3.31.2010

I Wanna Be Your Dog - Iggy Pop


Well, it's a big week here at the Seinberg training camp. I am employing a mantra of consistency and gratitude to fuel my endeavors. 


The consistency goes like this:


Monday 4 miles
Tuesday off
Wednesday 5 miles
Thursday 5 miles
Friday 5 miles
Saturday 6 miles
Sunday 10-12 miles


Also each day features going to work. Other highlights include last night's fresh baked bread, work on producing a new opening slide show for the 2010 Sister Spit Tour, dog care for my beloved Gus because it looks like he will be undergoing surgery for a hurt knee, a birthday brunch for my friend Tara, a stop at acupuncture, a dance party, writing the novel, laundry, and the doing of taxes. 


The gratitude goes like this:


I am gainfully employed at a great job that fosters health, community, and rock star health insurance. Last night Ginger arrived home to a house reeking of freshly baked bread and we ate a whole loaf right out of the oven. Mostly I ate it, truth be told. It's one of my favorite smells in the whole world, right up there with freshly cut grass, gasoline, rain, and campfire. I am also continually psyched to have Ginger to eat the bread with, some of the best company a girl could ever desire. The slide show means I get to go on tour with Sister Spit in some small visual way, which I am so honored by. And little Gus can have his surgery and be ok. I will cancel my 40th birthday trip to London and Paris and I'm actually not even bummed out about it that much. Gus has spent years taking care of me when I've had a hard time, and now I can show him a little appreciation. There's certainly nothing wrong with spending my big four-oh in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities of all time. And now I have the opportunity to plan a big ass party instead. And I have clean clothes. 


In the midst of all the busyness, people have been slipping me the nicest messages and talks. Really I am so stunned at the amount of encouragement and cheerleading people have done. Some total strangers even. I ran past these EMT guys on Market Street the other day in the 9th mile and I was really hurting. They were walking almost as fast as I was "running". And they just started yelling their faces off like Come on girl!! Keep it up. You're doing great! Only eighteen more miles! Which was hilarious because I realized his number was a joke to him, but it was actually kind of close. But it helped. These dudes just fell into my lap when the burn was at its peak, and I made it a few blocks further, and then a few more. 


I also want to send out a hearty congratulations to all the people who made it through the Oakland Marathon last weekend, and all those who didn't but tried anyhow. Right over there across the Bay, you all got up, got out there, and put one foot in front of the other. You weathered uncertainty, pain, time management problems, loss, injuries, cancer, and fear. You kept going. You were an enormous gang of beauty over there, and because you kept on, so will I. Congratulations to all the finishers, but more importantly, to each person even making the attempt. As my friend Ann told me while she watched the 7th hour of people not giving up, the magic is in the people who aren't too sure, who hope and stretch and reach for things they are told they aren't supposed to have. every time you leave your house, you are that person.


It's really true. I am that person. I'm never too sure, never quite comfortable, and forever lugging a heavy treacherous doubt around town with me. Today I am grateful for the doubt. To have it and to try anyhow. To be the awkward woman in the sausage outfit with incredible support from people, a stalwart pool of love to draw from, and thick thighs to carry me as far as they can. This is an opportunity for me to do a thing I can't imagine still, and even when I don't want to and I don't think I can, that too is a gift. Thank you Ann. 


Please stay tuned for the inevitable loss of optimism. Because it'll come back. And I'm kind of funny even in the dark spots.


Love, 
Sara Elise

3.29.2010

Where is My Mind - The Pixies


On Saturday I woke up on my day off to run twelve miles. The morning greeted me with gorgeous weather and a good amount of stomach distress. I didn't get out of the house until three hours after my plan. This meant I had to cut the run to nine miles, which was a good thing because my body was having a difficult time adjusting to my brain. And my brain had this song on repeat: This is without a doubt, the stupidest fucking commitment I have ever made. And on top of having made the commitment, I have made it in public. Sigh. Now it's Monday and I'm up early to run before getting to work at eight. It seems that by taking an evening on the couch last night instead of going to a dinner that promised to be maybe the most fun dinner of all time, I feel less crazy. I worked almost 50 hours this week, made some book progress, got my papers ready for taxes, had a restorative sports massage from my magical friend Valerie, and still ran about thirty miles. As a result, perhaps my mind isn't all that it could be. This is what I like to refer to as poor time management. 


My list of things to do is still down to my wrist, which means there's a glitch in my matrix somewhere. For years I have done this, overscheduled myself to the point of disfunction, and here, on the brink of my fortieth cliff, I have managed to change the nature of what the time is crammed with, but the lesson to learn still seems firmly in place. And I, it appears, remain an unwilling, or unteachable student. 


Anyhoots... off I go. I will ruminate on what a girl can do about this kind of thing without feeling deprived of all the world has to offer. If you happen to be an art patron reading this, I imagine not going to work would really kick the arts up a notch.


Love,
Sara Elise







3.25.2010

When You're Old and Lonely - The Magnetic Fields


I had a reading tonight. I felt nervous all day and it showed up in front of the mic. I hate when that happens. I'm kind of extraverted, so it doesn't happen that often for me, which makes it especially unbearable when it does. Everything feels disembodied and Over There. The thing is, you just can't hit the ball out of the park every time you get up to bat. And I assure you, kind people, tonight was one of those humbling nights. Nonetheless, I read new work, was faithfully supported by remarkable folks, and had the hottest date in the room. And not to be shallow, but sometimes the right butch on an elbow really soothes an easily damaged Leo ego. It's just the way the sun sign crumbles at my house. I was born this way, under the watch of the Lion. 


Anyhow, nice readers, here's a piece of the work. Behold: Pandora...


