Where the hell is Matt? (Everywhere, apparently.)

I’ve been cleaning out my email archives.  Really, it’s my inbox, but there are so many hundreds of messages lost in there that they may as well be archival.  Anyway, I’m trying to get through about twenty messages a day.  We’ll see if that works.

Tonight I came across this delightful video my dear friend Paula sent me a few years back.  (Yes, my inbox appears to be archival.)  I wanted to share, because it just makes me Continue reading “Where the hell is Matt? (Everywhere, apparently.)”

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 6)

Welcome to the conclusion of my six-part series, “Embracing My Inner Goth.”  You can find the first five installments via the links below.  Remember, it’s better to read them all in order, so you’ll understand the references to the earlier posts in subsequent sections.  And for those of you who’ve been so patient on this journey with me, my deepest thanks.

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 1)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 2)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 3)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 4)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 5)

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Part VI:  The New Black

Apparently decrepitude is the new black.

What happened to Ken Dracula can happen to anyone or anything, I suppose.  He lost his partner and never recovered himself.  Just like his Annie.

I remember going to a local large bookstore in Houston back when we still had more than the smattering of Barnes & Nobles and a few delightful but clinging independent stores left.  It was the Alabama Bookstop, an iconic place before B&N had bought it: a bookstore carved from an old movie theater that had one screen, a balcony, and art deco murals on the walls.  It was a fabulous bookstore in its day, and I performed many poetry readings and at least Continue reading “Embracing My Inner Goth (part 6)”

Embracing my Inner Goth (part 5)

Look!  It’s another installment of my six-part gothiness series.  You can read the previous four parts by clicking on these links:

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 1)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 2)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 3)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 4)

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Part V:  More Fangs!

A few months after Tiny Beowulf, our second child, was born, my husband and I went away for the weekend.  Not far, just a few hours’ drive, but this getaway vacation was a big deal.  We headed to San Antonio, where I have family and friends, and which is also a great city to get away to when you don’t want to be gone for long or be too distant.  We saw a friend’s acting re-debut that Friday night and gallivanted around downtown and the Riverwalk that Saturday night with my cousin Andy.  It was a fantastic time that also taught us the valuable lesson that it was, in fact, perfectly okay to be away from our toddler and infant for a couple of days while they hung out with their doting grandparents.

But I also had a mission on this trip.  Ken Dracula (remember him from Part 2?) had moved away from Houston some years before, and my brother had told me he’d resurfaced in San Antonio — and Robert had his number.  Of course he did.  It had been over a decade since my last fangs.  Their color no longer matched my pearly whites so well, and as I’d grown into an adult, my jaw had grown too, so the bridge didn’t even fit well anymore.  I’d decided it was time for a new set.  I rationalized that I could be a vampire at school for Hallowe’en instead of the same predictable witch like so many of the other teachers.

I made an appointment with Ken to get some new fangs made.

I could not, however, entice my husband to come on this appointment with me.  “I want to take a nap,” he said that Saturday afternoon.

I certainly didn’t want to go alone.  But Andy was coming to meet us; maybe he could show up a little early?

“I like that idea,” my husband said through his yawn.  “Go spend time with your cousin.”

Andy was happy to go with me.  He seemed to look on this errand as a weirdly grand adventure; I looked on it with excitement, an exuberant throwback to my younger days to prove I hadn’t lost my sense of self in becoming a mom, as so often I’d seen happen to women at my stage of life.

We got to Ken’s apartment, and immediately I felt something was off.  For one thing, it was hard to find him.  Not the building itself, which was actually rather easy; it was difficult to figure out where the entrance to his apartment was.  The building was a retail storefront of indeterminate identity, closed on the weekends.  Ken’s apartment ended up being in the back of the building.  A few phone calls and some wandering in the driveway later, Ken came out of a screen door onto his porch to meet us, all flip-flops and bermuda shorts and faded t-shirt, all tousled hair and bags under his eyes and anemic, gaunt frame.  It had been a very long time since I’d seen Ken Dracula, but in his younger days, he’d been reasonably good-looking and spunky and generally entertained by every aspect of his life.  This Ken was a changed man; he did not appear to have weathered the intervening decade well.  He’d gone all nosferatu; instinctively I worried about him, but then I brushed the feeling away.  I barely knew the man.  He was my brother’s contact, and even Robert barely knew the man anymore.

Suddenly I thought, What the hell am I doing here?  I’m a mother, for pete’s sake.  I’m a grown woman.  The image of myself as a twenty-year-old traipsing up the stairs in my parents’ house as quickly as I could to hide my fangs from my own mother — that woman who is a grandmother now — shimmered briefly and then faded like a ghost in the clear reason of self-awareness.

