Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I have the flu

Sorry for the silence. The flu found me. Once I'm out of bed and completely coherent again, I'll return.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Well, it was only a matter of time. I'm getting married in less than 48 hours and I'm starting to feel all sorts of emotions.

The main one I'm feeling is a sudden rush/overwhelming need to ball my eyes out. This occurs most often while I'm driving my car and/or thinking about my family. My dad especially. It's starting to hit him that his youngest daughter, the baby of the family, is getting married(and moving out of the country in about a month). Of course I don't want to deprive him of his emotions/feelings about it, but I'll say this: even thinking about my dad crying makes me start to cry. And, apparently, so does simply typing it.

I have always had this overwhelming need to make sure my family knows I am okay. That I am tough and hard-working--a survivor, a fighter, and a good person. I am these things because of them. I've always said: if I had to live my life for my family, I would. In a nanosecond, I would do so without complaint. And while my heart is in the right place when I say that, it isn't what is right. The best/most right(and realistic) thing I can do is to live my life as fully as I can for myself. Doing so has been a tough lesson for me to absorb--it's taken me a long time to be comfortable living my life for me, and not feeling destroyed by guilt over it. It's always been my nature to put others first. Especially family.

I haven't been all that stressed out about this getting married thing--I'm marrying my best friend and I'm excited to go forward having many, many adventures together. Others immediately around me have been a bit stressed, and that in turn has made me more anxious. Up until today I was feeling very frustrated by that. I'm realizing that it's an emotional time for all of us, and being worried about minute details is part of that emotion. I need to practice patience with that. Everyone says your wedding "is all about you," and it is but it isn't. It seems to be about so many things...much more than I was prepared for. A lot of that is because of tradition. And I can make light of this event as much as I want...it's still a very big deal to get married. I was never a girl who dreamed of her wedding, or of getting married for that matter. But here I am days away hunched over a draft of my vows, trying not to cry when I think of my family.

Here I am, living my life for me.

Life is wonderful and strange and scary and never, ever like I thought it might be. I thought many things, but never these stacks on stacks of experiences, never all these lives I feel like I've lived thus far. Marrying my best friend and living overseas will most likely be my greatest adventure yet. I am so excited and so scared and we all know how brilliant that mixture can be. That combination is everything that life is made of.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


My favorite Egyptian dish(and the national dish of Egyypt). I want everyone to eat it. I want a circle of friends, some koshary, some shisha, and that's it.

Brown and yellow lentils. Chickpeas, rice, vermicelli, macaroni. Fried onions.

Oh but wait, there's more.

Tomato sauce. My favorite batch contains tomatoes, garlic, cumin, sugar. As long as vegetable oil is used, it's vegan. It's inexpensive and everywhere. A bowl of it will keep you full. Get it delivered, at a streetcar, in a restaurant. Highly recommend it with fresh mint lemonade.*

Top it off with dakka sauce, red chili and baharat and boy oh boy

Koshary is everything.

*That mint lemonade consists of lemons, fresh mint, and a simple syrup. Blend with ice cubes. So fresh so green. And she too is everything.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Three or four months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account.

In case you're wondering, here is what happens when you click on "deactivate my account:"

- a screen pops up asking ARE YOU SURE? at the top

- beneath the ARE YOU SURE? is written "Your friends will miss you..." and beneath this are random pictures of some of your Facebook friends. Just that last ditch effort to convince you, the de-activator, to stay. Because these randomly selected friends will miss you.

- if you are still sure, Facebook will then ask you why you are leaving. There are a few options to pick from, and then a blank box where you can type in your "other" answer. Important to note here that you, the de-activator, cannot continue unless you select one of the choices, and if you select other, then you must put something in that blank box(I was personally so annoyed at this point in deactivation that I stomp-typed "because I fucking want to" into the box, clicked ok, and never looked back).

That process alone lends good reason to getting rid of it altogether.

Getting rid of the book-of-face was a very good thing for me. Most of it had to do with my own personal growth--separating the healthy from unhealthy and limiting amounts of the latter as much as possible. At some point Facebook wasn't fun anymore. It grew into something other than staying in touch with friends. Every time I scrolled through it, I felt like each post was a person yelling until all the voices grew into one ugly mass of noise. People reposting articles they didn't even read past the headline. Realizing it was becoming difficult to converse in person without hearing "oh wait yeah I read about that on your Facebook" and somehow thinking that statement alone was enough to cover it. Or god forbid you missed something. Then the settings on the actual site itself would change every 30 days without warning. Things private were no longer private(though what really is if you're using the format to begin with). And gosh forbid you get curious about someone you kind of remember from 5th grade--you'll end up sucked into an hour long trail of who's-who from your past. Many things that bothered me about Facebook were restraint-related--I simply didn't have it. I found myself wanting to read all the opinions, especially the ones I didn't agree with. My lowest moment was when my abusive ex tried to friend me(I declined it, but not before seeing his face) and felt all that old hurt/fear/anger rise up in me again. Here again is the issue of restraint. It is unhealthy to identify the things that make you feel rotten yet continue to seek them out, as if being the cause somehow validates the rotten feeling. That can get very ugly rather quickly.

