Sometimes Things Are What They Seem

Right now I am sitting on the couch in my living room watching Natural Born Killers with Becky’s nephew Jacob. He is staying with us for a couple of days. When I asked him why he was on break in the middle of February, he responded by explaining that the rich kids at his school needed to go skiing. While some of his classmates are at Breckenridge, he is here. In Muncie. Brave young man that he is.

I had forgotten how strange, how deranged, how fucked up this movie is.

It is very fucked up.

The most fucked up.

Only Tarantino and Stone together could make this fucked up shit happen this well.


I spent the weekend in Chicago. I miss it already. I spent the hours of sitting at CElla’s booth counting the numbers of writer stereotypes I saw. Apparently, there is a school somewhere that teaches a class in how to dress as a writer. Hopefully they teach their students how to write as well.

Perhaps, though, they concentrate more on teaching their students how to look like Rembrandt:slf_prtrt_gorget_beretWe counted the berets (particularly those paired with a scarf), the long flowing skirts, the Nathans (men with beards, plaid shirts, and corduroys), men with leather vests, and women with tall leather boots. I hope they can write as well as they dress. There is something to be said for originality, in both realms.


I went to some excellent panels while I was there. The best ones involved writers that I already knew I loved: Lucille Clifton, Kim Addonizio, and Dorothy Allison. From each woman I took new strength, insight, and inspiration.

Clifton reminded me of the universality of suffering and how common the female experience is. She reminded me that good writing reaches the heart whether or not we have shared experience. I have never had an abortion but that didn’t keep me from weeping at Clifton’s reading of Gwendolyn Brooks’s “The Mother” and her reading of her own “Lost Baby Poem.” I was moved deeper than I have been in a long time. I didn’t have to have my own abortion to understand the implications of their words. My guts moved at them.

Kim Addonizio reminded me not to take myself too seriously. There she was on the stage at one of the largest sessions at the conference laughing at herself as the woman who was signing her poems made the motions for vibrator and dildo. The same sign for both but the former with a little jiggle of the wrist. Addonizio has the kindest eyes. And the most sincere laugh. What do you say to a woman whose poetry changed your life and made you want to write something other than the shit you wrote before? I stood before her smiling and saying, “Thank you.” It was all I could say.

I hope I never get the opportunity to speak with Alice Walker or Toni Morrison. I would probably throw up like on South Park when Stan talks to Wendy.

Finally, Dorothy Allison taught me that she isn’t my Yankee-ass’s granny, which I take to mean that she isn’t my mammy. I don’t want her for my granny or my mammy; I just want to read her writing and have it change me for the better. I want to know how someone can love and hate a place at the same time, how someone can hold onto their past while simultaneously purging it, and how my writing can reflect all those things I loved about growing up somewhere like Hartford City, but how it can also betray the fact that I need so desperately to never return to it. How does she do that? I think humor and honesty. Without saying it, she said it.

Sometimes things are what they seem; sometimes they aren’t.

The worst panel was about being a gay writer in the Midwest. This panel quickly digressed into an advertisement for Chicago, and how they (Chicago Queers) feel so oppressed because they don’t get the publicity of San Francisco or New York. They don’t even get as much press as LA: “We have big events and they don’t get into the Advocate or Out.” gay-boys“Sniffle, sniffle, and dry your eyes,” I wanted to tell them,”come to Muncie to see the real Midwest. Then you can go home and choose one of your many gay bars at which to drown your sorrows, while the queers here in Muncie all join up at the one, the only, Mark III Tap Room. Seriously. Get rural in the Midwest and then figure out why half the room got up and left your session.”


I had two new beers while I was in Chicago: Belhaven Wee Heavy and The Reverend Avery Ale.


Mickey and Mallory just shot the Indian on a bad trip. Things will begin to go very badly for them. It will involve lots of biting snakes and my favorite song on the soundtrack. And, Jacob will still be moving his hand keeping time to the music. Or, he will  go upstairs and go to bed. And so will I.

2 responses to “Sometimes Things Are What They Seem

  1. . . . “how someone can love and hate a place at the same time, how someone can hold onto their past while simultaneously purging it” . . . I’m working on that one, too! I bet you had no idea (ha ha). AWP was amazing. Sounds like you got so much more out of the panels – I should’ve followed you to a few of them. I did come home with four bags of books! I also came home to a house of grumpy teenagers and a stack of descriptive essays to read. 😦 I hope the movie didn’t give you and Jacob nightmares.

  2. THAT (all of what you said on my blog) is WHY I love you. Uh . . . what is shisha? Whatever it is . . . I trust you – I’ll smoke it. 😉 Maybe Denver has cheaper (and less terrifying) taxis. It’s gotta’ have better parking! We could fit a scooby doo/hippie van anywhere, maaaan!

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