Sunday, September 24, 2023

notes & things | 9/25/2023

It's been a whirl of an early fall week which included the new peony tattoo on my shoulder, impromptu afternoon movie dates, and a brief trip to meet some friends in Indiana for what was possibly the most Indiana karaoke bar experience (smoking still somehow allowed, lots of country songs, lots of strange characters). Then, on Saturday, a journey out to the drive-in in McHenry to see back-to-back Wayne's World and sequel preceded by a Queen cover band. Once again, the drive-in is all nostalgia and childhood, and it was a hoot to see kids now rocking out to Queen songs and so excited by movies that were likely part of their parent's childhood. I kept thinking that maybe for them, like with me, the memory of drive-in nights will be like a bit of shattered glass you'll turn over and over decades from now when parents are gone and memory is really all you have. 

Today, riding back to the city, and drinking my first PSL of the year, I noticed some trees were somehow bright yellow amid still plentiful green and remembered we had crossed that official threshold into autumn--the equinox. That early dark creeps in slowly, but starts racing toward December about now, helped along by the time change that will come in early November.  I have not started my fall decorating or swapped out my summer clothes for cooler weather but possibly this week I will do both. 

This week is less thick with writing than last week with lots of deadlines and the first draft of the poetry study guide trial assignment. In addition to the usual lifestyle and design stuff, it was really nice to spend some time, deep diving on a single poem (Sharon Olds' "Rite of Passage)" and putting all that literary analysis education I paid so much for to good use. There were chapbook orders and layouts on new books that will be coming. There was one new poem in the cryptozoology series, but it feels halting and stiff like I haven't written enough in the past couple of months, poetry-wise, sort of like clearing your throat after a long silence. 

Friday, September 15, 2023


I talk often of those sorts of tether points that connect certain eras or memories of our lives with others. My past self, 19, and just beginning to send out poems and my current self, also sending poems out in submission and the vast ocean of time between them.  Or my 90s self, listening to certain songs or doing certain things and suddenly there is the same song and I am doing much the same thing, just 30 odd years later. At the drive-in last week, there was a string between my current self waiting excitedly for the movie and my child self waiting for the sun to set in the back of the car while my parents sat in the front. 

The other afternoon, as I finished up a slew of design articles for House Digest, I suddenly pictured my high school and college self poring over magazines, some fashion and beauty but many design and decor, passed off from my aunt who had subscriptions to almost everything.  How that girl would never imagine that I would be writing similar things now to make a living (albeit for the internet, a technological wonder that I would not even be able to conceive, let alone foresee if it was the late 80s or very early 90s.) Very often, spending a whole lot of time flipping through pages on my bed, drinking endless cups of tea, and ripping out the clippings (ala a very primitive Pinterest board) that I would tuck in one of two scrapbooks I kept (one for fashion, one for the home I would eventually have.)  

People always talk about our lives and how we spent our time pre-internet. How we went and did BIG things and lived LIVES out in the world and how children played long and imaginative hours outdoors until the streetlights came on.  The last one, I very much remember, but I'm pretty sure my adolescent years, barring roller skating, occasional movies, slumber parties, and mall outings, were spent mostly alone in my room listening to my collection of cassette tapes, reading trashy novels, and flipping through magazines. Or maybe, sometimes life was big, but sometimes it was also small. I did things out in the world like go to classes and play rehearsals and peruse bookstores, but I also lived a quiet little introvert life not all that different than I do now, just with better technology. You are apt to find me, in spare moments I am not working or writing or making things with headphones on scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram.  Somehow there is a tether between that girl and the person I am now. 

There is probably a string connecting this blog and me writing it to 19-year-old me scribbling in the marbled composition books I kept as journals. Or a string between my late-night binges of design shows once my parents went to bed and my current article research, which often includes many of those same variety of HGTV shows and clips. The same girl who knew that she was good at writing from an early age and the girl who makes a living at it now. Or the girl writing bad poems about flamingos and the woman writing at least decent poems about cryptozoology. 

The things form a web, a structure and framework that somehow holds everything in place even while time seems to threaten to capsize us.

Monday, September 11, 2023

time capsule

Saturday, we drove out into the hinterlands of Illinois to McHenry to see a double feature at the drive-in that included two of my childhood/adolescent faves--Labyrinth and Neverending Story. The entire visit felt surreal, only in that I have not really been to the drive-in since the early 90s. The last drive-in theater in Rockford, which had been slated for years to be demolished, briefly reopened for a couple seasons while working out the particulars of the giant multiplex built in its place. I went a few times with both high school friends and my parents when I was in college, but the bulk of my drive-in experiences were much earlier in the 80s. 

