Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer Vacation?

Last night I had a dream that I applied for a job at an Applebee's restaurant. It had recently rained; it was overcast, and the air still smelled of petrichor. Instead of worms, the parking lot pavement was strewn with large snakes, some black, some green. I walked inside and asked to fill out an application. They told me I had to write a cover letter. They gave me some looseleaf paper and a pen, but the words wouldn't come out--I kept scratching over phrases, and I was worried that I'd need to ask for a new sheet. One of the snakes found its way inside and wound itself around my ankle.

I think the job hunt is getting to me.

It's strange having a summer vacation that technically has no official end. Just whatever comes next.

I've been spending lots of time on The Strip lately, oddly enough. On Saturday night, I stood in front of the Bellagio Fountains from 8 p.m. to midnight and watched every single show. Now I'm trying to write an essay about it, to practice my creative nonfiction skills. It's harder to write when there's no narrative. Not that essays can't have narrative, of course. It's simply that this one is coming out more collage form so far.

That night, Lulu picked me up after her shift, and as we were walking back to the parking garage through the Bellagio's gardens, we ran into Brett and Mary Beth. That's right, my friends: it has reached the point where I run into people I know on the Las Vegas Strip.

Last night Lulu, LeeAnn, and I went to see Absinthe, which is a weird, sexy circus-burlesque show at Caesars Palace. The jokes were zero percent politically correct, but the performers were phenomenal. My favorite was this couple who did a sort of BDSM-themed acrobatics act to Hozier's "Take Me to Church"--ON ROLLERSKATES! They were spinning so quickly, and the woman's head was so close to the ground. It was enthralling.

Anyway, aside from all that I've basically just been reading, writing, and sleeping. Sleeping too much, actually--I'll have to start setting alarms, shake myself out of the bad habit. Don't want the adjustment to be too painful when and if that job comes along.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Home Alone (Ahhh!)

The other day I read this wonderful essay by Helena Fitzgerald called "The Fierce Triumph of Loneliness." You should take a look at it if you get a chance. It's basically about living alone as a radical feminist act in a society that maintains that "women are the anchors of social labor, the glue pulling the family, and then the community, together with small talk and good manners and social niceties." As Leta pointed out, it's strange that she conflates aloneness and loneliness, but it's still a thoughtful piece.

Anyway, it got me thinking about something that I've been considering for a while: whenever and wherever I move from Vegas, I may want to live alone. Not because it's a radical feminist act, but simply because I have never done it. I lived with my family through high school, and ever since then I have lived with at least one roommate at all times. I've rarely even stayed in hotel rooms by myself, and on those occasions it's only been for a few days.

I've been fortunate enough to have lovely roommates throughout the years. I've been good friends with many of them, and I've gotten along well with the rest. There's something nice about having a person there to talk with when I get home. We may not constantly share meals or watch movies together, but it's comforting to know that if I go missing, somebody will notice sooner rather than later. And since I have hypochondria-related anxiety problems, I love the idea of having another human in the house who could dial 911 if necessary. (I know, I know--get back to a therapist, Becky.)

Despite all the benefits of roommate living, I wonder if I'm not inadvertently hindering myself by refusing to strike out on my own. I feel largely independent, but I can't possibly be fully independent if I'm splitting chores and bills and the other drudgeries of domestic life with someone else. Many of my friends who have lived alone for a while insist that I'm missing out (you can dance naked throughout the house and no one will care!), but I don't know about that. The privacy of my bedroom is usually enough for me.

So I could live alone, I suppose, when I move. It's an easy enough thing to accomplish. But I wish I could have a trial run. I'm worried that my anxiety will completely overtake me. Living alone won't be fun if I'm racked with panic attacks every night. Hopefully that won't happen--sometimes I think my anxiety will spike over certain things only to discover that it doesn't spike at all--but you never know.

Any advice? If you've adjusted from living with others to living alone, how did you make that transition easier on yourself? Pets? Long bouts of meditation? I'd appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

In other news, there is now professional video of me reading from my novel at Neon Lit last month. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Please bring several sheets of looseleaf paper and a pen.

I'm writing this blog entry while my 102 students are taking their final exam. Look at them, sitting quietly at their desks, chewing thoughtfully on the pens in their mouths. It's charming. Assuming I head into the world of publishing/literary nonprofits, as is my plan (is it tangible enough to qualify as a plan?), this may very well be the final final exam I ever give.

Let's all pause for a moment of bittersweet nostalgia.

Speaking of Life After The MFA, I've applied to over 60 jobs. It sounds absurd, I know, but it's actually easier at this point, since I have several different cover letters written for different kinds of positions. I still tweak them based on the individual company or organization, of course, but I don't have to do much from scratch. Most of the time I can breeze through four or five applications in a day. The most I've ever completed in one day is 8, I believe. 

