Friday, April 27, 2007


I had some aloe vera juice this evening with my Chinese food dinner. That's right aloe juice, like the plant! It was amazing and odd and pulpy. I was drinking little bits of aloe pulp. I definitely recommend it for a departure from the ordinary. You can get this wonderful beverage at Mom's House on Route 9 in Amherst. Go try some and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

There is a great evil among us. No, it is not UMass Parking Services; although, of course, they are quite evil too. But this is not about yellow paper shoved crookedly under the wipers of an unsuspecting car. This is about the beverage vending machine the lobby of Bartlett Hall. I want to put it out there that I hardly ever purchase drinks from vending machines. Too expensive. Even the water, which is a dollar but also WATER. Water should always be free. Today, however, I was thirsty. The warm liquid that dribbles out the water fountains (Bubbler to all of you Eastern Massachusetts people, right?), is barely passable as something I can drink. I was planned to splurge the overly expensive $1.65, odd coinage and all, for a tasty Vitamin Water in a flavor with three x's on it that I have never tried. I put in my money and...nothing. That's right, the selected flavored liquid item didn't budge. And then the machine had the audacity to thank me, presumably for the purchase it presumed I had made. Anyway, I thought you all should know. That way the great evil that lurks won't get you too!

Comments on Comments on The Strand

Oh, why, yes, this was a story that I wrote for another class. I think I mentioned that the first time I posted a piece for it. To be fair, parts of this story that I have posted on my blog, I have not shared with my E355 class. That is what is great about this blog - it allows me to experiement and get to know my characters better.

And actually as it so happens, I got to workshop this story in my writing class on Thursday. This went well overall. There was some temperal confusion, which I intend on straightening out in a few sentences. I am trying to keep this minimalist. That's the new goal. Well, since the summer and the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. I think it will be easier to have a draft where I have to add. Of course I over wrote at first, as is the custom. However, in the draft I presented I left out a lot. Especially backstory, which I think is where I will have to add in a sentence or two. I don't want overly minimalistic stuff. I want to keep the reader wondering not confused.

They called me a "stylist" in class. That makes sense. The writing that I like I enjoy because of how what is being said is said. I fell in love with Virginia Woolf most recently based on the way she rendered each sentence. Earlier in life I fell in love with Michael Cunningham, Edith Wharton, Andrew Sean Greer, and, believe it or not, Carl Sagan for the same reason. It's all in how you say it. I don't care how good an idea is. I remember one of my professors (my favorite!) saying that everyone has a good idea and what he cared about was how that idea was rendered. I am not in complete agreement with that -- I believe that there are bad ideas -- but I certainly agree in the importance of the expression of those ideas. Both in creative and expository writing.

That being said I need to know what is going on. I don't want style to overwhelm basic plot elements. That is what I need to make clear in my new draft of The Strand. Style: Yes, of course. But clarity: Another must!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Strand: Complete First Draft

Forgive the formating; this is exported from Word.

The Strand

“No, screw it, or I’ll miss the train.”
The tea was pushed back at her, a kiss planted on her forehead hastily but not unkindly. Haylee watched the teabag, swollen with water, bob up and down precariously as the flat door closed carefully and quietly. The lock slid into place. She picked up the bowl with a sigh, noted the remaining Weetabix coloring the milk, and counted Sheldon’s apple core’s seeds - unable here to perform their reproductive duty. She sighed, already tired with the day. Unconsciously, she smoothed the already smooth tablecloth. The tea, not drunk, went down the sink. She made sure to close the pop-top on the wash-up liquid when done.

Today, Tuesday, two days before the much anticipated Thursday, was only market day.

