Archives for January 2009
I was going to give you some Twitter advice to help you promote your blog because I uncharacteristically clicked on your spam barrage of links on your Twitter feed and I thought, Huh– this blog is not half bad.
I am AGHAST at your LACK of “humanity”. You were indignant and offended at the ladies at the store who didn’t say “good anything” to you and yet when presented with a man whose foot just might even have to be amputated, you told him it was disgusting and gave him all of one dollar. When telling his friend to get Jed to a clinic, you forgot to add, “…after you collect a lot more money because, of course, a dollar isn’t going to get you anywhere.” Maybe you don’t have much money or didn’t have much on you. That’s understandable. What is not understandable is your comments to him. Not, “I hope that gets better soon!” or “I’m so sorry. That looks painful.” No, you “snapped” that his foot was “dis-gusting”. Where was your compassion? You judge some ladies for having poor manners when you lacked something greater?
Your first thought was “Foot ointment? Ah, this is one I haven’t heard before.” You were judging him. Sure, a lot of homeless people suffer from alcoholism, to try and shut out the pain of their world, but not all of them do. And because you cannot know for certain, you should never, ever take it upon yourself to judge. Live generously without judging and be blessed while letting the sin of lying be upon the head of he who lied to get money from you.
You couldn’t have taken him to the clinic yourself and asked someone to fix his foot? Asked if they had any sort of charity program or whatnot? I don’t know how it works there. In Canada you don’t have to pay for basic health care– everyone is cared for.
Even the word you use for these people– “bums”– associates them with something lowly and maybe they are by appearances. But when judgment day comes, it’s very possible that these bums will rise higher than you, because they’ve very likely been given very little with which to work.
And even if you don’t believe in God, you claim to believe in humanity. But you begrudged it.
Even to sandwich such a sad issue like homelessness in with your prophetic tree frog and your wedding dress shopping is so dismissive!
I NEVER leave critical comments on people’s blogs. But you really don’t seem to have any idea how this post comes across and since you put it out there, and you linked to it, and you’re trying to drive more traffic to it, and you’re trying to become a writer, I couldn’t in good conscience walk by and just toss you a measly dollar.
Best of luck with not stepping on the tree frog, finding the right dress, and dealing with “the bums”.
Your blog is very pretty. I like the scarf in your picture and I dig most of the to do’s on your bucket list. I figured this place was as good as any to post a reply to your criticism (ie: MY first hate mail.)
What can I say? I refer to bums as bums. It rolls off the tongue.
I realize it’s less P.C. than “homeless person,” “man on the street,” or “transient.” I’ve learned from many conversations with bums that street peeps resent the word transient. Most of these guys/gals hang around one city block longer than I’ve lived in some apartments. And since “homeless man” or “man on the street” sounds too Phil Collins, and since most of the ones I interact with nearly every day tend to do a lot of bumming around, I’ll stick with bums.
Despite my crude sense of humor, I do have a heart. I’m a sucker for GD bums. In fact, I have friends with much more sarcastic senses of humor who’ve suggested I suffer from, “a Pollyanna complex.”
Note: I only had two bucks on me that day.
Note: When my boyfriend moved out of his apartment two years ago, I delivered a stack of his old blankets and pillows to a man sleeping on the sidewalk. Having observed this man earlier in the day on a bike ride, I returned with my car and the bedding, careful not to wake the old bugger as I set a pillow by his head.
Good lord, Mormon. I wasn’t passing judgment. Sure the guy’s foot was battered, but no more than mine after a muddy music festival and a bad fall. His request for foot ointment WAS a new plea. Usually I get asked for cigarettes, quarters, dollar bills, lighters, etc … And usually these requests are followed by – or preceded by – a catcall.
Was I cavalier? Probably. Am I always cavalier? No. Was this post an honest snapshot of the day? Sure. Did I embellish his wound by calling it “gangrenous?” Probably. I’m a writer not a doctor.
As for driving this guy to a walk-in clinic, if I were to personally escort every ailing person I pass to a medical facility in St. Pete, I’d log more miles than a NYC cab.
Natasha, your blog is lovely. And I mean that sincerely. My boyfriend was “following” you on Twitter and since I’m a blogger with limited readership I figured I’d follow you too. I wanted to share my posts. The “spam barrage of links” on my Twitter feed is the only way I know how to draw traffic to my site, that and Facebook and MySpace. As irritating and exhausting as social networking sites can be, they’ve introduced me to a bevy of talented writers and photographers.
Like you, I just want to make people laugh and think and come back for more. If my “behavior” chaps your ass, I encourage you to read more of my posts. I’m much more than a bum-bashing pisspot.
Also, by scolding my dismissive behavior you totally overlooked my two favorite literary devices – juxtaposition and symbolism. The post that left you AGHAST had both.