It was tough to let go of it, especially after leaving Pittsburgh. I knew shutting down my Facebook would mean losing touch with a lot of people, but I sent messages to just about everyone listing all methods by which they could find me and I felt like that was enough. Luckily there's email and I have friends that like to write letters. I have a box full of correspondence that I've added to for years and it's one of my most favorite things. These connections are becoming more and more precious to me, especially as I transition to a life overseas. That's the other nice thing about letting go of Facebook--I pick up a pen or the phone much more often(granted, it's still probably not often enough). I've found an unexpected bit of peace for myself. I'm more present in life and much less a voyeur.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

bits of egypt(soon to return)

I'm excited(and a bit nervous) to say I will be moving overseas in about 1 month, on or around January 15th. I will stay in Egypt with J until we officially move for his next post(shortly thereafter).

I'm looking forward to returning to one of the most beautiful and challenging places I've ever been.

I will most likely arrive sleep deprived, jet lagged, my guts in a knot and off to the left for days until I adjust. What a beautiful luxury, to wake up beside my love every morning, to walk through the streets as the call to prayer starts. It is always the voice of the mosque closest that you will notice first, and then the others echoing across the city. They come together and drift apart.

I love spending time on J's balcony. Wires hang low on the building, rooftops around me littered with satellite dishes. There is a busted green chair there, perpetually covered in a thin layer of dust(as most things are outdoors). Sometimes I will take the time to dust her off and other times I will carry out one of the heavy dining chairs to sit on instead. Here is where you will hear the call to prayers come and go, the incessant honking of traffic, the revving of motorbikes between double parked cars. In the courtyard below, cats will curl in the shade of plants or pick fights with each other. I will sit here peaceful, writing a bit while trying to completely convince myself that yes I am in fact there and not dreaming it.

me, forever on the balcony. photo by J

My first visit was around this time last year, during christmas and new years. We went to bed not long after midnight on new years eve(the sound of Egyptians singscreaming karaoke ushering us into slumber), but were awake again around 4am due to the neighbor's never-ending party a floor below. Techno at full volume, never-ending. J even went down to ask if he could knock it off, but it continued. Awake and annoyed, I suggested we go for a walk since there was little to do but grind our teeth over the bass beneath our feet. So we walked through early morning Zamalek, and the quiet was welcome. We walked to the Cairo Marriot and paid for their breakfast buffet. We stuffed ourselves on made-to-order omelettes, couscous and grilled vegetables. You could carve honey right off the comb at the bread station. Egyptians in the previous night's party clothes were seated at tables nearby. We felt handsomely rewarded for being driven out of the flat by techno music. We took our time walking back and when we returned there was nothing but beautiful silence below us.

Every arrival finds me determined to further prove myself in this unusual place. I practice arabic leading up to departure yet still find myself a bit shy to speak as much as I know. On my last trip, I paced and fretted for hours over what should've been a simple trip to Cairo Kitchen to get koshary. J was at work and I wanted the challenge of getting there solo. I studied the map and directions he sent me, feeling embarrassed I couldn't remember routes we've taken before. I am fairly awful at remembering direction. In Zamalek there are short cuts to everywhere, and together we often took them. All this to say I didn't make it there on my own, and silently kicked myself about it for days.

I love the Egyptian people. I love the way groups of teenagers will be leaning all over certain streets when school lets out. A moped might zip by, carrying three young children behind the driver. I love the random of taxi drivers and hearing "yah habibi" music floating through traffic. I love the sweet smell of shisha filling the air on Friday nights. The neon and music thump of a falluca floating by, kids climbing bridge girders across the Nile. Gin and tonics with journalists, coffee and soccer on a patio of rocks.

I'm thrilled to return and, for a short while, call her home.


In junior high my mall store of choice for all my music needs was called Camelot:

I realize this picture is of an obviously closed/out of business Camelot, which is fitting. Camelot eventually became consolidated with other various mall music stores to form f.y.e. in 1998. RIP, Camelot.

Those were the days of buying cds trapped within their giant plastic rectangles, or cassette tapes shrink wrapped in neat stacks. Going to the mall was already an event--perusing each and every rack in Camelot was a bonus adventure all on its own. I remember my favorite area of the store--a wall near the register on the right side containing all of the latest radio singles. The cassingle collection. Behold:

of note: not my personal collection...this is just a picture I found on the internet

The cassingle aka cassette single was absolutely brilliant for the junior high kid experiencing let down and heartache for the first time. The tape consisted of a side A, which contained the main single/radio hit, and a side B, which would contain an instrumental version of the hit song on side A, or a b-side not-as-popular track from the same artist. That was it. This was a time when Mariah Carey, Bryan Adams, All 4 One and Color Me Badd thrived on the shelves. The cardboard sleeve holding the cassette would usually contain some unused image or artwork from the artist's album, or a movie poster shot if it was from a soundtrack. For $3 to $6 you had a song you could play and rewind over and over again to properly emote any/all adolescent angst.

Here is where I admit to buying Brian McKnight's "One Last Cry" as a cassingle in 6th/7th grade and playing it over and over again when the boy I liked kissed my best friend. I did the same thing with Janet Jackson's single "Again" and countless Boyz II Men tracks. Just me and the boom box, bulldozing through my bramble of emotions one rewind at a time. Things are quite, quite different now with our iTunes and spotify playlists and email mp3 attachments. You can still start the song over as much as you like, but I can't say it's quite the same. I'll always remember the sound of the tape spinning back onto its wheels and the thud signifying completion. The sinking of my young little heart would pause long enough for the song to begin again, and then continue its descent for the duration of melody.

