Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stupid Cold, Hippie Molestation, Good Men

I have a super-annoying g-d cold, a fact which I am taking very personally. I have created a mythology in myself that working in a hospital has created in me some sort of super-immunity and that as a result, I Never Get Sick, and especially with something as pedestrian as a run-of-the-milll cold. But here I am. I knew it was coming. I could feel it all week, starting with a mucus build-up in my eyes and a runny rose, which culminated in the full-blown cold I am currently suffering through. I hate this. I was up much of the night with a sinus-y headache and a bad case of the sneezes, and I am extremely cranky and not up for Mr. Typist’s “good-natured ribbing” about my condition. Colds are debilitating and stupid and humiliating. I wish not to have one, but alas, I do. I’m probably just going to go back to bed after I post this. Stupid cold.

In the throes of my Stupid Cold I needed something to read, so I downloaded the novel “Checking Out” by Nick Spalding on my ancient Kindle. I know that we are in the midst of the Me-Too movement and that there is nothing funny about rape, but I almost died laughing at a scene in which the main character is nearly gang-raped by well-meaning hippies because he gets incredibly high, and as a result finds himself stuck in a beanbag chair and unable to express his non-consent. I’m sorry, but it was funny as hell. I have not heard of the author Nick Spalding before, but I will likely be reading more of his stuff in the future. He managed to make a hilarious story out of someone getting an inoperable brain tumor. That’s talent.

In keeping with this weird, cold-delirium theme, I would like to say a few words about Men. This has been on my mind a lot lately. There have been a few sucky, weak, predatory men in my life who have badly messed me up. But far, far more than that, there have been amazing, strong, confident men who have bent over backwards to support me and shore me up and encourage me to have confidence and strength. Women have supported and championed me too, and I am not leaving them out of this equation or in any way diminishing their role, but they’ve provided a different kind of support, which I will discuss at a later time. Right now, I want to talk about men. 

I love the confidence and bravado of men. They have reached out to champion me, whether that be with my writing, (thank you, Patrick Stafford and David D. Horowitz) or with my physicality, (thank you, the late Willie Austen and my current trainer, Akida Dawson) or with my mental state, (thank you, gay-Mormon-therapist-from-my-20’s-whose-name-I-can’t-remember-but-who-saved-me, and Pietro Abela, my spiritual-health guru.) Men have taught me how to harness power and confidence, and how to swagger my way through the world even when I feel undeserving. Men, including Mr. Typist, have taught me how to fight. They have taught me how to go into battle and how to stand up for myself. They have never been more proud then when they see me strong. This strange myth that men want women to be weak has simply not played out in my experience. Every good man I have ever encountered has been a champion of my power and strength, even when I felt wobbly and unworthy. I am so appreciative of them. At the gym the other day, this extremely strong, professional body-builder guy high-fived me when I came in and said “You’re back to get some!” I felt so proud and affirmed. So, thank you, good men of the world. I appreciate you, and recognize you, and I know you will carry on. Here’s a very manly video in your tribute. 


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Epsom Salt Rash, Troll Feet, Skate Opera

One or two times a week, I take an Epsom salt bath. I don’t get massages or facials for manicures or pedicures, so this is the one body indulgence that I partake in, usually in tandem with a trashy book. I am a big believer in the restorative power of Epsom salts and trashy books. But of course, just plain Epsom salts are not enough. I am an Epsom salt connoisseur, and I have very refined taste. My latest favorite, which I will go ahead and buzz-market here, is Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak. It has a lovely, soft, orangy scent and I associate it with the blessed silence of Being in the Tub, which is my sacred time during which no one can reach me and demand things of me. Even Mr. Typist seems to recognize bath time as sacrosanct, and will only approach to respectfully knock on the door and ask if there is anything I am need of. But somehow, recently my local drugstore ran out of Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak, so instead I decided to try the good doctor’s Activated Charcoal & Black Lava Salt Soak instead. It wasn’t nearly as good and it left sooty, muddy streaks in the tub, but I took it philosophically-- after all, a bath is a bath.

