Monday, April 30, 2012

Lost Moai

This little guy came back to me in the mail today. I bought him on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), carried him to Tahiti, Auckland, Japan, Newark, and mailed him to a friend in Greece from my mother's house in Virginia.

Today, after three months of roaming the postal services of the world, this Moai came back to me, returned to sender.

I kinda like him. I think I'll keep him. At least, he seems to want to stay with me.

Semi-Lost Weekend

I just spent the weekend at a small comic book convention in Manhattan. 

And because my old friend Shannon was in town, I didn't get enough sleep. Because he is pretty good at finding ways to make me stay out in places I don't normally go, like bars, for example. 

Also, Daniel Johnston was in town, also with BOOM!, who brought Shannon out. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's A Bird, It's A Plane (and an Enterprise)

Look what I saw today! Tracy and I went over to Liberty State Park. We're conveniently in possibly the best viewing spot of the area, and the shuttle went over us twice and then circled around past the parking lot and Newark Airport.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Identity Trappings

"Once upon a time, this meant a lot to me," I thought as I glanced at a Ramones LP and then shoved it back into the crate that was going away today with Bill R, the guy who once staffed Hoboken's famed defunct record store Pier Platters.

I paged on past Rank and File's Sundown, X's Under the Big Black Sun, and paused at Jason and the Scorchers.

"Absolutely Sweet Marie," I thought for a second, with a sentimental pang for a distant life as an indie scenester in DC, southwest Ohio, Austin, NYC/Hoboken. I passed the record by—I can download that and don't need to keep it—and continued on. Human Switchboard. Los Lobos. Beat Happening. Teenage Fanclub. Pavement. Big Guitars from Texas. LeRoi Brothers, Eugene Chadbourne. Evan Johns.

No, no. I can't.

I pulled out one of the Evan Johns records and stared at it for a minute. I couldn't hand this record off to Bill for his eBay business. I thought about going once a week to Austin's Black Cat on Sixth Street to see him play for free, how we'd had to buy tickets and fight crowds just a few years before back home in the DC area. I pulled the record out and put it aside.

And then why not...I pulled out Dayton's Highwaymen EP, every Daniel Johnston LP, every Unrest record, everything Glass Eye put out, my Gits singles, and for good measure, a few rare anthologies from Austin and Ohio that no one else will ever care about. Cover Me, with a great cover of Atlantic City. And a Zeitgeist record I have always liked an awful lot. Even a Roky Erickson record which I'm sure I could download...I just couldn't part with it. I thought back to my Ohio boyfriend in 1986...we used Roky's Starry Eyes as a kind of theme song for a while, not knowing that Mike's brother would have a close friendship with Roky years later. I had to keep it, though surely keeping his own record (the Highwaymen one) was more than enough. And I could actually talk to the real person anytime on Facebook. Did I really need the physical reminder of something long ago almost-forgotten?

I like this record.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Annual Aging Event

So I had a birthday.

And it rained. Not just drizzly wet stuff but a damn-near monsoon.

Surprisingly, this rain wasn't a bad thing. I'd invited too many people to my birthday party, and had in fact forgotten to personally invite everyone, but made it more or less an open invitation to anyone who knows me or has ever met me for a few seconds.

"It'll work out," I thought. Some people who said they'd attend would not, others would who didn't say they'd attend. The numbers would be just fine.

But the room, which is a little tiled Moroccan-style space in the back of Nomad restaurant on Second Avenue in Manhattan, only holds forty people. So when I hit positive RSVPs from 30 people, I started to worry.

But the monsoon helped me out, and I started getting "I'm bailing" emails from Brooklynites early on Sunday afternoon. I thought back on the snowstorm that happened the night of the 2001 departure party eleven years ago.

That had worked out too. Only people who lived on the a subway lines had made it, but they were all there, including Denise who was lugging cupcakes by my side on Sunday as we hurried through the rain to the PATH train.

I've had most of my friends for over ten years, no, twenty, I realized, when people started to show up. The newcomers are all my travel writing buddies—Erik and his pal Moe, Carly, Laura, Abbie—and Bob and Johanna, who had first brought me to Nomad in 2009. The rest ranged from people I'd known since 1988 to people I'd known at least five years.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mugged in Namibia or Maybe They Were Greeters

This Wanderlust entry is pretty funny. I mean, not in a ha-ha way, more a WTF way.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another Year Passes

Today I awoke to a beautiful day on Hamilton Park. I can hear the tennis balls bouncing back and forth, back and forth, on the courts across the street. Dogs are barking in the dog run, but I can't see them through all the green leaves that have sprung out where flowers bloomed on the cherry trees just a few weeks ago.

Every spring day on Hamilton Park is marvelous, but today has one special thing.

It's my last day of being 45 years old.

That's not exactly a kid, but tomorrow I pass into the high end of this particular decade. All of this is, naturally, rather terrifying, but as many have pointed out to me, it is better than being dead. Which is where a number of former colleagues have ended up unexpectedly, so I should shut the hell up and be grateful for another birthday.

