morning talk

Conversation with my best friend on the way to work:

Me: So, have you, like, been in a good mood in the last month or so?
Her: No. Not at all. I mean, there are moments of happiness. But a general good mood? Nope. No way. How about you?
Me: Hell no.
Her: Yeah. I know.
Me: Although knowing this makes me feel a little better.
Her: Don’t worry. It’s fleeting.



some days


   There are some days you just need a hat. 


it bee spring

Spring has sprung in NE Ohio. The birds are chirping. The flowers are blooming. The bees are buzzing.

Which is why, in part, I am so stupid.

Allow me to explain.

About, oh, 30 years ago, the five year old version of Hot Coffee Girl (she was known then as Demi-Tasse back then) was swinging on the swing, enjoying a beautiful Spring day, such as today. She smelled the sweet air, looked at the blossoming flowers, swung so high that the slack of the chains clicked in her hands…all with an innocence and purity that only an unsuspecting tot can possess.

The pleasantness of the day was short-lived, however. For there, coming towards her on the swing was a vicious, ferocious beast. The sun was clouded over by its shape, and its fangs dripped with blood. A ziggety flight path belied its very target…it was headed in the most bloodthirsty way to feast on my delicate five year old flesh. A bee. A yellow-jacket, to be more specific. But like none you have ever seen or heard about. No ordinary insect, this. Zipping towards me with unrivaled speed was a spiky-furred, blood-fanged creature with death and destruction on his mind. Weighing my options, I did the only thing a young child could do in such a situation.

I screamed at the top of my lungs.

For a very long time.

So loud and so long, in fact, that it brought my mother, the neighbors next to us (and the neighbors next to them) out running. Sensing that he was outnumbered, the monster flew off just before they arrived, leaving me to try to explain the situation to the crowd that had now gathered.

“Big.” <Sniffle> “Bee.” <Cough. Gag.> “Gonna. Get. Me.” <Gagcoughsniffle.> It took me a few minutes to get my breathing under control enough to see the skepticism in their faces begin to register. Which brought tears of a different sort. Indignation. “The BEEEEEEE. You saw it. It was gonna KEEEEEL ME.” Then fear all over again thinking what I had been through.

My mother grabbed me and took me upstairs to my bedroom, assumptively to protect me from future bee attacks. In reality, it was me…not the creature…that her irritation was directed at. Apparently, screaming loud and long enough to empty the neighborhood was not good behavior. I plead my case, “But the thing was soooo biiigg! It was going to kill me!” When that didn’t work, I tried playing the sympathy card. “My head. It really hurts.”

Her response? “Well, of course it does. You probably screamed out part of your brains.”

Which is why every Spring I think of how the bees made me stupid.

It’s a right of passage.


naked in cleveland

A bunch of naked Mexicans. 18,000 to be exact. What could be better?

Spencer Tunick, the photographer known for his mass nudes, broke a record this past Sunday by photographing 18,000 people in Mexico City .

Before he was in Mexico City, he was in Cleveland. Some of you may remember his stint here in town a few years ago. I know I haven’t forgotten. In late June of 2004, nearly 3,000 people gathered beginning at 4 a.m. on Pier 9 down by Lake Erie to bare their souls -and their asses- in the name of art.

When my alarm went off at 2:30 that morning, I almost backed out. I was tired. It was cold. And I was supposed to be naked shortly for the entire world (or at least a good part of Cleveland ) to see. I rolled out of bed, grumbling, and got in the shower. I wondered as I was drying my hair what the protocol was for make up when you are to be naked in public. Just to be safe, I brushed some mascara over my lashes and swiped on some lip gloss. You never know, right?

I jumped in the car and headed north, the highways still empty at that early hour. Shivering from the cold as I got out of the car in the parking garage, I wondered if it was really June. It was really cold. At around 50 some degrees, this was not the weather you were hoping for if your intention was to disrobe. (Although, as things progressed, it dawned on me that cold weather is really good for naked women. Really bad for naked men. The females were shivery and perky. The men ...uh… were a little more introverted.)

Just as dawn broke, Mr. Tunick (who doesn’t use flashes or artificial lighting) called to the crowd to gather for the first shot. The clothes came off. The people scurried. It was surreal. I fought the urge to not stare, but quickly gave up as it was impossible to have your eyes open and not see a nude body. So many bodies, too. Maybe I thought somewhere in the recesses of my brain that everyone would look like something out of a Playboy magazine or a strip club. Not even close. There were all types of bodies – old, young, fat, thin. There were pregnant women, men with scars running down the length of their chests. There were cancer survivors missing one or more breasts. There were bruises and bumps. There were perfect men and women that could be in the pages of magazines. We had it all. Instead of being repulsed or turned on, the overriding emotion I felt was humbled. There was so much beauty in even the traditionally ugly right at that moment that it was overwhelming. I was lost in the fantastic bizarreness of it all when I heard the very thing that you don’t want to hear in a sea of nakedness … “Hey Kelly! How are you doing?!”

