Transitional Forms

April 11, 2010

Sometimes things just strike me as remarkably funny, and I cannot explain why they make me laugh.

For example:

Pretty soon they’re going to be telling us that people evolved from cats.

I am sorry if you did not laugh. I recognize that sometimes my humor does not translate. Like the time my co-worker was wondering why her desk had a small, cubby space in it, enclosed by a small, swinging door.

“It is not useful space,” she said.

I told her, “It is where the puppies are kept.”

And I still laugh out loud about that moment.

You do not need to tell me. I know it is not really funny.

Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

This post was supposed to be about my own abyss of staggering, suctioning desolation. It was supposed to be about my struggle with anxiety, including dripping references to Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and how all great writers eventually asphyxiate themselves.

This post was supposed to be gushing and emotive and altogether moving; a post in which everything the heroine says or does resonates within the reader, until the reader bursts out shouting: “Yes, dear writer, your plight has been my plight, and your life, my life! I love you for brilliantly expressing what I, as a mere reader, cannot express! You are the voice of humanity and all that is poetry!”

While writing said post, I had a fit of writing-hating: hating myself via hating my writing. I called Best Friend L in San Francisco and gushed to her about all my irrational fears and my struggle with anxiety these past few days and how I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, and (sob) I miss Francis the Cat.

Then L told me that when she was in Peru a few weeks ago, she got sick one day and vomited, and right after she vomited there was an 6.5 earthquake while she was naked.

And lo, I laughed. L laughed too; she said, “I’m so glad you reacted that way. No one laughs when I tell them.”

“What, do they say, ‘Oh no, you threw up, I’m so sorry?’”

“Yes, but I wish they would laugh. It’s really funny.”

And lo, lo, I laughed, heartily.

And then I told her… I told her all the irrational things I’ve been anxious about… virgin pregnancy being the forerunner.

“See?! See how irrational it is?” I asked. “I’ve never even had sex, but suddenly I gain weight and my breasts get swollen from PMS, and I’m all panicked that I’m giving birth to a deity and asking D if he’s had any prophetic dreams lately.” I didn’t tell her about the fears that the bank is stealing all my money (“This girl has $2000 in her checking account and $30,000 in school debt… she looks like she wouldn’t notice if we took a grand here and there…”); or my fears about my feet growing really, really wide; or my fears about my eyelashes falling out. You laugh. You just go ahead and laugh, but seriously, guys…

What if this happened?

And then I told her about how D and I were kissing the other day, glorious, healthy kissing in the purest way possible, and I actually started crying. Not because the moment was so romantic and emotive and meaningful that I couldn’t help myself. I started crying because I imagined what it would be like if we broke up. And suddenly, that Worst Case Scenario became my reality instead of the real reality – the attractive young man beside me who likes me so much that he lets me place my mushy, saliva-covered lips on his.

And then L said, “Give yourself a break!” She named off all the tough things I’ve done lately, dating all the way back to the moment of the big move to California in December. “Seriously,” she said. “Give yourself a break. We need to start making this our mantra whenever anything is scary: ‘At least I’m not pregnant.’”

And that was just what I needed to hear, just what writing a million gushing posts could not cure. Well, it was what L said AND D’s earlier affirmation that the bank is not stealing my money, and even if they were stealing my money, I would not die.

That’s the nice thing about having so little money. There isn’t a whole lot to lose. And really, the best thing about all of it is that even if the bank were stealing my money, the bank could not make me pregnant…

…right?

On the Tip of My Tongue

March 22, 2008

Tonight, while trying to write the afore-promised post about D and my experience being evacuated from the movie theater, I got to thinking about writing. Actually, the thinking came after the attempt and failure to write and during the subsequent bath-time that followed.

I have mentioned before that for a long time, blogging is the only writing I’ve really been doing. And while we all love our blogs and spewing mundane daily events in the form of quippy, cute sentences, this is not real writing. Real writing is about 80% agony from the knowledge that no matter what I write and how good I feel about it, the first draft is always going to be terrible. There’s no getting around it. Real writing requires re-writing.

