Yellow Blanket

1. Things have ramped up with my regular paid job and I’ve been super busy.

2. I’m working with editor on the Yellow Blanket arranging and putting the manuscript in order. What does that mean? Sitting down with the 181 pages I have a dating everything. The manuscript is kind of a hot mess and needs to be straightened out. Getting closer.

3. I put in an application to teach at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer 2015 conference in Connecticut yesterday. Fingers crossed.

4. My writing critique group is on break until January 6 but I am not. Straightening out the manuscript and typing up some writings from my writing journals are on my to do list.

5. Going to Los Angeles to see two good friends from college and my writing worlds next week. I also found out a Summer Fishtrap friend from 2013 will be in the area so I’m hoping to see her as well.

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Editing-found the best ending sentence on one of my chapters

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Reunion

Upstate New York May 2014

The most dangerous times to fly are landing and takeoff, according to my mother. She watches The Lehrer News Hour on Friday night with Gwen Ifil. In high school and college it was 20/20 or Dateline. She likes facts and emails my sister and I news articles on airline safety. Sometimes she sends clippings via snail mail. “You should count the number of exit rows ahead and behind you when you fly,” she emailed me once. “You never know what the plane will do. It could be dark. There have been studies that show that people who survive plane crashes have counted the exit rows so they know how to escape.”

I think about this when the plane takes off and lands. Sometimes I count the exit rows ahead and behind me. Other times I just relax and don’t care. I tell myself I’m being lazy but really it’s the constant hyper diligence that I’m letting go of. I’m not lazy.

On my flight from Portland to Atlanta I sit in a row across from three Amish women. I can tell they don’t fly very often. I am on the first leg of my flight to my fifteen year college reunion at Wells College in upstate New York. When I went to Wells it was a women’s college. It went coed in 2003. I was not pleased with the decision. The three Amish women are twenty years old with hair wrapped up in buns.

Tight.

They are pale satin skin and innocent. The one sitting next to me in the aisle seat wears lavender, yellow, turquoise and green flower dress with what looks like material from the 70’s. The material looks like it doesn’t need to be ironed. She pulls out a box of Wheat Thins from a camouflage backpack with pink piping sitting at her feet. She eats the Wheat Thins and wipes her hand on her skirt.

I want to hand her a napkin. I have quite a few in my carry on. She passes the Wheat Thins to the woman sitting next to her and they eat, talk in quiet voices and giggle about flying.

I don’t like flying.

Four back and forth trips in planes between upstate New York and Portland yearly in college left me never wanting to travel again: Syracuse to Chicago to Portland, Syracuse to St. Louis to Portland, Rochester to Detroit to Portland, Syracuse to JFK to Portland. The girl in the lavender, yellow, turquoise and green flower dress closes the Wheat Thin box up and shoves it in her camouflage back pack with pink piping.

I take my journal out from my overstuffed bag and write about them. I watch from the corner of my eye. My shoulders scrunched up. I take a deep breath and realize I’ve been holding tension in my body. That’s how it is when I fly. I worry I have forgotten something at home:

My swimsuit for diving into Cayuga Lake during reunion.

Did I leave the cats enough food?

Did I lock up the house?

Turn on the outside lights?

There is always something to worry about when I fly.

In Atlanta I get off plane, check myself into the airport on Facebook and search for food. There’s McDonalds, Panda Express, Burger King. There’s a Pink Berry frozen yogurt stand that I had read about in People or US Weekly. It’s where celebrities go. I decide to give it a try since at least there is fruit they could put on top of my lime berry and vanilla swirl combo. It’s $7.50 for a small with the fruit topping. Still better than greasy fries and a burger that will only leave me farty.

My friend Hetty, a friend from college who lives in Atlanta sees my check in and comments that I should try and have a longer layover next time so we can hang out. Hetty is 5’9, skinny, and half Dutch and African American. She went to boarding school in Germany and always said if you travel to Europe you should try and get on an SAS or Swiss Air flight because all of the Luthanasa flight attendants were giant boorish women that would yell at you.

I shove the Pink Berry in my craw, find a restroom, pee and board my connecting flight to Rochester. I land, rent a car, start driving, see an EZ Pass sign and realize I don’t have money with me for tolls. I type in my friend Lee, who used to be Alicia’s address in Buffalo and search for all the non-toll roads on my GPS.

“I’ll be there in an hour and fifteen minutes,” I text him. I’m bleery eyed from travel and hungry. Lee and I will probably eat once I get to his house so I decide against stopping. I’m also dehydrated as fuck but press on knowing I’ll be drinking water in no time.