RIP, cassingles. I think of you often.

ps: it looks like a lot of people now sell cassingles on ebay.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Amy Poehler wrote an amazing book called "Yes Please" and I highly recommend reading it. In a chapter called Time Travel, she gives some wisdom:

As I watched Patti perform I took a mental picture of the moment. I looked around and thought about my life. I felt grateful. I noticed every detail. That is the key to time travel. You can only move if you are actually in the moment. You have to be where you are to get where you need to go.

I wholeheartedly believe in this. I believe in mindfulness, and saturating oneself in the moment. There have been so many times in my life where I've been enjoying the hell out of myself or I've been feeling hurt beyond belief and a little voice says, stop here. Remember this. Remember this feeling. Remember the light or lack of it. Remember the hitched feeling in your chest. Or remember this music/this moment/these individuals on stage giving you their hearts. I have these things kept safe within me. Like that night in Canada or the Charles Bissell show or a group of young kids posing tough over a giant puddle after a hard rain. The moments I have lived are stuck to me as much as I am stuck to them.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

good things

I felt pretty rotten after updating my blog on Saturday. Pain made me such a grump. Today is about the positive.

I love the things I love. Like the satisfaction in slicing open on time avocados(and random hand freckles).

Or views of the world between destinations and when bits of frost collect on airplane windows.

Drinking in unexpected reflections...

...and the way light will fight through the dark.

The beauty of strangers in strange places.

& every now and then a smash of red.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

just call it hmmph.

I'm at the coffee shop, a spinning still present on the edges of vision, temples still lit with villainous fuzz. If I didn't get out of bed though I would've never left it, so I'm here sipping from a large mug trying to will away the impending pain. Sometimes migraines are like hangovers without the wild night. Sometimes I get really bitter about that, how my previous actions never asked for it. Shoot, I went to bed early.

But I know this, I always know this--everyone who suffers from them knows this. You can avoid all that might summon them and they'll still arrive. They'll hatchet down the front door and claw through the drywall. They stay for as long as they fuckin' want.

I feel like this week was one big ache, so maybe today's pain is fitting.

I did not write enough. Instead I worked ten hour days and felt way too sensitive for the world. Last night Janay Rice was on television, defending her reason for staying with Ray Rice after he clocked her in an elevator. Worth noting: I purposely avoided the security footage. And then one day the news played it as a preview. "Coming next on the news..." style. I think it was a super inappropriate move on the channel's part--the footage is awful and triggering. That still bothers me. Last night I hurriedly turned off Janay's interview because she too is triggering to me. There is no justification that might emit from her lips--I will never, ever agree with her decision to stay with her abuser. I do not want or need to hear her reasons. I want to say I feel sorry for her and leave it at that, but I also feel complete disgust.

My blood seemed half a degree from boiling all week. I can't stand blatant disrespect and that's a common theme in my work environment. The job is temporary and necessary and I remind myself of this multiple times a day. I arrive in the dark and leave in the dark and grip my sanity in between 'til the knuckles sing sore. And then here I am on my day off with my head crashing in on itself. The sky is a loaded gray like right before a big rain and that's pretty much how today feels.

It does me good to get this out. My coffee cup is empty. Time for some frozen yogurt, family time, and self-care. I'll come back when I feel better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I have a lot of emotions/rage about the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown. Above it all I feel heartbroken and exhausted. I can't gather up words to put here without the anger and tears. I want to write more, but for now I will leave it at that.

Here is the official statement from Mike Brown's family:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Today is my day off, and I cannot tell you how happy I am to finally sit down with a cup of coffee and my writing. I dropped the ball on NaNoWriMo(a poem-a-day version). Not even dropped but threw it into the ground. I did write through my Pittsburgh trip. Lots of scribbling in the notebook in between moments of going to see a friend or waiting to see another one. Oh Pittsburgh. It was such a great visit. My dance card was full, as I intended her to be(though I didn't get to see everyone). Ah, and the babies--a few new kids on the block. I rocked a newborn in my arms and swooned over the chillest one month old I've ever seen. It's so wonderful to see friends become parents. I did feel overwhelmed by it at one point--late Saturday afternoon. I referenced the phrase "emotionally exhausted" a lot. Just tired and needing that moment to lay on Jason's couch, scribbling in silence. On one page I wrote

                    I am ready to write about you

and that felt good because it is the truth. Then I spent a good ten minutes writing about potholes and favorite streets and trial and error. Heartbreak parking lots and magnolias and how the city gave me great legs. And then when I grew tired of scribbling I drove myself to Spaks. I devoured a seitan melt standing up in Jason's kitchen. Another thing worth noting: I had a bit of a mission to eat all of my favorites while I was there, and this mission was very much accomplished. Thai food and blessed conversation with my insister, that gorgeous n' quick Spak moment, hot bar at the co-op, and a holy jumble of tofu tacos for Sunday lunch. Amen.

Thank you, Mad Mex.

I had a great time. When it was time to go I was ready to do so. I was hellbent on beating the snow heading in my direction but I locked my keys in my car at a Pilot station in Cambridge. Oh boy. Luckily the ladies at the station were amazing, and a local tow company had me back on the road 36.50 and 30 minutes later, and I walked in the door as rain turned to sleet. This is what the next morning looked like:

I'm getting married in one month, and "I'm getting married" still sounds funny leaving my mouth. But yes. I'm committing to a partner in crime for all the adventure ahead. My habibi for always. My best friend. My ride or die. The Beyonce to my...Beyonce. Yes we are both Beyonces.

