Archive for January, 2007

My Ex: “A Couple of Times”

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Read more reader stories about exes.

Sharon Fishfeld is the co-editor of Smyles & Fish, available in many forms and functions.

Have you ever seen those couples who look so unbelievably, so shockingly, so fuckingly sad? Not in the way that implies they’re unhappy or frustrated or even unfulfilled with one another. But more in that way that resembles a heavy mood dripping down the both—the jointed—of them, from top to bottom, in to out. As if they are mourning the birth of the great true love they are right in the middle of. They are so close and so on, and so on, they just can’t stand it anymore.

Their eyes are red with tears of self-congratulation.

Do you ever see them when you’re walking along—just you. Maybe you’re returning home the morning after what finally proved itself as a one-night stand, or you’re on your way to work, or you’ve just had your heart shredded only a week before and it gets weak at any sign of perforation. I don’t know what state you’re in, but you’re not in their state—not right exactly then, of course, because you’re walking alone—but also because you’re in a general point of “alone-ness” in your life. Maybe you’re dating. Maybe you’re dating but don’t even want to be, but certainly, despite how many sticks in the oven, or logs on the fire, you are not connected or attached or lovey or dovey with any of these logs of late.


It’s too early in the day for this, you think, as you approach their morosity on a neighborhood park bench, her head collapsed on his shoulder, her eyes peering around wide for their audience or admirers or—such as you—the innocently inevitable passersby. They’re hugging and kissing and obviously tender with each other so what could possibly be so wrong that they look two swipes away from slash-wristed double suicide?

They’re grasped tight. They’re young. It’s not that they’re resisting commitment to someone, that they hadn’t expected or wanted to do that. It really does not appear so. Even if anything had been unexpected between them, they’ve still embraced it all, as they now do each other, as if a tidal wave were approaching. You, you’d get carried off alone, you think, if it came in, and in some cases that might be better, you may be at an advantage not having another soul anchoring you down.

You approach them, adjust your skirt or tie or pants. Think about pulling out your phone. Any fidget to distract. You have other things going on besides passing them by, or feeling something for them. The sadness! Their sadness! But why?

They are caving the entire sidewalk in with their weight of reciprocal love.
“Is it so terrible that you’ve found each other?” You want to hiss at them; snap your jaw and be on your singular way.

Was it that the challenge or the hunt was over and they were comforting each other as they came down from prior highs of the dating scene and were now accepting their plateaud fate of future togetherness? “Yeah, doesn’t it just suck when you like realize you’re never gonna date again?” you think to quip at them—in that way, with that cadence that means you’re intending to communicate the exact opposite of what you’re saying. Because in truth you feel nothing for them, except nothing. Including frustration at the gloating gall of it all. Go droop on someone else’s time. You two look close enough, and even happy enough, to me. You’ve concluded and you continue on.

Then—there you are on another day, sitting in the park with your last love. You meet up on a sunny day, on a blanket on the ground, for conversation and books; it had been months and you were finally both ready to be around each other again, in theory. As the sun moves its way along the water, reflecting on alternating ripples, your bodies get closer to each other on the blanket, how it used to be in the park. Your body can’t help but smell familiarity, and is drawn. Drawn in close with a push and pull. Drawn on the page like some pre-determined event in your fated life. Drawn on your palm like a life line. All of a sudden your palm is pressed onto his back and his hand (or is it her hand?) is rubbing your hair and the space of skin behind your ear. You’re laying next to each other, closer and closer, your eyes meeting and darting away and daring to return for another look. Pins and needles thread their way through your heart and body; it’s unbelievable that here you are, back here, back in a gaze. It’s passing, it’s recollection. You’re both big enough to understand that. Still, of course, there is the fact of history, the fact of attraction and potential. It’s more than you’d thought you’d bare on this blanket, on this sunny day.