However, shortly after getting out of the tub, I started to feel burny and itchy, and when I looked down at my arms, I noticed that there was a hot, red rash forming in the crook of both of my elbows. After a panicked mirror check, I saw the same rash forming on my stomach, too. Mr. Typist then confirmed that it was also present around the back of my knees. I kept telling myself to remain calm and that it was probably temporary, but I had a restless night of waking up and panicking that I was going to be covered head-to-toe in some sort of terrible, disfiguring skin disorder that would take years to get rid of and that would cause me to be shunned by society, dismissed from my job, and thrust into homeless—because I am a very rational person that way. It turned out to be nothing. The redness disappeared on it’s own and was just a minor, temporary reaction. However, I will never trust “Activated Charcoal,” whatever that is, again.

I was minding my own business the other day reading a book on the couch, when Mr. Typist walked into the living room and snorted derisively me. At first I thought it was because I was reading a novel, an activity which he disapproves of, but instead he was sneering at the holes in my socks. “My own wife,” he said scornfully, “is a hobo! Why there is a hobo in my living room? Woman, stop wearing your socks out!” Well, it’s not that simple. I can’t stop wearing my socks out, because I have Terrible Feet. Terrible, Frankenstein's monster, troll, Hobbit feet. Huge, unwieldy, misshapen feet with bones that stick out on the medial side that I think are known as “bunions.” I don’t want anyone looking at my feet, hence the “no-pedicure” rule. My trainer casually asked me about my shoes a few sessions ago, and while I answered calmly, inside I was fighting a body-dysmorphic battle to the death. Why did he have to mention my feet? Did he know all along how terrible they are and this was his way of mocking me? I calmed down eventually, but I still hate my feet. And now I have to go buy new socks so Mr. Typist will stop calling me a hobo. I feel guilty about hating my feet, because they do a lot for me and they are strong and sturdy, if not elegant. I should be more grateful.

Luckily, I can sublimate my foot dysmorphia by bingeing on a fantastically god-awful new Netflix show called “Spinning Out.” It’s really bad, in the best way possible. It has all of the pot-boiler ice-skating drama characters: The psychotic, ex-skater champion mom who is now trying to live through her daughters, the cruel, ambitious Russian coach, the smirking, good-looking rich guy, the spoiled rising star, the bitter older sister whose ambitions have been thwarted. It’s high-pitched and over-the-top and it takes itself very seriously. And there is lots of ice-skating. I love it. I plan to sit in the living room in my holey socks, clutching my bindle and watching “Spinning Out” until Mr. Typist leaves the house and returns with a bag full of brand-new socks for me. In the meantime, here’s a romantic ice-skate:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Body Verses Body, Lessons in Strength, My Date with Kahlil Gibran

Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This for God and this for myself’ This for my soul, and this other for my body?”   ”On Religion” by Kahlil Gibran

In between bouts of eating dragon souls in Skyrim, I spent some time this weekend working on another poem in the new series I’m developing. I’ve written a fair number of poems about The Body: What I have and haven’t done with my own, my general disconnection from it, and its various and sundry batterings, most of them self-inflicted. Many of those poems are very dark. I had forgotten just how dark until I went back and read some of them recently and found myself alarmed by their brutality. With this new series, I am consciously trying to take a different approach—not an insincere, rah-rah positivity approach, but one that comes from a place of genuine gratitude and appreciation for what my long self-maligned body is able to do—it’s adaptability, it’s capacity to learn, and shockingly to me, it’s hidden strength. One cannot, I have discovered, simultaneously malign one’s own body and effectively strengthen it.

