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Arundel Books Correspondents:

Arundel Books is the first bookstore in the world to have Correspondents.

Our correspondents will be people around the world who have something to say to our readers. Their columns will consist of reviews, essays, narratives from daily life, and thoughts about politics, love, books, writers, food, sports, and the visual and performing arts. Basically their columns will remind you (we hope) of the sort of wide-ranging and informative conversations you occasionally encounter in our stores. And when particular books and authors come up, a link will give you a great chance to browse our stock.

Why, exactly, would a bookstore need a Correspondent?

Our customers are as spread out as our bookstores (in Seattle & LA). And we often hear that they wish they could visit more often. That is why our website was designed to put out bookstores on your desktop (and your mailbox!).

But a bookstore is more than books. It is a place where we get to meet people, and where people interact and chat on every topic under the sun.

This is going to take us a while to get it right (we hope by Thanksgiving).

Proof of a renewed committment:

Correspondent Nicole Sarrocco
has offered this photo
as evidence of her committment to writing.

Nicole in North Carolina

Nicole is our Senior Correspondent. A teacher and recent PhD., she relishes being called "Dr."

The author of Karate Bride, Nicole is a North Carolina native whose work reflects a family life that is at times familiar and at times eccentric, always flavored with events and memories from her home state.

Her screenplays Answers to Lucky and Motel Canterbury were selected for the final round of competition in the Sundance Feature Film Program for its labs in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Deflowered in the Attic, a satirical play based on several works of teenage gothic fiction, enjoyed several successful runs in Seattle and an off-off-Broadway New York preview. The play was honored with a Footlight Award from the Seattle Times as Best of the Fringe.

Varied travels and years of working a series of any odd or mundane jobs that might occasion the telling of a story have given her a deep appreciation of her roots, as well as an assortment of experiences, personalities, and curiosities to mine.

March through June column: Posted June 1st, 2006.


Every morning in my coffee shop, I see the assassin. Anyway, I like to think that's what he is. Maybe I don't really like to think about the actual assassination part. And maybe he's not even, really. Maybe I just like to amuse myself. Maybe he's a real estate agent; my coffee shop is typically crawling with them at a certain hour.

Among the things he is for sure are: dark, with a closely-shaved beard and head, dark and stubbly against his smooth skin. He's out there on the patio right now, hirsute but streamlined - why is streamlined important? Perhaps he is a bicycle riding assassin. That would be so freaking cool. A badass coldblooded killer who cares about the environment. I may take out the occasional terrorist, he thinks to himself, but I won't shed blood for oil! Ah, noble savage. Maybe not.

He wears dark glasses, even when he comes back inside to the counter for refills. Well, that tells you something right there. It tells me, for instance, that he cannot afford to be recognized in Sumatra. He's wanted in Columbia, Kenya, and the blue mountains of Jamaica. A Hawaiian vacation is out of the question. He reads the newspaper - for accounts of his last assignment? To monitor the nefarious activities of his nemeses? To plot the timing of his next job? Anyway, he's reading it right now, he doesn't know I'm watching - off his game, I'd say. Mistakes like this one can be deadly, especially in the Mid Atlantic region. It'll be his undoing. He has an array of electronic devices piled on the little metal table in front of him, next to a full ashtray. Cell phone (with tracking feature), cigarette lighter (stun gun), Blackberry (blackberry). He smokes some sort of brown cigarettes that he clearly purchases when he's down in Panama finishing off the last of those School-of-the-Americas criminals. He carries the little fire back and forth to his thin, stubble-lined lips. He's elegantly tired, looks like Jean Reno around the beginning of The Professional. I love my assassin. He must be an assassin, I determine, because the alternative is too hideous to consider: he may merely be Eurotrash.

Although? while taking such serious stock this morning, I notice a little too much gold jewelry. The ring and necklace, however, might be just enough to hock for a plane ticket home from the Congo. Besides, most of the Eurotrash go to the glassy, modern coffee place down the street. He'd have to be off by a good six blocks, which would be highly imprecise for an assassin - but characteristic of Eurotrash. I am suspicious. I watch him sip the coffee. Is it black? You don't use creamer if you're used to being on the move.

I'm stressing because I don't really have enough experience in the field to spot Eurotrash with any certainty. I don't go to the coffee place down the street, much for that reason. Every time I do go there, someone named Joaquin or Francisco or Hugh (pronounced disconcertingly as "you:" "Bonsoir. I am you." No, no.) or the like introduces himself and brings up Foucault or something equally distressing, framed by syntax some might find charming but makes me want to curl up in a ball: What is it that you by the dim light read of the language? Can it be that you are of the scholarly? I make of the study myself, by the university I am taking. I know. I'm cruel; I'm going to academic hell. Let me tell you, I've been already. I've been to parties given by Comp Lit grad students.

