Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Voice From The Past

I was going through the archives tonight in search of...something. A sign? Maybe. Something to reassure me. Something to remind me of a better time, and maybe a better and happier me. I mean someone who wasn't weighed down by the stuff that seems to weigh me down now. I know that generally I have been happier in my thirties than I was in my late teens and early twenties. Back then, you could look up "teen angst" in the dictionary and find a photo of me. Also, my twenties were as bumpy and alcohol fueled as anyone else's. Anyway, I found this letter...Yes, I said letter. I have kept almost every letter, postcard and note sent to me since I started college. Yes, I have email and yes, I am slowly becoming addicted to facebook and yes, I have a blog, but I still believe strongly in snail mail. There's something about getting a letter and being able to read it over and over without having to boot up my laptop that makes me feel human. Anyway, it's from friend I haven't seen in close to a year, someone I very rarely see . I don't even remember getting this letter, but there is a lot of mail in that file box that I haven't even looked at in a dozen years, so that's not too weird. (Weird would be knowing exactly what every piece of mail in that box is, who it's from and when I received it.) The minute I opened this one, I started smiling. I could hear my friend's voice in my head telling me these things. But I also smiled because of what was in the letter, the message I was being sent from the past has relevance in my present.

October 25, 1996


Hey kid, I was thinking of you today. And I am writing to let you know it was good to see you at Jenni and Brian's wedding. You seem to be doing rather well. I can say that your writing is going well. I really liked that poem you gave me (Note: I don't remember which poem is being referred to here). I know it's not easy to be honest. Someone far wiser than I once said "To place your dreams before the crowd is to risk ridicule; To place your feelings before them is to risk appearing sentimental; To place your ideas before the crowd is to risk involvement. But risks must be taken. Because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing. He may avoid suffering sorrow but simply cannot learn to feel and to grow and to love and to live. Chained by his certitude he is a slave, only the person who risks is truly free." WOW

Wow indeed. That's just the first page, but it struck a chord. I've got to take some of the risks I've been too afraid to even consider. I've done it before. It's hard, but how do you know if you don't try? I'm always encouraging friends to "go for it," why can't I encourage myself? Well, I think I know why, but that's for another post. Back to the letter...

In your work Daisy I feel that personal pain, loss and personal hope few can show with such honesty and grace. To be quite honest I've always hated poems. I could never understand them. But as I said I've become a little bit more peaceful to see the beauty of other work and other people. Your poems to me seem like Brazilian jazz. Easily overlooked, beautiful, joyous, free, painful and very personal. Unlike modern rock which can only shout--Brazilian jazz whispers. You can say a lot more with a whisper than you can with a shout.

If anyone else had written that, I might be thinking what you are perhaps thinking right now, "Brazilian jazz? Really?" But, knowing this person the way I do (or did way back when), I get it. The fact that someone I hadn't seen in years, except for a few hours chatting at a friend's wedding, took the time to write that letter means so much to me. I'm glad I kept it. Funny I should find the letter at a time when I've felt like I've been shouting at the rain, in my head anyway, for weeks and weeks. Wherever you are tonight old friend, thanks for your note. It's what I needed to hear right now, a reminder to speak softly and take a big risk.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another Old Song

Another poem, revised a bit. I wrote this when I was nineteen. Good Lord!

Some Nights
Some nights
I linger in my room
listening to Billie Holliday.
I sit at my window and
write in my journal
the stories of my life.
Your picture hangs on a rusty nail
over the roll top desk.
You stare at me from your brass cage.
You watch me with those eyes.
I put down my pen,
return your gaze.
I think of the starlet
you ran away with last summer
all high heels and red lipstick
and I wonder if she’s
playing Joan Crawford
to your Cecil B. DeMille.
Then I laugh out loud
because the thought of you
wearing a monocle
and carrying a megaphone
is just too much.
Daisy C. Abreu
November 11/91

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Goody List

For the last week or so, things have, in my twisted brain, seemed pretty grim. I realize that the insomnia and the cold that refuses to leave my body are partners in the crime of making me feel like crap. I also keep telling myself that this too shall pass. For heaven's sake, we are only twelve days into the new year, how can I possibly think things are crap? Exactly, I can't. So when I was lying here the other night, wide awake, my mind reeling, I decided to make a list of all the good things that have happened since January 1, 2008. I give you, in no particular order, the goody list.

Watching That's Entertainment! on New Year's Day with Cat.

Poodle coming to spend the weekend with me.

Having dinner and a bottle of wine at Skappo.

Drinking wine and chatting deep into the night with some of my favorite people.

Getting four thank you cards in the mail (bonus: they all came on the same day!)

Watching junk TV and eating junk food with Drew and Furonda.

