Hey, remember when I moved to San Francisco and had my power turned off in the second week?

I moved to San Francisco in June of last year and last week, during what was my sort-of anniversary of moving to the city, I dug out the journal I started when I first moved here. And, oh man, I had forgotten what a hard couple of months I had there at the beginning. I didn’t tell anyone this at the time, because I was much too embarrassed, but I had my power turned off because I waited too long to call PG&E to set  things up. As a result, I spent a couple of nights in the dark feeling sorry for myself.

What follows is a short selection from my journal during that time. They are incredibly embarrassing entries but they’re also pretty hilarious and I’m proud of them in a way. They are the best and worst parts of me, and serve as a good reminder that shit happens, people mess up, things do get better, and as long as I can keep laughing at myself and using excessive amounts of profanity, then I’ll be just fine. Well, better than fine actually. I’ll be great.

June 25, 2011

A while back, in another journal, I told myself I wasn’t going to start a new journal until I finished the one I was writing in. Obviouisly, I didn’t stick to that. At the time I felt like I was trying to start a journal every other week–I always start a journal when I need/want to make a break with the past or start a new chapter so to speak. It’s such obvious symbolism but it helps. I just feel bad because it’s a waste of paper. Also, the fact that I have about ten journals with only one or two entries in them could be somewhat symbolic as well. Symbolic of what, I’m not so sure. But it probably has something to do with me wanting to start over too much, failing a lot, and being unhappy and not wanting to admit it.

But bla, who wants to talk about that? Certainly not me. Certainly not now.

So yes, this journal is a break from the past but it’s also the start of something new. I mean, like duh. Aren’t all new beginnings at the end of something? Isn’t that what that old pop song says? “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” This journal will be like that. It will also be like everything else I write (and do and think and feel) these days: Confused.

June 27, 2011

So yes, I got a new job, quit my old one, packed up my stuff, left Santa Cruz, and moved to San Francisco. I don’t know why I thought this would be a smooth transition—probably because I’m an idiot–but it hasn’t been.

Changing your life can be like, really hard.

So ya, I’ve kind of fucked up. A lot. The shit I do sometimes, is so ridiculous, it amazes even me. Lately I feel like I’m one minor screw-up away from completely ruining my entire life. But you know, that’s kind of what makes it fun. And I need to remind myself that this is what I wanted. I wanted a challenge. I wanted something hard. “The hard is what makes it great.” I wanted to be scared and uncomfortable. I wanted this.

God, what a dumb bitch I was.

I should probably mention that I’m writing this while sitting on the floor of my new apartment in the dark. I forgot to call PG&E and they’ve turned off my power. Ooops.

I would also like to add that so far I have received three parking tickets and two angry notes from my neighbors about my inability to correctly park my car. Also, I took the wrong train home tonight and ended up riding around the city for a good hour and a half–okay, two hours–before I figured out where I was and how to get home. Nice eh?

But it’s  all okay because I have candles, I have red wine, I have an awesome sleeping bag, I have books (I always have books), and I’m actually feeling rather romantic sitting here on the floor of my empty apartment with Rupert on my lap, purring in that soft soothing way of his. And the bottle next to me is looking all tall and dark and beautiful and  half-finished here in the dim light. (No, I won’t say half-empty or half-full, because it doesn’t matter if I’m drinking it all tonight. Hahaha…)

There is great hope and promise in an open bottle of wine.

And yes, I’m getting cheesy and weird but so what? I’m sitting on the fucking floor in the dark, I can do what I want.

So I need to be able to bitch about life stuff in here because, frankly, I’m stressed the fuck out and I always try to be profound and talk about life and I dunno, my lame fucking feelings in here when I should just stop being an ass and start using my journal for what it’s supposed to be used for–bitching and laughing at how incredibly stupid I can be.

Years from now when I read this I’m hoping this will be an especially entertaining entry. “Hey, remember when I moved to San Francisco and had my power turned off in the second week? That was fucking hilarious.”

Oh well, it’s not that bad. Now I just deal. Fuck it you know? I’m just going to jump in and fail a lot. And make mistakes. Hopefully that will work out for me.

It’s dark. I’m writing by candlelight. Rupert has left my lap and now I can hear his claws click as he explores the next room, and the cough of the man walking by outside my window. There are car doors being opened and closed. The dog in the apartment above me scampering overhead. Buses stopping and starting again. Everything is moving. Everything makes this great noise–a communal hum of life and living. And yet here, in this room, I can hear the soft pat of my pen as it moves across this page, joining it all, and it feels so quiet.

I guess not having electricity will do that to you.

