Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lunch Time

here's a piece of fiction i wrote a few years ago that never got published.
xoxo robin

By Robin Crane

Later, for at least a couple years after the surgery, I felt so bitter. And despite the gang of neighborhood cats that often followed behind me on my daily strolls as though I were their giantess captain, and other bizarre examples of enchantment, all I could do was obsess about swallowing poison, or being fucked by so many men I would eventually turn into a doll, and be left in peace in the warmth of a child’s bed, finally safe. All these damning thoughts came after they performed the operation on my heart, but before the operation, it was the fear of dying on the operating table that obsessed me.

“Maggie, do you want to go home, or take some extra time for lunch?” my boss asked me. He was standing at the opening in my cubicle, gazing kindly at me, in all probability trying to telegraph the thought: “You Should Believe in God.” It was the day before my heart surgery.

I did take extra time for lunch, walking down the block to a bus bench where two nine or ten year old Hispanic girls in school uniforms were sitting, and I sat down on the bench as well. I have a childish mind, and envied the children for having the companionship of one another, while I believe that a normal adult wouldn’t even have noticed them, or would have noticed them but only to wonder what two children were doing outside of a classroom unsupervised on a Tuesday afternoon. I was trying to make myself think like a grown-up and to stop feeling that I would rather die tomorrow, after all, than to not be able to go back to when I was nine or ten, and relive all these years, this time not wrecking everything on purpose. But I couldn‘t stop the way I was thinking, it’s just how I am. I am me. Maggie Sheppard. Twenty seven. Overeager, fragile, twice-suicidal white middle class me. Me. It was hurting to breathe. My lungs were aching. It was hurting for my heart to beat. I leaned back on the bus bench and watched the girls in their brandnewness and amazement at the world.

The taller girl’s family lived on a hilly street, in a shaded white house with aqua-painted steps leading up to the porch and a cage of canaries hanging near one of the pillars, a house which belongs in a nostalgic dream. Or else the two girls were sisters, and they lived in a large brick apartment building near downtown. All the women in their family had hair that fell past their shoulder blades, in pony tails or wispy brunette streamers. White women would see the two girls walking back from a nearby convenience store where the girls had spent forever just deciding what pieces of candy to buy, and the long hair would seem to these women something extraneous or religious, like a nun’s wimple.

At this moment, while the girls sat and waited for the bus, one of their mothers was trying to take a nap, and was watching the gauzy pink curtains dance drunk on their own weightlessness in the breeze from the open bedroom window; she thought for a moment that everywhere in this city, on second floors of different apartment buildings, curtains were doing this same dance and strangers were distractedly watching it all. The mother kept an ironic smirk on her mouth but her eyes were kinder and seemed to be saying, “It’s all a sort of wry joke. I do not really hate anybody- I am only disappointed with my life.” And at this moment, one of the girls’ younger brothers was playing with a plastic giraffe in a day care center. One of their fathers was having lunch with his oldest friend at work, he was tasting the wet taste of tomatoes soaked through the bread of his sandwich. A cloud drifted across the sun and blocked out the light. He stopped squinting for a moment.

Then, there is my own life. During the time I was sitting at the bus bench, my boyfriend had a break between classes at the community college, and had come home to our apartment, to eat his lunch. He was sitting with his food at our computer, thinking about a girl in his Life Drawing class who he was falling in love with. After a few minutes of this, he wrote her a love letter:

You are Wonder Woman, Joan Didion, Aphrodite, Peter Pan, a rhododendron and The Supremes, all rolled into one. You are magnificent.

This is the letter I found saved as a file on our computer a few weeks after I was released from the hospital, my bony chest now accented with a bumpy, pink vertical line of scar tissue; before packing my things or mourning the end of love, the resentful thought I had was that he had plagiarized my irreverence and my style of writing letters that were lists.

Also, while I sat at the bench, with the two girls sitting next to me, my father sat in his office, gazing at the Bank of America skyscraper he saw in the distance and thinking dotingly of my stepmother. The phone rang and he thought it might be me who was calling. My mother sat in her apartment with a cat on her lap, seeing but not really watching the news on TV. My closest friend was on a break from her job at the mall and was standing in line for a coffee. My grandparents were three hours later in their day, on Eastern time. My first boyfriend from college was shooting up heroin in an alley, thinking of nothing, just feeling anticipation. My sister was sitting in a library in Portland, taking a break from reading, doodling a rose in the margins of her notebook. My mother turned the TV volume down and went to stand at the window, where she could see all the bunches of little flowers another tenant had planted in a strip of dirt that used to be ignored and unadorned. This is love.

