And I would drive 12,000 miles...

“You get a lot of job opportunities in your life but only one hometown.” – Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

As my time in California draws to an end, I’ve been reminiscing about, and admittedly looking forward to, the drive back to St. Louis.  It will be my sixth and last (at least for awhile) cross-country trip and I can’t help thinking how long ago that first day on the road with my dad feels, mile after mile in my blue Chevy Cobalt, from the rolling hills of central Missouri to the endless rows of flat land and cornrows (the vegetable kind) of Nebraska. By the end of the first day, we had made it all the way to Wyoming and the Rocky Mountains, a wide expanse of sky, cool dry air despite being mid-August, an elevation that managed to give me a bit of altitude sickness, and my mom’s hometown of Laramie.  It is the type of town and the type of land I can truly understand becoming nostalgic for, a state of mind I witnessed in my mom as we stopped there on trips three and five.  Small enough to drive around in only fifteen or twenty minutes, we stopped at the University chapel where my grandpa worked as a minister for years until moving his family to St. Louis when my mom was fifteen.  We drove past the house where she grew up, her elementary and high schools, the homes of friends she spent her time eating mud pies with, and even her “thinking spot,” which if I remember correctly, involved a large rock sitting in a vast field behind her neighborhood.  Even after all these years, I could tell this place, her hometown, continued to mean so much to her despite most of the people she had known having left it behind long ago, just as she had.  But I suppose the ghosts, the memories, had remained behind.

Now, at nearly 26-years-old, I’ve lived in several places, all of which I carry a certain affection for after my time spent in each, whether it was the four months in England, the four years in Indiana, or the three years in San Jose, I will never be able to return to any of these places and feel nothing for them.  To me, memory is the great catalyst for emotion, especially as even love tends to spawn from a shared history of affirmation, though I realize nothing is quite that simple.  We’ve all heard many times the old saying, “home is where the heart is,” but it’s not as simple a subject as it seems.  I think most of us leave pieces of our hearts in many different places, with many different people.  It’s true, I have my family in St. Louis and wonderful friends as well.  But I have people I love in San Jose too, and Indiana, and many other corners of the world as those I meet with their feet less planted in the ground move on.  The strange thing about spreading the pieces of your heart among such a variety of people is that when they move away, they’ll take that part of you with them, so that before long we look at the country and maybe even the world and start to feel as though we’ve already been cremated, our ashes scattered in the wind.

I'm fairly certain that I have cried every time I have left St. Louis.  A piece of me knows this is in no small part due to the people I leave behind each time I go—it has never been easy for me.  But the other piece thinks every city, every town, every landscape has its own music that begins to play in your blood when you make a life there.  The longer you stay, the more the music weaves its way into you so that it eventually becomes harder and harder to leave.  This method may be a little on the manipulative side, like a lover who manages to seduce you again just when you were about to move on, just when you thought you didn’t need him anymore, but I have to believe the intentions are worthy.  After all, every city has a population to maintain.  As for me, I know that St. Louis holds the music I need to hear at this point in my life.  When I see the arch, something in my chest swells with longing.   Who knows how long it will be before I feel the need to escape to another unfamiliar land, but there’s no denying the power my hometown has to pull me back in again and again.


The Real Gatsby

(The original title was "The Story of How I Died" but I think I stole that from Doctor Who, kind of like the rest of this story.  Enjoy!)

The rush of pool water cooled my head like the dark expanse of night sky cools the day.  The vastness, the blackness, the light—my home.  Daisy.  But no, she was no more my home than the Earth, despite the effervescent beauty they shared.  All these years I clung to the image of her, a singular feeling of warmth and acceptance.  For she had accepted me then, no matter what she claimed now.

My Daisy…oh God, what have I done?

I know you think you know me, old sport, but you don’t.  You’ve heard rumors, you’ve been to my parties, and I’m sure you’ve read Nick’s book by now.  I hear they require most high school students to read it, but I never liked how it made me out to be such a sad, solitary figure.  Lovesick.  I suppose if I’m accused of anything that should be the thing that sticks because I loved her with all of my being, whatever I am. 

