Thursday, August 20, 2009

Missed the tornado by 6 miles

Dad heads in for surgery tomorrow. He checks in at 5:45am. Who on earth gets up that early?

noman, I've got both the books you sent me for distraction. Thank you so much again! the Richard Yates comes with its own bookmark ribbon. Swoon!

More comments on the days of late on tumblr.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hello there...

Dear USA,

I am coming to visit tomorrow for three weeks. Mostly, I’ll be in the Upper Midwest bouncing across the Mississippi (4 esses 2 pees). Please do not scare me with your Metrodome bigness, Mall of America gobbling consumption, and passive agressive politeness. But mostly, as I’ve forgotten the schedule, please do not let it be deer hunting season.

Yours in trepidation, hesitation, and slight repulsion,
Lola (who is now mostly European by accident)

[posted on Tumblr]

What to say?

I met the subletter who will take the apartment for the next 3 weeks. She stayed here before, when I was traveling with my sister around Europe, but we didn't meet before.

"You look different than your photos," she said.

"Oh. Well. I dyed my hair brown and got it cut."
"Well, those were before I started sulking in Paris with no clear direction for my life. Before I found out my dad's got cancer. Before I decided to drink a ton. Before I decided to stop drinking. Before I decided to stop smoking. Before I had an erratic bed-time/wake-time schedule. Before I started sitting around my apartment for days. Before I got fat."

"Yeah, well, you know, photos never really reveal the whole person." [Bitch.]

Friday, August 7, 2009

The countdown and upswing

I've been hungry for sex but there doesn't seem to be a fast-n-dirty way to get it on without some complicated feelings involved. Or my own cattiness. So, I've self-isolated on the island - at least there's a functioning vibrator and plenty of porn.

Dad had a good appointment for the lymph node biopsy. Apparently the lymph nodes in the abdomen aren't as easy to get at, but the withdrawal of tissue was a success and dad was on his way home after. Results this coming Monday.

I spent Wednesday recovering from a bit too much wine the night before with Wilfried and Ms. A, one of my new pals in Paris.

My countdown week of good behavior hasn't been on schedule as I would have liked it. Monday night I had dinner with a school chum and she proceeded to get me drunk on wine and weed from Alsace. I had to stay at her place for the night since my attempt to walk home (from the Bibliothèque Mitterand area, 7.2km) at 3am was thwarted by a glitch in her apartment building door. It just wouldn't unlock. And, no, I wasn't that high.

Although, the next day we discovered that I was stoned enough to have misplaced my 2 favorite rings. After searching high and low, in the fridge, in the bathroom, behind the mattresses (maybe I took them off as an offering in a dream?), and in the garbage, I found them tucked deeply to the side of my jeans pocket. Damn it. Must have been a ghost.

I walked home and stopped for about an hour to photograph around Les Frigos, an artist residence converted from an old factory that produced ice and housed trains that would carry food products. Kind of like Tacheles in Berlin, although this one is closed to public entry. Still, tons of super cool graffiti and street art around the building for photos.

Got home, turned around and headed to the Air France agency near Opera. I really really do love Paris. The waiting area at AF wholly embodies the city:

Two women of African descent sitting together. One is a brickhouse of a woman, tall, present, huge pillowy breasts barely contained in a slacked African print dress, and matching head wrap, with a tiny, unhappy, hungry but not hungry, crying baby that seems like a floppy Velveteen bunny in this woman's giant arms. The woman's sister is dressed in regular ol' jeans and tee-shirt.

Next to them is a Japanese boy tourist, sporting nerdcore glasses, silver pants with a red shirt, and an Addidas man bag.

Next to him is a mother and two daughters. The mother is also of African descent, with the same kind of dress-matching-head-wrap combination. Her eldest daughter, maybe 18, is dressed in Muslim girl fashion: simple hijab in beige, long-sleeve ivory shirt under a dark blue dress with overalls that covered loose, soft, grey pants. The younger daughter, about six years old, plays rambunctiously between her mother's legs.

I gave up my seat to an older lady with agespots on her skinny legs. Sitting next to her was an older Muslim woman from either Northern Africa or Turkey, with an outfit in a much more modest and plain version of the younger Muslim woman's. She was waiting for her husband to purchase tickets, but some glitch had happened to the travel agent's computer so he paced the waiting area with prayer beads in hand. In the meantime, she gave up her seat for an old French man who was trying to buy a ticket with his son - both in suits and ties.

Standing next to me was a pale, French boy with tight jeans and a fluorescent green tee-shirt. And, next to him, two Spanish love birds on a tourist trip to Paris heading off to their next destination.

