Home

Think about your life in relation to the seasons. What is your favorite season and why? During which season were you born? How did you feel as a child about each season? Have significant events happened during one season over the others? How do you see the world around you change at the start of each season? Use these musings to fuel an essay about one or all of the seasons. 

As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m in a quaint park on a residential street. It’s close enough to the main, highly trafficked road to be distracting—but just enough to serve as a reminder that my time here is temporary. Not like my time on Earth or anything existential like that, just that I have about 45 minutes to write this before my lunch break is over and I have to return to the office.

But as for now, now I’m in this park—just close enough to reality to keep me grounded but far enough away to let me live in my own fantasy world, if only for a short while. I’m perched upon a stone stool, situated in front of a matching stone chess table, created for someone with all the time in the world to just sit, play, enjoy—not for people on borrowed time like myself. Not for many at all really, since no one ever seems to be in this park. The sun is beating down upon me, but there’s a breeze just cool enough to keep it comfortable. There’s a bed of vibrant pink tulips to my right. There’s a child singing in her front yard just across the street. Birds are chirp, chirp, chirping away… all of that good shit. Spring has arrived… and about two months too damn late.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit unfair. Technically spring equinox is on March 20th, which means that spring is really only just over a month late. And sure, the weather never really changes in accordance with the seasons on the first day of their supposed arrival. And yes, there’s also that pesky climate change to factor in—but screw that noise—I’m getting older and more and more impatient in my advancing years.

I don’t think of the seasons in terms of dates and meteorological facts and science—I think about seasons and weather in relation to years passed. Last year, spring “arrived” around the second or third week in March, and then stuck around for a while. The same goes for the spring the year before that. And, come to think of it, the year before that too. Right now it’s the first week of May and the month of renewal is only just barely, cautiously approaching—like a middle-aged woman slowly dipping her toes into a just-a-tad-too cool swimming pool. But for me, it should have been out there, past the kiddie pool, and wading around in the 4’2 foot section by now. (Are these pool references indicative enough of my yearning for summer?)

Sure, we were “due for” another snowy, long, “bad” winter, but that doesn’t mean I have to be cool with it (forgive the pun). I remember analyzing a piece of poetry in the first literature class I ever attended in college—I don’t remember the poem itself, but it prompted a discussion of the “rhythm” of the seasons. Spring is a time of rebirth while winter is a time of death. Death doesn’t have to be taken in the most literal sense—it could also mean a stoppage of creative thought and expression. To me, winter is a time of stagnancy. The cold air and obtrusive, dirty snow forces me to retreat, cowering under my fortress of blankets, cut off from any outside creative influence that might be trying to break in. A time of idleness.  A time of waiting… and my God, do I hate waiting. With each passing year, the “winter blahs,” as I affectionately call ‘em, get me badder than the year prior. The cold, the grey, and the wind hits me harder each time.

So the fact that it is May and it still feels as though winter hasn’t quite left the building, the fact that it’s bitter chill hasn’t yet been found keeled over on the toilet, means that I have a harsh pile of excuses to fall into and make lie-angels in instead of creating. The humid, bitter rain is only just approaching—even  the April showers are late to my pity party.  Summer seems so far off that it feels like the only option is to create my own “summer,” or even my own “spring” for that matter. Albert Camus once said “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” That absurd bastard. But I do suppose he has a point… imagination is my tool and my pen and paper is my broken toy that needs repair—it will just take envisioning the perfect season I want to experience and creating it myself, even if only in writing.

…Hey, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe I’ll start working on that when Mother Nature stops being such a bitch

Advertisements

I’ve been pretty down on myself lately. In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t really been following up on my resolution to post fiction, non-fiction and poetry based on weekly writing prompts. That’s no one’s fault by my own. I’ve got writing prompts from weeks and months ago saved across multiple computers, email inboxes and USB drives. I return to them every now and again and—if I’m lucky—maybe add a sentence or two to each piece. If I let them go long enough with few enough paragraphs, I lose interest in where the piece was going, or forget the genius idea I had for it because I forgot to make note of it because didn’t have a pen on hand, or whatever. In the 21st Century Digital Age of iPhones and tablets and mind-to-walkman transmissions (that’s a thing, right?), I’m not even certain if that’s a viable excuse anymore. (EDIT: No, it’s not.)  In short, I’ve been coming up with more creative excuses to not read or write than creative words to pen on paper.