So many of the positions are in New York City, simply because the writing world tends to be centered there. (An unfortunate tendency, in my opinion, but an inescapable one.) That said, I've also applied to positions in Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, Boston, and Boulder, among other places. I even applied to a position in Boca Raton. I don't really want to live in Boca Raton with all the retirees, but at least I'm familiar with the area, as I have relatives there. Ultimately, I'm open to pretty much anywhere, as long as it's a city. I'm not a big fan of rural living. Of course, I've never actually tried rural living, but I suspect I'd get bored. People are infinitely stimulating. Landscapes are only stimulating until you get used to them.

I've finally started to hear back from some of the positions, which is a relief, since I've been feeling impatient. Unfortunately, they've been rejections so far, but I expected that. I've heard it's nearly impossible to get hired in New York unless you already live there. Besides, I'm a writer. Rejection is a part of daily life. I'm confident that I'll eventually find the right place for me.

And if not, I'll go to New Zealand. (Thanks, Leta, for the tip about New Zealand's Working Holiday Visa.)

One of my students just asked permission to blow his nose. Um...yes?

Last night I went to see Shannon and the Clams with my friend Chase. It was a great show--they have a very 60's/garage/punk vibe, if you're into that sort of thing. Made me miss my gogo dancing days of yore.

Let's all pause to examine how much cooler I used to be:



Tonight it's our last ::sniffle:: ever ::sniffle:: game ::sniffle:: of ::sniffle:: Dungeons & Dragons! Well, our last game in this particular campaign--the one we've been playing for almost three years. I'm sure we'll all jump into future campaigns with future friends, but I'm awfully sad to see this one go. Where will I be without Penumbra Dreadful? Who will spread the Raven Queen's good news about the Joy of Death?

So many "lasts." Of course, since I have no idea what I'm doing with my life, they're only lasts in theory. But it's still strange. Tomorrow night we're going to the Pioneer Saloon. Will it be my last time karaokeing there? No--I'm sure it won't be. I'm going to make a point to go out there every time I visit Vegas for the rest of my life. The Pioneer Saloon is one of the most magnificent places I've ever been.

That reminds me--I have to figure out what I'm going to sing. I'll be taking suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#vegasmegareunionwow

The past week has been a doozy! In the best possible way. My two best friends, my sister, my parents, and my friends' parents all came to Vegas to celebrate my successful completion (pending paperwork) of the MFA program, and we essentially had nonstop fun. Also, nonstop food. Honestly, it went by in something of a blur.

Good thing I took notes.

Wednesday, April 27th

Leta arrived at McCarran relatively late. I picked her up, and we talked and talked and talked--until we remembered that I had to get up at 7 a.m. the next day to teach class.

Thursday, April 28th

Leta accompanied me to my Creative Writing course, which I managed to instruct despite the lack of sleep. While I was teaching, my parents and sister arrived in town from Chicago, so we met them for brunch at Egg Works after class. We helped my parents check into Vdara, by which I mean Leta, Molly, and I plopped onto the comfy bed.

Cozy.

I still had to teach my composition course that afternoon, so Molly and Leta came with me, much to the amusement of my students. Afterwards, we met my parents and many of my writing cohort at Roy's for Happy Hour to celebrate Olivia's birthday. Eventually the party moved to Stake Out for more food and drinks. So glad my parents got to experience the divey, smoky wonder that is Stake Out. Back at my apartment, Molly and Leta napped while I waited to pick Meg up at the airport very, very late. But she arrived safely, and the Smear of Brain (the force that both keeps the universe expanding and glues it together) was finally complete.

Friday, April 29th

We slept in (thank goodness), and then Meg presented me with a gift-wrapped box. Apparently she, Leta, Molly, Felipe, and Gena had all gone in on a graduation present for me. But what could it be? I pulled off the ribbon and opened the lid to find...a large pile of York peppermint patties! But what were the candies resting inside? Carefully, I removed...A REAL HUMAN CRANIUM (legally purchased and medically sanitized). You wish you had friends who would buy you human remains and then carry them across the country for you.

The face of pure joy.

Seriously, thank you Meg, Molly, Leta, Gena, and Felipe. It is truly one of the best gifts I have ever received, and I love it. I'm trying to figure out where to display it now. I considered putting it next to Edgar (my chalkboard skull), but then I thought Edgar might get jealous because he's synthetic. I've also decided not to give the cranium a name, because at one point this person had his own name, and it feels rude to confer another name upon him without his permission.

Sometimes the decisions I have to make are not like the decisions other people have to make.

Anyway, after a brief trip to Starbucks for caffeine, we got gussied up and met my parents downtown at Park on Fremont for an early dinner. We sat on their whimsical patio, full of gutted carriages filled with flowers and walls lined with colorful antique plates. We also played on their adult-sized see-saw.

Teeter.

Totter.

From there we walked to The Writer's Block for the big night--Neon Lit! All the graduating writers read from their theses and dissertations, including yours truly. Leta's parents met us there, so I had quite the cheering section. Everyone's pieces were amazing, and the evening was sentimental. Got a little choked up at points. I'm really going to miss everyone.