Everything feels weighted and keeps you close to the ground. Your eyes on him, your eyes to the grass, your eyes to the water, your eyes that pass over one person or another. Eyes wide and watery, floating in confusion. Regret, sadness, grief of this lost love. Did you just not get a good grip on it? What if you wore gloves next time? You know, the kind with the grooves in them? But are you really contemplating a “next time” together? Just because the sun is hitting just right and your hands feel just right as they rub and scratch and knead and need and apologize that they couldn’t have done more to keep you two together.

It’s relieving and frightening and comforting and depressing to be around each other, so close, your legs around his legs.


And as a stranger walks by, and your eyes speak only exactly what you are going through in that moment on the blanket in the neighborhood park, when it must look like you are a couple snuggling in love, you wonder now whether this is what you’ve been bumping into when you have been the stranger, walking alone. Are you in fact encountering non-couples, past-couples, re-couples, two-somes reconsidering their end, revisiting their feelings towards one other?

Is this who everyone is? Because this is who you are now. And you can’t pipe in and clarify to the passing stranger who’s just noticed your ridiculous, begging eyes: “No, you don’t understand, we’re not together, we don’t work together, we tried, believe me we tried, we really wanted it to work out, and for so many reasons, but it just…it just never got there, we couldn’t ever figure it out either. Strange because we care for each other, are attracted to each other, admire each other. Believe me, we tried. This is not us trying again, either, by the way, this is just us in the park, after a pause after the defeat. This, this is not what it looks like. This actually is sadness.”

And the passing stranger would think, and maybe even say, “Look, whatever it is, you’re on a blanket with someone who’s touching you. Touching your hair, and your heart.” They might sigh right there, and continue. “It may be fleeting, it may be recollective, it may be confused sensory memories. It may be loneliness. It may even be rebirth—though you two seem pretty adamant to the contrary—but whatever it does amount to, is it not to be cherished? Is it not more than what I have at the same exact moment in time? This moment. Right now. Human love is yours right now, even if only right now, but right now. You’re in the middle of living it.

So, honestly, don’t even tell me, because I’m leaving, and I don’t care, but take the time to ask yourself if you can: Why is it that you have to look out, look around, and look so sad?

“A Dream” by Common

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Katrina Corps: Spring Break ‘07

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Thousands of the families whose lives and life stories were siezed and shaken violently by Hurricane Katrina are still waiting to go back home. House rebuilding hasn’t proceeded as katrina.jpgquickly as it should have. A new grassroots group called Katrina Corps aims to do something to change that by sending 25,000 college-aged people to New Orleans during spring ‘07, to gut 5,000 of the 10,000 houses that are wait-listed for it.

The project is in start-up mode now; their place-holder web page, with a prospectus and an email address to write to for more information, is here.

Right now, the project can benefit from emailing, blogging, and general spreading the word: ultimately the organizers look forward to the challenge, and the pleasure, of “recruiting people open to both an adventure and a down-and-dirty task.”

Bye, Bob

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

robert anton wilson

I don’t want to get a rep for being the deathwatch guy around here, but another great storyteller has closed his book and said goodnight.

Robert Anton Wilson, author of this and this and this and this (!) and this and this and this and much, much, more, is gone.

Tug his beard and say farewell.

Shrinks Get All the Good Stories

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

julavits-1.jpgOver at The Morning News, Robert Birnbaum has an extended interview with Believer editor and novelist Heidi Julavits, about therapy and her book The Uses of Enchantment.

In the conversation, Julavits opines that therapy is the premier locus for storytelling (at least when it comes to stories about ourselves) in the modern age. She says that The Uses of Enchantment grew, for her, out of

…the intersection for me of psychoanalysis or therapy as it’s usually practiced and story telling. And how to me that act of going to therapy has become our mode of oral story telling. But I also think that mode—as much as you are hearkening back to these old story templates, and you make yourself—you are the bedraggled Cinderella heroine who is being mistreated by everyone but you emerge in the end victorious and I feel as though it’s obviously a very hermetic experience now. It’s not as at all this cultural sharing kind of thing, so that we do kind of all walk around with our own kind of story bubble, you know?

RB: Because it’s been superseded by other kinds of self-help strategies and gimmicks?

HJ: More I mean the act of entertaining somebody with a story that used to be a story that had to have deep cultural significance and everybody could relate to, and now it’s just a story about you.