I recently read a wonderful post on Looking For Pemberley on writing even when you don’t feel like it by Miss E. And just a few minutes ago I read another excellent piece on continuing to write after your work has been rejected on The Rumpus. And I soaked in every word. “I get it…” I thought. “I sooo get it…” Especially in regards to Miss E’s post. I read it in the car on my iPhone, and just let the sentiment resonate with me. But what did I proactively DO after reading it? After reading it on this magical technological device where I can not only READ but also WRITE? Nothing. I did nothing. I thought about how true it was and how, no matter what, I must push through and write, but I only thought—I did not act.

I guess a big part of my problem is that I WANT to be writing. I want to be writing a lot, actually. I’m just NOT. I’m thinking A LOT but writing A LITTLE. And again, the only person to blame for that is myself. I’ve found myself in a rather strange predicament lately where I feel a bit unsettled and uncertain of some things in my life—nothing too earth-shattering, but enough to leave me feeling sufficiently… bummy. And I’ve been coming down pretty hard on myself and my place in the world because of that. My only resolution has been to do some things on my own accord—mainly get back to writing regularly. Finish pieces of prose I’ve been dying to finally cap off and edit. And read voraciously—finish the three books and zines I’ve started reading but can’t quite complete. Stop over-analyzing why I haven’t been able to finish them and just DO it instead.

Today after reading that wonderful post on the Rumpus, I decided to search in my backpack for my notebook instead of just numbing my mind with Facebook games (sorry, Disney’s City Girl!) and actually work on one of the six or seven pieces I’m “in the middle of.” And in my search, what do I find? Two notebooks, one novel and a Poets & Writers magazine. That’s not that bizarre, but it made me realize that I have the tools at my disposal, with me on my person, literally every day of the week. And what do I do? Let them sit in that dark knapsack waiting. Being unused. Adding weight to my back but very little else. I also found at least three different blue pens. Why so many? Because when I start writing something it bugs me if I start in one pen type/color and change to another. It also creates a good excuse for me to NOT write “Ugh, but I started this short story with a blue fountain pen—I can’t finish it with a black ballpoint!” (Again—creativity wasted on excuses and not on actual writing.) Well, I’ve got both blue and black fountain and ballpoint pens AND even some pencils on me right now, so that solves that tremendous dilemma.

What’s ironic is, now that my lunch break is winding down, I won’t have the actual time until after 5:00 PM to get back to writing with those utensils and those notebooks I found. But you know what? It’s ok. Because while it may seem like I instead decided to procrastinate by posting on here, I did it by writing. And that’s at least something. And hopefully a sign of good things to come.

Cheers, and keep those pens and pencils (or styluses and fingers!) working and your creative waters flowing.

In honor of the 100th anniversary on February 1 of New York City’s famed Grand Central Station, write an essay about a time in your life when you travelled—it could be daily travel, such as the commute to and from a job; seasonal travel, such as heading to a beach community every summer; or a vacation, such as a trip to a foreign country. Focus on what compelled you to go and the transition of leaving one place and arriving in another.

“Come on, where the hell is this bus? You know, years ago, the bus would come a few minutes early and they’d let you sit inside with the air conditioner on if it was hot out like this, not make you wait in the heat like animals.” The blazing sun beat down upon my small face as my grandmother and I waited for the #26 Beeline to take us home. Every day after school an executive decision had to be made: walk 10 minutes and wait in the heat for the bus or walk 10 minutes and wait in the heat for the train? On this day, we opted for the bus. By the time we reached the bus stop, we realized it probably would have been cooler to wait for the train.