I came to weight training with many wounds around my life-long lack of athleticism, being too tall, spindly and uncoordinated in my younger years to be able to do any sports, anger about my knee never getting properly fixed, never “clicking” with a sport or a physical pursuit, and feeling hopelessly limited. The weight training has tuned me into my body and its physical workings like nothing else has. It’s been a hard and uneven and sometimes painful process, but it’s taught me a lot, including that perennially favored spiritual buzzword, “presence.” I practiced regular meditation for years, and it never got me anywhere close to the presence I’ve discovered when I’m pushing through muscle fatigue and self-doubt trying to get three more reps in on the leg press, and the world shrinks itself down to nothing but me, the sound of my heartbeat, and that plate I’m pushing out with the sheer force of my will. That clears my brain far more effectively than sitting in a lotus position and trying to release desire ever did.

I know that for most people, the ability to set a physical goal and execute on it is a normal, non-earth shattering experience, but for me it’s been huge. I literally didn’t know I was capable of it. I am stunned to find that I enjoy the physical sensation of pushing myself hard, overcoming my physical fatigue and my mental self-doubt, and seeing progress. It’s strengthening me both in body and mind. In essence, I am finding the spiritual through the physical, which is the last place I ever would have looked. In all honestly, I always had a slight contempt for people who I deemed “too into” their physicality. I made the incorrect assumption that they didn’t have anything going on in their brains and that they didn’t have very much depth as people. I was wrong to let my bitterness blind me in that way, but I’ve turned over a new barbell and shall move forward all the wiser for my mistakes. This new series will be an evolution of my poems on The Body. I don’t know where it will take me, but I’m interested to see what emerges.

Speaking of the realm of the spirit, I recently came across some poetry by Kahlil Gibran, and I have become entranced, enthralled, enchanted, enraptured and mesmerized. (I’ve been using the thesaurus a lot this weekend.) I never paid much attention to his work before and I never read “The Prophet” or otherwise actively sought out his poetry. I guess I just thought it was a 60’s hippie thing and mentally dismissed it. But after reading these poems, I was deeply moved and immediately used my Christmas Amazon gift card money (thanks, Allan and Sandy!) to order his Collected Works, which should be coming soon. I’m very excited. I have a whole lot of time to make up for and I’m looking forward to a three-way date involving me, our couch, and Gibran’s lyrical mysticism. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Dysthymia

It’s Christmas. Sometimes I wish I were more of a “holiday person,” someone who takes delight in the rituals and traditions of the season and gets excited about decorations and gifts and parties and seasonal music. I don’t know if something broke in me long ago, or if I am just naturally like this, but holidays have always been fairly meaningless to me. I’ve never cooked or hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve never held a Christmas party, and I don’t bake anything. I don’t send out holiday cards to my volunteers at work, and I could barely muster the will to see that a single, shabby Christmas tree got put up in the lobby of the hospital this year. I hate the strained conversations about what you, me or anyone else is doing for the holidays, and then afterwards, the strained conversations about what you, me or anyone else did for the holidays. I don’t know why I have so much Christmas dysthymia. Christmas never did anything to me personally. It has just always evoked in me a vague  sense of melancholy and loneliness. This is all being magnified for me this year by the fact that this will be my first Christmas without my dad, and I won’t be able to give him a can of Almond Roca or a gift certificate to Cabela’s. He loved both of these things.

I think he would be proud of me about how far I’ve come with the weight training. My dad was a huge fan of dumbbell and body-weight exercises. The last time I went to my mom’s house, she gave me his set of dumbbells. They’re a little too heavy for me for most exercises right now, but I’m getting there. If he were still around, I would talk his ear off about my trainer and show him all of the moves I’ve learned. And I could tell him about my tribulations with getting my .22 revolver to shoot on target, and remind him that Almond Roca is the most revolting “food” on the planet, and watch in amazement as he ate 7,900 calories in one sitting without batting an eye or putting a single ounce onto his skinny frame. And he would grouse and complain and try to control the roiling chaos of our family gatherings and as usual, give up in defeat, citing that he had been outnumbered by women. Then he’d go and eat some more.

