Aug. 26th, 2014 | 05:11 pm
2) In your daypack, carry a water bottle and sunscreen;2 Hindu rites can be long, and you may be standing in the sun for an extended time.
3) Wear comfortable shoes, too!3
4) Find a safe place to stand.4 Be aware of people around you.5
5) Observe local customs.6
6) Attempting to speak the local language can go a long way. Even a few key phrases will help you fit in.
इसे रोकने के, मैं कमबख्त इतनी मेहनत से आप चुटकी जाएगा
“Ruk SAA-le VAR-na mai IT-ni jor se CHIK-o-ti ka-TUN-gi tuj-HE”7
इस मेरे गधे को छू रोक रहा है जो कोई भी
“AH-be ME-re PI-che jo bhi hath DI-a, HA-ta le JAL-di SE”8
7) When in doubt, take your cue from the actions of those around you.9
1 The color of mourning is white. Not knowing you were going to a funeral, your violet Punjabi dress will have to do.
2 Slip the baggie of your father’s ashes in your pocket. You promised him far places. Perhaps his grey, gritty, posthumous self will be less racist.
3 In Mumbai there are 58,000 taxis, 71,550 buses and 246,458 auto-rickshaws. When the city reverently declares a bandh, or has that total shut-down imposed upon them by stick-wielding young men in shirts of Shiv Sena orange, none of them will be running. You will take a train to Dadar, then walk the eerie streets emptied of traffic, every shop’s steel door rolled down, every post and tree decked in orange bunting and Indian flags.
4 The crowd of eleven lakh people (just over or under a million, depending on the political affiliation of those counting), will fill the seven-street intersection of Gadkari Chowk, every building and every tree decked with men and the biggest building decked with a five-story photo of Bal Thackeray. At this point, you will realize you are the only woman here alone, and the only white person. This is not a good time to refer to Thackeray as “the Hitler of India,” mention suicide bombers, or bring up the 1992 riots that killed Dev Patel’s mother in Slumdog Millionaire.
The men will push you forward and press against you in a way you are not quite sure is sexual harassment. If you wave your little green digital camera, it will be assumed you are a journalist. The police will beckon you through the human chain making an aisle through the crowd, allowing you to join the free-roaming reporters. Watch where their cameras point, and point your camera, too.
5 Your father’s voice in your head says, “you look like a marshmallow in a bag of raisins.” You are ashamed to think his thought, but grateful to hear his voice.
6 The funeral truck, decked in flowers like a Rose Bowl float, will be pulled toward you by mourners hauling ropes tied to the bumper. When the crowd surges into the wake of the truck, flow into them. Ignore the grabbing hands reaching for your flesh in the folds of your salwar khameez. At least they aren’t treating you like a tourist.
When the truck reaches Shivaji Park and the body is unloaded, the crowd will surge again. You must stay upright. If you fall, you will be trampled. If you pass a policeman and are yanked back, do not panic. Politely unhitch the strap of your bag from his gun and step again into the mosh pit of sadness. You must stay upright. Your look of distress will be recognized by a man on the truck in mourning white. You will recognize him from the front page. When he jumps down gallantly to shield you with his body from the crowd, he will rub his dick on you with great vigor. Shame him.
7 “Stop it, I will fucking pinch you so hard.”
8 “Whoever this is, stop touching my ass.”
9 Your whiteness will ease your path into the park. A wreath from the pile provided for mourners will ease your path toward the stage. And when you pause at the foot of the stairs, uncertain, Sonia Gandhi will turn to you with solemn eyes and reach back her hand.
At your guest house, your host will receive a phone call from London. “Is your lodger a white lady in a violet Punjabi dress? She is even now on the television, touching the feet of Bal Thackeray.”
You will cross the stage like a dream, the sea of faces, the sea of orange, the flutter of flags replaced by the licking of flames. A son will walk around the pyre, a son who was in time for his father’s death, held his father’s hand at the bedside, lit his father’s fire.
You will wish again that you had been in time. You will wish that you, too, had the power to stop a city, to cover it with streamers, to say, My father is dead. Mourn with me.