My ipod on, I waited about a half-hour before finally getting to a travel agent. Typical, only three of the six front desks were staffed. Who knows how many were open upstairs. The concierge lady, who greets you, asks you what your need is, and assigns you a number (the A range is to purchase a ticket, the E range... well... I didn't quite figure it out), also tries to assist queries, which then creates a long line of people who just want to get a ticket number. (I saw this the last time I was in the office, too. Seems rather inefficient, but maybe there's a trick to it.)

Finally decided on a Tuesday, 11 August departure with a 3-week stay. Non-refundable. Non-negotiable. Non-modifiable. It's the cheaper of the tickets and Air France offers no bereavement reduction for sick or dead family members. At least not for this trip, which is contracted to KLM or Northwest jets. I picked these dates (with the help of my family) figuring that maybe dad will only need surgery, get it scheduled early, get out, and be on the way to recovery within the month. Or, I imagined, he'll need chemo, which will start in August, be scheduled for surgery in September, and on the way to recovery later. This gives me the opportunity to be around during some rough stuff, cheer him up a bit, return to Paris and then pack up to move back to the US. Or, I get August time to spend with him during whatever, come back to Paris and take up the previous work on the film with all kinds of meetings scheduled, money flowing in, and then either a) I fly back and forth on all this new money or b) dad dies and at least I got to hang with him while he was around.

There were many other grim ideas and cheery fantasies, but I had to pick a date right now - not knowing anything about the schedule, the severity, the possibilities. I would have preferred a return ticket that could be modified, but that was not what we all decided on the dad-sister-me conference call, and not reasonably priced either.

My sister doesn't want this trip to interrupt any of my career prospects. I reminded her that there are none right now. Everyone in Europe is on holiday - literally. I mean it. I have dead silence in email and 8 views of the film via site metering. I have photos of five shops in my neighborhood that are closed for the month. Five critical shops: a boulangerie, two cafes that provide booze and coffee and smokes, one chocolatier, and a music shop (which represents pretty much all the music stores right now - and the Pigalle quartier is a major center for musical instruments). There's nothing that I'd miss in Paris in August.

My dad thinks he'll be fine and that I'll return to work in Europe.

Me? Well, I've started on an upswing. Something clicked yesterday during the Kandinsky exhibit. It was planted eleven days earlier, during the reading from students of the Paris American Academy at Shakespeare & Co. A woman, who was introduced with a bio explaining that she'd left success in NYC to move back to her family in Iran, read from a chapter in her book wherein a grandfather is sympathizing with a troubled and seeking grand-daughter who is struggling to follow her inner artist. She articulates exactly what I've often said or thought. These dark, tormenting, twisted spaces of nothingness in my life, when I am between an ending and a new discovery, are like rough regenesis, a complicated metamorphosis. Not following my destiny, my ambition, what I am alive to do and what I do well will only lead to more anguish. Denying truth can only lead to karma I'll have to address later.

In order to pull out of this suffering, to embrace and let loose the art inside, the grandfather said, one must absorb all art around, study up close the brush strokes, surround the self with art, learn from others, read, question, and the voice inside will find its place. Sounds like the quest for God, said the grand-daughter.

While we were standing there, looking at Kandinsky's bio she said he only started painting in this style at thirty years old.

"Well, I'm not too late," I commented back.

"And, I've got some time to go!" She giggled.

"Wait. How old are you again?" I asked.


Twenty-seven. It kept echoing in my head for the rest of the wandering through Kandinsky's progression, into the deep heat of the tubed escaltors of the Pompidou, through the plaza, during our whiskeys on the rocks, during my moaning about having to return to the US, as I resolutely decided I could go back there and find work but only to live in NYC, as we walked to the restaurant at Saint Paul, as we shelled our moules, and then it stopped echoing and fell like the anvil aimed for the Road Runner.

No wonder. No wonder she laughs hysterically at my dumb jokes (that are starting to remind me of my father's "dad's bad jokes"). No wonder she asks me what I think about things. No wonder she reminds me I know what I need to do with the greedy program director who thinks he gets to have our work.

Just as I sat down on the metro headed home, "How It Ends" by Devotchka came on. Haunting, like a shortwave radio voice from down a long, long hallway of the darkest recesses of my future and past minds.

"And in your heart you know it to be true
You know what you gotta do
They all depend on you

And you already know
Yeah, you already know how this will end"

I do already know what I've got to do. And, somehow over the past couple of months I, again, lost my mojo. I know what I've got to do and I know that I can do it. I wonder where and why my confidence whithered, but that's less important to understand right now than moving forward.

So, one step, two step, three step...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Here's to the practice week

From dad on Saturday: Short msg fm phone over lunch. We insist on skype tom but don't need to do so to say COME!!! See you tom. Love dad.