I met her in Louisville, 1917.  I was there so I could blend in with all the other military officers stationed during the Great War—I’ve told everyone and Nick too that I was a lieutenant though that isn’t entirely true, but more on that later—and one night a bunch of us went out on the town since Pete’s rich old grandma had just sent him a letter with an accompanying eighty dollars and none of the rest of us thought it was fair for him to keep them for himself, so we wanted to go out and drink it all up.  Admittedly one of my favorite pastimes back then was keeping the company of ladies (usually whores but only the good-looking ones; nobody with scars or sores), but all I can remember of that night is ending up at the house where Johnny fell on a fork so that it sunk into his leg like he was straight out of the oven.  That, and Daisy Fay.  And it’s probably pretty safe to say I thought of nothing else but her for the next five years to come.

It was her house we were in—I had never seen such a beautiful house before.  I don’t know if I remember the fork in the leg because of its disgusting details, the way the leg oozed blood as another officer tried to slowly remove it (should’ve done it quick, really, that’s how they talk about gunshots, being quick and painless), or if I associate it with my first glimpse of Daisy’s sweet young face.  One minute I’m cringing and laughing along with the others, the next there she was at a table with a few soldiers I knew by face but not by name, her face like a star in all its beauty, filling the room with her unveiled joy to be exactly where she was in that moment.  She too had become temporarily distracted by Johnny’s fork, so I thought I would use the opportunity to begin a conversation while I had the chance.

The two privates hassled Daisy, attempting to force her closer to the carnage, while she pretended to resist and playfully covered her eyes only to peek through them every few seconds.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said smiling at her.  “His brothers overseas have seen far worse shrapnel than that.”

“I’d imagine so,” she responded, shrugging off her captors at the first opportunity.  I took this as an encouraging indication of her disinterest in their companionship.  “But it’s likely he thought he’d escape it, being stationed in Louisville for the present.”

“This only proves that a man can be struck down by anything or anyone.  One must always be on his guard.”

“That he must,” she said, “especially with someone like me around.”  She smiled. 

“What are you drinking?” I asked.

“Scotch,” she said.

“You’re not as nice as you look then?” I asked.

“No, I am.  I just like a strong drink.”

“I’m Jay Gatsby,” I said, taking her hand.

“Daisy Fay.  We should get that drink.  I’m almost empty.”

We spent the evening talking, by which I mean she spoke and I listened.  But oh, to have her sweet breath on my face, her mellifluous chords singing well into the night!  I regret to say I may have misled her slightly as to the current situation of my wealth (or lack thereof), but by that point I had been lying to myself far longer and so the slight untruths came naturally and without a thought to morality.

I think now may be the time to come clean with you, old sport.  I’ve only hinted at it until now, but it seems necessary for you to know if you’re going to understand any of this.  So let me come out with it.  I was not born in North Dakota as you’ve been told by my dear friend Nick Carraway, nor New York, nor Europe, or anywhere else on God’s green Earth (as the saying goes).  I was born beyond the Omega Centauri, on a planet called Galafar and did not come to be Gatsby until after the man had changed his name from James Gatz and embraced an ambition to attain the lifestyle of a wealthy and beloved man.

My people are essentially a planet of mercenaries; our weapons are superior to that of most races, so we travel through space (though not time—we haven’t conquered that vital force just yet) and fight for whoever pays the most.  You might ask how I ended up on Earth, a place with little knowledge of any life beyond its own atmosphere, but that is a story for another time.  The point is that during his training, the real Jay Gatsby came upon a fatal accident—a stray bullet to the brain—and I merely took his place.  So you see the man brought up in simple North Dakota ceased to exist before ever meeting Daisy Fay.  I was the one who loved her, and it was for more than the reasons you’ve been thinking.  You see, she was the only one I ever told about my secret.

One autumn night, Daisy and I had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and we came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight.  It was there we stopped and turned toward each other.  A cool night chill ran through us, and a sense of invigoration that comes with the changing of the seasons filled me up.  There was a stir and bustle among the stars that I could not ignore—the stars called to me, you see, and though there had not existed for years a place I could call home except the emptiness of space, my heart ached for it in the same way it ached for Daisy.  I asked myself what would happen if I finally let someone know what I was.  After a life of fighting in wars, inhabiting the bodies of other beings, I desperately needed something of my own.

