Traumatizing Moments From My Present, Volume Five: Deaths and the City

 Hullo there. This is another old post that I forgot to post. But I think it needs to be HEARD. The part about YA, that is. The part about Chicago is shockingly bitter, even for me, so you can ignore it. But listen, I wrote it in a very cold winter month called May when I felt like I would never see a drop of sunlight again. It’s finally summer, so I feel less inclined to stomp on Chicago’s soul. I’m still bitter that we didn’t get a real spring, though.

This traumatizing “moment” is actually a traumatizing nine years.

Nine years of living in Chicago.

Do you like what I did there? I employed a literary technique called the Young Adult Novel’s Desperate Grab For Your Attention. It’s when you set a sentence fragment apart from the rest of the text.

Like this.

The YANDGFYA is useful for entrapping “reluctant readers” deep within the snare of your twisted I-owe-a-massive-debt-to-Twilight genius. Reluctant readers see a big scary block of text and they’re like AHHH WORDZ WILL EAT ME! But then, like a ray of sunlight breaking through a storm cloud, they see the YANDGFYA.

And they feel hope.

Hope…and the ability to read on, on past the next pun, past the next makeover scene in which the protagonist pretends to know nothing about makeup because she’s a charming tomboy (“Then my bff Patricia put some sparkly stuff on my eyes. I looked into the mirror and a different girl was looking out at me. She was…she was pretty.“), past the next tense scene filled with sexual innuendo intended to go over the heads of younger readers (“So,” I said, “What do you want to do to me? I mean, do with me?”), past the clunky character development until they reach the next YANDGFYA.

It’s beautiful.

ANYWAY, sorry for being so chock-full of literary references that I can’t even talk about the weather (YES THE WEATHER) without talking about books. Ah! Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! (wipes a trembling tear from bottom eyelash.)

What I meant to say before going on a rant about YA literature is that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Chicago. It’s a cold industrial city with a vapid soul. But even more than Chicago, I can’t stand it when people  are like “BUT CHICAGO IS SO _____” Look, I’m glad you have fun strolling around Wrigleyville with your pick of ten thousand and five different Asian restaurants and WOW, THERE’S A JEWEL! HOW CONVENIENT IS THAT? Just please, go to one of the grimy public buildings (libraries, museums, they’re all gross) and drincessorize with a McDonalds coffee and I hope you feel happy pretending that there is something meaningful about living next to a fake ocean in a sea of fake art.

But I know it’s not Chicago’s fault that it’s landlocked like this. And I do love the lake. Despite how disgusting it is. I don’t think I could live without a large body of water nearby. A large body of water like the pool of tears that is my heart when I read YA literature.

GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 50% Off!

SAVE ME! Now for the low, low price of $500.

Faithful subjects, gaze into the future with me.

I plan on having twenty kids minimum. What does this mean for you? This means that your future will be largely comprised of twenty baby showers and twenty baby gifts at approximately $50 each, so put this down in your planner: before the world ends, you’ll have spent at least $1000 on my screaming, vomiting, irritating progeny.

OR THERE’S PLAN B!!!! (It’s hard to escape the double entendre here.)

Plan B is that instead of spending $1000 on screaming babies that you really don’t want to touch and gulping down a wave of nausea as you see me approaching, clad in a fetching muumuu, holding out my latest offspring and shrieking “DONTCHA WANNA HOLD HER?!?!??!”…instead of all that, you could contribute a mere half of that sum, $500, to give me the Life Fix that I currently need.

Capiche? Hugh, are you listening?

I shall elaborate. Right now, I’m sitting at Intelligentsia and trying to work on my story while keeping one and a half eyes on the clock so that I don’t exceed my alloted 1-hour lunch break. This is not a sustainable model for getting any real writing done! An hour here, an hour there, a little Facebook checking in between, a long wait for a cappuccino, trying not to eavesdrop on the awkward couple to my right–yeah, the story will just not be happening today. I changed the phrase “rustling leaves” into “rustle of leaves,” so that deserves a Pulitzer, but major edits? Moving great chunks of plot around? Spying gaping holes in logic? AS IF!

In the immortal words of Britney: I need TIME. I need SPACE. Ima SLAVE 4 U.

What I need, seriously, is about two weeks away from Chicago. I need to be in the country, to get inspiration pumped into me intravenously like Keats in Ode to a Nightengale. I need to be away from the Internet (though I will need a massive dictionary and maybe Wikipedia) and I especially need to be away from other “artists.” (Attractive bass players? We’ll talk.) When half my day is spent going through the worst slush pile in the history of the world, how am I supposed to gather my forces, think to myself “This is meaningful! This is worthwhile!” and write? I can’t! I freak out at the low-grade fiction being pumped intravenously into the arteries of the universe and I shrivel and die, despairing at the lack of real aesthetic anywhere and the hipsters that overrun Chicago with their fake version of the semi-real thing. And yes, I will use the word “intravenously” as many times as I can in this post DAMMIT!

