And Then I Fell Out the Window

Life, examined and punted around

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Comfort Is Not An Advantage

Let’s move to New York together.

Okay, I write back, and am serious.

My friend on Skype is mourning the loss of London, which she’s just left after finishing film school. And now it’s back to Iowa, which has few if any opportunities in the film industry, so her options are rather limited to LA or NYC. Ideally she would stay in London if she could, but work visas are more or less impossible for an American to obtain. 

As for me, I’ve been living here in Iowa City a little over a year, and already things are too familiar. I know people on sight down the street. There’s the tall Norwegian God of a man with his perfect blonde hair and square jaw who works in the library and is often at the Foxhead. There’s Santabeard. I think he’s homeless but maybe not, because his beard is a brilliant snow white and grazes the bottom of his shirt. There’s the barista who wears clever shirts and takes my order at High Ground, and there’s our mail woman, with her bundle of envelopes for the 20 people in our house. Note that I don’t know many names. I know these people by sight and those that I do know by name, I don’t associate with very much. I don’t get too close to people, and things are comfortable that way. There are friends that I hang out with, there are people that I allow to see me cry when I need to cry, but I don’t allow myself to grow close to them. 

I don’t have a high-paying job, but my room is low-rent and I’m not in school so I can study what I like, but without any outside forces pushing me I accomplish less than I think I can. I go to bed when I’m tired and wake up when I wake up for the most part, and it’s very comfortable. The comfort has turned me stagnant, allowed my creativity to slow and ease up and become easily distracted. I’m drifting more than living, a tourist instead of a resident, and I’ve overstayed my welcome.

So she and I are both a little desperate. 

Going to New York is absurd, of course. It’s ridiculously expensive, the people are mean, everyone is elbowing for a job or an apartment that doesn’t cost a bazillion dollars a month. The city would crush me. Plus, what kinds of skills could I possibly bring to a job market, or even to an internship? Zero. The mere thought of moving to New York City terrifies me to the point of wanting to throw up.

Then I think about the time I was the most joyful, the most blissful. Last summer I worked at a canoeing camp in northern Wisconsin. The first time we went to the Brule river to whitewater canoe down some heavy rapids and ledges, I was sure I couldn’t do it. I was pretty sure I would end up dead at the bottom of the river, canoe turned inside out, wrapped around a rock from where it broadsided. I didn’t die. I had an insane amount of fun. And for the rest of the summer I stooped over hot fires to cook, I hefted 50-lb packs and 80-lb canoes on my shoulders, I pitched tents and slept on the ground and got eaten by mosquitos. It was a three-month journey of discomfort, and I’d never been happier.

Sometimes (read: nearly always) what I want and what I need are completely different. I lean toward laziness and comfort, but I’m truly happy when I’m being pushed to do something truly great. So the fact that the mere thought of moving to New York City makes me a little nauseous is a sign that maybe I’m heading in the right direction.

Or, quite possibly, maybe it would be a huge mistake. 

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
-Neil Gaiman
Then again. Maybe mistakes aren’t always something to be afraid of.

Art Monday: “And Heat It Too,” Page 1

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Well, I’ve been sorely neglecting Art Monday, but I’m trying to bring it back! Here is the first page of two from a little comic dealio I’ve been working on. To be continued!

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Adventures of a Living Statue Part 3

The hardest part is first getting settled. People already have their eye on me because I’m in a flower-covered, 15″ tall wig. My newest addition to your costume, a vintage veil from Goodwill, is aesthetically stunning but also makes my wig tilt back precariously. My biggest fear today is that I’ll tilt my head wrong and the wig will just come toppling off, and the illusion of some mystic statue fortune giver will melt into a frozen bald girl with a white face.

This doesn’t happen, though. Instead I get settled, full jar of fortunes at the ready, folding fan in the other hand. Then it’s the waiting game for who will be the first. This is my first time being a statue at the evening farmers market. I’m hoping people will come once the market is in full swing, but for now I’m just being watched by a couple old guys on a bench by the burrito truck.

My glazed-eye stare rests on the Local Burrito truck. Local Burrito has a Facebook and a Tumblr, I learn. Then a woman comes toward me, bends and drops a dollar in my basket. I  smoothly shift to life, bending and offering out my jar of fortunes. She takes one and smiles at me, and I am energized.


The market ends up being a great choice because of one big thing: KIDS! Toddlers and children are at the market with their parents, and point and gawp and sometimes, sometimes I come to life for them and I see their look of astonishment. Some come up to me with a parent-given dollar, afraid of me at first, but when they shyly came up and I bent, smiled and met their eyes, they were usually delighted. That was worth it all.