My biggest mistake was in thinking that I had more time. You never have more time. Even though I’m not a big fan of Christmas, it is a time of coming together with people who matter in your life. Make it count. Heal what you can, if you can. Appreciate them. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have forever. You don’t. This has been a public service announcement from The Good Typist. Now for a little something beautiful. It’s not a Christmas song, but it’s one of my favorites:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Fruit Basket Ninja, “Medallion Status” Review, Chronically Cold

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my long and storied career, it’s how to put together a gift basket. Not to brag, but it’s kind of my superpower. For one reason or another, gift-basketing has always seemed to land on my shoulders, so over the years I’ve developed some skill in that area. I know the right combination of things to put in them and how to make them look nice. I have “a touch.” Since I didn’t have any gift-basket duties at work this holiday season, I was feeling a little bereft and decided to put together a fruit-and-protein basket for the employees at my gym. Those youngsters need to keep their strength up, and also, even though I’m too shy to actually go up and initiate a conversation with them, I have gotten to know them a bit just through seeing them around all of the time and through the requisite hello’s and goodbye’s. I wanted to say thank you. It’s a very nice little neighborhood gym that has become somewhat of a second home to me, and the tight-knit staff makes it a fun and friendly place. Operation Fruit Basket went into full effect yesterday, complete with all manner of bows and cellophane, and this morning I dropped it off at the front desk. The two staffers at the desk broke into huge, excited, perfect-toothed grins and thanked me profusely, which warmed my heart. Success! That will be the full extent of my Christmassing for this year.

I’ve just started reading “Medallion Status” by John Hodgman, whose book “Vacationland” I reviewed here last year. “Medallion Status” is structured around an interesting concept. It’s a series of vignettes about Hodgman’s fleeting time as outsider in Hollywood after he became famous for playing the PC in those commercials. The vignettes are framed around his obsession with what he calls his “Beloved” airline and his quest to achieve the highest Medallion Status possible through frequent flyer miles. The stories are interesting and funny, but it’s really his perspective that makes the book so compelling and unique. “Medallion Status” offers the same poetic mournfulness and sincerity that “Vacationland” does, but I’m actually enjoying it bit more. John Hodgman is a terrible fit for Hollywood and not all that well-suited to acting work, so the stories are hilarious, and the little weird moments replaying his interactions with Hollywood A-listers paints a very surreal picture of Tinseltown and fame. I’m only about a quarter through, but I am very much looking forward to more.

In health complaints: I have become chronically cold. This is not evidence-based, but I feel that this Seattle winter has been unusually biting and gloomy, and my office is always cold (except when I turn on my radiator, at which time it turns into an unbearably humid swamp.) My computer room at home is cold because my desk is near the window and the cold air creeps in and makes my fingers cold. My co-worker had to give me a blanket to wrap up in at a meeting last week because I was really cold, and it wasn’t even that cold in the room. No one else was cold. I have been taking showers just to try to get warm. I do not like this chronic coldness. As I type this, my fingers are icy and I am wrapped up the warmest hoodie I own (the one from FEMA school with the cobra on it, which I love.) I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I want July back. I want to turn my face to the summer sun and bask in the warmth of an 85-degree day. But, I shall have to shoulder on until then...with a shawl around said shoulders.

Until summer returns, enjoy this really quite pleasant song from Sarah McLachlan:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Personal Strike, Going to Failure, Tickets to My Boyfriend

