Friday, June 27, 2003

ding dong, the witch is dead

what a terrific coincidence. bowers v. hardwick and strom thurman kick the bucket on the same day. i wonder if anyone's howling vast left-wing conspiracy.
and the headlines on the nytimes webpage, delightfully, read, "strom thurman dies, at age 100," followed by, "gays celebrate ..."

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

since finishing hpV, i've been too emotional to do much except comb the net for all the reviews i didn't let myself read before. though i appreciated the nytimes' glowing review (and it forced me to realize SATC didn't make up the name of their foremost critic), the one i identified most with is salon's. but i'm desperate to know what other people think. none of my fellow counselors have read the book. i need to talk about it with somebody.

in short, i gobbled it up so quickly and so ravenously it's hard to even gauge how much i liked it. my instinct is that i liked it a lot. obviously it's not as enjoyable as the 3rd one, my favorite. it's not easy reading. but i am very intense about this book at this moment. in fact, since i started reading it, i feel as if the book's moodiness and passion, both, have been seeping into me. i got irritated when interrupted, defensive when people were derisive, and generally i was on edge. i still am.
... it's something, all right.

Monday, June 23, 2003

three days into co|motion i feel much more confident than i did three days into it last year. the fact that i've done it before helps. last year i had no experience working with a group of kids at all. while i never panicked, i panicked that i might panic, and so on. i also remember, early on last year, finishing a day in tears, sure that none of the campers liked me and that i alone had no maternal instincts.

when the other counselors ooh and aah at length about one of our campers, who, at 11, still looks and acts 6, that same concern springs to mind: ohmygod, i'm missing the Everything She Does is Cute! Gene. but so far it hasn't been keeping me up at night.

very little, i feel, at this point could keep me up at night. by the time we go to sleep we've been up since 7:30. some of the girls show up as early as 8. camp starts at 9 and goes through 5. once we nudge them out, we spend an hour debriefing and occasionally obsessing over the campers, after which we spend the rest of the evening planning. we're lucky to have 2 hours of free time before we crash.
last night i used those 2 hours to devour the first 220 pages of hpV. i didn't have my own copy yet, it hadn't arrived, so i stole sorelle's. thanks-be-to-god (and it slid in today and i read in snatches until i was halfway through. i think it's gripping though, yes, as all accounts have mentioned, unrelentingly dark. it kind of reminds me of she's come undone in that way.

hpV is a sore spot among my fellow counselors, none of whom have succumbed to their impulses to start reading yet. a few of our campers/CITs have dragged their tomes with them and pore over them at every opportunity. having gotten enmeshed in mine myself, i kind of understand; i find it hard to put down. in fact maybe i'll return to reading now.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Lenin's bones

In Russia, everyone talks about Lenin
(who says
you can't lie in poetry?)
Lenin lies in his tomb and visitors mass like pigeons
in Venice, a calmer place, to his square
squat & clay-colored
monument (I won't lie:
I never went in to see the bones
I felt it sufficed to see Russia.)

(Of course, that isn't
fair. the old woman I saw
by the summer-colored Summer Palace
sprawl, pulling handfuls of sticks from
fistfuls of snow, may have as easily been the pinkie toe
of C. the Great)

Pinkie toe
why didn't Russia
just say no?

My father has traveled to:
Costa Rica
The Queen Charlotte Islands
Never Russia,
though he was a Trotskyite at

nowadays, he and my brother
who studied history and government
with a convert�s zeal in college argue
about Stalin
he brought industry he stood up to Hitler
he was brilliant he was crazy
twenty-million dead.

Lenin has a tomb
He can be understood
or at least stood over, and

Russian vendors hawk Stalin
to tourists
on streetsides, on clifftops, by the
hundreds, along with Matrushka dolls
and liquor flasks flagged with hammer'n'sickle.
Not one of our tour guides
would speak his name

the hunched bundled woman pried branches
from the snow outside the Summer Palace where
C. the Great once flooded a ballroom
and left the windows open. C. came back
to ice skate. now tourists shod in plastic booties
slip delicately from room to room. Their feet
never touch the ground.