I get to Lee’s house in Buffalo and he’s inside with his girlfriend Lynn’s three cats, Sebastian, Princess and Figaro. Lee has just graduated from law school and is 160k in debt. He’s 5’7, skinny and taking steroid shots. His voice is deeper and face more chiseled than the last time I saw him a year earlier. Lee works at non-profit making $13 an hour doing I don’t know what. Lynn is in Rochester, an hour away working at Strong Memorial as an oncology nurse. I’m not a fan. We were in the same graduating class at Wells. She’s nervous, clears her throat constantly and always swings her head to get her stringy, thin hair out of her eyes.

My visit with Lynn and Lee the year before was like this: wake and funeral for our good friend Colleen in Northern New York who died at 36 after a seven year battle with breast, lymph and brain cancer leaving a seven year old and husband behind. Me trying to hold it together, grief spilling out everywhere, and calling Lee “she” instead of “he.” Lynn mad at me in the parking lot in Clayton after the funeral for calling Lee a “she”. The rain coming down and me driving, mad, to Governeur in my giant, black Chrysler rental car that the rental agent insisted I have, separate, to meet Lynn, Lee and our friend Alyssa, who thank god, was the great neutralizer : friendly, easy going and laughs. In Governeur, all four of us pile into a booth at an empty 50’s rock and roll themed diner. I focus all my attention on Alyssa: my saving grace in the depressing diner. I ignore Lynn and her stupid throat clearing and look at Lee only when necessary.

Lee makes me a gluten free grilled cheese sandwich and hands me a glass for water. I stand while he flips the grilled cheese in the frying pan. We talk on the phone once a week and text constantly. When I arrive we don’t have to spend a lot of time catching up. We walk to an ice cream stand a few blocks from their apartment. It’s a warm night so I order a chocolate dipped cone. Lee gets frozen custard. We crack Beavis and Butthead jokes with one another as traffic zooms by on the busy street.

I spend a day with Lee in Buffalo. We go downtown and take pictures of city and government buildings that have art deco styles from the 30’s. We go to Central Terminal, a train station built in the depression that was never used. It’s beautiful but abandoned with a police car parked near the train tracks. It sits in an old Polish neighborhood with abandoned buildings and factories. The city is trying to make a comeback but it’s a long slog. There are abandoned factories everywhere. The city smells like Cheerios.

I had a one night stand with Lee in college. Back when Lee was Alicia and the college was full of only women. It was February, dark and freezing outside. Snow on the ground and icicles hanging from the old brick buildings littered around campus. Alicia was in a black out. I was drunk but I remember the details: fisting, disassociating, and wanting to run away. Alicia was into S&M. I was not. I’m still not.

Lynn comes back from working in Rochester and we go to a natural foods restaurant. Lee is celiac and can’t eat gluten. Neither can I. Lee is my toilet humor friend. Lynn is not that way. I wish she was still working. Her nervous habits drive me crazy and I try and try and try to be friendly even though her presence makes me cringe.

The next day we leave in separate cars for reunion: me in my Hyundai rental that’s like a tin can. I make sure I have cash on hand for tolls and pray I don’t die on the New York State Thruway. Lynn and Lee leave together in Lynn’s new Subaru. Wells is two and half hours from Buffalo. I’m grateful to be away from the throat clearing. I’m staying in the dorms for two nights. I don’t mind since I haven’t slept on campus since 1999 when I graduated.

I boycotted my 5 and 10 year reunions. The female president of Wells converted the school from all women’s to coed in 2004. Lisa Marsh Ryerson was a 1980 graduate who made the decision behind closed doors without consulting faculty. It was a secretive decision made with help from the college trustees. Most of my classmates and friends who graduated in a few years before and after me are still mad.

When the decision was made in 2004 I met up with Yoshi in New York City, we rented a car and drove up to Wells to meet Lee, who was still Alicia, to protest. Yoshi, Alicia and I hung out with the students who pitched their tents on Macmillan administration building lawn and camped out in protest. It was the closest thing to a 60’s style protest that I had been to. I was 27 and angry at the great injustice that was the college turning coed.

I’m upset still but not so much that I’m still boycotting reunion. LMR has moved on and it now head of AARP. I park my tin car along a circular driveway and walk into Main building. It smells just like it did in college. I check in at the registration table in Faculty Parlors. Faculty Parlors is blood red paint on the walls, crimson/pink/yellow floral sofas and dark woods everywhere. When I was a student the college got a massive facelift. The woman that started the American Girl Doll Company graduated from Wells in the 1960’s and decided to redecorate the interiors of the four dorms and five buildings. The dorm I lived in freshman year had dark pink and pastel green plaid wallpaper, green sofas and matching art work. It was odd and eclectic and we weren’t allowed to move any of the furniture.