The girls caught their bus, and I sat at the bus stop for a long while, feeling uncomfortable to be out in the open like that with drivers and passengers absentmindedly staring at me, but unwilling to get up and walk back to work.

I didn’t die from the heart surgery. I lived, and still looked like a healthy, leggy twenty-something year old to the naked eye. But under my blouses, I was a plowed stretch of land, and it didn’t feel good. I went a little crazy. I was hospitalized at a sort of famous mental health and rehab place; you may have heard of it. One day, it was a Friday afternoon, we were having our weekly Friday music group therapy session, and a shaky, weepy older woman brought in a Led Zeppelin cd. She played this one slow Zep song I’ve always liked. The facilitating therapist turned off the lights, us nine crazies closed our eyes and practiced our deep breathing like we were supposed to, and then, like some weird magic, we all began to sob, all at once and for a long time. I don’t know exactly why, but for some reason, life has just seemed better and easier since then.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a story about a facebook fight

So, the thing that's kind of annoying about people's status posts on Facebook is that they are so often elusive/coy/vague. i'm guilty of it myself. i'll write something like "the movie made me puke and now i'm in jail" or something like that, leaving everyone to be all, "What happened? what movie? can i post bail?"
recently i have been particularly active, and maybe annoyingly so, on my facebook posts because i got my feeling really hurt on facebook and it just really devastated me. I feel the need to share some of what happened. i will try to keep names out of it.
it all started with a thread (that is when someone includes a whole bunch of people in a message, so that everyone included can respond) that someone I'd always tried to be a good friend to sent out, inviting people to an event. when people said they couldn't come, she responded with something like "you guys are retards."
I have deleted a lot of the exchange and can't get it back, but i'm going to include the parts of the thread that i was able to retrieve from my email account's "sent" box, etc. I will use made up names for people.

"hey maybe you are the retard for not thinking of us retards sooner!"

"ya retard"
"ok, ur mentally challenged! there is the obama version of retard better?"

i asked, "what is the obama version of "retarded" supposed to be?"
I'd also asked, either before or after asking what this obama comment was supposed to mean, if people could stop using the word retard as an insult. i said it so nicely, like 'hey, i know you guys are just having fun but can you use another word? it really hurts my feelings to hear retard used as an insult. then he replied with:

"mentaly challenged. obama makes everything all gay politically correct crap"

so i said that obama is amazing, disabled people are amazing, and gay people are amazing, and that i thought what he was saying was really fucked up.

"if u think obama is amazing your ignorant, my cousin is gay and i have gay friends. if u think using a name is hurtful because it has another meaning than ur ignorant. thats like saying when u call someone an asshole all the assholes around the world are gonna be upset. its just a word and should be treated as such."

I wrote that words are hurtful.

then the person i'd assumed was my friend, who at no point decided to ask these people to stop picking on me (there were a looooot more things said to me than what i'm including), put her 2 cents in, which were "god, stop ruining my thread, i'm fucking pissed" or something like that. and to me personally she wrote that she didn't appreciate people spouting off politics on her threads but that hopefully we could get past this.

shortly after the girl i'd felt was my friend, i'll call her mary, told everyone "stop it!" this girl who i'd been really nice to when i'd met in the past, I'll call her Connie, wrote this really long piece of shit about how wrong i am to take offense at the word Retard being used as an insult, and she had all this like .... wikipedia knowledge or something to back up why i was so wrong. then she sent me this personal message:

The only reason I spoke up was because I'm sick of having this crap forwarded to my phone every 10 minutes and my response went out before I received Mary's message about the thread being closed.

Mary closed this thread for a reason. There are other people on this thread who haven't spoken up, who are probably just as sick of hearing about this. ___ and Mary are great people, and it looks bad on them to have this kind of garbage being forwarded to the rest of their friends.