Talking to my best friend on the phone.

Watching Project Runway curled up on the couch with a blanket.

Finishing one of my new books.

Picking out the beautiful new lamp Poodle got me for Christmas.

Getting into my flannel-sheeted bed after a hot shower, with a cup of tea and a new magazine.

Watching CBS Sunday Morning.

Taking a walk on an unseasonably warm afternoon (I know, global warming, but I really needed the walk)

Waking up on Tuesday with the memory of a sweet dream still in my head and carrying it with me all day.

Finding more new magazines in the mail! (don't worry, I recycle).

Sitting here, writing this, knowing I can sleep in tomorrow. And knowing things will get better.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mining the Archive

As you can see from the time stamp on this, I am not sleeping much lately. In an effort to knock myself out, I pulled out an old journal in search of answers and/or remedies for the insomnia. Well, turns out I have always been an insomniac of sorts and the only thing that helps is to write down all the things that are rolling around in my head in the middle of the night. Some of the stuff in the journal is embarrassing and some of it reminds me of how far I have come (not as far as you think).

Anyway, I was reading a journal entry about working on Spell, the book of poems I wrote ten years ago (holy crap! ten years!), which got me thinking that ten years is a good round span of time and perhaps I should revisit the book, update it some and maybe try to show it to more than fifty of my closest friends. I opened up the file, re saved it as the ten year edition and wrote a draft of a "note from the author" type thing. That led to me wanting to take a look at my original notes for there I am at two am in my Rudy's t-shirt (how appropriate) and pajama pants looking through old file boxes. Guess what I found. EVERY paper I wrote in college, drafts of EVERY poem I wrote between 1991 and 1998 (including ones I thought were lost forever to a time when zip drives were all the rage) and, AND the essay I wrote to get into my first choice college . I just re-read that essay and I can't believe I got into Sarah Lawrence College with something entitled Signature of the Dance. I know, I should cut myself some slack, I was only seventeen when I wrote it, but yikes.

The best part of finding all that stuff? I still have all the papers I had written for Clayton's class, with his notes attached. He gave great notes and reading them was a reminder that someone believed in me and my writing when even I didn't believe in me. Makes me smile and get teary all at once. I guess that makes the insomnia worthwhile.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Four on the Floor

I had a shit day. Not the worst day ever, but not great. The kind of day when you're pretty sure everyone can hear you screaming on the inside, even though you've barely said a word to anyone all day. The kind of day when you think, "Can it be that bad? Have I totally lost it?" I've been having these days more often than not. I think it's a combination of the crappy weather, the holiday season and being sick for the last week. I know I have it better than most. I know I'm blessed every day, from the minute I open my eyes in the morning until I crawl into bed at night. I have my mini mantra "good job, great friends and family, cute apartment, enough money to live and have a little fun, more books than I could ever read." I am grateful to have made it through the last year emotionally, albeit with more than my fair share of tears. But who am I kidding? It's really hard sometimes, this whole "well that's not how I expected things to go at all" feeling that I've had since last spring. I'm not as tough as I think I am or pretend to be. I've exhausted my supply of brave faces and I can't hold back my disappointment at how a lot of the last year went. I'm out of sorts and feeling like more than one of my houses is out of order, which is more than I can handle. Now I'm sitting at home writing this all down instead of going out with my friends because I can't face them like this. Like I said, shit day. And then...

In the mail, tucked under my copy of InStyle magazine featuring a flawless and pregnant Halle Berry, were four reminders that all is not lost. Four, yes, FOUR handwritten thank you notes arrived today. All were on pretty stationery, beautifully written and gentle reminders that I'm a lot less invisible than I think I am. The power of the written word saves me again.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sick & Tired

In the literal sense, of course. I have whatever is going around. You know the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy-head, fever thing, minus the fever (I'm not going to count 98.9 as a fever). My body pretty much succumbed to the running around, taking trains, being up late, eating and drinking too much that was my holiday break without a break. Being that busy had to come back and bite in me the ass somehow.

I just finished watching the Critics Choice Awards on VH1, the first in what I hope and pray will be a long and fruitful awards season, though right now it might just be wishful thinking. The Golden Globes have already been transformed from the "party of the year" to a press conference and that makes me really sad and scared that if this thing isn't settled soon, the 80th Annual Academy Awards may not happen. I support the writers, I really do, and I hope that the strike ends soon. We wouldn't have any awards to give out if it weren't for the writers doing what they do, so as the Cloon said tonight, "When the strike happens, it's not just writers [affected]," "Our hope is that all the players will lock themselves in a room and not come out until they finish. We want this to be done. That's the most important thing." Well said, George. I'm starting to realize that there is only so much "reality" television a girl can watch.

