Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ode to the OED

"the good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense - which sense I propose to develop in myself and in others whenever I have the chance."

When I first read this passage from Nobokov in an English class at UT, I immediately circled, underlined, and highlighted the entire thing. I knew that it would have some profound impact on me at some point. Seven years later, I still remember that passage and eagerly sought it out to share.

Since reading that, I have always kept a dictionary nearby. And when I don’t have one, I just circle and dog-ear the hell out of the page. To me, unless they are some hard-back, signed, first edition of Survivor, locked in the glass cabinet at Half Price Books, books themselves are not sacred. As long as I can read the words and enjoy the gift that they are giving me, the books themselves are nothing but vessels. But I digress.

Memory? Sure. We all need memories. Most of what you read in my blogs are nothing but memories, jazzed up to be a little shinier than I actually recollect them. But I know some people who have the memory of an amnesia patient and can write very beautiful things. I myself have bouts of absolute emptiness in my head. Moments where a word I want to reach is playing hide and seek with me, sometimes hiding behind my left eye, other times laying low in that back part of my brain where I get tension headaches. There is only one thing that can help me when the words start teasing me so.

Imagination and artistic sense? Of course. How can you expect to create anything without those two? Well, I guess you could create a baby. That’s pretty primal and I’ve seen some babies created in very unimaginative ways….But I digress. Yeah, these are very important. But this leads me to another point:

Not everyone was popped out of their mom’s vagina, probably conceived in some unimaginative way, with a head and heart and soul full of the ability to create things beautiful. Sure, there are lots of people who are inherently artistic and capable of creating masterpieces on a whim, but most of us aren’t. Most of us who want to add our mark, splash some beauty, stir up trouble and feelings and thoughts, we need a little help. We need our dictionaries, our thesauri, our writers workshops to get us going, to get our juices flowing to somewhere besides our pants.

So, thank you O.E.D. Thank you Merriam and Webster. Thank you Without you, I would’ve written the word ‘consummate’ earlier instead of ‘conceived’ because it’s 12:15 and my brain is now mush. Thanks.

P.S. for a great read, check out The Professor and the Madman: a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. Oddly enough, I pulled it off my shelf to find that it is wonderfully warped by something that was spilled on it. But I can still read the words.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bad Process Analysis

How to wrap a home-made Christmas present:

Step 1: You cut a hole in the box
Step 2: Put your junk in that box


Ok, for realsies:

How to kill a man:

Step 1: First, demoralize him to the point that he is no longer connected to his friends or family, so that no one will notice when he’s gone
Step 2: Make sure all of his assets are in your name

Hmmm, I’ll try again.

How to avoid writing on a topic you just can’t seem to write about:

Step 1: Check your email. Since it’s been about 30 seconds since the last time you checked, quickly move on to step 2.

Step 2: Check various social networking sites, including, but not limited to: MySpace, Facebook, Tagged, Linked In, and Good Reads. After realizing that no one updates their pages on a Sunday evening move on to step 3.

Step 3: Say ‘fuck it’ and check your chat list to see who is online. End up chatting with a new boy and saying funny things like “awesome. I wish I could control satellites.”

Step 4: Either go back to writing, realizing that being smarmy and self-evident can be funny, at least to one person (i.e. me) or just go the fuck to bed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's a 4-Letter Word, of course...

(btw I know that I Totally bite Chuck Palahniuk’s style in paragraph 4; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery)

My mom used to watch horror movies when I was a kid. Very loudly. We were poor, so we always lived in either a really small house, or a really big trailer with paper thin walls. I used to always go to sleep with a pillow over my head to keep the screams and growls and moans to a minimum, so that I could function at school the next day. Luckily, I made it out of that totally unscarred, and a huge horror movie fan myself. One movie, though, managed to have a more profound effect on me.