For a long time, I’ve been dancing around the idea of writing a novel. I may have mentioned it before… certainly to people in person, and maybe on the blog. I don’t quite remember. This idea has begun to pressure me more and more as I’m settling into my adult life and finally coming to terms with the fact that I will never be a child again, and therefore, will always have to have an adult job. Right now I am working as an assistant. A year ago, I was working as an assistant. And though I like my job now and am thankful for the work, in five years, I do not want to be working as an assistant. There’s nothing wrong with being an assistant. It takes brains and organization and hard work and stress just like any other job. But for the rest of my life? Eh. I think not.

Tonight in that subsequent bath that followed the discouraged blog failure, I believe I may have come up with the first line to my novel. At least for now. At least a starting point. And I realized something I never realized before about writing:

Writing should be like building a friendship. I don’t mean that like it sounds. A lot of writers will gush about how their characters became their best friends in the course of the book and how it was so sad to kill so and so off or do that terrible thing to such and such because man, my characters are amazing and SO REAL that THEY COULD BE MY REAL FRIENDS. Perhaps I’m being a jerk here, but that’s a little pathetic. Characters are a means to an end, the personification of a rhetorical device. Writing should be like building a friendship because one must approach it with a story rather than an agenda. If we make friends to prove something, our friendships are insincere and vacant. A real friendship begins with a story:

Hello, my name is Ann. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. I have two parents, an older brother, a family dog, and I used to own a cat named Francis who was the coolest cat I’ve ever met. I miss her.

I’ve had such a hard time beginning my novel because I’ve forgotten the simple, lovely value of a story. I get caught up in the outline and the ending and the big picture of it all. Sure, Al Finnigan lives in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and was raised by his grandfather and has a Great Pyrenees named Muldoon who is blind in one eye and was divorced by his ex-wife Pam five years ago, BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS STORY? WHAT DOES HE SYMBOLIZE? Tonight I realized that if I write the book the way I am thinking about it right now, it will be insincere and vacant. Instead, I have to begin with a story:

Pam spent most of her first marriage asking questions. Of course, the questions began even before the marriage did: What’s your name? Where are you from, Al? What brought you to Sheboygan? And are you still working in the lumber business? Do you like it?  Al was a man who needed questions. Even after they had vowed to love, honor, cherish, and share, Al needed the questions, or he would spend his evenings flattened against the couch, eating his cornflakes with crushed crackers and peanuts on top and watching the Discovery Channel, saying nothing about the day.

So, my question here for you all is, does this paragraph make you want to read more? It’s a first draft, so it’s rough and clunky and wordy, but are you intrigued? Be honest. For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a novel blog. I’m still thinking about the implications of it, and I definitely need to get this one back up consistently before I take on any other web projects…. any thoughts on the idea of a novel blog?

Yesterday I wrote a post with the title, “The Shoe Diaries Entry 1: I’ve Got a Wedge.” I also write a column at ZIA, an online magazine, about finding affordable fashion. Lately I have been succumbing to the post-college epidemic of Feeling Flaky. You college graduates may know it well, especially if you pursued a highly academic, research-oriented field that throttled you to the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. In college, you had your group of Intellectuals with whom to be Intellectual in class, over coffee, after watching foreign films or reading Proust.

Post-college, you are left with nothing but a desk job and marathons of The Real Housewives of Orange County on television.

My friend Devi writes about important topics on her blog. She writes about politics and religion and oppression, and her writing style is so lovely and straight-forward and well-crafted (and she doesn’t constantly use the word “and” while creating lists) that I want to read whatever she writes.

A few weeks ago at my cousin S’s wedding, I spoke with my cousin’s husband’s brother P for a while. After all, I had to walk down the aisle with him, so I might as well get to know him a little bit. I asked him the general small-talk questions about location and work and school. P works for an organization in Washington D.C. associated with a cause that he believes in so much that his entire Facebook is devoted to it. Now, I must admit that I know very little about the topic other than a liberal-arts-college-American-Government-class understanding, but one must admire his Roman-soldier-like devotion. My Facebook page is devoted to the life of Ann Clipperton, complete with photos of cat Francis and status statements like, “Ann is hungry.” I guess I’m rather low on Maslow’s famous hierarchy.