Maybe Jean Reno here is lost. Maybe he's seconds away from asking me about Marina Tsvetaeva or inviting me to a salon with the emphasis on the first syllable. Should I tell him his tribe gathers to the south? What if I'm wrong and he wipes out some hapless young man sipping chai with a politically-minded heiress? No, he'd be saved by the giant Antonin Artaud omnibus in his jacket.

The assassin might kill me, though. Not for blowing his cover, of course - it would be enough just having confused him with pseudo-intellectuals, the real enemy. And not right away, here on this sidewalk, but you'd be able to tell by the shift in lighting and music that it's only a matter of time. But that's only if he's a real assassin. He might look up, smile, walk over, introduce himself as Arturo and ask if my pile of papers is my unfinished semi-autobiographical existential novel. If he does that, we'll know something. Assassins almost never try to pick me up.

Those aren't even cigarettes. They're cute little cigars. Assassin, no question.

The Missing Column: Sometime in January, 2006

I tuck the bag of fresh fava beans under my arm to fish the package out of my tiny narrow mailbox. It's plain brown cardboard but I'm sprinting upstairs because I know what's inside: two cds, the Evens, with Ian McKaye looking kind of sad but seeming to say at least I'm still playing rock and roll and you're buying cds from freakin' Amazon, and the dBs. Good god I can't wait to hear every song on Stands for Decibels and Repercussions. At least I could stare at the vinyl copy of Repercussions that's still in the closet of my mom's house, but lacking a turntable, I'd just have to press it to the side of my head and wait for latent messages. OK I never did that.

Fava beans are a vegetative wonder and a royal pain in ass. It's not bad enough you have to get them out of their damn exaggerated-sense-of-personal-bean-space pods, but then you have to get that little rind off every crummy one of them. It helps to boil them, but unless you're going to mash them up, I'd rather get the rind of first. It's like peeling tiny oranges. If you ate thirty or forty tiny oranges at one time. I have to stop though because I love Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, and I've just realized this fact again, because that Herman Munster beat of "Dynamite" has got me frozen in mid-pod.

I once had a tape of these albums back to back. The cute waiter at my dad's restaurant made it for me, carefully lettering the names of the songs in contrasting red and green and yellow felt tip marker. He had precise, hip, angular handwriting and I thought he was hot, and I thought he knew that I thought so, therefore I believe I had no direct eye contact with him during the eighties. I was an insanely dorky ninth grader and he hung out at the Pier and sold stereo equipment during the day. He told me about the Psychedelic Furs and the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith, made lists of albums for me to buy. "Horses!!!" I remember, the three exclamation points meaning I needed to get, apprehend and internalize that album by Saturday. He was a rock star, or my rock star at least.

Fucking fava beans are why I don't cook, if you want to know the truth. The most labor- intensive vegetable, and then, thanks to nature's lousy bounty, you don't have to do squat to them. No skill. None. Drizzle some good olive oil and crumble some pecorino on them. You do anything else to fresh favas and someone should strike you like a gong.

"The Fight" should have been a hit. It's Holsapple, I think, it's so damned cute. Suddenly I realize, I do understand emo after all. But "Bad Reputation!" Where's the freakin cover? Somebody get The Lashes on the phone.

There's not enough of the damn favas for everyone at this party, and I hate every single one of the thin-skinned little green bastards. I'm gonna add some lentils. Keep your mouths shut. They're dried lentils, too; insult to injury.

Then it happens - "Moving in Your Sleep," This song is the sexiest song ever. If you're me, at least, a dorky southern slightly punk pre-alternative loser girl with a crush on a blond waiter with shaggy hair over one eye and a crooked smile. But before you scowl at my stupid nostalgia and obsession with legumes, it's not the cute waiter I'm thinking of with my eyes closed in the kitchen. It's you. It's as if all those years ago the longing I heard in these boys who are now old, or what I would have thought then would be old but looks less so from here, all that desire was for something I didn't know yet and can only know now, listening to a song I forgot a long time ago, a time when I settled, when I thought it wouldn't go any further, wouldn't get any better, and then one day it did, without any effort or knowledge or intention. "There will come a day/ When I must go away from here." No, I used to think, when I heard the song, don't go. Stay. Before I can remember the pitch change, it comes: "There will come a day/ when you remember me." I remember you, you gorgeous song. Nice to meet you. I've got just enough magic beans for the two of us.

