Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dreams

Normally I never remember my dreams, but this entire week they've been particularly vivid. I still only recall bits and pieces, but those bits and pieces are wonderfully strange.

Monday's was the most peculiar and frightening, as it bled into my waking life and transposed itself into my bedroom. The weak light coming through the blinds woke me, and I was aware that I had been dreaming, but, as usual, I couldn't remember the content of the dream. Covers still pulled up under my chin, I glanced at the cabinets that face my bed--only to see a black cat curled on top of them, far to the right. I didn't have my glasses on, so it really looked like a tense black ball of fluff, but I could tell it was a cat because I could see the green glint of its eyes. Worry seized me--I thought that perhaps one of the strays that hang around outside had somehow snuck in. Had we left our door open? A window? I shifted, and it leapt down from the cabinets to the floor--I could even hear the soft thump as it landed. It slinked toward the left side of my bed. I sat up, grabbed my glasses and--there was nothing there. I decided to consider it a good omen for the day, if only to calm my nerves.

Tuesday's dream was more of a classic nightmare. I was in some sort of medieval castle or abbey; I don't think it was a church, as there were no stained glass windows or altar, and it was clear that people had, at one point or another, inhabited the place. The walls were built with thick, yellow-gray blocks of stone, and carved into the columns were these rectangular spiral patterns, which for some reason convinced me that it was located in a Scandinavian country--not that I've ever been to a Scandinavian country in real life. I was originally touring the building while they were setting up for some kind of event. In the vaulted dining hall, there were circular tables covered in cheap white tablecloths, topped with hideous centerpieces--bland plants and thick, low candles. The place settings were brown. It looked almost like a wedding reception, except the color palette was more funereal. But I wasn't there to attend the event. There were a few other tourists besides me, and we straggled into the hall, weaved around the tables on our way to other rooms.

The dream progressed in ways that are lost to me, and later I returned to the building. I wanted to see it again. They weren't going to let me in--I must not have had a ticket or something--but I convinced them to allow me to join a group of schoolchildren who were on a class trip. Soon I struck off on my own, and climbed the stairs to the second floor. There was a bedroom with a stained, moth-eaten mattress on the floor. It was dark, presumably because I wasn't supposed to be in there. I noticed movement in the corner, and then the movement materialized into a hooded figure. Its robe parted slightly at the bottom, and a green snake slid onto the dusty stone floor. It lunged for me, jaws open wide--and then I woke up.

On Wednesday I had two distinct dreams. The first dream was (nerd that I am) about Star Wars. In my galactic saga, however, the First Order--or perhaps it was the Empire, I'm not sure--seemed to have taken some political lessons from the Koch Brothers. First, they'd ditched the lasers for bombs and land mines. It must have been the First Order, because Leia was a general, and my position was something like her assistant. I was constantly at her side, doing whatever menial tasks she needed, as well as serving as witness to important meetings and agreements. At one point I followed her down into this twisting wood building with vaguely Asian architecture to meet a crucial contact, bombs threatening to destroy the structure at any minute. Later--and this is the really Koch Brothers part--the First Order had set up an election to give the appearance of democracy, but the electronic voting machines were so slow that it took an hour to complete the ballot, and most of them ran out batteries before the majority of people could cast their votes at all. After trying and failing to vote, I toured an old office building that was housing refugees, people who had lost their homes in the bombings. There was hardly any room to walk between the crowds and whatever remained of their hastily-gathered belongings. Basically I directed the most depressing Star Wars film ever.

In the second dream, I was at the Beijing airport with my immediate family. We had all our luggage with us--perhaps our flight was delayed? There were lots of people waiting; we were sitting on the carpeted floor for lack of seats. Bored out of my mind, I decided--as is every older sister's right--to embarrass my little sister. I stood, and with great gusto, I began singing the title song from The Sound of Music, flinging my arms wide and spinning around as though I were atop the snowy Alps. Molly was not amused.

And that's all--so far. Have at it, Freudians.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fake Morning Person

This morning I taught my first-ever undergraduate creative writing course--bright and early at 8:30 a.m. I barely slept last night, as I kept going over exactly what I wanted to tell them in exactly what cadence in exactly what order. And of course, all that tossing and turning did little good, as it came out differently anyway. It wasn't a particularly difficult day--mostly going over the syllabus, talking a bit about writing in general. But it did go more smoothly than I thought it was going to. The students seem relatively engaged, and it's a small group, so I'll hopefully get to know them better. And I felt far more awake than I expected.