Demeter and Persephone didn’t visit in my sleep the way the rest of the Gods did. I hung out with them all the time. They’d seen me at sixteen and they’d seen me at eighty eight. They’d seen my first cigarette and my first broken hip. It seemed that in spite of my repeat visits to each of the ages, my brain mimicked a human experience of each number, regardless of the accumulation of years collecting experience behind it. So the first time I hit forty, I was really only here for eight years, but the second time I was a hundred and four. I arrived naked in the shadow of the mountain at thirty two, then time marched with me up to eighty eight, and unlike my human companions, my body recounted its edges as the sun continued to rise and set. My friends continued dying as my spine re-stacked itself regal and strong. Time marched me back to sixteen, and then I woke up one day and I just knew, I could feel it rushing through me. I was on my way back to eighty eight.  
I don’t think the Gods even knew how it would work. Zeus used to visit a lot in the beginning, but like his plan indicated, women were only useful for two things, sex and deceit. So as my usefulness proved nonexistent to him, thanks to Hera, his visits simply ended and my fate lost its director. I became a mystery to all of us, shuttling back and forth from maiden to spinster. 

I used to wait for Hera to visit, lay in the darkest nights on the roof of Athena’s temple to be closer to the sky, and beg her to come, to explain what happened. When she did come a couple times, she was so sad, all she did was weep. I’d heard about her flamboyant bitchiness in the magazines, the fantastic performances of vindictiveness and jealousy the Greeks had come to admire at the edge of their fear. But the last time Hera came to me, so many years ago, her hair was lanky, and filthy robes clung to her wet body as she sat in her river, broadcasting herself from the Middle Place, in exile from her luxurious home. I could see Sissyphus in the background, rolling the stone up the hill while Hera rolled joints. She’d smoke each one so fast, staring at me the whole time like a painting. And the higher she got, the more she cried. She was barely a goddess at all, let alone the queen of the mountain. She would only say I’m sorry, Pandora. I’m so so sorry.  

After a long visit of saying nothing, I got up and sat in the river with her. She smelled good. Everything about her was like legend says, except her fingernails. She bit them down to a bloodline. I took her hands into mine and rubbed the saltwater from her river into the nailbeds while a friendly partridge did our hair, licking the salty tears up off her perfect goddess skin.

3.24.2010

Just The Way You Are - Billy Joel

I have run over 200 miles in preparation for the race. 
And now begins the real work. 


My brain is always the most difficult. I have a sneaking suspicion that my body could make the distance right now, if some runner's brain was borrowing it. The brain might be a touch on the irritable side with the new vessel, but it would make do. It would proceed in a dogged manner, not worry so much about stride or form, but just get the thing done. However, it's not an athlete's brain up there. It is rather the brain of a woman who at one point realized the most fulfilling bonus about being a committed smoker was that it reminded her several times a day to take deep breaths. A brain which decided standing on a couch in Isla Vista, California to take in six feet of haze filled with THC through a plastic tube was going to be great fun. This is a quitter's brain in general, that, in its natural state, avoids discomfort with a vengeance. This is a brain with some hardcore training in avoidance and denial. A brain medaling in both events. But if Eric Heiden can change from being the most accomplished speed skater in history to being a champion bike racer, I can make the change from being the definitively talented couch parsnip I discussed earlier to a marathon finisher. I don't need to win or even get a good time. I am convinced that all the road work is to mostly rewire my head. Which for a sunny kind of lady, can really highlight some dark neighborhoods. 


During this training period, the running has brought me many unexpected gifts. And I will employ the word gifts even to things that may seem less than celebratory, because one of the the things the running provides is a sense that I can believe in things through extrapolation, even though I have never seen them happen. Even though I have no proof. Some people call this faith. I suppose about a billion people do. I believe I can finish this race most of the time, even though nothing at all has happened to prove this to be the case. In fact I will not prove this until the very day of the race. I am not just hoping to finish, I actually know that I can.


Which brings me to the book. The novel started out to be about this very concept. See, our hero Pandora has this jar the Gods of Olympus gave her supposedly filled with the world's evils. Zeus, the crazy bastard, sends her down to Earth to be the downfall of mankind with her fancy jar. Supposedly the thing holds treachery, deceit, gout, murder, jealousy, rape, Alzheimer's, theft, and so on, while nestled in the very bottom of the jar lives the concept of Hope. Common interpretation implies that even among the worst of the worst, hope lives on. Well, my book set out to say that the gods put hope in with the worst of the worst because that's where it actually belongs. That hope is the thing that keeps people clinging to concepts that rob them of their choice to remain in reality. It manifests as a longing for things to be different than they actually are. And one time, years ago while New York was chewing me up and hocking me onto 2nd avenue, I heard a man in a windowless room say that happiness isn't getting what you want, it's wanting what you have. That was when I began to believe not only that everything would be ok, but that it already was okay. It wasn't awesome to be sure, but it was okay. I realized that even though things seemed hopeless to me, hope was actually not the issue. 


Fuck hope. 


I'll just try and live now and not in the fantasy that life will someday be some way that's not my life right now. Because here's the hilarious part: everything changes. All the time. Of course life will be different. That's what life does. The sun, she rises and she sets. It's her jam. Ours is change. So there was my challenge with Pandora. What was I going to do with a lady lugging hope around New York City? How did I get her there? I began to work backwards, believing she had a job to do here with me or she never would have arrived on my page. I stopped hoping I could write the book, and I wrote the book. 


Did I mention that one day on a run I realized the way I was writing the novel was unsustainable? That many things had come together to prove themselves unworkable? Well, I didn't realize it so much as I accepted it. I had suspected it since I went to Mexico with the RADAR Lab last year. I would have to put down the 75 pages I wrote and begin anew. The longest single piece I had ever worked on. I just jogged along, crying a little bit because a) there were a lot of endorphines at work, b) I felt afraid I would fail, and c) I was happy to just take the book on its own terms and be willing to let it change.


