On "Where I'm Calling From"

“Roxy takes my hand. She’s a tall, good-looking woman in a knit cap. She has on a coat, a heavy sweater, and slacks. I recall what J.P. told me about the boyfriend and the wire cutters. I don’t see any wedding ring. That’s in pieces somewhere, I guess. Her hands are broad and the fingers have these big knuckles. This is a woman who can make fists if she has to.”

I read “Where I’m Calling From” again and I realized why (or at least one of the reasons) I like it so much. It’s mystified me a bit before because there is so much darkness in it: broken marriages, alcoholism, violence, etc. I thought before that I liked it because all that stuff was in it. Real stuff. Not a fairy tale. And Raymond Carver writes it in such a matter-of-fact way that you can’t cry or get dramatic about it. It’s not for catharsis or for an inspirational ending. But I realized that the reason I like it is because the character Roxy is so awesome.

“They told Roxy she should take the kids and clear out. But Roxy said it was her problem. She got herself into it, and she’d solve it.”

She goes ahead and kisses the narrator when he asks. She kisses him for luck when it’s the first time she’s met him.

“She moves over. She takes me by the shoulders—I’m a big man—and she plants this kiss on my lips. ‘How’s that?’ she says.
‘That’s fine,’ I say.
‘Nothing to it,’ she says. She’s still holding me by the shoulders. She’s looking me right in the eyes. ‘Good luck,’ she says, and then she lets go of me.”

She’s not perfect. When J.P.’s drinking gets really bad, she gets a boyfriend. She breaks J.P.’s nose, stuff like that. But when she comes to visit J.P. at Frank Martin’s Drying Out Facility, you can tell that she loves him. Her wedding ring’s gone, her husband has the shakes, and still. “Then—she can’t wait any longer—she slips her arm around J.P. and kisses him on the cheek.” Her support extends even to the narrator, a man she doesn’t know, who we know has cheated on his wife, cares kind of about his girlfriend’s cancer (or whatever it is), who is trying to dry out like the rest of them to get things figured out. She kisses him, tells him “good luck,” and she means it.

That takes something, but I don’t know exactly what. Love. Presence of mind. Forgiveness. Empathy. Bravery. Awesomeness. Fool’s hope. I don’t know; it’s something. Remarkable at least.


Annie in August.

"They pulled out."

"What?" I was in a tea shop. I had just stuffed a cream puff in my mouth before I got the call. I tried to gather the information while wiping off the powdered sugar garnish that landed on my lips. Mark was not good at filling in the necessary blanks of his message. Normally conciseness is good, given that everyone within the conversation knows what's going on. I bet he was good at breaking up with girls. Actually, I'm pretty sure he was on the other side of that equation.

"Chase middle school, they're out. Could you still get that other job you were looking into?"

No I cannot. Alright America, if you really don't want me to help you I'll back off.

"I'll figure something out, Thank you for informing me."

"I'm really sorry."

"Well, thanks."

I've got two flesh-eating blisters on the bottom of both feet. I have to walk on my tiptoes. I used to walk on my tiptoes by choice when I was three. I had to wear a cast to correct my bad habit. I also have a popped blood vessel in my left eye that is itchy and dry and somewhat terrifying to look at.


My sister squeals. "I AM SO EXCITED!!!" "I move into my dorm room in 2 days! Elizabeth hall 218!"
"Annie, how should I pack my clothes? Should I put everything in boxes? I cannot wait to live in my little room! I wish I could bring the puppy!"


"So, Annie."
"What's up, mom?"
"Because we are remodeling my bathroom and your bathroom at the same time, we are going to have to shower at the neighbor's. It actually works out perfectly!"
"I see."
"It will be a cottage theme. Granite counter tops."
"That should look nice."


"I am officially a student!"
"Congratulations, Dad! Are you excited?"
"Oh yeah, it should be a blast. I have orientation tomorrow and I'll sign up for my classes."


I turned down a teaching assistantship in France, a Masters in Teaching program, received rejection e-mails or phone messages from 19 out of the 20 Americorps positions that I applied for. I was hired by one position and a week later the job disappeared. The one thing I am good at is fucking up. (I don't actually believe that, but it almost needs to be said.)

I went for a bike ride today. Applied to another job. Read for awhile. First the newspaper, not so good. One teacher from every school in the Portland district will find out in the next week that they don't have a job come the first day of school. Many of them have families, mortgages, and a hopeful, but not an optimistic travel fund to see Europe for the first time next summer. Six million Pakistanis who were affected by the flooding are without any humanitarian aid. People are tired of giving funds to natural disasters. Haiti, Katrina, Sri Lanka. Besides, aren't there Taliban extremists in Pakistan? Yeah, and what about that mosque they want to build near ground zero?... you get the problem. I digress...

I switched my attention to Michael Charbon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and a dictionary. He is a good writer. I wrote down my favorite words because of how they sound aloud. craggy. subsumed. sumptuous. limn. insalubrious. incongruous chrome. I never thought to pause and take note of how beautiful the English language can be. I've been stuck in French phrases and conjugations. I have so much to learn. So much to read.

A bird took a shit yesterday on my copy of Kavalier and Clay, my sundress, and my left knee.