I was on a fool’s errand.

But Ken had seen us; we couldn’t leave now without being jerks, and jerks we were not.  Clumsy, manic, he bounded down the few porch steps and held out his hand to me to shake it.  I had the impression of someone who never got many visitors anymore.

Andy gave me a sideways glance as if to say, Is this the guy who’s going to make you fangs?  Honey, I love you, but you’re kind of a freak.  What he muttered quietly was, “You ready?  Because it looks like Ken Dracula is.”

We were ushered up onto the porch and then through the screen door into a cramped kitchen that was more clutter than function.  Pots and pans and tupperware pieces piled onto tiny squares of countertop.  A few half-empty supermarket-brand spice bottles littering the top of the ancient stove unit.  A sink whose white enamel was chipped, rust stains dripping from the drain vents.  On a fridge too new to be vintage and too old to be trustworthy, crumbling newspaper clippings and fliers from the San Antonio club scene.  The walls were covered in empty cardboard daiquiri carriers with here and there an early 90s-era CD box.

This place was such a far cry from Ken’s former, tastefully decorated apartment in Houston I was actually afraid, for a moment, of what I had gotten myself into.

He gestured for me to sit upon the red chair in the middle of the kitchen.  It was one of those dinette models that in another setting would have been cutesy-kitsch sitting next to a sparkling formica table against a turquoise wall.  But here, resting with its back up against a cluttered one-foot-by-one-foot butcher block island — because that’s all that this kitchen could fit — it took on the aspect of a dentist’s chair.  Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. came to mind.  And then so did Sweeney Todd.

Andy had been discreetly peeking through the doorways — there were two.  When Ken stepped out to retrieve his tools, my cousin hissed me over to take a look.  One opened into a hallway, which Ken had disappeared down into, that led to other rooms in various states of disarray.  A pile of laundry in a corner, a short stack of yellowing Anne Rice paperbacks next to an end table.  The other doorway revealed a large room that might have been great for entertaining with its hardwood floor and lack of furniture.  And maybe it was used for parties: we saw festive crepe-paper decorations and man-sized cardboard character cutouts of Frankenstein and Darth Vader.  A frayed straw sombrero topped an ancient stereo cabinet, and large speakers stood a sad sentry in the corners.

Andy said, “Where did you find this guy?”  I couldn’t tell if he was terrified, bemused, or in awe.

“Um…” I began, but then Ken came back.  He glanced at us as if to wonder why I wasn’t sitting in the chair but said nothing, and I quickly sat down on the puffy red vinyl seat.

Ken had brought his denture acrylic and latex gloves.  Instead of using metal tools, he used a bamboo skewer and some Q-tips.  In spite of his apartment and his general appearance, it was clear to me that he was operating safely.  His materials were reliable.  I felt ashamed of my inner voice for questioning the situation.

It was just fangs, that’s all.  Easy-peasy.  Just like he’d done hundreds of times before.

While Ken worked — and, I had to admit, with competence — he chatted easily with Andy about the night life in San Antonio and about Anne Rice.  The club scene was all right, Ken guessed, but then he took on a slightly sad tone when he began talking about the woman who had been his idol.  While my bridge was curing, the acrylic heating up in my awkwardly open mouth as I tried not to compulsively touch my tongue to the bar behind my teeth, Ken patiently answered Andy’s questions about the author, who had in recent years (a.k.a. Andy’s adolescent and early adult life) fallen out of the mainstream.

“She sort of stopped writing her vampire and witch books a while back,” Ken said with…was that a hint of wistfulness?  “After her husband died a few years ago, she just sort of…stopped.”  Ken was quiet a moment, checking on my fangs, putting the final shaping touches to them.  I looked up into his eyes, which focused intently on his handiwork and not at all on me, though my face lay in his gaze.  I wondered if Ken still worked in a dental office.  Then he said, “Of course, losing your partner…well, no one ever really recovers from that, do they.”  It wasn’t a question.  And no, it wasn’t wistfulness, either, but commiseration.

Ken himself had lost his partner a few years before, he informed Andy, as if I were supposed to have known about it already and just hadn’t brought my cousin up to speed because I couldn’t speak while in the dentist’s chair.  And then suddenly Ken’s appearance, his apartment, his bizarre decor came into clear, puncturing focus.

“But Annie used to throw these amazing Hallowe’en parties every year in New Orleans,” he continued.  “I used to go out there and make fangs for people.”  He began shuffling around in a clutter of papers and photographs from one of the nearby stacks.  “I’d set up in the corner and just crank them out for the guests, fifteen dollars a pop.”  He half-smiled.  “That was back in the day.  Fangs were cheap then.”