When P asked me what I’m doing with my life, I told him that I want to be a writer. “What kind of writing do you do?” He asked. “Oh, lots of kinds,” I answered. Because I have. I’ve written poetry and even had some published, and I’ve written short stories and news articles and magazine articles and columns. When I thought of things I’ve been doing lately, I could only think of the blog and the column for ZIA. So I told him, “I write a fashion column for an online publication.”

And for some reason, I felt a little twinge of shame, a little sense of I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie world. Let’s get something straight — P did not make me feel that way. He was very kind. It was all me, inside, thinking about what my goals are and wondering about what exactly it is that I’m doing with my passion for fashion. Or even with my passion for intelligent thought. Or just for caring about other people.

Like Kate Hudson’s character Andy in How To Lose a Guy In Ten Days, I would hope that my goals in life stretch farther than writing a “How To” column for a glossy magazine designed for glossy women with little else to be concerned about than color coordination and How to Know If He’s Into You. And I would hope that my goals for writing stretch farther beyond Shoe Diaries or columns about discount fashion. Like to something that really matters beyond Ann’s amusement.

At the same time, I don’t want to diminish the importance of fashion and all the thought-provoking questions that come from it:

Does the act of first wearing and then burning a bra have a significant psychological impact on its owner? Does the wearing of pants influence a woman to have a career more like a man’s? Maybe not today, but did it in the ’50s? Did that individualistic style that emerged in the late 1990’s have anything to do with existentialism and advances in technology that make relationships far less relational (i.e. I imagine that I have never met many of my readers, yet they get a glimpse into my life on a daily basis)?

Does philosophy influence fashion, or does fashion influence philosophy?

Once my dear and much-quoted friend Ali told me that perhaps I shouldn’t spend so much time reflecting on things because sometimes I dig myself into my own black hole, an abyss of my own making. Indeed, I have 14 years of journals to prove it. Ali also once told me, “Sometimes you just need to talk about cartoons.” These are wise words, coming from one of the smartest women I know, a woman who is currently pursuing a PhD.

Perhaps my Shoe Diaries are my version of cartoons, and I need them as an outlet for the deeper questions. Perhaps my life is a little more balanced when I can set aside those ideas about the over-sexualization of America’s teenage girls and write about “What to Look For in Thrift Stores” in 1000 words or less, complete with quippy jokes about Saved By the Bell and the nineties.

In society, women’s flakiness seems to be the new black. I imagine that I will encounter this to a greater degree in California, but even in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, I noticed how materialism seemed to cancel intelligence. I hope that my posting of fashion items and purchases does not influence others to materialism, the flakiest of all flakes. That is not my intention. My intention is for images to bring inspiration and creativity, as they do for me. My shoes make me see my clothing in different ways. They make me appreciate the new twists I can put on old items rather than going out to buy new things constantly. The contentment they bring is not from having more but from rearranging what I already have. My brilliant Basic Economics professor, a sweet man named Dr. Balla who spent a year in Mexico living among the poor, once said that having a lot of stuff is dangerous. “The more you have, the more you want,” he said. “And the more you have, the more you’re afraid to lose.”

The constant thirst for more is a dangerous place to be because that thirst will never quench. I hope that any fashion ideas or photos on my blog or in my column will influence readers to create rather than covet. Your life is fine without this stuff. Cute shoes will bring fun but never fulfillment.

Back-Bender

October 18, 2007

When this week began, I was without car. Cordelia, my 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme had an angry starter problem that made all my neighbors in the 50-and-older apartment complex where I live emerge from their respective homes to tell me that my car “sounded bad.” The starter problem began on a Saturday evening. I got my car back on a Tuesday afternoon. I am moving to Minnesota tomorrow.

