My Bar

It was always a secret dream of mine to have a local bar that I referred to as my bar and everyone would know what I meant. A bar where I knew the bartenders, knew the regulars, had my own drink. I have that and it is perfect. There is karaoke, I am friends with the owner on Facebook, the delightful bartender with the beautiful tattoos starts making my drink as soon as I walk in.

Yet I did not know for sure that the bar felt the same as I did until last week. You may have guessed from my previous hangover post that I needed some recovery time from the bar. My friend, whom I shall call Anna as she is the Anna to my Elsa (yes, those are going to be our Halloween costumes), and I always go together and between the two of us we were busy / recovering / etc and didn’t make it back for three weeks.

When I walked in the door the bartender shrieked “Well look who decided to show up!”

The karaoke DJ shouted “Check you out waltzing in here after all this time!”

And another regular chimed in with “We thought you’d actually abandoned us!”

I have never felt so loved. So go forth, I say, and find your own dreams. Make them come true. Even if your dreams are to further your alcoholism in a socially acceptable way. No judgment here.

Somewhat Cruel Book Scales

I find Goodreads’ rating system hilarious. It is as follows:

5 star: it was amazing
4 star: really liked it
3 star: liked it
2 star: it was ok
1 star: did not like it

Whereas my personal rating scale is more like:

5 star: mind blown
4 star: fantastic
3 star: mediocre and forgettable
2 star: disappointing and poorly written
1 star: actual garbage

I don’t have time for your nonsense, Goodreads. Either the book is worth reading or it isn’t.

Listening to Your Elders, Especially When They Are Your Betters

In college I had a professor for Fiction Writing named Varley O’Connor. We did not get off to a great start. She told us in no uncertain terms that both of the semester’s short stories had to be realistic fiction, because we had to establish our ability to write realistic things before we should attempt to build our own worlds. Being young and full of arrogant folly I argued with her, and promptly earned the nickname Vampire Girl.

I understood immediately her blanket ban once I started to read the short stories that my classmates were turning in. I shudder to recall the lack of plot, stilted characters, inexcusable spelling errors, and my personal favorite, the girl who wrote a thinly veiled recap of her own life and forgot to change her name to that of the character’s on one page and one page only. It was an eye-opening semester.

I turned in my first story and she told me she loved it and I glowed like the spoiled honors student that I was. (And still am.) So I took this as my chance to ambush her, and wheedled her during office hours to let me do a realistic story that still broke several of her other rules. She told me that I had written the best story so far and she trusted me to understand character and story enough to do the project. She also hoped I would sign up for Fiction Writing II. I was ecstatic, the nickname forgiven, and I wrote my story and signed up for Fiction Writing II that night.

It wasn’t until two years after I graduated that I actually sat down and read one of her novels, Master’s Muse. After an Amazon binge that resulted in my buying the rest of her work, I just finished Like China. And I am in awe. This graceful, air spirit of a professor has written some of the best fiction I have ever read. She has an incredible way of anchoring her characters through small movements, like slipping toes out of a shoe to rest on the floor of a pay phone. She writes sharply and cleanly and breaks up the pattern with these rare, gem-like sentences that make you re-evaluate the physical world. I was lucky enough to see her read recently at a local restaurant / brewery’s monthly literature event (it’s called Brews + Prose; that’s Cleveland for you) and she signed my copy of Master’s Muse and I was able to tell her how amazing she is.

So this is my fan letter to Varley O’Connor, a wonderful professor who put up with more than she deserved, and an amazing and underrated novelist.


Boogeyman with Binoculars

Liebling and I have accidentally invented a Boogeyman. One of the biggest draws, to me, for moving out of my parents’ house was literally never wearing pants inside. Ever. I also hate having the mini-blinds closed. It makes me crazy. So Liebling has had to grow used to waking up with the sun shining in, just as I have grown used to his need for white noise. It is unlikely that anyone can see in considering we are on the third floor facing a man-made pond, but sometimes we joke about it. We call him Binoculars Guy.

Like, Hey, do you think Binoculars Guy watched me jump on the bed when I was making it? Does he judge us when we sleep in late? I hope Binoculars Guy isn’t mocking me for burning my dinner. Again.

Sometimes after playing Stratego I ask Liebling if he thinks Binoculars Guy enjoyed our morning exercise. (I have never played Stratego. I think it is a board game? Anyway. That was a not very subtle euphemism for sex. Just go with me, here.)

I spend a fair amount of time hoping Binoculars Guy is not real. Especially when I get out of the shower. But our one year lease came up and now rent is higher. I’m kind of whiny about it. I can’t help wondering if we could find our Boogeyman and convince him to pay rent?