January 25, 2006:

I'd be writing more columns, but here's the thing: some people wrote me and said, oh, those last two or three columns were so much BETTER. So I have been conducting a Quantico-lab level microfiber DNA deconstructive analysis of the last two (or three) columns to find out when the hell I started making sense. Ya'll are clearly in touch with some other reality. I am definitely going for that pedicure tomorrow, though.

Besides my column, I'm worried about the rabbit. Or rabbits. I think there are two rabbits living in my backyard. Veronica and I have probably scared them off, although we've been shrieking at them for some time now with as much surprise and glee as if they had been tapirs, llamas, or dinosaurs or some exotic beast of which we are particularly enamored, to no ill effect. And the redneck hounds of the Baskerville Trailer Park two yards over never seemed to bother them before, either. The yappers are in a hurricane fence worthy of a juvenile detention center, too. Do rabbits hibernate? That little tidbit of zoology passed me by. Where's my rabbit couple? People will eat stuff like that here. I've heard people talk about picking up raccoons - running out into the middle of I-40 at night, dodging transfer trucks on deadlines. I want my rabbits back. That skinny cat that wanders around back there is nowhere near as much fun. And it makes a noise like that thing in Eraserhead.

No one wants to hear anymore about where I ought to be this week had I any sense at all (on a boat somewhere cool; by now, everyone I work with truly wishes that's where I'd gone), but I do have an exciting upcoming voyage: I'm taking a busload of teenagers to a model UN in Athens, Georgia. There will be a report from the road. I have nothing to do with this model UN business - I'm just going to make sure no one loses an eye or sneaks off to the 40 watt. Except me, on the latter, not the former. I went to Girls' State and that freaked me out enough ( Phyllis Fucking Schlafly spoke. If you don't know who she is, don't look her up; it'll just piss you off. Phil, if you put a link here, please don't be literal this time. I was close to her that one time; I have spent these intervening years trying to avoid repeating that configuration, even on paper, in space, or in anyone's imagination). I steered clear of debate or anything with the slightest whiff of Robert and his Rules (who the hell is he? Man, can you imagine being married to the guy who dreamed up that insanity? He must be the crown prince of Anal Retentia. My ex-husband used to reload the entire dishwasher if I so much as put a piece of silverware in the wrong freaking basket. My first ex-husband expected me to iron his t-shirts [very brief marriage there]. Come to think of it, why do I not have a thing for this Robert? He is so obviously meant for me. I wonder if he looks at all like Mr. Peanut). Where the hell was I? If I took the parentheses off my keyboard, would I make more sense or less sense?

I'm reading Vernon God Little and I forgot the author's name, and we're teaching The Catcher in the Rye in one of my classes now (it's by J.D. Salinger; I know you know but since I spaced on the last one, I figured I should not assume your assumption of my knowledge on this one); anyway, they seem related and not just by their arbitrary collision in my life. Remember when every blasted book had the next Holden Caulfield in it? (I'm here to tell you, there's only one Holden Caulfield in my heart - well, maybe two). All those blurbs - "Modern-day Holden Caulfield," "Black Holden Caulfield," "Holden Caulfield as a seven-year old girl," "Holden Caulfield out West," "Holden Caulfield in Outer Space." Holden Caulfield Wears Prada. The Holden Caulfield Code. A Million Little Holden Caulfields. Anyway, some guy in Ireland wrote Vernon God Little, and it's all about trashy Southerners, and it's the toast of the British Isles. Or maybe the tea; they love it that much. Damn. All this time I could have just gone to England. Who knew how much they valued the redneck as high art? Redneck Holden Caulfield. And ta-da, the freaking Booker Prize. I think the book is pretty good, but I can't tell through the haze of familiarity. I have to go back to reading about Yankees and foreigners. I'm living in it again.

Undated Column # 2, Fall 2005:

Pretty is Hard, Part Two: The Brazilian Band-Aid

I need somebody to explain the band-aid to me. There are better things to worry about, yes. This bird flu, for instance. Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice - I've always maintained that it would be poultry. And I have always said we need to be keeping a closer eye on those babies. If only they were roosting on some crude oil. Then we'd have some weaponry up on their feathered behinds. Satellite monitoring, and so forth. Besides Major World Health Issues, I've got problems of my own, a few that don't involve perverse vanity. I think I've already gone over the fact that I need to get out more. I no longer have my friend Ross to show up and fetch me out of my house to keep me from getting work done. But lo these many months ago, I asked Ross to explain the band-aid to me, because he is gay and therefore cosmopolitan.