Because of this, we've had to do this bizarre thing known as planning your wedding. Or "planning the manner of which you will be marrying." J and I are on the same page with this stuff which is the most important thing. It will be small, intimate, simple. Most of our people are flung out geographically--shit, even him and I live in different countries.

I've worried about "doing it right." I don't understand this worry, not one bit. It's incredibly strange how such a big tradition can mess with your head, even when you don't think it could possibly happen to you. I wasn't a child who dreamed of her wedding. I was fascinated with intimacy and falling in love but marriage itself was a concept lost on me. I did enjoy attending them, for the most part. Most of them were gorgeous celebrations. I dig inspiring environments inspired by love. I didn't expect to feel this brief pressure...not until people started asking me how/when/what we were getting married. Then I found myself worrying about disappointing people. Really, Nikki? Of all the times to worry about what other people might think?

I ran with this worry for a short while and then I promptly squashed it. There are things I want. I want to be with my family. I want to feel my heart thumping madly with love when I get married. I want to be with my best friend and do this thing. And yes--I want to look like a badass doing it and I might want a fistful of roses that are a red fresh from the vein. There is nothing wrong with any of this because it is what I want. My want is not wrong. At 33 I am still learning this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm back buuuuut

...I just started a seasonal job to keep ends meeting until I leave the states for good in January, so I'm on a new level of busy. So I'll have a better update as soon as I get a little more acquainted with my new schedule.

The trip to Pittsburgh was great. I knew this would be my last trip for the foreseeable future, and knowing that made it pretty tough. But tough or not, the visit did my heart so much good. More on that soon.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Radio silence

Sorry for the radio silence. I'm in Pittsburgh visiting friends, holding babies. I'll be back to it soon. It's been a really, really good trip, even though I'm exhausted and emotionally pretty tired. It's my last foreseeable visit here, so I'm trying to make it count.

I want to properly show my love for all my people here without getting sentimental or weepy but it's very difficult. 

Sigh. More soon. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

bluishgreen 2014

About to put this year to bed. For the occasion, I made a playlist. Enjoy.

11.12 - NaNoWriMo


He woke with a quote bubble of vomit
soaking the carpet//no this is not true--
I woke and saw this, he slept. I punched
cloud of my coat under arm and quietly
left. Image stayed stitched as I steered--
knew turns without knowing, took long way
home. Phone rings and rings and rings.
I let her. Apologies follow in person, a
crescent of scar splitting brow where ring
was. I don't know why or what or how or
who he said. That day. That month. Full year.
Tiger in our penny jar. I mouth your name to
the sink full of booze. By then cerulean eyes over
shoe polish grins. We remove ripped magazine
pages from the wall with more care than
we ever kissed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

11.11 - NaNoWriMo

today's poem is about long distance relationships. my partner and i have lived countries apart for over a year. it is the hardest and most rewarding thing, and very soon we will be closing the miles between us. my heart, she sings.


Things you do

you read the news of certain region, stories you know passed desk,
his eyes. A story his brain worked. You consider
flow of sentence, what line is there to greet you.
Maybe mutter a quote he might have whispered
as he wrote.

These are the things--

you forget about proximity
though everything becomes it,
the distance/the closeness
you define by space between
mass of object be damned

you research “how to overcome fear of flying”
because one winter’s turbulence
demands you have it.
you count hours on fingers
and hold them up to your family
when they ask
what time is it where--
and you glare at the moon
on lonely nights that are his mornings,
you learn to love technology loathed
because some days
it is all you’ve got.
you buy lingerie and practice undressing yourself
you get brave for the camera
and write better than you have in years
you talk every day
and you stay pretty bad at saying goodbye
but make connecting flights
and sleep sitting up like a pro
you get really good
at hellos
learn to say it
whole body
all lungs, fingerprints,
brain folds--

you grow guts
and get steady
your skin grows thick
where previous you picked it
red raw gone
you say
what is on your mind
when your mind is on it
restraint is not a game for many miles
words and access
become blue red blood
to surface as soon
as cut occurs
becomes tough
and yet
a strawberry
staining fingers
again and again
by the boundless
of her sweetness.

Monday, November 10, 2014

11.10 - NaNoWriMo



We play push-pull with the sea;
squint out exoskeletons on the sandbar.
Bent lit cranes bow like brachiosaurus
and I pocket a shell with busted jaw,
foamed edge of our kicks
leaving bleats in seersucker sand.

Seven hours somewhere,
future on other planet type place,
location settled only when sidewalk ends and
sand declares ground,
brick grows
each blink.

The heat peels you--
sweating blues. Not a cloud in reach.
I practice making routes familiar,
daydream a work shift ending, some event
four stops away
on the train in a party dress
three burners in on dinner or
reading in bed
buzzed on balcony
writing odes to winters I'll never forget

Sunday, November 9, 2014

09 - NaNoWriMo

I missed a few days due to being down & out with a migraine. It happens. I'm upright today and that's all I really want to focus on right now.



