Nonsense Verse

     

3.28.2004

 
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
--Al Pacino, "The Godfather, Part III"

I swore I wasn't going to blog again until I was set up in a newer, more schwankadelic online home. However, something unexpected came up last week that puts me in the position of needing to do this Nonsense for just a tad longer.

Friday morning, I opened my e-mail at work as usual. In my inbox was a message: "Invitation to Florida." Who-wha? I thought. This must be a mistake. But no. It turns out that I was, indeed, the intended invitee--to a symposium on "converged journalism" being held by the University of Florida.

I was a last-minute replacement, you see, for a panel on blogging and journalism. Someone else dropped out, and during the conference organizers' scramble for potential seat-fillers, my name was thrown into the mix. So I'm sloppy seconds. But since I dig this kind of discussion, I wouldn't care if I was slovenly thirds or even filthy fourths. It's gonna be fun!

Plus, I get to do something that copy-editor-types don't usually get to do: travel on business. Which makes twice so far this year, since I'm also spending a week in New York this May to help teach the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund business-reporting class at NYU.

Sooooo, to the students who might be stopping by this site for the first time: Hi.


3.3.2004

 
So here's the thing. I want to keep writing. I really do. I just don't know that I want to do it here.

So much of what I've done here lately has been so much friggin' crap. An exercise, sure--but in what? Speed-typing? I don't need that. The rate at which my fingers bang out words strikes fear among the mortals who hear me rat-a-tat-tapping from across the cubicle village.

If I'm going to devote time to this, though, I want to do it my way. And that's the thing: That's not what I've been doing.

I've been ... careful. Because of who's reading (hello, out there!), yes. Because y'all pretty much know exactly who I am and where I am and what I do, and the combination of those things, mixed with personal musings, poured out online, is something that simply does not sit well with certain powers that be (and I'm talkin' *any* employer, not just mine), or at least it probably wouldn't sit well if they sat down and put their heads together and really thought about it for, like, five minutes.

See, I want to be able to toss off all the veils--ALL of 'em, literal, figurative, what have you--and to write about things like Dooce does (bowel movements, hello?) and Brooke does and Julia does, etc.

Part of the problem is that it's unclear what I'm allowed to write. But another problem is that I don't know if I, when it comes down to it, am the kind of person to have the guts to throw something out there like, "Wow, it is so amazing how my boobs, like, double in size when it's that time of the month."

Okay, so I just went there. But trust me, we could go oh so much deeper than that. And then where would I be? In deep doodie? I dunno.

But it's these lack-of-constraint-constraints that have recently kept me from writing anything of friggin' substance on this site. And that just ain't cool, because that just ain't me. I can do that whole substance thing. I can also mix it up with the whole up-close-and-personal thing. I used to do it, here. (Remember?)

I used to do truth. The whole truth and nothing but. And that was the stuff worth reading (if I do say so myself). I want to do what Margaret Cho does every day, pouring her whole bare, raw, aching, passionate soul into her writing--the chick makes us go deep, folks, but in a way that also makes us laugh, at her, at the world, at ourselves. She writes about music, stardom, politics, idiots, life, death, history, love. That's the capital-T Truth over there, yo.

So yes. That's what's missing. That's what I'll be getting back to ... eventually. But not here. You all know too much. You'll just have to find me again.

3.2.2004

 
At least I'm not alone. Surfed around a half-dozen blogs or so to catch up on what's been going on in some of my favorite e-people's lives. Discovered they've been posting about as often as I have lately. Now feel much better about being a total blogger slacker (aka: slogger?).

I've been such an absentee landlord here that my little hit-tracker thingy even stopped sending me daily traffic e-mails--like it could tell I just don't give a wink anymore. How creepy is that.

2.4.2004

 
Psycho Kitty, Vol. 1: Food. My cat has an eating disorder. Actually--multiple eating disorders. The evidence is irrefutable…

Eating disorder No. 1: The glutton.
General Tsao loves food so much that sometimes he eats it so fast, he can't digest it. Then, he barfs. It comes up in dry chunks, seemingly untouched by saliva, meaning he skipped the whole chewing process completely. You'd think I never feed him, the way he wolfs down his food. But: quite the contrary.