I’ll say, I thought.  These are setting me back fifty.  I mentally shrugged it off.

He dug out an ancient photo of himself in full Dracula regalia and make-up, fangs prominently protruding from his grin, the affectionate arm of Anne Rice herself, cloaked in black panné velvet, slung around his shoulders.  As he showed off his photo to us, a little of the spark of exuberance the old Ken Dracula had radiated back in the day tried to shine.  I would have smiled politely had the bridge finished curing.  Andy did so for both of us.

“That’s really cool,” he said.  He sounded sincere.

I sort of waved my hand a little in the direction of my mouth.

“Oh, of course,” Ken said and removed my new bridge.  I relaxed my jaw and took a deep breath.  He inspected my new set and then smiled.  “All done,” he assured me and handed them over.  As he explained the rules for caring for my new fangs — rules I’d heard before and remembered well — I noticed that the color was slightly too dark, that the bridge itself was a little jagged in places.  I put them back in and tested the fit.

Just a bit too snug to be comfortable, like wearing retainers I had grown out of long ago.  I knew I wouldn’t be wearing these again.  But I didn’t say a word other than a very sweet “thank you.”  Ken smiled.

“So does Anne Rice still have that big Hallowe’en party every year?” Andy asked.

Ken blinked his eyes thoughtfully a couple of times before answering.  “Well, I haven’t been back for some time,” he said.  “But last I heard, the party was still going strong.  Annie, though, she hasn’t been seen there in years.”

***

Click on this link to be taken to the final installment in this series.  Thanks for reading!

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 6)

 

Another Poem, This One Funny

So the poem I posted the other day was sad.  Here’s another one, also by Matthew Olzmann, used with his permission.  It originally appeared in Gulf Coast magazine, the literary journal published by the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.

I think this poem is hilarious.  🙂  I hope you enjoy it.  And I’m going to call it a transition into other things.

Happy Yule!

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“The Skull of an Unidentified Dinosaur”    

does not belong to the dinosaur skeleton
to which it has been attached.
A man thought he made an amazing
discovery.  Now, it’s a towering mistake,
one for which he’ll likely lose his job,
but only after taking this skyscraper
of bones – with its eye-sockets
like windows to hell – apart.
Femur by mandible, I know what it means
to watch your good fortune change its mind.
Like that time in college, when my roommate’s
supermodel cousin invited us to a party
and accidentally kissed me in the dark.
She thought I was someone else – I have
no idea who – but the gist of the story
can be seen in her freaking out
when the light ruined everything.
For a moment, I thought I discovered
a new world.  And what a world it was –
with its beaches of untouched skin,
and its moon that smelled of a hundred orchids.
I named that land I-could-live-here-
forever Land and holy-shit-was-I-wrong Land.
Einstein says imagination is more important
than knowledge.  I imagine
the man who wired these dinosaur bones
must have imagined his vision was real,
must have pictured it alive.  Covered in flesh,
it was frightening – able to cleave you
open with a swipe of a claw
or devour you in seconds.
But as it is now, having never existed
after tricking you into believing,
it eats at you more slowly, lets you feel
every new rip in your gut, makes you beg:
What kind of animal is this?
I call it:  The Motherfuckerasaurus.
And, technically, that’s not the right name,
but neither is the word stamped here now –
in block letters, on a bronze plaque,
screwed to the floor.

A Poem, A Lament

In the months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, I remember people making the comment that in times of national tragedy it was natural to turn to the arts.  That in moments of unspeakable sadness and incomprehensible horror, sometimes rhetoric and punditry fall even shorter than usual in helping us to heal.

Yesterday morning, I cried after I dropped my son off at kindergarten, even though I teach at his school, even though our campus is far more secure than most.  I held it together until he kissed me goodbye and bounced, laughing, off with his friends.  And then I couldn’t hold it together any more.  My husband, who dropped our daughter off at the same school later in the morning, had the same experience.

Today was a little better.

I’ve been told that on The Voice, they made an incredible tribute to the Sandy Hook victims.  Everyone stood onstage together, each holding a sign bearing a single name, and sang Leonard Cohen’s heartbreakingly beautiful “Hallelujah.”  I love that song, and one day I might feel strong enough to look up the clip on YouTube, but today is not that day.

I’d like to offer you this little gift, reposted here with permission from the author.  This poem originally appeared in Cortland Review.