Trotsky had an affair / (is an ice pick
with Frida Kahlo. How bad / an absolution? Stalin
could he be? / just died)

our tour guides would mention
the Great Revolution, perhaps V.I. L
then skip to 91 and say, Russia opened! they would talk
about hotels. one pointed out
the first McDonalds, for which, at lunchtime,
people mass like pigeons to Venice, a calmer
place, even today.

Venice, I found
uninteresting, and smelly. From Moscow,
I contracted a parasite. Like a tattoo, it fades
but never goes away.

My mother saw Moscow in the sixtees
When she left her hotel room, people would come
dig through her bags, tap her phones
She expected this

My trip went smoothly, but I never saw Lenin
Only from the outside, only his trackmarks, never
the bones, which I hear they have to bury now
after all. What I regret is not buying
a Matrushka doll
My boyfriend�s Russian father
received one from a neighbor, filled with vodka,
and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

more advice on my personal life

striding through campus in my black boots and green-and-floral polyester danish dress, i ran into my wacky-beloved history professor. she asked what i was doing around and i told her about co|motion. after a while:

she: so that's great. enjoy it.
me: yeah, thanks. i mean, it's interesting for me cuz i'm not naturally good at working with children. last year taught me a lot.
she: kids aren't your bag, huh? ... yeah, i can't handle them until they're 4.
me: right. until they can have a conversation and offer some valuable insight. then they're worthwhile.
she: okay, but be careful. don't take that too far. i told you before, smart people don't procreate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003


this time i'm spending in swarthmore prepping for co|motion isn't salaried, but como does pick up the tab for more or less everything, which i appreciate.

more includes the bagels we went out for early this morning after a 7 a.m. firedrill rushed us out of our firetrap of a building to wait in flip flops, squinting through the rain, as ever increasing numbers of golf carts, public safety vans, police cars, and finally firetrucks blocked our view and authority figures sought what filled the basement -- and, somehow, third floor by extention -- with smoke. the answer: toast. somebody in the basement not only BURNED TOAST, but then (panicked and?) HID THE TOASTER.

as my parents are fond of saying, And these are the smart ones?

the authority figures lectured us on smoke inhalation and personal responsibility. the person who hid the toaster was probably already in tijuana by then. i was irked cuz last night i was supposed to catch up on sleep. my b.lovd had been visiting. he's so used to being around como that our discussions no longer phase him. he came to nifty fifties with us when we went to gorge ourselves with milkshakes and talk body image, and he read franzen, not perking up once despite the repeated use of the word "boob."

as of yesterday he&i have been we for 2 and 1/3 years. that's rather a long time. quite likely that's what caused addie to take me by surprise by asking, Are you getting married? no, i said; or at least not til i'm 30. good, she said. otherwise i'd come to your wedding and cry.
veronica, when related this conversation, said, i don't think of you has the kind of person to get married. you're cynical.
later they amended that to mean Free-spirited. i'd never realized those two words are interchangeable.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

and ...

as some of you have figured out, i've gotten myself an lj, shorterstory. i'm still playing around with it so bear with me. the best part is easily filling out the Interests and User Info stuff, just like in friendster. ahh, internet cultworlds.
terms of endearment v. bridget jones

the train to philly only broke down once today, in a densely wooded middle-of-nowhere type area. behind me, a travelling salesman in his 70s said, "uh oh! it's probably terrorists." he had already incurred my wrath by chattering loudly and inanely the whole trip, at one point saying, "everything's virtual now. it's a virtual world and no one has any real sense. the only people with any sense anymore are the senior citizens". i pitied the beleagured woman sitting next to him whose murmured responses i never made out, until i realized she was his wife.