On a brighter note I do have some highlights from tonight's show:

Nikki has two Mommies: Hairspray's Nikki Blonsky's genuine excitement upon winning her award and then thanking "my mommy who's sitting here crying and my other mommy who's at home, John Travolta." That's going to be the sound bite of the night.

Blame it on her effing nerves: Leslie Mann getting bleeped when she said "Before I walked out here my husband said 'Daniel Day-Lewis is out there' and I said 'Great now I'm f&*^ing nervous.'" But the censors didn't move fast enough to bleep her when she said "Can you say f&*^ing on cable TV?" Classic.

Trifecta: (1) George Clooney, Javier Bardem AND Daniel Day-Lewis all in the same room, beautifully dressed and groomed. (2) Javier and Daniel won in their respective categories. (3) All three gentlemen were not only handsome, they were eloquent and funny at the mic! I could stand to see more of this, so let's hope for the best.

Dark horse for the win: Falling Slowly, from the movie Once winning the award for best original song. Great song, great movie. I know I am one of a handful of people who saw this movie, but I encourage you all to rent it. It's small, made on the cheap in something like seventeen days and has no big name stars in it, but damn, I really loved it.

You've got a point there, Ed: Eddie Izzard's introduction of the nominees for documentary film "Okey dokey from WGA came during teatime, so some speechy talk not so good as other mans," he said. "This was wrote in toilet, so only first draft and a bit la-la." A reminder that we need the writers to come back soon. Do you think that if an American had read that it would have come across as endearing? No, people would have said that person was on drugs or drunk. An Englishman does it and it's adorable. That's just how it is. Sort of the Hugh Grant effect.

A quick word on the fashions: Everyone looked great and that makes me happy. This wasn't the kind of show where I expected to see a train wreck, but you never know. Katie Holmes looked downright fierce in her (I'm assuming here) Armani dress. Good hair, makeup and shoes all around. Kudos to you celebs and your stylists for the effort. One note, though. Allison Janney: I love you in every movie and you were my favorite thing about the West Wing. The dress you had on tonight was beautiful, your kicky new haircut was...kicky. But why, WHY were you wearing flat shoes. They were nice flat shoes, but still, why? I know you're probably six feet tall in heels, but you usually OWN it and you should continue to do so. Hell, Katie Holmes wears heels all the time and, well, you know who she stands next to all day long. If it's because you are injured in some way (back issues, bunion surgery, messed up knee), then I completely understand. Otherwise, embrace the fact that you are statuesque. Girls like me would do anything to be as tall as you are. Thanks!

I'm off to bed, visions of a tuxedoed George, Javier and Daniel dancing in my head.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Feeling Bookish

I should be sleeping, especially since I am fighting some sort of chest cold thing, but I can't. I feel like writing...and it's a good feeling. I could also be excited that Poodle is coming tomorrow to spend the weekend. It will be fun to hang out and chat and shop and be around someone who gets me the way Cat gets me. Oh my God, Poodle and closest friends sound like some sort of menagerie! Apologies to both.

I have a huge stack of books on my nightstand. Twenty-seven books to be exact. I'm trying to read three at once (see the What I'm Reading sidebar) and it's not as hard as I thought it would be, although it's early in the process so we'll see how I'm fairing in another week. Of the three, I'd say my fave is Fifteen Candles. The stories really take me back to that time in my life and I am enjoying remembering things about being a teen that I hadn't thought about in years. The Tender Bar is pretty good so far, I'm curious to find out what happens to the author as he gets older. Women's Letters is a wee bit daunting because it starts during the Revolutionary War and I'm struggling to wrap my head around some of what I'm reading. I might wait until I finish one of the other two in order to really get into Women's Letters. Any minute now I expect to get three or four magazines in the mail, so that, along with all my lovely new books, should get me through those cold winter nights. Bring on the snow, I've got enough reading material to get me through til spring!

I realize that the three books I am reading are all non-fiction and/or biographical in some way. I've been doing more of that since I started the blog, leaning toward memoirs and the like. Maybe I'm looking for inspiration in these true stories in order to write my own. Or maybe I'm not feeling the chick-lit vibe. I'm sort of living one of those single-gal-trying-to-sort-her-life-out books right now, only without the madcap adventures, sexy rendezvous and closet full of fabulous shoes ( I do, however, have the hilarious and endlessly lovable friends part down pat), so why read about it too?

The Wests sent me a funny little book called the Writer's Block (ha ha). It's chock full of writing prompts. I moved it from the desk to my nightstand for the sake of not being able to say "oh I should do a writing exercise before bed, but the book with the prompts is in the other room..." It's next to my notebook, so I have the tools at hand. Now do I have the nerve?