Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Dressing Down of Mr. Doyle.

The ditto sheet in front of me had a skinless man on it, rendered in purple.  Lines that originated from various points in his body jutted out into the margins, where we were supposed to write things like femur, ulna, humerus, to prove our knowledge of the man's anatomy.  After giving him a pair of cowboy boots and a saloon lady's high-feathered hat, I drew a line from the tailbone to the margin and wrote "ass bone".  I passed it to my friend Julia for her approval.  Snickering, she slyly added her own caption to the man's tastefully omitted bulge, "penis bone," then passed it back to me.

"Oh my God!" I whispered at her through my giggling, "Now I'm going to get in trouble!"

"No you're not.  Look," Julia whispered back, producing a bottle of white-out from her desk.  She dutifully whited out both "ass bone" and "penis bone" and handed the paper back to me.  After a few more moments of students silently filling out their sheets, we passed them forward for Mr. Doyle to collect and go through.

Mr. Doyle was bizarre and sadistic.  He never let you go to the bathroom, until you practically whimpered to go.  He was paranoid - always accusing me of "staring through" him.  He once even told me I'd never amount to anything.  He was crazy, and I was a little afraid of him.

I expected that he might take some special exception to my anatomy worksheet.  Cowboy boots and a feather hat?  That was subversive.  When he glanced mine over, I could see his eyes go small and harden.

He came to my desk.  "What is this?" he asked, shaking my paper in front of my eyes.

"Nothing," I replied.  "I just gave him a little outfit."

"And what's this?" he asked, pointing to the whited-out portion of the paper.

"Nothing!" I waveringly replied, because, didn't white-out make things as though they never existed?  Couldn't he tell that whatever it was had been gotten rid of and was no longer an issue?

"I'll show you 'nothing'," he seethed, "I'm going to find out what's under here." He took out his car keys and began furiously scratching at the thick, crusted white on the page.  "And then," he continued, "I'm calling your parents.  Stay here," he said to the class with a pointed finger, as he marched out of the classroom door toward the office.

I froze.  My mom and gasp!- my dad! were going to find out about "penis bone" and it wasn't even my doing!  No one in class spoke for several minutes, just staring at me standing there with the ghost of my shamed paper still in my empty hands.

The PA system then crackled to life.  "Elisa Markus, please come to the principal's office.  Elisa Markus to the principal's office." I burst out crying as I left the classroom.  I was ruined!  Mr. Doyle had scratched off the white-out, saw "penis bone" and now I was headed for serious retribution.  My feet fell heavy on the tiled floor, tears streaming down my face.

When I got to the principal's office, I was surprised to find my mother standing there.  "How did you get here so fast?" I sobbed.

"What do you mean?  What's going on?" she asked.  She had no idea about the penised man.  She had come because I had forgot to taken some medication that morning.  I told her what had happened.

"That goddamn Mr. Doyle," she said to my surprise, "I'm going to set him straight.  Where is your classroom?" she asked, eyes darting left to right, foot nearly pawing the ground with anticipation of blood.

"No!" I said.

"Yes," she said through clenched teeth.  "Let's go."

So I led her down to the Green Wing and we returned to Mr. Doyle's still-teacherless classroom.

"What's going on around here?" my mom bellowed.  "Where is your teacher?"

The kids in the classroom swarmed up to her.

"He went to the principal's office!"

"He's going to get Elisa in trouble!"

"We hate Mr. Doyle!"

"He's back!" someone shouted as his impossibly thin face poked back into the door.  One look at my mom, however, and his set chin began to melt into fear.

"Outside." my mother commanded him.  They went to the end of the hallway.

As she begun her dressing-down of Mr. Doyle, my entire class, as well as the contents of every other classroom spilled out into the hall to watch the spectacle.

"Back inside!" yelled the other teachers, "back inside!"

No one wanted to go back inside.

I don't remember what was said, but I remember the contagious glee of watching that prig get an earful or two of my poison-tongued, expertly withering mother.

"Your mom's so cool!" kids whispered.  "I wish my dad would yell at Mr. Doyle!"

I felt high on my mother's love that day, and inspired by her ballsiness.  No discrete, scheduled teacher-parent conference that day.  It was all-out war, on my behalf, because "penis bone" and "ass bone" are pretty funny, according to her, and levity must be defended.  Besides, only a creepy lunatic goes and tries to scratch white-out off to uncover a 5th-grader's dopey anatomy jokes, and according to her (it's great advice, too), creepy lunatics are never to be suffered gladly.