There was a clasp on a coin purse that
I couldn't undo. I would bruise my fingertips
trying to move it--

shells with personalities, ceramics just as
wild with frozen smirks and sacks slung permanent
on patched shoulder--someone took the time to
paint this collarbone

And moss. Always ripping sheets of it
to bring indoors and place dirt down
in shoebox(the babies need blankets too)--

The sun, some song, brown of my knees
swayed as summer posed in the halfbeat between
wind and interstate

she goes fast
like first loves
and other languages

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dubai, part 2

Getting around was exceptionally easy in Dubai. The metro system is impressive--it's a driverless rail system with two lines functional and three more planned by 2020. They run elevated and underground. During rush hour(in mornings and evenings) there are cars for women & children travelers. Here's a pic of the metro car's interior(not my photo):

No gum chewing or food on the train--unless you want to be fined. The cars themselves get pretty crowded. J and I purchased Nol cards for our trip. You can fill/refill them with currency as needed. They look like this(not my hand, by the way har har):

These cards can also be used on the public busses. We took a bus to The Greens one day, and it was an easy(and spotless) ride. The bus drivers navigate the roadways much like the taxi cabs: FAST. Driving in Dubai is fast fast fast. There is absolutely no other word for it(and yes you have to say it three times for the full effect of just how fast it truly is).

This is a shot of the main road--in Dubai, it is called Sheikh Zayed Road. As a whole, it is known as E11 and is the longest road in the Emirates. The name varies depending on which area you are traveling through. Much of it is six lanes in each direction. I took this photo from a walkway that connected the metro stop to the mall:

A lot of places are connected in Dubai. This makes sense--Dubai is in the desert and is always hot. Some months are hotter than others(months that are, from all my sources, damn near unbearable when you're outside). August is the hottest while January is the coldest(with lows of 66 F). One could go an entire day without stepping outside--a lot of residential towers and hotels are connected to metro stations as well as grocery stores and shopping centers. This connectivity makes total sense in a place so hot. At first I found it a little disorienting, but this disappeared quickly when I considered being outdoors vs. indoors.

The malls here are not like the malls of the western world. The malls have your typical "mall" stores(clothing, books, furniture) but also have grocery stores, movie theaters and entire wings dedicated to designers only. I walked past names I've only heard about in fashion magazines--collections I've only seen on models. It was fascinating to see that stuff up close and personal(J and I looked at the prices of Gucci suits just for the hell of it--we touched the sleeve of a $3,000 sports jacket and my brain quietly exploded). The food court is sprawling and phenomenal(any food you want is there--in the Mall of Emirates we had sushi at a restaurant that looked out over the indoor ski slope). Yes, there was a ski slope. Here's part of it:

We peeked in on a few fashion shows:

Here is(most of) the directory at Mall of Dubai:

Oh, and there's a big ass aquarium:

photo by JG, bc his eye is sharper than mine

I snapped this one:

We would walk miles and miles in the mall alone. We saw a movie, ate italian food, and played in a toy store that spanned three stories. J and I also had fun walking through furniture stores and pointing out tables and couches we liked. The little things we never have a chance to do, being so far apart. I tried not to point and say "ooh look at that!" too much, but it was difficult. How do you not point at a candy store like Candylicious?


Inside the Mall of Emirates:

Some quick things:

Mall of Dubai - world's largest mall(based on area). Opened in 2008. Also includes a 250 room luxury hotel, 22 screen cinema, an aquarium and underwater zoo, as well as (gulp) 14,000 parking spaces. Contains more than 1,200 shops, including world's largest candy store(Candylicious, pictured above).

Mall of Emirates - Opened in 2005. Includes more than 700 stores, a ski resort/slope, and 14 screen cinema. There is an indoor family entertainment center called Magic Planet which includes a bowling alley, 4D theater, and racing simulators. There are also 2 international food courts.

11.6 - NaNoWriMo


Our cast is scattered, flung and clustered like constellations of salt. And each of us have our own plays and stage direction--bits part bigger or barely there at all, not knowing really what you are to anyone. There are blackened bridges, obituaries, children. Everything as if suddenly different.

We wrote our poems on back decks and in driveways, Van Morrison summer nights and Dylan Thomas sunrises. Lunch breaks resting chin on buzz cut head, sweating. Every experience spiked with urgency--keep them coming. The sharp edges cut us and youth kept us moving(when it wasn't holding us in place). I stayed too long sometimes, dabbing wounds with whiskey stretched out on wheat carpet making mixed tapes for exes--feeling feeling always feeling.

There is bliss in our maps. Some big red dots, the tender dark we followed for pen's sake. I am here and I remember. But why did I give it a suitcase? In the gold is garbage, folded all important.

Now the thief raising boys. The arthritic cowboy and ex-marine stuck on video games--ghost of a girl with bark-colored hair endlessly leaning over him. His forever wind. The regulars I remember, the vets mouthing along to Cash on a Thursday night. Where is Jane now? When they tore your building down did you twitch somewhere far away and unready? Your last strumming and the bartender's first child. I do not know you--not where it counts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

11.5 - NaNoWriMo


I've been living in Trenton, Ohio for 5 months now. Trenton is the town I grew up in. An example: I live right around the corner from the parents of the guy I dated when I was sixteen years old. I spent many high school summer days there, and is it weird? I guess. It's strange because I've been gone long enough to make it so. It is strange to go driving and run into so many memories. It is strange because I am a writer who believes in the ghost of things, at least in mind(or on page). Coming back answered some questions, I guess.

I moved away 15 years ago, and some things are very much the same. You'll always see someone sporting camouflage at the gas station. You've still got your good ol' boys in their pick up trucks, their ball cap brims curved to cup their faces. The soybean and corn fields are still there. Well, most of them. Some have been sold and swallowed up by stock footage houses. It is still a small town, though she may burst at some seams.

