Monday, December 31, 2012


Switching between tumblr and facebook
facebook and tumblr
where did my capital letters go?
When did I become reduced
to a string of meaningless (or oh so meaningful)
emoticons that sometimes jump up and down
in a semblance of reality?
When did I forget how to react?
Reaction here, behind a screen, is almost nothing.
Does the real world even exist anymore?
Can I find a place to go
when the internet signal blips
when tumblr's down
when I slowly and unconsciously scroll and click
facebook to tumblr
tumblr to facebook
even when I'm not online?
When did I give in?
When did I become better
at text to text communication
rather than face to face?
When did I lose my emotions
to mere dots and ellipses
colons and semicolons and parenthesis
and less than threes
and the oh so meaningful (meaningless)
of a sentence

Hard Comfort (or New Year's Resolutions)

Do I believe in New Year's resolutions? They're hard: hard to say, harder even to contemplated, hardest to go through with. I don't know what I'd resolve; probably to procrastinate less, work out more, get things done, all the normal things I see so many people try and do every day. I have no idea if I have the willpower to go through with even one bit of those huge ideas. Change is hard, really hard, harder than I'd like to admit on a daily basis. It's so easy (too easy) to go with the flow, keep up with the old routines, sink softly into the comfort of everyday existence. Comfort feels right. It's not always the best choice, and that scares me. Change scares me more than almost anything. When I think about the future, about going off to college, it seems so big and uncertain. It's hard to imagine living without my family, considering fending for myself in the real world, not having a safety net. My mind has a hard time processing that I'm four years away from The Real World.
Taxes and jobs and oh my god dating and spouses and no not ever having kids and living somewhere that
I only hope I can do what feels right, what I know to be good for me and my life. I hope to do what I love, what makes me happy. I can't imagine being stuck in a dead end job, the proverbial cubicle, purgatory. I want to write, make drinks for people, share the love. I want to be Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and Anne Hathaway and that guy I just read about in Dwell Magazine and every single hipster chef/farmer ever all rolled into one. I want to wear clothes that I like and feel good and dye my hair and knit crazy socks and grow my own food and cook and make music and beautiful things. This is what I choose
It's not always the big things that matter. Keep telling yourself that, kid. Maybe it'll work out. Happy New Year to me!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bits of Me

This was an essay I wrote for the Amherst college supplement. I'm sure it's not what they were looking for.