I have a hundred little things to do today. I'm building a set of custom drawers to fit into a weird-shaped space and yesterday I made great progress after a visit to the local lumber yard. I need to go to Home Depot to pick up a few things. I want to walk over to Liberty State Park to see some properties and a new restaurant—I just learned a few days ago that because mortgage restrictions are now so tight on the self-employed, I'll be needing 35% down to go with my perfect credit and history of ownership, so suddenly lower-priced properties are looking way more appealing than they did as week ago. I need to write or choose a monologue to work on in my acting class—I mean one I've written as my goal is storytelling on stage. And I want to finish scanning my photos that I'm making into an online gallery that will go to

This year was mixed. I had great success in making myself have grand, uncomfortable adventures since I left Nigeria on a ferry for Cameroon on my last birthday morning. I lazed about in a hotel in the rain that day, leaving only to check on a bus ticket and to go to a primate sanctuary. After that, I had May to December of fantastic, exhausting, mind-numbing adventures.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Perfect for Touch Typists

Look at my new toy!

It's my new iPad but it's in a case that has a Bluetooth keyboard. My mother sent me the case for my birthday, which is in a few days.

This is exciting but I'm having trouble knowing when to swipe and when to click.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guest Post by Michael Kraiger

Today was made particularly bright as my coworker arrived, and before I could even compliment her new haircut, she noticed mine.

Some days she has office work to do and some days, she just likes to share the office space with another human (you freelancers will understand).

Some days all I hear is the click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click of the keyboard (she’s the fastest typist I know) and other days we’ll talk about the problems of the job or the problems of the world or where she got the fabulous top she’s wearing in the picture to the right. (I like the color and the deconstructionist nature of the pleats and stitching.)

The best thing about sharing an office with Marie on Wednesdays is that you never know what might become fodder for conversation. We might discuss the crazy local politics of Jersey City or the political ramifications of an international super hero group on a relief mission in the unindustrialized world. We could be laughing at the ridiculousness of an octopus in Germany predicting the World Cup or admiring an octopi pendant purchased at a cool boutique in Brooklyn.

Yeah, work can suck, but Wednesday afternoons aren’t bad.

-Michael Kraiger

* Michael Kraiger is king of the parentheses and a sucker for cephalopods.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Walking Home from Journal Square

I had to renew my license last week. I'm not sure why I was required to go in person—it's not like they checked my eyesight. Maybe it's to shoot a current photo.

The woman taking the photos seemed eager to get a good shot and so for once I don't have a horrifying license photo, though the color is way-off.

I had taken the jitney up to Journal Square to near the DMV, but I always walk home from there as it is downhill and goes through the interesting "Island" neighborhood, a little slice of family-neighborhood between Journal Square and Downtown. This is where Yancey used to live before he bought the place I rent from him now.

Here are some photos I took on my walk home. More are here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


"Working for yourself has never been more dangerous," wrote a friend of mine in response to an email I'd sent him. "Working for someone else has also never been more dangerous. Dumping what you've done for years is extremely dangerous, but it can also be the essential ingredient to ascending to the next level."

In case you didn't guess, this was in response to an email from me expressing my current state-of-mind, which can best be described as uncertain about what to focus on for my next step.

When I left my staff job of five years (which is in the industry I've worked in my entire adult life) in March of 2011, it wasn't to get away from comic books (which I didn't, since I worked part-time from the road, still am, and have recently added freelance editing for Marvel back to my list of responsibilities). No, it was to celebrate the ten-year-anniversary of, to exercise those seat-of-the-pants chops, to write on the fly, to remember how to react to unexpected twists and turns of the road. People are often horrified at the level of inconvenience I throw myself into with traveling, as am I at the time, but I live for this, the most inconvenient, uncomfortable experience imaginable. I cry tears of frustration during the actual experience, and end up with good material later.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fun with Molten Glass

I've had my eye on the glassblowing class at Jersey City Art School since late 2010, but I got a little busy what with going around the world and all.

I got back to it today, after morning yoga, taking a class with Kiva Ford who is an expert glassblower in both the artistic end of things and also in scientific glassblowing.

We heated up some blue glass in front of a torch, then melted some strips of beige glass onto the face, twirled it around into a spiral, then flattened it for a nice pendant.

Next up was heating up a bubbly pipe of green glass and then blowing it into a water globe for plants.

There's a lathe class and in the winter, a Christmas ornaments class. I'm going back for sure. This was a ton of fun.

See if you can guess which one I made and which one Kiva made. Okay, too easy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sort of Like Applecare But Lasts Forever

This isn't really what I wanted to see when I clicked on the shipping information for the refurbished iPad I'm buying direct from Apple.

Straight from Shenzhen to my door, complete with several year's warranty on guilt and moral ambiguity.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Author Video

This makes me wince, which is why I haven't shown it before. 

When I spoke about Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik in a bookstore in 2007, a guy in the audience approached me afterwards. He worked at an advertising agency and they were trying to sell a product to a book publisher—author videos for websites. 

But they needed to make a sample video. "You're perfect for this!" 