They were on the brink. She could feel it, as she walked down Strand under the dower English sky, Charles purposely closer than necessary at her side. They were talking, of all things, about Tomas More’s Utopia.
“A walk doesn’t equal love,” Haylee reminded herself. “I fall in love a dozen times a day but always with this man. This not-my-husband man.”
Charles was holding forth on the Utopian alphabet of the 1515 first edition, thinking, “I must impress her,” over and over again in his mind. Wishing to talk of nothing but a trip back up The Strand to his office at the College. In Charles’ mind, he was laying Haylee down in his mind, unbuttoning her beige cardigan, reciting John Donne. He had always wanted to make love reciting John Donne’s Unholy Sonnets, had waited his whole life for a woman with whom he felt he could do that. And into that fantasy Haylee stepped, mind ablaze with Mallory and Tennyson, more specifically to him, mind ablaze with romance.
Parallel, Haylee walked filled with thought. She felt a sudden urge to shake Charles, so seemingly involved with More, to say, “This is our moment. Don’t you see?” so as to confirm the pivotal nature of the current instant. Instead, Charles stopped. Haylee looked distracted and disinterested. He felt his middle go hollow in realization; she, a married woman, would never care for him.
“Haylee, are you all right? You seem to have gone a bit pale,” Charles said, attempting to gain equanimity.
“Quite. It’s just the chill of early spring, I guess.”
They were lying to each other, living the romances of which they were so fond.
“I have to run,” Charles said suddenly, turning toward the curb, the recent realization of Haylee’s unavailability leading him to crave solitude.
The moment fractured, as Haylee followed, making herself act out of the feeling of necessity that this time with Charles had created in her. She took his hand lightly.
“Please,” she said, suddenly breathless, “I don’t want you to go.”
They did not go back to Charles’ office. Instead, he suggested, they ought to take in the Royal Gardens. He moved her words over and over again in his mind, “I don’t want you to go.” Her soft words, quiet, a breathing out of sound, not a promise, not anything he reminded himself. After all, he was not a young man, and she was a young woman barely into her mid-twenties, twenty-three at the most, married young. And he, he was just an associate professor on the brink of aging, a bit of a belly starting to show through, he noted running his hand down his beige trench which faded into the surrounding landscape. Around him Prince Albert’s statue stood firm and life ignited. The flowers were coming forth from their hunkered-down winter state.
Charles saw her, her head lightly bent, mahogany strands stirring in the breeze, trying to escape the binds in which she had placed them. She was always instilling order.

Haylee had walked into their Early Victorian British Literature class with a shy grace and naiveté, an innocence that was intoxicating, demanding of attention. Her head bent slightly downward but her eyes cast up searching for a place to fit in. She sat, all of her intent on him. Looking at her undid him; he was rapt by her greedy taking in of life. This attentive young woman… she was a reader, Charles thought, looking at her in her charming button-up sweater vest and button-down shirt.
“My God, she’s a reader.”

Haylee wrapped her coated arms around her, taking in the Royal Gardens, looking everywhere but at Charles. They had spoken little since her breathless statement on the curb. She felt his eyes on her; he was regarding her, she realized – she burned. Here she was walking side by side with Charles, living this fantasy that had been percolating in her. His gaze on her an intoxication. He was viewing her, letting her know herself through him, accessing her potential. Her skin pricked to life in realization, in happiness, in a discomforted semi-fear.

She always took extra care when attending class. Her opal earrings must match her natural wool sweater. She must read carefully, must prepare to have something to say about the perennially tragic Eustacia or the fallacious seeming epilogue by Hardy. (Had his editor really insisted?) It was imperative that she create in Charles a view of herself that was in all aspects ideal. A view of her as she wanted to be.
However, if asked Haylee would say she had come to fancy Charles for his intelligence, for his ability to talk with such certainty to the class about the Brontë sisters, about the early French influence on British literature, about the public relations of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare. She would quietly slide into class, stomach tightening at the sight of him and,hating herself for it, loving herself for it, loving him for it. Sitting their quietly waiting for Charles to begin – it was the most difficult waiting in the world. She could wait all those other days, even Wednesday. The other six days he wasn’t real except in her contemplations. But in those moments in class before his voice began to wrap her up in learning, when there was only Charles to think of, the waiting became excruciating. It pained her with its clarity: she was waiting for Charles.