It was called Jagged Edge. It was from 1985 and starred Glen Close and Jeff Bridges. I never actually watched the movie, I was in the other room and never sought it out as an adult, but I know it was a murder mystery. When I was a kid, probably around 8 or so, I also knew, somehow, that the “jagged edge” in question referred to a knife. I also knew that there was a word in there that I didn’t understand. The word “rape.”

I can’t remember if it happened in this specific situation, but whenever I would ask my mom what something meant and she didn’t want to answer me, she’d say “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” Looking back, I really wish I had written down all of those words. I would love to see those now.

Regardless, I did not get an answer to my query, so my young, yet insightful brain drew it’s own conclusions: knife + the screaming I could hear through my bedroom walls meant that rape = peeling off someone’s skin with a knife. Rape wasn’t the right word. But it did for then.
See also: flaying
See also: scalp
See also: excoriate

Obviously, I know what rape means now, and I really wasn’t all that far off…

Monday, November 10, 2008

That's with an 'a,' not an 'e'

I was born in 1949, in Easton, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles Northwest of Philadelphia. When I was born, there weren’t much that preceded me. Our family was small, but proud. Only eight members in my parents’ generation, and that was both of their families. That changed pretty quickly, though. To say that they all got a little frisky around that “boom” time, well, that would be an understatement. I currently have 48 family members in my generation.

One of those other 47 is my brother, Blue. Blue may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, y’know, but he is the kindest, most loyal little brother a fella could have. He was born in 1958, and when mama got sick, he was the one to leave school early to help out. I was out trying to make a name in the fashion world in New York City around that time, in the 80s, and I just couldn’t see what was really important. Blue took that job at the factory that helped keep mama in our old house. That is, until they forced him to retire in August of 1990. Blue lives with me now. Blue helps me out, helps me take care of my little girl, Heather. Now that mama’s gone. Hers and mine.

I told ya we were simple, right? Well I left out the part that makes our family extra special. We actually had an Earl in our lineage. Of course, I never met the guy. He was born in the 1830s, so our introductions were off by about half a century or so. He seems to have left a big mark on the world, particularly in the culinary world. Maybe when I die, people will think I made a big mark on the world, too.

But that’s enough about me, little girl. Tell me about you. Oh, what? I told you all that about me, and never told you what to call me? The name’s Gray. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

source material

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Questions about Questions

note: i started this and totally hate it, but i really need to move on

p.s. I know that most of these are unreasonable trivia questions. I’m just having fun here, folks.

Q: In what 1995 movie did one, of many, villains say “Riddle me this, riddle me that, who's afraid of the big, black bat?”
A: Batman Forever

Q: Hello Zeus. Hello Detective McClain. Sitting on this fountain you will find a 5 gallon jug and a 3 gallon jug. You have 30 seconds to place exactly 4 gallons on the scale, or a bomb will go off. Go.
• Fill the 5-gallon jug.
• Empty the 5-gallon jug into the 3-gallon jug, leaving 2 gallons.
• Empty the 3-gallon jug.
• Pour the 2 gallons from the 5-gallon jug into the 3-gallon jug.
• Fill the 5-gallon jug and use it to fill the 3-gallon jug. That leaves 4 gallons in the 5-gallon jug.

Q: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A: About 700 pounds

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hi. I’m Laurie.

My mom and I always moved around a lot. I was never really sure why, growing up, and I’m not really sure to this day. Regardless, I turned out alright. Every new town always meant a new house, new school, new friends. It also meant a new phone book.

Every time we got to a new town, I would take out the white pages, flip to the L’s, and look. I would look for his name: Allen Lyons. That’s all I knew of him. A name. His name. My name. He was never there, though. Not that I would’ve done anything if I had found this random person named Allen Lyons. Or maybe I would have, who knows?

The funny part about all those times I went flipping through those tissue thin sheets is it was all, ALL in vain. Allen Lyons was never a part of me. He was never who I thought he was.

