What is a Friend?

Did a traumatic experience ruin the meaning of a friend for me? 


In the the second grade, I lost my first best friend. He didn’t die or anything, I just found out he had other friends. They hung out together after school and on weekends; I never got invited. Granted, I lived half an hour away from the town I went to school in, so I guess it would’ve been burdensome for my parents to drive me all the way out just to hang out with friends for a few hours. 

This was my first heartbreak. 

I still don’t know what a true friend is because I put that word on such a high pedestal. I can’t trust people. I learned that friends aren’t really like the ones you see on tv. This over exaggeration of tight knit, close bonding ruined the meaning of friends for me. 

I don’t think I have friends. 

Just associates. 

People I talk to. 

Everyone else in my family has friends. Like true friends. And it makes me jealous. I wonder why I don’t have friends like them. I wonder if I’m the problem. My selfishness, my ego, my stubbornness, my lack of openness causes this lack of “friends.”

My sister is still friends with people she met in high school, college, even elementary school. Her maid of honor is her best friend of over twenty years. 

Where’s my long-term friend?…. Oh yeah, I lost him I second grade. 

I can’t trust people. 

I’m still talk to some of the people I met in high school. We’ve been cool for almost eight years now. But do I consider them my friend? I’m their friend apparently, but I don’t feel like one. 

I feel like the word friend, the construct of the friend just gets thrown around. 

I think I value its meaning too much. I look too into it. I look at everyone else in my family and see how close they are with their friends—it makes jealous. 

I didn’t really value the people I talked to growing up, but overvalued my family.

“Friends come and go” I said “But family is always there.”

The biggest lie. 

Unfortunately, family isn’t always there for you. Your cousins aren’t always there for you. Your parents aren’t always there for you. Your sister isn’t always there for you. 

You need friends, but I don’t know if I have any—I think I’m the problem. 


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Instructions for Tuesday

We’ll do some work in groups tomorrow.
We’ll convene on Google Meets to begin. Ariel can tell us a little bit about why he chose the Dessa chapter. Then you’ll convene in your groups for a chat. You can do this by texting each other, Google chat, whatever you decide as a group. See he descriptions below for each group’s task. You should scan or re-read the chapter to mark moments to discuss in your groups. 
Then we’ll reconvene and each group will walk us through Dessa’s writing from the particular angle of the work they did in their chat. If you want, you can cut and paste moments from your chat into the group chat. Totally optional.
Here are the groups:
Part 1
Ariel, Ra, Lucy
What are Dessa’s tendencies when it comes to sentence patterns and structures? How much do her sentence patterns vary? What effects does she use certain patterns to achieve? How does she use sentence patterns to build her voice or persona?  What are a couple of good examples to show this?
Salazar, Catherine, Matt
How does Dessa orchestrate the interplay of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs? Do you notice any patterns with particular parts of speech? What’s the relative frequency of each part of speech? Does she do anything surprising with particular parts of speech? How might all this hep her build her voice?
Cordelia, Nick, Jen, Sarah
How do Dessa’s descriptions of the physical world tend to work? How do they help her build her voice or persona? How does she portray her relation the physical world?
Part 2: For all groups
I put a translator in each group. It would be interesting if each group picked out a moment that would pose an interesting translation problem. How might you approach the problem? If there are people in the group who are fluent enough in other languages to compare how the problem might be handled from one language to another, you might go there too. Basically, have a group discussion about the question and see what emerges. Then be ready, as a group, to fill the rest of us in.
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Musings on Dessa’s “Lights From Above”

Dessa is cooler than cool. I listened to a lot of Atmosphere way back when and when Doomtree started doing stuff with Rhymesayers, I remember hearing about her and now I feel like I’ve been missing it because I never got into her. Here are some specific lines from “Lights from Above” and tangential thoughts.

“Purposeful might be my favorite feeling—even better than happiness (p. 52).” There is something about purposefulness that is transcendent, that propels us through all sorts of situations, that almost saves us from ourselves in a way. Three and a half weeks ago, when my surrogate mother died in nearly exactly the same way my own mother died almost a decade ago, I couldn’t fall apart as I had then. And it was purpose that carried me through it. To work with the doctors, the hospital, the rabbi, the burial society, and the consulate, ensuring that her body arrived in Israel so that she could be interred before shabbat at a funeral attended only by her son, his wife, and a handful of cousins who live there (since Israel was already prohibiting non-citizens from entering the country due to the global pandemic). It was purpose that kept me in one piece.