You will sit cross-legged on the grass, among the white sarees of the women’s section, and imagine that you are all mourning together, that Mumbai is mourning your father as well as their own.
whipchick has approached this material before as an essay, but it's still finding a form.
Aug. 19th, 2014 | 04:13 pm
What nobody tells you is that praise—a standing ovation, a good review, your teacher’s approval—makes you feel good for a day, but one line of internet criticism from a stranger will reverberate in your skull forever.
Frankly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.
(I tried to feel bad when that critic killed himself the next year, but I didn’t.)
What nobody tells your boyfriend is that doing three forty-minute shows still leaves you too tired to call home at the end of the day. So does writing 3000 words.
And then feeling guilty about it. But not guilty enough to call.
What nobody tells you, the artist, the writer, is that spending an entire day being paid to do something you love is not the same as fun. It’s often better than fun, but it’s not fun. What nobody tells you is that spending an entire day being paid to do something you love is sometimes a lot less fun than spending an entire day doing something you love for free.
What nobody tells you is that selling out is strangely comforting. That once you’ve decided to package your product and suck a little corporate dick for the chance to show most of what you like to do but structured as a James Bond theme and wearing black and yellow because it goes with the logo, the large check that ensues will feel earned. That paying rent with your art money feels like finally growing up. That you probably can come up with five hundred words about margarine and even feel proud of making it sound like something people would eat. (Please don’t.)
What nobody tells you is that if you believe in yourself and dream big dreams you will still come in second to someone who worked hard. Or to a talentless hack related to the producer. Or to someone sleeping with the editor. Or to your best friend whom you will have to congratulate as sincerely as possible. Or to someone no better than you and there will be no reason at all.
What nobody tells you is that if you believe in yourself and dream big dreams and work hard you can accomplish anything, but if you’re willing to wear a sexy outfit while accomplishing it, you’ll get paid a lot more.
What nobody tells you is that you have to be the kind of person who can hear a hundred no’s before you get to yes, and that if you are not that kind of person, selling your art may not be for you. Here, let’s practice:
No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. I’ll call you back. No. No. No. No. No. We went with someone else. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. My cousin will do it for free. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. This did not fit our needs at this time; we sincerely wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. No. No. No. No. No. NO. No. No. No. NO. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No response means no. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. NO. Next! No. No. No. No. No. My boss said no. My editor said no. No. No. No. No. No. NO. Sorry. No. No.
Speaking editorially, we should get to yes here, but it’s better to experience the dissatisfaction of not having our expectations fulfilled, so that we can quit before it crushes us. Or, so that we can immunize ourselves.
So that we can say, I am blue. My work is blue. The blue of a thousand cerulean seas. The blue of Texas bluebells. The stunning blue of the sky from the top of the mountain. The deep blue of sapphires. The gentle blue of my mother’s eyes. The best blue.
They might want red.
And what nobody tells you is that it’s not up to you to be red, and that whether or not you want to make your blue more of a purple, or draw a crimson border around it, or pass out violet-tinted glasses to all your readers, it is a choice. Your choice. Your choice to change or to stay the course, and neither of those are wrong.
It is not a cruel world full of no.
It is a beautiful world in which the one (or many) persons to whom your work speaks are waiting for you. Waiting for you to grow, to revise, to polish, to publicize, to sell, to share. Waiting for you to make art they love and will pay for.
Go and find them.
whipchick is working an event at the biggest mall in Kuwait this week. It is more than a mile long and has six Starbucks. It is also beautiful. And tiring as hell.
Aug. 10th, 2014 | 11:10 am
Re: Copier Jam
As per your request, I have investigated the persistent disrepair of our production team’s Xerox2000RQXColorSpeed. The system’s twelve error messages all trace back to a single source: sideways slippage of the main copier housing due to heavy pressure. This is unmistakably connected to the strange appearance in the recycling bin of multiple color copies of two large, fleshy globules, one marked with a strange sign.
