Friday, April 24, 2015

She Stole my Heart in the Trailer Park

[Note: Hello kittens. I know you're (probably/maybe) eagerly awaiting news from Los Angeles. But instead you get this story from Long Beach... Washington.]

This year for my birthday Carly gave me a glimpse into my future.

At least that’s what she said as she handed me keys to the doublewide trailer we’d be spending the next 48 hours in. The Sou’Wester is a collection of rentable trailers and cabins located on the Washington coast outside the town of Long Beach.

Your trailer comes with a stove top, toaster oven, and t.v. with built in VHS player. We’ve got a big collection of videos here in the main house, feel free to take whatever you’d like.

We’d had one other recent experience with trailer parks, an operation in Eastern Oregon called “Good Sam’s RV Lot”. At the tail end of a weeklong road trip spent hiking, camping, and hot-springing through Washington, Idaho, and Montana we were on our final leg of the trip home and desperate for somewhere to sleep our last night on the road. So far through some combination of minimal planning, affability, and dumb luck we’d managed an incredible trip. We’d camped in a shady, wooded campsite near a creek. We’d camped at the base of a mountain one mile from the most incredible hot springs view I’ve ever experienced. We’d camped beside a miraculous alpine lake, just us and eleven empty campsites.

Our last night, we decided to camp somewhere in the general vicinity of home. We’d driven approximately six hours from a campsite off of Highway 12. We woke up that morning, ate a tasty oatmeal and egg breakfast in our quiet campground, and took a leisurely stroll along the river. Behind a heavily-wooded curve of highway we’d stripped off our clothes and skinny-dipped in the frigid river, crawling out to dry our skins in the crystal light of a sunny September morning.  

Now we were on the final leg of our journey, headed for what we hoped would be a lakeside campground. The temperature had been climbing all day and by afternoon we were hot, restless, and more than ready to set up camp and jump into cold, clear water again. According to our technology, there was a scenic waterside campsite near the junction of Highway 12 and Highway 730. This is a lie. There is nothing scenic about that junction. We began to suspect as much when the landscape flying by outside went from rolling rural farmland to scabby, kind of scuffed up looking hillsides criss-crossed with electrical towers and giant blobs of rocky dirt.

The drastic change of landscape dragged me from my road-lull reverie with the first jolt of potential panic. So far we’d been so lucky, it was only a matter of time before that luck ran out. We were sweaty, and sleepy, and done with the road with no “charming waterfront campsites” to be seen. In fact, there was no waterfront anything except waterfront highway. At the junction we had a decision to make: left or right. Left would take us south, along the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Right would keep us on Highway 12 into the Tri-Cities region. My iPhone claimed there were plenty of camping opportunities in either direction, so at the last possible moment we chose to go left. Eastern Oregon. Oh how I loathe thee.  

After the junction, the Columbia River was literally our right hand man, the road transitioning into a steep, gross little embankment that plunged straight into the water. Good Sam’s was tucked between a line of electric poles and the river. Desperation washed over me as Carly pulled into the horseshoe parking lot, and walked toward the office. The continuous hum of generators hung heavy in the air. An elderly man hobbled from the interior of his RV onto a presumably permanent wooden porch, expelled half his lung into the bushes, then calmly sipped his beer. He stood there a few moments, coughing, taking in the splendor of his American flag flapping in the breeze, hands tucked into the waistband of his jeans.

If personalized hells exist, mine resembles the row of permanent residences at Good Sam’s.

But I was charmed by Sou’Wester’s blue and white Zelmar cruiser. The wood-paneled walls, the careful collection of trinkets… Sitting at the laminate tabletop, feasting on fancy cheese and champagne, I was the birthday queen of the trailer park. We whiled away the next 48 hours playing chess, hiking to lighthouses, and strolling along various beaches. Watching the sun set while wading through a field of golden dune grass, Carly’s hand warming in mine. Collapsing into bed with a belly full of good food and port, my head spinning with colors. I know she meant it as a joke, but if this weekend was a glimpse into my future, I’d be damn lucky.