Having said all that, thank you for your comment. I’m tickled by hate mail too. I was working on a freelance piece about a Tuskegee Airman when I read your comment. It woke me up and carried me through to deadline.
Maybe we can be friends.
Okay, first of all, I did not give you hate mail. I didn’t call you stupid or use crude language. I was commenting on your behaviour and I believe my writing left it open as a dialogue.
I sort of hear you on the symbolism and juxtaposition thing. Sort of. I wrote a post about my Twitter philosophy that got me MY first critical comment, except that unlike my comment to you, this one attacked ME personally instead of just my behaviour. And the reason she attacked me was because she didn’t notice the symbolism in the very thing she was criticizing: I was telling people who use Twitter to tell me (or you or any other Twitter follower) how they could make them happy, make them “remarkable”, etc. etc. I objected to the arrogant language by using it myself to say, “Maybe I can help YOU!” and then proceeded to tell them a better way to use Twitter and it was TOTALLY on purpose and some readers picked up on it.
Speaking of which, here is what I wanted to tell you: People want to get to know you. If you tweeted little random thoughts, links to other things on the web, comments back to people, and funny observations, only then intermingling links to your blog, you’d get a lot more followers and ones who would be following not out of obligation but because they found you engaging. Twitter really is about relationships. But when all your tweets are about your blog, it looks like you don’t want a relationship. You just want to talk about you.
And that’s NOT a criticism. I am not suggesting that there’s any symbolism there with how you use Twitter. You just started. And normally I don’t even bother to tell people how to use it better but I could tell you weren’t just some big business jerk-off and I liked your blog title.
However, approaching your point about symbolism and juxtaposition, I don’t see it. If we’re going to critique it as a piece of writing, here goes: It read like a “Here’s what I did today” diary type post. It did not seem to have a moral, a lesson, etc. There was no point. Which is fine, for a blog post. Not all of my posts have a point. But for there to be juxtaposition or symbolism as a creative writing tool, there needs to be a point that is magnified by those tools.
And because it doesn’t look like there was any intended point besides to give a snapshot of your day and your life (and your character, so it seemed) it did put you in a bad light. As I said, I didn’t think you realized how it made you look and how it encouraged a similar mindset for readers. A few of these points that you’re saying here, could have been included. Like how often you’re catcalled, etc. You could have worked it in without breaking up the writing.
My heart is warmed to hear about you dropping off the blankets and I don’t doubt you’re telling the truth.
I’m friends with lots of people and you’ve made it clear that you can have a mature dialogue and are not easily offended. So, SURE!
A month later she flew back to Dakar. By Thanksgiving she and Mbaye were back in the states – Mbaye for the first time in his life.
Rather than explain any of this I’ll dig up an old e-mail written by Ricci in bullet-point fashion, as I’m sure she was writing it while filing a story about Senegalese scrabble champions, while photographing a sword-juggling monkey, while carrying on a conversation (in French) with a soothsayer, while daydreaming of malted milkshakes.
Filed the story and now ready to file my story with you.
- have bought plane ticket back to states for sept. 17. this freaks me out, because i do not want to truly leave to dakar.
- also have plane ticket back to dakar, where i will stay from oct. 20 — nov. 22 (i have some work to do here at that time)
- my boy and i are going to the us embassy next wed. to apply for a visitor visa so he can come here and meet the fam. we’re SO nervous. i’m scared of the us government. if they say no, i guess we’ll just have to get married so he can come visit. (do NOT get me started on the ridiculousness of this process. i’m actually documenting it (via words).. it’s SO convoluted and feels like some ridiculous Willy Wonka-type, bureaucratic scavenger hunt. Just so he can come VISIT!!) our country blows sometimes.
I interviewed the couple earlier this month on a sun-drenched stretch of interstate on route to Sarasota. Since Mbaye speaks only French and Wolof – his native Senegalese language – and since the only French sentence I know goes something like, “Ohh la la j’ai une rendevous avec David dans 20 minutes …” I asked Ricci to translate.
Note: Unless Mbaye gets signed to an American soccer team he will have to return to Dakar in May.
“He says he’s a little nervous because he doesn’t know who he’s going to meet and if they’ll be as nice as they were last time.”
Ricci, are you nervous?
“I’m nervous about him flying by himself, about him getting lost at the airport or something.”
You don’t feel the fate of your relationship hangs on whether or not he makes the team?
“I just have to think we’re going to work it out no matter what happens. If he makes the team, great. If he doesn’t we’ll figure something out.”
Have your communication skills improved, dating someone who doesn’t speak English?
“If we have a fight — and it’s usually me who gets mad because he rarely gets mad — I want to make sure I say how I feel correctly in French. And after I go through it in my head I realize if I can’t explain it simply in terms he can understand, then it’s probably not worth getting mad over because it’s convoluted and more my problem than his.”