Why now, Tori? Why the sudden outburst, the desperate grab for my pocketbook that feels suspiciously like you’re trying to grope me? I need this two week trip now because: I have a real project in mind. A REAL THING that I want to DO. This is really rare for me–I like to skip from story to story like a hummingbird in flight, but I finally have something I want to sit down and concentrate on and sink my teeth into. And I cannot, cannot, cannot do that at Intelligentsia, in between apartments, on my lunch hour, with the slush pile waiting for me.

So please, fund my own personal writer’s retreat. I will let you read my memoir called Bumpkin: I Am What Not Self-Indulgent Tree Brooklyn Marquez–OH SNAP didn’t mean to let that slip–before anyone else. All for the low, low cost of $500. Don’t make me have those 20 children. Intravenously. I’m serious, Hugh.

Tupac For the Whites

Welcome to the premier episode of my new series, TUPAC FTW. As we all know, Tupac Shakur–the late rapper and incredibly good-looking member of the male species–held the White Man very dear to his heart. Never one to skimp on admiration, Tupac made a career out of praising the brilliant judicial system created by the White Man in order to punish wrongdoers, regardless of race or income level. Tupac held a deep and unshakable belief that the White Man was a loving, intelligent, advanced specimen, the culmination of centuries of technological innovation and emotional maturation, and that the White Man always acted out of the goodness of his own heart and generous, open pocketbook.

What is not so well known is that Tupac actually wrote a series of songs designed to accompany his entire musical oevre, entitled So the White Man Will Know. This West Side icon knew that the White Man, despite all his advancements, was still charmingly clueless when it came to interpreting lines like “flossin’ a Benz on rims that isn’t stolen.” And so he employed an age-old technique that the White Man has utilized since the beginning of time when presented with a conflict of interest:

He compromised. 

Here, rescued from the musty annals of time, is Tupac’s first song off So the White Man Will Know, entitled “Imagine That I am Content.” (You can listen to the original here. Oh, and you might need this.)

artist: Tupac
album: So the White Man Will Know
song: “Imagine that I am Content”

Yeah–is this camera on the right setting?
Why do you look upset, honey?
You should be happy that I got fired, now I’m free to pursue my dreams of opening up a DIY pottery shop!
Honey, you look like you wanted me to stay at that awful ad agency!

Imagine me, content in front of my $500 flatscreen TV,
I’ve got no love for my ex-coworkers, there’s no need to be friends,
They’ve got me under surveillance, they think I was using my company card on a hooker,
I know somebody was, but it wasn’t me! (Wink.)

Don’t want to be another midlife crisis,
I’m on fifteen different prescriptions for blood pressure and I think I might be anemic,
The federals want to see me dead–what do you mean, I’ve always been a “paranoid impotent bastard?”
That’s not nice!–anyway, I installed a new security system, and I feel a little better now.

Now that I’m unemployed, how will I live?
Will God–or Buddha, or Mohamed, I’m open to all religions, I’m a very spiritual person–forgive me for all the negative thoughts I let myself think about my receding hairline?
One life to live, it’s so hard to be positive,
but I just saw Lady Gaga on The Ellen Show and she said she thinks five minutes of compassionate thoughts about herself every morning, so I might try that.

Mama, I put you in an expensive rest home, the world is a war zone,
my friends got promoted and/or divorced, and most of them are still dead wrong (when they say Sharon’s having an affair)
I’m a little overweight, finally a man,
still scheming on ways to make some extra money–

Just imagine that I am content,
Driving a car with 5-star safety ratings and an affordable monthly payment plan.
My dreams are censored, my hopes are gone,
I’m like a chain smoker who notices the tax on cigarettes has been raised again. 
My nerves are a wreck, I have frequent heartburn, and my hands are swollen.
Is there medication for that?
Imagine me content.

Traumatizing Moments From My Present, Volume Four: The Devil’s Drink

If anyone is wondering why I’m campaigning hard to get Prohibition re-installed, it’s because of what happened to me two weeks ago.

I threw a little party in my spacious abode for my main gypsy betch Chelsea. It was great. It enabled me to separate my real friends from the POSERS because my real friends brought gin (elixir of life/ primary inspirational force behind Tender is the Night) and my fake friends brought disgusting beer.

Everything was fine, until I turned to the nearest dashing young man, a Burberry model, and asked (commanded?) him to make me a gin and tonic.

He agreed.

Everything was still great.