The car fiasco presented a large dent in my plans. I got behind on packing and running errands because I had no automobile to take me places. Thankfully I live close enough to work to walk, and I had some wonderful co-workers who helped me out on rainy days. I kept calling the auto repair place because I was nervous. What if my car had gone completely car-put? How would I get home? My last day of work was today, and I have to be out of my apartment by tomorrow at 5 p.m. At that point I still didn’t know where Francis was going to live. And as the minutes ticked by that my car was in the shop, all I could see were dollar signs. I grew up in an auto repair shop. I know that problems under that hood can cost muchos francs.

The cost of restoring Cordelia’s health wasn’t as good as it could have been or as bad as it might have been. My exact words to the mechanic were, “Can you fix it so that I can drive this car just six hundred more miles?” I just need to get to Minnesota. Then I’m going to buy another car from my dad, the mechanic.

I got my car back on Tuesday afternoon and immediately started rejoicing. Then shortly after that my friend AA called to tell me that her parents wanted to adopt Francis. Francis is currently on her way to Omaha, Nebraska in the back of AA’s car. It was a hard good-bye… one of the hardest ever… but that feeling is overcome by my gratefulness that when I told my mom a few weeks ago that God was going to bring the right person to adopt Francis, he brought a few someones who were better than even I had hoped. Francis is going to a house where she will get to spend hours getting lost under beds and furniture and hiding in cupboards and closets. She will stay beautiful while she’s young, and she will grow fat when she’s old — fat on love and ham. She will have a good life. I am honored that could be her first mommy. And I will also probably get to go see her over Thanksgiving.

I also said good-bye to my co-workers today, which was bitter-sweet. I am going to miss the people considerably. And I guess I will miss the job too, but I’m ready to move on to something a little more challenging. It is nice to know that I will not have to go to work for a while. And that I get to use my vacation time next week. And that I get to spend time in the next few months baby-sitting my niece and nephew and spending time with my dog and my parents and just re-discovering the things I enjoy. In mid-November, I’m going to start working at a seasonal fruit packing company that a friend of my parents’ owns. It is an excellent job, and since it’s only seasonal, there isn’t any problem with me leaving in just a few months. Plus the pay is great, and I get to keep all the damaged fruit my grubby little hands can carry.

Another tremendous blessing is that someone, just out of the blue, decided to give me a check to cover the expense of fixing my car this past week. It left me crying and speechless. Just that day, she had told me that God would provide, all the time knowing just how He would do it.

Oh yeah, and another little something happened today. Directly after my good-byes to my co-workers, I left to take Francis to AA’s house so AA’s could take Francis to Omaha.  And a lady rear-ended me as I was turning into AA’s apartment complex. I was slowing down to make a right turn into the complex, when I heard tires screeching. I thought, Why are my tires screeching? I’m not going that fast. and then I heard a big crash and felt my body be jolted forward. In my confusion, I thought, Oh no, I hit someone! and then I realized that there was no one in front of me to hit. So I looked back, and sure enough, the car behind me had hit me.

Did I mention that I’m driving 600 miles to Minnesota tomorrow in a car that I just spent nearly a week’s pay fixing? Just checking.

The lady in the other car was sobbing. My neck and shoulders had undergone some trauma, but I was fine. My car is like a tank. I got out of the car and went over to her. I was afraid she was hurt from the way she was crying, but when I got over there and asked if she was all right, she said, “Well, this is just the icing on the cake.” I was thinking, Tell me about it.  She was afraid of her husband’s anger, and it made me so sad. How can a person live in a relationship like that? How could someone stand that type of fear from the person they’re supposed to love the most?

Her car barely had a mark on it, but she had hit the chrome part of the back of my car, directly under the trunk. It was badly bent, but no vital organs had been damaged. I was just worried that I had whiplash and that I wouldn’t be able to finish cleaning and packing. And I have to drive tomorrow. For ten hours.

I called Dad and then the police and then I sat in an ambulance for a while and then I talked to a policeman for a while and then I  called my insurance agent and then I called L to see if her dad (a Nurse Practitioner) could get me some drugs and then I called D. By that time I had most of the tears cried out of me (mostly due to thinking about Francis), and after D had asked if I was okay, he asked how the car was, and I started laughing. “The trunk won’t close,” I said. “It just keeps popping up like a jack-in-the-box. I’m going to have to drive home with it bungeed down.”