There’s a twenty something dude and a woman behind a long folding table in Faculty Parlors giggling and gossiping. I don’t make eye contact with the guy. I’m still resentful that there are men walking around my all women’s college campus. Correction: former all women’s college campus. Most people don’t care about going to their college reunion. Our graduating class was 76 people and everyone knew one another. I’m looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in 15 years. In Faculty Parlors the furniture is faded and worn. It looks like the college needs another facelift. I pick up my registration packet that includes a name tag with my name and graduation year, a pen, a pad of paper with the Wells logo, a stagecoach being pulled by two horses and a beer cozy.

I head up the stairs to Main third where I’ll be staying. I’m staying on one of the wings. My room is long and narrow with old wood floors and the same furniture from when I was a student. There’s a window that overlooks Cleveland Hall, the art building, named after Frances Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland’s wife. When I was a senior at Wells I would go into Cleveland on the weekends and write my papers. There were always papers to write. I rarely had tests. I text Lee and find him settling into a room down the hall from me. Lynn’s off somewhere else.

“What up, son?” Lee says.

“Nothing. It’s so weird to be back here.”

“I know. Wanna go down the dining hall and see if they have any coffee?” Lee asks. Lee drinks coffee from a silver travel mug and smokes cigarettes from the Native American reservation.

“Yea, let’s go,” I turn on my heel and down the hallway to the dining hall that’s just down the stairs.

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Busy again

Work has picked up and I’ve been extraordinarily busy with clients and meetings, getting pages together for my weekly workshop group and edits on another draft of “The Yellow Blanket.”   Actually, the working title of the book has changed to “The Book of The Yellow Blanket” since the entire manuscript has shifted point of view.  Here’s what’s been going on:

1. Met with editor and she sent me home with “The Book of the Yellow Blanket” and a whole bunch of work that needs to be done.  Quite honestly I’ve been dreading even looking at it ever since I came back from meeting with her last week.  I go back and forth between loving and hating the manuscript.  I’ve been working on it for 4+ years and some days I just want to burn it so I don’t have to ever look at it ever again.  Other days I’ll pick it up in my hands, look through the pages and be amazed at what I have created.  I need to find a morning where I can go to a coffee shop and just sit for a few hours with the manuscript and get the work over with.

2. Trying to keep up with editing/writing 7 pages a week for my workshop group can be daunting. I try to get as much writing done on Saturday and Sunday mornings as I can before the work week hits and I have to shift focus to clients.

3. I’ve been busy with clients and meetings, writing reports and invoicing.  This work pays for my travel addiction, workshop group, editors and writers conferences so it’s a blessing and a curse.

4. I’m going to Los Angeles for five days at the end of month aka dead time for work and need to start thinking about museums I’m going to visit, places I’ll be going, etc.

5. I’m going to Australia for 12 days in February and couldn’t be more excited.  It will be summer there and a nice break from the drudgery of the Portland permacloud/rain/sleet/crap we get in winter.