It turns out I can't talk to Ross about the band-aid. It's not an area of particular interest, opinion, or fear for him of course, and I hadn't really thought that part through. Although I believe it was Ross who told me that men trim their pubic hair because they think this action will make their penises look bigger. As my wise Irish literature professor once told me: you can console yourself with that interpretation if you like. So maybe Ross could understand, or at least be neutral, standing aside to appreciate the absurdity of it. Or possibly you could do that for me. I need validation. I'm not a fan of codependency, even as a concept, but someone must tell me there has not been a paradigm shift while I was napping. Because my authority on the subject is weak at best: porn. That's my reference material.

Something's going on down there. The nether regions. I'm not a regular viewer of such, even photographically, so I can't tell you when or how it started. I'm quite blissfully unaware of the terrain on which I'm treading. The last porn I saw was in the Seventies, my dad's Playboys. These women, gigantic and tanned and goddess-like, they intimidated my mousy twelve-year-old self. In fact I never felt quite the same kind of intimidation until a couple of months back when I happened across some recent porn (I won't tell you where - you'll just go looking - someone's house - no one I know, in case you're someone I know - yes, that's right; I was leafing through porn in a stranger's house - go figure). Anyway, I felt a shiver of horror at the tiny, frail, spindly bodies perched on spiky shoes, teetering dangerously due to their enormous, tacked-on fake boobs. They looked like twelve-year-olds holding grapefruits and they scared the bejeesus out of my thirty-nine-year-old mousy self. But most disturbing was the band-aid.

OK, maybe it would be more disturbing if I believed the male segment of this nation suddenly had become sexually aroused only by twelve-year-olds and citrus. But I refer to my above source for refutation, in specific, to an item for which I never thought I might find a use: the aforementioned fake tits. That's not prepubescent anatomy. I know whose it is, though. Fucking Barbie. Something else for which I am shocked to have found a use. And we know what she's got down there, that freak. My daughter's only six, and she asks me, Mommy, why don't you like Barbie? Because my daughter is six, and has already written a poem called Pretty Is Hard. Is she wrong? Check out the bald crotch of America's Sweetheart and let me know.

And I fear that's where we're headed, girls, and I'm talking to you now because for once we've got to maintain a consensus. You buy into this band-aid thing now and they'll take it all eventually. Because I've got another authority, a better one. Exhibit #2 comes from MTV. I think it was MTV. I only caught a glimpse. It caught my attention because it mentioned the band-aid by its proper name (I won't say it here). A group of young men were being asked about their heartfelt sentiments on the subject. I awaited with naive, brutal hope. "Well," their alpha began, "we tell our girlfriends, you know, that it doesn't matter." His comrades nod sagely. They are good boys. "But that's what we all really want." They all nod vigorously, like dashboard doggies. Liars! They are hateful brats. It can't be true. But it's what I've thought all along: they're all out there, thinking what we most feared. They all want us suffering one more torment to look acceptable. Don't forget - pain makes you pretty; discomfort just gives you wrinkles. We want you to hurt, and hurt badly.

John Ruskin had his first marriage annulled because he found out on his wedding night that his wife had pubic hair. Turns out he'd learned female anatomy from Classical statuary. You know, I read this fact in a biography and I'm not sure I buy it. Although I just LOVE that his mother backed him up: yes, son; clearly the whore is deformed. The patron saint of mothers-in-law, she was. At least for my ex one. Anyway, Ruskin later became a thwarted pedophile. So we won't call him the norm. But the point is: one man's deformity is, you know, one woman's demeaning ritual.

How can you not consider it? I pluck my eyebrows. Piercing - that was fun, especially the infection. But at least I don't have to do it every six weeks. I bleach my hair, but that's kind of like a science project, and my daughter never gets tired of the "no, this time your hair really turned blue!" joke. And it doesn't hurt unless you have royally screwed up. I waxed my eyebrows once and let me tell you, I spent nearly a week with Frankenbrow. I do not want to visualize the possibilities if I were to pursue the band-aid. Fear may be a problem, but proximity isn't: there's no end of places to get one, like lattes. There's places where you can get both. Easier to find than hardware downtown. Go on, the festive pink signs encourage. It'll be fuuuun. It's a spaaaa. Spas make you feel goooood.

