lundi 28 novembre 2011

new england is new again

On the 22nd we packed the car, the five of us, and left Charlottesville at 5:30 am, and did not beat the Northern Virginia rush hour traffic...and did not beat the DC Beltway traffic either. (Deirdre you Illinois transfer student, how could you be so optimistic when the Washington metro begins its peak of the peak fare at 7:30 am.) So we talked about New York City, Chicago, Ireland, college sports, in particular lacrosse, and Southern mannerisms.

Southerners warm, northerners cold, they say. Northerners don't know what to do when Southerners chat them up at retail stores and so on and so forth. But then the next day I'm shopping with my sister in Maine and this cashier randomly transfers her conversation with her coworker to us. "I have a date with Tom tonight," she says ecstatically with a rather Carolinian smile, as though to explain her flurry of conversation; and then she and my sister strike up a conversation along that thread, interwoven with discussion of Thanksgiving and turkeys.

And then I remember-- this was always the norm; because even in Cape Elizabeth random adults would always do that sort of New England cordiality thing to you as a child and you the Singaporean would always be at loss for words and maybe it was all fake but hey they're warm memories and New England suddenly feels like home. In Virginia the store clerks almost never strike up a spontaneous conversation with you, and you can feel the wants of life badly pressing upon them; you almost took pity at their condition, as though as it was a Southern version of watching "Save the Children" except replace starving African children with minimum wage store clerks. Iowa is even worse. New England? Home? It's been a long time since I felt this unalienated.

And so I rediscover houses are all so cute close together surrounded by blankets of snow and forest-- a remarkable thing given Maine's vast abundance of land. Urban sprawl was such an utter shock to me in the beginning as a first year in Virginia, staring up that winter the endless box stores that lined Rt. 29 for miles and miles. As the years passed and my friends and I discussed various urban transportation projects to deal with the urban sprawl that I had come to perceive as the norm, the thought would come to me repeatedly. Mottainai -- what a waste! And so I must admire New England values too.

Northern Virginia is so ugly, Rina says. And she lives there. I still think it could be pretty nice to live in Northern Virginia. All those livingsocial deals on fine Indian restaurants? And the Korean supermarts. And the Washington Metro is so relaxing, even as Congressional staffers and lobbyists crowd the train during peak hours. The New York Subway puts you on edge, from the Lexington Avenue train to 7 to sometimes even the Williamsburg L-line (judged the "most romantic" subway line -- but the pretension -- the bad kind -- can really get to you). Ugh. I mean, maybe New England's newfound quaintness will run out for me sometime, but I'm leaving this afternoon. Here's to romanticising.

lundi 21 novembre 2011

I be that man on the moon

there's nothing wrong with uniqueness, says the doctor. it would be a boring world if everyone were to conform to orthodoxy. we all have that within us; everyone has it-- to an extent, it is normal. It is human; and I nod, knowing that familiar feeling oh so in touch with your mortality and human unreliability tempest in a teacup flood of neurotransmitters and flowing, flowing thought; oh wait-- what were we talking about again?

He smiles. It's soft, decidedly not medical, though the hallways outside have that faint smell of alcohol they like to rub all over their sterilised surfaces.

we can't figure it out, we can't figure out, you present a puzzling case (it doesn't fit the DSM-IV) but well, what do you mean I'm sure people have-- get that all the time wouldn't you say so, oh don't they imagine too? oh say I'm not alone

softly the muses stop speaking, and they slowly drift away.

dimanche 20 novembre 2011


that football game

in the past I've watched those who watch the games; they come in droves and drove from hundred miles of away to take our parking spots and set out their tailgates in our backyards with their Mitt Romney bumper stickers. Go Hoos Go. Wahoowa. Ray ray, ray, UVA, UVA. ugh. why is this such a big American pasttime? surely there are better ways to pass time.

and so time passed and the seasons passed and the semesters passed with them and I passed classes but not the players, they make bad passes or something; well I am sure they pass classes but pass games they do not. and remember that one time in second year when USC flew past our asses and laughed at our 7-32 margin, and some week after I was passing by the stadium and it took two hours to pass halftime and the clock kept stopping and the ball wasn't going anywhere. and so I gave the game a pass.