That was not the case when I taught my 102 class this afternoon. The lack of sleep caught up to me at around 1 p.m., and I've been struggling to keep my eyes open ever since. I'll have to regulate my sleep schedule this semester, as this particular level of sleep deprivation is not sustainable.

Yesterday I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of my former students for the first time, which was a surreal experience. I've had so many good people write letters of recommendation for me in the past, but doing the recommending is even harder than I thought. Not because this kid isn't worthy--he was one of my best students--but simply because I had to balance effusiveness and specificity. If you insert too many phrases like, "XYZ is bright and engaged," you risk sounding too generic. But if you insert too many specific details about the work they did, you risk the readers becoming bored or confused. I suppose it's good to get some practice writing them, though.

I could also use the karma, as I'm asking a few professors to write more letters of recommendation for me. I'm applying to yet another writing fellowship. This is the last one, I think. Then I just have to start looking out for jobs! What fun, what fun. Applications forever.

I've been listening to David Bowie's entire oeuvre in chronological order. I'm still in the 90's.

I'm very sleepy. It's 5:30 p.m.

How is it only 5:30 p.m.?

Getting up early is the worst.

Monday, January 11, 2016

oh no, love, you're not alone

I didn't sleep last night--not a wink--so this isn't going to be as eloquent as I want it to be.

I can't remember when I first heard David Bowie, because he's nothing if not ubiquitous. The first time I consciously heard David Bowie, I had mixed feelings. I really liked the glam stuff, wasn't too into anything after that, except for "Under Pressure." I had a greatest hits CD.

It wasn't until college that the obsession truly set in. Sometimes I think works of art just hit you at the right time, and for whatever reason, college was a time that I needed David Bowie. It was probably a combination of many things--feeling like an outsider in Chicago (most of my friends went to art school), my burgeoning aesthetic and sexual interest in androgyny, my ever-deepening knowledge of music in general (I didn't have a cool older sibling to show me the way). At any rate, David Bowie filled some kind of need inside me. We clicked. I couldn't decide if I wanted to marry him or if I wanted to be him. Still can't.

And my love for him only deepened after graduation from Loyola. Those early post-college years were the true heyday of my Bowie-mania. That was when Lindsey and I hosted our legendary Bowie-themed housewarming party. I make a good Halloween Jack, don't you think?


I went out to Bowie dance parties around the city. I saw Sons of the Silent Age multiple times. I watched Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on the big screen at The Music Box. Meg got me Bowie earrings. My collection of Bowie vinyls expanded rapidly. By that point I was a fan of his entire oeuvre--except perhaps that brief techno period in the 90's. But even that was cute.

On second thought, I think I'm trying to force a narrative onto this by suggesting that this heyday existed--or rather, that it ever ended. Moving to Las Vegas has put something of a damper on Bowie-themed events--it's more of an Elvis town--but right before I moved here Meg and I treated ourselves to a Bowie Birthday Party in New York City. I can't find pictures of that, unfortunately, but I can find pictures of the petrified bat I bought at Obscura on that same trip, which I named Halloween Jack.


Winter of 2014, when I was back in Chicago for break, I went to the David Bowie Is exhibit at the MCA with Gena and Jane. When I saw the outfit he wore during the 1972 Top of the Pops performance of "Starman," I literally cried.


And, of course, I dressed up as Aladdin Sane just this past Halloween.


Last night I was at The Bunkhouse Saloon with LeeAnn, Sean, and Natasha to see Stop Making Sense, The Talking Heads' concert film. Towards the end of the movie, I received a tweet on my phone from David Bowie's official Twitter account. They weren't written by him--a publicist or something--but I always had them sent to my phone so that if he ever did decide to tour again, I'd be among the first to know. Since his most recent album, Blackstar, only came out a few days ago, I had high hopes for such a thing. But then I read the message:


At first I was convinced it was a hoax--surely the account had been hacked. There was no way David Bowie could die, because he's an immortal space alien. I told my friends, and we all furiously scrolled through our phones, searching for confirmation. Seems like most of the internet thought it was a hoax, too--until Sky News confirmed it. And Pitchfork. And Duncan Jones, his son.

The Bunkhouse, to their everlasting credit, took the news seriously. They made the announcement immediately, put his music on. Many toasts were made. I owe a lot to my friends, too, who were full of hugs and kind words and offers for drinks. It's sort of funny--you'd think I was a grieving widow or something, all the messages I've been receiving from people checking in on me. But I do appreciate it. I guess my Bowie obsession was more apparent than even I realized--and I was pretty aware of it, obviously.