I don't really need to feel that good. I tell myself, it's a fetish. It's distancing; it makes you less real. Me and the MTV lowrider boys, we're from different worlds. But in my heart I hear them saying, it's what we all really want. Out with Ross, just before leaving town, after the third friend I haven't seen a while says look at you, you look so pretty, I just want to say, Pretty is hard. Fate has kicked my ass since last we met. That's why I'm pretty. I am in serious pain. I don't need hot wax pulled off any part of me; I've got reality pulling my hair out, and it means business. Yeah, I'm feeling so pretty these days. I'm feeling like that chick at the end of The Third Man, and she's walking up the cemetery road, taking no damn ride from Joseph Cotton because she's had Orson Welles, a man with an incomparable aesthetic and gorgeous pain. She's proud; she's hiding it like a good girl, the agony - not the emotional agony of leaving her dead lover's grave. Not that pain. This pain is a different one. One every girl walking up a gravel cemetery road knows (or any good secretary clattering down to the records department): it's those fucking pumps. They are killing her.

This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a - cluck. Not pretty.

Undated Column # 1, Fall 2005:

Charity at the Short Bus Auction

Hi, ya'll. I've been reviewing my first few of these here columns and write now with the knowledge that I need to avoid mentioning SUVs, Republicans, Barbie, Thomas Jefferson, any and all ex-professors (I'm already repeating stories - if we were dating, this development would indicate the end of the infatuation phase, on somebody's part at least), boxes, stress, Target, or anyone on whom I might have developed a crush. Although the last two are bound to show up - I figure if I keep mentioning Target they might send me free stuff, and the other - well, I'll get to that humiliation later.

My folks took me to a charity auction tonight for the Arc of Wake County. The Arc is a wonderful organization that helps the developmentally disabled, like my brother, who deals with autism on a regular day and is dealing with a nasty cold today and therefore could not go to the auction. I was a poor substitute for my brother, at least for one charming young lady dressed as a pirate who had been waiting to dance with Tony. There were a lot of crafty things to bid on - not being a devotee of ceramics or weaving or meat, I was out of luck auction- and dinner-wise, but the message of the developmentally disabled presented struck me as not necessarily the one most people hear, but certainly the one most people need to hear. It was the one I hear from my brother and his friends, a subtle form of "Thanks, but I can do it myself; that is, I could do it myself if you'd get the hell out of my way, and just so you know, it's in all likelihood going to take me a while, and if you don't like it, Mr. or Miss Impatient, you are cordially invited to bite me." Of course the Arc had a great manifesto that stated this sentiment in a much more cross-stitchable form.

Although I'd love to have a sampler that said "Bite Me." There's a craft I'd bid on. I wrote a poem one time in which I referred to my brother and his friends as "short bus people." A friend of mine, big Bukowski guy, told me I could not use those words. "My brother uses those words," I said, "Hell, my brother owns those words. He's logged the hours on the short bus. If he and his friends say they're the short bus people, then they're the short bus people." My friend scowled. "OK," he said, "but I find it offensive." This estimation from a man whose favorite poet works in a medium devised of whisky and excrement. But, hey! I've found a way to offend the Bukowski tribe.

Ya'll join up on this bandwagon now; the handicapped offend even the offensive. I never get over how people will, despite any better judgment, attempt to speak for people about whom they know nothing, and then because they don't have sense enough to know what to say, they will serve you up a piping hot cup of righteous indignation. It's best to get out of the way of these people. You don't want to be around when the message from their downtrodden poster children arrives, the one that says "Bite Me."

I remember teaching my brother a lot of things: how to play a record, how to count to ten in German (funf always made him giggle himself blue), what women want (land and jewels), how to make a mix tape, how to use a pay phone. We tried chopsticks once, for fun, but the motor skills weren't there. But what the hey, it was good comedy for both of us. One thing I most distinctly remember having to teach him was just after he got his wrap-around crutches, moving up from the walker. He was about five or six, about my daughter's age now. He was walking through a crowded mall with me, about the second or third day with those things. Suddenly, a look of glee swept across his face. He picked up a crutch, lurched forward a bit, then swung that sucker right across the six or eight pairs of moving legs in front of us walking down the mall. Took out a couple of women and children. They all apologized for having absently and carelessly strolled into the path of his swinging metal stick.

I had to teach him to stop doing that.