Monday, July 7, 2014



Eventually, today, I will focus on what I'm going to bring on my trip.  Well, I'm calling it a trip but it might very well be a move.

I'm weeding out my closet, to fill my suitcase with clothing that I could wear confidently in offices.  Fittingly, perhaps, they'll mostly be black.  A couple of black dresses, a black skirt, black blouses, black bra.  My marriage is dying. 

It seems so stupid to me.  Our married life had been full of laughter, inside jokes and comfort.  Maybe the comfort's what killed it.  My husband wants me to promise I'll never be depressed again.  The futility of such a request makes me want to run into the street, wailing.  I have very little control over whether I become depressed again.  I couldn't promise such a thing, and if I did, I'd do it knowing that my relationship was forever stipulated on my mood.  Am I up enough?  Am I smiling enough?  I would never be able to confide my darker moods to him.  

I can't believe the same person I've been loving all this time, the sure thing, the real deal has run out of faith, of patience, of love for me.  It should say more about him than it does about me, but it's hard when he's telling me that I'm defective and he doesn't want any part of it.  My defect is intrinsic - I'll never not be this way and the fact is both vindicating and damning at the same time.  I feel like I'm being thrown away, but I'm going with it out of self-defense.  You don't want me?  Well I don't want you, either.  I'm good enough to choose whether I want something or not. 

I'm choosing LA.  It's completely stupid, a whimsy.  I sweat over the things I won't have:  my bike, my cat (maybe), the giant velvet painting of the jaguar.  But my heart quickens about the things that I will:  self-determination and space to find myself again. 

But first, I'll be wearing a lot of black. 

Monday, June 30, 2014


Collage by me.  Buy prints here

I met my husband on  My mom's fears that I might be a spinster or -to her undying horror- gay, spurred her to pony up for a six-month membership on my behalf.

I went out with a few different guys to varying results.  As a hungry college student, and to motivate myself, I envisioned the free dinners I would have.

Russell's profile featured a quote from "The Big Lebowski" (I think it was "the dude abides") and I was immediately interested.  I messaged him and suggested we go to a local bar's comedy open mic night.

I was working at a vintage store at the time, and at closing, I picked a red disco dress off the rack and threw it on before walking out into a light drizzle towards the bar.  I sat at one of the high tables and waited.

When Russell came through the door, it was like rays of light were shooting out of him.  I immediately knew that we would be involved with each other for a long time, in one capacity or another.  I watched as he asked the bartender a question with a gregarious grin, eyebrows raised to connote harmlessness. He looked around, saw me and advanced towards me and I couldn't help but smile.

Things have taken a turn for the turbulent lately, and our future is hopelessly unclear.  Things I thought were permanent are changing.  Things I thought were sure have dissolved into nothingness.

After considering as carefully as I can, I bought a one-way ticket to L.A. today.  I'm planning on staying for two months and seeing if I can get a job and a place; I'm trying to belong somewhere, to continue doing the creative work that makes me feel like my talents are good for something besides party tricks.

I'm jumping out of an airplane with a tattered parachute hoping for a patch of trees.


P.S. - I just wrote a zine about our troubles which you can buy here, if you feel so inclined.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Hasid

Occasionally it seems that things are going rather well until the rug gets pulled out from underneath you.  Sometimes that rug is a real booger.

In my early 20's, I moved to New York City.  I did it for many reasons (to be the female William Burroughs, to cure my agoraphobia, because I dreamt it several nights in a row), not least of which, because there are a lot of Jews there.

I'm half Jewish on my father's side.  My mother's side is all mosquitos, sunburns and problematic temperaments.  My dad was Jewish, cool-headed, intellectual and of a more prestigious lineage.  I always preferred my father's legacy.

My mother hated religion, so we were never inducted into Judaism, except by way of celebrating Hanukkah every year with the lighting of the menorah, the recitation of a Hebrew prayer, and a single lottery ticket for each of the 8 days.  

I had always yearned to be a part of the kind of community that comes with religion:  I wanted to wear patent leather shoes and look at stained glass windows and pray to the east and have a Bat Mitzvah, too!  I thought that by moving to New York City, some Jewishness might rub off on me and I'd feel like one of the gang.