It’s Not Them, It’s You

A co-worker and friend (whom I shall henceforth refer to as Yoga Jones because, like the Orange is the New Black character, he is also a yoga-enjoying pot-smoking human with some anger issues) was teasing me because my Liebling, who also worked with us, has quit. “You know,” he said, hands folded in front of him, “you are now dating an unemployed hipster.” I conceded the point but before I could volley back he had begun to recap an old Dane Cook joke.

Basically, the joke is that when you are single it is like standing outside a party wanting to go in, and being in a relationship is like being at the party and wanting to leave. I frowned at this but Yoga Jones didn’t notice as he was too busy chuckling and saying how sad but true it was.

But I have to disagree. Not once in my adult life have I been in a relationship and wished I was single, nor been single and wished for a relationship. I would like to point out that yes, I have absolutely wanted to leave a relationship and done so–but not because I wanted to be single, but because it wasn’t the right relationship. And I have wanted to date someone–but because of who that someone is, not because I was tired of being on my own.

I would argue that feeling that way is a problem with you, not relationships. If you aren’t happy either way it’s probably time to sit down and figure out why you’re so unhappy instead of recycling tired jokes from a comedian who was never all that funny to begin with. At the end of the day, you can mock me all that you want. But I am a whole and happy person all on my own. And I am lucky enough to have been dating my Liebling for two and a half years and every day I am with him is better than the last. It isn’t because I’m at the party. It’s because I’m happy with myself, and him, whether we got invited to the party or not.

The New Lost Generation

Gertrude Stein did us the most harm when she said, “You’re all a lost generation.” That got around to certain people and we all said, Whee! We’re lost. Perhaps it suddenly brought us to the sense of change. Or irresponsibility. But don’t forget that, though the people in the twenties seemed like flops, they weren’t. Fitzgerald, the rest of them, reckless as they were, drinkers as they were, they worked damn hard and all the time.
– Dorothy Parker, qtd. in The Paris Review Interviews Vol. 1

It seems to me like every generation is intent on blaming the problems of the world on its youngest members. Stein swung a literary lasso around a group of talented writers, artists, and creators, and branded them with a label that is still used almost a century later. The label affixed to the collective forehead of my generation is “selfie.” Instead of lost, we are selfish. Instead of a literary collective, we are junkies looking for our next fix of internet glory.

Never mind the fact that, as Parker tells us, the “Lost Generation” worked hard to create something worth keeping. Never mind that they are still read and loved today. Never mind that my generation is stuck in economic quicksand handed down by the generation that mocks them, and that we are building up our own forms of communication, interaction, and acceptance through an internet that the last generation still struggles to comprehend.

I am not an optimist. I do not know that I believe that one day we will have a world where people work together to build instead of tearing each other down. But I do believe in hope. So next time someone harasses you for taking a picture of yourself or using “lol” in a text message, forgive him. Forgive him for being blind to culture, to freedom, to the inevitability of progress. Remember that the “Lost Generation” was no more and no less lost than you–and no one is remembering their failures. When we think of Hemingway, we think of modern, crisp prose. When we think of Fitzgerald, we think of love and longing and high school English. When we think of Parker, we remember her witticisms.

Let them remember us that way. Let the kids growing up in 2114 remember our penchant for snapchat, our ability to marathon entire television series, let them remember our fanart, and our glorious ability to build a life on the internet regardless of our circumstances in the world outside the door. We are a generation born of a world no one predicted. Let them remember that.

On Hangovers

This is a post about hangovers. When I was twenty some bro told me I had never been drunk because I had never been hungover. Let me tell you that he was right and let me also tell you that you have never been hungover until you find yourself running to the bathroom in the basement of your office building every thirty-five minutes because you are afraid someone is going to hear you throwing up all the water you are trying to drink now to make up for all the water you didn’t drink last night. You haven’t been hungover unless you’ve seriously thought about sliding right out of your chair because it seems better to just collapse on the floor than use the muscles necessary to straighten yourself up. Have you ever had all your older co-workers offer their best hangover remedies and just nod unenthusiastically while waiting like a four-year-old for lunchtime so you can hide somewhere and just take a nap?

If this happens, the best remedy is to eat twenty dollars worth of Taco Bell and call your sister who drove your drunk ass home. Confirm that you are in fact a nice drunk and spent the tail end of the evening thanking everyone and telling them how much you loved them and referring to people as actual angels. Be grateful they didn’t let you sing any more karaoke songs after that fruit basket drink with God knows how much vodka.

I am so very grateful that this was the celebration of the last person I know to turn twenty one. She is the peachiest of peaches. I think of her as my little sister–the one who asks for my advice and gets drunk and sings songs with me and talks to me about boys. (My actual little sister is a beautiful, mature, wise creature who doesn’t take shit. Needless to say, she has never asked me for advice about boys or drinks and she also never gets carded.)

I am grateful for my friends and my sisters, real and acquired. I am grateful for Tuesday nights and music and fast cars. And today I am grateful for the fact that my head does not ache and my bones once again feel like my bones.