One camping trip, about 10 years ago, my aunt spilled the beans. She didn’t just spill the beans, though. She spilled the beans and wiped them all over the white couch that was my mom’s entire . I never saw the fallout that inevitably came after my aunt told me that my entire backstory was a lie, but I know it was there. As it turns out, Allen Lyons was not my dad. As it turns out, Allen Lyons was a tall, skinny red-head who was verbally and emotionally abusive. As it turns out, my mom cheated on him during their eight month marriage.

My dad. The one that made me but doesn’t actually know he made me? He has no name. He has no face. All I know is he was the (hot) Puerto Rican gym coach at the high school in a town where I eventually spent time poring through a phone book, moving into a new house, checking in at a new school, and making new friends.

After my mom got married in 1997, I was no longer related to anyone named ‘Lyons.’ So yeah, my name is Laurie Lyons. And I fucking love it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bar Floor

Ah, I finally get a little rest for a while.

It’s nice lying here on the cold, concrete floor. I’m tired of getting jostled and shaken and pawed at. Fingers wrapping around me, people taking off my cap. Just spending some time down here, next to the dribbles of urine, occasionally blessed with the company of a passing cockroach. I like it here. Here, people don’t waste what I have with futility and drivel and spiteful words that mean so little but can hurt so much. No string of badly rhyming prose, no piles of numbers stacked upon one another to the point that they actually have meaning.

Here on this floor that probably hasn’t been mopped for days, I don’t have to worry that I am probably more bacteria-ridden and pathogen-perpetuating than a dollar bill. Covered in the saliva and fingerprints of strangers. Lying here I don’t have little bits of me scraped away and left for dead like dog shit flaking off your pissed off neighbor’s shoe.

If I could just find a way to change my name, to change my face, to change my shape. Maybe then these people wouldn’t involve me in their ridiculous games. Their ego trips, their retarded witicisms. If my name weren’t Sharpie, would that make it stop?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sweat Lodge

So maybe Nas doesn't hold a very high place in the view of most mainstream Americans. He is typically better known for the huge amounts of controversy that follow him than for his music. Nas has both made people sit up and listen, and shrink down and cover their eyes. But I don't care. When I went to see Nas at Emo's a few months ago, it was like a spiritual awakening.

I'm not a religious person. At all. That's not to say that I'm not a spiritual person, though. And oddly enough, when a hip-hop artist gets on stage and starts talking about God, I listen. I may not hear the message, but I hear the words, and at least those have the power to move me. Nas performed a couple of those types of songs that really did it for me, but it wasn't until I heard "Black President" that I really started to feel the earth shaking and my hands lifting to the sky.

On that ridiculously sweltering August evening in Austin, my spot in the dead center of the crowd, underneath the awning of the outside stage, I had a transcendental moment. The sweat, the heat, the couple of hits out of Donnie's pipe, and the man, Nas, there on the stage. I felt like I was in a Native American sweat lodge. If I had made the mistake of taking mushrooms before that show, I wouldn't be here right now. I would have attained Nirvana and chucked deuces at this world.

Nas, on stage, reflected on 2Pac's previous lyrics: "though it seems heaven-sent, we're ain't ready to have a black President," with a response that we all know and love: "yes we can...change the world..." Standing there, sweating to the point of tears, I let it all wash over me, because I knew Nas was right. I knew Barack was right. I knew my heart was right. And we were.

Yes we did.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

You Can do Whatever you Like/Election Night

Last night. Was Amazing.

I am not going to bore you with trying to do a post about how amazing the world is. How it’s a brand new day. First Black President and all. There are many other people doing that, and doing a much better job than I could.

I just have to say that I don’t know that I have ever or will ever feel the amazing power of love that was generated last night. Sam, JBee, I went to Side Bar to watch the results. Of course, we walked in at 10:02. Two minutes after the polls closed in California, but everyone was still on their feet, and we had heard the roars coming from the bars as we were walking.

I found an old friend from Waterloo and skeezed some seats from him after taking a shot of Hornitos at the bar. I immediately started crying as the camera panned through the crowd at Grant Park, then lingered over Jesse Jackson, looking like the Cowardly Lion as he finally got his heart from the Wizard. We all got our hearts back last night. And more than anything, we all got our pride back last night.