Oh. My. God. Someone I knew was calling out to me. I turned to look at the barer of good cheer (pun absolutely intended) and saw an old friend walking along beside me. We exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. I was awkward. He was not. And the reason? I had already seen him naked. Photographed him that way, in fact. Yes, the subject of the very first nude shoot I did was standing next to me in some kind of divine back-at-cha retribution.

There were some amazing shots taken, though. I was awed at the unveiling (again with the puns) of the piece months later at MOCA Cleveland. I have a print of the main piece and saved newspaper articles recounting the event so that when I am eighty, I can sit in my rocking chair and remember that I did something Cool.


But my favorite part of the day came early on when the bare-assed participants greeted and waved at a garbage truck sitting at a traffic light near the Rock Hall. I wonder what he thought as he honked at the thousands of naked people so early in the morning. It’s just not something you see every day on the Shoreway. Or at least, I don’t think you do.


riding in cars with david

I have a friend who is a very good writer. Google his name and the results will yield pieces he’s written for The Washington Post, NPR, Chicago Tribune, his own book. So when the subject came up at dinner a few months back of the piece that I had coming up in the book, he was curious but supportive. “So, they found your blog? I didn’t even know you had a blog. Wow. That’s pretty cool. I’d love to read the piece.”

I didn’t want him to. Not only did I see this man as a Real Writer, but I wasn’t crazy about the essay CNF had chosen. I felt like a bit of a fraud, to be honest. I hemmed stammered out something that probably came across as false modesty, when in reality it was a fear that I would be exposed as a total hack. I was relieved when the conversation turned to another friend’s hatred of jazz and brass instruments in general. I instantly knew her confession would bring about enough scorn amongst the people at the table to distract Real Writer and therefore cover me.

A few days after the dinner, he asked again if he could read the piece, and I confessed that I thought that it wasn’t really my best work. I said that they shouldn't have picked me at all, and that I had other favorites that they likely should have chosen if they were desperate. I was not really interested in having him read it. It was then that he made me a deal. “Why don’t you let me read the one that’s going to be in the book, and the one that’s your favorite, and that way you’re covered?” Logical and well published this one. I agreed and printed out both pieces, still certain that he would shortly send an e-mail to the entire staff:

To: Cleveland Agency
From: Real Writer
Subject: Cold Coffee

Fellow workers…It has come to my attention that one of our newest employees thinks that she’s a writer. As you all know, I am a Writer, and I am here to tell you that she is nothing more than a no-talent ass-clown. She uses too many commas, is overly wordy, and is mostly stupid. Please meet in the lunch room at noon to talk about her complete and utter lack of potential whilst we point and laugh. There will be popcorn. Thank you.

I cursed myself the minute I left his office for even mentioning the book in the first place and wondered not for the first time why I can’t seem to keep my goddamn mouth shut at dinner parties.

When I checked my e-mail after returning from a meeting later that afternoon, I saw his name in the From: line. I panicked. This is it. The office-wide memo declaring me a fool.

Instead, the subject line stated: “You are a really good writer.” I opened it to read:

I don't say that lightly. You have a really clear voice, which is so rare. I got the same feeling I get when I read David Sedaris, that I'm being let in on a secret that he is both making fun of and celebrating at the same
time. Maybe I could say that better. He is both detached and intimately involved with his material. Your writing has that quality.

Holy shit. I fooled him, too. He compared me favorably to David Sedaris.

On the way home that night, I told The Boy about the e-mail. He said that was pretty impressive, especially considering the Sedaris reference. “Oh yeah,” I mumbled. “I meant to ask you about that. Who is David Sedaris?” He gave me a quick sideways glance to ascertain if I was joking, and when he saw that I was not, he focused on traffic again with a bewildered, slightly bemused look on his face. “Um, he’s a writer. He’s got a few books out now. I’m sure that you’ve heard him on NPR and just don’t remember.”

I began wondering if I could somehow make my choice to listen to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” over NPR sound the slightest bit intellectual. I could not, however, get over the notion that in doing so I might come across as even dumber, so I skipped it. I instead turned over the idea that there was someone out there who thought that my writing reminded him of someone who people who listened to NPR and therefore must know things.

It wasn’t until over a month later, however, that I got to know Mr. Sedaris. Thanks to CDs I hijacked unwittingly from a friend, I have been cruising in my rental car to the nasally sounds of “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” And although he would hate both the confession and the revelation, I am nothing short of awed. I make a left at the light and merge into traffic while he tells me about his time in Paris, and I start imagining that I am there watching the movie in the darkened theater with him, ignoring the wonders of Paris together. He makes it seem so goddamned easy. You listen to or read one of his essays and you instantly think, “Well, hell. I could do this. Look how easily it flows from his pen/mouth.” I imagine that I am EXACTLY like him because he makes it seem so easy to do.

Up until the moment that I sit down in front of the keyboard. Once I do that, I'll no longer be able to say "We'll always have Paris, David," because that’s when it all starts to fall apart and you end up with this crap.

Did I mention that I have a friend who hates jazz? How could that be even possible? Who doesn't love jazz?

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