In sixth grade I took a horrific spill on my bike--bad enough to make me avoid riding on two wheels for 5-ish years. The scene of the accident was a dentist's parking lot. I drove by this lot yesterday and imagined a little me, limping home with my bent steed. Memory is everywhere. My hippocampus is lit like brushfire.

This summer I ran into 4 former classmates within the span of 24 hours. That was a little wild, watching myths of others go up in smoke or shrink drastically--all those maybe-futures I imagined turning real or dissipating. I remember being young and hearing my dad talk about old classmates--we'd drive through his old stomping ground and he'd point out where the store used to be, or at a busy park that once was just a field. I get that now. I catch myself doing it. I recall those times I felt confined by my environment. I'd go driving because driving always felt like freedom. Now I navigate those same roads and feel miles of things. I'm much more free, much more filled. Yet I still feel protective when I think of that young me, still in there and fidgeting.

There is a bit of comfort in being back, though it is an unusual transitional period of my life. I wouldn't expect anything less for this year--2014 has been the pendulum's brutal swing, both extremes and in-betweens. Big things. I go back to the break in my lifeline on my right palm and nod. The break, the space, the leap with no net below. It's an appropriate time to practice surviving.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

11.4 - NaNoWriMo


tumble out, full mouthed--rows of gymnasts rise the hills, leotards to war all walking on toes. calves taut, the bullets in their cheeks glow. spider reds form sprawled like palms along the temples, clavicle, american flag hips. my girls stride exact in tendon's tremble, ground soft as toothless gums. all jaws as sharp as the cliff they dive from.

Monday, November 3, 2014

11.3 - NaNoWriMo

For today's poem I used a writing exercise. This is probably my all-time favorite exercise, actually. I've used it a number of times to jumpstart my brain. Exercise located here(click)


Conversations with haunted things

(in the middle of a cornfield, magic hour, mid-October)

Wolf slips on a woman’s ankle-length silk, slowly snaps the back of pearl earring, careful claw reflected; applies red riding’s hue to prickled lips and waits.

There is an orchestra of instrument and argument, a thing both blaring out and barely--our heartbeats sounding like punk song and crickets.

When I let go, what will I miss the most? The tigers in your fingers? The way all nightmares stood arms open just after the threshold, pain pouring out of pockets in the drawers?

The apple browns around the teeth marks, wobbles on ground among husks like the pages of our story maybe a hundred revolutions from now.

Here. Let me walk you home.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dubai, part 1

I was very nervous about going to Dubai. I was nervous the way anyone would be when venturing a place you've never been that will probably be the next place you will call your home. You want to arrive hopeful, positive, completely open to what you experience. But you are also already practicing familiar eyes--eyes that will perhaps one day view these new routes and visuals as run-of-the-mill scenery...the building you walk by on your way to work, or the stops you pass daily on the metro. At least that's what I found myself doing--seeing the unfamiliar and trying to familiarize it("Oh my, there's the tallest building in the world" vs "Oh that old thing?").

I probably think too much about, well, everything, but this is how my mind was spinning just before our arrival.

J and I went to dinner with a colleague before we flew to Dubai, someone who lived there and was happy to let us pick their brain about living there. It was a wonderful meal coupled with interesting conversation and I walked away that night feeling even more excited about our trip. The flight from Cairo to Dubai was about three hours, and admittedly a rough one for me. It pains me to admit it, but I find myself disliking flying more and more every time I do it. J is so patient and sweet when dealing with me and my flying anxiety, and even though we were not sitting near a window, he helped me determine the exact moment our plane's wheels would kiss down on the runway upon arrival(a super gentle landing, by the way). The airport was easy to navigate, though blood sugars ran dangerously low in passport check, and by the time we grabbed a taxi I was pretty grumbly and over it. I tried to flex past my mood by looking out the window. I felt like my eyes couldn't keep up with the amount of skyscrapers and construction we passed--it reminded me of driving between Minneapolis and St. Paul, how it felt almost ridiculous to see one cluster of city and then in a few moments pass another healthy bundle of buildings. There is "downtown Dubai" but there are also so many sub cities: Media City, Deira, Jumeira, Marina, The Greens. As the car sped towards our hotel(in Media City), my mouth fell open and stayed open. My first impression of Dubai was this: a strange new planet that humans were just starting to inhabit. A land of everything. The future...uture...uture...ture...ture...ure...re(that's a dramatic echo, by the way).

I was definitely not in Egypt anymore.

J arranged for our trip to Dubai to fall near the end of the month, right before I went back to the states. At this point, I had been in Egypt for about three weeks(including our trip to Luxor) and was for the most part acclimated to how things worked there. As a woman, life in Cairo is much different than it might be for me in Dubai. I stay more covered in Cairo, and I don't feel comfortable venturing out as often by myself(this is mostly due to my limited Arabic skill). A lot of things in third world countries simply do not work, or do not work the way you might want them to or expect them to. You get used to this, for the most part. For example, the elevator in J's building was broken--they were replacing the motor and we were told it would be down for a few days. The few days turned into a few weeks, which meant climbing flights of stairs to the fifth floor at least once a day(this was finally fixed shortly after I left, and J happened to be in the hallway when they needed someone to test it. Oh boy. Luckily it ran smoothly and did not plummet).