immediately everyone drew cellphones from scabbards and made the same call: "hi xxxxxx. no, i'm still on the train. it's stopped, can you believe it? i guess i'm going to be late ..." too bad you can't send out generic cell-phone calls like mass emails. some people added spice, moaning and wiping their brows: "the electricity is out! it's BROILING in here!"
the travelling salesman remained cheerfully morbid. "maybe they'll make us walk to the nearest town. maybe jesse james is robbing our conductor. anyway, this is nothing. one time, in world war two ..."

a metroliner pulled up next to us, as if offering moral support, and in seconds the lights and air conditioning returned. our conductor, who didn't seem to have suffered an interaction with bandits or who otherwise was speaking coherently from underneath the gag they'd put on him, had told us to prepare to change over to the other train. i'd been reading david sedaris and i'd been jealous of all the exciting adventurous things he was writing about. part of me leapt at the chance. instead i found my seat again, next to the puffy-haired old woman with an eastern european accent who, coincidentally, was also named ester.
unlike me, however, she was enthralled by the travelling salesman and, equally enthralled to have a new audience, he hung over her seat regaling her. finally i couldn't take it. i begged god silently for another electricity outage, for the ability to change trains in the middle of the tracks, and went god didn't come through, i moved to the back of the train and stood reading naked in peace.

Friday, June 13, 2003

more trotsky!

would trotsky have supported the iraq war? usually hypotheticals are worth their weight in hot air. but this one draws comparisons between trotskyites and neo-cons and it makes me nostalgic for the history of 20th century russia seminar i never took.
back and forth all night

why didn't anyone tell me there was more to edna st. vincent millay than that stupid ferry poem? my father handed me a slim volume, the kind with friendly, uneven pages that are tinted old, when i went to college, but he didn't mention that what was inside would be even more attractive. conversations at midnight is a long narrative poem/play. a group of varied men sit in a room in 1937 and dialogue about politics, women, life, and each other. the most heated exchange comes between carl, a communist poet, and merton, a conservative stock-broker; but although you, as reader, might lose the subtle rhyme in concentrating on the ideas, she, as author, never does.

i'm accumulating lit for the summer. already on hand i have david "hot damn i'm funny ... and hot!" sedaris's naked, fran "now that you know my name, you're seeing it everywhere" lebowitz's metropolitan life and "that book that everyone but me has already read and loved" bee season. my hope is that the 1st two will help prepare me for / steer me through new york. and the third will just be comfort food.

it's sobering to come across something like conversations at midnight, though; something that reminds how much of value there is that you've already dismissed, or not heard about, or forgotten. being a capitalist myself, at least for the time being, i want more.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

think about seizing the day

exciting morning. woken by mother at 8:30: "will you please get dressed and drive your father and your uncle down to union station?" and but i'm scared of driving and it's early, please don't make me do something more taxing than watching Shrek for the fifteenth time ... didn't seem like an adequate response.

so up i got, fed the dog, and drank cold water, my substitute for coffee (nearly 21 coffee-free years and i'm doing fine. my plan is to avoid coffee and cigarettes my whole life & look like i'm going to outlive everyone. then, suddenly, i'll be felled by a blow no one could see coming: the combined influence of + diet coke and - exercise). i found my way back from the center of the city through dc morning traffic, which, despite my nearly 21 years, is something i've actually never done by myself before.

i feel very grown up and responsible now. not either of two brothers but i got to save the family today. i! the princess. and the princess celebrated by reheating pizza and watching newsies. she even teared up a bit at the end, you know, when the crowd of kids join the strike and then teddy roosevelt comes out and you think cowboy's moving on to sante fe but at the very end he comes back. that's a movie.