But it was more than that. She loved Charles; if love was the correct word she did not yet know, for his knowledge of life, for his ability to say to her, “You will be something. You will be fine.” She loved him because he had lived the life that stretched before her, so massive, causing her such anxiety, as she whittled away days, a housewife. In his insistence of her success was his creation of her superlative self.
The other case, Sheldon, she loved; yes, here love was certainly the right word, for his ability to say, “I am here.” Sheldon came home every night happy to see her, imagining no woman better than the one that was his wife. She was perfect as she was, he always told her, their legs tangled in the stark bleached white flannel sheets.
Contrarily, Charles helped her see beyond herself when she could not.

Haylee had lingered after class this Thursday. This time knowing that it was Charles and uncertainty that she was waiting for. And, because she was shy, she had only asked Charles to walk with her and let him talk on and on about Utopia when really she wanted to take his face between her two hands.
The moment of urgency that they had both felt on the curb of Strand was fading somewhat now that they were in motion. Walks always calmed Charles, who deeply breathed in the changing air and tried to think of what to say next to the enigma beside him. Haylee looked small and cold as she tried to wrap her slightly oversized coat tighter around her. He must protect her, he saw; she was in need. He was the knight, she the damsel, their lives a version of Chrétien de Troyes’ The Knight in the Cart. He was duty bound by courtly love and knightly codes.
“You’re cold. Let me take you back to my office. I have tea.”
She consented for lack of a better thing to do, for fear of the mundane, for the hope that here, with Charles life - complicated, dirty life - could begin. Charles would know how to handle it.

He kissed her, back against the grainy wood of his office door. They breathed heavily, tried to gain equanimity, spoke simultaneously, laughed nervously, and wished they had not done so. Both wished to kiss again, so Charles opened his office door with an unfortunate bang, taking Haylee’s hand and pulling her inside with the delicacy that kissing another man’s wife warranted. He thought of her in those terms – another man’s wife. Again they kissed. “Two,” Haylee counted inside herself, feeling the hair on his chin rub against her and reminding herself that this was not the careful Sheldon who would never, never be anything but cleanly shaven. She inhaled his smell strongly, musk and a nervous sweat that was not unappealing, everything new. She felt from the bottom of her to the very top alive. Yes, so alive! This intersection of her being and life intoxicated her, made her dizzy, still, complacent to Charles’ carefully sitting her down into the extra chair in his office, quietly reciting, “If thou must love me, let it be for nought / Except for love's sake only,” sending an ecstatic shiver up and down her – so unlike what she knew!
“The student chair,” Charles thought. The act of sitting her down as such had separated her from him, made her the other. Or perhaps, he more carefully ruminated, made himself the other in her eyes. In the accompanying silence he tried not to fidget as he felt more and more bodily uncomfortable, the act of trying to be silent awakening in him the need for extensive movement and noise: scratching, coughing. It shook him when Haylee got up with a start, with a squeak of the old metal chair, wheels long since rusted out of use, and stated, “I don’t want to be late.” She still had her coat on, her hand was already on the door – she was a guest never planning on more than a hurried visit. She departed, leaving him breathless and shuttering, not sure of what had happened, a tempest uncontrolled inside of his mid-regions.

As Charles collected himself with lukewarm water from the drinking fountain, Haylee walked at a pace designed to be brisk enough to occupy all conscious thought and to return her home before Sheldon’s impending arrival.

She prepared herself to feel immense guilt but instead felt nothing out of the ordinary. Sheldon sat in his oversized armchair, did the crossword, talked platitudes with her about the day. Haylee answered in mono-syllables too tired to do anything else.
She gathered the clothing to be pressed in the quiet of the kitchen. She overfilled the iron which left big circles of water on the sleeves of Sheldon’s favorite white button down. Her tears slid into the blotches left by the iron rendering her confusion into nothing.
And when Sheldon came into bed that evening, taking Haylee in his arms she was glad, as nothing had changed outside of herself. And when Sheldon shuttered into her as he had all those times before with such promise of life she felt an intense love for his unconditional kindness hoping that now she could make it all that she needed.

It was Tuesday. The grocery list was already jotted down. Haylee yanked on her olive Wellingtons, rubber squeaking against bare skin and resisting the downward pull of trouser cuffs. The contents of her purse checked, she grabbed her umbrella and headed for the door.
Haylee ducked her head, darted water droplets, hunkered down into her coat to fight the chill the rain had brought with it. Pulled pork. Tomatoes. Apples. A box of Smarties for Sheldon, happily turning out numbers at the local CPA firm. The listed circled through her brain blotting out intrusive thoughts.
“At least,” she thought, “I’m trying.”