Before I could ever kiss her or anything beyond, I had to show her the stars.

“Daisy,” I said.  “I have to tell you something.”

Her soft lashes flicked apart as my words interrupted the stillness of the night.  “What is it, darling?”

“I’m not…who you think I am.”

I could see the fear clutch at her chest.  She hesitated but eventually came out with her question.  “You’re poor?”

“Not exactly,” I said.

I could see the concern on her face fade slightly.  “Then what is it?” she asked.  “Nothing you say will change the way I feel about you, Jay.”

“It’s that.”

“What?  I didn’t say anything.”


“It’s your name, isn’t it?”

I sighed.  I knew then that what I wanted to say couldn’t really be said.  It was an action that had to be taken. 

“Hold my hand,” I said.  Her fingers melded with mine, I looked into her blue eyes and told her to close them.  Probably thinking I would kiss her, she did so with the slightest of smiles on her face.  “Now, if you could travel through space, to the farthest star, would you do it?”

“Since when do you play at hypotheticals?”

“Humor me.”

“Okay, then yes, of course.  Who wouldn’t want to see the loveliness of the stars at their very doorstep?”

“You’re right,” I said.  “Who wouldn’t?”

Before she could think of protesting—not that she would have—I pulled her close to me and focused my mind upon the act.  I felt the familiar whirling, the stomach leaping to chest like being upside down underwater, and then we were floating through space looking out at the Earth below us.  In my lifetime I have seen hundreds of planets, but on that evening Earth became my favorite, winning me over in both quality of looks and content.  Its vivid primary colors strike the eye with the force of a sword, nearly cutting you to pieces.  And of course on the inside, it held the woman I loved.

It’s so breathtakingly beautiful, said Daisy. 

It is.

Why can’t I feel my body?

Our bodies are on Earth, I said.

If we aren’t our bodies, what are we?

Our true selves.

It’s marvelous.

I told her then about my life as a wandering soldier with no place to call home.  She asked whether I had free will to go where I wanted and I said I did only to an extent.  Once we attained a body, we could not claim a new body until the old one died.  Being a warrior made that easy enough; I had died multiple times in an afternoon, in fact.  We also had the power to force entities into the bodies of others.

Do you see now, old sport, why I couldn’t just forget about her, move on to some other far distant galaxy?  I think we could have been happy there for all eternity, our essences intermingling like stardust with all the other molecules serving their place in the universe.  But I could feel our bodies pulling us back to their decaying prisons, and resistance for much longer would have been pointless.

When we were back on Earth in the bodies we’d been assigned, I looked at Daisy and I knew that given the choice between eternity and her, I would have to choose her.  My heart beat faster and faster as her white face came up to my own.  I waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star.  And then we kissed.

In the weeks that followed, we spent every moment together, both on Earth and in the space above, and I regret to say I spent far too much of that time dreading the day when I would be called to action in the war—like a pawn on a chess table I would have no choice but to be moved.  I would fight knowing that if I died, I might never see her again; though I had explained to her the temporary nonessential ways of the body, there was no way I could guarantee that she would not move on and forget me, or if I showed up again in a different body she might not believe it was me at all, but rather some imposter.

“Maybe we should have a secret word,” she suggested one afternoon as we lay about in the garden of her home, bundled against the biting breeze and the coolness of the fast-approaching winter.  “A way for me to know if you show up in the body of some other battle-beaten man when the war is over.”

“A secret word?  Like…pecan pie?”

“It could be anything really.  But it would be nice to have something that’s special to us, wouldn’t it?”

“Why yes, I suppose that’s true.”

“But it can’t really be special unless you take me there.”

“What are you getting at, Daisy?  Take you where?”

“Take me to Galafar.  I want to see the place you came from.”

Until that moment, I had never known she had cared so much and it touched me to my core.  I wondered if she would be upset after I told her the truth.  “My darling, I would love nothing better than to show you the place I came from.  But unfortunately that is impossible.”

“But why?  You’ve taken me into space dozens of times now, even out to the end of the galaxy, yet you can’t take me to your home?  Is it too distant?”