another movie, a more real one, i caught on tv yesterday: the laramie project. i'd missed it til now, and it's really good. it's moving without being sentimental and it sure gets its message across, whatever that message is. on a related upbeat note, toronto legalized gay marriage today. canada's become more like scandinavia every minute.
and last night liz and i watched the immortal frida. i'm surprised julie taymor didn't get an oscar nomination for that. i'm surprising the critics uniformly weren't impressed, at least with the way it looks. i do agree, it should have been in spanish with english subtitles. and it should have been more about frida as an artist and less about frida as a part of a tempestuous relationship with diego rivera. the movie's politics did spark an interesting conversation about communism though, and this morning led me to ask my father, "in brief, please, why did stalin want trotsky dead?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

today i watched my little brother cross the stage at the DAR Washington Convention Center in a billowy kelly green gown with matching hat and tassel. he was noticeable even from a distance by the slight slump that makes his 6' 2"s less intimidating and the sneakers. up close he's more noticeable for his ski-length eyelashes and red mouth. he's the last: last graduation i had scheduled for this spring, last of my siblings & first cousins to leave high skool.

somebody at swat said, a graduation's not a graduation unless someone quotes robert frost. this ceremony didn't disappoint. it stood out in other ways, though, from the others of my experience. families were so exuberant that the principal had to threaten them with expulsion from the room. kids kept inflating beach balls and volleying them around. ted kennedy spoke, and really well, before lumbering back to the senade. the wilson senior high skool choir kept ascending the stage to sing, gospel-style. one selection: "celebrate good times." my mother whispered, do they do barmitzvahs?

afterwards my family celebrated by assembling on a table our combined bodyweight in food. ate it, too. since, at my little brother's behest, we were at a steakhouse, i had less than most people, i managed to walk out of the restaurant on my own two feet. others had to be dragged on stretchers that smith & wollensky's keeps stacked in the front for just that purpose. the plates were the size of computer monitors, the steaks the size of screens. all the drinks came automatically doubled. the slice of monster chocolate cake the graduate ordered was about three stories tall. he managed three bites and fainted (and this is a boy who can hold his chocolate).
ugh, i'm still full. in a way it's a good thing. i'm still wearing the french red (p)leather skirt i debuted today, which, under normal circumstances, sits slightly too big on my hips. now it's nice and snug.

Monday, June 09, 2003

from the latest fad in personality tests, an analysis of my brain (cheaper than a cat scan, and more fun!):
"ester, you show a slight right-hemisphere dominance with a moderate preference for auditory processing, an unusual and somewhat paradoxical combination of characteristics."
heh heh.
"Your tendency to be creative and free-flowing is accompanied by sufficient ability to organize and be logical, allowing you a reasonable degree of success in a number of different endeavors."
reasonable degree? well, who could ask for anything more?
"You find the symbolism in a great deal of what you encounter and are something of a "mystic." With regards to your lifestyle, you have the mentality which would be good as a philosopher, writer, journalist, or instructor, or possibly as a systems designer or social worker. Perhaps most important is your ability to "listen to your inner voice" as a mode of skipping over unnecessary steps to achieve your goals."
excellent. i love being affirmed by random testing. take it yourself.

also a first today, on the heels of my debut tryst with hamlet, i invited rejection #1 from the new yorker. gotta start sometime.
somebody give me a cigar. i just saw my first hamlet. immediately after, i had to come home and answer my father's questions about the production. was hamlet hyper-intellectual? effeminate? was he played as angsty, or indecisive, brooding or frustrated? my father saw some earthshaking production of hamlet in england once and many others besides. i've, well, seen movies. and i've read the play. i don't have much to compare it to but i thought the shakespeare company did, as they always do, a terrific job.

what's better is it's free. carton barren hosts one of these a year, an outdoor production of some excellently done shakespeare play. you have to reserve tickets in advance. in this case, my friend johnny obtained a ticket for me, lana, and several others. she heads off to arizona tomorrow. sad for me: she's been one of my principal playmates this week. i helped her paint her room. we took woods walks, watched movies, ate, and generally spent not enough time together considering we'll be the summer apart.

this is the first summer where all my regular friends scattered themselves. one in israel, in the south; another in israel, in jerusalem, where he's just been made an uncle. two to seattle. three staying in their collegetowns: one noho, one boston, one providence. one to costa rica. it's a good thing i'm back to swarthmore on friday and to new york at the end of the month, or i'd feel very left out.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

well! thank god. blogger's back. that means i lost the last post, for reasons too complicated to explain -- it was just about grad skool anyway and we all know what grad skool can go and do. it is lovely to be able to post again even if i have nothing particular to say.

except -- oh yeah -- happy 2nd birthday babblebook!!