Lovers. I hope your cheese is always fancy, your trailers always doublewide, and your VHS players always built-in.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Art of Waking Up: A Brenda Taulbee Story

Early Fall 2013 I received a message from my Poet Mafia Boss, Curtis, encouraging me to submit words to a locally-produced international publication called Gobshite Quarterly.

Curtis was responsible for my first live poetry show in September of 2012, and had been a touchstone ever since. He’d since provided me with a veritable plethora of publication and publicity opportunities, as well as shows and invaluable connections. I imagined him as some secretive poet hitman, trailing publishers down dark alleys and threatening their kneecaps if they didn’t consider his protegees’ work. His proclivity for trench coat and  bowler hat only encouraged this mental image.

When I received the message from Curtis, I’d been experiencing minimal success in the poetry world. I’d had a few public readings, recently self-released a chapbook (“Dances with Bears ...And Other Ways to Lose a Limb”), and been accepted into several online literary magazines. I felt fresh, and bold, and capable. Weirdly optimistic in an unflappable way. So I submitted five pieces attached to a stiffly courteous cover letter, and hoped for the best.

I’d like to paint you a better picture, but the truth is I don’t remember the exact afternoon I submitted to Gobshite Quarterly. I do know I was working full-time and dating somebody I loved less than my ghosts. Poetry factored into my life as compulsory exorcism, something done routinely to purge the system; something to keep the heavies from mucking up the mechanism. I had no idea this submission would kickstart a momentous series of events.

Friday afternoon I board a plane to Los Angeles for the L.A. Times Festival of Books, where I’ll debut my new collection “The Art of Waking Up", a Reprobate/GobQ publication.

Approximately one year after that afternoon submission Rv Branham, the publisher of Gobshite Quarterly, approached me after a show saying “Send me everything you’ve got.”

Saying “We’re gonna make a book.”

So I did. And he did.

The book itself is velvety smooth, like a newborn kitten. The collection encompasses three full years of my life. There are 63 poems; four lovers, three ghosts, one mental breakdown. These poems are my mother, my father, my sister, my brother. They’re my grandmother’s death. They’re the death of all the
“Me”s that came before this person who will board a plane to Los Angeles Friday afternoon.

Three nights ago I dreamed that I was very suddenly extremely pregnant. And terrified. I didn’t know anything about the baby I was carrying, I didn’t know anything about giving birth. I was certain my lifestyle choices had harmed the baby, caused some horrible defect. I was daunted by the concept of something relying on me. But I could feel the life inside me, and knew I had to bear it regardless of the circumstances.

This book is that baby, and this Me is that baby, and sometimes this life is something we’re forced to give birth to whether we’re ready or not. That doesn’t make it any less scary. That doesn’t make me feel any more prepared. I guess what I wanted to say is, this really does feel like an awakening; an art I'm still learning. Please bear with me, I think we'll have something beautiful to show for our efforts in the end.

I love you all.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Goo Goo G'Joob

The walrus does not live in the Pacific Northwest. In fact they prefer a much colder climate. For example, Siberia. Neither are they responsible for leptospirosis (a disease that scientists probably know a lot about, but I don’t. I’m not a scientist.). Walruses are, however, responsible for 90% of Barry Manilow albums purchased from 1995 to present day.

If you leave a walrus alone in your house, it will leave tusk marks in your cheese. If you leave a walrus alone with your roommate, it won’t leave tusk marks in her but the two of them will drink all of your beer and text you at work to bring home tacos. A walrus’s favorite beer is a good, dark stout. Something vaguely chocolate-y without being overwhelmingly sweet. Walruses, male and female alike, think this makes them more manly. Walruses are horrendous misogynists but in an ignorant rather than intentional way.

(It occurs to me that were I to write an actual report on walruses, things would be so easy because wikipedia. Remember when books were a thing, and you checked out books, and magazines, and like 10 National Geographic encyclopedias at the school library, and there would be maybe one sentence about walruses in each of them that you found after reading for hours? Kids these days don’t even know. 

“But b,” you might say, “If knowledge is so accessible, why do you need to make up all of these ridiculous facts?” Because they’re more fun, obviously. Try to keep up.)