At the end of this week, I woke up with a mild cold and massive mental and physical exhaustion. I called in sick to work, even though I had a deadline that day. It wasn’t a very consequential deadline, but I take those things seriously and it’s hard for me to miss one, even one that doesn’t matter much. I was just done. Tired. Every muscle in my body hurt, I had come home from work the night before literally shaking from emotional distress over some things that are going on in my community that are divisive and therefore very upsetting to me, I was worn out from not getting enough protein because I’m still deeply confused about how much protein to eat, and I simply I did not have it in me to meet to the day with verve. I announced to Mr. Typist that I was on strike. I would not do a damn thing that day. I would not go to work, the gym, or even the mailbox. I was done with life and refused to lift a finger. I did brush my teeth—I’m not a savage—but I stayed in my night clothes all day, ate three normal meals including fat after six months self-imposed calorie restriction, and actually full-fledged fell asleep smack in the middle of the day, which is not a feat I am normally capable of. You would think that I would have woken up the next morning feeling marvelously refreshed, but apparently one strike day is not enough. I was still fighting a cold and taxed out the next day. However, I know how easily one strike day can turn into two, then a week, then finally a lifetime of lying on the couch in exile from the world, cashing a government check and subsisting on cigarettes and take-out delivery.

So I rallied. I got out of bed and took a shower and put clothes on and went to the gym and even dusted and vacuumed. There is this thing that is talked about in muscle-building instruction videos called “going to failure.” This means lifting until you physically, literally can’t anymore. It’s a fairly controversial technique and I don’t know if my trainer would approve since he’s never mentioned it and seems very fond of rest periods, but at any rate, I realized that I what I had done was gone to failure—emotionally, physically and mentally. It’s just all been a little too much and while I’m not fragile by any means, there are times when I just...can’ This was one of those times.

Who would definitely not approve of my strike day is ex-Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, aka “my boyfriend” according to Mr. Typist. He’s not really my boyfriend, of course…sigh. He’s just really dreamy and smart and strong and heroic and he has a nice deep voice and I love his weekly podcast. He’s coming to Seattle, folks! I was totally stoked to see that information on Facebook, and I set a calendar reminder to snap up some tickets the minute the minute they went on sale. Drum roll, please...this weekend, I got my tickets to see Jocko at the Moore Theater in January! Woot! Anyway, the reason Jocko wouldn’t approve is that he doesn’t really believe in sleep (which rankles even his most ardent followers) and he would say that THERE MUST BE DISCIPLINE and that I must overcome lethargy and fight sloth and prevail through the application of endurance and mental stamina, and stay on the path of the righteous. And mostly, I do, although it’s not iron discipline that drives me. It’s my fear of my very real potential to become that couch-lying takeout-eating smoking person. Fear is just as legitimate a motivator as discipline, in my opinion.

Mr. Typist announced his intent to keep a very close eye on Jocko during this event and flip him that “I’m watching you” pointing-to-the-eyes gesture, which I’m sure will intimidate the heck out of Jocko. So I don’t really have much of a chance for anything to come of my crush, but I've accepted that. Maybe he’ll at least sign my book.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Chin Music at Chin Music, Crowd Consternation, Pixel Puttering

I was honored to be invited to read my work at a poetry reading at Chin Music Press this weekend in celebration of the new Rose Alley Press anthology, “Footbridge over the Falls.” I haven’t been out and about much in the poetry world over the last few years, and it was nice to reconnect with some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and hear some great poetry. This is where I could ponder some truths about why I have self-isolated from that sphere over the last several years, but instead I am going to complain about the massive overcrowding at the Pike Place Market and the near-panic attack it caused me. I avoid downtown Seattle as much as possible these days, and I had forgotten how profoundly and I would say even dangerously overcrowded the Market has become. On my way to the venue, I was trying to center myself and focus on my reading, but instead I found myself getting wildly disoriented and panicked by literally having to shove myself through the teeming crowds and deal with the cacophonous racket of thousands of people crammed into too small of a space. Aren’t there fire regulations? It just seems really dangerous to me. That whole structure is extremely old and made out of wood, and I didn’t see any sprinklers or fire extinguishers. One errant spark would be very bad news. 

By the time I got to the venue, I was a trembling wreck, but I managed to pull myself together and not completely decompensate in front of my fellow poets. That was a rough ride though. I’ve never been much suited to normal existence in a city, and I’m becoming less so as I get older. I totally understand why the late Mary Oliver lived out her days in an isolated cabin deep in a Florida outpost. I am not in any way comparing myself to Mary Oliver, I’m just saying that it’s looking more and more like an isolated cabin is in my future. Ah, yes...I can hear the quiet now.