Some might say that a “reasonable explanation” would be access to the copier after hours by some person or persons with both a copier code and a tattoo of a fish leaping up a waterfall on their right buttock. But if we set aside “logic” there is a clear conclusion: the copier room must be situated on the intersection of two ley lines. These powerful beacons helped aliens land their ships thousands of years ago, and have puzzled mainstream scientists for centuries. Now, they alter the very nature of our toner cartridge.
Recommendation: relocate copier to second floor.
“The Salmon” LOL
Re: Re: Staff Lunchroom Etiquette
Mr. P, thanks for the clarification on “personal food” and “coffee maker politeness.” I agree that names written in indelible marker on plastic lunch containers should be respected.
Examining the available evidence, we are left with many questions. What human would be able to leave exactly one-quarter inch of coffee in the pot without starting a new one, every time? Who in modern civilization could be so precise without any means of empirical measurement? How is it possible that any single staff member at The History Channel would be able to identify and distinguish leftover Chinese (yuck!) from a delicious meatloaf sandwich sealed in impregnable, fully-burped Tupperware? I believe this is a mystery we may never solve.
Recommendation: better choices in first, third and fifth floor vending machines; office-wide Pizza Fridays.
Re: Re: Re: THC Corporation Internet Usage Guidelines
I’d like to further document the “unexplained” consumption of 14GB of streamed video content believed to have originated from the terminal at my desk.
If we research ancient texts, predating recorded human “history,” we see that pre-human societies—such as Atlantis—revered the human figure. So much so that they inspired aliens to visit Earth, impregnate human women, and mutate the underlying structure of our DNA, leading to superhuman strength, superhuman intelligence, and the skin color of John Boehner.
In order to fully investigate these claims, we must closely examine the human form in all possible permutations including social groupings of two or more females and one male; a male of one race with a female of another, and multiple males interacting with a single female. After reviewing more than 76 hours of “XTube,” I can assure you, this hypothesis is not only possible, but quite plausible.
Recommendation: Additional network streaming capacity, system-wide.
Re: Suspension as of 8/10/14
Dear Ms. Lerner:
Thank you for the opportunity to clarify certain matters by adding this letter to my personnel file.
Re: Samantha Collins’ assertions that I contributed to a “hostile work environment”
Examining the available evidence, I am struck by several strange “coincidences.”
1) Ms. Collins recently returned from a vacation spent almost entirely in the Florida Keys. (Source: 35 photos posted to Facebook in a “private” album featuring Ms. Collins in beachwear, daywear, and a smokin’ pink sequin minidress.)
2) The recently-removed poster in the fifth-floor break room included the information that Miss July “loves sandy beaches…and what you can do on them.” (Source: personal knowledge of said poster.)
3) Last week, during the same time that Ms. Collins received several “harassing” calls from a number that appeared to be mine, Earth Astronauts docked at the Space Station in order to “refuel.” (Source: CNN.)
There is only one conclusion possible from the intersection of these facts. The Ancient Aliens production studio building is in fact one point of a “Dragon’s Triangle” in which my colleagues, notably Ms. Collins but probably also Ms. Marshall, Ms. Peterson, and perhaps even Mrs. Pulaski, have been abducted and replaced by alien “changelings.” Could it be that these aliens in human form have misinterpreted my friendly greetings each hour? That their unfamiliarity with our “Earth ways” led them to believe that a simple hug, or compliments on personal grooming were instead “a totally gross come-on”?
I believe a closer examination of the Magna Carta, the Book of Deuteronomy, the Declaration of Independence, and “Shakespeare’s” Complete Works will bear out my theory, and I urge you to challenge your “logical” beliefs and set aside “science” for an unbiased review of all available evidence.
I have the greatest respect for you, my colleagues, and The History Channel, and I hope that following my two-week suspension from the Ancient Aliens production team, we will be able to put these matters behind us.
Mark D. Salmone
Boom Operator (suspended)
Ancient Aliens/The History Channel
whipchick's guy had Ancient Aliens on TV for 6 hours yesterday. However, it was while he cleaned the entire house, so go aliens! Crop circles for everyone! Yes, please tell me exactly where the Ark of the Covenant is! My floors are spotless!