It just seems right that I should end this stage of my life driving to Minnesota in a car that is as old as I am, with all my worldly possessions packed tightly in a trunk that will not latch — the worldly possessions covered with a shower curtain liner in case of rain, under a trunk that is being held down only by a hooked piece of blue elastic  tubing.

Acrocat

October 11, 2007

Francis the Kitten got spayed on Monday. The evening before, we sat down and had a long and meaningful talk with soft, synthesized music in the background about how she will never have kittens. Her surgery went well, and the vet even commented on what beautiful shape she’s in. I said, “It’s because she’s always running around and jumping on things.” She’s the most active cat I’ve ever met. Or maybe I just notice it more because we share a one-bedroom apartment.

When I went to pick up Francis after her surgery, the vet assistant gave me a few instructions on medication, stitches, etc. She kept referring to Francis as “We”:

“Now, if we get red and swollen around the incision, make sure you bring us in.”
“We’re going to be a little bit sluggish this evening, and if we’re not better by Thursday, we might have something wrong, so you will want to bring us in.”
“Give us a full eye-dropper of this in our food. If we don’t eat, make sure you give us 3ccs of water after you medicate us.”
“Now, we’re not supposed to run or jump, so if we get too wound up, lock us in the bathroom.”

I wonder if there’s a point at which one has worked around animals so much that one actually becomes an animal. They say you become whatever you spend most of your time doing. That lady has smelled one-too-many dog biscuits. When the assistant brought Francis out in her little kitty crate, she said, “Now, we’re a little bit angry. We just hissed at me, so don’t feel bad if we hiss at you.” I peeked into the kitty crate. Francis was backed up against the far wall, back arched. She hissed at me at first, but when I said, “Francis, it’s ok,” the hiss turned into a little howl. A howl of What did you do to me, Human? Why? WHY? HOLD ME. Hold me. hold me.

However, later when I got her home, she kept crouching in corners, glaring at me. If I got within three feet of her, she’d scamper off to stand under something. This is Francis. This is Francis on drugs.

For the past few days Francis has been back to her regular self. It humors me that the assistant told me there was to be no running or jumping. That’s like asking a fish not to swim. Lock her in the bathroom? Yeah right. In the bathroom, there are counters! toilets! bathtubs! Shower curtains! Sinks! oh my! In fact, last night Francis didn’t even want to go to sleep. She lay on my back for a while (I sold my bed last night, so I borrowed a cot from dear friend A, and like any cot, it’s far too small for anything larger than me) and then she lay on my chest purring, but after she’d recharged she was crazier than I’ve ever seen her. When I locked her in the bathroom, she was fine for a while. Until she started putting her paws underneath the door and scratching the bottom of it, all while I was trying to sleep.

At that point I was pretty ok with giving her up for adoption… to the ground below my second-story living room window.

Last night Francis was banished to her kitty crate. In the kitchen. Facing the neighbor’s wall. With two ceiling fans running to muffle the noise.

Speaking of animals, this morning before our staff meeting, I had a little discussion with a few staff members regarding the stupidest animals, which are generally understood to be turkeys and sheep. I had a thought. What if instead of all the sheep references in the Bible, Jesus had used turkey references. Now wouldn’t that change the tone of it all?

As I was getting ready to come to work this morning, I looked at my makeup and noticed how grown-up it is — nary a Bonnie Bell nor a Wet ‘n’ Wild nor a Lip Smackers to be found. It was all neutral colors and beautifully packaged with silvers and golds and blacks and greens, like my mom’s make up when I was a little girl. And then I felt old.

I was up early enough to eat breakfast at home rather than at my desk. I had a stack of envelopes on the counter, all ready to send out from all the bills I paid last night after I got home from a real job with a real paycheck and vacation time. I got paid yesterday, but this is my bill-paying paycheck, the one that’s like removing a push-up bra: Where’d it all go?