Now, the news that you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for: I got through the crocodile challenge referenced in last week’s post, (and as predicted, Not-At-All-Shady Ed bailed on his promise the second he got what he wanted,) but ultimately, I gave up on that game. It was far too much work. Not only did it require me to micro-manage my own character with Excel-level analytics, it turns out I had to do that for all four other of my “party members” too. I know some people really enjoy that kind of detailed, mathematical stuff, but the last thing I want from a video game is a mental challenge. I have enough mental challenges. I am in fact one big walking mental challenge. I want a video game that will allow me to shut my mind off and escape into an alternate world for a while. Right now, I’m escaping into “Conan: Exiles” which is sort of like the Minecraft of ancient Mesopotamia. It’s essentially a putter-er. You gather and make things and occasionally get whacked by an invading barbarian. I’m on easy mode, so it’s hitting the mark as far as the mindless requirement goes.

I’ve finally whittled my Youtube fitness video subscriptions down to a few trusty and knowledgeable folks, so instead of multiple subscriptions to the sketchy and over-testosteroned, I now subscribe only to power lifter Meg Gallagher (“Meg Squats”), and this guy named Jeff Cavalier who goes by the moniker of Athlean X. I know, it’s eye-rolly, but Jeff is a physical therapist, so there’s no bro science in his videos—he actually knows what he’s talking about and backs it up with evidence and facts. Don’t get me wrong—he’s clinically insane, like all hard-core fitness people are—but he does give decent advice on form and such. Sometimes I go and look up his videos between sessions with my trainer if I forgot how to do something correctly. But his last few have been laughably over-the-top. No normal person needs to be able to do ab crunches with a fifty-pound barbell plate on their stomach or do the same workout as an NFL linebacker. Most of us are content to work out just enough to avoid completely falling apart as we age. Chill out, Jeff. Tight lower abs really don’t matter that much. But I’m not in a music mood this weekend, so for your edification, here is video by Jeff on how to do exercises if you don’t feel like dragging yourself to a gym and listening to the grunters on the weight bench. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Poem-Induced Head-Banging, Crocodile Wars, Clothes Complaint

This weekend, I find myself banging my head against the wall over these new poems I’m working on. With both of them, I think I’m trying to do too many things in too small of a space, and I’m getting all tangled and twisted up in confusing metaphors involving fire and churning waters and clarity of mind and the Trapezius. (That’s the big triangular muscle in your upper back, in case you didn’t know.) Also, Glut Bridges, although that’s a separate poem and will be a bit more...cheeky. Ha! (If I can’t write a proper poem I can at least crack myself up with a terrible pun.) I know it will all come together, but I’m very frustrated at the moment. It’s all in there, I can feel it, but it won’t come out right. Argh! I need a writers-frustration helmet to keep me from bruising my forehead.

I’m also frustrated about the crocodiles. Of late, I have been playing lots of vintage Tomb Raider while waiting with baited breath for the award-winning Divinity: Original Sin 2 to go on sale...and it finally did! I downloaded it with great excitement, only to find that’s it just as hair-pulling as trying to write poems. This is directly related to the crocodiles. You see, because one bad apple summoned a demon, an authoritarian government rounded up all of us sorcerers and stuck us on a prison island and put sorcery-inhibiting collars on us so we can’t sorcer-er properly. But this one guy, we’ll call him Not-at-All-Shady Ed, claims that he knows of a special artifact that he can use to teleport us off the island. Only there’s a catch: It’s hidden on a crocodile-infested dune. So I was all like, pfhht, crocodiles, who cares, I can take down some crocs, no problemo. And I marched off to said dune and proceeded to get my ass handed to me repeatedly. These crocodiles are mean and they are equipped. They set me on fire, chomped me in half, and may have possibly electrocuted me. And my super-special spell barely puts a dent in them. This is one of those times when I remember why I got married. I poured out my crocodile woes to Mr. Typist, and he has promised to watch the next battle with an eagle eye and give me pointers. So maybe at least one thing will go right this week.