Thursday night I have a reading debuting things at Michelle Wallace's new reading series. Things that have come about since I packed up the first 75 pages. I suppose this is a second draft? Or maybe a new first draft? Whatever. I'm excited about it. Maybe you'll come.


In the land of training: I am going to try and get up to about 40 miles per week starting next week. I've been hovering at about 25 with my long runs on Saturdays staying put at around 9-10 miles. They will be climbing eventually to about 20 miles by July. Then I taper off for 2 weeks before the race, eat a bunch of pasta, drink tons of water, and see how the 26.2 works out. It's weird that the common practice is to never actually try the whole distance before you do it, but that's the part my head is training for. And my soul, I suppose. Is that the right word? It's a little overused. It's this part of me I can feel slightly to right of the breast bone, directly above my stomach. I can feel it in the body, but it feels neither physical nor intellectual. Anyhow, It gets a lot stronger from all the nice things people have been saying to me, as if this faith thing is collective. And so I thank you for all your amazing good will, people. 


Also, I began a weekly walking club with my friend Dana Clark. She is awesome. It's her birthday today. So today promises to be a beautiful thing. Just right here the way it already is.


Love,
Sara Elise

3.23.2010

I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty



Why 26.2 miles? 

The Greeks, people. 

There was a big bloody epic fight in which men from different hometowns killed each other heartily.  Legend has it this guy with an incredibly long name ran all the way from Marathon to Athens to let his countrymen know the Persians has been defeated at the hands of the Greek fighters. 

Then he dropped dead. 

Well, I'm not going to.

Love, 
Sara Elise





3.21.2010

Pour Some Sugar On Me - Def Leppard



THE GREAT CONFESSIONS:


1. On the way to Bolinas, the winding, curving, bending, sickening road made me feel terrible. Nonetheless, I suited up sausage style to hit the street. One of the weekend housemates had already gone for a spin and told me a nice route. Upon reaching one mile, I realized I had not quite recovered from the drive, so I turned and headed back toward town. I knew the sun was thinking about retiring, and with every passing step, I was thinking about joining it. I made it to the beach right around sunset, which was pretty, but by that point I felt so deeply odd, like an unpleasant kind of head floating or levitating in a queasy way, that the scenery was not really given its due. I went home at three miles, took a shower and slept for eleven hours. I then proceeded to take three days off from running. So there.


2. After my big Three Minutes Past the Longest I Had Ever Run triumph yesterday, I put my route into MapMyRun.com and discovered I was so labored by the end, that even though I lasted longer than before, I was actually a smidge under 10 miles AGAIN. And so the elusive little line in the sand remains. But I'll get you, my pretty. This Saturday, the 27th, I will have my way with you, ten miles, and while it won't be stylish, it will be done.


3. I continue to find myself fantasizing about a shopping spree in The Adidas Store featuring not just the Jeremy Scott high tops that make me want to cry, but also including many functional performance pieces that actually make me psyched to be running. Is it weird to think an article of clothing would make a girl excited to go out and run for a few hours? Well, even so: whoop, there it is. 


4. I'm starving all the time. It makes sense to me that I might want to start watching what I eat because I am a thick woman, and carrying around all of me is probably rougher on the frame than it needs to be. I have lost maybe a pound or two since I started this. Maybe. My goals were never about losing weight but about feeling better. And I do feel better. I feel great mostly. And maybe that's because whenever I feel like I want to eat some kind of artesian pastry, I just do. I think Fuck it, if I'm gonna be hauling alla this around town for miles upon miles, I'm gonna go ahead and have me a damn pastry. And I do. One of my favorites is this dark chocolate sandwich cookie with salted caramel in the middle. And so with this confession, I would also like to mention, just to keep myself on the up and up here, I'm giving up sugar on April Fool's Day. At least until the race. I've done it before. It's harder than giving up smoking which I've done MANY times. I'm not looking forward to it, but I have come to the place where I realize the fleeting nirvana of the universe of dessert will be there waiting for me if I need it. In the mean time, my hips, knees, and feet need me to agree to help them in any way I can. I think this lack of sugar will have me a little lighter in the loafers. Also, I really am a sugar junkie. Like once I have sugar, I spend the rest of the day wanting more. Always.


In other news: Happy Almost Health Care, America. Almost. 


Love, 
Sara Elise

3.20.2010

Cherry Bomb - The Runaways



Part I


I've been putting off the run for about 3 hours, filling my morning with Very Important Things to Do like reading interviews with Cherie Currie and Joan Jett. I've scouring the internerd for details about premiers, watched old live videos of the band on YouTube, and shopped for the perfect leather jacket that I never replaced after college. I've fried an egg, done photography business, checked the weather, sipped coffee, checked out new personal budgeting software, done a dark eye makeup (for a run?), and not to be graphic, but changed my tampon way more than once. This last detail might shed some light on my resistance to running. Or it may also be just another soldier in a long line of uniforms, each taking a turn waving the heavy banner of I Don't Want To. But let me make this clear, the sloughing off of the uterine wall on a monthly basis continues to enrage me in many ways, not the least of which is how much money tampons cost over the course of a functional menses lifetime. Now it brings new obstacles into focus as I sit here, bloated, in my sausage outfit before my long Saturday attempt. The course for the day is to finally cross the magical 10 mile barrier which I have yet to do. Didn't happen in Bolinas. I'll get to that list of excuses/reasons upon my return. 


What I want to highlight here is that I leave part one of today's entry not sure if I can make the distance, a very clear wavering of faith in myself and my ability to run, and feeling a little bit lonely with a low grade case of terror I hope to burn off by the first two miles. Just yesterday I was in a more positive place.