“My home no longer exists, Daisy.  It was destroyed.”

I saw tears come to her eyes at the emotional pain that discussing this clearly brought me.  “That’s awful.  How?”

“My people are warriors.  Other planets felt threatened by us, so they formed a coalition to make sure we could never hurt them.  We were ambushed before anyone knew what was happening.  There was barely enough time for my parents to send me away, before I could look back at my planet from space and see it implode, disappear as though it had never existed at all.”

“Were you the only survivor?”

“No, there are others.  But we keep our distance from each other—it’s simply too painful.”

“I can’t imagine not having a place to call home.”

I looked her in the eyes and took her face in my hands.  “I do now, dear.  I do now.”

She closed her eyes as I kissed her temples, then said, “That should be our code word.”

“What?” I asked.

“Home,” she said.

Not long after that day, I left for France.  I thought of her day and night and knew I had to do my best to get back to her as quickly as possible, but there would be nothing to prevent it if this war went on for years or if I lost my body in the process (for I had begun to think of it as my body, the body that had loved Daisy Fay).

It broke me inside to hear she had married another man.  Part of me wondered if her body had perhaps been filled with a placeholder while the true Daisy had left her body behind to search for me.  But I knew this was wishful thinking; she did not have those kinds of powers.  The real reason, I believed, was far more superficial.  Even though she had given me a home, as a wandering mercenary, I could never provide her with one in return, a place like the one she had grown up in, where we had first met.  This Tom Buchanan she had married obviously had the means to give her exactly that.

I spent the next few years making money any way that I could.  Bootlegging.  Even killing men.  When at last I was able, I moved into that grand house on West Egg and threw parties in the hope that Daisy would come and see that I had changed, that I could provide her with that which she thought I had been lacking.  But she never came to my parties, so it was a stroke of luck when I was able to make the acquaintance of her cousin Nick (a man you all surely know intimately by now so I will not diverge) and negotiate a reintroduction between Daisy and myself.

I almost cried at the sight of her.

“I certainly am awfully glad to see you again,” Daisy said.

And then a terrible lengthy pause.  I was so nervous I almost knocked over Nick’s clock on the mantel, and there was some awkward chatter.  Nick went into the kitchen; I followed and when he reprimanded me, saying I was acting like a child, it snapped something into place.  I went back into the room and sat beside her on the couch. 

“Five years is a long time,” she said.  Her face was still her face, hardly changed, milky white.  Her hair was shorter, that was all.

“Is it?” I said.  “I’ve lived a long time; the years pass like hours.”

She said nothing, so I moved closer and tried to pull her to me.  “Don’t,” she said.  But I hadn’t come this far to acquiesce to a faint utter of protest, so I held her tightly to my chest until her body slackened.

“Let me take you there,” I whispered in her ear.

We were spinning and I could feel all of the blood in my body and then we were no longer in our bodies at all.  There were minutes (though who can say how long it was because time means nothing outside the body) of suspension in nothing but darkness.  Perhaps that is what it is like to be dead, surrounded in blissful blackness with an acute awareness of your essence and nothing more.

At last there appeared a field of stars like a million beads, such bright brilliance that we could hardly have seen if we’d had eyes.  They surrounded us in every direction and I felt Daisy’s bliss vibrating beside me.

Where are we? she asked.

The Omega Centauri, I said, outside where Galafar used to be.

You brought me to your home?

It hurts to hear you call it that.

But it was.

And so were you.

You’ve given me such an amazing gift.  A million diamonds could never shine as bright or mean as much as this, here, now.

I thought that you deserved to see it.  I should’ve shown you a long time ago.  But I was afraid.


Scared to return here.  To the destruction.  But I see now that it’s as beautiful as it ever was, at least out here.

Can we stay awhile?

Of course.

When we went back to Earth at last, I looked into Daisy’s face and there were tears upon it.  I knew that we understood one another then.

“I love you,” I said.  “Do you love me?”


She had started to say it back, but it was then that Nick entered the room.  Yet nearly hearing her say those amazing words back had elated me—I felt like I was glowing from my pores.

“Oh, hello old sport,” I vaguely remember saying to Nick.  Daisy was all I could see.