I know that complaining about clothing shops has become a cliché on this blog, but I must once again gripe about the appalling state of retail in this country. Mr. Typist and I headed off to Ubiquitous Big Box Store recently to replace a glass light dome that alarmingly fell and shattered into pieces in the dead of night in our kitchen. Since we were already going there, I announced my intent to buy A Few Items to Freshen Up My Wardrobe—because apparently, I am a fool who never learns. The selection was a disgusting, utterly uninspiring collection of the boring, flouncy, dull, frumpy and totally unimaginative. I couldn’t bring myself to purchase a single thing, despite my daily despair when I open my closet and stare at the same fifteen to twenty items I’ve worn repeatedly for the last nine years. I think some of my issue is that due to my childhood, I feel extremely self-conscious about wearing the same clothes too many times. My mom reads this blog sometimes and I don’t want her to feel bad about this (Hi, Mom! Don’t feel bad!), but there were five children and obviously as a result not a lot of money to spend on flashy designer wardrobes. And kids are total jerks and savages, so I got made fun of and bullied constantly for wearing the same things over and over again. But my personal childhood shame nonetheless does not excuse retailers from doing their due diligence in at least providing something wearable to their customer base. Even Mr. Typist gave up in frustration—as I was looking for clothes, he was desperately trying to track down an employee who could tell him where to find a light cover. He finally gave up and cited his quite accurate analysis of the issue: As more people shop online, there are fewer resources to hire people in retail shops, so fewer customers go to retail shops, because there is less and less help available for them to find things like light domes. So true. 
Since this has been kind of a gloomy post, here is Chris Isaak’s rendition of Blue Hotel. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 17, 2019

I Miss Cats, Anatomy of A Poem, Puttin’ Some Stank on It

Facebook in it’s infinite wisdom recently pasted one of those “See Your Memories” posts on my feed, where they dig out one of your posts from ten or twelve years ago and thrust it front of you with no regard to the emotional or psychological consequences. I ignore most of them, but this one was about when our cat Yoshi (now deceased) got stuck in a tree, and it was a funny memory so I re-posted it. I have no idea why Yoshi decided to climb up a tree that day, as he had expressed no previous interest in trees whatsoever. But climb he did, and when he realized he was stuck, he yowled like a banshee from hell and upset the entire neighborhood. That was quite an afternoon. We finally gave up on trying to get him out of the tree and decided he could either figure it out himself or just live the rest of his days out up there. Sure enough, he did manage to get himself down, then came to the door and stalked into the house, silent and dignified, as though nothing at all had happened and he hadn’t spent the last three hours crying like a little bitch. I love cats and I miss having them. But alas, my heart has been shattered too many times and I cannot love again.

The poem that I was somewhat more satisfied with last week underwent another procedure this weekend, and is again transformed. It’s interesting what time and distance will do in providing solutions to tricky poems. One of my co-workers recently ask me how my poetry was going, as she knows I have a reading coming up soon, and I told her that it was going okay, but that writing poems isn’t the sort of thing that you can do effectively on a strict production schedule. I’m finally starting to accept that poems evolve, ever so slowly and in their own time, and pushing the process is almost never effective. Part of the strain for me is this entirely self-created pressure to ensure that I have something “new” to read, because I feel like such a failure for not have written much poetry over the last few years. But I am trying to let go and trust in the poems to reveal what they need to bloom.