When I got him, he came with one of those self-dispensing food things--the kind you set up when you're going on a week's vacation. Convenient! I thought. I'll only have to remember to put out food about once a week.

Soon, though, it was very clear that this was not to be.

The first two, three weeks I owned the cat, he was barfing every other day. Concerned, I e-mailed his previous owner (a friend): "Is this normal?" Maybe he's unhappy, I worried. Maybe this is his way of showing his displeasure for the colors on the walls or the smell of the coat closet or the fluffiness of my pillows or my taste in DVDs.

No, his former owner assured me. He's just a glutton. Try using a single-serving dish rather than the big container and see what happens.

So I switched, and like magic--no more barf. For a while…

Eating disorder No. 2: The pissy pussy.
One night--in the middle of the night--General Tsao was being rather rambunctious. Bolting in and out of the bedroom. Head-butting relentlessly. Chasing his toy mouse around the duvet.

Finally, as I could feel the bags and dark circles growing under my eyes with each passing minute, I got up, shooed him out of the room, and closed the bedroom door.
The next morning: Barf. A nice little pile of it, right outside the door.

Oh no, I thought. He's a depressive eater. He was sad about being locked out of the bedroom, so he turned to food, springing the clip holding his food bag closed and diving into the 21-pound sack of Meow Mix.

But no--an inspection revealed that the Meow Mix was intact, the clip undisturbed, his food bowl not even empty. In other words: He'd forced the food up. He was protest-barfing.

"No closed-door policy!" he was trying to say. The circumstantial evidence to this effect became even stronger as time passed, with the same pattern of events repeating itself over and over on the General's footloose nights. Now, on such nights, I must make a decision: Sleep, or a.m. barf duty. It's not always an easy call.

Eating disorder No. 3: The "I like to eat dirt" syndrome.
Kids will put anything in their mouths: tanbark, Legos, shiny pennies. I remember the old suburban legend about the kid who ate so many pennies, it made him very sick, but when they took him to the hospital, they said, "Don't worry, kid--you may be sick, but you're rich!"

I'm not convinced yet that my cat will eat anything. But I do know one thing: He likes to eat plastic.

A couple of months ago, sticking out of one delicious pile of barf--a liquidy pile, this time--what did I find but a sticky piece of plastic, about three inches wide, standing on its head. Does that sound gross? Because it was. Very.

At first, I was like, Oh crap, now I'm going to have to take the kitty to the doctor. Don't die, kitty, don't die!

But of course the kitty didn't die. The kitty was fine. More than fine. Eating normally (or at least as normally as is possible with this cat), like a happy little kitty should.

General Tsao seems to be a connoisseur of plastics. He won't eat just anything: Safeway bags? Hell no (and thank goodness, as I don't really have the patience to find closet space for my grocery-shopping detritus). The cat goes for the thicker, more high-end plastics. The plastics with magic stick-'em powers, like those wrapped around new CDs. New CDs like the ones I was opening tonight. So that as I sat down to type this missive, I was forced to stop in the middle (somewhere around "so he turned to food, springing the clip," I believe), get up, shoo the kitty away from the wastebasket near the desk, and empty the not-quite-full container, as it contained discarded wrappings from these CDs. Even after the plastic was gone, the kitty hung around the wastebasket, stalking it, sticking his head in it, as if, like an enchanted white rabbit, the contents might poof! appear again.

And I sat back. And watched. And laughed at him. Bittersweetly. Knowing that this wouldn't be the last time I had to save my kitty from himself and his self-destructive eating habits.

Welcome to parenthood.

2.3.2004

 
Pixified. So I failed to mention here over a week ago that I did something drastic. Well, semi-drastic. Or at least worth noting in a "hey, yo, check it" sort of way. I (drum roll please) … cut my hair.