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“The Man Who Looks Lost as He Stands in the Sympathy Card Section at Hallmark”

by Matthew Olzmann

 

The man who looks lost as he stands
in the sympathy card section at Hallmark
looks so sad with his bent umbrella
that you want to place a hand on his shoulder,
say, “It’ll be Okay.” But you don’t.
Because you also look like a crumbling statue
narrowed by rain, because you too have been abandoned
by language and what’s there to speak of or write
among so many words. There are not enough words
to say, Someone is gone and in their place
is a blue sound that only fits inside
an urn which you’ll drag to the mountains
or empty in an ocean with the hope
that the tide will deliver a message
that you never could.
 Because even those words
would end like a shipwreck at the bottom
of clear water. Someone would eventually look down,
notice the shattered hull, the mast
snapped in half, and believe those words
meant ruin, when they really meant,
starfish, iceberg, or scar tissue.
And even those words would fail. In this room
that smells like lemon candle wax and wild berry
potpourri, you pick up a card, set
it down again. Pick up a card, toss
it aside. In leaving, you take only an empty envelope.
Or you are an empty envelope. Or you’re the boat
searching for the glacier to gouge its side again.
You’re the door that opens to the sleet outside.
You’re the bell that bangs above the door as the door slams shut.

 

Call Me Fanchon (December Rêveuse)

Today’s title is a literary reference.  Bonus points to anyone who can guess what it is!  And the reference is older than the urban dictionary, so that won’t help you.

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Today I stopped in at school for ten minutes just to drop off the papers I’ve graded and pick up another stack that hasn’t been done yet.  I’ve still got this head cold, and classes are Continue reading “Call Me Fanchon (December Rêveuse)”

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 4)

Just a reminder:  tomorrow is the 13th of the month, and so it is a Rêveur Day.  Be sure to wear black and white with a pop of red, and then send me your picture if you feel so inspired.  (And thanks to all those of you who are doing it even when you don’t send pictures.  I enjoy hearing about it on Facebook, too.)  For more information on what I’m talking about, please click here.

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Here is the continuation of my six-part gothiness series.  You can read the previous three parts by clicking on these links:

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 1)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 2)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 3)

And while you’re at it, check out this review of Werewolf Songs over at As You Were.  This CD went on my Christmas list faster than you can say lycanthrope.

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Part IV:  Tim Burton, I’m Sorrowful to Report, Just Might Have Lost His Edge

I had always been a fan of Tim Burton’s work.  Even before I knew who he was, Beetlejuice was my favorite movie.  I had seen it fourteen times by the time I hit my senior year of high school, which in that pre-Internet time of Blockbuster Video and VCRs was a big deal.  His movies were macabre and funny, visually appealing and well acted.  I thought his stories were original.  And who doesn’t love, love, love Danny Elfman?  (I’m still listening to Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party.)

I loved his trademark black-and-white stripes, not because of any affection for black-and-white stripes, but because he had a trademark.  Burton could be known even without an introduction.  He had a strong sense of himself, and I gravitated toward that even before I consciously understood how much I admired and yearned for that quality.

But as much as I have always loved The Nightmare Before Christmas — to this day autumn finds me singing “Sally’s Lament” in the shower — I have to admit Corpse Bride left me feeling a little hollow.  It didn’t have the fully realized grandeur of his previous movies, even though all the right elements were there.  And with the notable exception of the incomparable and exquisite Big Fish, most of his movies lately have been…disappointing.  His new take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was goofy, and his reimagining of Alice in Wonderland just about broke my heart.

But then he tackled Dark Shadows, and I allowed myself to hope.  The early trailers and studio stills looked promising, the cast of the usual beloved suspects (with Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green thrown in for a bonus), impeccable.  I started to feel excited, sure that his pitiful streak couldn’t go on for this long.  And how could you go wrong with Dark Shadows?

He found a way.

Crackpot storytelling, that’s how.  An inability to remember what denouement is — or the integrity of plot.  More style than substance.  And the worst use of werewolf ex machina I’ve ever seen.

I sat in the theater in a long black skirt and the most incredible Iron Fist shoes and wanted

These shoes are actually purple, not blue.
These shoes are actually purple, not blue.

to eat an entire box of Raisinets and chase them down with a whole bag of Twizzlers.

I don’t know why I should have felt betrayed.  I do know I felt stupid for having allowed myself to hope.

But now there’s Frankenweenie, a film which has been expanded from its original short version — a short version which was one of Burton’s first projects thirty years ago.  The reviews so far have suggested this one is worth a look, even considering the last several years of shlock. *

And once again, that eternal fountain of hope is bubbling up inside of me.  If I could just find someone willing to see it with me, I’d be set.

One last look before we go.
One last look before we go.

*  Check out this review of Frankenweenie by Tom Charity.

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Click on these links to be taken to the rest of the posts in this series.  Thanks for reading!

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 5)

Embracing My Inner Goth (part 6)