It’s a boy, on paper.

Sometimes when I’m naming characters in my story I choose a name that I really like, but then I think, “Wait, I want to name one of my children that some day, I can’t use it here.”  But then I think, these characters probably are my children.  This is probably the only offspring I’ll get.  So why not use the good names?

That’s not meant to sound pathetic, if it does.  I mean, I don’t even really want kids.

Hold on for one more day.

Thank God for the dentist’s office, without visits to which I would miss out on my biannual Wilson Phillips listening party.

No Cavities!  :)

Sore gums.  :(

April, parts 1 and 2. Fiction (but just barely).

Part 1.

It was a green arrow, and green always means go, and “don’t walk” always, always means don’t walk. But he walked. He ran. With his iPod drowning out the rest of the world he ran right in front of her car whilst she accelerated through the crosswalk. It was a green arrow, and green always means go. And her car struck him and sent him tumbling forward onto the asphalt. He was, of course, killed. That is, he ceased to be alive.

This was April.

Part 2.

Well he was dead alright.  So dead.  And she might as well have been – her life was over, anyway.  You can’t just drive your vehicle into another human being like that (even if it was an accident – even if he came out of nowhere – even if it was probably his fault).  So there he was, dead, and she thought, “How lucky for him.  I have to live with this.”

You get that feeling in your gut, and it doesn’t leave you.  This was April – it will always be April.

Get hot!

Alright, let’s put our heads together and think of some good things about winter.  The first one is pretty obvious: we love how hot my bedroom gets in the winter.  The womb.  The incubator.  As I recently told my friend Emily, when I wake up in the morning in my 90+ degree hotbox, I feel like I’ve just been born.  Or like I’m just about to be.  Think of the philosophical and spiritual implications: every day is a new life!  And dang I just love it toasty.

Second, we get to wear warm clothes like sweaters and scarves and such.  Women, put away your razors, for the next six months no one cares how wooly your legs are.  Or if they care, they won’t see, anyway.  I might even go out and invest in some long underwear this year.  I am going to go overboard with the winter clothing.  I just am, okay? Blustry days… 

I suppose there are other nice things about winter, which don’t reflect my bias toward heat in some form.  There are those aesthetics like seeing your breath in cloud-form, ice covered branches, blah-di-blah and so forth.  It’s just not my season.  I’m trying to stay positive.  I made the most wonderful Elliott Smith mix yesterday, though, which doesn’t exactly help positivity.  But if there isn’t a more perfect time of year to listen to it, then I’ll be a munckey’s ankle.  Alright.  I write this same post every year at this time.  Let’s put our heads together, though, really.  If only for the body heat.

“We battled the wintry winds.  We put on our thickest skins.” Nedelle.

If I blnoggd like i textdd.

A few things.  The woman who works at the deli calls me “young lady.”  She has a kind of abrasive personality to begin with, so the condescension really isn’t appreciated.  I’m 26 years old.  I don’t think anyone is allowed to call me “young lady” any more.  She doesn’t call everyone “young lady.”  Right after she served me my black bean salsa she said to the woman next to me, who was maybe in her 40s, “Can I help you, ma’am?”  If she really feels it’s necessary to distinguish between ages, couldn’t she at least call me “miss,” the way that other people talk down to me?  Or at least would it be okay if I started addressing her as “oldie”?

Next, I am not a young lady.  And I’m not just saying that defensively.  It’s scientific.  I learned in my psych class that the prefrontal cortex reaches maturity at age 25.  That’s the part of your brain that deals in planning and decision-making.  Honestly, I think I felt it click, when the final piece moved into place.  I love growing older.

I love, and simultaneously hate, that I am not capable of text messaging the way that young people are.  It’s the first time that I’ve felt physically resistant to technology, although I’m trying.  As I was walking to my class this evening I saw a kid hunched over his phone in the main entrance.  I eventually figured out that he was texting, but at first glance it looked like he was attempting to cut through a piece of leather with a jack knife – his movements were sharp and violent – he was attacking his cell phone.  I can’t walk a straight line when I text.  People who text while driving scare me senseless.  I am too wordy for text messaging.  I want to go on and on forever, the way that my fingers move here, the speed that thoughts tumble out of my head.  I have too much to tell you to fit into a text message.  Text messaging is censorship.  That ship don’t sail.

Triple dog.

I can’t sleep.  Because I’m excited.  Because I think I want to be a cartoonist.  Like, the kind of cartoonist who draws a new comic every day, and then puts them up on her website because she is empowered enough to know that self-publishing is not failure but complete belief in one’s own message (paraphrased; another brilliant comment that Mike Konopacki made today).  I know, a new comic every day sounds like a lot, especially when you consider that I can barely handle my current workload, which includes (among other things) a new comic every month (unless I request a month off!)  So maybe I’ll start out smaller, and build.  Maybe I’ll wait until I this semester is over and I have some free time.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  All I know is that when I write things here it feels something like a challenge, like someone is daring me not to eat my words.  So all right, it’s a dare.  I can take a dare.