Burberry model returned, holding one of my delicate parfait glasses (thanks for the Christmas gift, Mom) filled to the brim with a golden liquid. I thought to myself, “Wow, I can smell it from across the room—he must’ve made it pretty strong.” But I didn’t protest. I took the drink.

I sipped.

MY LIFE FLASHED BEFORE MY EYES as something the equivalent of Drano scalded its way down my throat, tearing at my stomach lining and spiraling through my spinal fluids until I could only gasp through my charred, flapping jaw, “What was that?”

Burberry model only grinned.

Although my very lungs were collapsing, I whispered, “Is this a gin and tonic?”

“No,” said Burberry. “It’s a gin and tequila.”

The moral of the story is never, never accept drinks from Burberry models who have been left alone with the red wine. It’s simply not worth the ensuing supraglottic laryngectomy you’ll be forced to undergo due to the total annihilation of your mouth and throat.

Creepers and Philosophers

I wrote this post a while ago but never got around to posting it. I still love FSCOTT though! Besties 4 lyf!

Hey friends, I have some great news. I am currently the world’s foremost living expert on the life and works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here’s a list of all the Fitzgerald and Fitz memorabilia I’ve read:

Zelda, by Nancy Mitford (bio of his lovely wife)

This Side of Paradise

The Beautiful and the Damned

The Great Gatsby

Tender is the Night

The Last Tycoon

Scott Fitzgerald by Andrew Turnbull (amazing bio written by someone who knew him personally)

Everybody Was So Young (bio of the Murphys, my other life heros/the Fitzgeralds’ close friends)

The past 5 months have been consumed with my Fitzgerald obsession, as I’ve read every novel Fitzgerald wrote in chronological order, bookended by two INCREDIBLE biographies and one random bio of his friends. (I refuse to read his short stories – it’s my homage to his real genius.) I feel such an affinity for him. I mean, the man was a wreck. At a particularly boring party, he went into the kitchen and started boiling ladies’ purses in a pot of tomato sauce. And he drank like 32 beers one day. (He didn’t consider them “alcohol.” That term was reserved for GIN.) But I just love him – he was this sensitive, madly intuitive soul with all sorts of ego issues, obsessed with perpetuating his own legend, horribly depressed because his books didn’t sell, but still convinced that he was one of the best writers of his time – and look! He was!

Obviously Gatsby was his best novel by FAR, and I have a theory why, but that’s for another day. Right now I just wanted to say that Fitzgerald has been appointed guardian angel of all my life choices. Are there things in my past that I regret? Definitely. Perhaps I shouldn’t have sent that thirty-seventh angry text. Perhaps I shouldn’t have bought that tasteless camouflage miniskirt with the black netting from Wet Seal. But then I think to myself – would Fitzgerald approve of my life? Would he support my bad decisions, my mistakes, my imperfections, as someone who also made tons of bad decisions and was haunted by his own imperfections?


He would slur, “Tori, you bore me to tears! I’m going to boil your purse in a vat of tomato sauce! IS THAT MAN GAY? Why won’t you pay attention to me?”

Because Fitzgerald was obsessed with DRAMA. He was impatient for life, too impatient to sit around at a boring party and listen to people talk about their babies/careers/stressors. He threw the Murphys’ exquisite hand-blown gold-rimmed wine glasses down the mountainside because he felt instinctively that it was the right thing to do – that somehow, weirdly, those wineglasses were so beautiful that they deserved to break, that the night was so beautiful that each drink had to be sipped and then completely destroyed. He was reaching for the poetic heart of the moment by shattering all that delicate glass.

Not to say that the man wasn’t totally annoying to be around. After the wineglass incident, the Murphys banned him from their mansion for 3 weeks. HA! And he drank too much, and he was terribly, terribly unhappy once those crazy years were over.

But still, I think there’s something to be said about his zest for life – his crazy up-for-anything vibe coupled with intelligence and intuition and an intense interest in people. (I am NOT talking about the repulsive and desperate up-for-anything vibe that characterizes sorority girls and self-indulgent people and bros who are like “THIRSTY THURSDAY!!!!! YEAHHHUH.” I’m talking about something way more original and exciting. Think Gatsby’s fabulous, melancholy, intriguing parties verses Superbowl Sunday. What? Elitist? Blame my servants.) Fitzgerald would push a night or an experience to its limit – sometimes to its awful, broken limit. I’ve never seen anybody do that. But I bet most of us secretly want to do that, instead of washing our wineglasses carefully and setting them in the back of the cupboard to gather dust.

(Basically, I desperately want to live in the twenties and be best friends with Scott and Zelda and have a burning animosity toward Hemingway (I hate him so much!) and talk to Edna St. Vincent Millay while she’s drunk/on morphine and go to parties at the Murphys’ and swim off the coast of France with pearls on.)