While my dad wasn't keen on movie-going in indoor theaters, many weekends we'd be found at one of the dwindling number of drive-ins that still dotted the area around my hometown, all of which eventually shuttered (or were destroyed by tornados.) You can still find an abandoned one in the southeast corner of the Rockford environs, its' lot still unsold and the frame of its mammoth screen peeking through the trees that fully grew up around it in the intervening 40 years since it closed. For a while, urban explorers would sneak onto the grounds and take pictures of the crumbling concession stand and projection booth, though I don't know if they are still there now. Every once in a while, someone tries to reopen a drive-in, there or elsewhere and never gets zoning approval to make it happen due to neighborhood complaints and the ever-present potential for high traffic and crime.

Each summer in the late 70s / early 80s, we would load into the car, the four of us, with grocery store paper bags of popcorn my mom made at home, canned sodas tucked in a cooler, and candy to avoid concession stand prices. We saw many things, including a viewing of The Shining when I was six, which I kept falling asleep in parts, but left wholly changed and in love with horror. We saw other things, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. Coal Miner's Daughter, the Loretta Lynn biopictraumatized me far more than any horror movie ever would with the idea that people, in this case Patsy Cline, could somehow die in plane crashes. 

When we pulled up to the ticket booth on Saturday, it was like stepping through a portal in time.  The McHenry Drive-In opened in the 1950s' and much of it is probably not all that different.  The picture and quality are better and the sound is more advanced surely, but the poles with the speakers still dot the gravel lot and look much the same (though you can use your radio as well.)  The low-slung concession stand and projection booth looked the same as they surely did then, albeit decorated with modern murals now. In a world where everything constantly changes, and even entire city blocks are raised and rebuilt in a year, where most of the remnants of childhood have been snatched away and replaced with new things, this was very much the same. 

We went early to get a good spot and brought along sandwiches and chips and ate while we waited for dark, augmented during the intermission with popcorn peppered with M&Ms.  If I weren't certain I was a middle-aged woman, I could easily have slipped back to being six years old and expectantly waiting for the film to start. Which was especially not that far of a reach since the movies were from the 80s as well.  Labyrinth is a frequent annual rewatch fave, but I hadn't seen Neverending Story since I was a kid. Despite what they call the dwindling audiences and extinction of drive-ins, the lot was crowded, just under completely full. Currently, it's pretty much the only one left in northern Illinois. It was very late when we drove back and the roads were dark and curvy til we got back to the expressway that shuttled us back to Chicago, but we'll definitely be going again. 

On Sunday night, we also caught the 40th-anniversary screening of Christine here in the city, after having caught They Live last week with a couple other horror remastered versions coming in October. While I read the book as a teen and surely saw the movie when I was young, there was much I forgot about, so it was like watching a brand-new movie at points on the big screen. 


Thursday, September 07, 2023

villains | video poems

All this month, I will be unveiling new video poems from VILLAINS...see new ones on Instagram and Youtube...

beginnings and endings

Yesterday signaled the first day of classes where I used to work, and like last year, my divorce from the usual rhythms and wanes of the academic world feels strange. Last week, I woke up from a dream about the library--the kind where work was being piled on and on and no credit or compensation given--and it put me in a cranky funk all morning...perhaps only angry at myself for letting myself endure much of it and other nonsense leveled over the years (including trying to make good things happen -good things that required no funding and only my own labor--and still were met with nonsense and resistance.) How good work only led to more work. The carrots that were dangled, maybe not intentionally, but always out of reach. Things that I took on willingly but that in proving my capabilities, only meant shouldering more. The stupid hope I had that it would all be righted and remedied and just hang on a second longer. I have been free of it a year and a half and I still occasionally am like "Wow, what the fuck was that?" 

Today I got the yearly contract renewal on the lessons gig, and though I take on less since my time is more occupied by other writing jobs, I still occasionally grab something in the queue, this past week on Egyptian dance and a Brueghel painting  I was thinking how stressed and angry I was two years ago this time. How I'd spend my free time pouring over Indeed listings and thinking about leaving, but also scared to. That I couldn't make it happen. that without a full-time job, everything would fall apart.  Instead, I pretty much changed everything for the better.