Aug. 3rd, 2014 | 03:28 pm
This is the blood you’ll remember
The blood and the thump
Of the squirrel under the wheel
That you will never forget
Not ten years later
When you are no longer seated in the passenger side
When you have (at last!) taken off the ring
Scroll through the contacts list
And find her, Anna
The graceful sweep of her arm
So like her, her classmates’ imitation
Was a single gesture
Sharp as the turning of a wheel
Sharp as bloody broken glass
A bundle surrounded by marigolds
The flower of worship
The flower of death made into garlands
Draping a white-wrapped stranger on the pavement
Outside the window of my taxi
Rushing through Bombay
Rushing past the sidewalk funeral
I took my father to the Ganges
I kept a copied page from Anna’s journal
(And her number in my phone)
We, her once-teachers, sat at the courthouse table
On the same side
The judge expecting a reconciliation. No,
We said, dissolve us into ashes.
whipchick still remembers Anna K. Bonde.
Jul. 27th, 2014 | 02:39 pm
I knew right then. It was the distant thumping bassline of Calvin Harris singing “Feel so close to you right now,” that told me. The irony was too perfect not to walk away.
No. Not then, it was the night before. When I sat in the back of your one-man show and heard the story that made fun of me. Your half-guilty glance over the audience, knowing I was there, the same furtive look that came before the giggle every time I asked you what you liked in bed.
Now I remember. It was the week before, when we came out of another show together. My ridiculous platform sandals caught on the broken pavement and sent me sprawling. Your words were so concerned, your hands so very still. I acted like I was fine so our friends wouldn’t see.
No. It was three days before that, when I told you I’d had to pull the car over to weep, and you asked for some reading material about depression because you didn’t understand. Because, you had to admit, you always heard about “depressed” people (air quotes yours) and wondered why they didn’t just pull their socks up and get on with it.
No—I think it might have been ten days earlier, when you brought over everything I’d left behind you’d promised to bring me but added the sun hat (useless in Canada) that I’d said I was keeping at your place.
Maybe it was back in South Africa, when I said I was scared of ghosts and you told me about the one in your apartment the night before you left for the week. With the car. I will admit, mocking my fear later made a great seven minutes in your show. Nice punchline.
It was before that, I’m certain. When we sat around the table, me reaching the limit of my Afrikaans when your brother said, “It’s just not natural. Just look at the equipment. Two women, maybe. But even so, it’s not right.” I didn’t know the verb, so I got up and emptied the dishwasher so your mother would hug me again.
Really, I knew the day I looked at the yellow stains in the armpits of my white t-shirt and threw it away. You said, “I’d been wondering about that.” I said, “Next time, tell me. I’d tell you.”
It was in February, when the ocean wind made me buy sweaters and you never closed a single window.
No. It was farther back. When I demurred at your offer to pay half the flight, and you didn’t ask twice.
Earlier than that. When I chatted you online for the third time in three days, glad to be with someone I’d crushed from afar for so long, and you typed, “are you always online?”
Wait, I lie. The detail was this. Looking at your Facebook the day after we decided, the day after our week together after our first kiss. The day I flew home from Guadalajara after singing Adele at the top of my lungs in my rental car, drunk with happiness—fairy lights! There had been fairy lights in the trees on the rooftop where you asked me!—and logged on to maybe change my status because you had changed yours. There it was on your wall, that post that was just a smiley from a hot young Mexican guy.
That’s when I knew.
whipchick thinks the penguins at Boulders Beach were worth it.
Jul. 10th, 2014 | 01:24 pm
Yeah, gotta be excited about the things I can, y’know. You all know.
You guys’ve heard it and there ain’t nobody new here, so can I talk about what’s happening right now? Thanks.
See. I’m a nice guy. A nice guy. I know, actions, but hear me out. I used to be a nice guy. I used to throw barbecues, and block parties, pick everyone’s kids up from school when I was working third shift and had my afternoons. But the nicest thing I ever did for that neighborhood—for my neighbors—was move away. Guys I drank beer with, ladies I cut their lawn when their husband was outta town.