I dressed in a very adult outfit — a black turtleneck circa Goldie Hawn in the ’60s, a leather Oscar de la Renta skirt that I bought off of ebay for $30 last fall, my favorite red heels, lipstick. I also got my hair darkened a bit yesterday evening, and the cut is a little more Jennifer Aniston than I had intended, but it’s chic. Adult.

I have been feeling very old for the past few days, especially because in just a little under three weeks, I’ll be finished with my first real job. The entry-level position. My cousin Sara, the one I grew up with, is getting married. I’ll be moving to a big city. So, while I was wallowing in the self-pity of Being Old, I opened the fridge to find something to eat for breakfast, and I realized that all my yogurt expired two weeks ago, and my milk expires today. Francis jumped up on the counter and began licking a bowl, and I was about to chastise her until I realized that I forgot to feed her yesterday. And thankfully, she drinks out of the toilet, or she’d probably be dead.

Then I noticed that my Goldie Hawn turtleneck was covered with lint and little tiny feathers from the feather pillow that I love dearly but molts like a parrot. My lint roller is buried under this giant pile of clothes in my room — the Keep pile, which I will have to go through again and again to narrow it down to something manageable for moving.

And then I remembered something that happened yesterday when I went to the bank over my lunch break. I was sitting at a stoplight in my car with the windows rolled down (it was a beautiful day!), and an older gentleman pulled up alongside me. He must’ve seen my license plates, because he tapped his horn, and when I looked over, he said, “Minnesota’s loss is Arkansas’ gain,” then he winked at me.

Winked at me. I may be getting old, mister, but I’m not that old.

Maybe You Need to Cry.

September 26, 2007

Yesterday contained another freak-out moment that lasted pretty much all day. Several factors contributed to this phenomenon: lack of sleep, lack of rational ability, lack of chocolate, lack of best friend (who lives in San Francisco), lack of parental supervision (they are in Minnesota), and lack of kissing my fella (who lives in Los Angeles, although I did borrow someone else’s boyfriend in D’s absence, but it just wasn’t the same).

The freak-out moment basically consisted of me staring at my computer screen at work all day as up-from-the-ground, self-doubts arose, with a triumph o’er Ann Clipperton. Again, pessimism has reared its ugly pancreas. Finally, I emailed the best friend, L, in San Francisco. She sent me a text message that said, “I love you. Breathe.” And then she sent me an email with all kinds of straight-forward rationality: I will find a job. I will find an apartment. I will be able to pay all my bills even while I’m moving. People will buy things on my garage sale. I will not lose my creative abilities. I will not lose my teeth from gum disease. I will not slip and fall in the shower from a drip of wayward body wash. I will not be thrown out in a deserted alley to be eaten by rabid vermin.

When I arrived home after work, I needed some time to de-tox from all the worries of the day. I lay down to take a nap, but then D called, and we talked for over 27 minutes. I know this not because I watch the clock while we are talking, but because he said, “We’ve been on the phone 27 minutes, and it’s day minutes, so I have to go,” to which I replied, “Okay,” but then we talked for another five minutes, which included two of those awkward “Hey wait!” moments after one has pulled the phone away from one’s ear and is ready to push the hang-up button. So, as I’m hanging up, D’s tiny little phone voice says, “Oh, Ann?” And then he told me to watch Saving Private Ryan, which I have never seen, but he claims is one of the pivotal films of our generation (in retrospect, I am inclined to agree).

“But D,” I says, “I don’t want to watch a movie that will make me cry.”
“Who says you’ll cry?” D asked.
Heh. Right. “You’re saying that to me?”
It was then that D administered his amazingly comforting boyfriendy-skillz: “Well, maybe you need to cry,” which sounds cruel but is really quite thoughtful on his part.

So, like a good girlfriend…I negotiated a bargain that would suit us both. “D,” I says, “I will watch Saving Private Ryan tonight if you will send me teen-heart-throb pictures of yourself this weekend.” And then it was a deal, and I was happy all the way down to my toesies. And in the next “Hey wait!” D said, “You will want to keep a box of tissues handy. And hold onto a pillow.” Now, tissues I could do. But a pillow?