This is the practice week. I'll go to bed by midnight tonight and get up at 10am tomorrow (instead of the lazy 11am-2am I've been keeping). Then, on Tuesday, I'll get up at 9am. Then, maybe I'll practice an 8am. I'm also practicing quitting smoking until I'm done. And, practicing drinking less wine. It will be good to be forced into a "normal" lifestyle in the US.

I'll leave the end of this week and will plan to return end of August, as all the Europeans do. I'm hoping that I can be of some use to my family while I'm back. Mum apparently needs help fixing up their house so they can put it on the market in February. Their new house should be done by November. Dad's in the process of telling his siblings and my grandmother. I warned him not to freak her into shock as I'm desperate to see her at her 93 years old, instead of in a coma from the worry.

I've also drafted my three emails to all the friends in Minneapolis, Madison, and my parents town (where I graduated high school). Haven't sent them as I won't know what my travel schedule is like until after dad's appointment next Monday with the surgeons.

I'm nervous to see him. He looked fine on skype, but the camera only shows head and shoulders. I got no glimpse of pee bag or tubes. I'm nervous about being back in the town I went to high school in - the place crushes my spirit just looking at it. Cookie cutter suburbs all decorated with American flags and deer heads, big trucks and over consumption.

My sister tried to warn me in advance about Rochester (where Mayo Clinic is). It's designed for the sick and their families. Women walking down the sidewalk with tubes in their necks, pee bags all around, and none the striking as it's just how it's done. She said she felt a bit odd when the suits rolled in for a conference, as if they were infiltrating a special community and surely didn't belong.

I figure that it might be kind of cool - in that morbid "my dad has cancer" kind of way. Somewhat like a "my dad has cancer on Mars" kind of surreal reality. Plus, all the culture shock I'll have just being in this strange country. I remember when I moved back after only 9 months of study abroad in Toledo, Spain. I was depressed from the moment I stepped into the Minneapolis airport. So much space between everyone and everything. So many cars. The Midwest is huge and separated. And, I've never been one to often revisit places I've lived, but it seems like this whole triangle keeps coming back to me. It'll be nice to have friendly faces in the mix.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Always had an unhealthy relationship with my dad.

My mum has told me of a time when I was 2 years old, and I looked up at my dad, with eyelashes batting, and asked him if he'd take me for a walk.

It's not unhealthy like incest or like pushing my mom out of the way so he's all mine or holding lovers up to impossible standards that they'd never be like my dad. It's more like, I have forever known that my dad could kick your dad's ass. Even when I hated him so much that I carved his initials on my ankle so as to forever remember my hatred for him. Despite the fact that I know my dad is not strong physically and would probably not do well in a fist fight. It's more that I know he's always got my back. He might not have "gotten" me all the time, but he's always come around and fought for me.

My sister was never eager to acknowledge this. I once told my family flat out that I knew that dad and I got alone better and mum and my sister got along better. My parents denied any favoritism, but I wasn't looking for that kind of confirmation. Instead, I was stating the reality. Dad and I debate politics. We see humanity and get it. We try to pry deeper into the way things work and try to describe them with psychological thinking. We use our sciences of the mind to get below the nuances.

Whereas, my sister still carries the burdens of being an older, more protective sibling. She still harbors conflict with her upbringing. She might even be (still) jealous of the fact that I was always younger, less understanding of the complex and not-so-good environs in which we grew up. She protected me. I am naive. But as an adult she still carries this. She doesn't want to let go of the martyrdom she has given herself. She lives on it. As I live on my accepted "black sheep" lifestyle. I am the crazy one. The unreliable one. The one who, when power of attorney and wills are drawn up, sits back and laughs, "Well, I'm not the one who'll be around to take care of you!" ha ha. But I know the power of forgiveness, evolution, growth, and change. I have forgiven my parents for their wrong-doings in upbringing (no one is given the manual of "Perfect Parenthood"). I know that people develop over time into better or worse and accept that. I know people can grow and change. I know I can be less selfish and more giving, more responsible. My sister. Well, in all her beauty, she claims some kind of unrepentant and unrelenting cross to bear. I would - in all my naivete - like to relieve her of some of that, but it's not for me to do. It is only for me to offer the space for her to drop some controlled responsibility if she chooses to do so.

And, so, with that, I will go to my family. See what mischief I can stir up (inappropriate giggling comments during a serious moment, a hospital fuck in a closet with a male nurse - pipe dream, a trip over an important tube into an important organ). See what help I can offer (being a sub isn't all for nothing). See what can develop in this next story. And, certainly, while I'm aware of my sister's precious hold on the drama, I, too, need my own piece of it. I need a drama in my life. I need my father to struggle and survive, I need to see my Superhero Dad fight the battle and win.