Looks like I was having a good time.

Wouldn't be a special occasion without an epic house party at Brett, Kayla, and Haider's place. There was a fire pit, a "punch" that consisted of mostly vodka, and a jerry-rigged karaoke machine. You can probably imagine how that went.

Saturday, April 30th

My guests and I were tuckered out on Saturday, so it was a lazier day than I expected.

Mostly.

We met both sets of parents at the Cosmopolitan for giant burgers and milkshakes at Holstein's. Like, so-giant-I-couldn't-fit-my-mouth-around-it burgers. Like, so-giant-it-came-in-two-separate-cups milkshakes. Once we were all carrying third-trimester food babies, we rebelled against traditional advice and decided to go swimming. One problem: the Vdara's pool was closed, I guess because some people can't deal with swimming during thunderstorms, or whatever. But Meg, Leta, and I don't let nature mess with our plans.

Bathtub party.

We soaked for a while, then went back to my place to change before we got more food, because that is definitely what we needed, we would have probably starved without it, oh em gee I can't believe my stomach didn't pop. We met both sets of parents for Indian food at Mint, which was something of an adventure because our parents aren't familiar with Indian food. We did manage to order after many menu explanations, and everyone was happy. I should say that everyone was happy until the end of dinner, when we realized that both sets of parents and my sister would be leaving the following morning! I am of the opinion that their visit to Vegas was decidedly too short.

We couldn't mourn for too long, however, as we had somewhere to be. My darling roommate Lulu, you see, works for a casino box office. So she got us free tickets...to Chippendales.

Did you know that Chippendales dancers go through 25,000 tank tops per year?

Here's the thing I didn't realize about Chippendales: these guys are terrible dancers. Three of them were fairly good, but the rest of them looked like a bad high school production about male strippers. It seems the main criteria to be a Chippendales dancer is not grace or rhythm, but rather, abs. They cycled through every stereotypical female fantasy, and/or members of The Village People: construction workers, cowboys, police officers, etc. Their tribute to the troops was perhaps a tad disrespectful, especially when one of them began stripping behind an unfurled American flag? No full-frontal nudity, of course (aw, shucks), but lots of butts, and since we were to the side of the stage, we definitely got some dick-sock views, too. I can't say that any of it was titillating, but it sure was delightful.

And what better way to end the evening than with a nightcap at Stake Out, complete with baskets of fries? We're the classiest.

Sunday, May 1st

I can't say for sure whether it was the Saturday tub party, or whether it was fond memories of my 26th birthday, when my friends visited Vegas and we got a suite in the Cosmopolitan for the night and had a little too much fun piling people into the room's Japanese soaking tub, but Sunday morning we were inspired to recapture that joy. Vegas.com has some fantastic same-day-booking deals, and that's how we ended up with a suite in the Aria.

But before that, Leta, Meg, and I decided to kick off the month of May by underwear shopping at Target, because why wouldn't we want to go underwear shopping at Target? We stocked up on supplies for the evening's festivities, and took a trip to the Container Park so we could eat gourmet hot dogs at Cheffini's.

Finally, we drove to the Aria and checked into our beautiful room. Before long we were joined by Shaun, Rachel, Tim, and Joe, who helped us eat snacks and drink pink champagne and have an all-around swell time. Two years ago at the Cosmopolitan, we managed to fit seven people inside the Japanese soaking tub. The Aria's soaking tub was significantly smaller, but we still managed to squeeze in six. I believe it to be a truly admirable accomplishment.

This is how you solidify friendships.

Monday, May 2nd

Because they live in such sunshine-deprived climates, Meg and Leta were determined to get into real pool at some point. Monday morning we did exactly that. We were only there for an hour, and I still got sunburned. I am the palest.

We checked out of the hotel, and were heading back to the car when Meg realized she had misread her flight information. That's right: despite being completely sober, she had managed to do the most Vegas thing ever and miss her flight. Fortunately, we managed to book her another one for later in the day, which meant that we got to keep her for a few more hours! Lunch at Tacos & Beer, lounging at my apartment. A lazy afternoon.

I'm a nice person, so I didn't go through with my plan to kidnap Meg, and she did eventually get on a plane. Leta and I took a long walk around campus, hiked to the top of one of UNLV's parking garages for a better view of the Strip. We spent the evening much the same way we spent her first evening here: talking and talking and talking.

Tuesday, May 3rd

Once again, I had to teach early in the morning. Leta tagged along with me whenever I wasn't in class, and that afternoon I had to take her to a plane. I didn't kidnap a single person! What was I thinking?

I am sad to see everyone go--it's rare that I get to dedicate an entire week to pure amusement. At the same time, it'll be nice to get back to a normal schedule, start sleeping again. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did, and I am eternally grateful that you all love me enough to come here and keep me company. I am one lucky lady.