With my mother now working a 9-5 job, my grandma and I were left to our own devices to get home. If the weather was nice enough, we’d walk. The walk through the quaint town my grammar school was located in usually stopped being so wonderful when my heavy, rolly backpack started to weigh us down and we’d spend the rest of the trip irritated and praying that someone, anyone, would spot us alongside the road and give us a lift. Sometimes we were just lucky enough for that to happen, but not very often. Our other option was the train. We’d hop on and ride it the one stop home, hopping off right as the ticket-taker got to our car. I never realized that riding one stop rarely required a ticket, so I felt as if we were doing something wrong and dangerous. My grandmother noticed the look of amazement on my face the first time it happened, so she made a game out of it from that point on. “Quick, he’s in the next car; let’s stand by the door so he won’t notice us!” She’d whisper to me. It made the humdrum trip exhilarating, and then quickly back to mundane once we’d leave the magical Grand Central-bound train and get off at the Fleetwood stop, walking through the pigeon-shit piss-scented tunnel into the outside world. Then I’d get a bagel sandwich at Dunkin’ Donuts, which was pretty nice.

It was the last week of fourth grade and it was unseasonably warm for late June. Fortunately, the last week of school also meant it was dress down week, so I had the option of wearing something cooler than the stuffy white collared cotton top and navy blue cotton/polyester blend shorts, cuffed ankle socks and loafers uniform I’d wear any other day. (Most girls opted for the much more flattering light blue skirt, but I found the awkward boy-tailored shorts to be more my style. And in 8th grade when I would ruin them and many a classroom chair with period blood I’ll look back and be content with my clothing decision.) However, my forest green coolots were still not cutting it in the unbearable heat. I closed my eyes and dreamed of going home, changing into my swimsuit, diving into my pool in our backyard, and swimming, the cool, chlorine water covering my entire body.

Then I remembered that I didn’t have a pool. Or a backyard. And that my best option would be to turn on my old, cumbersome AC in my room and take a cold shower or bath—which was never fulfilling NOR did it ever really do the trick of cooling me down. But it was my only option, and so I embraced it, and thinking about it at least helped me cope with our wait. My grandmother was still cursing the bus driver when the bus crawled up to the bus stop, #52: Destination Secor Housing, Bronx, NY. Damn!

The bus was an adventure in and of itself as well. The yellow cord was like a lifeline, forget to pull it and you’re done for, doomed to circle around your town on the bus forever. Or you could pull it at the next stop and have to trek your way back to where you’re supposed to be in the snow, scuffing up the brand new glasses you just got from the eye doctor. Another bus creeped up to the stop, #26: Bronxville RR Station. Score!

The bus driver scurried off the bus frantically with a phone in his hand. “Just one moment, everyone, I need to handle a situation at the bus depot. We’ll be leaving shortly,” he said with a think Island accent as he rushed off into the shade. The bus was parked. And locked. And air conditioned. And we, all of my elderly homeward-bound comrades and myself, were on the outside looking in. I’ll spare you the swears that flew out from my grandmother’s mouth, as this is a family publication.

The daily commute is a thing that brings people together. Office workers who hate each other 90% of the time can commiserate if the ride to work was hellish. No one argues whether or not traffic is bad. But even when gas prices soar and roadwork and rubbernecking gets the best of you, pretty much everyone agrees that public transportation is about as bad as it can get. I’m not one of those people. Getting to zone out in my own world for 45 minutes to an hour, doing nothing but watching the world pass quickly by while simultaneously getting in some of the best people watching ever is one of my favorite things. Getting to see familiar faces everyday and piece together life stories based on where they got on and off provides wonderful material for writing. The only thing I really dislike about it is the waiting. The knowing you’ll have to brave the weather but not knowing HOW long you’ll have to brave it for can be a killer. Despite that, I’m thankful for those public transportation trips of my youth. The years of travelling with my grandmother built up my knowledge and resilience in my later, license-less years. But, I mean, if you’re offering me a ride, sure I’ll take it …