We began an affair.  How excruciatingly wonderful it was to have her in my arms, to kiss her, to hold her and have her all for my own!  No words can describe our passion.  All I can say about it now is that it was too short, our love affair.  Even now, I would give everything I own for only one more night with her.  Naked, our bodies would lie on their sides facing each other, and when she drifted off to sleep I would time my inhales with her exhales so that I could breathe in her soul.  Oh Daisy, how I love her still!

After her husband Tom confronted us about our love in that stuffy hotel room, after she said she loved both of us (equally perhaps?  The thought makes me sick.), I had a crisis of faith.  I started to doubt that any of it had been real at all.

I didn’t mean to kill her.  Daisy.  My darling dearest love.  But the combination of anger and military training took over me as she was driving the car.  When we came to a clear stretch of highway, I told her to pull over so that I could talk to her, so she did.

“How could you do this to me?” I said.  “We were going to run away together.  I did everything you ever asked of me.  How could you still love him, want to be with him?”

“Please don’t.”

“Answer me, damnit.”

“You shouldn’t cry over me, Jay.  It’s not worth doing.  You’ve shown me things that I never dreamed of in my life, but I just can’t be with you.  It’s all too strange.  What happens when you have to move on to another planet to fight in another war?  Where will that leave me?”

“I’m done with all that.  I’m staying in this body to a ripe old age, so that we can live and die together.  In love.”

“I don’t believe you can do it, Jay,” said Daisy.  “And all it takes is one day for you to decide you miss your old life, then you’re gone for good.  Which would leave me with nothing.  It makes more sense to stay with Tom.”

“Why won’t you believe that I would never leave you?”

She hesitated.  “Because you’re a liar, Jay.  It’s what you are.”

These words triggered an anger in me beyond anything I thought possible.  I grabbed her throat and squeezed.


Before her essence left her body, she managed to mouth one little word: “Home.”  And then she was gone.

After I finished, I began to sob uncontrollably.  It wasn’t until I heard a voice that I managed to stop and look for the person who had spoken.

“Is she dead?”

It was Myrtle Wilson.  Daisy had unknowingly stopped near Wilson’s repair shop and Myrtle had seen the whole thing.  This was the woman who apparently loved Tom Buchanan—oh, if only we could have all been with the person we loved most!

I nodded.  Before I knew what plan I was really formulating, I said to Mrytle, “Do you want to be with Tom Buchanan?”

Her eyes got wide, but she nodded.  “More than anything.”

I explained to her what would happen if I went through with the plan and though she wasn’t the most intelligent of beings, she got the gist.

“I’ll do it,” she said.

I held Myrtle’s face in my hands and she put hers on Daisy’s.  We closed our eyes.  If I couldn’t make it right with Daisy, at least I could do something for this woman.  Before long, Daisy’s eyes (now technically Myrtle’s eyes, but still Daisy’s physical body) fluttered to life.  Myrtle dropped to the ground, lifeless.

“Sorry about this,” I said, starting the car.  I ran over Myrtle’s body leaving a deep gash in her side, then sped off home with the new Daisy beside me.

Old sport, I hoped Wilson would kill me for it.  I deserved to die for what I’d done to Daisy, die and never return to Earth again.

Just barely, I felt the rush of water after I’d been shot, enveloping me in its cold indifference.  And then I was back in space, looking for a place to call home.


Breaking up is hard to do but not as hard as loving you!

The Top Six Worst Places to Break Up with Your Man (who loved you and devoted his life to your Relationship, you ungrateful bitch.)

Breaking up is hard to do.  That’s how the saying goes anyway.  It’s a subject to which numerous song writers, sexperts, and teenagers have dedicated their lives.  This is why I think it’s about time there was a guide to follow so that your next breakup doesn’t turn out as nightmarish as it might’ve had you been left to your own devices.