I had so much fun talking to strangers, hugging girls in the bathroom line, holding people as they sobbed, and putting my arm around one of my best friends as I see the tears of joy welling up in his eyes. Last night was one of the best nights of my life, and though I celebrated way too much (none of us had to work today, so we headed to Spill and drank some more), I remember (almost) every moment of it, and I will for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I was supposed to be the apple of his eye. I was supposed to fall asleep in his arms. I was supposed to bounce on his knee. But that just never happened.

I know nothing of this man. The one who inadvertently gave me life. The one who started it all. And he knows absolutely nothing of me.

If you know anything about me, a huge part of my driving nature is to always seek the truth. I have the curiosity of a cat, and though sometimes it has caused me pain, it has yet to kill me. I am a journalist and a truth seeker and liars are the bane of my existence.

The biggest decision I have ever made in my life is to not follow one of my strongest instincts, to not satiate my curiosity. The relationship that my mother and I have, though troubled and sometimes awful, is also wonderful and special. And no one can take that from us. Not even me. Her decision brought me here, and my decision will keep me with her.

Holiday in Cambodia

**Note to readers: I started out planning for this to fit with today's topic about serial killers, but realized that it was way too deep and way too personal for me to just add a rushed, bullshit ending. I am probably going to combine it with some other similar stuff that I wrote to build a more comprehensive piece that will probably end up being pretty cathartic for me. So, this is just a tiny bit (but more than a paragraph!) and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and comments are still welcome...

She realized weeks earlier that being a bitch was way, way more fun than being the nice girl. She realized that being the one to get off first, then rolling over and falling asleep in a bed that wasn’t hers was a lot better than laying there, pretending to enjoy herself, only because she had had one too many vodka tonics at the bar where he found her.

The holes in her heart eventually began to resemble a Cambodian minefield. All the memories, tiny barbed contraptions scattered about causing destruction at any and every given moment. She never knew when she would be walking along and they would just pop up, causing her to lose yet another limb, have yet another breakdown, take yet another pill, all because she could never keep her feelings in check.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


In this, my dead state
Can no longer masturbate
Nor coagulate

My cold hands, cold heart
Wrap her throat like a boa
Drawing her to me

Sylar opens brains
Taking power that’s not his
But he’s no zombie

Stars crossed and blood lost
An Angel and a devil
Or is he? Hmm, Buffy?

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Southern gals love their iced tea. I mean really, really love their iced tea. I haven’t had an excellent glass of iced tea since I was fourteen. After my grandmother passed, the sugar to boiled water to steeping time ratio was never the same.

When we get together for the holidays now, my cousin always tries to make tea in her fancy machine, but it’s never quite the same. Tea machines don’t require the gentle pulling of the yellow and white Lipton paper tabs that then get stuck to your finger tips. Tea machines don’t require the finesse of the knot that holds all of those precious sacks together as they lay waiting to reach their full potential. Waiting for the done light on a tea machine is never as much fun as watching water change from glassy and still, to highly agitated by tiny bubbles rapidly maneuvering to the surface, to giant pockets of air rumbling and falling over themselves like thousands of salmon trying to spawn.

It really was all about the sugar, though. Mounds and mounds of beautiful, processed sugar that streamed into the pitcher without concerning itself with our family history of diabetes and weight problems. Ah the sugar-before we knew of things like Splenda and agave nectar and Fair Trade Turbinado Unrefined Cane Sugar from Central Market. It was just sugar. The clearest picture I have of my grandmother is her sitting in her brown recliner, waiting for me to come in to visit. She would see me, her face would light up, and she would take her huge, only slightly wrinkled hand and smooth it from the tip of her nose to the tip of her chin. I like to think that she was wiping her mouth in preparation for my kiss because her lips were too coated in sugar from all that yummy tea. The only thing in the world that was sweeter than that tea was her.