June 29, 2012

Ah yes, there’s nothing so romantic as cleaning a cat box by candlelight. Day two of no power and I’m surviving pretty well. I looked like absolute shit at work today but it rained so I might have looked that way regardless. I got another parking ticket. This time for parking too far from the curb. Or I think that’s why. I’m never sure since I obviously don’t know how to park here. So yes, fuck me.

I can’t wait until I have my power back on tomorrow and I can do my hair! Ha, it’s the little (shallow) things that make a difference.

I’m oddly happy though. It definitely feels like I’m squatting and that I don’t really live here, that this is all some sick joke, but that will pass. I’m excited to get paid, and finish and start a new book. And I have this weekend all to myself. I plan on doing absolutely nothing. I can’t wait.

June 30, 2012

The power is back on! Woooo hooo! I got home, played with the cat, then spent the rest of the night on the internet. Did I mention that I really love the internet? Because I do. I really do.

Oh man… but yes, now I have light and coffee in the morning, I mailed my rent, I need to pay my parking ticket. But life is good. Work is good. I have so much learning to do.

It’s good. It’s that time again. The time for me to kick some fucking ass. To let people tell me what I can’t do and do it anyway. To let my own mind tell me what I can’t do and do it anyway.  It’s fun. I forgot this feeling. I forgot I was even like this.

I don’t want to be one of those scared broken people. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to be stupid and crazy and in love with the world, just like I was when I was 14… and 16… and then again at 18, and 21, and 24, and now 27. I want to cry because it’s all so beautiful and I’m such a hopeless mess. I want to laugh long and hard and without control. I want to smile while I walk down the street alone and also at strangers on the train, at the bar, at the supermarket, or outside my window. I want to love everything without shame. I want to feel horrible and wonderful and confused all at the same time. To get home from work and run until I can barely breathe, to stop in the midst of it all and gasp, bent over with my hands on my knees. I want to fail and fail and fail time and time again. And learn everything there is to know from failing. I want to hurt too. I want to yell and scream. To shake and sob. To run on beaches. Trip down stairs. I want to embarrass myself. I want to be stupid and careless and also thoughtful and perceptive. I want it all. I want everything. I want so much. I don’t care anymore. Fine, I’m going to fuck up. Great. Watch me everyone. Watch me fuck up! Me–Megan Fucking Murray–I’ll fuck up more gloriously and  passionately than anyone has ever fucked up before! And I’ll fucking love it too. Every fucking second of it. It’s going to be great. I’M going to be great.

Turn the page and see.

Advertisements

That’s what I want to recount: The cruelty and exquisiteness of life

Image

I have a problem. (Well, I have a lot of problems but I’m only going to talk about one of them tonight.)

I buy a lot of books. A lot.

And the worst part of this problem is that I’m secretly proud of it. When buying books is your problem and you love bookstores and print and good books and the silent awe you feel while walking into a good, quiet and lovely public place; the whole experience of it… the closeness of the shelves, the rows and rows of stories and information. The feel of a crisp new hardcover as you open it up and read in the inside jacket, the weight of it as you place it in your bag.

Or the way people move in a bookstore, like they’re lost and confused, looking for something yet perfectly at ease in their search at the same time.

Or the children who come in tugging on hands, dragging their parents to those large flat books in the back section with all the stuffed animals and colors and books on the floor.

When you love the dogs outside, the posters inside, the tables and the recommendations section, the bookmarks, the workers–the old men with friendly smiles, middle-aged woman with kind smiles and smudged glasses, or the young literary men with nervous ticks and a word and a book for everything.

When you love the rows of titles, the different colors and the aesthetics of all those different type-faces all lined up and next to each other.

When you love it when something jumps out at you–a blurb, a quote, a cover or a name.

When you love bookstores. And books. And you know you will always, always, buy your books in real, wonderful magic (yes, magic, I said it, magic) places for as long as you possibly can…when you know all this…

Well then, it’s really rather easy to justify every one of your purchases isn’t it? Because really you’re just supporting one of the things you love most.

So ya, I’ve bought a lot of books lately. It makes me happy. And I’ve spent a lot of money and I don’t regret it.

Here are a few of the things I supported recently…

The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

He looked at the autumn sky. Somewhere above, beyond, far off, was the sun. Somewhere it was the month of April on the planet Mars, a yellow month with a blue sky. Somewhere above, the rockets burned down to civilize a beautifully dead planet. The sound of their screaming passage was muffled by this dim, sound-proofed world, this ancient autumn world.