I write this out of sheer wonder and amazement, not a cry for pity. In a strange, twisted way it's quite comical. After all, sometimes words of comfort lend greater credence to my fears of Annie in August and beyond.*

i'm surprisingly aplomb.

*= "...words of comfort lent greater credence to his fears." -Kavalier and Clay. Can't take credit for it.


Spent $800

Being a mattress salesman would be weird. Couples come into your store, er, warehouse looking for a place to sleep, have sex, or widdle away their insomnia.

Mitch and I bought a mattress. Our salesman, Mick, was in his sixties and had bad teeth and lots of hair. Mitch told him we wanted a queen and he said it looked like Mitch already had a queen, meaning me. I didn’t tell him that “Queen” is a term for a flamboyant or bitchy gay man, and that I hoped Mitch did not, in fact, have one.

I spent the rest of the shopping time lying on different beds. Trying them out on my side, on my back, “Oh! a stomach sleeper." He stood over us and talked away. He told us about how great marriage was. “My wife turned me into a good man. I mean, I was a pretty great guy before, but it’s because of her that I’m a good man.” And he plunked down next to us on one mattress to show the lack of over-all bounciness.

“Honey (that’s me apparently), make sure you try out your side of the bed.” If you’d like to know, Mitch and I don’t have sides of the bed. We’re a modern couple. But I thought, really Mick? Of course! People don’t come to a mattress store looking for a mattress. They’re looking for a side of the mattress. It’s quite convenient buying a mattress with another person. Kind of wasteful buying a bed with two sides for just one person. This must be the reason people get married.

I vow to join my side of the mattress to your side of the mattress. We will split the cost of box springs.

We bought a mattress, “Vera Wang for Serta.” I’m not sure how much designing Vera had to do for it. It’s rectangular, padded, white. Not at all what I expect from high fashion.

The most expensive mattresses had rhinestones all over them.

We wanted to pay over a year same as cash, but Wells Fargo denied our application for a card. Right there in front of Mick. (“It’s ok, honey.”) Mitch was also saying “lovely” a lot, like a younger Jerry Sitser.

It is ok, honey. Nothing really mattress.


Something I'm Trying Out

I have made Westovarian part deux on Tumblr, an up-and-coming (maybe) little blog program. We'll see how it goes.


A Honeymoon with My Parents

The only thing that sounds worse is A Honeymoon With The In-laws. Ben Stiller could star in it, and it would be full of awkwardness and frustration. It’d probably wind up not-as-funny as the movie makers intended it to be, but of course it’d make plenty of money because there are people who enjoy those kind of movies—the trying-to-be-funny-but-not kind.

Mitch and I are in that movie. He said to me, “I’m having fun. I just had different expectations. I thought it’d be more honey moon, rather it’s like a family vacation.” I’m telling you all this because I’d rather you hear it from me. In-laws sounds so much worse than My Parents, so I figure it’d be worse coming from Mitch.

The first three days we spent by ourselves, sort of. The day after the wedding we went home to see my aunt Suzie before she headed back to Indy. Then we had two days in Denver capped by dinner and a Rockies game with the Kuck family. We slept on the floor in Lindsay’s apartment. Wednesday we went back to my parents’ house. Thursday we went up to Fort Collins to my brothers’ college house (with my brothers). And now we’re hiking Maroon Bells with the whole gang and the Lungs and Rachel. Mitch and I are sharing a room (ok, it’s a two-bedroom apartment.) with the rest of my family* and Lindsay and Matt. The six of us (my family + Mitch) drove here in one car. I’m writing to you from our balcony on the fourth floor, my feet up on a woodsy ottoman, with nothing but the slopes and the sky in front of me. Jessica’s inside preparing a Mexican feast.

On our eleven-mile hike today I was thinking about expectations and insecurities. Rachel and I have talked about how getting a boyfriend eliminates some insecurities of singleness, but it also provides all new ones. Getting married works like that too. The insecurity of your boyfriend just randomly breaking up with you goes away—much harder to break up, anyway. But it’s replaced by the insecurity being perpetually resented for replacing honey moon-esque activities with hanging out with your family and family friends. There’s also the fear that my being married will make me old, boring, and tame.

I ran into plenty wedding expectations. It’s one of those things about which everybody has an opinion. Honey Moon expectations are a little different. When you tell someone (like a server or valley parking or your neighbors in the hot tub) they look at you like they’re surprised you’re not having sex in front of them. Lots of knowing winks or glances and some confusion about what we’re doing in Colorado instead of the Caribbean.

And the tough thing about all these insecurities and thwarted expectations is that they don’t mean a damn thing—in fact, they’re enriching—if my marriage with Mitch is loving and fun (both for us and for other people). But if the marriage turns very sour they become bad omens or reasons for discontent. They are retroactively significant. My future self will present these facts in whatever light it wants to. We construe and construe our pasts.

*I didn’t know about this rooming arrangement until mile ten on the hike. The pajamas I brought aren’t really family time appropriate. Thank you, Annie Dugas.


Homing Device

I stumbled upon these articles and thought I'd write a poem about it.


They had eaten her lettuce,
ravaged her petunias,
devastated her beans.

She was too kindly a person
to kill them
with pellets or salt.

So she took them to a nearby

It is gardener's lore
that snails have a homing device.

The ground-based radar
illuminates the guided missile
to find and track its target.