She was unprepared for the hot, damp humanness of the market. It was uncharacteristically crowded. A bulbous looking woman bumped Haylee into a row of tomatoes, one splitting open into a gaping hole of seed-filled fertility. The sharp and acidic smell of the tomato made her dizzy and a little nauseous. Haylee slid through the crowded market quickly and anxiously. She had to finish the shopping, had to get outside to the fresh smell of wet ground, had to clear her head.

On the walk home she decided to stop for some mint tea to settle her. The disorganized feeling from the market had made her queasy. She chose the shop two and a half blocks from the flat, a small and unpopular establishment filled with the smell of burned tea leaf and kitsch décor – teapots of a pumpkin or a couple dancing, a singing frog creamer, mismatched and unironed table cloths in bright geometrics under glass, pies with crumbled crusts, and a seemingly anachronistic jukebox. The place was virtually empty upon her arrival, affording her a pleasant window seat from which she could watch a small girl holding her mother’s hand and stomping puddles along the street. The mother looked down at her offspring with joy bordering on awe as if recalling her own youthful joy at something as simple as rain. Thus preoccupied, Haylee did not notice him until he had moved right next to her.
“Hello, Haylee.”
Truth be told, Charles had not anticipated seeing Haylee either, had briefly contemplated fleeing the tea shop upon seeing the delicate curve of her back above a cup, her face melting into the rising heated fog. There was nothing to say.
That was a lie, Charles realized. There were many things to say, most of them apologetic, which is why he did not want to go over to her – how could he begin to be sorry for what he was not sure about? It was a mistake of course but a mistake he had wanted so badly. A mistake he wanted to make again, not because it was the best kiss he had ever had but because of the fact that this made him interesting. He was a man who attracted this younger woman. She gave him pride, shook him from routine, saw him as more than he was. If Haylee fancied Charles for seeing the potential of what she could be, Charles fancied Haylee for seeing how he could be different from how he had been.
Haylee escaping from her future and Charles escaping from his past intersecting in combustion, shrapnel ricocheting throughout their previously peaceful lives.

“My, God!” Haylee thought, Charles standing above her, “And it isn’t Thursday yet.”
She had not taken the kind of care that she ought to have, not anticipating seeing him here on a not Thursday. He was out of place, an intruder in this moment of her life. It was as if he had been transported from that classroom. Today he had the look of a man who read too much and didn’t go out enough. He looked down at her from his standing position, clearly anticipating being offered a seat.
“I have to go,” she said, standing, leaving her tea cup, still warm, radiating a ring of frosty-looking steam onto the glass.

Outside, she was sick. She dry-heaved holding the damp fence in front of Saint Clement Danes church. Rain water ran cold down her coat sleeves, this time her skin pricked in certain unhappiness. She tried to breathe deeply and not shiver.
“Here,” he wrapped his coat around her. She had not counted on him following her out of the café. His coat smelled of his musk. Ironically, it began to settle her down.
“I think we ought to talk,” he said carefully, trying not to seem alarmed.
The flat was only a block away, but she did not offer. Instead, he led her in the direction of the Aldwych Station, paid for their tokens for the Underground, and seated her with great care in the poorly ventilated train. When they lurched forward with a squeal she felt for sure she would be sick again with the stale air. However, the presence of his hand on her back calmed her as much as his presence in the café had unnerved her before. Of course he would be kind.
“Charles,” she said his name experimentally, but he hushed her.
“I am taking you to my office. We’ll talk there.”
So all she could do was sit, wrapped in his coat smelling of his musk and not think about her husband.