So we tell stories about ourselves to our therapists (and, I’d argue, to our friends and intimates) all the time–to the exclusion, Julavits argues, of broader narratives. All our stories are personal stories, now, she says. And none of them are universal?

Are there any grand narratives that still apply, culture-wide? Or just a million voices stammering similar but ultimately disparate tales into the ears of a million kindly, well-paid listeners?

Celebutard Sex Videos

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

This week’s question:

From Rummy to Regan, the times are a-changin’. Work, love, or life –Tell us about a time you knew you it was over…

Next week’s question:
With this week’s controversial cell-phone footage, YouTube officially offers everything from birth to death. What three minutes of your life would you like to upload and watch again and again?

Your answer goes here (in 100 words or less, please). We’ll post our favorites on the front page of SMITH.

Obits: “The Man Who Lived On Ramen”

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

69279317_5464e0a117.jpgAt SMITH we have a healthy obsession for obituaries, the final story in a person’s life. Now mash that up with our passion for telling stories in six words, and you can imagine what comes next. I’ve been reading long obits lately and rethinking them as six-word memoirs for the dead. Today I read about the life of Momofuku Ando—you know, the man who invented instant ramen. Sure, we’ve all claimed to “live on ramen.” But Momofuku Ando actually did. And thus with much respect, we offer this six-word memoir to a man who did more for diets than Dr. Atkins: “The man who lived on ramen.”

Ramen>>Flickr>>Creative Common>>SenorAnderson

One Story

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

246769798_a88bb528ba.jpgHappy National Smith Day! Nope, we didn’t make it up, but we love it, one reason why we chose January 6, 2006 to launch SMITH Magazine online. Today we are one.

Here’s a quick story about turning one. One of my favorite people in the world is my niece Rachel, now a self-declared big girl of three. While I’m on record as skipping baby birthday parties, I always try to get to the first one—it’s just kind of a big deal. Before everyone arrived at her fete, Rachel took the opportunity to take a quick nap. I headed over a little early and I spied my seriously unsentimental (and seriously tired) brother-in-law peering into his third child’s crib. “You’re one,” he thought aloud. It was a quietly awesome scene to witness.

It’s been a terrific year, one made possible by the brilliant and patient volunteer edit staff my partner-in- SMITH Tim Barkow and I have been so lucky to work with. They, and of all you who make SMITH stronger with each story you tell, fuel this magazine. That’s why my story right now can be told in one word: thanks.

TwelfthNightColSanders.jpgRight now I’m in New Orleans with Josh Neufeld. Always an intense and amazing place, we arrived on what’s called Twelfth Night (the official start of the Carnival season) and in the the middle of a crime wave. We’re here to do interviews with a few brave people who survived Hurricane Katrina and who have graciously agreed to be part in our new webcomic. I can’t think of bigger, better story to tell in a way that’s at the heart and soul of SMITH’s mission: better media, not more media, made in interesting ways. A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge, debuts on Monday.

We’ll toast A.D., and our first anniversary, on January 17 at Sutra Lounge in New York City. The party starts at 7:30pm. The price of admission is your story in the form of a six-word memoir. Hope you can make it. And hope you’ll keep coming back to SMITH and sending in your stories. Everyone has story, after all. That’s why we’re here. We’re glad you are, too.

Grimsby bulldog>>Flickr>>Creative Commons>>bulldog1

Oh, Thank God

Friday, January 5th, 2007

YouTube is back up. Yayyyyy! Yayyyy! Feel the excitement, people.

So why did I pick this next video, you ask? Why would you, Alex, pick a parody of Lonelygirl15? Are you still bitter?

Yes. Yes, I am. And also, I found this funny, in a totally disturbing way.

YouTube is On Vacation

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Dear fans of the Friday video:
Please, be patient with me — YouTube appears to be down today. But never fear; if the site remains unusable I’ll fill the hole in your hearts left by this fun ritual with a lengthy, boring diatribe on a recent failure of citizen journalism. And won’t that be fun?

SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.