Okay. I showed up, a woman piled make-up onto me, and she then had to spray my hair every few minutes to stop the flyaways. 

It's really not bad now that I look at it from the distance of a few years, but I look pretty silly. 

There might be a reason for that. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another Cowbird Story

If you've been here a while, you know this one, from 2005.

It made me wince then and now that I've just improved it and come more clean, I think it's more wince-inducing. And better.

It's all about clearing out the weeds. And thinking about how things repeat themselves until we're brave enough to put a real end to it, and how really, I'm still a coward too. Just like the rest of 'em.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Skype Tarot with Julia

This charming and adorable woman is Julia, who I met in Chiang Mai when Toby was reading a Chinese vocabulary book at a coffee shop. She walked over and introduced herself, because she'd just been teaching English in China. 

I gave Julia some new sandals I'd bought because they didn't fit me quite right and we had the same size feet. She casually mentioned she did tarot card readings by Skype. 

I'd been thinking about looking her up for a while. This was too intriguing to pass up. I emailed her last week and we set up a reading for Sunday morning. 

I had a great time listening to her and she was good company all around. Plus, she did a fun reading, and somehow managed to have insight into what I was thinking about even though my video camera wasn't working and she barely knows me. 

Some people have a real talent for subtext and intuitive understanding of others.

Or maybe it's just the cards. 

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Parade (or rather, walk)

The cherry blossoms along my street and in Hamilton Park are out.

I went for a walk among them today, on Easter, because I felt so glum being upstairs in the brownstone alone.

Last year, I had to take a bus from Limbe to Yaounde, Cameroon on Easter, which was fine, but I was a little disappointed that I didn't find any chocolate bunnies when I got there.

Today, it didn't even occur to me to think about chocolate bunnies. It barely occurred to me to eat.

Homecoming is so's relaxing and easy, and you get to see friends, but also, I am always reminded how I'm alone at home too, not just on the road.

I did get to see Roberta early in the morning and we had a sudden jaunt to Home Depot, but later in the day I became engrossed in projects, and forgot to go outside at all until it suddenly occurred to me that it was Easter and I didn't have any plans. None at all.

I wandered around downtown J.C. for a bit, wistfully wishing for the days when I had too many buses to catch, too many visas to acquire, to wonder how I got to where I am.

Anyway, it's no mystery. You really can't have it all. My choices—made long ago when I had a hankering for new worlds and the thrill of the open road—these have defined me and will continue to do so, long after I've wished they'd stop doing so.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Country Counting Update

Edward Readicker-Henderson is up to his old tricks, trying to beat me in Strip Passport. He is booking a really good year as far as travel...but of course, he is overlooking the fact that I had an exceptionally good year in 2011.

I can't even figure out how many countries I've been to. Is Vatican City a country? Antarctica? Western Sahara? Tibet? Is Easter Island Chile or is it Easter Island? Hong Kong? Does spending the night at the airport hotel in Taiwan count? I have no idea.

I'm trying to figure it out, but not having a lot of success. Looking at this list of countries, I come up with 100 countries that I've visited.

But Hong Kong isn't a country, not really. Why does this list consider Hong Kong and Macau to be countries, but not Tibet? And does anyone really think Morocco is ever letting go of Western Sahara? I didn't count "West Bank," as it seems odd that both Gaza and West Bank were listed as countries. And really...come the hell on already...Vatican City? Really? REALLY?

Country counting is slippery, not just ethically which is of course obvious and an easy way to mock people who count, but it's also slippery on the math.

All I know is this:

I am still ahead, and have no intention of surrendering my lead. Good luck, Edward.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Paper Archive

I finally finished getting my files together for this blog for the year 2005, and submitted it to for a hardcover.

It's here...and it looks great. That was an important (if horrible) year in Marie-history, so this book took me longer than the bound books of 2006-2011. But the final product looks good. 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

More Stories

I put up a few more stories on Cowbird.

Be warned. One of them was originally written in a furious scribble* to get something out of my system on a particularly hideous New Year's Day. I revised it later trying to see how different expectations change and affect someone's point-of-view. Or at least my point-of-view.

One friend of mine read it and said simply, "Geez. How depressing."

Which is true.

The other story is not quite as depressing but it's still kind of embarrassing and unpleasant.

I'm not quite sure what I'm doing on Cowbird, or what exactly it is. I can't promise I'll stay there, but I've definitely had the opportunity to post things that are nothing like what I post here or in any of my professional work.

*Please understand that as of a few hours ago, thanks to the magic Internet, I learned all about how people use emotional distancing to shut down and push people away when they have PTSD or dysfunctional backgrounds, and this fellow had been through a rough divorce, so he was just letting his instincts run the show. Yes, he was a jerk. But no, I shouldn't have cared and it wasn't really his fault, unless not getting therapy can be a fault. I should have kicked his ass out on the spot instead of spending six more months trying to figure out why he was so cold to me.  (Yes, I have this too and so do other people I end up not-close to and not understanding why. 1) I earned it. 2) I'm learning how to change the procedure.)