Thursday, July 1, 2010

How did I arrive here?

During the summer after I graduated from college I rewrote my thesis on the narrative of cultural melancholia in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying for possible publication in the Yale Literary Journal. It was my advisor’s idea, and since I had it in my mind that I would apply to graduate school for a Ph.D. in English within the next year or so, it seemed like a good way to occupy those shapeless days before I was forced to make “rest-of-my-life” type decisions.

Sprawled out on the back porch struggling over a coherent way to disprove every accredited ideological approach to Faulkner’s writings from the release of Sanctuary on – (a project which, under the direction of my brilliant, elusive advisor, became wildly more ambitious than I could even begin to manage) I never imagined my first professional publication would turn out to be a cocktail recipe book called Girl Drinks.

In mid-July I sent the draft off to Professor Pease and never heard from him again until twelve years later when I saw him give a lecture on Our Town. I'm surprised I ever learned to walk, since I clearly give up so easily. A few weeks went by with no answer from Hanover and I lay “As I Lay Dying” – the mourning process that could never complete, the ending that could never really end – to rest.

After three weeks in California, I let the rest of the summer go by distracted by fantasies of writing a novel, touring with a rock band, moving to France, joining the Senate, becoming a professor. What I actually did was hang around writing lackluster songs on my dad’s out-of-tune acoustic guitar, go swimming in the neighborhood pool, and spend the evenings with friends who came to stay at our house. One rainy day in October I was walking past Starbucks in Concord center, an establishment that had always been met with rather severe disdain, saw a “Now Hiring” sign, had an interview and accepted a job, mainly because they offered health insurance for part time work, an employee benefit plan I didn’t end up working long enough to enroll in. That was my first job post-college, and probably my favorite overall. I spent most of the money I earned there on a creepy party at a South Shore mansion where I passed out too early to even serve the hors d’oeuvres. In the winter I recorded with Johnny Leisure, a college band that had already disbanded. I volunteered as a lead organizer for “Earth Day” – an ostentatious show of sculpture made from recycled milk cartons and endangered animal face painting (talk about Emperor Niro twiddling his thumbs) for suburban families who drove up in their SUV’s and went home to their hot dogs and in-ground pools. And for about 4 months I interned in environmental issues at Senator Kerry's Boston office for a narcissistic, lazy, dimwitted woman who took credit for my work, never once included me in the “donut call” that went around the office, forgot to show up on our last appointment together, and got my college wrong on the form letter of recommendation she wrote for me.

What choice was there but to move to New York City?


(God I just realized that was like my grandmother's explanation for "why she doesn't drink coffee". Because her father didn't believe in coffee or tea. But she drank tea by the keg-full daily. Drove me crazy.)

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