but not if you want to be sociable; they dress up guys in ties and girls in pearls and each home game Sunday the crowds would pass by our residences and the facebook feeds would explode with photos of friends in amazing clothes in crazy crowds of tens of thousands.

but not if you want to be sociable: be a man, man. nighttalk consists of bartalk, and bartalk either has pickup lines, or whether the Redskins will pick up that title or whether the Pats will pick up their failing dynasty and though in a bar they may go on and on and on about players' statistics, don't you go all otaku about indie film, science or art, because that would just be dorky.

in Iowa the summer sun shone high and I grew tan and the prairie grass ran yellow and the World Cup played in South Africa and someone told me they couldn't care much for [international] football, because [real] American football's like chess. oh really? I wouldn't have guessed because I play chess, and it doesn't have heavy brutes in armor and athletes in university busses behaving like there's no one else on them but as time passed I could see how you could appreciate stopped clocks and devious plays and maybe the American pasttime is some sort of celebrated chessboxing

but I could never care for the football games until around this time in November where I ate my fifth helping of mashed potatoes, chicken adobo, ginger-roasted turkey and sticky rice and we sang to four guitars and the Virginia - Florida State game was on and I cared because I liked people and I cared towards the end when we rose up to cheer ensemble or hold our hearts in our mouths collectively agape and we made that touchdown 14-13 oh with a minute to spare but oh Florida still threw devious plays of provoked fouls and incomplete passes and two field goal attempts but oh we won we won-- screaming screaming the room is crazy we hold hands and sing the Good Ole Song. Go Hoos Go. Wahoowa. Ray ray ray, UVA UVA.

samedi 19 novembre 2011

under the spreading pages of history, the nation’s smithy stands.

a demigod graces – us – in the hallways;
his face still shines
like a stone in the sunlight
          his face, shines still
in the textbooks they tell of golden charm
that united an opposition against force of arms
          by stainless steel will
how he sewed together the fabric of a broken nation
with fine acuity, and forty bullets from his Mosin-Nageant
          and an architect’s inspired skill–
in the textbooks they tell of his emboldened heart
for every man a Plan; for every fam a hearth!
I ask thee, dearest countryman:
        who among us should ever desire him to part?
all grace and lenience, almost inhuman, yet humane;
everyone seeks his audience; yet everyone he entertains
loved and feared, a demigod graces us in the hallways.

but you see, the fading jewel of a sagely ancient sits
with forlorn laugh and proud despair
in the seat of youth.
the years of office hang
from the tangles of his fading hair.
the toil never became easier; neither the truth,
that, the problems never cease
there are always jealous enemies
            and even allies must be appeased–
with eyeglassed eyes he reviews
petitions he might choose to approve;
with forlorn laugh and proud despair
he cries, “a little ridiculous! they never improve–”
and smiles a war-torn smile never repaired
“What then should our action be–” the nobles entreat him.
“Should we treat these rogues seriously?”
and with sagely expression he listens to their questions
              like a good leader must–
and with sagely wisdom, they follow the eternal rhythm
asking poison darts, painting over the nation’s sanguine rust


to be honest is often, to be naked;
thus to be fashionable and chic we must dress up our words and play for public prestige
and conceal the intimate and private
it is tempting I must say

I shall keep them
I shall keep them here
where they will be read
when today is yesteryear

We outgrow love, like other things
And put it in the Drawer -
Till it an Antique fashion shows -
Like Costumes Grandsires wore.

(Emily Dickinson, #887)

(I don't know why I say goodbye when you say hello)

everything has a beginning.

I feel myself growing old. slowly is the rust--
cold. cold. I was bold. now you
go from dust to dust.

things that begin.  must end
so things may begin again.
don't be jealous
space is renewed
once more

jeudi 17 novembre 2011

happy pills

the warden you don't know her
she guards she guards; you pace
that song doesn't work on her anymore
nor this one

don't hold your breath
here it comes
don't hold your breath
don't hold--

oh it's just a passing blip
anti-tempest in a teacup
drink them down with soy milk and Arizona tea
a hiccup, some failed stick-up

the warden you don't see her
for now