Please at least be respectful of their wishes and don't continue this stupid argument on this thread.

and i wrote back:

it was their choice to include several people in this thread. i don't personally like reading everyone's comments to questions/invites they send out as threads, either, but i just delete them. i don't appreciate being scolded by you. i met you at a party and i thought i was very kind to you and i really don't understand why you would take such an unkind tone towards me in this email nor in the thread, during which all i was doing was expressing my personal feeling about the word "retard," when being used as an insult, feeling hurtful to me. instead, i got this huge hatefest, which, by the way, you contributed to with your very long comment, so if you are worried about ____ and Mary looking bad (to who? they sent this thread out to their friends? i can't imagine ____ and Mary's friends being like "well, i used to respect them, but now that i've gotten all these responses to this thread i've been included in, i don't like them anymore), you shouldn't have contributed (such a long) comment in the thread.

so, why don't you "please be respectful" (as you say) of me, a person who was very kind to you when we met, and not refer to my feelings as "a stupid argument." I mean, who do you think you are, writing to me in this scolding tone? my husband has known _____ since they were 2, and i hang out with them at least twice a week. why did you decide you had to come to their defense, and insult me personally by calling my expression of my feelings "garbage" and shit like that? i really, truly don't understand why you felt the need to send this email to me or why you thought you had the right to. If you were so "sick of this crap" you would have deleted it (like i do whenever Joe and everyone else responds copiously to their threads) instead of jumping on the bandwagon of making me feel like total shit for expressing my feelings. what the fuck?

at this point, i just couldn't believe that everyone was MAD at me, for saying my feelings had been hurt. things died down then started up again, between me and someone I'll name MAX.

wait whats this talk about a thread? who here is a seamstress? i thought this was an email between a bunch of people? OOH like a conference email! oh wait no i get it its a series of newsgroup messages dealing with the same subject. man i am such a gay homo pirate retard.

& then I said something but i don't know what. and then:

no just too liberal. i like keeping the money i earn instead of it going to people in line for welfare that are too lazy to get a job because they know the "gov'ment" will provide a monthly check for them for free. in the timeless words of garth brooks, "if uncle sam dips in your packet, for most things you dont mind, but when your dollar goes to all of those standing in the welfare line, rejoice you have a voice if you're concerned about the destination of this great nation."

ME (robin)
well everything you just said was absolute bullshit, and if you ever become homeless, you are gonna thank god for welfare (like my mom, who is not lazy but too mentally ill for most people to want to hire her). but I just got torn a new asshole by Mary for continuing this thread after her directive to stop with the thread. i'm not sure if she's scolding everyone who continues the thread or just me, but in any event, i'm tired of reading your type of conservatism, and tired of getting bitched out by Mary everytime i respond to one of yr guys's responses. So ... could you please stop ruining my day? this is day two of me crying from being ganged up on and then told that all this dialogue is my fault, and believe me, i don't need any of this shit. ok? can you please have some gentlemanly mercy on me?

you started it. everyone was joking around having fun then you just came in here all high and mighty on your pedestal telling people that they were horrible for joking around. its just like when something you dont like comes on on tv, you change the fucking channel. do you call the tv station saying they need to stop putting it on tv? no you just pick up the remote and change the fucking channel. so if you dont like it when people disagree with you and you cant handle opposing views then dont come in on the conversation in the first place. retard.

I didn't start acting high and mighty. i said "hey guys, i know you mean no harm but it kinda hurts my feelings to hear the word retard used as an insult. can you use another word?
what the fuck is wrong with me asking that, as a favor, after expressing the fact that it hurt my feelings. it wasn't a demand. it wasn't "what's wrong with you people?!" it was just me asking a favor. i can handle opposing views just fine, and i have to do so on a daily basis. i'm a pragmatist. but what happened was sean started making a joke out of something that was so clearly special to me and then he kept pushing my buttons. i cannot believe you called me a retard. there is something seriously wrong with you.

no no, you are actually misquoting yourself. in reality you said "hi, i know you guys aren't meaning any harm, just joking around, but I really feel I need to tell you that it can be very hurtful to use "retard" as an insult." thats a somewhat different meaning that what you just said. all i had to do was look further up in the "thread" as you people call it. and obviosly you cant handle when people feel differently about a subject because you said we were ganging up on you. remember, just change the channel. and i feel very offended that you say there is something seriously wrong with me, what are you trying to imply miss high and mighty? hmmm i think im gonna change the channel, you should do the same so you dont get your feelings hurt anymore.

then he added:
oh and Buck Ofama

and i quipped:
oh... too black for you?

at which point, I got scolded again for continuing on this thread instead of letting someone boss me around by telling me i'm not allowed to respond to people's shit.