This explains why, on a summer day riding the F train to 14th street, I furiously studied the Hasidic Jew who sat across from me, reading a newspaper written in Hebrew.  I studied his every feature, from the slight green dinge of his black hat to the furrow in his graying brow.  Magnificent devoutness radiated from his every pore.  At last, he looked up at me, having sensed my gaze.

"Hello," he said.

"Hi," Having been caught, I bashfully cast my eyes downward.

He scooted from his window seat to the aisle seat to be nearer to me.

"Are you Jewish?" he asked.

It shows!  I look Jewish!  I thought, a sudden ecstasy blooming within me.

"Yes- well, half," I replied.

"Do you speak any Hebrew?"

Why... yes... yes I do! 

"I know the Hanukkah prayer," I offered.

"Let's hear it," he smiled.

"Barucha taw edenoy alahenu, melech ho olum..." I recited.

"Very good!  That's just wonderful," he said.  "Do you want to learn more about Judaism?"

At this point I felt that one of my greatest New York dreams was coming true.  Here I was, discussing Judaism with the most Jewish person on earth!  What an amazing spiritual experience-- the kind that can only be had in this kind of city.  Hell, I'd shave my head and wear long skirts and be Orthodox.   Visions of bagels and lox for breakfast every morning danced through my head.  I was an open vessel for this man's tutelage.

The train came to a stop and I told the Hasid that I had to go to another platform to transfer.  Serendipitously enough, he also had to transfer to the same train.

Where on the F our conversation was quite lively, on the platform we merely stood next to each other, I, unsure if I should pretend he was a stranger again or to keep the conversation going.

At last, I heard the rumble of my train approaching.  "Well, here I am," I said to the man tilting my head towards the tracks.

"Well then, good-bye my child," he said.

"My child"!  How charmingly, piously avuncular!

He cupped his hands around my head and kissed both my cheeks in what I joyously understood to be the traditional Jewish kiss.

Then he kissed my mouth.  Then he started grinding on me.

"You're beautiful," he whispered.  "I love you."

I froze as my illusion cracked wide open.  How could he be-- why, he was just a garden variety creep!  I pushed him away.

"Stop molesting me!" I screamed.  The platform full of strangers merely looked on enough to process that a Hasidic guy was molesting some blonde and who cares when's my reservation at Babbo?  I scanned the crowd full of blank stares.  I looked back and the man had vanished.  I slipped onto my train as the doors started to close.

Nothing was holy anymore.  Hasidic men get wool-shrouded boners, too.

I would never confer a hallowed status on any person again, which is a worthy lesson to learn, I suppose, but why via molestation?

Why does anything have to start going bad in the way that it does?  Can't it do so with some dignity?  Or do we reap the declines that we sow?

As for me and my Judaism, I maintained an interest until I tried to join Chabad in college - I was disallowed because my mother wasn't the one who was Jewish.  Another half-Jewish Chicago friend tried to lure me back in with the assurance that a Bat Mitzvah in one's 30's is totally par for the course, but my father, who is no longer Jewish, made his lack of support for the project known.  I think it's because they're expensive, so he hasn't left Judaism that far behind.  Badum-ch!

So secular I was born, and secular I shall stay, but I'll still nosh down on some bagels and lox.  You and me.  Any time.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Best Decisions

I often find myself with competing wants or priorities - should I feed the meter in my pajamas and risk getting locked out because I don't have a key to my friend's place? (I'm spending the weekend in Chicago tying up some emotional loose ends).  Or should I get dressed and get my stuff together and risk a ticket from the clock-watchingest cop?  The process of weighing them against each other can turn into a maelstrom of indecision, resulting in a deeply uncomfortable stalemate - inertia.

Recently, a helpful little phrase blipped onto my radar, and I don't know if I found it somewhere or I made it up, but in these moments of indecisiveness and the accompanying anxiety, I've started asking myself, "What's the best decision I can make right at this moment?" In the above example, the answer was to put my clothes on and then feed the meter.  Sometimes the answer could be as simple as "put down your phone and finish your breakfast", as I suggested as an alternative choice to my friend, whose obsessive phone-staring was causing him much angst. 

Making theses tiny little choices - such as should I have an apple or banana? can be made by asking yourself what is the best decision in that moment?  An apple, because you're thirsty?  A banana because you're hungrier?  Or refuse both? Whatever you choose, and because in this instance it's a microdecision with little long lasting impact, you can feel good about having picked the right one.  I feel asking myself this question many times over the past couple of days may be contributing to my peace of mind and self-confidence.