The Seas, a novel by Samantha Hunt

The problem I have with authority isn’t because I’m particularly wild, but the idea of supervision. I know the way I see the world is more super than a policeman that charges me $55 for a U-turn in a dead intersection. If they asked him what he saw he’d say, “a car, a light, a solid line.” That’s not super vision. But ask me what I saw. From here he looks like, Head, brick. Head, brick. Headbrick, headbrickheadbrick.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

And so she’s stuck doing a cloak-and-dagger number without a cloak. Relying on her face alone, its guile. She’s had enough practice by now, in smoothness, coolness, blankness. A lifting of both eyebrows, the candid, transparent stare of a double-agent. A face of pure water. It’s not the lying that counts, it’s evading the necessity for it. Rendering all questions foolish in advance.

The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories edited by Carlos Fuentes and Julio Ortega

I’ve lived for many years on my own, as a solitary woman in this huge house, a cruel and exquisite life. That’s what I want to recount: The cruelty and exquisiteness of life in the provinces. I’m going to speak about all those things that are normally hushed up, what you think about and what you feel when you don’t think. I want to tell about all the things that have been building up in a provincial soul, things that have been polished, nurtured and practiced without other people suspecting. You may think that I’m too stupid to try to relate this story which you already know but which, I’m sure, you don’t know properly. You simply don’t pay any heed to the river and its courses, the pealing of bells, nor the yells. You haven’t always tried to understand what they mean, all together in the world, these inexplicable things, terrible things, sweet things. You haven’t had to give up what they call a normal life in order to follow the trail of something you don’t understand, in order to be faithful to it. You didn’t fight day and night to make sense of certain words: to have a destiny. I do have a destiny, but it isn’t mine. I have to live life according to the destinies of others. I am the guardian of what is forbidden, of what cannot be explained, of what brings shame, and I have to stay here to guard it, so that it doesn’t get out, but also so that it should exist. so that it should exist and a balance should be achieved. So that it shouldn’t get out and harm others. 

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender sat on his bed with his desk on his knees. It was private study time, and Ender was doing Free Play. It was a shifting, crazy kind of game in which the school computer kept bringing up new things, building a maze that you could explore. You could go back to events that you liked, for a while; if you left one alone too long it disappeared and something else took its place. Sometimes they were funny things. Sometimes exciting ones, and he head to be quick to stay alive. He had lots of deaths, but that was OK, games were like that, you died a lot until you got the hang of it.

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy 

The boy turned and spat into the dirt. He could feel the wolf lean against his leg. He said that the tracks of the wolf had led out of Mexico. He said the wolf knew nothing of boundaries. The young don nodded as if in agreement but what he said was that whatever the wolf knew or did not know was irrelevant and that if the wolf had crossed that boundary it was perhaps so much the worse for the wolf but the boundary stood without regard.

Met a four-year old who likes music and Goldfish crackers tonight

Image

She was watching me while I was waiting for my train in that curious little kid way that makes you feel like you have something on your face but really it’s just that you’re an adult and therefore somewhat mysterious and unknown. Also, if you’re me, you’re probably wearing bright colors and have pretty nail polish.  (Two things that most little girls and 20-somethings love.)

So yes, this particular little girl was dressed in all pink and wearing pig tails. She walked up to me, said hi, and asked, “What are those?” while pointing to my headphones. So I said, “Headphones, want to listen?” And she said yes please, so I gave them to her and she said, “Here you take one too.” Which is very thoughtful and nice.

So we sat there and listened to The Dog Days Are Over (which just happened to be on Pandora at the time) and her grandma, who was watching us, was smiling that smile that says, It’s okay that you talk to my kid. 

So I did.

And she told that she was four, in pre-school, and then she explained how to mix colors together to make other colors, asked if she could see my ipod, and showed me how to dance.  After that, she got some Goldfish crackers  that were orange, not white, and got on the N train happy as could be.

Kids are cute. And fearless sometimes too. It’s nice to see. When you stumble across a stranger who also happens to be four and completely delightful it almost feels like some sort of gift. Especially when you both love the same cheesy Goldfish crackers.

The clenched purple fist of my own particular heart

I told myself I was going to start writing in here once a day again–even if what I write is that I’m tired and I don’t want to write–so here I am doing it. We’ll see how long I last… Last time I made this resolution it was about a week and a half.

I’m feeling good about it this time though. It’s a good time of life–summer is starting, days are longer, I’m reading more, watching strangers and noticing things.

I started reading The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace last night. I’m only on page 59 but I’m hooked. He’s hilarious and so fun to read–totally my style so far. I don’t know why I waited so long to read something of his. I’m so very late to the party.

But better late than never I suppose.

