty will be the death of me.

It's hard when I see something that is very very wrong, not to say something.

I know that there have been times when others saw things in my life that I didn't see and cared enough to point them out to me. I remember being mad at first and then as time went on realizing, "Damn, they're right" and being thankful that they were willing to risk my good graces to be honest because they cared.

But that's just me. I'm open to the possibility that I might be wrong but I'm realizing more and more that others would rather exist in the world of their own creation rather than face the truth.

I just wonder if it does any good sometimes to say it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

you have seen some unbelievable things...

When I was heading home yesterday, I saw a familiar car coming the other way, a black Impala with tinted windows and once I saw the green track jacket, knew it was an old friend from a time that seems more and more distant, when I was singlehandedly trying to teach kids to read and help their parents adjust to a world far different than where they came from.

We both pull over and start talking and catching up. I've run into him while grocery shopping but haven't really caught up with him since I went with him, my roommate, and his mom to get his car out of the Rocky River impound lot after he got pulled over for being the wrong person in the wrong place with a loud car system, an arrest record, and all that.

In an economy that's profoundly depressed in our city, he's gotten himself a full-time job working at an auto parts shop, where he's welding and cutting, and going to night school. Despite having a small rap sheet, he's studying criminal justice and wants to be a cop.

I tell him I'm stressed and tired, and wished he could see me on a day when I wasn't like this, that life has been a bit crazy this summer with the whole probation/recent life transitions and my dad nearly dying and everything, and then he hugs me and says, "Take it from me, you'll get through, and you'll be stronger. Look at where I've come from. You'll be ok."

And I realize how petty I sound, even if my tiredness and stress is for good reason. I almost forget that I'm talking to someone who escaped a genocide committed by machete, saw people he loved die violently, nearly starved to death in a refugee camp, whose father tried to leave him behind knowing what that would mean. He still has sisters stuck in Nairobi that they send money to, and talks about going back to Africa someday just to see it, but he never wants to live there again.

He came here as a teenager speaking no English and finding out that the streets aren't paved with gold, who considers looking "ghetto" a good thing to be so that he blends in and doesn't get messed with, where he's become someone so many people in his community rely on as a translator, babysitter, and an accidental advocate having been here long enough to know what's going on and move between two worlds.

We have a strange friendship of asking questions and learning and arguing about the dynamics of men and women (his attitude toward women being much more patriarchal), and I have been someone outside his circle that he can admit to that he sometimes cries himself to sleep thinking about the past.

I don't know what it's like to deal with all that, but we put ourselves in a bad place when all we can see is our own problems and forget about how many things are simultaneously going on outside of us...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

shifting not drifting.

Sometimes when you're dealing with things you think you're the only one and then you realize that there's a million songs out there that speak to your emotions and suddenly they make so much more sense.

But this weekend was good despite everything. I went out to the east side for a Shabbat dinner at Moishe house that my friend Rachel and her roommates were putting on. I wasn't sure if I was at the right house, but the batik curtains and Matisyahu on the stereo led me to the right place.

Though I didn't know anyone except her and I was a little unsure if I'd belong it was the best decision I could've made and I had a wonderful time.

I wish I understood more Hebrew than the smattering that I somehow picked up somewhere so I could understand the ancient beauty of the prayers and blessings chanted over the table. The food was plentiful and delicious and it's definitely easier to keep kosher if everyone's vegetarian, and it felt like I'd stumbled into a Thanksgiving dinner but with total strangers with whom I'm suddenly discussing Thomas Merton, medieval mystics, various musical genres, trying to explain that not everyone in Parma has a swastika flag hanging in their living room, and the history of the Falasha with a guy who was shocked that I knew anything about Menelik and Ethiopian Judaism and told me "You gotta come party with the Falashas next Shabbat! We and the Jamaicans get down!" and that I needed to meet his mother.

I stayed late, helped clean up, exchanged phone numbers with kindred spirits, drove home thankful that as small as this city gets, there are still good people that I have yet to meet.

Saturday I stopped by to see my mom like I usually do and came outside to find the cat staring down this gigantic raccoon that was twice her size. Most of them were rabid and it was during the day and it's so painfully obvious that I'm a city kid when giant raccoons who don't run away when you get near them scare me. Heck, the squirrels weird me out too when they get friendly. What would I do if I lived somewhere with tigers, poisonous snakes, or gangs of violent monkeys? I guess I would do what I need to do.

The rain came down all weekend and I drove down to pick up my old Silvertone amplifier from Empirical where the guys told me that they'll miss it and had spent the last few days playing Led Zeppelin riffs on it. Drove down through the factories and bars listening to Gaslight Anthem and feeling melancholy yet strangely comforted by the rust and concrete that is beautiful and so familiar.

I've been packing boxes, trying to figure out what to throw away, wondering how I think I'm so unmaterialistic but somehow ended up with an apartment full of furniture, books, paint, and musical instruments. I think about my great uncle lonely in a house full of tchotchkes with the radio on all the time, talking about the good old days. I don't want to be like that.

I'm already figuring out this new phase of solitude, learning how to embrace what will be nights alone. I'm picking out colors of paint for the living room and setting aside one room for the studio space I've always wanted, making plans to share meals with friends so I'm not cooking dinner alone, and knowing that maybe this kind of change won't be so bad.

Friday, October 1, 2010

best of the blotter 28

THEFT, PEARL ROAD: Two juvenile males ran out on their bill after getting their nails done at approximately 6 p.m. Thursday.

Police located the boys, who agreed to pay for the services.

MISUSE OF A CREDIT CARD, HAVERHILL DRIVE: Police are investigating a Sept. 23 Fed-Ex delivery of a $500 camera to a man who claims he never ordered it. Police noted that it has become increasingly rare that a thief orders items on a victim’s credit card, then has the merchandise shipped to the victim’s house.

COMPLAINT, YOUNG AVENUE: It is not often that people complain about an overabundance of police attention in their neighborhood.

However, on Thursday, a Young Avenue resident complained that she was tired of seeing police cars drive through her apartment complex on a regular basis. She felt they came through too much

GRAND THEFT, GEO ZEIGER DRIVE: On Friday, a male resident and his wife who live at Four Seasons Apartments, reported 170,000 yen ($1,700 USD) stolen from their home.

THEFT, PEARL ROAD: Someone on Sept. 19 stole 37 packages of anti-flea products, worth $2,500, from a locked glass case at Pet World, 6859 Pearl.

COMPLAINT, DETROIT AVENUE: At 7:15 p.m. Saturday, police responded to a report of a man who was acting and walking like a zombie and scaring patrons of the Red Rooster Chicken and Deli. The man was detained and removed from the scene.