I wish I thought of it in 8th grade (otherwise known as the nadir of my existence) because a little of either of those would have gone a long way for me.

I was called into the guidance counselor's office one day.  She sat me down with a gentle pat on the chair. 

"We're starting a special club and you've been invited," she began with a smile that suggested... more.  

I, accordingly, withheld my excitement.  

"What's it about?" I asked. 

"Well... it's a self-esteem club," she explained. 

"...How did I get invited?" 

"Teachers observe their students," she said, eyes wide with faked enthusiasm, "and recommend certain ones." 

I froze.  I had been observed.  I was a certain one.  On one hand, I was a little thankful- somebody had noticed my need for intervention: I did, after all, eat my tearful lunch by myself in the bathroom nearly every day.  But on the other hand, I had been officially identified by the school as a nobody that needed to be in a special club. 

"No way," I balked, "I don't want to be in a group full of losers!" 

"No, no, no!  There are all kinds of students in this group!  It's very exciting.  Everyone just discusses issues surrounding self-esteem.  It's very supportive and inclusive." 

I looked at her askance. 

"There are dorks, sure, but there's a big cross-section of people!  There's even a basketball player!"  Immediately Blake came to mind.  He looked like a cross between Ashton Kutcher and JTT, if they had a baby and it was a lean, broad-shouldered 14-year old basketball player.  I died. 

"Basketball player?" I stammered out.  "Who is it?"  

"Well I can't say," she replied  "Confidentiality."

Wow, Blake talking about self-esteem with a group of other students, a cross-section?  I could get to know someone from every clique.  And once they got to know me, they'd probably like me.  And Blake would get to know me.  And maybe... maybe we would date!  Oh my gosh!  But even if he just liked me as a friend... then school wouldn't suck such a fat dick.

"Okay I'm in," I said.  "Do I get to miss class?" 

Yes, I did.  I couldn't wait til third period the next day, when Blake and I would get married, and everyone in school would celebrate my genius contributions to the topic of self-esteem in the High Self-Esteem Consortium.  

"I have to- I get to go," I giddily informed my 3rd period teacher.  "I have a thing," I flashed at him the blue folder the guidance counselor had given me. 

"Oh. Okay."  I waited for a look of acknowledgment to light upon his face; I was, after all, chosen to discuss things with an elite group of students.

Eh, I thought, it's a distracting time between bells. 

With a lightness, I sailed down the hall to the designated classroom.  I knocked on the half-open door and pressed it open.

In a fan of desks before me sat the biggest losers in school.  I mean like the sadistic kid who smelled;  the slightly slow girl whose already prodigious bush crept --to everyone's horror-- over her beltline; the other girl who sat at her desk with her legs folded to her chest, rocking, picking her scabs and eating them.  

Oh. my. God.  I'm one of them.  

There was no resigned acceptance to be had here.  Instead, "I'm a loser" just reverberated over and over in my head.  There was no cross-section: no lacrosse girl, no artist girl whose clothes were cooler than mine and certainly not any Blake.  I didn't want to get to know these people.  I remember sitting stonily, feebly contributing to the discussion on a worksheet we were given:  "Things I Like About Me".  Not much at the moment.

However, I believed I was too good to be in Self-Esteem Club.   Sometimes I wonder if I would have fared better if I just stayed, instead of quitting after the first meeting.  Being a loser is one thing, but it's probably not as bad if you have self-esteem.

This sentiment is part of my periodic peace lately.  Whatever's going on is neither good nor bad, it just is whatever's going on.  I don't know if there's any way to be okay with being a loser when you're junior high school age, but if you're a junior-high-school-aged loser, here is my advice to you:  Embrace it.  I don't mean wallow in it, but just understand that there's nothing inherently bad about being a loser.  Each type has its place in school.  And just do whatever it is you want to do. And you don't have to get caught up wondering what it is you want to do do.

Just worry about what it is you want to do now.  What's the best decision you can make right at this moment?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kroghetto, or, Letting go of the Past.

So, it's been a few years since I've seen several parts of Columbus.  One of these yet-unvisited parts was known unfortunately as "Kroghetto".

Once upon a time, Kroghetto was my grocery store.  It was a Kroger's grocery store at the very southern reaches of the student-living radius where anything could happen, and none of it was too positive, unless getting out alive on your toilet paper run is your standard.