Either way, here is a passage from my train ride home to end the night on…

I feel an empty draft and look down and find a hole in my chest and spy, in the open polyurethane purse of Lenore Beadsman, among the aspirins and bars of hotel soap and lottery tickets and the ridiculous books that mean nothing at all, the clenched purple fist of my own particular heart, what am I to say to Rex Metalman and Scarsdale and the sod webworms and the past, except that it does not exist, that it has been obliterated, that footballs never climbed into crisp skies, that my support checks disappear into a black void, that a man can be and is and must be reborn, at some point, perhaps points?

If fish dreamed and yawned and you swallowed their yawn-dream bubble would you dream fish-dreams?

Going through old emails tonight and found some old weirdness. Sometimes I think my best writing takes place on stressed out Thursday afternoons. Ha, then again, maybe it’s the worst. I’ll leave it up to you…

I have a science question for you… Why do people yawn?

Also, are there animals that don’t yawn? Like, do only mammals yawn or something? Because I swear I saw a crocodile yawn once but maybe he was just stretching his jowls. I think a crocodile should be able to yawn if he wants to.

What about fish–can fish yawn? Does a fish-yawn make a bubble? Is it possible to swallow a fish-yawn bubble while you’re swimming? Do you think it would make you tired? Or would you just get a taste of what it’s like to be a fish because you just swallowed a piece of the fish’s fish-dreams?

Can fish even dream? If fish dreamed and yawned and you swallowed their yawn-dream bubble would you dream fish-dreams or would you yawn your own yawn-dream bubble? Because I know that yawning is contagious but can it really pass from species to species? Because I also know a lot of things that are contagious can’t pass from species to species because of genes and stuff.

Do you think dreams are contagious? Can you catch someone’s dreams like a cold or a virus? Are dreams hereditary? Are dreams and yawns connected at all?

Do you think maybe yawns are how dreams travel? And when you wake up and yawn that’s really the dream coming out and you think you’re remembering it normally but really you’re smelling it in your yawn or something?

Because I know that smell is the sense most connected to memory so maybe that’s right.

Do you think fish remember things? And can they smell? Do they have noses? They have little holes right?

Do you think fish think fish smells bad? Or do you think fish think people smell bad? Like, instead of saying, “something smells fishy in here,” do you think a fish would say, “something smells peopley in here.” And then the other fish would answer, “You know, I thought I smelled something weird too.”

Do you think fish can smell things like fear? Because I know bees can.

Do you think fish know when you’re sad like dogs? Do you think that would make them swim closer to you or farther away? I’d like to think closer because I like the idea of fish swimming near me when I’m sad.

Can fish cry? Can anyone cry if they’re underwater? I mean, is it really crying if you’re underwater? Because you’re not making tears-you’re just making more water. Maybe if we all cried under water we really wouldn’t be crying. We’d just be making more water for us to swim in.

And also, going back to the first thing, is there a plant version of yawning? Probably not, but that would be cool if trees could yawn. Maybe when trees are really tired they make that creaking noise and that’s how they yawn.

Or wait, do you think trees get tired? What is being tired really?

Because sometimes you can be really tired but it seems like you’re really awake but you’re just kind of functioning and being awake without really fully functioning and being awake. Can trees do that? Or is that what trees do all the time because they don’t have brains and stuff?

Well, that’s it.

I would like my answers by the next hour please.

Trillium

I found this poem a while back in a collection Staying Alive, Real Poems for Unreal Times. If you’re unfamiliar with Neil Astley and his collections, they’re absolutely wonderful. His goal is to create collections of modern poetry that are accessible and relevant. For some reason there’s this feeling that poetry, especially modern poetry, is somehow “hard” to read and “hard” to understand. And yet, poems are some of the first forms of literature we’re taught to read and write.

Anyways, Astley tries to remind us of how poetry is still relevant and even important. He puts it best in the introduction to Staying Alive

The best contemporary poetry is life-affirming and directly relevant to all our lives. Yet most of us could name only one or two modern poems which have moved us profoundly and unforgettably. These are the kinds of poem which speak to us with the same unnerving power now as when we first came across them, Like W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” in Four Weddings and a Funeral (“Stop all the clocks…”) and Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” And there are also those rare poems we encounter almost by accident. That short poem we stared at, read and re-read on the subway. Or the one photocopied or emailed by a friend, now a personal talisman kept in the wallet or taped to the refrigerator, the poem which says everything about Life, the Universe and little me. Such poems are remarkable because there seem to be so few of them. Or so we believe.

So this poem stuck out to me, because as a kid growing up in Gresham, Oregon, Trillium Lake was one of my favorite day trips. It was a bit of a drive up the mountain–all the way through Sandy and up into the woods–but that was part of the fun. It was close enough to home to visit in a day, but far enough away that it still felt like you had put something behind you.