No, not just the ends. It was so not just the ends that when I went in for my haircut, my fabulous hairdresser--who has been trimming and coloring and razor-whacking at my locks for over a year--nearly squealed with delight. "Oh, that is going to look sooo good!"

"It is?"

"Yes!"

"You sure?"

"Yes!"

"I'm glad someone is."

"Don't worry, it'll be fine."

A half-hour later: "Girl, I love you. All day today, people have been coming in, 'Just trim the ends,' 'Just trim the ends,' 'Just trim the ends.' But you--you come in and [dramatic, head-sweeping gesture] are just like, 'Take it alllll off!'"

For the past few years I've worn my hair in various versions of short, but I've always had enough length to warrant pulling back loose strands with a clippy. Now, that's all changed. I have so little hair, no clippy will cling to it. I have so little hair, I can feel the cold sucking at the patches of my scalp on the days I dare to venture hatless into this winter. I have so little hair that at least one dude, when he saw me, was apparently so shocked, he completely forgot what I looked like pre-cut.

I'm not all G.I. Janed out, now. It's just a pixie cut. As my boss described it, "You look like a latter-day Alyssa Milano." And I'll take that particular comment as a compliment. Who wouldn't? Alyssa Milano is hot.

Of course, in my eyes, I'm not quite Alyssa status. Some days, I'm cool with the new do. Others, I feel like a slightly softer version of an '80s-era Annie Lennox--and not in a good way. (The fluctuations in self-esteem: astounding.)

Thankfully, most people who've encountered my new head have been very kind (and either they're genuinely so, or they're impeccable actors). Only two have made no bones about publicly expressing their disapproval.

One, a co-worker, who looked at my head and exclaimed, eyes bugging, arms gesturing, "What have you done to your hair?!!!"

Gee thanks.

The other, the aforementioned senility case. Granted, he encountered my new head at his birthday party, so he was probably well on his way to being very drunk. Granted, he's only seen me two or three prior times in his life. Granted, he's a year older--maybe the little cluster of cells in his brain holding the "Jen has short hair" info were the first to go after his first birthday tequila shot. Whatever it was, the scene played out thusly: His eyes bugged, his arms outstretched, he grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me and said, "Jennifer!"--and you know I'm in trouble if he's using my full name--"What have you done to your hair?" Looking at the boy: "How could you let her do this to her hair?" Back to me: "How could you cut off all that long, beautiful hair?"

Huh? The last time I had long hair, I was 15, and it stretched all the way to my arse. Each year after that, it got successively shorter, until finally, in college, I was left with a less-harsh version of the short, lopsided Rosie O'Donnell do. Died maroon. (Don't even say it.) That evolved into a Gwyneth Paltrow in "Sliding Doors" cut--a personal favorite--then into an imitation of this Gucci magazine-ad girl's hair (or was it Prada? damn short-term memory), which is what I had sported until a week ago last Friday.

The point of this follicular history being: Birthday dude--completely off his rocker.

But reactions like those two have got me wondering: What would the snarkiest answer to this unconstructive criticism be?

I'm getting in touch with my masculine side.
It's an Alyssa Milano fetish thing. Boyfriend's birthday. Don't ask.
My cat ate it.
You should see what I've done to the rest of my hair.
At least I have hair.

The real reason for re-styling: I'm going to Costa Rica, and I didn't want to deal with styling, period.

I still haven't decided whether I'm going to keep the hair this way for a while, or whether I'm going to start growing it back immediately--perhaps to recapture the "Sliding" Gwynnie do. I miss my rainbow of plastic clippies. But I don't miss the five minutes of morning blow-drying. Those are five minutes I can save for more important things, like sleeping. Or cuddling. Or petting my purring cat. I'd hate to give those up, though vanity (and this shows you how sensitive mine is, if I'm bitchin' about two people knocking my do) may win the day.
 