October 28, 2005

My understanding and patient editor has given up on sending friendly emails gently inquiring if I might be able to produce a few words in the form of a column. He has in fact given up talking to me, as have many people right about now. I'm sending this column in hopes that there's not a big X over my photograph on his website. Most people probably find it insulting when other people talk about how busy they are, as if nobody else has a thing to do but schedule massages, eat bonbons and drive around in their convertibles wearing big Jackie O sunglasses and hoping that at each traffic light people are saying to themselves, who can that fabulous creature be? When they know the only answer is, somebody much cooler than you.

I did see such a fabulous creature a few days ago, when I was fortunate enough to gain some meditation time as a by-product of being trapped in a one-hour traffic snarl coming out of my parents' Stepfordesque suburb. In the community planners' zeal toward antiseptic consistency - same mailboxes, same SUVs, same IRAs, same DNA - someone forgot to add any lanes to the single road in and out of the area. Any time anyone needs to bump up against difference (or buy ingredients for ethnic cooking), they have to get onto this little Barbie highway. Only now that the funerary processions (mourning the loss of identity? Dignity? Compassion? Hmm) have started extending past prime time viewing has the usually preternaturally efficient North Carolina Highway Department (we're the "Good Roads State." No kidding. Not "Good Schools," not "Good People," not "Good Nature." Nope. I thing we're also the "Good Smokes" state, though) swooped in and started moving dirt around next to the road. The big red hills don't get in the way, but everybody slows down to have a look. Why? I guess because it's dirty. Nothing else in Cary is dirty.

So I'm rolling up my windows against the red cloud - not quite as frantically as Jackie O, but I'm not really after looking like I rode in off the range, either. It's not so bad, really, I think, looking up at the sunny sky and squinting at what may or may not be buzzards circling - sad things; they don't get much work in Cary, either, I bet, unless someone's little rat dog escapes from its fake Chanel pouch and manages to get itself lost in a shrubbery forest. Or in one of those clusters of trees in the boulevard medians. Right now I'm supposed to be thinking of an elective to teach, but instead I picture a lost little rat dog, cowering under a good-sized azalea that might as well be redwood for him. I am supposed to have a proposal by tomorrow. Surely I know enough about something. I can't get a column in on time, but that doesn't mean I don't have any ideas; it just means my work ethic is in question. Whatever class I have, we'll have a rolling paper schedule. Then I don't have to grade them all at once, either. See, there's an idea.

A shadow crosses the little rat dog's face. Is it his master? No. It's bird-shaped, this shadow. OK, I have to put the dog away for a bit. Jackie O is applying eyeliner in her jaguar. A jaguar is a kind of cat. A big cat, a little dog. Has the car moved? No. Do I have a class topic? The Gilded Cage: Post Modern Nature Writing. No. I won't teach anything I wouldn't take. God, I'd love to teach a seminar on Florence King and Dorothy Parker, but we'd have to have access to the chemical antidote for cobra venom. Something about? something about? neoclassic? prewar? I'm getting that vertigo like I get in the record store sometimes. Looking around, though, I'm thinking I should narrow my focus toward creating a course in how to configure your life so that you don't end up living in a cul-de-sac driving a shoe-shaped transport vehicle with three carseats and a W sticker (I love those oval W stickers - how subtly they convey "I voted for Bush, but I only want you to know that I did if you did, and anyhow there's no way I'm putting some tacky red/white/blue flaggy sticker on the pricey vehicle I purchased to telegraph my good taste to the world). Oh traffic victims, let us pray: Lord, please send a cultural tsunami to the suburbs. Spare no one. Send some self-control, send empathy, send enlightenment. Send fashion sense. And deliver our children from irony. Amen.

Forgive me for thinking I have any answers; it's just that I've been reading Christopher Hitchens. It's his fault I'm here in this traffic jam. The raging crush I developed reading his book on Jefferson (I think it's on Hitchens, not Jefferson, but I'm not sure) caused me to drive to my mother's house to see him on the TV, though the usually charming Jon Stewart barely let my dear Mr. Hitchens get a word in edgeways. Stewart was merely being the giddy school girl I would have been in his Kenneth Coles, basking in lush waves of intellectual power and messy hair. (Several asides are necessary: 1.My mother, as a young girl, rode on the back of a cavalry officer's mule to a neighbor home to see Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show. Judge ye now the decline of taste and priority, or just scope, maybe, between the generations. Christopher Hitchens? I need to get out more. The truth: these days I have to get a pedicure to get anyone to touch my feet. Where are all the attractive, touchy-feely gay men in this town? Am I going to have to find myself a real date, my one and only love at permanent remove (sorry Everette Maddox. Or Berryman? Is it Berryman or Maddox? And why didn't I notice the similarity before?). and 2., Disheveled hair: it's no sign of smarts, really. Look at Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun. Nor is it always fetching (Tip O'Neill, Don King). I myself have been trying to cultivate that look of the arty, older gal who cuts her own hair. Sadly, that's a hop, skip and a jump from creepy eccentric woman who cuts her own hair in a house full of cats.

