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Name: Justine
Location: Annapolis, Maryland, United States

Justine, is a little bit more than you'd expect. This is where you are supposed to put your "elevator speech". What you'd say if you were in the elevator with somebody you wanted to connect with. I don't have an "elevator speech". If I ran smack-dab into one of my "heroes" I'd just have to smile and be polite and keep my yipper shut and that's probably for the best anyway!

Friday, June 23, 2006
Caught in Alice's Dream
It's still just Alice and me!

Well I'm runnin through the world
with a gun in my back
tryin' to catch a ride in a Cadillac
Thought that I was livin'
but you can't really tell
been tryin' to get a whiff
of that success smell

I need a houseboat and I need a plane
I need a butler and a trip to Spain
I need everything
the world owes me
I tell that to myself
and I agree

I'm caught in a dream
So What!
You don't know what I'm goin' through
I'm right in between
So I'll
I'll just play along with you

Well I'm runnin' through the world
with a gun in my back
tryin' to catch a ride in that Cadillac
thought that I was livin'
but you can't never tell
what I thought was heaven
turned out to be hell

When you see me with a smile on my face
Then you'll know I'm a mental case
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
All the girls love Alice........
It's still just Alice and me!

Welcome to my nightmare
I think you're gonna like it
I think you're gonna feel like you belong
A nocturnal vacation
Unnecessary sedation
You want to feel at home 'cause you belong

Welcome to my nightmare
Welcome to my breakdown
I hope I didn't scare you
That's just the way we are when we come down
We sweat and laugh and scream here
'cuz life is just a dream here
You know inside you feel right at home here

Welcome to my nightmare
I think you're gonna like it
I think you're gonna feel that you belong
We sweat laugh and scream here
'cuz life is just a dream here
You know inside you feel right at home here
Welcome to my nightmare
Welcome to my breakdown
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Camper with a dufflebag coming thru!
Ok freaky darlings...this is my last night in the little terra cotta cottage.

It's been seven days on the dot and today I finally manged to sit down and turn out a decent 2300 word story. Ok, it's the beginning of a story. But the key point is that it didn't make blood run out of my ears to write it.

So this is a very good thing.

Before I came on retreat I prayed that God would grant me what I most needed from this retreat. What I didn't know than was I was about to embark on a 7 day roadtrip in grief and loss and sorrow and that my hostess has written a book on Eulogies and grief. Odd how that worked out isn't it?

Anyway, I am bone tired. Tomorrow morning I will be getting in the car, waving "good bye" to the sacred Waffle House and wending my way home.

Home to were there's no central air, I have to fight with the lawn sprinkler to get enough water to shower, and I get to go up two flights of stairs several times a day.

I'm tired and disoriented and wobbly tonight darlings. But I can tell you that I didn't miss staircases, showers where the water cuts off mid-rinse, and wondering if the UPS man is brining me a new compressor.

Good night darlings. Fresh sails on the Carribean in the morning.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Cierre la caja antes de incender el fosforo!

Start a fire.

* Caution: Close box before striking!

“Close box before lighting match,” is the warning on the box of matches I’m using to light my prayer candle. It seems like someone at Diamond Match wants to warn me that if I don’t select one point of focus before I start, the energy of my prayer will run wild and light all parts of my soul on fire. They seem to be telling me that I can protect myself, that I can handle fire safely.

Safety is an illusion. As though I could create cardboard box boundaries to contain parts of my soul that it did not burn too brightly, but safely. There is no such thing as a controlled burn. As the astronauts say, “You’re sitting on top of a mega-ton bomb. Once in a while somebody is going to get blown up.”

This morning as I light my prayer candle, I’ve closed the matchbox but I have not cordoned off my soul to reveal only the appropriate part for today. Instead of praying for an end of war, or traveling mercies for a friend on her way to Costa Rica, or even that I write the perfect story today, I find the memory of my Grandmother Mae’s smile in the center of my mind.

I saw a young version of her face in the mirror this morning and realized that as each day that goes by, I look more and more like her. It worries me that I might be as plump as she was. It makes me afraid to think that I will die like her, young and in brutal poverty. But that fear isn’t the feeling that’s burning toward the light. What I’m truly feeling is her loss.

She died in 1979 when I was fourteen years old and every time I see a vignette of a happy grandmother and granddaughter, I mourn all over again. My culture embraces the idea that we “get over” the death of a loved one. It preaches the “stages of grief” as though grief is a temporal thing that I can outlast. It has tried to brainwas me to forget that no matter how long I wait, my grandmother Mae is never coming back.

No one taught me about the mornings twenty and thirty years after her death when I wake up with a pain in my souls for someone who is not going to return. They didn’t talk about how the losses mount up as grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers, and children all pass across the veil before us. How, as each one leaves, they strike a match from my matchbox to light their way as they go. They leave an empty spot in the box where their ghost lives. But their ghost can not hold my hand when I’m frightened, it does not kiss me goodnight, nor tell me it loves me. Their loss is in you permanently and no matter how many others come into your life, that spot will always be empty.