Full circle. This year marks the first time in my life that I've been a non-ballet-dancer longer than I was a ballet dancer. I took my first ballet class when I was 5 and quit when I was 18. Thirteen years. Which meant it took me reaching 27 to become a true, 100 percent, bona fide civilian.

So what did I have to go and do today, for the first time in eight years?

I took a ballet class.

I'm trying to figure out how, exactly, this screws with the above calculus. My current thinking: not much. I certainly don't consider myself a serious ballet dancer anymore. And were I to suggest to my prematurely creaky body that we become a serious ballet dancer again, it would undoubtedly go into revolt and send me careening involuntarily into the path of an oncoming SUV. The body went through the psycho-dancer-chick thing once already, and it sure as hell ain't doing it again.

And yet, there's this temptation--this delusion, really, that given enough time, I might whip this old sack o' bones into shape. My feet can still point into a pleasing arch (though now they tend to cramp after a few quick tendus). My legs still hyper-extend in that lovely, hyper-extended way that dancers' legs are supposed to (though they don't extend as high in the air as they used to). I've still got a pretty wicked balance on one leg (though there's no way I'm getting up to stand on the tips of my toes). And my legs, more muscular now than they were those many years ago, can propel me higher in the air than ever (though the position I might strike while up there is anyone's guess).

My epaulement is perhaps the only piece of the puzzle that hasn't deteriorated. What is it? In lay terms, it's difficult to describe, but if I were to give it a go, I'd call it a special kind of finesse--poise and movement informed by something much deeper than acrobatics or technique. It is the art.

One could argue that with the life experience gained through these past eight years of no ballet dancing, I've got a better faculty for artistic expression than I ever did when I was a younger dancer.

Consider: As most thinking adults have, I've now experienced firsthand the range of emotions I tried to conjure, through sheer imagination, as an innocent, sheltered, 14-year-old Cinderella. The gamut has been run: loss, grief, guilt, regret, depression and, on the brighter side, affirmation, infatuation, elation, relief, ecstasy, lust, drunkenness of mind, body and spirit, and deep, deep love. The emotions an artist uses to turn a canvas, a blank sheet of paper, or an empty stage into something astonishing, I once was greatly in want of. Now, I've got the tools, but I'm not quite sure how to exploit them.

Dancing will not be the ultimate way. Sure, I might try to pull a Neve Campbell if some wealthy patron were to come up to me and say, "Here, Jen, drop your day job and go train your ass off for three years, all expenses paid, so you can pick up in your dream where you left off." But that's not going to happen, and even if it did, I'm fairly certain that, no matter how much coaxing and pleading I might employ, my ankles or knees or hips would have to be replaced before my three-year term was up.

No, dancing for me now--ballet, tango, salsa, swing--will have to remain a transient fulfillment of desire, lifting me up for the one, two, three hours I can do it before exhaustion sets in. I still walk home from these endeavors with a noticeable limp, and I'm still forced to ice my stiffening joints, to spend those extra minutes planted beneath a punishing stream of hot shower water, imploring my muscles to relax. And I still wake up the morning after feeling as though I've been hit by that SUV.

So even though this whole ballet thing isn't serious, if it's any consolation to the gods of dance: I still suffer for my art. And that suffering will have to be tied to dance until the next inexplicable lightning bolt of passion strikes to change my course and send me chasing after some other, virtually impossible yet divine ambition.

1.21.2004

 
P.S. Station identification: That last post was brought to you by my new wireless Internet access! {Applause.}
 
I went. I ate. I shopped. That's one way to sum up this past weekend's jaunt to San Francisco. Unlike my previous three trips--two jam-packed with tour-guide activities (me being the guide), one packed with 16 hours (yes, 1-6) of swing dancing--this one was rather mellow. There was no wake-up alarm. No mad dashing from sight to sight (or site to site). There was minimal dancing. Minimal drinking. Instead, there was lazy wandering. And consuming. Much consuming.