How can one ever really be sure?

That's what Jackie O is thinking, anyway.

And that shadow across the doggie's face - it's not a bird, it's a hand. A bejeweled, young hand. It's Paris Hilton's hand, only it's not her, it's St. Paris of the Ghostly Trend, and she scoops the little dog up into the folds of her robe made from a Shabby Chic window treatment. She wields the distressed wrought iron curtain rod as a scepter. Then she and the miniature mutt, the evolutionary error, ascend upward to the Burberry plaid cloud where all styles go when they are five minutes too old. There's a lot of barking up there these days. But what else is new.

Editorial Note on Ms. Sarrocco's Column of September 9, 2005:
Although the editor of this section is an SUV-driving, conservative Republican NRA member, he respects her right to air her views. Links to the websites of the various conservative political organizations and prominent corporations mentioned in Ms. Sarrocco's column are provided for the convenience of readers who may wish to learn more about their perspectives, goals, and products.

September 9, 2005:

Hey, ya'll. Sorry I haven't written in a while. That's a lie; I'm not sorry and I have written. I wrote three ranting columns and they were all too depressing to send, so I waited until I had returned to my normal level, which typically runs from cranky to pleasant to giddy. Though giddy's been loathe to put in an appearance of late. Anyway, maybe I'll show them to you one day when you're just too damn happy.

I'm going to write a book. I did already, the one good one and then some others like the aforementioned columns, but nevermind those for a second; I'm going to write something useful. I'm going to write an economic self-help book for the nation. And it's not just Ben Franklin talking here (I have renewed my crush a bit, but I have to say I'm more of a Samuel Adams girl this time around). Remember that cute little thing 50 Ways to Save the Planet or whatever? I'm going to write one about the 50 Companies You Don't Give Your Money To Because They're Screwing the Planet. Or at least the country. I'm pretty sure the title's too long, but I'm working on it.

The trouble is, I know the research is going to ruin my life. It's not the grueling hours of library and internet time, not the endless phone trails and voicemails and "no comments" and "I didn't get that memos." No, it's the fact that I really suspect I'm going to find something wrong with Target. And that'll be the end of cheap, cute shoes. Here's the thing: thank goodness you can't swing a cat without hitting a trendy coffee shop these days, because even the bitter swill at Starbucks is better than 7-11, and those were often my only options in the South of the past. But I'm lucky enough to live rock-throwing - or brickbat-throwing (only those in my American Studies class will get that - did you know a brickbat is neither a bat nor a whole brick, but is in fact about the hardness of a day-old biscuit) - distance from Third Place, the happy alliance of tasty coffee and social responsibility. And I can't describe the pang of regret I feel every time I have to pass by Urban Outfitters and merely hang my head, unable to peruse the fashion-forward raggedy skirts, tiki barware, beaded curtains and outre collections of coffee table books. (Say you purchase the "Sexual Position-A-Day" calendar, can you display that item in your workspace? Would that be sexual harassment? It's just that there's a certain pathos about having to have a calendar to remind you at home. What about a little notebook that says "Goldigger - like a hooker, only smarter?" Can you write in that on the airplane? Well. Bless your heart.) Anyway, the news is that this reliable provider of animal print and double-entendre t-shirts reportedly send its profits to the big fat REPUBLICAN PARTY.

I can tell you, this revelation has sent shock waves through my hipster friend community. The little light in me that went on every time I wore my favorite tea cozy skull cap has gone out. There's only one thing to do, one of my friends sputtered on hearing this news. We have to find some item Republicans want and make a store that sells those. Hmm. We all pondered. Can you make a store that sells money, someone wondered. Fear? Aggression? Greed? Lands? Guns - now we're onto something, but no one wanted that responsibility. Turns out we were fairly stumped, lacking the gumption or stomach to attempt either banking or real estate.

I'll let you know what develops. The four of us have planned businesses selling Lincoln Navigators, golf balls, contemporary country music, and bacon. Hell, everybody loves bacon. And I don't care if Target gives its money to Satan, I have got to have a new bag every once in a while. I just got the sweetest mod coffee table from there, and cheap - listen, I just don't have the time to thrift-store shop anymore. I'm using that extra half an hour a week to bathe. Don't judge me.