That emptiness exists, whether I’ve been there hold their hand as they left or I find out about their passing in a telephone call. There is no preparing for the moment when they pass through the doorway from my life and the door clicks shut. My Grandmother Mae had been dead eight months before my estranged father called to tell me. It didn’t make the loss any different.

When my father abandoned my mother and me, Mae had offered to let us live with her. She made it plain that she would help raise me and see us through. When mom and I heard Mae was gone, we sat down and cried together.

Sometimes mom still tells me I look like Mae. On some days mom doesn’t recognize me at all anymore. She is wandering away into Alzheimer’s haze. I’m told mom’s Alzheimer’s disease gives me a long time to prepare for her death, as though loosing my mother can be prepared for like a hurricane.

They don’t realize that Alzheimer’s disease isn’t one death, it’s a new loss every single day. When Grandmother Mae went, she took one shinning match from the box and carried it with her into death. As mom goes she lights one match at a time and leaves it burning in me. One day it’s the memory of my first birthday, the next day it’s my first bicycle, then it’s my college graduation, until the day it is the memory that I ever existed at all. Each tiny match flame burns inside me until I am a glowing cavern of light and loss.

It makes me wonder if this is the way my soul supposed to be. It makes me think that perhaps when we are born, an angel hands us matches and whispers, “Never close the box.”
Friday, June 09, 2006
Home.......I wanna go home..........
Ok campers, this is day 4 at camp. I am past the f**k it stage. I'm into the resigned stage.

I came on a working vacation to forget about mom and all the demons that chew on me at home.....And I've done nothing but write about them and edit them for 3 days.

It feels sort of like somebody took my skin off and is running a cheese grater up and down my gut. Ah, writing, what a thrill. I'd forgotten how much it hurt like hell.

Well 4 and the camper is still homesick.


Home is where you can swing from the chandelier with impunity!
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Fu**y Ducky You're the One!
Ok guys. I tried to promise myself I wouldn't get petty about creating a product. I've written tons of code that someone else has puked up and snarled after I turned it in.

I'm trying to get better at this. I'm trying, I really am.

But tonight I'm past the fu** it stage. I'm into the how many days until I can go home stage.

For a cottage full of solitude, the phone hasnt' stopped ringing all day from phone solicitations.

Since I am hanging on by my fingernails here, I will attempt to gather myself gracefully and turn the stage over to Hunter S. Thompson.

Today's dried up dog shite of an essay was supposed to be about fear. It sucked violently. So I will quote Hunter Thompson here.........

"The Lion and the Cadillac"

Fear? I know not fear. There are only moments of confusion. Some of them are deeply stamped on my memory and a few will haunt me forever.

One of my ugliest and most confused moments, I think, was when I was driving a junk Cadillac down the Coast Highway to Big Sur and a large moutain lion jumped into the moving car.

I had stopped for a moment beside the road to put out a newspaper fire in the backseat when this huge cat either jumped or fell off a cliff and landed on its back in the gravel right beside me. I was leaning over the side and ouring beer on the fire when it happened.

It was late in the day, and I was alone. When the beast hit the ground I had a moment of total confusion. And so did the lion. Then I jumped back in the car and took off down the hill in low gear, thinking to escape certain death or at least mutilation.

The beast had tried to pounce on me form above, but missed.... And now, as I shifted the junker into second, I heard a terrible snarling and realized that the cat was running right behind me and gaining... (I was, in fact, Terrified at that moment.) ...And I think I must have gone temporarily insane when the goddamn thing came up beside me and jumped into the car through the passenger-side window like a bomb.

It bounced against the dashboard and somehow turned the radio volume all the way up. Then it clawed me badly on my arm and one leg. That is why I shudder every time I hear a Chuck Berry tune.

I can still smell the beast. I heard myself screaming as I tried to steer. There was blood all over the seat. The music was deafening and the cat was still snarling and clawing at me. Then it scrambled dover the seat and into the back, right into the pile of still-burning newspapers. I heard a screech of pain and saw the cat trying to hurl itself through the back window.

We were still rolling along at about thirty miles per hour when I noticed my ball-peen hammer sticking out of the mangled glove compartment.

I grabbed the hammer with my right hand, steering with my left, and swung it wildly over my shoulder at the mountain lion.

Whack! I felt it hit something that felt vaguely like a carton of eggs, and then there was silence. No reisistence in the backseat. Nothing.

I hit the brakes and pulled over. My hand was still on the hammer when I looked back and saw that I had somehow hit the animal squarely on top of its head and driven the iron ball right through its skull and into its brain. It was dead. Hunched on its back and filling whole rear of the car, which was filling up with blood.

I was no longer confused.

"End of Quote from Hunter S. Thompson....Kingdom of Fear pp177-178"
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
F**k It!

let's fucking escape....

Ok campers this is the part of the trip where I think about packing up my car and disappearing into the night.

I feel like I'm in a canoe with 2 wounded mounties and I'm being laughed at by rats.
(Reference from season one of "Due South")

I handed in my stiffled rat turd of an essay. It coughed and wheezed and snickered out of my fingers in a ippecac like puddle. Confused and a scream from a nightmare.