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Second home

I traveled to New York in October and it was like this: drove to Hollywood MAX station at 4:45 am, got there too early, got yelled at by a homeless man on the platform, yelled back, took the train, got to PDX, went through security, flew for 5 hours to JFK, took the AIRTrain, a regular train and then a bus for 2 hours, and checked into Airbnb in Lefferts Gardens. After I dropped my bags off I walked to my friend Kate’s MFA reading at a cramped bar in Prospect Park. I was happy to be back in the city and a new part of Brooklyn that I had never explored. In the park people were out barbequing, having parties and playing basketball. It was 5:30 pm on a Sunday. I wanted that energy. That life didn’t exist in Portland. It was stupid, white hipsters walking around drinking coffee, getting pieces of maple bacon scone caught in their beards and trying to outcool each other at Stumptown. I had been over hipsters for so long I was ready to be angry about something else even though I was a hipster.
I picked up my pace after the park. I had my New York legs. It was time to start walking fast and catch up. I walked into a corner store that advertised organic food but was mostly junk food. I found some almonds and a bottled frappucino. I got to Kate’s reading, it was standing room only and impossible to order food. It was ok. I had been sitting all day and standing felt good. That is until my plantar fasciitis kicked in. I had been diagnosed with it a year earlier. I had gone to the boyfriend/non-boyfriend’s podiatrist off Glisan since the podiatrist I had been seeing was starting to creep me out. My former podiatrist was a short, bald, heavy set man nearing 70. He commented on my dainty feet and going to the Blues Festival downtown and how his wife said they should charge more to keep the riff raff out.
After that I knew it was time to find someone else to look at my feet.
Kate was supposed to go up last but ended up going early. She read three poems and I snapped pictures of her reading from the back. After she was done I listened to one more reading and then gave her a hug goodbye. I was starving and the almonds weren’t cutting it. I still had a few hours before I was supposed to meet Tom at his studio in Murrayhill. I decided to go into midtown and hit the Korean chicken restaurant Kyochon before I went to go see him. I had been to Kyochon a few times on my previous trips to NYC.
I walked to the subway a few blocks away, swiped my MTA card like an expert and waited for the train. I pulled out my iPhone and wrote on the notepad. That’s what it was like when I travelled. It was my own mini-writing residency on the train or the bus or where ever I was. Portland and my clients felt like a million miles away and I could write in real time. I got off the train at Grand Central and knew exactly how to get out of the busy station. I walked fast around the stupid tourists who walked slow and made me mad. Even though I was a tourist I really wasn’t. I was starting to feel so comfortable in New York like it was a second home.
I typed in Kyochon in my GPS and got lost. On the way there Tom texted me and told he me was home early making chicken soup. I texted back and told him I was hungry. He told me the chicken soup wouldn’t be done for a little while but he could me something else. I typed his address into my iPhone GPS and headed over. I muted the stupid GPS voice.
I got to Tom’s and announced myself to the doorman. He let me in and I took the elevator to the 11th floor. There were five doors and I knew which one was Tom’s. His apartment was becoming more and more familiar just like the boyfriend/non-boyfriend’s house. I knocked on the door quietly and a second later Tom opened the door. I was giddy and nervous.
“Hello,” he said. “Come on in.” He had a big grin on his face and took a step back to let me through the door.
“Hey,” I dropped my bags and slipped off my shoes on the entry rug and pushed them off to the side. It gave me a chance to calm myself and just be in my body. It smelled like turmeric and chicken.
He leaned in to give me a hug and I hugged back. I had to get up tip toes because he was so tall. He held me tight.
“So can I get you anything?” He held onto my waist.
“Water?” My arms were around his shoulders. I was nervous and quiet. That’s how it was when I had seen someone I was so attracted to in a long time.
He took a step back. He pushed his hair out of his face. The Mohawk from 11 years ago gone.
“Sure,” he went to the refrigerator, opened it up and pulled out a Brita. “What can I get you to eat?” he held the door open and reached up to get a glass.
I walked three steps to the refrigerator. His apartment was tiny.
“What do you have?” I took a sip from the small Ikea glass
“What do you feel like?” He held the glass out to me.
“I have some sausages, fruit….sauerkraut.”
“Sure that sounds good.” I probably would have eaten the heel of a shoe at that point. I pulled out a chair at his bar/dining room table that was a step away from the refrigerator and stove.
Tom set the fruit plate in front of me and handed me a fork. He cooked the sausages on the stove next to the big pot of chicken soup. I was so happy to be eating fruit and drinking water. It was a small gesture but after a day of traveling, going and going and lugging my luggage up and down stairs and escalators and elevators it was a relief to have someone making me food. I didn’t have that in Portland either. The boyfriend/non-boyfriend would make me eggs in the morning sometimes but we had been broken up for 18 months and there was a giant void.
“I had some really dumb cat names when I was a kid,” Tom took the lid off the chicken soup and stirred.
“Like what?” I sat Indian style in the seat.
“TH and PR. TH was short for toilet head and PR for purr.” Tom humor. It was dumb bordering on smart. I missed it.
“Those are pretty bad.” I ate a pineapple and then a strawberry. That was the thing that I missed about being in a relationship. I had been doing everything on my own for so long.
“There were even more,” he turned the sausages in the frying pan.
“How many cats did you have?” I took a drink of water. I was dehydrated as fuck.
“There were a lot because we were in the country and a lot them got picked off by coyotes.” He set the sauerkraut next to the fruit.
“It’s funny. I was doing an informational interview for a client who was interested in nanotechnology and the guy who she was interviewing was from some small town like Canby or Molalla.”
“Molalla?” Tom looked at me with a look that said “Is that really the name of a town.” “I know. It’s a weird name. It’s a small town outside of Salem.”
“Oh,” he pulled a plate down from the cupboard and put the sausages on it for me.
“So the guy was going on about Whidbey island and what a weird place it was,” I got up
to get more water.
“It is a weird place but what specifically was he saying was weird?” Tom looked confused. He set the plate down on the bar.
“The island life and the fact that there’s a military base there.”
“The military base is on the north end and it’s more conservative up there. The southern part is more hippy dippy. I think there are a lot of elements of Twin Peaks there too. I think that’s why Iiked that show so much.” Tom put the sausages on a plate and handed it to me.
“I liked that show too,” I spooned out mustard and sauerkraut onto my plate. Actually, I loved that show. At fourteen I would watch it late at night with the lights off in the living room in our three bedroom house in Salem. Walking to my room after the show was over freaked me out. I had images of Bob coming out from behind the sofa.
After eating the sausages and sauerkraut Tom leaned in to kiss me. He looked me in the eyes. That’s what I liked about Tom. We kissed for a few minutes in the bar chairs. He was the last person I had fucked before I left for Iceland four months earlier. I missed sex. That’s the truth. Maybe Tom was a player and was using me as a booty call. I didn’t really know. I was scared to ask. I liked that we had history and that he looked me in the eyes when we had sex. The boyfriend/non-boyfriend never did that. His eyes were always closed. Tom and I went from sitting to standing. My feet and legs were tired from walking and sitting and traveling. My arms around his shoulders again I balanced on tip toes. His floppy, thick curly brown hair fell into his eyes. I didn’t care. We touched each other over clothes. We touched each other under clothes. My dress came off. His shirt came off. My leggings came off. His pants came off. He grabbed me from behind and hoisted me up. He held onto my ass in mid air and fucked me. We looked at each other dirty. Really dirty.
I found him so irresistible: his hair, his blue eyes, pale skin, height, his awkward sense of humor, his apartment.
Everything.
I was ready to leave my life in Portland and move to New York. To be with Tom and have someone take care of me. He didn’t know it yet. I didn’t know how to ask him or tell him that I wanted to be with him.