Now I’m the meanest damn guy on the street. Got a six-foot fence, got a dog so ain’t nobody try to climb it, and don’t give nobody their ball back. Kids do ring-and-run on my bell, I’m the guy who don’t never come out. I got this meanass dog I can’t even go near, he just sits in the yard and barks all the time. I know I’m bein’ a bad dog owner, you gotta socialize ‘em, gotta train ‘em, but the obedience course is down at the middle school and I can’t go there. I swear I could show you the thousand-foot mark in front of every school and playground in town. So I can’t get the dog—I can’t get him trained. ‘Cause—‘cause—
Thanks. Lemme blow.
‘Cause I’m scared to touch him. I mean, look at me, I ain’t a big guy, but I’m scared to death I am gonna hurt that dog. Like, because I hurt everything I touch. Like I had this beautiful kitten in my house, y’know, you hold it in your hand and its body is this perfect thing, all fragile and strong at the same time. And soft. So soft. When you’re a kid, you always do that thing where you squeeze it—maybe it’s a hamster, or a frog, but y’know what I mean, some little animal—you tighten your hands around it just to see what it’s like. You feel powerful, and then it’s like there’s somethin’ that’s good in you because you didn’t. Because you could have and you didn’t.
But I did. I—
I did what I shouldn’t, and it’s just like I squeezed too hard and killed somethin’. I mean, I could see it in my wife’s—ex-wife’s—face in court, like I killed somethin’ in her, like she was dead. I mean, she stood by me, better or for worse, but once my sentence got settled she told me she could see I was going to be OK and she had to go. I dunno where she moved to. Can’t blame her mama for not takin’ my calls.
So. Today. Bronze chip. But the thing I’m havin’ a hard time with, is that nice guy inside me, he still wants a chance. But the mean guy on the outside, he don’t deserve another chance. I figure the mean guy’s gotta be punished, maybe for as long as that little girl remembers. ‘Cause it’s gonna punish her every day. So why not me, too? Ain’t fair I get to get over it if she has to remember.
Thanks. Can I just have the tissue box please? I’ll pass ‘em when my turn’s done.
So. Yeah. Bronze chip day, three hundred sixty-five days of sexual sobriety, thank you God. But I ain’t sure I’m ever gonna get past Step Nine. I’m turned over to God, I told y’all the exact nature of my wrongs, I got my list of everybody I can think of what I hurt. But there ain’t no way—there is just no way to make amends. That’s somethin’ I can’t ever take away. I can’t ever take it back. No matter how much I sit here and cry in this chair.
My name is John, I’m a sex addict, Hi John. That’s what I’m gonna have to say every day from now on. That’s what I’m gonna say.
whipchick has been to her share of SAA meetings. None of the pedophiles wore raincoats.
Jul. 7th, 2014 | 06:44 pm
Which is weird, to see commercialism in another religion. (Ramadan Collection? Really? You're making this religious holiday about fashion?) It's actually considerably more subtle than Christmas, but it shows up a lot because it's not what I'm used to.
Also in Ramadan - it's a fasting holiday. Between sunrise and sunset, no eating, drinking (including water), smoking or gum in public. Or in your car. Or in view of a window. No music (softly in your car with the windows up is OK for non-Muslims). The grocery store is open, but don't eat anything before you get home. I went shopping after work the other day and got a bottle of mango juice for the ride home (I was starving) and then got into a taxi and realized, 1) I am still in public and 2) the drive is almost certainly Muslim.
At sunset there's a short ceremonial meal of a few dates and water, then prayers, then iftar. Iftar used to mean the dates and the water, and in more strict Muslim countries it still does. But in the UAE, there's the ceremonial dates, a prayer call, and then the iftar buffet. Often in a tent outside the hotel or restaurant (tradition!) but as lavish as a Las Vegas buffet. As if you were eating at the Aladdin and it actually had a connection to Middle Eastern culture.