I say this to note that Dubai is very first world, and I felt absolutely stunned walking into it straight out of Cairo.

a shot of Media City. Not my photo, by the way. This is from travelingthemiddleeast.com

Our first hotel room was just two floors above the pool area. I say first because after that night we realized the bass from the deejay two floors below late into the night was too much for us old folks--we ended up swapping for a floor higher up. That was the surreal thing--each night our hotel turned into a club of sorts. It wasn't just a place to check in and sleep, but a destination for a night out. They even had themed nights of the week that they encouraged all patrons to join. Mondays were Mad Men nights(for the gents), and Wednesdays were promoted on bright pink flyers labeled GOSSIP, aka ladies' night. This was apparently the real party night of them all, as ladies could score two free drinks in the lobby bar and then make their way to the pool area for 2-3 more free drinks. Every evening we would go to the lobby to check our email/etc before heading out to explore/have dinner, and every evening there would be a strange brigade of women teetering in too-high heels and absurdly short dresses(crotch skimmers, if you want a word for it). Two quick things about this: one, this was a shock for me coming straight out of Cairo where I kept my legs and arms/tattoos covered at all times. You get used to not seeing skin. And two, this was a shock to me because all of the women were incredibly made-up--from perfectly coiffed hair to the immaculate make-up to exquisitely arched feet in perfect shiny heels...I am not a person who has ever been done up in such a fashion(nor would I be comfortable doing so) and I've never been a clubbing kinda gal yet it still managed to make me feel super scruffy and inadequate. I state this little side note because it was such a ridiculous sight AND a ridiculous reaction on my part to feel at all inferior or not-up-to-par around such...illusion. But, nevertheless, I am human and it got to me a bit.

The entire rule of attire thing confused me. Before going to Dubai, most things I read on expat forums/etc suggested keeping knees and shoulders covered, so I figured it wasn't as conservative as things in Egypt, but still fairly subdued. Once there, however, it became apparent that each person kind of set their own standard about it--I saw young women in cut off shorts as well as women covered head to toe, and everything in between. I brought zero shorts overseas, so I stuck to jeans or slacks and felt fine about it. I also noted plenty of people with visible tattoos, so that made me feel a little better about my own peeking out.

Whew. This entry is getting a bit wordy. I'll pause here. Next up: malls and transportation.

11.2 - NaNoWriMo


I am confusing my streetlight and teeth, both swaying wild figure eights in the storm that is above--the one that borrows head for tunnel, whistling slate swells growling rotten upon exit like turned tide of Alice, her tears, the keyholed saint. Weights and measured--brain on car disconnected, heart bound to track getting plenty of splinters in her wriggles.

The windows and doors were left open and that with the wet beckoned moss--I was grown all over, confined to a room full of box, brine, used litmus and habits so worn their elastic bits could thrice hula hoop my hips. Lost thought in a zipper. When it gets dark stays dark no matter how high and might the sun.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

11.1 - NaNoWriMo



loaf, olive,
like mold.
waves of smoke
a muffled rye of bones.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Egypt, part 7: jet to the lagged, etc.

I woke up this morning quite early. First at 4, then at 4:30, then finally at 5. The eyes were not gonna close again. Jet lag has me in her clutches, my body on a clock still 6 hours in the future. I came back to the states on Tuesday night with a vicious head cold that first showed up in Egypt but waited until I was up in the air on a plane to really bloom full force.

So chest cold, check. Jet lag, check. Welcome back indeed.

I returned to a season in full swing--most of the leaves already on the ground...the rest on fire in reds and yellows and orange in the branches. It's beautiful. I wasn't expecting just how beautiful it would be. I don't mind the pulling on of sweaters if it means such color.

I have so much to say about the rest of my trip in Egypt, including our trip to Dubai. Have no fear--I'm working on the updates. Hang tight. I'd also like to point out that tomorrow kicks off NaNoWrimo, and I'm going to do my own version of it where I write or rework/edit a poem for each day of the month of November. I'll post them here.

More soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Dubai is like being on another planet.

I do not yet have words.

More soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Egypt, part 6, Luxor(part 4): what's in the basket

Last Wednesday, our alarm went off at 3:30am. It took me an entire five minutes to slide my body from the bed to the floor, next to my suitcase. Mission: get up. Get dressed. Get out the door. Somehow we accomplished it in record time.

J and I climbed into a van and we drove to a second location, where we picked up more people. After that, it was onto a row of fallucas waiting for us on the edge of the Nile. More people started to arrive and pile into the boats. Hani, the main man in charge, offered each of us coffee or tea. We were all pretty sleepy around the edges. I sipped my coffee as the motors started up and one by one our fallucas pulled away from the bank and further into the Nile.

Light was just beginning to trick the edges of the sky above us. The waters of the Nile were dark, and I concentrated on the murmur of our boat mates to try to get my mind off of what was ahead. One man, an American now living in Kuwait, slowly read the safety contract out loud. "We've gotta practice the landing position," He told the woman sitting next to him. They were part of a group of five Americans--there was also a couple from Cambridge to my right. To my left were two women from Argentina, impressively fancy in their attire for 4am. This would be our group for the journey upward.

Once at the location, things moved pretty quickly. The fabric of balloons were being stretched out. Giant fans blew into them and trucks were connected to the baskets by thick rope--a method of uprighting them. We were actually doing this.