First, there was the food: A "fruit orgy" at Kate's Kitchen. A crab and pasta dinner, courtesy of my Amazing Cooking Mother, topped off with chocolate birthday cake (a cake so good, drenched as it was in mom's famous "seven-minute frosting," that even one of the boys at the table who'd said "I'm not really into sweets" was forced to reach for seconds). A "veggie Bennie" at Flipper's in Hayes Valley--poached eggs, roasted red peppers, eggplant and more, swimming in Hollandaise. Asian tapas and champagne toasting and a bottle of yummy pinot at EOS in Cole Valley. Blueberry-banana pancakes and Louisiana hot links at "It's Tops" on Market. And chicken mole enchiladas with "world famous" margaritas at Puerto Alegre.

Did I mention that my ass expanded at a rate heretofore unknown to man? Well, it did. And this same ass must soon be squeezed into dance clothes for the ballet class I agreed to take with friends next week. My first ballet class in about eight years. In tights. And a leotard. (Cue sinister music: Dunh dunh dunh dunnnnnnnnh...) Thank goodness for sweatpants!

Then there's the itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini I intend to don for this upcoming trip to Costa Rica. And any good intentions I might have had about being dietarily good (yes, dietarily--I just made that up myself) this week will be immediately sabotaged by my lovely, food-obsessed friends coming to town this weekend for yet more birthday celebrating. And know what? Despite my semi-griping here, I don't give a pie's crust. I mean, how many times a year does one get an excuse to throw back food like Garfield the cat with his lasagne? (Oh, wait--Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, more birthdays and Hallmark holidays... Crikey.)

But no, no, this is not a complaint. It's more shock and awe at how many yummy things it is possible to consume in one weekend. And at how many more yummy things I could have consumed if I didn't care about giving myself a stomach ulcer.

And then...there was the shopping. Not for clothes. With all this eating? Are you mad? Evil dressing-room mirrors and harsh, sickly, yellow, flab-enhancing lighting? Please. Instead, shopping fell neatly in line with this Year of the Jen-Geek theme, as I scooped up international electrical adapters and wearable iPod accessories and line splitters and a new backpack for my brand-new laptop, which I held in my hot little hands for the first time this weekend!

One word: JOY.

With machinery like this, there's no time for obsessing over whether I can pour my new voluptuousness into my skin-tight black halter dress this weekend. Hell, I might stop grooming altogether. Become one of those translucent-skinned, vampirical computer nuts, punching at keys and clicking at buttons and synching and Safari-ing and Diet Coke-drinking and staying up inhumanly late getting excited about things like the "genie effect" and "smart playlists."

Well. Maybe that's just tonight. There is something to be said about being able to fit into that dress...

nonsense Consisting of an arbitrary grouping of speech sounds or symbols.

nonsense verse Humorous or whimsical verse that features absurd characters and actions and often contains evocative but meaningless nonce words.

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'The Company': An ex-dancer's reflections.
Buzz buzz buzz.
Adventures in self-cooking.
VOOMP.
Cranium my a--.
And now, the ceremonial towel fling.
Bloomin' hell.
A confederacy of chinchillas.
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Tattoos and customer service don't go together.

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aka "Gonads and Strife"

How to dance properly
I'd love to, but...
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PIX
Goodbye, SF!
More SF goodbyes

MOVIE
Jen & Mihai dancing

READING
The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
Harper's
Vanity Fair

RECENTLY ABSORBED
Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
Shadow Theatre, by Fiona Cheong
Break Any Woman Down, by Dana Johnson
Barrel Fever, by David Sedaris
Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris

IN THE WINGS
The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
The Annotated Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
The Artful Dodger, The Gryphon and The Venetian's Wife, by Nick Bantock
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
Fugitives and Refugees, by Chuck Palahniuk
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Suicidal Tendencies, by T. Alan Broughton
The Tattooed Map, by Barbara Hodgson
Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuhan
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray
Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths & Secrets, by Barbara G. Walker
Yellow Dog, by Martin Amis

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reading, viewing, listening

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Jennifer L. Balderama

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