You’ve learned to not overreact.
“There’s a level of communication that has to be there because sometimes when you speak the same language, you just assume what somebody means when they say something. For us, when I say something, it’s like this is what I’m saying, but this is what I mean.”
What do you guys fight about?
(Translates into French for Mbaye)
Ricci: “I don’t think we’ve had a big blow-out fight.”
(Mbaye interrupts in French.)
Ricci: “Oh yeah. We had one in Senegal.”
Ricci: “It was over money.”
Ricci: “And we got in one once when we got in a car and I didn’t know where I was going. I was freaking out and he was l like, ‘Don’t freak out you’re going to get in an accident.’”
Is that his role? To calm you down?
(Ricci laughs. Translates into French.)
Mbaye (in broken English): “She is never calm.”
Ricci: “One time I was calm and peaceful and he was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I said, ‘Nothing, why?’ And he said, ‘When the volcano is quiet one must question why.’”
Did Mbaye have anxiety about coming to the United States?
“He worried that my friends were going to think he was different or maybe not a good guy. He wasn’t afraid that they would be mean. He just figured they’d act weird around him.”
Did we act weird?
“He says no. He says all my friends were so nice and took such good care of him.”
Does he have a favorite American food?
“He says he has a stomach he doesn’t understand. It accepts everything that goes into it.”
How has your relationship changed in the United States?
“In Africa he knew how to get around and he knew the language and I was the person who didn’t know what was going on. If we’d have to get something done, he would know exactly what to do and I wouldn’t even ask questions. In Africa we never spent the night together. There were days we wouldn’t see each other. And here, I don’t think we’ve been apart more than an hour — once when he flew to Charleston for a tryout. I was worried at first that we would get sick of each other, but we’ve gotten along better the more we’re together.”
(Translates into French for Mbaye.)
“He says the relationship is better here. When we were apart I’d call him 20 times a day.”
Because your insecurities are magnified when you’re apart. That’s pretty normal, I think.
“Yeah. We fought more in Senegal than we do here.”
Were you worried Mbaye wouldn’t adapt to American shizzle?
“I was worried he might get homesick, but I wasn’t worried about him adapting at all.”
(In lousy French) Le Ikea pullout couch etait-il comfortable la nuit?
Mbaye: “Tres comfortable.”
Ricci, how would you describe your relationship with Mbaye?
“It’s easy. It’s almost like … I don’t know … I’m happy. Girls always say, ‘I want to find The One. I want to find The One,’ and when you think about it, it’s like, oh this is it. Anticlimactic is the wrong word because it has a negative connotation, but I don’t know … it just feels good.”
Finding The One was less dramatic than you thought.
“Yes, I guess.”
The people in your life better be comfortable around cameras. Does Mbaye ever tire of being your model?
“He loves it. He always jokes he’s the poorest model in the world.”
Is it frustrating for him to not be able to communicate with your friends?
“He says he’s not frustrated. He’s sorry he can’t speak English but the fact that people try to talk to him is the most important thing. He says there’s a lot a smile and hand gestures can communicate.”
In what ways is this relationship different than others you’ve had?
“Well, we don’t speak English and we’re biracial. Those are the obvious ways it’s different. He makes me a better person. I feel like I have to be a better person because he raises the bar for me. Sometimes I’m like, but what do I do for you?”
How has the biracial thing played out?
“I have a lot of friends who date Senegalese men, but it’s also like ‘he’s with her because she has money and connections. Or, ‘he’s using her to get further or whatever.’ Someone said to me once when we were applying for a visa – ‘how do you know he’s not just using you for the visa?”
That’s a rotten thing to say.
“First of all I said, ‘He wouldn’t do that because he’s a good guy and an honest person.’ Second of all, there’s a level of trust in every relationship. How do you know your girlfriend is not cheating on you? You have to trust people are who they say they are in any relationship.”
But generally you haven’t felt discriminated against?
“Most of my friends are super liberal and accepting. I’m sure there are some people who have problems with it but then it’s like, it’s not your relationship. I’d rather be with him and have these kinds of problems than be with somebody who doesn’t make me happy and have people look at us like we are – quote – normal.”
“I feel like most of our problems are the world’s problems, not our problems.”
And what does Mbaye think?
“He says people look at us strangely because we’re beautiful.”
PS. The picture above was taken during a turkey sammie picnic on St. Pete Beach. For a glorious list of sammie recipes click here.
“That frog,” I told Joe, “is going to get stomped on.”
Remembering a former new age-y boss, who once confessed to me during a long Christmas shift at Waldenbooks, that he had a groundhog spirit guide, I decided to reference the frog in Ted Andrews book, Animal Speak.