But if they give money to the NRA - woe betide.

August 18, 2005:

I am feeling a little bad about having left Seattle in a puff of smoke. Thanks to nonsense beyond my control, but I'll write about all that at a later date. Anyway, I keep thinking of my mother sitting around in the seventies reading Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods and saying that one morning we'd come to wake her and find nothing left but a greasy spot. She did see stuff in the sky back then - encounters that sparked the aforementioned research - and I saw stuff, too, grudgingly; I hated when she'd pull the car off some country road, kill the headlights, then snap "Now you can't tell me that's an airplane." In retrospect, I imagine these visions had to do with our proximity to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Or perhaps aluminum in the water.

So she's still here, my mother, alien-grease-free, thank goodness. Driving me back and forth to Target these days. I do have a car now, but it has a trunk the size of a Judith Leiber handbag, so if I'm going to get enough bookcases, I have to take my mom's Ford Behemoth.

I'm moving into both a house and an office, and I'm feeling very official. And housial. I feng shuied my office today (tr.: threw out stuff - rickety desk drawer, old Howard Dean poster [sniff], and a pile of thumbtacks, and cleaned up the sawdust - clearly the last occupants were hamsters). And this weekend the students shall arrive, clean and shrinkwrapped like cello sponges, waiting to absorb.

There's only one book on the shelf in my office so far - One Hundred Years of Solitude, for the Latin American class. Don't get too comfy up there taking up a whole century and four shelves as well. You're about to have company. The boxes are coming. Garcia Marquez was asked about magical realism and reportedly said "that's just the way things are here."

The art teacher today told me that a lot of the art around the school is just left by the students. We decided that if you leave your paintings behind, then you should probably flunk art. But then he told me story about losing a favorite painting. It was big, wouldn't fit in his friend's tiny car, so they tied it to the roof. When they got home, no painting. They followed the route with no luck. The good news, according to his friend, was that it didn't last - someone liked it enough to make off with it.

I like that image of the great painting sailing off the top of the little auto, flying and twisting, bumping corner over corner down the street, landing upright on a streetlight or flattened out on traintracks. It's still there. The art teacher knows it as well as the ones in his house. And I can believe Yeats again, in "Lapis Lazuli," with those stone men whose eyes are glittering and gay, even after the carver is dust, and the stone is dust, and the poem is dust. Whatever made that glitter doesn't disappear. At least I thought that's what Yeats was saying. My tough-minded Irish professor thought for a moment and told me I could console myself with that interpretation if I wanted. Maybe Yeats should have flunked art.

Greasy spot. That's just the way things are here. It's so good to be home.

August 3rd, 2005: MOVING WEEK

My house is full of boxes and everything is still not packed. The bureaucratic and legal woes are over, though, and I've lost three letters (MRS) and acquired three more useful ones (PHD). But due to time constraints I am now moving myself and the V across the country while trying to plan my three classes that start in a week and a half (film - can you screen 80 films in eight weeks? And teach high school kids to write about them? Maybe I should narrow it down).

I couldn't narrow down the books - 40 boxes and counting, most of it books. And granny, but the shippers would rather I not mention her. She's arrived safely now, though, urn unscathed, so all I'm stressing about is the computer. And the leopard.

William Harmon says three moves equals one fire, and I've lost count, and you don't get to pick what burns. I watched the boxes go and thought briefly that it would be best if they all got lost. I'm going to be getting a few new things on the other end already: so far, a car and a guinea pig.

The V has been promised a GP once she has her own room, and now she's getting it. They sound fairly unobjectionable. They just need a little space, occasional salad and weekly cleaning. Kind of like keeping models. They can't jump and are too listless to sprint away from you, so they are easy to manage (models seem more skittish, so perhaps GPS excel here). Other than a fish, which is always having to be replaced and thus requiring boring and depressing existential discussions, the GP's not bad as a pet.

I asked Quentin Crisp if he had pets once. He said 'Heavens no; my friends already require that level of care'. That's not my best Quentin Crisp story, though. I've been thinking a lot about his movie reviews for this film class - I especially liked how he said Out of Africa might just as well have been Out of New Jersey. But I'm still not screening Basket Case.

Well, the bookstore man will be along soon to take away more boxes. Bookstore folk are good friends to have; they give you books, come over and take away heavy things, find you cheap shipping. Sometimes they publish you, and that's especially nice.

More from the South. As the situation develops.