My co-worker was saying she felt she'd like to set a goal for herself in terms of athletic things. P.S. This woman is ripped. She is a gorgeous old-school goth who I refer to lovingly as The Queen of Darkness. This was after my friend Grant told us yesterday at work that he plans to swim to Alcatraz. Go Grant!!! Personally, that seems incredible to me. Well the Queen of Darkness, a mightily chiseled Queen at that, said she thought maybe she could do a half marathon, but a whole one might be too much. And I told her I can't really think about it like that. I mean, I can't run 26.2 miles. But I can run one mile, and all I'm going to try is to do that 26 times in a row. Today I'll try it 11 times. Or, well, that's the plan. 


Part II


My planned route was foiled by train track construction on Church Street. Personally, I have found that having a plan really guarantees me the best chance I have at improvement. Whenever I waver from the plan, I end up accomplishing less than I would like. It's like on Celebrity Rehab when Dr. Drew says I wanna go home means I wanna use. Well in my life, I want to change my route means I want to quit and go home sooner. The plan included taking the 22 bus up to Haight and Stanyan and running the last leg of the marathon course and tacking on a few miles at Market which would have landed me at a MUNI stop with a nice J train waiting to bring me home. Since that wasn't going to happen, I happily thought HOORAY this is a perfect reason not to run today! Then I realized just how willing I am to have such a feeble excuse to get out of things. I mean, here I am reasoning that  a public transportation situation is why I can excuse myself for the day. From running. On my feet. Which a lady can pretty much do from anywhere. So I decided I would just run by time and run longer than I had ever run before. And I did!!!! I made it 2 hours and 3 minutes. That's three minutes past my longest. I know it's not much, but by then end, I was downright geriatric. Everything ached. It was all uphill from the beach. UUUGGGHH.  I am happily taking my exhausted ass to bed. Normally I don't write here on Sundays, but It seems I have some loose threads to tie up so I will see you tomorrow for a cameo.

3.18.2010

Road to Joy - Bright Eyes


I think part of the reason writing this book has been so inconsistent for me has been my lack of practice. I mean writing as a daily practice. It's so much easier to see how it really works just through writing these entries. The musings I type here clear out room to work on the book. In my defense I will say that the novel does seem to ask for a very different type of attention than anything else I've ever done. Short stories, poems, poetic essays and the like have always seemed less daunting, but also they don't ask for as much time. Of course I will spend many hours writing and editing and throwing things away and these kinds of things, but the work doesn't ask for blocks of time the way the book does. And blocks of time in a row. 


When I began the book in New York, like I told you, I was underemployed. I could not accumulate a work schedule that paid enough, which made life in the city an exercise in checking out, or showing up for a sizable mountain of financial anxiety. On the plus side, while my credit card debt fattened itself for the cold season, my situation provided me with time. Plenty of time. In conjunction with my lack of funding for any kind of city social engagement and my newly acquired lack of date, life presented me with a fantastic set of creative circumstances. Writing the book was solitary, cathartic, and free of charge. I began to get a sense that in fact I did have a story in me that spanned a couple hundred pages, I met characters who interested me enough to sustain such a journey, and I actually enjoyed the process of showing up to a daily interlude with the world that was taking shape on my desktop.


Eventually, living in New York became an unmanageable choice for me. As I was packing up boxes to return to San Francisco where friends had ponied up shelter and work until I got settled in a permanent fashion, I finally got a call to interview for a job that would have kept me in the city. I found my heart wasn't in it by then and so I hopped into the car with Sam and Gus, the gay, Jewish dog. I had lived in 12 cities by then, never the same place twice. In fact I had just visited San Francisco six months prior to my move and I distinctly remember strolling South of Market around midnight on a Friday, sparsely populated streets dotted with thick leather fags and the occasional taxi and thinking to myself  I will never live here again. Nanny Bert used to say, If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans, Sara. 


The three of us drove across the big summer country together rotating KOAs with hotels. On nights there was a World Cup game, we'd need a television and take out pizza so we were fortified to whoop and holler. Eventually we drove down the western coastline and when we saw the sign that welcomed us to California, I realized that all this time, I'd been coming home. I didn't even know that's what I was doing. I felt almost immediately lighter, both in sorrow and in actual light. Like serious hippie shit. Filled with light. I also knew that it didn't matter if it took me ten years, the book was gently making its demands. It would be written.


San Francisco is pretty much as expensive as New York, but I guess I just understand how to survive here better. You can meet friends in the park with a burrito or go to a potluck dinner. No need to go out all the time or spend sixty bucks on some noodles and a martini. Also the produce here is so out of control beautiful, it's inspiring to cook all the time. One of the first places me and Sam went was back to our favorite grocery haunt, the worker-owned co-operative Rainbow Grocery. We had literally been in town for about a half hour. Turns out my friend Jenny Tender, an amazingly generous and handsome person was sitting at the customer service desk. She introduced me to John, whose department was hiring and pretty much through some kind of fate, I ended up with a plumb job in three weeks. Health insurance, discounted organic food, no boss, and a roster of diverse, talented, and deeply interesting co-workers. It seemed everything that I struggled with in New York was being answered for in San Francisco. With some very careful dollar management, and supplementing my job with some photography and writing income, I could squeak by.


With the job, my sizable rent would have to be reckoned with. My available time plummeted. My disposition returned magically to its relatively sunny side, which isn't very punk, but it really just suits me better than simmering rage and vague depression. As my initial writing impulse diminished, the memory of the disgruntled trapped feeling faded, and my life found itself flourishing by the bay, the book languished. I tried to write in it for bits at a time, presenting pieces of it at scattered readings, but it needed something else.