They didn't sell anything good.  All of it was like a company run by a really depressed foreign man on a payday loan had created it.  To further paint the portrait, the lines to customer service on the 1st and 15th stretched clear to the dairy aisle.  I was once in the parking lot when a rust-riddled beige van slumped into the adjacent spot.  The doors flew open and about 7 people and thirty beer cans fell out. But they didn't seem much weirder or more degenerate than anyone else, they were just more frank.

One day, I was coming out of the store with my ear pressed to the phone on my shoulder, talking to my brother.  It should be said that I normally don't like talking on the phone because I get disoriented by environmental sounds and phone voices clashing for my attention.  I opened the car door, stooped inside and placed my bags on the passenger's seat.  As I went to close the door, a man sprang up from out of nowhere.  He shuffled his body around frantically, I think to force me out of the car, but it was more like he was aggressively settling into my lap.  Despite his threatening behavior, I recall his face seemed confused, like maybe I was the one stealing his car.  My phone had shot out of my hand and I could hear my brother, alarmed, saying, "Elisa, what's going on?  What's happening?" all tinnily from the floor.

I elbowed the intruder in the face.  He fell off of my lap and halfway out of the car, and I slammed the door on his body repeatedly and with as much force as possible to beat him off.  It worked, and I peeled out, no institutional eggs cracked, no stalk of wilted celery out of place.  A police officer came running up to me at the edge of the lot to stop me and ask me if I'd seen a crackhead.  I pointed in the general direction of his transgression and I crushed the accelerator.  Adrenaline vibrated through me as I drove back home.  I never shopped there again.

Since I've returned to Columbus, Kroghetto has been torn down and an elite jewel of a Kroger store has been put in its place.  Le Kroger.  They sell dark chocolate with sea salt on it in the checkout aisle.  It doesn't even face the street any more, just so there is no doubt that the former, tainted Kroger has been in no way incorporated into the new design.  But it doesn't change the fact that the remains of hundreds of Kroger employees lie underneath it.

Just kidding.

But I passed by the other day on the way to somewhere else, and watched the khaki-clad walk in, thinking of the samples, thinking about picking up "wine for the party".  They are totally not beefin' the history of this place.  I still haven't gone in, because I am.

As I was thinking about writing this story, and particularly because it was without a point, I said to myself, "Dude, you are constantly looking in the rear view," and it's true.

What can I say?  I'm a depressive type.  I live my life like it's x days past a certain life-changing event or circumstance, and not like today has value on its own.

I've been trained by professionals to try "mindfulness", but I've never taken it further than, "Here are the trees.  I am breathing air.  It's warm with a crisp, cool breeze to it.  My hand feels weird."

However, tonight, after my husband and I watched this movie and then split our separate ways (me, to write pun jokes on Twitter upstairs; he, to perfect his video-game basketball team), I was jogging up the stairs to get to my computer when I was struck by a sudden happiness.  In a flash, all of the facts about my present situation, good and bad appeared before me and I felt very worthy.  I thought, here's my life and it's no better or worse than anyone else's.  It just is.  I existed solely in that instant, and I felt a cleanliness about moving forward, about optimism (that I could choose it and not worry if I'd earned it).

With all that in mind, will I be going to that new Kroger?  Probably not, but only because it's not in my present neighborhood.  Besides which, I don't need to leave my neighborhood to act out some kind of rebirth scene with a grocery store because the past is over and it's neither good nor bad.  I don't really have a reason to go to Le Kroger- unless I end up on that side of town with no toilet paper and a craving for salty dark chocolate.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Guest DJ

Today I got to guest DJ at my long-time favorite Columbus radio station, CD 102.5.  It was the perfect way to cap off the awesome weekend I had dancing, hot-tubbing and partying in a giant cabin in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Below, the playlist I put together:

And, because "Decepticon" by Le Tigre has an f-bomb in it, I had to quick choose:

We had extra time at the end, so I dropped in "Gimme Shelter" by the Stones in honor of Mick Jagger becoming a great-grandfather today (!!!!) and because I am in love with the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, about background vocalists.  Merry Clayton does the background on "Gimme Shelter" and she just kicks the shit out of that track.

And because we needed one more three-minute song, I went with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Gold Lion" in honor of a pair of high tops that I own that have gold lions all over them.

It was a cool experience, and hopefully, not the last time I grace Columbus radio.  Ya heard that, stars??