God, this post is narcissistic. I'm not trying to prove that I am The Biggest Bowie Fan of All Eternity. I'm sure that's not true. There's probably a person out there with a lightning bolt face tattoo. There's probably someone who spent the whole day crying instead of working, which is what I did. The point is: I love David Bowie. I love him so much, and now he's dead, and I'm really sad about it, and I'm eternally grateful for him and his perfect music, and I wish there were some way I could have told him that I love him. It does feel like I lost a friend, even though we never met.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite Bowie live videos: this 2002 performance of "Heroes" in Berlin. It's pretty straightforward, but let's be real--he looks sexy as hell. There's a man who aged well.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Las Vegas! We meet again...

Greetings, dear readers. I arrived back in Las Vegas after three glorious weeks in Chicago just last night--or rather, very early this morning. I apologize for the long silence, but my visit to the Land of Lincoln was filled to the brim with activity.

That's not entirely true.

When I went home for Christmas 2014, I spent a week or so in the city, hopping from one friend's couch to another, catching up with as many people as I could. Then, after a brief break in the suburbs over Christmas itself, I was back in the city for some more nomadic living. It was fun, but somewhat stressful, carrying my belongings on the CTA from Edgewater to Uptown to Ravenswood and back again. Winter Break 2015 was different. Many of my friends were out of town, spending the holidays with relatives or significant others, so I spent about 2/3 of my vacation at my family home in the suburbs.

My mother kept insisting that I must be bored, but that wasn't the case at all. As you may remember, my anxiety was out of control last semester, and on top of that I caught a bad cold, so I desperately needed a little rest and relaxation. Right after I got home, I spent two days straight laying on my couch, snuggling with my dogs and binge watching Law & Order re-runs. I consumed lots of other media as well: the most recent season of Doctor Who, Star Wars with Meg, Spectre with my dad. I did yoga and ate dark chocolate. I spent Christmas Eve with my cousins and their many babies, and Christmas Day in my pajamas with my family. We even played Cards Against Humanity. (My mother kept winning. She's a twisted woman.) My big Christmas present was a professional massage, so I also did that one day. Basically I spent a great deal of time taking care of myself, and I believe that's the best thing I could have done. I didn't write as much as I would have liked, but I still have a few weeks of break left for that.

This isn't to suggest that I didn't see my friends at all. One night early on I went down to the city to hang out with Gena and Marty. We got milkshakes at Pick Me Up and went to see a production of the Improvised Shakespeare Company at IO. I accidentally crashed Felipe's family Christmas after I went to see his improv show--his family is so sweet that they simply wouldn't allow me to not come to lunch with them. And after Christmas I went back to the city for several days. I wasn't a nomad this time--Meg and Marc were kind enough to let me make their apartment my home base. We had our annual Future Christmas Gift Exchange with Molly and Leta via Skype. As always, it reminded me that I am the luckiest person alive to have such thoughtful and creative friends. Leta hand-stitched a bag for me that says "Too Glam to Give a Damn," surrounded by glittering crystals. And Meg made me a looseleaf tea set--literally made it. Built and decorated and bought lots of different teas for the refillable tins with chalkboard labels so I can switch them out in the future. They know me too well. It's kind of alarming.

Meg hosted a Goth Detectives-themed New Year's Eve party. (If "goth detectives" means nothing to you, do yourself a favor and watch Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2006 posthaste.) I looked pretty awesome. We made way too many cookies and brownies. And chocolate mousse. And tiramisu. We played party games and had a champagne toast at midnight. The next day we slept in and brunched and watched movies. The day after that we finally cleaned the apartment, and that evening Meg and I went to see a production of Guys & Dolls in Evanston, which was great. We made a spontaneous trip to Delilah's afterwards, and lo and behold, our favorite bartender was there to give us hugs and free drinks. On Sunday I brunched with Ben (brunch isn't a thing in Vegas, so whenever I go to Chicago I have to get my fix), and then Lindsey, Catalina, Gena, Meg, and I drank mimosas and turned one of our friends into a beautiful Liz Taylor-esque drag queen. Because what else are you supposed to do on a Sunday?

Then it was back to the suburbs for laundry and packing. And after a connecting flight in Minneapolis (on which I wrote and wrote and wrote to make up for lost time), I finally made it back to Sin City.

Now I just have one semester to go, during which I have to complete my thesis, and then...who knows? Huge life transitions are a blast.