Things did not go as planned. Haylee had an eloquent speech in her mind about how this could not continue. Then his office door closed, and he was kissing her.
Had his stubble not grated against her face, had he not pushed her back into the doorknob with a bit too much force, had the smell of his musk not suddenly made her nauseous and the office not suddenly felt claustrophobic, she wouldn’t have blurted it out without thought.
If he had been more gentle and clean shaven she would have let him kiss her one last time in hopes that he would repeat the line of Browning from before: “If thou must love me, let it be for nought / Except for love's sake only.” If he had said it, she would have been able to leave easier, knowing that Charles was only an opposite – a man with glasses, an office in King’s College, and all that meant.
As it was, she turned her head away from him and pushed at the bulk of his chest.
“I can’t. I’m having a baby.”
Haylee did not look back to see his face – the beauty that would cross it as a result of awe, anger, confusion, and sadness as he turned into himself. She raced for the door, feeling as though, if she didn’t get out of the College, she would die with emotion. She let the door close with a crack, leaving the world of Charles with it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I am in search of a pet. Following our Spring Break, a pet disaster occurred. My fish, Pacey, an elderly gentlemanly, perpetually depressing fish, finally decided it was time to meet his maker and ascend to the great fishbowl in the sky. Then, the Aquasaurs that I got for my birthday also decided that their brief lives were well lived. Basically, these pets got old and unfortunately passed away.

Now I am in search of a new pet. I am quite a lover of animals. My family has always had pets. Now, to be fair, I prefer the fuzzy type animals to the hands-off bowl / aquarium types. But in the UMass dorms Pacey was the largest amount of pet that I could really get.

I am thinking guinea pig. Yes, I have always wanted a real pig, but in an apartment that will probably not be possible. And next year, as this year, I plan on dwelling in an apartment setting. Also, dogs are not allowed in the Rolling Green apartments where we live. Cats are, but Seth is not much of a cat person, and we are quite close to a major road. This has lead me to believe a caged animal might suit us best. And with that I begin to think of guinea pigs.

I am a great lover of guinea pigs, cavies, whatever. I have had six guinea pigs over a number of years, two of them being born to us when my guinea pig Mariel came "with child" (or "with children" in this case) from the Pet Co. in North Haven, Connecticut.

Here is a picture of a guinea pig. Isn't he very cute!

A guinea pig would be perfect. Indeed I am eager to go to the pet store. Seth is also thinking about a chameleon. With all fairness, chameleons seem cool looking. However, they also seem asocial and not at all fuzzy. I think we could get a guinea pig and a chameleon though. Then Seth and I could enjoy two very different types of creatures.

I am not thinking that we'll be getting a pet super soon. We are not yet sure when we'll be able to move into our new apartment as the people in the office at our apartment complex are not being super helpful. I think that moving an animal would be difficult, and perhaps we should wait until we are better settled. We'll have to see of course.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

To Do

Thursday 4/5:
1) Exam
2) Transcribe interview for newsletter
3) Story for E355

Friday 4/6:
1) Seth's birthday
2) Future Path interview
3) Pick up tickets
4) Dinner
5) Movie

Saturday 4/7:
1) Clean
2) Post collaborative blog
3) Work on AzTEC story for Astronomy News
4) To Greenfield

Sunday 4/8:
1) Easter
2) Finish up any newsletter work
3) No work

Monday 4/9:
1) Read psychology chapter
2) Interview with new faculty
3) Meeting and work

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

current thoughts perhaps with continuity

1. I have gotten a job offer. This is pseudo-exciting. At least now I know I will be employed if all else fails. However, I would not say that I really really want the job. No, their depressed looks are not what I want for myself.

2. I have an interview tomorrow. I am definitely excited. The people at work, Dave and Sarah especially, have been very very helpful. Dave recommended this book: 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions. And don't you know my luck, the DuBois Library has it as an eBook. So I read it last night and some at work today on company time (jk). It was really helpful. I have had interviews before. I mean, how else would I have gotten the job I have now. But the book was a big help for tricky questions.

3. Hi Hoober. Look I am writing about someone on my blog. Hoober and I are going to be getting a place all our own. Yay! I wish that RG would get back to us though because I am many thing but not a patient person. (N.B. If they ask me that question about my weakness I will say impatience and then show how I have overcome!)

4. I have got to finish that story for E355. I have a draft, I know, but perhaps I should do more with it. How does one know if something is ever done?