Trillium
by Louis Gluck

When I woke up I was in a forest. The dark
seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees
Thick with many lights.
I knew nothing; I could do nothing but see.
And as I watched, all the lights of heaven
faded to make a single thing, a fire
burning through the cool firs.
then it wasn’t possible any longer
to stare at heaven and not be destroyed.

Are there souls that need
death’s presence, as I require protection?
I think if I speak long enough
I will answer that question, I will see
whatever they see, a ladder
reaching through the firs, whatever
calls them to exchange their lives —

Think what I understand already.
I woke up ignorant in a forest;
only a moment ago, I didn’t know my voice
If one were given me
would be so full of grief, my sentences
like cries strung together.
I didn’t even know I felt grief
until that word came, until I felt
rain streaming from me.

As you can probably guess, this poem has very little to do with the lake I used to visit. And yet I like how names and coincidences can make you take note of things you might have missed otherwise. It’s a lovely poem, a little more heavy than what I’d prefer but I still love something about it. I’m not even sure what the grief is that the author is referring to, what it is she’s realizing.

What I like about so much poetry is that sometimes the truth to it is missing or only hinted at. And maybe this is why some say that it’s hard. We don’t know what this woman’s grief is, it’s hard to tell what exactly has died and come back to her. Sometimes the truth of a poem lies just outside of it. You won’t even find it in the work itself and so it’s there and yet it’s not.

I like that. I think a lot of life is like that. You don’t really know what things mean. And maybe they don’t mean anything. Things happen and you just sort of feel them, experience them, and the truth or the meaning lies just outside of the moment not in it. And so it’s there and yet it’s not.

Or whatever.

Ha, here are some pictures of Trillium Lake where I played in the sun and water, and caught salamanders that were black with yellow bellies…

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

(Almost all of these photos were provided by my mom’s Facebook page since I don’t seem to have many Trillium photos on my computer. Thanks for the pictures mom!)

Loving everything that increases me

Since April is National Poetry Month I decided to grab a book of Raymond Carver poems I bought a while back to read on the train this morning and… well, they’re beautiful and simple and perfect in their own real way. It made for a dreamy morning of sipping coffee and smiling at the page.

Image

It was a nice day in the city today, but kind of sad too. I got my wave from The Waving Man on my way into work but he waved slowly like he was sleepy or slightly dazed. Later, while getting coffee with a coworker, an Etta James song came on and we both felt suddenly melancholy listening to a dead woman singing about a heart wrapped up in clover. He said he used to feel the same way every time an Etta Fitzgerald song came on but that it eventually goes away. Somehow that made me sadder. That fading. Then tonight on my way to get dinner a homeless man working on a crossword puzzle was mumbling to himself how he couldn’t find the right word. Maybe I’m just being sensitive but it all seemed like it should mean something. Ha, of course I’m being sensitive but still… It did all happen.

Just a perfect day for poetry I guess. Here are some of my favorites from the morning  ride…
Where Water Comes Together with Other Water 

I love creeks and the music they make.
And rills, in glades and measdows, before
they have a chance to becomes creeks.
I may even love them best of all
for their secrecy. I almost forgot
to say something about the source!
Can anything be more wonderful than a spring?
But the big streams have my heart too.
and the places streams flow into rivers.
The open mouths of rivers where they join the sea.
The places where water comes together
with other water. Those places stand out
in my mind like holy places.
But these coastal rivers!
I love them the way some men love horses
or glamorous women. I have a thing
for this cold swift water.
Just looking at it makes my blood run
and my skin tingle. I could sit
and watch these rivers for hours.
not one of them like any other.
I’m 45 years old today.
Would anyone believe it if I said
I was once 35?
My heart empty and sere at 35!
Five more years had to pass
before it began to flow again.
I’ll take all the time I please this afternoon
before leaving my places alongside this river.
It pleases me, loving rivers.
Love them all the way back
to their source.
Loving everything that increases me.

from Radio Waves

When I came out here I was trying to get away
from everything. Especially literature.
What that entails, and what comes after.
There is in the soul a desire for not thinking.
For being still. Coupled with this
a desire to be strict, yes, and rigorous.
But the soul is also a smooth son of a bitch,
not always trustworthy. And I forgot that.
I listened when it said, Better to sing that which is gone
and will not return than that which is still
with us and will be with us tomorrow. Or not.
And if not, that’s all right to.
Can you imagine somebody thinking like this?
That it’s really all one and the same?
What nonsense!
But I’d think these stupid thoughts at night
as I sat in the chair and listened to my radio.

Rain

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.