I'm told that I'm supposed to have trouble writing, I'm supposed to suffer. This means I'm paying attention to the craft and "hard writing makes easy reading".

Ok, so let's see, the last retreat I was too into the writing. This retreat I'm not enough into the writing.

I've been scritching since I got up this morning. It's what I do.

Ok kiddies. We've officially hit the f**k it stage.

Tomorrow I work on the damn vampire story and I fuc*** enjoy myself.

What in the hell was I thinking? What the F**K was I thinking? My one vacation this year and I signed up to be homesick and hurt myself.

The next time I get some f**king demented idea to go on a writing retreat.....somebody stop me! Make me stay home and save my money. Make me stay home and clear off my desk and write from there. Please.

Get me to take it in small 3 day bites.....not try and dog paddle into the surf at the Bonzai pipeline.

Today I've gotten all the sage pieces of advice that incline me towards being an axe murderer.

List of Chestnuts that Make Me Want to Become and Axe Murderer

1. Have you considered a 12 step program for eating?

2. I have the best diet book you can borrow it if you like.

3. You know writing is a tenuous existence, you need another job.
(Look folks I'm looking for Stephen King like success here. I was born at night but not last night.)

4. You are just a kid, you probably don't know this.
(If you want to know how old I am, F***ing ask me.)

5. What have you done to study the "craft".
(Oh I don't know I've been writing part time for 34 years. Let's see and then there's the workshops, the 30 or so books and workbooks I've gone through, then there's the coaching with a chick who now writes and works for Martha Stewart media. Oh, and let's see, she manages to earn enough to keep her whole family on that tentative edge.

6. You really shouldn't be able to write that fast unless you're one of those little Mozart Geniuses. "You're not one of those little geniuses are you?" said with sarcastic intent.

7. That whole "You poor little stupid thing." attitude.

Oh blessed heaven, I miss you Jennifer!

Well, that's my little rant for the day darlings.

I wrote it fast, just like talking on the phone and as a matter of f***ing fact I AM one of those little Mozart geniuses!

I can say anything here I like. After all Blogs are too easy to write, they're like talking on the phone, there's too much entertainment value in them. Nobody reads what the hell? Might as well bitch my brains out!
Hi Cuz! Tuesday Edition
Hello Cuz,

Your loyal and affectionate cousin bids you greetings from her little cottage in exhile.

It is a nice little cottage. One could be quite happy living here I suppose. I've read the guest book and it is full of passionate, flowery, love letters to the solitude.

I suppose I do not have as great an appreciation for solitude because I have an over abundance of it.

However I do enjoy the absence of all the howling yarkers at work and at home.

I am looking forward to taking a hot shower this evening without having the water cut off after I've soaped up my hair.

Here's hoping!

Had a writing assignement today. Suffered with it like a ten year old agonizing over a school report.

I'm feeling rather surly.

Second day at camp dear papa and I don't like it.

I suppose this should teach me not to go on writing retreats.

I am homesick and I feel totally stupid and insipid. It took me serveral stunted, agonized hours to write something that passed for an essay today.

Good heavens I went insanely stupid all at once.

Ah, isn't this the way of it.

Remind me to go to the beach next time!?!

Hugs and cuddles. Have a brewsky for me.

Cousin Monday.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Hi Cuz! Monday Edition
Hi Cuz!

On retreat again. This time with an internet connection.

Wonder if I can deliver any kind of sensical blog this week.

Well, here I am at the writer's cottage in Ashland. I've only been planning this retreat for five months. Now I'm sitting here, typing away on someone else's computer. It feels a bit like using someone else's toothbrush.

Perhaps I have not entered into the "dazed and dizzying writer's reatreat frame of mind" because I have not yet had a painful and wearying vision quest to get here.

This year I picked someplace a two and a half hour drive from home. Yep, in the same time zone and at the same level. Only cost me about 25 bucks for gas. Brought my own car so no rental car challenge, trying to navigate through a foreign major city in a car where I can't find any of the controls.

No cross continent flight plus three or four hour drive. No seven thousand foot altitude to choke the life out of my lungs.

Oh, I've arrived. I've jumped off the diving board into the clear spring sky. I'm arcing towards the great blue ocean. Part of me is screaming in excitement. Part of me is screaming not to be excited.

They are waging war like the turning of the tide.

Today has been strange enough I suppose. My service ticket number was 777 at the car dealership, I drove into town under the full arc of a rainbow. I exited Interstate 95 and spied before me in all it's yellow and black majesty that mystic haven of thought the "Waffle House".

So even thought it was Billy Bob and his tales of the Waffle House that sent me to my first retreat five years ago... He has lingered to escort me on this, my first retreat without Jennifer.

He's right down the road with a pecan waffle and a glass of tea 24 hours a day, should I need support on my solo flight.

Off to bed now Cuz. Hope I'll be rested and ready in the morning. We are conveining at 9 a.m. for caffeine and discussion.

Since I'm not able to cut a CD tonight from my laptop, well we will be reading from the laptop in the morning. That's just the way we roll!

Just like camp. It's day 1 and I'm homesick.

Keep an eye on our star and send me some hugs.

You're roaming cousin, Monday