[wild celebration; parades; speeches; toasts; champagne corks popping; mardi gras topping; acid trips; skinny dips; foie gras]

that will be all, thanks. you may now return to your regularly scheduled pornography.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

wrenched awake at 4 a.m. by the 2nd in a series of nights-of-nightmares, i write a poem:
body image in two parts

I. what the letter from the interviewer should have said

"... So I'm in africa now, a finger
of the peace corps (ha ha) and got
a copy of our paper. It's sad to be an alum,
but terrific to see that an interviewee I picked not just
got into school but flourished there!

"I remember when you walked in in
your Arden B suit crisp as plastic packaging,
a zipper clamping the 2 halves of your chest
together like a pacemaker scar, the skirt short
and to the point. Your mother bought that suit
for you in celebration when you traded in a permit
for a license, and with it a body.

"I don't believe you
the lady behind the window said, whose job it was
to record the numbers. Nobody loses 15 pounds
in a year.
You tried to smile as though you'd gone
for a walk everyday with half a pound or so hidden
in the denin by your ankle, and shaken it out in the woods,
like people tunnelling from prison dispose of dirt.

"At 16, or maybe earlier, your mother
wouldn't let you leave your room in shorts
argument: but J and N wear shorts this short!
retort: when you work out, and have legs as nice
as J and N, you can too.

"Flash-further-back: a child stands before a mirror
as colorful and round as she, delighted. Look mom!
she says, lifting her shirt to her armpits. I have a tummy!
Mom says, that�s cause you don�t exercise.

"You spared the skeptic at the window these stories,
and others: of rationing your cereal, flake
by flake; of sugarless gum by the mouthful; of your
oldertaller brother�s shirts that became
your mobile home; of black, the shade of self-pity,
your pirate flag. You didn't mention to the woman
the actual number was 20, not 15.
Embarrassed, on the permit form, you'd lied.

"But I gotta say, the suit
suited. It did its work. I was impressed. Those legs!
Not long by any means, the shoes helped; a nice shape
though, trimmed from finally learning not to run
just one mile but two. The contacts, the gel � we like
these here at Swarthmore College, even if we say we don�t
(don�t worry about makeup though, that�s
where we draw the line)

"reading your review, I�m glad
you fit in so well. Obscure Chinese films
don�t make their way down here too often, but
it this one does, I'll be sure to go and think
of you! and hold onto that suit, I gotta tell ya
I can't tell where you�d be without it."

II. Heather's suggestion

a cruise ship! Spend the day in oslo; To and From,
with all your friends, at night,
only $130 including dinner!

I arrived early, curious; satisfied myself there was
nothing to do (the other passengers:
sullen families with small children and a convention
of the disabled) but drink, and stocked up
with my friends at the Duty Free

everyone mobbed the banquet room
at dinner time, figuring at least a buffet could amuse
for a while. as soon
as we sat down, we felt the waves

will they stop? we finally asked a steward once
we�d equalled the pallor of our beans. Oh, around dawn,
he said with the determined-cheerful air of one
who is paid not to apologize. There are pills
if you need them

steaming plates of shellfish, abandoned

waves of cheap alcohol crashed
inside, treble to the rocking bass of the ship

I landed on the bottom floor, told the movement
was less moving there, body pressed against it
like a forehead to a cold wet cloth

On the way Back from oslo, we were grimly
prepared. to begin with, we skipped dinner, 3 of my
girl friends and I, slipping instead through a back entrace
into the sauna. we stripped in the locker room, I
determined to be as unself-conscious as my lovely
friend heather, whose idea this was, though
I'd only been publically naked once before
in my post-puberty life, and that was at night

ready? we asked each other, and
went in, peeling off our towels and affixing ourselves,
stamps on envelopes, to the white benches.
on cue, the boat began to sway / we
began to sweat. we rocked
together, breathing deeply. no one spoke.
I noticed the others' tidy breasts but didn�t dwell.