According to Andrews, if a frog has presented itself, “it may be time to breathe new life into an old project or goal.”
The frog is a symbol of fertility, rebirth and resurrection. Since I’m in no hurry to get preggers, I took this is as a message to get cracking on The Book, which I realize has nothing to do with returning The Dress.
Armed with frog knowledge I took off to purchase a present for a friend in downtown St. Pete, and as usual, I passed a gaggle of bums, and as usual, one of them called out to me.
“M’am,” he croaked. “Can you spare some change so I can get ointment for my foot.”
This is a new one, I thought. Foot ointment. Surely this bum – I’ll call him Jed – has milked other ailments in the past, but foot ailments? C’mon, dude. Wear shoes and your feet won’t slough off.
I reached into my purse, pulled out a dollar bill, handed it to Jed and snapped, “That foot. Is dis-gusting.”
Jed took the dollar bill and nodded gratefully, his ruddy face creasing in the afternoon sun like an origami crane. It hit me just then, like a sack of bricks to the belly, that bums are ageless. Not ageless in the sense that they are young, but ageless in the sense that they are without an age. To those of us who pass them by, bums are just bums with no names and no ages. No numbers and letters to hang over their heads. Just time.
“Linda,” said the one saleswoman. “Get over here. You’re not gonna believe how well this dress fits.”
“Like a glove!” Squealed Linda. “Oo! We’ve been waiting for someone to buy this dress!”
“How long do I have to return it?” I asked.
“Return it?” They snapped. “Why would you return it?”
And then, two weeks later I returned it. I think the saleswomen had a bet, because when I walked in with the dress in a Target bag, the one smirked at the other like, Itoldyouso.
“Well that’s too bad,” the one woman said. “It fit you like a glove.”
On my way up 2nd Avenue I passed Ann Taylor, walked inside and purchased a fetching tweed number for the rehearsal dinner.
These clowns have been cutting down trees all week. It’s like listening to 100 dentists bore 100 cavities at once.
I’m half inclined to ask them if I can have a few logs for our outdoor fire pit, but I’m sure the City of St. Pete has loftier plans … what with its stellar reputation for recycling.
It a spectacular day out. Gray. Rainy. Sky the color of a chalkboard. Perfect writing weather. It’s not that bad weather inspires me to write, it’s that the break in 75-degree monotonous sunshine triggers spirited introspection, which is such an ungrateful thing for a Buffalo girl to say, so my apologies to the folks back home.
When I picture our brain, I picture the globe. Divided into hemispheres, our brain is not unlike the earth. The frontal lobe is where most of our dopamine-sensitive neurons sit and stew, waiting patiently, hands clasped on their laps like southern belles at the Kentucky Derby, for a dopamine breeze to blow their hats off.
Often when we think of our brain’s pleasure molecules, we think of serotonin. But in my not-so-expert opinion, serotonin is fleeting. Like a bite-sized Snickers. Dopamine however, seems more enduring. Like a gallon of chocolate ice cream.
Just the sound of the word dopamine is intoxicating. First discovered in 1952 by a Swedish scientist, (who by the way wasn’t awarded his Nobel Prize for this discovery until 2000) dopamine is my enemy and my lover.
I drink dopamine every day in my coffee, and I know I could get it elsewhere if I wanted, but I tell myself to buck up, synthesize it on your own.
Which is why I’m throwing every ounce of literary ambition into a novel. I want to swim laps in a sea of dopamine. The last time I attempted a novel, I was so filled with dopamine it seeped out my eyes.
Resolutions are for the birds. To quit doing some thing, or to start doing another thing, there has to be a motivating factor.
As a blonde, I’m mildly insulted by the connotation of this art. Hey, Kronenwald: ask your grandma to start chewing on those Bit-O-Honeys she keeps in her candy jar, then have her fork over her dentures. The sticky aftermath will make for a nice series of brunettes.
My father is disgusted with his beer gut, so to whittle it he started walking today from his house on Langford Road to the town highway department on Eden Road. (It’s about three miles.) I called my mother this morning to talk about overpriced wedding photographers, and my father, gung ho and out of breath, answered the cell phone.
“What’s up with you?”
“Ah yes,” he rasped. “I’m walking.”
“I’m almost to the highway department.”
“You sound out of breath.”
“I’m OK. It’s beautiful out.”
“And you’re walking to the highway department?”
“Yes. I’m almost there.”
“Did you bring the cell phone in case you needed to call Mom to pick you up?”
“I brought the cell phone in case I fell dead from a heart attack I could call 911 before I hit the ground.”
“What did you and Mom do for New Years Eve?”
“So did we.”
“That’s OK. At least we all woke up.”
“Right. Alright Dad, good luck walking. Tell Mom I called about wedding photographers.”
“Will do. Happy New Year.”