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Learning to appreciate the darkness

I’m trying to learn to approach the darkness that settles in here in Portland between mid-November to late December. I try and enjoy being underneath three layers of blankets with the cat usually somewhere on top or beside me. I bought one of those faux sheepskin rugs that seems to be all the rage. I put it in my bathroom to keep my bare feet warm in winter.

Out on the roads there are fewer people that ride their bikes. When I ride I usually turn pandora on on my iPhone and listen to music when I ride. I bring a portable charger with me just in case. I like the silence and less bikes. It’s quieter. More solemn.

I eat root vegetables, make bacon and eggs and juice lemons for their vitamin c benefits. I grate ginger root into the vitamin c and add cayenne pepper. I don’t know if my two-three daily lemon shots are helping to keep colds at bay but I haven’t had a cold all fall. Last year was a different story. I had a cold or some type of illness between October and February. I gained 15 pounds.

After Christmas I’m going to Los Angeles for a few days to see friends and the sun. The permacloud has returned to Portland and it’s rare to have a full day of sun here. I’m excited to warm up and walk on the beach.

But for now, on a lazy cold Saturday I’ll sit in bed with the cat, drink coffee and write on the laptop under three layers of blankets.

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Gratitude lists

I love writing gratitude lists but keeping them to myself in my journal. I don’t post them on Facebook or twitter. This blog is good enough. Last November there was some social media thing going around on Facebook where people posted their gratitude lists everyday.
I couldn’t get into it.
So instead, I scrolled past those lists in the feed. I am feeling grateful this year that things have been way better with my health. Last winter I was sick every month with something. From October to February I has a cold, a cough or something icky keeping me in the house. I stopped eating gluten, didn’t get very much exercise and gained 10 pounds.
I like to think it was the loss of my relationship with the boyfriend/non-boyfriend coupled with the fact that I had just bought a house and a new car and my income took a nose dive. My main referral source for my business unexpectedly retired. Looking back I was really sad. I spent so much time on the couch it was hard to just sit and worry all the time. I was worried about whether or not I would need to get a part time job or if I was gonna make my mortgage payment. I submitted a lot of pieces to journals and contests and they were all rejected.

Spring came and things slowly got better. I started therapy with my dad and working past our 11 year silence. I managed to get through the spring and summer with a late August cold. The agencies I contract with changed their rate payment structure for the better and this fall I’ve been able to stop worrying so much about money and if my mortgage will he paid. I’ve been feeling better. Lighter. I’m going to Los Angeles for four days after Christmas to see my friend Katie from college and Marybeth will be in town from New York. In February I’m going to Australia for nine days. I’m in the middle of applying for a low residency writing graduate program.
Things are turning around for the better.

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