As a kid, I loved that moment of discovering a hot air balloon in the sky, random and unexpected. In my hometown, they used to have a yearly hot air balloon race. I was never clear on what the racing part entailed, but I loved to see all of the balloons taking off simultaneously. One year I remember losing my mind over the launch of a Mr. Peanut shaped balloon(it was gorgeous). Sometimes they offered little mini-trips up into the air, balloon still tethered to the ground but effective nonetheless. I never did it. But I was always a bit fascinated. What was up there, in the basket anyway? Special weights? A cooler packed with snacks? The mysteries of life?

And then there I was on the West Bank of the Nile, very close to finding out.

When I get scared, and by scared I mean petrified...my knees shake uncontrollably. It's a deep shake, an actual knocking, just like the expression. I've only felt this exceptional tremble a handful of times in my life thus far. Once was on that hellish flight from Paris to New York in big ol winter storms, another time was in the hospital with a migraine, scared and alone and connected to an I.V.

What I'm saying is this: my knees were knocking. The adrenaline was coursing. J tried to put a comforting arm around me and I half turned out of it, staring at the rush of flame inflating the balloon in front of us. My brain was teetering between two things: I can do this/I can't do this/I can do this/I cannot cannot cannot.

It takes a village to raise a balloon. Here is what the scene became in front of us:

There were easily 20 Egyptians working hard to keep the basket steady--this basket full of people. Hani screamed at the truck driver to back up, pull close, back up again. The basket was twice as large as ours would be, and swayed in the arms of the holders before finally skidding up and off the dirt, into the air.

Annnnnd there they go.

Holy craaaaaaaap.

And under my crazy-blooming fear, this childlike need to know: what was on the other side of that wicker? How awesome would it feel to be in a basket in the sky?

The company's name = Sindbad. In all my adrenaline pumping existence, I furiously image searched a picture of Sinbad the comedian on my phone. He, I decided, would be my spirit guide. This is the picture:

I walked up to one of the guys that would be in our balloon. "This is my spirit animal." I said it in one run-on flurry of syllables and he gave me a hell yeah and chuckled. Until take off, I distracted myself between my picture of Sinbad and taking pictures of the process of take off in front of me.

Our driver introduced himself as Kareem("that means joy--that must be a good sign, right RIGHT?!" I whispered to J). We stood in a circle as he gave us directions--position to take on landing, how to climb into the basket. This was happening. Soon we were walking to the balloon. This. Was. Happening. And then we were climbing in, and there I was, in the basket. The big mystery of what-was-in-the-basket solved. Here is the answer:

Nothing. There is nothing in the basket. Those two bags belong to two of our passengers(Argentinian women that, I think, were skyping/calling someone from the air at one point).

It was surprisingly/not surprisingly hot once we were in the basket. There was a giant flame shooting up into a balloon right above our heads, and it was hard to escape the heat despite the metal plates arranged above our heads. Kareem, our pilot, had removed his fancy pilot's button up and was pulling the flame release in a tshirt. Things happened pretty quickly once the 11 of us were in. So quickly that I didn't even realize we had left the ground. This is the first picture my shaking hands could manage once I did realize it:

I'll be honest. I spent the first few minutes being very, very quiet--a voice in my head was screaming YOU NEED TO GET DOWN YOU NEED TO GET DOWN NOW PLEASE but there was nothing to be done. I was in a basket, in the air, and there was nothing to do but be there. The camera helped. I looked through it to balance myself. Every time someone in the basket moved, the basket creaked and swayed with them. I couldn't wrap my head around it: in the air, in a basket, in the air.

I realized that if I was going to get through this, I needed to be there. I needed to feel both the fear and the utter exhilaration of doing something I might very well never, ever do again. I needed to enjoy it. To do that, I needed to let go.

And once I did, my goodness.

Of all that I know and have been and will be...my goodness. Such greatness.

I couldn't get over how exceptionally quiet it was up there. It makes sense--no real sound of motor or engine, other than the shot of flame above our heads every other moment. We were all talking amongst ourselves, snapping photos, but still keeping our voices to murmurs. I think we all felt a bit sacred about the moment.

The balloon slowing rotated, replacing green with mountain and then to ruins. With each shift the light changed a bit, but it wasn't difficult to shoot an amazing picture.

I've been fortunate to experience a lot of wonderful and amazing, inspiring things in my life thus far. I've fallen in love. I became an aunt. I danced in some awesome spaces(like First Avenue, where Purple Rain was filmed). I've been lucky to read my work, my passion, in many venues. But a hot air balloon ride over the Nile at sunrise? I think I may have found one of my ultimates with this one.

Landing happened fairly quickly, similar to take off. We were approaching an area of farmland. The house nearby had a bed on the roof, where a little boy was just waking up.

They waved and we waved back.
Just before landing we all assumed the landing position. You grab hold of a handle in the basket, crouch down in a squat, and lean back to balance the weight and shock of hitting the ground. As we approached, we could see one of Hani's truck hauling ass up the nearby road to receive us. As we hit, the Egyptian balloon workers were waiting to grab us and keep us from dragging. The balloon was deflated and dismantled all by hand--one man pulled open the vent at the top of the balloon by pulling and pulling a rope on the side. Ten other men pushed the air out of the balloon while twisting and gathering the material tightly. It was an impressively smooth operation. As we climbed out, I noticed a handful of children surrounding us, fists full of necklaces and things to hopefully sell. They must be used to balloons landing in their backyards.

J snapped some extraordinary pics--maybe I can convince him to share some in this space in a future entry. For now, I leave you with a video I shot from way up high. That gorgeous, gorgeous quiet. Along with a picture of my certificate upon completion, handed out in the van afterwards. So stoked: