I'm having a thought: the classic strategy on how to play life is to pick a goal, a far out into the future goal, that will define the direction of your life. A lot of times this is a profession -- teacher, priest, fireman (Apparently, in my mind, two and a half out of three professions are for men.)-- and/or a life style like parent of children, home owner, world traveler, etc. And then once this end point is determined, life is played in pursuit of it, making various moves (school, experience, friends) in order to get there.

You see this, you know what I'm talking about, right? It's the whole "what am I going to do with my life" conundrum.

Well, I've been think a lot about Euchre lately, a four-person, trick-taking, partner card game. My mom's side of the family plays it a lot, and I'm really good. How it works is that you are partners with the person across from you, and between you both, you are trying to take more tricks than the other two folks. Betting (called "ordering it up"), before hand, that you can accomplish this wins you the right to influence trump; the downside is if you fail, the other team scores more points than they would if you hadn't bet. (And if I haven't yet forced you to play this game with me, you know we're not good friends.)

I've found by playing and watching my family play, that most often, aggressive play is rewarded. Ordering it up on middling cards most of the time pans out better than passing. My aunt Yvonne plays very aggressively, often saying "Best I got." to explain her nearly reckless card playing. And she wins almost always.

Well, I was thinking on the train: what if that is an alternative to how we're taught to play life? Calling trump before you look at your cards has no advantages, and maybe betting on something many years in the future is not a good idea either.

I've heard metaphors about "playing the cards you're dealt" and some such, but that is usually referring to attributes given at birth which play out over a lifetime. But it seems to me that life is dealing new cards all the time; you get more than one hand to play over the years.

And unlike that other thing they told us -- that we could do anything we put our minds to -- the cards make a big difference. There is luck and unfairness involved. And the metaphor, playing life as a kind of Euchre game, allows the recognition of that injustice and of things outside your control, while it allows you to look at the cards you hold right now (not something way out in the future) and figure, "Best I got."



Train station platform, three women chat by the side of the brick ticket office. Blonde edges brighten their hair, their hair in uniform waves, even though it is winter and Saturday. They wear boots and leggings and sleek coats and earrings. They say Our daughters have a 4g phone. We just have a 3g.

A woman with round shoulders and a green coat, stiff with pockets, shuffles up along the tracks.

Our kids always take our upgrades, they say. Well actually, Paul takes Mine. –But they really need it more than We do, they say. To be with their friends.

she reaches the group of women. Her eyes are part-way closed; her hair is gray and stringy. she walks up to them, up next to the group. she is shorter than them by six inches.

Our next upgrade isn’t until November. We want a new one before then, they say. My children, they say, My children will probably take it first.

she has joined their circle. They do not look at her.

“I don’t want n—none of that,” she tells Them.


Sports Pt 1

"Sports. Sports. Sports." -- Mitch Carver

Because I have heard the seemingly wide-spread generalization that women don't watch sports or know anything about sports, I will posit another grossly-unfounded generalization: old women watch sports. In fact, I believe that many spend most of their waking hours doing so.

Mitch's grandma will text him the scores of the various games she is watching. She watches all sports, but likes football in particular. It's hard for me to imagine what she thinks of all these fit men, so much her junior, running around and into each other and over things. (Unless it's baseball in which case she's watching men standing with the beginnings of what will someday be formidable beer guts and diabetes.) I guess I could ask her.

Donald Hall writes in this weeks's New Yorker (about the experience of getting old), "My mother heard baseball as it happened, from the small radio beneath her ear, next to the ashtray. (In another room, an enormous steam-powered television showed a continual blank screen; she did not want to move from her chair.) The radio games replaced her window of schoolchildren and birds. During the months between baseball seasons she spent her nights reading the Reader's Digest, Henry David Thoreau, Time, Robert Frost--and Agatha Christie. My summer nights are NESN and the Boston Red Sox."

My grandma will ask grandpa to put the game on for her. He'll wheel her into the living room and help her get into the brown corduroy chair. She likes basketball best, but then again, during the game, she is mostly sleeping.


my week.

This lovely girl writes me stories. One of the sentences goes, "RING RING goes the phone until someone answered the phone. Annie answered the phone and talked. Annie is a truth person. She cannot tell a lie." It's unrealistically lovely.

This album is old news, i know. Everyone has already expressed their love for this album years ago and it's time to move on yeah yeah yeah... but I still love it so very much. I confess I'm not savvy enough to notice the difference in sound sophistication between a vinyl record and an ipod. (I shrug.) But I do love watching it go round and around. I started to write down prayers or things I am thankful for because I don't pray enough. I had a hard time thinking of something to say ( I could list for hours things I am thankful for, but I want to express things that are specific to the time I'm writing and reflecting on my life.) I thanked him for the song Helplessness Blues. I feel really good about that.

I lost my wallet at a store tonight. (sunlight over me no matter what I do.) Jon told me I would give him an ulcer if I lose anything else. He is currently wearing George the Polar Bear on his head. (Well in this picture at least. If George is still on his head now I can't decide if I'm impressed or not surprised.) My sister gave George to Jon and Jon to George for Christmas. They are best friends.



I walked into the class, and I was startled to find that around the three badly mismatched tables sat a collection of mostly men. I should have expected this. I’ve read about the disparity between the numbers of men and women in comedy. I had just forgotten or had not had time to develop expectations because I had been drinking heavily at the Kimball-Bryant house the night before. The mostly men around the table looked to be in their twenties and every other one of them was dressed like Jon Fox. Jon Fox is a formidable critic, and I mention this not because it is his defining quality – he’s a lovely person (one of my favorites) who is, at times, warm and goofy; he just happens to have thought-out, intelligent, articulate, decapitating opinions. And I mention this because what I had to do, amidst these Jon-Fox-look-alikes, was come up with jokes.

We all had newspapers, and we had to sit with our papers and come up with news jokes. Then we went around and said them out loud. I came up with one about pirates. It was terrible.

The Chicago Tribune – its grey flat factness – was spread out in front of me. I don’t read newspapers. I’m not very interested in news. It just lay there.

I am taking this comedy writing class (at an improv theater) because I want to explore the relationship between pain and comedy and social criticism and comedy. And I would like to write a television show. And now I have to come up with ten news jokes by Saturday. I have absolutely nothing. In France they used industrial-grade silicon in some breast jobs. Now breasts are leaking and bursting all over the place, and I can’t even think of a joke about that.

I don't think all that many things are funny, and oftentimes even when I do find something funny I won't laugh. (I'll say, "I like that." Which is, of course, hugely expressive.) So my fear is that next class I will have no jokes, and I won't laugh at anybody else's jokes. I'll just sit at that table (probably hungover) and say nothing as the puns and jokes go round and round and everyone gets increasingly angry.

...and then my breasts will pop.


Let's talk about sex, baby.

Today was my first day back to work from Christmas break.

I walk into the room, find my laptop, and begin to reconnect with teachers and counselors.

My co-workers are there, all smiles and all gitty. Both of the girls have recently entered into new, exciting relationships.

The conversations consist of: what did you do with your boyfriend? oh i love my boyfriend, oh he bought me a laptop, oh my vagina hurts, oh boyfriend boyfriend boyfriend.

co-workers: Annie, what did you do with your boyfriend over the holidays?

me: We hung out. It was really fun. (My boyfriend got me some sweet McSweeny postcards with awesome art on the covers. I love it. I didn't tell them about it because I knew they wouldn't see it the same way I did. Especially when my co-worker's brand new macbook was directly in front of me.) I was able to spend good time with my family too. I really miss my family.

co-workers: Great, but why aren't you ready for marriage?

me: (I'm thinking- wow, that's quite the subject change/I'm more than bored of this conversation) well, I don't want to be married today. So I am happy with where I'm at now.

co-workers: Cool. (uneasy)

They walk into the kitchen located a few feet away from me. They talk about how/where/when they like to have sex.

I could hear them the entire time.

They walk back into the room where I am still sitting. I ignore their presence and continue checking up on my work life.

One of them said, "oh sorry, we don't want to talk about this in front of your virgin ears."

They put me at the kid's table. I am drinking sparkling apple cider with my Thanksgiving dinner instead of a really tasty Chardonnay. (I recommend Domaine Serene's Clos du Lune Chardonnay. I'm normally not a fan of that buttery taste, but they do good things with their grapes. Way to go Willamette Valley!)

I was pissed. They have already humped a chair in front of me, ask me how I can resist not have sex, and if I like beef in my mouth.

Because I've never had a penis in my vagina I am automatically a naive, simple girl. I apologize for being so explicit. But I don't know a better way to explain what it feels like than to be vulgar. Because it is vulgar. It feels raw and awful. My worth is wrapped up in the status of my reproductive organs.

I've travelled all over the world. I've climbed a volcano. I've learned French. I tackled an eating disorder. I've studied for years. I have thought carefully about what I believe and think. But, really, all of that doesn't matter. It's all about sex.

Over the last few months this experience has taught me something I do but didn't realize. I've made choices about my personal life not because a religion tells me to, but because it's what I want. I'm happy with my decision. I just wish my value as an intelligent, thoughtful human being wasn't compromised by what is right for me.