Now as luck would have it, many of my writing co-horts still lived here in San Francisco, or moved back shortly after I did. My Sister Spit friend, and one of my very favorite people on the planet, Michelle Tea was building RADAR Productions, a non-profit literary home here in the city, a friendly hydra  with arms supporting Sister Spit tours, monthly readings, special programming, and in 2009, its first ever edition of a writing residency program, the RADAR Lab. I applied for the program submitting and excerpt of the book to a panel of people and was accepted to my first stint as a professional creative writer. For nine glorious days, it would be my job to work on my book for six hours a day on the coast of Mexico, staring from the deck of a condo into an aquamarine sea turtle breeding ground. Food would be prepared, rooms would be cleaned, chores would be non-existent. I would write. 


I did. I wrote. It's been a little over a year since then and I have found it impossible to keep up the same kind of practice here at home. I long for it. The time, the long stretches of hours to just watch the Gods frolic through New York. I am saving up some money to take a few days off next month, turning this office into a home retreat for 5 days. I will close the door for three hours in the morning and let myself go at the thing. Then I will run about for a coupla hours preparing for, you know, the marathon, and then at night I will do my edits and my research. 


I learned how to do this because of RADAR. Because I had an opportunity to have some time. The funding for this program has all been largely cut, but nonetheless, RADAR is going to sally forth, raising money on its own to  host two new sessions this summer back in Akumal, Mexico. Along with accomplished luminaries Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, Eileen Myles, and Justin Chin, The Lab will host emerging artists such as Tamara Llosa Sandor, Deez Nutsian and the hilarious graphic novelist Ariel Schrag. This is why I am running the marathon in RADAR's name. Because America is busy spending it's money  on various wars and has no cash for public schools, let along nice arts endeavors. But let's not get into that. I'm just saying maybe you'd like to be a part of it. Because I feel like at the end of the day, your story is one of the things that is solely your own. And it's imperative to tell it.


I'm close to half of my distance for the run, but not close to half of my cash goal. If you can help these folks out, I'd sure appreciate it. Your money would go straight to food, transportation, and lodging. Straight to the creation of art. Here. This will make it easier. Click on this:


I love the Lab. Thanks. The Lab loves you right the hell back.


Love, 
Sara Elise


P.S. - In other news I have made an appointment with the famous foot doctor Jenny Sanders. Thanks for caring, people.





3.17.2010

Forever Young - Alphaville


I started the book in 2006. To say I've been working on it for four years would be true, but a bit misleading. I put the thing down for huge hunks of time since then. It lives in fits and starts. A million drafts and narrator maps and notecards. But on the other hand, to say I didn't work on it at all for over a year at one point, well, that wouldn't exactly be true either. Because I never gave it up. I always found myself thinking about it, wondering what was going to happen and how to make the dang thing work. I read stacks of books about the history of New York. I devoured Greek mythology texts, classic and revisionist. I stared at the first thirty pages over and over.


I don't know how to write a book. I didn't then, and I don't now. In addition to this fact, I also told myself I couldn't write a novel. That I didn't have it in me. This story, I have come to discover, is a steamy pile of poo. I think we all tell ourselves these I can't epics so we don't have to be full of terror all the time. Because attempting things means inherently living with the fear of failure constantly. Course the hilarious part about that is, NOT attempting them guarantees the failure. No matter. I didn't know that yet and so I spent years living in the I'm not a girl who writes novels story. 


At the beginning, I felt first of all that there were enough cultural bastion narratives in the universe about how women are the downfall of man. Pandora was another one of these long-standing, gorgeous, interesting epics about how a lady was intended solely as a trick to bring about the destruction of mankind and its utter anguish. I felt done with all of that. 


I'd been working, underemployed, at this women-owned sex toy shoppe in Manhattan and every day I'd watch scads of ladies come in and not even know where their pleasure zone was. And these were the lucky ones. The ones who got around to finding out. Thousands never do. Millions. And how many men do you run into who have no idea how to physically pleasure themselves? Okay then. This daily meditation and reality of meeting these ladies honed my desire to undo a little bit of history. I think originally my trusty feminist self saddled up to write an angry, sharp, witty book. It helped also that at the time the woman who I had recently parted ways with was now dating a straight girl. 


All that being said, I wrote my way out of being blindly pissed both at history, and at the butch, who, by the way, is awesome. In the process of the writing, I found some things that I really liked about the work. But the anger and isolation that spurred the initial text had dissipated so much that it became clear to me the novel actually had to be work made to be its own reward. 


Since that time, I have moved away from New York, wrestled the original main character out of the work, and replaced the story of the Hope of Pandora's Box with questions concerning immortality, time, consequence and love. I have peppered New York with the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus all searching for some kind of thing even though they have already had eternity to find it. Icarus and Pandora are caught in the middle. Not immortal Gods, and yet not mortal humans either. If you have eternity to be around, no clock ticking away, does regret exist? Will you outlive all consequence? Is that why the Gods all sleep with their siblings? Because there is no taboo in an eternal life?


Well... I'd love to give you a preview of everything, but it's 11:12, which is like the middle of the night for me. Getting up to run, because as you know, only the wicked sleep in. 


Love,
Sara Elise.

3.13.2010

Revenge Wears No Wristwatch - The Walkmen





In a few hours I will be in Bolinas, California for a few days off in a big ass house that used to belong to Al Capone. Rumor has it they would smuggle goods in around the sleepy town and drive them into the city for swift fencing. I remember when I went to Alcatraz I thought about how all those inmates had such a wonderful view from their locked rock, but how torturous to be bound there, mythic and sad. Turns out Capone must have liked a good view. My friend Schaef rented the house for her partner's kick off of a whole month to celebrate turning 40. A whole gang of hilarious lesbians with many food rules lounging in a gangter's house with hot tub. The poetry of it all is pure delight for me.