One young girl stopped with her mom to give a dollar, then they sat on the bench in front of me because the girl wanted to keep watching me. “You think she’s pretty?” The mom asked. “Yes, she does look like she is at a wedding with her veil. …No, my hair wasn’t that tall when I got married. It was a bun at the side of my neck.” And I listening as the mom had a conversation with her daughter.

Something about being a living statue is addicting. Maybe it’s moments like when the man stopped for a fortune, read it, then came back and gave me another dollar. “One for me and one for the horses,” he said. “This is really wonderful. You made my day.” I wonder which fortune he got.

Or maybe it’s just getting to overhear conversations, to stand still and watch people and soak up humanity like a sponge.  1262890_10100299544438059_1617618150_o

I couldn’t do this every day, and possibly not even every week, but it is a singular experience to look at yourself in a street window reflection and see a rather magnificent doll instead of a human being, to interact with humans as an Other, then to come home, pull off the beehive that Marge Simpson would envy, and grab a beer, talking easily with friends in white face paint and enjoying the luxury of being you, a human being.

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When we saw each other in person about a month and a half ago, my brother and I made a creative pact to send each other stuff we were working on every other Friday. I’d send him my latest fiction writing, he’d send me a rough cut of a song he was writing or producing. Well…we both suck at discipline, so I sent him the following email:


We are sucking at sharing our creative progress with each other. Since you have sent me NOTHING I will assume that you have not been investing the time you need to be in order to become a music-creating virtuoso!!!
I have been equally bad. Please find enclosed a detailed doc of character sketches I created while trying to flesh out the brothers in my story. I am very excited to get this rough draft done. BEFORE 2014 I WILL HAVE A FINISHED, COGENT DRAFT!! That is my goal, and right now it looks approachable. I already have over 35,000 words (rough words), but I have a solid direction and a couple interesting twists, I think!
SO. I demand something from you by Friday, or we’re not siblings anymore. 😉
Happy creative time,
P.S. I don’t care how busy you are. Everyone’s busy. Fuck everything. Do music shit. 
I posted this as a public declaration that I will get my goddamn rough draft done by December. And as a public motivation for all of you who are procrastinating on one creative project or another. Find the time. Go do it. And now I’m going to go practice what I preach and write a scene involving a key baked into a cake and some city guards on the prowl for criminals.

Luchador Watson!

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Luchador Watson!

Context: The Baker Street Babes had a podcast about the original Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”, in which they giggled about the part where Dr. Watson picks up a chair and is ready to deck Milverton with it if need be. “Someone needs to draw a picture of Watson in a luchador mask with the chair,” one of them suggested. As soon as I heard it at the bakery, I thought, I’M ON IT. Then this happened. It makes me giggle.

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How to Be 23

Count your hirable skills on one hand.

Pretend that you’re not as self-absorbed as you are.

Make to-do lists. Abandon them in a paper trail of unchecked boxes.

Vow to get up early. Lie in bed and check Twitter instead.

Accumulate books, hawk the rest.

Realize people think you’re beautiful and become uncomfortable with that.

Go to the movies by yourself without feeling guilty.

Toy with the idea of selling eggs, selling art, selling your body, selling anything to pay off student loans.

Update your phone numbers and realize one third of your friends are currently in another country.

Scrounge for leftovers or skip meals to avoid cooking.

Forget that you’re still young and flip out over how much time you’re wasting.

Shake your head like a hoary old wizard at the 19 year olds flocking the streets on a Monday night to get sloshed.

Find solace in pets and unexpected bottles of wine.

Meet new people. Become anxious about it.

Frequently daydream about WWOOFing or work-awaying.

Rejoice at not being in school.

Berate yourself for having no self-discipline. Make plans of attack, and then do not act on them.

Be surprised when you realize you have accumulated an actual circle of friends in your town.

Write differently. Read differently. Draw differently. Have mixed results.

Become addicted to podcasts and feel as if you know the NPR staff personally.

Study for the GRE and have a panic attack over revisiting 10th grade math concepts.

Vow to love nobody close to you and pine for those far away.

Plan trips to every festival and convention, then remember that you make $8 an hour.

Consider switching to a telemarketing job for $12 an hour, then remember that you have a soul and want to keep it.

Be naked whenever possible.

Realize you can’t tell your mom everything anymore.

Put up some shelves and feel accomplished.

Haunt the public library.

Realize your life isn’t quite what you thought it would be. Try to decide whether this is a good or a bad thing, and then realize that it doesn’t matter. You are here now, and that is where you should be.

Say “fuck it.”

Drink the latte that strays out of your budget.

Leave the coffeeshop and put a good song on your iPod.

Be 23. At least for a little while.