Out of the can: Lynda Barry.

Concerning creative heroes, I don’t tend to keep a very long list.  Usually they include women drummers and comic artists.  Today I add another name to the latter category: Lynda Barry.  Back around the time of my birthday, Gwen gave me a copy of Barry’s book What It Is which I can’t begin to describe and would rather just recommend you pick it up.  I guess I pretty much assumed that she would quickly become one of my heroes, but today solidified it.  Because today Rachel and I went to see Lynda Barry speak at the Wisconsin Book Festival.  First, let me say that this woman is hilarious.  If you know me, you know I’m not an easy laugh, but Lynda had me in stitches.  And her ideas about images and play!  Well, just read the book.  Really.  

Lynda started out by talking about the relationship between play and mental health, and how no one would deny that play is crucial in the healthy development of a child.  But how soon we convince ourselves that the time for play is over.  And as adults, even as kids, we look at things that others are doing and think, “Oh, well it’s just too late for that.”  An eight year old who is interested in ballet will be told that she needed to start when she was four.  A ten year old interested in playing violing will be told he needed to start at age five.  So we don’t try.  We stop playing (writing, singing, drawing, dancing) because we think it is for kids, but then we lament that we have not been gifted with a creative outlet.  Lynda Barry is convinced that it does not have to be this way.

She talks about Image with a passion, about its cathartic capabilities and its specificity.  She told the story of a song that she enjoyed as a child, whose lyrics she understood as, “That would be ecstacy, you and me and Leslie, grooving.”  She was intrigued by this character of Leslie – it could be a male or female, who was it? – until she realized that the words were actually, “That would be ecstacy, you and me endlessly, grooving.”  Which was the better lyric, Lynda asked?  Well, Leslie, of course.  This mysterious Leslie, afterall, was an image.  Endlessly is just some abstract notion.  

Lynda’s younger brother demonstrated a creative difference between adults and children.  He would draw a picture, play with it, and then throw it away without thinking twice.  Adults aren’t typically able to do this – if we create something we fret about what should be done with it.  But creativity isn’t meant to be the cause of stress, it’s meant to be cathartic.  She challenged us as adults to make a drawing expressing something we would like to say to someone else but never would, and then throw it away.  She described a man who had lost his right hand and was frustrated by “phantom limb pain.”  Even though his hand was gone he had the never-ending sensation that it was in a tight, uncomfortable fist.  He could not fix this, as his hand was not actually there to unclench.  So someone (I forgot to write down which scientist) came up with the idea to use mirrors and make a device that, by unclenching his left fist, it would appear to the man as though he were finally unclenching his right, phantom fist.  He did, and it worked, the pain left him.  Barry says that art has the same power, to take away such phantom pain.

Lynda Barry, although my favorite, was one of four comic artists who spoke today.  Paul Buhle, Mike Konopacki, and Seth Tobocman were also present, and although I won’t rehash everything that they shared, I did want to highlight a quote by Mike Konopacki, who said in defense of the literal and understandable medium of comics (as compared to “high art” which requires a three-page artist statement to decipher) that “Communication should not be ambiguous.”  Of course!  This is exactly why I favor comics to fine art, why I will probably always consider myself a cartoonist more than a painter.  Why does something have to be cryptic to be considered intellectually valid?  Doesn’t it take a special kind of intellect to communicate what you are trying to say as clearly and dynamically as possible?  Yes!

Okay, one last thing and I’ll tie it off.  After the lecture I got in line to have Lynda sign my copy of What It Is and got to have a mini-conversation with her which I will probably treasure forever.  Ever gracious, she willingly signed my book as I stumbled through my small talk (as I tend to do around anyone new, not just my heroes).  But I was emboldened, and asked if I could tell her something about my own plight as a cartoonist.  You see, during her talk and also in her book, Lynda pointed out the importance of hand-writing in the creative process.  When we write with our hands it is the same as drawing – it is activating entirely different parts of our brains than the motion I am using right now to type these words.  But handwriting, however essential to the creative process, is dying off.  I shared with Lynda that I had spent time drawing comics in college, and that one of my professors would often criticise my lettering.  My hands are shaky and my penmanship has never been my strong suit (the only class I got Bs in all through grade school!) and since I could never make my handwriting as consistant as my professor wanted, I turned to digital fonts, which were certainly consistent, and consistently impersonal.  Lynda assured me that my handwriting is a unique part of me, and that the personal voice my penmanship offers is more important than the convenience of legible computer text (or maybe even text handwritten by someone else?  We didn’t talk about that.)  Anyway, she also gave me a couple really practical tips for handwriting which I am excited to try out, and maybe want to keep to myself for a little while.  If your hero ever gives you a personalized tip I wouldn’t expect you to share right away, but maybe keep it close to your heart.  Really, it’s something special.

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    Breena Wiederhoeft
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