The bus driver returned a few minutes later and let us all onto the comfortable, non-sweltering bus. We were able to finally breathe and enjoy the cool air for the five-minute ride home. Our journey was coming to a close. At my grandma’s signal, I reached my small hand up and yanked the yellow-cord. I beamed when the bell gave out a little “ding” and the stop sign at the front of the bus flashed. As the bus approached the stop I could see our apartment, where my bed and my TV and, most of all, my air conditioner were. Repeats of Arthur called my name. The heat wouldn’t bother me anymore, and victory was so close I could taste it. We exited the bus and slugged our way over to our side of the apartment complex and made our way to the front door. The sun was bearing down on us, my skin felt clammy and I could feel the beads of sweat forming after only being outside again for a few minutes. But we made it, we were there. Home was where my heart and sweaty body longed to be. My grandmother placed the key in the keyhole and … nothing happened. It was the wrong key. She had the wrong keys. We had the wrong keys. There was no getting inside until someone either came out and let us in, or we maneuvered our way in through the basement on the opposite side of the building. Even then, we’d still be stuck in the hallway of our apartment until either my mother or grandfather got home hours later.

Another thing I’ve learned from the travels of my youth is to always remember to bring your keys. Do not lose them, and don’t forget them at home. This is something I’m still working on.

In the end, the summer had its victory over us. And I did the only thing I could to accept our crippling defeat: “Maybe we could go and play in the park?”

The slide never burned more than it did on that day, but dammit, it still felt good.

As my last post stated, I was part of this awesome thing called The Worst! That the fine, fine author of Fine Fine Music, Cassie J. Sneider, put together. (For more information on that, well, check out my last post!) It was the first time I had ever done anything quite like it, and it was one of the coolest experiences in my life. I got to share the stage with some amazingly talented people and put myself out there in ways I hadn’t thought possible before. Of course, I was overly nervous, read to fast and stammered over most of my words, as to be expected, but I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with that. So, I thought I’d share the story I read for all of you fine, fine readers out there. Hope you enjoy, and don’t worry–I’m fully aware of how weird I am. So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Worst: Bad Habits a.k.a. The Worst New Millennium i.e. Puberty & Paranoia.

As an only child living in an apartment building devoid of any (normal) children my age, I was often left to my own devices to create entertainment. My building consisted mainly of older women, who I greatly enjoyed the company of, and actually preferred to any of the kids that lived nearby. There was only one girl around my age who lived in the next apartment over who I would occasionally play with. Her name was Nicole – at least that’s what we’ll call her for the sake of this story because I can’t recall her real name. I never really liked or trusted Nicole. My last straw was when we were at our complex’s park and she persuaded me to play on the tire swing with her. I, at the tender age of seven, had a love/hate relationship with the mythical tire swing. I appreciated the use of found items to create a fun, spinny ride. However, on the flip side, I was afraid of being stuck in one, forever slowly spinning until I would inevitably slide through the middle and drown in my own pool of tears.

So anyway, we’re in this tire swing and I asked her not to leave me alone in there. She rolled her eyes and told me she wouldn’t. The next thing I know, we’re spinning wildly with reckless abandon, when I notice her slip under my legs and through the hole in the middle. Once out, she laughed at me and ran off to undoubtedly cause more mischief on the monkey bars. I cried out to my grandmother for help, but she was unable to get away from Nicole’s mother, who was listing all of the health benefits of chain-smoking and her total adoration of Camel cigarettes (a list she was still exploring five minutes later when I finally, slowly wriggled myself out of the tire swing to safety.) If there’s one thing I will remember for the rest of my life about that woman, it was her penchant for chain-smoking, often blowing smoke in mine, her own children, and anyone she happened to be talking to’s faces. Also, I vividly remember her awesomely ‘80s Farah Fawcett meets Hulk Hogan winged mullet. And her love of windbreakers. Ok, so maybe I actually remember more about her than her daughter, but again, I had more exposure to adults than children at this point in time. But this isn’t about the worst childhood friends or neighbors; it’s about what happens when you isolate yourself in your own, private world. This tire swing incident was just the moment when I decided that the best company to keep was my own.