I packed up my sausage outfit, some gel chews, a couple bandanas, and wicking socks for my time out there. Running in new places is always hard for me. Something about the unknown makes everything take longer. Even if I am just doing a there and back run that's new, the "there" part always feels eternal compared to the "back". Something about familiar landmarks or terrain soothes a scratchy panic my brain gets during a virgin jog. Today I'll be out by the ocean, a gorgeous place with no city comforts. It's odd to me that the beautiful run seems to be producing a state of anxiety rather than excitement, although the two feelings manifest in similar ways. That's why I often just run on the marathon course here in town. By the time I'm surrounded by 10,000 runners, I at least want to know where I'm going. I'll know about the McClure poem fragment I'll run over along The Embarcadero, the bronze plate in the ground declaring, "Once this was all black plasma, and imagination". I'll look forward to the row of dry trees along Fisherman's Wharf, all the branches empty and capped with gnarled wood fists, a canopy of joints. There will be the stiff climb up to Fort Mason and them the long unfurling of Crissy Field, stiff wind drying salt over my stinging face. I'll run the bridge, the glorious famous thing in the sky, over and back while cars wait for the throng of crazy people on a Sunday morning, tacking mile after mile onto their running shoes. We'll all spend six miles in Golden Gate park, pass American Bison, waterfalls, golfers and archery until the park spits us on to Haight Street, still littered with clouds of Mary Jane ether and bare feet. I'll be excited to roll easily down to Market Street and over it into my hood, the Mission, run through so many memories along 16th street, and then I have to admit, there's a hill I fear will kill me. I've run it a million times now, a long slow crawl up from 16th and Harrison to Potrero. I've never run it after 18 miles or so, though, and I can't say I'm looking forward to it. I imagine I'll picture the quiet of the haul through Potrero Hill and 3rd, around the back of the ball park and along the water. I love that part. The end is so great. Under the Bay Bridge and home. 


But Bolinas? I got no reference, just a watch that says I'm not done yet. Not to complain. I mean at least I know everything ends in a hot tub. But I've noticed the psychological distance of things is more intense than the linear distance. Moving through neighborhoods, I discover my mind has placed them so much further apart than they actually are. I picture myself living half a lifetime from the beach, but I ran out there one day to visit my friend Sam at Tuesday Tattoo where she hurts people all day in the name of beauty, and it only took me an hour and change to run there. Took longer to get home on the train. The body and the mind are such different creatures, each trying to outdo the other when they share the same landlord. 


I'm sure it'll all go swimmingly, though. All of it. 


Love, 
Sara Elise



3.12.2010

Lies - The Rolling Stones


Yesterday someone asked me how far my longest distance had been in training to date. I said, truthfully, "Ten miles." The interesting thing is, my entire body felt as though it was telling a lie.  Slight increase in pulse, small heat to the cheeks, eyes flit away from the inquirer. I noted my physical reaction to the answer and since then have spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of truth in narrative.

In my mind there are exercising people, and then there are people like me. Also I've discovered that I  have a value judgment about the whole thing. Exercising people are a collection of people who glow more than I do, who are more competent than me, have better will power and clearly more discipline, which makes them a more admirable people. Apparently, all these years I have internalized ideas that folks who have an exercise practice are, well, better than me. Even when I spent all that time scoffing. Even when I railed against vanity and insecurity and shallowness of hot body seeking. Even when I professed a legion of ways a nice person could better spend their time, rather than paying fees at a gym, racking up tons of extra laundry, and as I've mentioned, wearing just idiotic looking ensembles. Deep down, I just felt like they could do a thing I simply was not able to do, and I felt like a bad person because of it. And frankly, the story hasn't changed just because I find myself in the outfits pretty often. I am still harboring the luggage of my youth, the steamer trunks that say I am not a runner, but just a person who is running. I am not an athlete, but merely a woman with a new task that happens to require silicone roll-on for intimate spots on the body where one may prefer not to chafe. I am not person that has honestly run ten miles.

I qualify everything:

I don't go fast. 
In fact I go sooooo slow. 
I don't push that hard. 
I'm just trying to finish in under six hours so I don't get disqualified.
I only run alone.
I only made it four miles today.

I think I am afraid folks will discover this whole thing to be a big fraud. They'll lend me their support and spend their valuable time and enthusiasm in a difficult day on me, and then they will discover that I am merely a retired smoker who still dreams about having arms like Angela Basset and who will surely choke when July 25th rolls around.

This project has showed me that I have endless stories in my head about myself that may or may not have been true at some point but are lodged in there, giving their subtle input about almost everything. For instance I have this story about myself that I'm overly social and I love big parties. This was true, maybe, for a long time. But now I actually prefer a dinner party or somewhere between four and ten people. Or just a quiet evening with Ginger and Gus. During big parties or at clubs (which I barely ever find myself at anymore), I have to retire to corners often to gather myself, take stock of my newly developing mild social anxiety, and maybe drink some water. 

All this to say: I think I can use all this to make sure the book feels true and authentic. I must find a way to tell a meaningful story using characters that were born thousands of years ago on the cliffs of Greece above an impossible blue sea. If I can tell a truth that feels like a lie in real life, then certainly my goal to tell fictional tales that reek of truth is essential. And also it might be a good idea to get behind the real story that I did run ten miles. This weekend I should hit 11.