I look like a lesbian. A stereotypical lesbian, if you will. I have short hair, normally dyed an interesting shade of unnatural, and wear a lot of flannel, collared shirts, and sweaters. I love bowties. My leather motorcycle jacket is my pride and joy. One of the most common questions people ask me (after “How’d you get your hair that color?”) is, “You’re not straight, right?” These days, I proudly answer, “Nope, not straight!” and move on with my life. Two years ago, I wasn’t as comfortable with myself. I felt slightly wrong, off kilter, not lesbian enough. I had long hair, dressed in ratty t-shirts and jeans, and would avoid awkward questions at all costs. I didn’t feel like my outer self matched my inner personality. I needed to be more “stereotypical”. So I cut my hair.
            As the weight of my hair fell away, and I turned willingly to face the mirror, I finally, finally saw something I liked. Yes, the girl looking back at me seemed stereotypical. Her short hair spiked up at the top, her two piercings in each ear were finally visible. She finally walked with a swagger, a confidence. She could finally look at myself and think, “Your inside matches your outside.” So I dressed her in collared shirts and sweaters, jeans and boots, and set her loose on the world. She lived up to the stereotypical expectations I had for her: confident, in herself and in her sexuality, with a wicked dress sense and a snapping personality to match. What I had believed to be simply stereotypes became my life, but without them, I couldn’t be myself.  My ideas of the stereotypical lesbian allowed me to come into my own: a full circle stereotype. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Eyes follow me. It’s always the same: a quick glance, followed by an immediate drop of the gaze, like they know they shouldn’t be staring. But they can’t help themselves, and ever so covertly their eyes creep back. Some blatantly stare, while others make tiny darts with their eyes, like they’re trying to catch me unawares. Little kids stop in their tracks, mouths agape, like they’ve just seen something magical. When I smile, they smile back. Teenagers are more vocal. A passing girl calls out, “Hey, I love your hair!”
I always reply with a huge “Thank you!” and the biggest smile I can muster. I’ve learned that people love it when they can engage, especially with someone as wildly colorful as I am. On any given day, in any given place, people reach out, asking, admiring, awestruck.
The two ladies approach gradually, neither of them more than five feet tall. One carries a shopping bag, the other displays hoop earrings and sunglasses, and both have the gait and bearing of grandmothers many times over. They settle themselves next to me, and sure enough, their gazes fall on my hair. They lean together conspiratorially, considering. Finally, the one on the right speaks:
“Your hair… It is so beautiful!” Her Latin American accent caresses the vowels, pushing them across the sentences.
I smile, stretching my face to its limit. “Thank you so much!”
The ladies smile back in unison. They lean in again.
“        The colors, how do you do them? Your mother is ok with this?” They chuckle matching laughs, their faces wrinkling up.
I laugh along with them. I get this question all the time and I know exactly how to answer:
“Well, I get the colors with a lot of time and effort, and my mom doesn’t really mind- it’s my dad who’s more of the problem!” They nod knowingly, as if they’re thinking, “Ah yes, the patriarchy strikes again!” Their eyes remain fixed on my blue and green hair, glowing brightly in the summer sunshine. Even as we settle into a comfortable silence, their smiles stay, and so does mine, until the bus comes and we board, each of us going our separate ways.
“Ohmygosh, I love your hair!” The woman smiles, bright and earnest, as she ogles my hair through dark lenses.
“Well thank you!”
“How do you do it? It’s so bright, it’s amazing!”
“Just gorgeous.” The other woman adds.
“How do you do it?”
I stop and assess my flatterers. Two women, one mid 20’s with brown hair pulled back, the other maybe in her mid-50’s, wearing a sunhat. Both have sunglasses, and similar coloring. Mother-daughter, maybe? They seem like they actually want to know, so…
“Well, I have to bleach my hair first, because otherwise the color won’t take. I use semi-permanent dyes to get the color. They fade after about six weeks though, so it leaves plenty of room for changing it when I get bored!”
The women seem to drink in the information as I rattle it off. They can’t stop grinning and looking at each other, like they’re thinking, “Can you believe this girl?”
“What’s your natural hair color?”
“Dark brown, and booooring.”
“Can we take a picture of your hair?” I pause. People rarely ask to take photos, and when they do, it’s never with the honesty and open awe of these two. Their enthusiasm, strangely, matches mine, all of us focused on this slightly bizarre manifestation of my inner rainbow. I view myself through my hair, and these women seem to catch that, and want to remember this moment.
“Um… sure!” I nod my assent for the photo.
The older one whips out her white iPhone, fingers flying across the screen in her eagerness to take the photo. I lean back and turn my head a bit to the side, to show off where the neon pink melds into shiny turquoise. The click of the phone camera signals that a random stranger now owns a piece of my soul, if you believe that sort of superstition. She asks for one more, so she can see the top, and I obligingly tilt my chin down so she can capture the colors on my cranium. The camera clicks once more, and then they’re done. With a last chorus of “Amazing!”, they continue on. A few minutes later, my bus comes, ferrying me from one set of people to another, crazy hair and all. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writing on the Wall

Oh my god.

My heart drops. Outside the window, the familiar hulking shapes of bunkers and buildings stutter past, rocking and tilting in time with the movement of the train car. Aboveground Metro rides are always a high point in my tangles with public transportation, but today, my normally relaxed ride feels cold. On the Red Line, just after Union Station, where the Metro comes aboveground, the tracks run parallel to new construction on one side and older, slightly creepy black bunkers on the other. The huge shapes are normally covered with letters and numbers, spray painted tags and names declaring JU, PEAR, OCHO, CHE, CHUNGO, MOE. Familiar monikers all, but now, that familiarity is suddenly, achingly, gone. The bunkers are devoid of their normally hectic skin, and stand ominously, painted a dull and deadly black. They’ve been buffed.


I don’t know when I first started noticing graffiti. I don’t know when I started learning about it. I don’t know what drew me in. I do know that now, I can’t go anywhere without noticing. The handwritten tags, the quick, bubble letters of thowups, and the elaborate, painstaking colors of burners and pieces all catch my eye. I’ve slowly begun to decipher the stilted and jittery letters of wildstyle, and the initials of the different crews who tag. I know the names behind different stickers, and whether they’re for advertising or just an identity. Wherever I go, I’m always on the lookout, drinking in this unattainable and impermanent art form.


For such a small country, Israel sure has an abundance of graffiti. Everywhere we went, the walls shouted names and phrases, in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Giant murals splashed across walls in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I went everywhere with a borrowed camera swinging from my wrist, ready to document every scribble, every slap-up. I snapped photos of twisted and distorted faces wheat pasted on walls papier-mâché style, of giant dancing women spray painted up the side of a building, of the huge and colorful names beckoning from every wall and street sign. One of my most prized sightings was on the beach in Tel Aviv. There’s a seawall on the far left, supporting an embankment for a tower. On a bright red background, three names pop: SEVER UTAH ETHER. Since I’m not a local, I asked Yochai, one of our Israeli group leaders, what they were.
“Probably smugglers, or gang signals,” he replied, shaking his head and staring in distaste. I wasn’t so sure. Something that beautiful simply couldn’t be malignant. It turns out my gut reaction was right- those names are three copies of many all over the world. I wonder if those artists know how the locals view their work.