For the next few years, my time would usually be spent playing with Barbies, reading Cam Jansen novels, watching TV or doing chores with my grandmother. My favorite of the latter was laundry day. A trip to the Laundromat always felt like an adventure. On a summer day I’d marvel at the clothes spinning round and round, wishing I could be in there with them as if it were some kind of crazy water park ride. However, I hated the drying process. It took far too long for my liking and wasn’t nearly as fun to watch. So, while waiting for clothes to dry, I would occupy myself the way any kid my age would:  by fully immersing myself in every tabloid the Laundromat’s seated waiting area had to offer. Star and the National Enquirer were not only idle fodder to pass time with, but instead became required reading material. I mean, how could I NOT want to know about the Dixie Chicks Divorce Shocker?  Just waiting for laundry day wasn’t enough, I had to go out and buy them, too. But every time I reached for an issue of Star on the CVS magazine rack, I couldn’t help but notice the more eye-catching headlines staring back at me: “BAT BOY ON THE LOOSE!” “LIZARD HORROR” “GIANT CLAM KILLS WOMAN!” My mind yearned to know more. I picked up the Sun magazine and set out for answers.

It also happened to be a great time for the “suspend disbelief” tabloids (a phrase I did not yet understand), what with the year 2000 quickly approaching and all of the Y2K madness. Tabloid covers depicted various archaic prophecies, along with new-found Nostradamus warnings: “Year 2000 computer bug will turn machine against man!” “Hundreds of planes will fall out of the sky!” “Cars will stop dead in their tracks!” “Nuclear missiles will launch themselves!” Who cared about the everyday freaks and mutant animals when the end times were upon us? I couldn’t buy a pack of cherry pull & peel Twizzlers from the supermarket without being swarmed by images of the apocalypse. With even the regular news mentioning computer doom, I began to question whether or not I would ever live to see my 12th year. I decided it was time to get some answers, and maybe even find solace in something, and so I looked to the Bible. The Good Book itself. I opened up to an arbitrary page in the Book of Revelation and read:

“I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black sackcloth made of hair and the whole moon became like blood; and the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

I slammed the holy book shut and hid it behind our collection of Mark Twain books we had on display on our TV stand, above all the Disney and rom-com VHS tapes. Thoughts of every image of Armageddon ever depicted in those tabloids flooded my mind. What if they were right? Maybe that Nostradamus guy is on to something. It’s exactly like the Good Book says, the year 2000 will hit, all the computers of the world will reset back to the year 1900, and instead of blasting us back in time on a whirlwind adventure through history, the moon and stars will explode and the world will be set ablaze by earthquakes everywhere. Suddenly, nothing and nowhere felt safe to me anymore. I dreaded my 6th grade religion class, for fear the class would veer into the territory of discussing Judgment Day. I couldn’t enjoy a grilled cheese and bacon at the diner without thinking of the street outside splitting apart. A trip to the circus in the city was overshadowed by thoughts of buildings tumbling and elephants losing it and trampling everyone in their midst. Even when New Year’s Eve came and went without the world exploding all around us, I was still suddenly made aware of an inevitable end I had not ever thought of before. Not just the world’s end, but my own mortality as well; and so came the nights of sleeplessness and 3 AM panic attacks.