First, let’s get a few things straight.  Breakups are difficult for everyone involved, but they are infinitely harder for the breaker than the breakee.  The questions of how to do it, what to say, when, and most importantly where it goes down are all left to the person doing the breaking up.  The other person just has to sit there listening and deciding how much to cry.  My second point is that breakups are substantially harder when you are a girl doing the soul-crushing.  Women are used to being “put in their place” so most of us know how to take breakups in stride.  Men, on the other hand, almost always take it personally; their instincts tell them we are saying they can’t provide for us and their penis is too small (though occasionally these subjects do creep into the actual breakup argument).  We women also have to constantly think about ways to keep from being brutally stabbed, strangled, and/or smothered.  Or even shot (if you are with the kind of man who is passionate about the second amendment).  Choice of setting can be everything in these desperate times, and can be the difference between a treatable black eye and a not-as-treatable female circumcision, so pay close attention to my tutorial.

The Internet/Text Message

In all honesty, technology is not the worst technique to use in a breakup.  You can be sure you’re saying exactly what you mean and you can take hours to write it all down if you want.  And of course, it leaves a certain amount of distance between your frail body and his brass knuckles. 

But there are definitely ways that technology should not be used.  It’s probably a bad idea to beat the high score on his favorite classic arcade game and make the initials BYE—although it is concise.  But it is also not very sensitive and will ruin forever something that could have given him solace in this difficult time.  Also, if you’ve been desperate to lose your dude, and he sends you a text or Facebook message asking why you’ve been so “distant” lately, don’t take that as a cue to disappear for three weeks.  Show a little respect.  At the very least send him a detailed reply with a clear thesis statement and three supporting paragraphs saying why you can no longer be together.  Every relationship, no matter how insignificant, at least deserves an essay of high school freshman caliber.

His Car

Most men take pride in their car, no matter how shitty it is.  As someone who is apparently only capable of dating men who drive Dodge Neons (the color varies), I can speak to this fact.  So breaking up with them in their car is actually equivalent to kicking them in the groin.  “But I don’t care if this hurts them,” you might argue.  “They kind of deserve it.”  That’s all well and good, but in this case you’re going to have to think from a different point of view.  Do you need them to drive you home after you’re finished stomping on their balls like they’re grapes you want to make wine out of?  Yes?  Do you have money for a cab?  No?  Then you probably shouldn’t say anything that is going to cause him to take both of your lives by smashing into a brick wall or plummeting off a bridge and into the cold dark water below.  Which brings me to…

In or Around Water

As most women know, drowning is the easiest way to be killed by a man.  I don’t know why you would end a relationship while relaxing in a bubble bath or hot tub, but if you were considering it before now, don’t do it.  All it takes is him deciding to hold you under for a minute or so and it’s all over.  He could end it even quicker if you leave your hair dryer plugged into the wall and within reach of the bathtub. 

Finally, when in the bath or ocean or above ground pool, you are either wearing few clothes or none at all.  Why give him an excuse to have one last go on your irresistible bod?  In my experience, the best way to avoid being raped is to wear as many clothes as possible.  Difficult clasps, zippers, and strong fabric are also preferable because men often become bored or frustrated when a task is not easy enough to complete in a timely manner.  There’s an old saying, “When water isn’t breeding mosquitoes, it’s breeding humans.”  So take your birth control pill and stay away from Jacuzzis, no matter how fun they are.

Anything Involving an Airport or Vacation

So your man is really starting to irritate the hell out of you lately.  Who knows what it is—maybe he drinks too much or sits on his ass all the time or simply isn’t John Cusack.  The point is you want to get rid of him.  The problem?  You are going on vacation in a few weeks and need a ride to the airport and/or a companion for said already-paid-for all-inclusive vacay.  As you discovered the last time you were single, cabs are expensive, public transportation is not a viable option for an upscale looking woman like yourself, and dining in fancy restaurants alone makes you very uncomfortable.  The best thing, you figure, is to hold out until all the airport stuff is out of the way and you no longer need him, right?  Wrong.  One of four things can happen: 

1. You’re on your way to the airport and have a huge fight.  He crashes and you die. 

2. You have a huge fight on the plane, the pilot crashes, and everyone on the plane dies (or the plane doesn’t crash but you have a long uncomfortable flight sitting next to someone you desperately hate). 

3. You have a huge fight while on vacation about how much sex you’re not having, he kills you, and you die. 

4. While on vacation you rediscover the person you first fell in love with, have an amazing time, but then go back to the real world and realize it was the vacation goggles, he still sucks, and you kill yourself. 