“I thought you insinuated that I wouldn’t cry.”
“I never insinuated that. I said, ‘Maybe you need to cry.'”

After talking to L for quite a while on the phone — a fantastic conversation mostly centering around relationships and freaking out about the future — I settled down with a bowl of mac and cheese and a box of Milk Duds to watch the feature film. Francis kept trying to lick my mac and cheese, and she did crawl up on the end table and take a few swigs of my milk. I drank it anyway. (I know, I know. Gross.) I started crying in the first scene. And continued crying pretty much through the whole movie, except that part in the first battle scene where the guy is trying to stuff his intestines back into his stomach. At that point I got up to stuff the last of the mac and cheese down the garbage disposal.

Many thoughts occurred to me as I was watching, but I will not write about them on my blog. I will simply say, “See the movie. It will change your life.”

Afterward, I called D. I could barely talk about the scenes that impacted me the most because they got me all choked up again. So, I sat there, hugging my pillow, telling my fella all the thoughts that had spun through my head while I watched, and yes, he was right. I just needed to cry.

Coming to Terms with Pessimism

September 24, 2007

I once read that doing stuff on the computer too close to bedtime can often lead to restless sleep because of the computer’s bright screen and all the movement on the internet. I wasn’t on the internet late into the night, but I did half-heartedly write the first paragraph to a novel that I’ve been planning on writing, oh, for the past three years. I am not excited about this paragraph. In fact, it sucks. I forced myself to save it because, let’s face it, I’ve been hemming and hawwing about this too much. The only way to be a writer is to write.

So, anyway, last night I kept having dreams about the internet. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research online for jobs and apartments in California, and that means I’ve been flipping back and forth between websites a lot — Craigslist for the jobs, then to Map Quest to see what area it’s in, then to Sperling’s Best Places to get an idea of the crime level in said area. Last night I kept dreaming that I had to look up all aspects of my life on the internet.

And now I am up at 6:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the assault of my alarm, because I can’t sleep due to racing thoughts. Most of those thoughts center around finding a job once I get to LA, because many have said that it is tough to find a good job in a big city. And then, by the way they look at me, it’s as if they’re saying with their narrowed eyes and pursed lips, Especially for you, Ann Clipperton!

Through this whole moving process, I am coming to embrace my pessimism and even make fun of it: I can’t possibly find an apartment in LA even though I have an awesome rental history and great credit because the landlords will take one look at me and say, “Her? Her? You want us to rent to HER?!?!? You can tell she’s a messy person just by looking at her! Our carpets were not made for piles of clothing and shoes!” I am convinced that when I get to LA, I will be living on the streets of Compton in a camping tent, dealing drugs.

I am afraid that even dentists will not want me as a client. When I was 15 and had braces, my dentist told me that my teeth are very small. Now I am paranoid that my teeth will not meet the required LA dentist standards — after all, movie stars have big teeth for their big smiles — and I will not be able to have cleanings or cavities filled, and all my teeth will fall out, and all those teeth-falling-out dreams were actually prophetic.

The other thing is that I’m going to move to LA, and D is going to break up with me and start dating Scarlet Johanssen, because his name is D and she is at least a D-cup, and really it would be fate for them to be together. I am not a D-cup.

And anyway, nobody is going to buy anything on the garage sale I’m having in a few weeks, and I’m going to get fired from my job even though I handed in my resignation over a month ago, and I’ll spend the rest of my life working at the GAP in Rogers, Arkansas, adopting every cat that comes my way until I’m actually old enough to be living in my apartment instead of being in that 20% of under-55s that they allow to live here.

Happy Monday.

*EDIT*
Over my lunch break, I stopped by the GAP to pick up my schedule for the week. It is with great pleasure that I inform you all that your dear Ann Clipperton will be working over 61 hours this week, 2 jobs combined, with nary a day off. Please forgive any erratic behavior in the next week. This, too, shall pass.