We lingered
longer than was wise, perhaps, nursed
by nakedness, inured by nakedness, somehow,
against nausea. we showered quickly
and decided to dash to our rooms to avoid
the sickening sight of the everywhere sick. As we
left the sauna, immediately, we passed a boy who paused
a thoughtful moment, then sprayed the carpet

hurry, hurry �
we made it to our rooms
and locked the doors. my usually feeble,
unshowcased stomach and I, that night,
made each other proud.

Monday, June 02, 2003

CONSUMERISM 101: A Lecture in Dialogue Form

Part One: Using the Internet
me: so, [little brother whose name is omitted to avoid the threat of prosecution], there's this program that i kind of want a copy of --
him: what's it called?
me: well, i don't remember, but i can --
him: no problem.


me: no, see, i think this one's difficult cuz it requires you to use the cd --
him and my older brother, also present: [fall down laughing.]
[laughter continues for five minutes.]
him: oh no! not a CD!!
my older brother: man! that means i can't use any of the 5,000 games i play that REQUIRE YOU TO USE THE CD!!
[laughter for another five minutes. finally both boys wipe their eyes.]
him: yeah, i think i can do that for you.

[later ...]
him: i got the most recent version. is that all right?

sheesh. nowadays pirates may be more useful, but they're far less sexy.

Part Two: Used Books
i went to 2nd Story to rid myself of novels that clutter my bookshelf and remind me of the loathing they first inspired in me.
the clerk took three in exchange for a $5 store credit.

me: why not the others? just out of curiousity.
him: we're not buying much fiction right now. except mysteries: in the summer, people read mysteries. and this [holding up waiting] we have too many copies of already.
me: that's cuz it sucked.
he: [looking at me with new respect] right. and this, [holding up i know this much is true] we can't buy cuz it has this oprah's book club sticker on it. sometimes we can buy books that were on the list, but none that actually have the sticker. no one wants them.
me: how ironic.
him: tell me about it.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

swarthmore's graduation could not have been more different than cornell's except for the fact that all weekend it remained rainy and cold. last night i dreamt that the rain turned to snow and someone informed me gravely we were just skipping summer this year. in the dream, i cried.

in real life, i've been doing far less of that than i expected. at points i've hit Sad, like when i realized, after humming through the song in my head several times, that the song in my head was eerily appropriate and far too depressing:
... fun, isn't it? but nothing stays
in a year or so
it's gonna change, you know
but it's heaven nowadays
but i made it through dinner with ben and the russian hoardes without too much trouble, not breaking down even when member after member of his family rose to toast him. i made it through baccalaureate. easy enough since it seemed to have been declared a charisma-free zone. i made it through the last day, and the last night, and through seeing him in the cap and gown; through commencement, through picture-taking, through waiting for him while he went to check out green bottle.
the night of green bottle, he'd been packing and i'd dozed off. around 1, he whispered that he was just going to see what was going on the party. that whisper hit me like an injection of mountain dew. suddenly i couldn't go back to sleep. until 3, i paced, fretted, and watched the clock. he finally returned, chagrined to see that i'd been reduced to the state of a 50s hausfrau.

it was a wonderful few days. most seniors i didn't get to say goodbye to, not in so many words. many i'll quite likely never see again. but i wish everyone the best: patience when luck runs out, and luck when patience runs out.

right now i'm just glad to be home and not to have to move for a while. i want a soft room with muted, if any, stimuli. i want soothing ocean sounds. i want not to have to think about the future, which i hate. the thinking and the future itself. i want not to have to move stuff or shlep bags. i want sleep. luckily i think over the next ten days this can all be arranged -- at least til my little brother's high skool graduation, after which i have to leave for comotion and my summer starts for real.