Any of those scenarios sound good to you?  Just go ahead and take care of business now, before it’s too late.

His Mother’s Funeral

This one kind of speaks for itself.  There’s a two week grieving policy that should always be respected, even if he hated his mother or she hated you.  No one will blame you for silently cursing her corpse, but at least do it while wearing black and holding her son’s hand.  And who knows, he may have some cute cousins.

A Place that was “Special”

As all women know, men tend to get pretty sentimental and overemotional when it comes to relationships.  They remember every date and every kiss, the place you first told them you loved them, and the fast food restaurant where you said you found his family annoying.  God forbid you forget a birthday or anniversary because your man will never let you live it down.  This is why you should do your very best to avoid any of these places when choosing a breakup location.  The last thing you want is more guilt to be heaped upon the already steaming pile.  Maybe try out that new italian place you've been hearing great things about.  You'll avoid sentimentality, plus carbo-loading doesn't just help before a race-- it soothes the aching soul.  Besides, there is always that slim chance he will attempt to chase you down with an ax the following day in which case carbo-loading will have been completely appropriate.

And there you have it.  Break those hearts gently, ladies. 


Extracted from my own subconscious

After first seeing the movie Inception at a screening over a week ago, I felt it might be necessary for me to write a review of some kind, if not as an explanation for others, then as a way to analyze the film in my own mind.  So for ten days, I've replayed it--both in my mind and once literally as I went to see Inception a second time over the weekend--and read a number of articles speaking both in favor of its merits and against its problematic aspects.  Obviously, not everyone can love such a film-- it is perhaps difficult to understand on first viewing, open to many interpretations, and some say lacks emotional weight in favor of explanation and visual spectacle (on which point I passionately disagree).  I imagine not everyone can love Inception in the same way not everyone loves Lost or the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Too lengthy, too confusing, too unrealistic.  What can I say, some people were just meant to be philestines--not everyone was born with my superior intelligence.  How can I describe the ways this movie has come to enliven my mind in the days since I have experienced all its greatness and wonder and intelligence?  Why did it affect me (and numerous others) so, and fail to leave any impact on others (aside from perhaps an ability to get to know their own dreams better as it put them to sleep)?  All I can really speak of are my own thoughts, thusly.

I would argue that Inception is less a movie about dreams and more about the way we perceive reality.  Writer/director Christopher Nolan admitted to being influenced by The Matrix and that is one way it shows.  Dreams, alternate realities, and time travel are all subjects that interest me more than most others, so to see such ideas placed within a talented cast and captivating story, not to mention incredible visual effects, excited me greatly.  If you haven't seen the film yet, I don't know why you're reading this blog post, but it involves a man named Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) who extracts information from people's subconsciouses for power-hungry corporations, illegally and at great risk to himself and his team members.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays one of those team members, Arthur; it is his job to research the target before entering into a shared dream; Cobb hires Ariadne (Ellen Page) as his architect to design the world of the dream, and Eames (Tom Hardy) as the forger to disguise himself as an important player in the plan.  Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb to perform inception, or place an idea into Fischer's (Cillian Murphy) subconscious-- that he will break up his father's empire.  This is the "heist" part of the film and its main focus-- meanwhile, Mal (Marion Cotillard) haunts Cobb's dreams as he believes he wronged her before her death and has become obsessed.  Ariadne decides to make it her mission to help Cobb purge himself of Mal, but it's unclear until the end whether this is possible.  Okay, enough summary.

Nolan apparently worked on the script for ten years before making Inception and the careful attention to detail and deep thought show on the screen.  Every scene appears so carefully interwoven, every difficult question answered coherently and succinctly--something like the idea of the totem each person is meant to carry so that they can determine whether they are living in reality or someone else's dream becomes essential to understanding the story, and we get exactly the ammount of information we need.  As the characters descent to deeper dream levels, we never lose track of where we are in time as Nolan continues to shift back to show us the van falling off the bridge, Arthur moving a gravity-free bundle of unconscious dreamers into an elevator (one of the coolest things I've ever seen, by the way), Eames defending the ice-covered fort, and finally the depths of the lost subscious world, the decaying city Cobb and Mal created for themselves all those years ago (or was it mere months?).  These moments where we go up the levels and then down again also managed to create great suspense where it may not have been.  I also love how Nolan solved the problem of "this is only a dream" mentality with their heist mission.  Early on in the film it's easy to come out of the dream when one gets into danger, just die and you wake up.  But if you are too heavily sedated to wake up, what then?  It raises the stakes and makes the dream world become more like the real one.