As we come into fall, the cicadas are loud outside and constant from the afternoon into the evenings. As soon as the heat clears, it will no doubt feel more like autumn and I'll probably feel that same excitement that occurs every year, beholden to the academic calendar or not. That new seriousness in new projects and maybe a push to finish others. Every year around now for decades, my parent's house would be overflowing with harvested tomatoes. On the deck, piled on tables and counters and in baskets. A few days in the overheated kitchen and my mother would turn them into jars of salsa.  I feel like I am still in my gathering phase when it comes to new poems--piling them in a basket and hoping for cooler weather and a greater sense of urgency. 

Despite not working on the urban crypto poems that have been languishing most of July and August, a tiny nut of a kernel has formed in my brain about a new fall project that is maybe less poetry than essay or maybe something else entirely.  

Saturday, September 02, 2023

notes & things | 9/3/2023

I have been busy the past couple of weeks with both work and life stuff and feel like I have a queue of blog topics that are more interesting and writerly, but just haven't had time to put them to the page. We are still enjoying our late summer freedom, with more movies and plans for fall things in the coming months like museum visits, ballets (Frankenstein!) and catching the Beetlejuice musical, all things that were impossible either due to my working schedule or J's (or a lack of funds--strange how leaving your shit jobs actually makes you more financially solvent in both our cases). Last week, we were able to catch the remastered Coraline on the big screen, which had probably been brought back due to selling out pretty quickly when we tried to see it initially a few weeks back. I did not know much about it beyond it looking sort of spooky and cool visually, so I was surprised and delighted to find it was an entirely original story and script, a rare beast spotted in Hollywood but one to pay attention to. 

September launched itself into the world yesterday and the light was definitely that fall-ish tinge, which I noticed most around 3 in the afternoon when the shadows are slightly different than they have been all summer. Our temps are back on the climb, but I am hoping to preserve some of the cool from the past two weeks in my apartment by shutting off the fans blowing in and moving them elsewhere. Despite the daytime warmth, now that we are creeping into September, the nights do not hold the heat like they did even a month ago. August ended much as it began, under a big old the late summer sky. I have been sleeping well in the coolness, but the banging and major construction in the townhouse once occupied by the old Polish couple has been a deterrent once sun is up  The past two mornings they were knocking out the old 1950s glass block windows and replacing them with boring sliding ones, so it doesn't look promising. I am asleep and awake at intervals, and usually require a mid-afternoon or early evening nap, which means I am writing well into the evening sometimes. Already sunset is creeping up earlier and will soon be climbing hand over hand. 

Today was a full press day (no freelance work) since there were quite a few things that needed final corrections before I start printing.  I have only dipped a toe into submissions, which wrapped up Thursday in a final flurry of activity, so will begin greater forays into reading next week likely. I still have a couple delayed books in the works, but am now working on the set I accepted for this year. Amazingly, since I planned to start those in August anyway, I am only a month behind schedule for 2023 accepted titles. This year's inbox is a little unruly, since I was once again allowing sim subs after a few years of not. This means some things have been withdrawn in the time since they were sent b/c they found another home. Logistically it's rougher to keep track, but I feel like I take a little too long in responses sometimes, esp. for things I am interested in--so it's only fair they have other opportunities when I am slow. 

As for my work, I had a brief flurry of activity on new poems, but then told myself I should take a break and return when fall arrived officially, which I suppose it has now, at least according to the meteorological calendar if not the celestial one. Since I really need to be working on recording and editing the videos for villains right now, I may just hold off til the equinox to get back to daily poeming, completely reasonable, but I do get itchy if I go too long without writing much at all, so we'll see. I won't be submitting much in the immediate future, so am going to share snippets of the poems I've written this summer on Instagram, so keep an eye out there. 

The decor and lifestyle stuff is turning out many fall and spooky season offerings like this, this, and this.) A gig that I had initially turned down earlier in the summer b/c the pay-per-word count (writing literature study guides) actually came back with a poetry-specific offer that is shorter guides but still the same pay, so I will be doing a couple of those every month going forward. Since the AI poetry thing ghosted me and didn't work out, and any poetry lessons for the online learning site I already write for are few and far between, it will be fun to write poetry-specific things again after a few months of other subjects like dance, history, and visual art. While denser and more time-intensive than the decor, food, and restaurant stuff, the researcher in me loves them nonetheless.