I feel so upset.
this has ruined a lot of shit, including possibly the lifelong friendship of my husband and the husband of the girl who throws "retard" around all the time and who fixated on trying to get me to shut up instead of defending me like she should have.

stuff like this always happens to me and people always make me feel like it's my fault for getting too sassy or whatever.

i don't know, hopefully it's not libelous to have publish these people's facebook comments, i just really needed to get this all off my chest. it really hurts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sweetheart 2

Well hello. Here is Sweetheart #2, which came out in May 1993. I only put a few pages from Sweetheart #1 in the blog but this time this issue is scanned in its entirety, because I remember it was one of the ones I was most proud of. For those of you who like the writer Francesca Lia Block, we were friends (but have since drifted) and there is an interview with her in this issue. just remember I was only 14 or so and didn't always use them vocabulary words too great, I tweren't no damn genius and I still ain't. Also, if you can't read a page well, you can click on it to make it bigger. xoxo Robin

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sweetheart 1

I used to do a zine called sweetheart, from 13 to 18, and now that I have a scanner, I thought I'd share a bit of it. here is a sampling of #1, published December 1992. it's kinda goofy. - Robin
p.s. you can click on each page to make it bigger (for those of you as un-tech savvy as me).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where the Wild Things Were

You know how it is to get attached to a celebrity, book, movie or song, right? You can't help but feel a bit like you own that favorite thing. When I was a little riot grrrl teenager and before that, i used to have to wait until Halloween for the 'weird' colors of nail polish to come out in the drugstores, the blues, blacks, greens and purples, and stock up on bottles of weird nail polish to use year-round, & i'd get teased something awful for painting my nails 'weird' colors, and now, gosh, practically everyone paints their nails blue, black green or purple. Britney Spears even does. and i swear on a stack of bibles that there never used to be rhinestone chokers, silver shoes, or leopard skin print coats in new clothing stores when i was a teenager, can you imagine it? i used to write wish lists for these items, because they were some of the staples of clothing, female counterculture archetype-wise. now, at least in Los Angeles, every millionaire ages 20-40 dresses in my teenaged vision of the female counterculture archetype. i still never get used to it. does anyone else feel this way, that their private coolness ideals aren't so private after all, and that everything cool gets appropriated?
i have had this on my mind because of the release of the movie Where The Wild Things Are, and how excited i am to see it, but also how it's been sort of a bummer to see all the advertising for the film. There are Wild Things tie-ins with Vice Magazine, for instance, which is like ... I still like Vice and probably always will have a soft spot for it, but doesn't MTV or some other awful corporation own it? it feels like a trick, so often, the way corporations dress up their merchandise as something whimsical or obscure or punk, but it's really just more merchandise, more crap probably made in a sweatshop. THere was this really cool, really beautiful storefront display of Wild Things merchandise my husband and I came across the other day, it was a hut made of sticks and scraps of beautiful calico cloth, it was like something both of us, raised to love Maurice Sendak's wonderful Where The Wild Things Are, dreamed of running away to, when we were naughty little children. It just sucked to realize that this neat display was attached to an Urban Outfitters, good ol' (sarcasm) Urban Outfitters, sellers of 'punk' essentials that'll only put you out $60 to $200, in true 'diy,' 'punk,' 'alternative' fashion. barf.
what i'm saying is, i loved Where the Wild Things Are, and i think a lot of people my age were raised with it, but felt like it was a personal love, and, yeeks!, i have such mixed feelings of excitement but also disappointment about seeing the movie, or seeing all the gorgeous yet no doubt carefully-calculated-by-a-soulless-marketing-firm ads and merchandise for the film.

anyway, over & out for now,
and p.s.,
i'm planning to scan and share some of my old zines, "Sweetheart," which i wrote from the time i was 13-18 and which some of you dear readers are probably familiar with, one of these days soon. Does that sound neat, regressive, both or neither?

Princess Robin