Over the two weeks I was in Israel, I came to recognize individual styles, the same names recurring on different streets, in different towns. On the plane back to the US, I opened the camera case. A smashed, broken camera looked up at me. When I popped open the memory card slot, I found that it, too, was wrecked. Back in DC, I lamented my loss to my mother. She asked, “Why do these mean so much to you? It’s just graffiti.” I gaped at her.

“Mom! Those might have been the only documentation of those pieces that existed! What if they’re buffed? No one will know!” She laughed.

“Well, if you say so. Next time, bring another camera!” I agreed. I’d thought of photos as permanent, but they’re just as fleeting as any tag or sticker, at the mercy of the authorities, the weather, or in this case simple bad luck and a misplaced backpack.


Six months after my camera smashing trip to Israel, I touched down in Rome, bound for Florence, Italy. As soon as we exited the cramped city streets for the highway, my eyes popped. Giant names and characters covered the Plexiglas and green plastic barriers beside the road. White highlights chased through neon yellow and purple letters, while electric blue offset black and green. My family laughed at me for pressing my nose against the small glass window of our car, and for swinging my head from side to side in my eagerness to see everything.

“Amanda”, they chided. “It’s just graffiti. It’ll probably be gone in a week.”

“I know!” I replied. “That’s why I have to see it all RIGHT NOW!” The colors on the barriers were new and different- bigger than anything I’d seen in the US, and lacking the artistic finesse of the Israeli street artists. This was pure, New York style tagging: marking your territory, the bigger and brighter the better. When we finally reached Florence, I found that the tags on the highway trailed themselves all the way into the city, where they evolved into handwritten tags and wheat paste stickers. There’s no buffing there, or none that I could detect; just layers and layers and layers of people’s identities, hopes, fears, and warnings, scrawled or sprayed on any available surface.


The train continues on, though for a moment it feels like everything stopped. I leave the bunkers behind and rise up with the elevated tracks. Down below, the names follow. They are a trail, making my day a little more colorful, a little more right. I don’t know how many people notice the graffiti. I don’t know how many care if it will be buffed. I don’t know how many names stick to the walls and rooftops I’m passing, buried under layer upon layer of paint, but I do know all of them, as old friends. MOE tags all over DC, his name greeting me in all four quadrants of the city. I see him every day in the spring, winking down from the Key Bridge, white bubble letters outlined in black. PEAR moved to San Francisco, but his name is still around, long after he left the city. JU stopped tagging, but not before he left several indelible portraits, ranging from Tony the Tiger to Michael Jackson. CHE and CHUNGO are still around. I see their new tags every month. Others are not so prolific, and the only memory of them is contained in these walls. Some have died or gone to jail, some moved, and some simply stopped tagging. As I watch the colors fly by, I sit and wait and wonder: which one will be gone next? Who will replace them? I may not know now, but I’m always watching. I’ll be the first to know.

Friday, November 23, 2012

On The Color Red

I don’t like red. It’s too strong, too angry, too out there. I have red sock yarn, red like richness and comfort and autumn. I got it on sale, just because. It’s a lovely yarn, silk-wool-nylon and gorgeous. I’ll never use it. The color’s too off-putting. Red socks seem like something weird. Even if I cabled them up all pretty, they’d still be red. And red is bad. I’m not even sure why I dislike red so much. It’s not every red that’s an issue. I can deal with red in moderation: bright red stripes on a sweater, dark red jeans, a single perfect red rose. My hair was even red once: dark, beautiful auburn red, shiny and soft as the silk sock yarn. Another time it was almost orange, a vermilion like a cross between a pumpkin and a tomato. Those kinds of reds are fine. Real, fire engine reds are not. They’re not real. I’ve never seen that kind of red in nature. Real reds are deep, rich, layered. Fake reds are flat. And flat is bad. Flat is boring, one dimensional, not worth it. It’s just not worth those socks. Flat feet are almost as bad as a flat head, which is why neither my socks nor my hair are red. And that’s why I don’t like red.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's Lost Is Found

Wow. It's been... two years? Two years, probably close to the day, since I started this blog. It's been a year since I posted here. It's been a year since I felt I had anything worth sharing, anything I could be proud of. That's changing. This year, I have writing, actual writing, that I want to display. Pieces I'm proud of, even if they're just about the color red, or my hair. I think I'll also use this space to show off my knitting (because I'm damn proud of it, that's why). So, whoever's out there, I hope you like this. Because it's what you're getting.