“She is illegally beautiful (p. 54).” Isn’t it something how the pickup line about how it should be illegal to look so good is laughable but when Dessa writes this line it is seductive and viscerally convincing? It isn’t absurd and hilarious to the reader, instead it makes the reader think of the sexiest, most attractive woman they can imagine and then think that the blonde on stage is still somehow probably better looking than that.

“It’s impossible to know which moments are crucial to your narrative until the story is over. The character you now know as the leading man might, in the final draft, be referred to only as the First Husband. That week of stomach flu is actually morning sickness—a minor subplot, because you never find out you’re pregnant, and miscarry only three days later. The opera funding will fall through in the next round of budget cuts and you will be back playing nightly gigs in midsize venues, struggling to pull the sail of your ambition up the mast of your career (p. 55).” It’s remarkable how she subtly shares so much of herself with the reader while teaching generally about narrative by walking them through what may or may not be important in her story. And what of the miscarriage? It’s a curious line. Particularly because she says, “you never find out you’re pregnant.” But it can’t be never ever ever if she’s commenting on it, right?

“With famous men, one risks of being cast as Zelda (p. 56).” Oh, Zelda. She is so easily forgotten. Scott used her diary entries verbatim in his work, she was blamed for his failures by Hemingway, and this is to say nothing of her mental illness. Dessa fears being a footnote, as she calls it, in her relationships with men of mention, though from where I sit this seems impossible and rather, I think any man in a relationship with Dessa would certainly be the Zelda.

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Love as a drawing

I’ve been struggling with my synesthesia sort of fading out these last couple of weeks and seeing things in one dimension for the first time in my life. But this drawing comes from a small snippet I wrote about how love feels for me, something I wrote in early March before the world around us changed. I’m an abstract artist so concrete work isn’t my thing- please don’t judge! ;D

Love is freshly baked pan right out of the oven. The flavor of it like a loaf split open, piping hot but too tempting not to delve into despite the threat of quemazón. Scalding but never burns.


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Computer Life

<– full disclosure, this is going to double up as comics homework! I am still learning how to make a comic. Nick on the other hand made a work of art for our class last night, which inspired me to do better.


Reflections on Ellen Forney’s Visual Voice: Depression Explained/Mania too?

Eighteen: the number years ago I sunk into my first major depressive episode; the age I was when it happened; the average number of hours I slept each day.

Depression is an impossible force. And if you haven’t been there, it is hard to really know the weight of it. Ellen Forney gets you close on page 77. That is, more or less, the exact pattern of movement that I cycle through in a depressive episode.

I have never experienced mania of any kind. My only insights are limited to stories of people I know or love going on manic benders or case studies from the brief stint I did in graduate school studying clinical psychology. But Forney’s visual articulation of depression sent my gut into the past. So her depiction of mania must do the same for others, no? As an outsider, as a reader, I felt like she brought me into the fold – particularly at the outset of chapter 3.

On page 49, in panels 2, 3, and 4, the way she draws herself and the evolution of her thought process is dizzying. Her words begin with some semblance of organization in 2, grow larger in 3, and then are written in a circle in 4. She begins with a “normal” drawing of herself in 2 (seated in the chair in Karen’s office), then a zoom in to her floating head with starred eyes and an exaggerated expression in 3, onto full-fledged cartoonish crazy in 4.

Then, in the panel that spans across the next two pages (50-51) Forney throws all signs of mania into a single image: she’s wired, energetic, with pressured speech and racing thoughts, and everything is exaggerated – her arms and legs are cartoonish in length and shape, propelling her through her manic episode and her interconnected tangential web of thoughts.

And finally, on the next panel across pages 52-53, Forney draws an inhuman version of herself – a beautiful monster of sorts, just a head with beaming eyes alive with electricity and eight arms that extend into all of the elements of her extravagant, self-driven party.

This isn’t to say now that I’ve read this I “get” mania. But I feel closer to it.

Separate from the blog directive, but worthwhile, I think: On page 123, Forney explores the value of pain as inspiration for art and even goes so far as to call pain boring. It reminded me of something I read in the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin that has followed me around: “The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.” There’s something to this.

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I drew a feeling.

Do I say anything? I’m more interested in what this might invoke in the viewer.

But I guess I can say: loneliness. fear. ambiguity of whether those people on the outside are other versions of the one on the inside, or different people altogether (I know the image is fuzzy, so fyi those little black things are stick figures).

(Sorry it’s so tiny and underlit, and out of focus…and quickly conceived…but time these days, man, time)

drawing of a feeling_LaSota
by Catherine LaSota