Love,
Sara Elise

 

3.10.2010

Paradise City - Guns -N- Roses





I generally run into someone I know every time I go running. And each time I look kind of like a cross between  a misguided Guns -N- Roses tailgate party refugee and an extra from Olivia Newton John's Physical  video shoot. On top of that, I am also poured into black spandex. Now, it's true I have never been really able to rise to the occasion of high fashion for many reasons: 

1. I don't really have the money for that kind of thing nor the creativity and style to pull it off on my own budget. I know tons of ladies who can do it, and it seems this is not where my talents lie. These women, femme or butch or any other gendered presentation, are a continually fascinating breed to me. Style envy.
2. While I love shoes, I am generally attracted to the looks of shoes which do not value any kind of comfort or mobility or are so over the top fabulous, I can't afford the outfit that goes with the shoes. 
3. I am entrenched in the American Legacy of low self-esteem for women and shopping often leaves me feeling depressed and outcast. The upshot is, it also engages my inner feminist to combat this feeling, which I enjoy tremendously. 

So regardless of my relatively inoffensive lack of groundbreaking style, my running look makes me feel, well, humiliated. I often leave long-winded messages for my friend Michelle about this problem. She invariably calls me back telling me the she, too, a style icon in my world, finds herself navigating her walk to the gym as a kind of social minefield, bobbing and weaving through the streets in less than ideal outfits. 

I am happy to report here that after 3 months of marathon training, I am beginning not to care. I have to wear the sausage outfit so often in order to reach my running goals that I actually don't have any room at all for fashion worries. And in all truth, I would probably just be wearing jeans and a hoodie anyhow. Although to my own credit, my accessories would be notable. I love a good accessory. 

I'm telling you this because it is a simple example of how running has worked on me in so many subtle ways that feel good, that the whole endeavor is about the other 22 or 23 hours a day that happen besides the running itself. People ask me if I enjoy it or if I like it. To tell you the truth, during the actual run itself, I would classify very few moments as enjoyable. I don't listen to music when I run. I don't jog with friends. It's just me and my mind and my body out in the world. It's a lot to face the chatter in my brain with nothing but itself to answer to. 

The day before yesterday I decided I would tackle the piece of the marathon course I've been the most scared of. I had run along the water past the Marina and along Crissy Field before staring at the big, famous, orange majesty that is the Golden Gate Bridge ahead of me. The thing is tall. Like Godzilla tall. And I just kept trying to picture the terrain of the road through the Presidio that led up there, terrified I would never make it. This process lets me not only be afraid, but have time to accept I'm afraid, and just go ahead and try anyhow. I'm more than willing to fail. The running has shifted my entire relationship to the notion of failure. 

I have a meditation practice combined with a bargaining practice that happens while I run. I count my strides in little packs of 4s up to 88. 8 is my lucky number so I thought that would be a nice one to work toward. So when I began the run at the Ferry Building, where Market Street butts up into The Embarcadero, by the 23rd set of four, I felt like quitting. I think that's not quite one minute into the run. I cut my first deal with myself of the run to just make it to 88 and then see how things felt then. Often my mind will wander from the strides and I never make it to 88. Or i will mentally veer off and when I come back, some part of my brain has been keeping count, and I'm at 106 and have missed my mark entirely. I start over. Again. Eventually I'll be at the first hill of the course that heads left off of Aquatic Park where crazier bitches than me are swimming in the Bay at 6am, and I'll go up over Fort Mason. It's a steep hill but it's short and it feels awful. Until I get to the top and there's the ocean and the bridge and my heart is slamming blood around my chest and just like that, I the awful turns amazing. I'm about two miles in by then, maybe 24 minutes or so and I finally feel like maybe I can make it to the bridge.

I'll go through this hundreds of times during a run. Wanting to quit and just running through it. Turns out the first two miles of every run feel terrible to me. Every time. At least two. Some days up to four. The thing is that I already know that on the other side of that, things can feel good. That open hearted feeling waits for me, the part where I ring out my bandana after the run waits for me, where I stretch out hot muscles that were made of stone when I set out. I envision those things when I want to stop. Tiny things. Until I'm there. 

I made it. I made it up to the bridge. And I got up there and I looked back over the path I had come on. San Francisco is a staggering looking town. It's gorgeous. And it puts itself together in weird pieces you can see from up there, like a lady who makes her own style. So when I come back down and run for that 9.5 miles for the day, and I get to the train and take it along Market headed home so I can get to work, and I run into someone I know in my stupid outfit, it doesn't matter anymore that I look hilarious. It matters that all the little failures more often than not are just stops on the way to little successes, trudging in the wind to an big orange bridge.


Love, 
Sara Elise

3.09.2010

The Flight of Icarus - Iron Maiden


There are the two goals: there is the marathon, and there is the book. The novel. The beast. I started the thing in a lonely room in Brooklyn. Windsor Terrace. That was 2006 I think. The novel is a re-telling of the myth of Pandora in modern day New York. The first version sported six narrators and fifteen fonts. The thing was fun to spit out, when I managed to find any time or presence to do it. I love all the Gods running around the city, thinking up new ways for their stories to fit into my brain and back onto the page. Eventually, though, the book began to ask me for a form and structure: Some rules and a goal. It was during a run a few weeks ago when I came to accept the tentacled nature of the piece wasn't a sustainable way to write a book. It's my first book and in the stride of the run, it felt okay for me to let it go. It didn't mean I was  failure or that I could never write a book. It didn't mean I would set it on fire or delete it. It just meant I had to find a new way to tell the story, scale back some of the character arcs, and wrestle one of the main characters from the narrative to leave her gently by the side of the road. Plus, it made me rethink what the whole point was. 