I started to think of ways my own body could betray me. I couldn’t understand the tickle in my throat that would cause me to dry heave and panic every night. Suddenly, I felt everything else going wrong with my body, too. I became worried that my blinking was not up to snuff, and so I’d over-blink to ensure that my eyelids were in fact still functional. In my manic, eye-fluttering bouts, I’d cause some of my longer eyelashes to fold in on themselves in the corner of my eye, which just led to yet more paranoia. What if all my eyelashes follow suit and I’m left an eyelash-less freak? I’d make the cover of Sun: “GIRL WITH NO EYELASHES TERRORIZES SUBURBAN NY CITY!” Other young, lonely, panic-stricken girls would follow my lead until we’d form some eyelash-lacking gang of miscreants, wreaking havoc all over Westchester County. Which might have actually been pretty cool, but highly improbable. No, I’d probably just be the weird girl in my class (even more so than I already was), staring longingly at everyone without any eye protection from dirt and debris, which would then just gather in my eyeballs until I’d eventually lose those, too.

So, to prevent any eyelash-related incidents from occurring, I’d find myself playing with my lashes, often resulting in pulling many out, to which I’d then wish upon for no end times in sight. And more eyelashes. And to maybe meet Matthew Lawrence (this was when he was more popular than Joey because of Boy Meets World and all). I’d then make my way up and pick at my eyebrows, too, because, why not? I became obsessed with the minute, utterly fascinated by hair and skin follicles. The eczema I’d developed between my fingers became a playground. I’d pick and chip away at the skin until my desk was covered with dead, white skin. Then, I’d move on to my head, picking away at my scalp, flooding my black top science class desk with a snowstorm of dandruff or dry skin. On a particularly balmy day, I’d have a cascade of both. Then, I’d press my finger over the scattered white pieces, clumping them all together, just to release them and see them fall upon the black again. I neither knew nor cared if people were looking. When I was doing it, it allowed me to spend a few minutes in my own dead-skin bubble; my own private snow globe of dandruff and dry skin.

As much care as I had of how everyone viewed me at every point in the day vanished. My brain was shut off to everything but my own obsession. The end of the world, war, why my crush refused to dance with me at the most recent birthday party at the Girl Scout cabin – I was numb to all of it for just those few moments of the day. The years following would throw at both myself and the world some hurdles that would have seemed impossible to get through before. But I did it. And as time went on, and I found myself entering my teenage years, as awkward as I still was, I found different ways to cope with intimidating situations. I would occupy my time with other people, and going different places and encountering those ever-dreaded high school problems that every teenager must face. And so, I started to slowly leave those little quirks behind. Interpersonal relationships, music, reading, writing…they all became better stress relievers for me. And even when some of those, namely the first, became stress-inducers, I still managed to avoid resorting to picking.

My skin started to heal even on the coldest or driest of days. I found myself looking for adventure and travel as opposed to dreading it. It wasn’t until junior year of high school when an emotionally disturbed new student with no eyebrows or eyelashes who was perpetually laughed at will only be there for a few months until she’s kicked out for threatening another student. And it won’t be until years later when I find out that those “habits” I had may have had more to them than I thought. A few months ago I watched an episode of a show on TLC called “Obsessed.” In this one particular episode, a girl nervously and obsessively picked out the roots of her hair until she was completely bald on one side of her head. In another, a woman feared earthquakes and death and would exhibit signs of paranoia every evening.  It’s not until this point that I realize that all of those compulsions I displayed could have in my later years classified me as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Sure, I’m probably trivializing the term in even stating this, but whether or not I had OCD, I definitely had fears inside me that I couldn’t outright tackle. I also realize that for many, these compulsions aren’t something that can just be “kicked” without professional help, especially in adults. And I’m also not saying that I’m completely devoid of any worry now, or that every time the news reminds us of war, violence, natural disasters, Lindsay Lohan or all of those signs of the end times that my stomach doesn’t sink even the tiniest bit. Nor am I saying that when I sit at my all-black desk at work I don’t have to fight the urge to flood it with white—but I have gotten better at repressing those urges. What I have realized, though, is that the world is always going to remind you of the worst. But it’s up to you to not let it get the best of you. There’s a life to be lived instead of just an end to be feared. I’ve also realized that as long as I have a good dandruff shampoo, a luscious-lash mascara and bottle of Cortizone, I’m going to be just fine. At least until December 20th of this year, then all bets are off.