At my last session, my trainer told me that I had finally locked in good form after months of practice, and therefore I didn’t have to be quite as measured during my sets and that I should start “puttin’ some stank on it.” I didn’t ask for clarification because I’m proud and there was no way I was going to stand there soaked in sweat and tell some youth with two percent body fat that I’m too old to understand his street lingo. I nodded knowingly and gleaned internally that the general gist of that phrase meant that I should “go faster” and “be more aggressive” during my sets. Upon looking up the phrase up in the Urban Dictionary when I got home, I was heartened to discover that I wasn’t far off:

Put some stank on it: (phrase), (sl)- Phrase meaning to add a personal flare or special ability to any given task or action. As in throwing an especially fast fast-ball, or making a difficult billiards shot. This can be applied to almost anything where talent is a factor in achieving the desired result:“I've never seen such a shot pulled off under those conditions! He really put some stank on it that time!”

So, now I am puttin’ some stank on it. Gettin’ my swagger on. Trying to be "explosive” or at least go a little faster, I guess. I don’t enjoy this. I liked my measured, slow-pokey sets and now I sweat a lot and feel like a bit of a maniac. That’s the problem with progress. It just causes entropy.

While I am enduring a cat-free existence, I can at least live vicariously through Simon’s Cat videos:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Map App Stalking, Truth in Poetry, The Blood of My Foes

I had a creepy encounter with my phone recently involving a visit to McDonald’s. Yes, I went to McDonald’s. I was running late and I was really, really hungry and I had a work training downtown that afternoon and I wasn’t going to be able to eat until way later that night and I’m literally hungry all of the time now with the weights and I don’t have to explain myself to you. Anyway, I went in and paid a startling amount of cash for a cheese-less burger and a small fries. About twenty minutes later as I was hoofing it up the hill to where the training was, I got a text-y looking message on my phone asking “How was your visit to McDonald’s?” I blinked. At first I thought Mr. Typist was trolling me, but then I remembered I’d paid cash and there was no way he could have tracked my purchase. Then I wondered if someone I knew from work saw me go in there and was just being conversational. Then I worried that maybe I’ve had a stalker all this time and he finally decided to escalate. When I looked at the text more closely, I saw that it was actually some sort of automatic notification from a map app. I briefly considered tooling around with my privacy settings, but then figured that ship had long sailed. However, in answer to the app’s question, my visit to McDonald’s was highly unpleasant. It was dirty and smelly and crowded and way too pricey (since when is a burger and fries over twelve dollars?) Also, the bathroom was dangerously dark and had these weird blue glowing not-lights on the ceiling, and there wasn’t a paper towel to be found. There’s your answer. Now please stop creeping on me, map app.

In more pleasant news, I retooled the poem I mentioned last week that I wasn’t happy with, and I am happier with it now. There’s still more work to do, but it’s getting there. The last few lines are not hitting the exact note I want them to, but maybe the answer will come to me in a dream. It was interesting to discover in the editing process that the problem was simply that I wasn’t telling the full truth in the poem. It showed. Once I got down to what was true, the poem came into focus and had more energy and dynamic force. I also started a new poem along the same theme. I don’t want to be prematurely optimistic, but I think there is a possibility that I have enough material in me for a new chapbook. That makes me excited, because I haven’t had that feeling in a very long time. Poetry is making its way back to me, and this seems to be directly tied in to the strength training. Quite unexpectedly, the grueling but relatively straightforward act of strengthening my body has opened up a whole new avenue of creative thought.

For some reason, the other day Mr. Typist and I got to talking about colors, and he said that violet is the most high-energy color in the spectrum. I found that interesting, because purple is my favorite color. I asked why he supposed that men liked the color red on women so much. I don’t wear red very often, but when I do, I tend to get a lot of compliments from men. “It’s biological,” he explained confidently. “We associate it with the blood of our enemies. When you wear red, it looks like you conquered your enemies in battle because you’re splattered with blood of your foes.” I immediately resolved that the next time a man compliments me on my red skirt I will graciously reply, “Why, thank you. It is drenched in the blood of my foes.” I cannot wait to see his expression.
Enjoy this high-energy ditty about the Battle of Verdun by the peerless Sabaton:

--Kristen McHenry