Here's a nice little blog post about "waddling away from iftar to the mosque".
I'm not a Muslim, and I don't mind eating inside or waiting until dark to go to dinner. But as a writer who writes best in the coffee shop, I am screwed! There is a list of open restaurants--the list fits on one page. I'm switching to night shift writing for awhile.
About an hour before sunset today, I went to a restaurant I had heard was open. Every window had a shade down and the outside patio was packed up and the doors were closed. But a little sign outside said, "Ramadan Kareem! Please be aware that food and drink are served inside this building."
Inside, the place was dim (shades) and dead silent (no music). But they had coffee and they had mango splash (fresh mango juice with mint) and they had unlimited wifi, so write I did. At ten minutes after sunset, the shades went up and the music came on, and in the street outside there were phalanxes of waiters moving to their now-open restaurants.
It was a cultural experience.
That I will continue having for about 21 more days. So much for getting over jet lag.
Jun. 30th, 2014 | 05:07 pm
“You don’t have to if you’re scared,” says the boy, using his big brother voice, not mean.
On the ride home, I’m with our neighbor’s adult son David and two of his three boys. They are eight and ten and worn out, so they sleep in the back and I get the front seat. My mother and the neighbor and my little brother and David’s oldest son—fifteen, two years older than me—are in the car ahead, inner tubes strapped to the roof rack.
We tubed all day, putting in at the headspring, drifting down river for an hour, then catching the shuttle back to the top and doing it again. When the moms were tired of drifting, they sat by the picnic table while we swam in the springs. Diving to the bottom and feeling where the water gushed out, trying to guess how many gallons an hour added up to 400 million a day, letting however much it was push us to the surface or suck us under the current to struggle up for air, coughing, and do it again.
“You don’t have to do it,” says the boy in the cut-offs, and I know I have to. I tread water and take deep breaths.
You can see right to the bottom of the springs. You can see David swim near me as we drift down the Rainbow River. You can see him brush his hand on my leg. You can see my mother’s face as I surface to hear her call, “Come over here, Alli,” with a look that lets me know she has seen, too.
I don’t know who started it. My adult brain knows I jockeyed for that front seat. My adult brain remembers diving down, finding the entrance to the tunnel and kicking in, the tunnel big enough for a kid but not for an adult if I got stuck here no-one could get me the tunnel walls made of rock made of crushed shells made of roughness against my emerald-green racing swimsuit, paper thin with a sport back. I surfaced when he mentioned the rear view mirror. I surfaced to high-fives and did not bother to tell my mother, I did not need her praise for swimming through a tunnel.
That was the most intense thing that’s ever happened to me, David says. The best.
I did not know there were prizes to be won here. But I know I am meant to be a winner. I know I want to be the best.
The next year, I drop off the varsity swim team and do fall musical. David is there one day when I come home after rehearsal, his mom talking to my mom, his new girlfriend being introduced. I am burdened with books, red-faced and sweaty and half in costume and fourteen. I can see in David’s face that I am not what he remembers, and this, too, feels like victory.
whipchick just discovered the Twitter and it's eating her brain.
Jun. 28th, 2014 | 12:01 pm
Love to follow you!
Jun. 21st, 2014 | 01:41 pm
My first day here, the first person I met had just published a book--like, it came out last week--about my family's anarchist colony in the early 20th century. That morning I had also gotten a request from an agent for my full manuscript.
The second day was the evening reading for the teaching assistants--my piece went over very well, and the editor of the literary magazine here asked to publish it.
One of the students in my class speaks Hindi, and is sweet about speaking it with me to practice at breakfast.
The agent offered representation, and I accepted.
I've been asked to come teach a workshop on writing for radio at Ohio State. The Young Writers Program here at Kenyon has also asked if I will come teach next summer in that program. I love working with high school kids! And my class this morning loved my "How To Get Published" talk, so I'm going to plunge forward with making it an online course.
So it has been a pretty wonderful time.
I'm bragging, yes. But I am tremendously thankful, and friends who read me here, your reading and comments and support mean the world. Thanks :)