Though I’ve never personally spoken with a walrus, I imagine they’d be poor conversationalists. They strike me as the sort to frequently interrupt your stories with side notes about themselves that are only obliquely related to the topic you were discussing in the first place. They also seem like they’d elaborate to a ridiculous and completely unnecessary extent. Here’s how I imagine conversing with a walrus:

Me: “So I was walking to the store the other day for some groceries and…”
Walrus: “Walking, ah yes! That’s almost nothing like the flopping sort of forward flailing my flippers are capable of on-land. Swimming, though. Goddamn if I’m not the fastest marine mammal alive! Why I was telling my wife and sister-in-law just the other day, keep in mind this was right after I had returned from the coast of France after a long holiday following an unfortunate mental breakdown at the ol’ 9-5...”

And so on.

Please note, the walrus is by no means the fastest marine mammal alive. While a swimming walrus can hit 22 MPH (impressive compared to a human’s 4.5), it’s athleticism doesn’t even approach a dolphin’s 40 MPH. Fact. And besides, weren’t we talking about my trip to the grocery store, not the biomechanical capabilities of our self-absorbed mammalian pal?

Many upper middle class walruses will purchase knockoff brands and loudly tout them as superior to high-end products. Not because they believe these generic products are actually superior, or even because they support the capitalist notion of a mass-producing, earth-mangling, socially-oppressive, multi-national corporation succeeding over artisan specialty crafters. The sordid truth: most upper middle class walruses harbor a fierce resentment of slightly-more-upper middle class walruses (said resentment being vaster than their rather sizable girth).  

Walruses frequently misuse large vocabulary words. Most walruses believe “pontificate” is how pine trees reproduce. If you have a walrus friend, they’re probably that friend you see once or twice a year. And when they say something like, “We really should try to see each other more often!” you reply by avoiding eye contact and mumbling vaguely under your breath until they return to talking about their holiday in France.

And this has been my report on writer’s block, I mean walruses. I hope you enjoyed all of these 100%, absolutely true facts.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

November is for Nostalgia

[Note: this one time I wrote a thing, and promptly got distracted without posting it. So, Throwback Thursday: unseen post edition. Cheers, lovelies!]

I am trying to feel how I feel without breaking. Breaking down, breaking open, breaking through. November is for nostalgia; memories coiling tightly around themselves like a writhing knot of snakes at the center of a tree. Lately I have been lonely for people I don’t know. Lately I have been lonely for the people they can’t be anymore. The cells in our bodies replace themselves every seven years, and someday I will be a person you have never seen. I’m learning to be ok with that.

It's fall now and I am in love with a girl who fits like well-worn flannel. When I feel lonely I remember night time, and my body against her body against dirt. Bark cracking like sinew and tendon, the fire’s noisy meal a product of hasty scavenging. Hard-won flames gnaw noisily. Wet logs crumble into ashy pillars. When I lay my head in her lap I’m not cold. Above me, her mouth makes words and above me the sky hangs dense like something primordial and above me three stars call themselves Polaris, dancing cheek to cheek so my eyes can perceive them.

Stars like pinpricks in the elasticity of the everything.
Stars like flecks of sand in black tar.
Stars like marshmallows bobbing in black water on the lake where I fished with my father.
Stars like powdered sugar sprinkled across asphalt.

When I feel lonely I think about two months ago. How we slipped out of our clothes and scrambled naked into clear, cold water. Cold knocking against our lungs, locking up limbs while traffic grumbled behind the sparse trees that can’t hide naked bodies, perched indelicately on sun-warmed rocks. Sleepy, yawning, stretching rocks. Rocks just beginning to wake up. Sunlight illuminates flecks of moisture caught in the fine raised hairs of her arms and backs as wind coaxes goosebumps out of hiding and the clothes huff in an impatient heap.

I want to unfold like something that unfolds slowly. Slip back into this business of breathing. I am more Me now than any version of this person. I am only lonely when I let myself be. I write letters to myself, all the words nobody else will say. I say:

"Here's the deal: you might not die this year… Maybe one day you will be old. You can say that now, right? Like you used to say 'Maybe one day I will be happy' and look: you wake up every morning, and you're grateful."

All my love, dearhearts.