The acting in Inception is so excellent, not a part miscast, even Ken Watanabe who is at times difficult to understand could not be replaced.  Though not on the screen for long, Cillian Murphy's Fischer affected me on both viewings as I watched him come to grips with his feelings for his father.  Though he was being unduly influenced by the team of inceptors, the idea that a good feeling is stronger than a bad one ultimately left Fischer with closure, or at least the kind that can come from a dream.  Though Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's characters were not as developed as Dicaprio's, I automatically liked them and felt they brought depth to their roles.  In addition to the acting, the music left me reeling.  Hans Zimmer is a genius and that's all I will say about that.

Ultimately, though the visuals floored me, I'm most interested in the film's ending.  In the climactic scene, Cobb has finally returned home to his children, whose faces he finally sees, has left the totem spinning on the table, in fact completely disregarded it because it seems he no longer cares whether this is reality or a dream-- he has accepted it as his reality no matter what the result.  For this reason, Nolan does not let the audience see whether the totem's spin dies out or remains perpetual; but the bigger reason he does not allow us to see, is to instill (incept?) the idea that we can never truly know what is real.  We only know what we perceive and what our brains interpret can be a falsity.  Cobb knew he loved Mal, and so his projection of Mal argued with him that she was the only thing he knew was real anymore.  It argued with him to stay in the world of the subconscious, but ultimately he could not stay there because he knew "Mal" was only his projection of her.  My hope of course is that in the final scene his children are not mere projections, though I lean toward that interpretation as everything in the scene is so closely repeated to what has gone before.  My plan for when I get the dvd is to see whether the children are wearing the same clothes in that final scene has they had been doing before, but I suppose that could be interpreted as coincidence as well.  I do find the final minutes of the movie very odd-- Cobb wakes up from the subconscious world before we see Saito kill himself or Cobb, we hear no words from the other characters on the plane but are given mere smiles, he arrives home where we get the same shots as Nolan used to indicate Cobb's dreamworld.  It's all very frustrating, but as I said, it seems the best interpretation would be that we can never know for sure if Cobb is waking or dreaming.  Perhaps all waking is a form of dreaming or vice versa.  All I know is Inception is my favorite movie of the year, possibly my favorite movie since Return of the King in 2003.  I hope I was able to somewhat coherently communicate why.


Welcome, Interwebbers

Hello, everyone!

My name is Erica and I have a website!  I think that makes me an official real "person."  There's simply no sufficient way to prove you exist unless you are widely available on the internet and its web-browsing compatriots.  I sneer at the writers who say they don't want to waste time blogging or on Facebook because-- guess what-- now nobody wants to read your book, you elitist.  Except for maybe other elitists.  Though I consider myself an elitist of sorts, I dabble in it (I really enjoy crochet and pretending to recycle).  Where was I going with this?  Well, I'm a writer.  A poet.  I'm in an MFA program and working on two novels, so that when I get bored with one project I can skip over to the other one.  Denis Johnson said that was a good way to go about it, and he's a National Book Award winner and a strange person, so I guess I should listen to him.  I have to agree with anyone who gives me an excuse to be lazy (his other philosophy is about "waiting," something you can read more about in the upcoming issue of Reed Magazine, the literary mag of which I was Fiction Editor this past year!).

I feel like I'm babbling a lot.  I don't want to babble.  I want to entertain you.  So please, stalk my website.  I encourage it.  Follow me on Twitter (@cupcakeable).  Friend me on Facebook, though I'm sure most of you came here from there.  Everyone loves to say, I knew her before she was famous.  Don't be a bandwagon-jumper.  Be part of the band!  And if you don't, I'll stuff your face in a tuba.