5. Also, I have to organize those articles for the next issue of the Astronomy News. Maybe I can do that on Friday. Yes, Friday afternoon I will transcribe the interview. Good.

6. I have to study for my Abnormal Psychology test tonight! I won't have time tomorrow between the interview and work.

7. Dinner with Hoober? A resounding yes.

Quiz 2

I have never had so much fun. I am my new favorite topic!

Date of Birth:03/18/1985
Current Location:Massachusetts
Eye Color:Brown-ish
Hair Color:Red
Heritage:Hungarian, Italian, Franco-German
Piercings:Two on each earlobe
Tattoos:Gosh, no!
Band/Singer:Counting Crows
Song:"Anna Begins"
Movie:Moulin Rouge
Disney Movie:The Lion King
TV show:Star Trek: Voyager
Food:Matzo ball soup
Pizza topping:Eggplant and spinach
Ice-Cream Flavor:Cookie dough
Drink (alcoholic):Pina colada
Clothing Brand:Gap
Shoe Brand:Doc Martins
Holiday/Festival:I like my family's secular celebration of Christmas
Make-Up Item:Lipivo lip balm
Board game:Life
This or That
Sunny or rainy:Sunny
Chocolate or vanilla:Chocolate by itself, vanilla for flavored things
Fruit or veggie:Fruit
Night or day:Day for doing, night for sleeping
Sour or sweet:I don't put sugar on my grapefruits but I do like those sweet little fruit roll things
Love or money:Love
Phone or in person:Depends what I am doing
Looks or personality:Personality
Coffee or tea:Tea!!!!!!!
Hot or cold:Hot!!!!!!
Goal for this year:A good job that I like
Most missed memory:I can't think of something that's not too personal.
Best physical feature:Toes
First thought waking up:Hi, Hoober
Hypothetical personality disorder:Obsessive compulsive
Preferred type of plastic surgery:None
Sesame street alter ego:Snuffy
Fairytale alter ego:Captain Janeway - er, does that count...
Most stupid remark:?
Worst crime:Having bad thoughts
Greatest ambition:Happiness, oh wait, I am
Greatest fear:Lonliness and failure
Darkest secret:Yo Mama! (jk....)
Favorite subject:English
Strangest received gift:Crutons (from the Easter Bunny)
Worst habit:Fidgeting
Do You:
Smoke:Ew, gosh no
Drink:Only very very occationally in moderation
Curse:Occationally, although I try not to
Shower daily:Twice
Like thunderstorms:Eh
Dance in the rain:Then I would get wet
Sing:Not often
Play an instrument:Flute, although not much anymore
Get along with your parents:Yes
Wish on stars:I used to
Believe in fate:When I need to
Believe in love at first sight:Hard to say
Can You:
Cook:Again, badly
Speak another language:I took Latin, so no
Touch your nose with your tongue:Ew, no
Curl your tongue:Yes, and make it squiggly
Have You Ever:
Been Drunk:Yes
Been Stoned/High:No
Eaten Sushi:Yes
Been in Love:Currently
Skipped school:Yes
Made prank calls:Ah my youth
Sent someone a love letter:Yes
Stolen something:If from the DC counts
Cried yourself to sleep:Probably
Other Questions:
What annoys you most in a person?Overall jerkness
Are you right or left handed?Right
What is your bedtime?12
Name three things you can't live without:1. snuggles. 2. wraps. 3. middle.
What is the color of your room?White
Do you have any siblings?One brother
Do you have any pets?A cat in CT and Aquasaurs in MA
Would you kill someone you hate for a million dollars?No
What is you middle name?Marion
What are you nicknames?My family has a billion of them
Are you for or against gay marriage?For
What are your thoughts on abortion?A personal choice
Do you have a crush on anyone?Hoober
Are you afraid of the dark?No
How do you want to die?No
What is the largest amount of popsicles that you have eaten on one day?50, I am the popsicle master
Would you take a bullet for the one you love?Yes
What is the last law you’ve broken?Speeding
In a Member of the Opposite Sex:
Hair color:Brown
Eye color:Brown
Most important physical feature:glasses
Biggest turn-offNot Hoober
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