This piece right here is told from the point of view of Icarus. Icarus only talks in poems. He's not what they told you in class. In my book, Icarus wasn't a fool whose curiosity and hubris overtook him. In my book, Icarus was born in a girl's body to a single father so busy looking good to all of Athens, all of Crete, that he couldn't stand his daughter's failure at femininity. Icarus threw himself into the sun, a suicide in the making. In some versions of the Icarus myth, Hercules finds the body and brings it back to the shores of Greece. This is how my Icarus makes his way through a thousand years before he goes to New York only to find Pandora...

i got hercules to tell folks 
he buried the body. 
dug his fingertips into
the seabed
halfway to hades
laid me in.
a fallen angel, 
a cliche.
i told him my story
for he’d never seen one like me
the other side of dionysus.
and so he saved me. 
a misshapen boy, 
still smelling of 
burnt hair
dirty 
stringy.
still smelling for a way out
from under a father
who thinks she’s gone.
a would-be suicide 
knocking around the edges
of empires
waiting for somewhere to be, 
somehow to be. 
impossible fashion of a toga
and a crown of olive branches.
what can a boy hide in there?
a dagger, sure
but not breasts. 
i spent most of 
a thousand years
in the middle place,
working out 
unworkable things 
with sisyphus.
we pushed his rock around. 
up up up
we climbed hundreds of times, 
thousands
then millions
the same mountain. 
pushing the same rock.
that is how the books tell it
but it is easy to forget
that each day a rock changes
the mountain shifts.
a person changes.
it is the way of life.
there is only change.
there is the fact 
about erosion
how the rock smoothed out 
under his hands,
how the hand would callous 
upon the rock
the skin would blister
and erupt
then harden,
turn yellow.
tear right off.
his leg muscles began to bulge
and i greened with envy
finding a stone to push next to him.
we’d trod up the slope
talking about the sky
the navy night
and love.
over and again.
up and then down,
florite, limestone and quartz,
the mountain sparkled in the face
of his pain. his daily offerings of 
whatever keeps a man going.
no one thought to retell in the books
about how he
moved the stone to the left a little,
so he wouldn’t kill the flowers in the spring.
mashing their sprouted heads
back into the stone and the mud.
about how he wept the first few hundred years
figuring out his own trap.
the ego is a practice.
a whiner.
a bully with your lunch money.
that first autumn in the rains 
of the middle place
he just pushed up 
the same route 
again and then again.
how was he to know?
a rookie.
he whittled a hollow so deep
a river of hera’s bitter tears 
rolled down over thick roots 
of burdock
and horseradish
fell down 
down
and made swamp,
a marsh
a great salt lake
and then an ocean.
i’d float on my back in it
some days
watching him work
letting the sun hit my chest
hoping the growing breasts would burn off
sizzle sunny side up
like a diner breakfast.
weak coffee and salt water
take the ovaries for eggs i thought,
but they did not.
they grew more beautiful, 
actually. 
sisyphus could not understand my frustration 
with the gorgeous sacs.
the way they bounced 
like something splendid happened
every time i took a step.

Love, 
Sara Elise

3.08.2010

I Wanna Get High - Cypress Hill



A friend of mine asked me if the "runner's high" was real. Actually a bunch of folks have asked me about it. I am a woman who spent a nice hunk of her youth getting high on many things from your run of the mill booze and weed, to more specialized endeavors like cocaine, acid, ecstasy, hashish, mushrooms, and a very romantic waltz with crystal methamphetamine to wrap things up pretty much in my late twenties. Other than squelching my chances at holding any kind of public office, I believe this list offers a few important notes regarding your narrator.


1.  I do not come from a background of prioritizing my physical health.
2.  I am not interested in appearing to be a jock of any kind.
3.  I am well aware of more accessible, easy, and much more potent ways to get a buzz on than running nine and a half miles.
4. While I have finally come to recognize that sometimes the way to happiness is straight through a field of horse shit, I generally prefer to stroll around it. In comfortable shoes. Adidas high top originals if at all possible.


I am not a noble person. I have not in my adult life, as a rule,  pushed through uncomfortable situations simply because it's healthy, right, or beneficial in the long run. I have also never been an, "I'm so looking forward to a brisk hike in the wilderness" type of dame. While I do enjoy nature and a great view, I don't want to work that hard for it. Frankly, friends, I like convenience and I like comfort. At the end of the day, if what you are looking for is simply to get high, it's much easier and more efficient to lift the bong to your mouth than to haul your ass around Golden Gate Park for three hours.


All that being said... yes, runner's high exists. It's not like any other way of getting high, though. It's not like high-out-of-your-mind-altered-by-chemical high. It's something durational, akin to all-night studying or falling in love/lust. It feels like my heart is cracked further open, like I can authentically understand how people are just really actual people, each with their own self-esteem problems and long roads trod, their own heartbreaks and clavicles. Each with their lists of things to do that never get done and regrets they'd do anything to not look at. For me the way the running feels is that I can actually look at some of those things in myself. I can find kind versions of shit I spent the whole day stewing over, and sometimes snippets of the book work themselves out along the path. Physically I feel a range of things so broad, I never could have imagined it. Sometimes I'll feel like quitting, which like I've said before is more often than not, and I will make a deal with myself to go over my body mentally and see how I am actually doing. Am I in pain? Maybe my heels a little bit. Am in winded? Usually no because I never go very fast. If someone was brandishing a weapon at my loved ones, could I keep going? Easily. The runner's high cuts through the bullshit of my mind. It lets my body be itself. Hot skin in cold wind. The real live constant thunk of my pulse. Everything physical feels like it's in italics. The world looks so much more beautiful, everything smells more acute, including myself, and salt tumbles out of my skin in the alchemy of a raised heartbeat. I will also spontaneously cry at the end of runs sometimes, less now than when I started, but it happens. It's a great high. It is. And it feels clean. That's new for me.


In other news, I seem to have developed a mild case of
plantar fasciitis. I'm stretching a bunch and also was given a tip to freeze a bottle of water and roll it out under my left heel.


Love,
Sara Elise