Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Curlicue Chronicles has moved.

Curlicue Chronicles has moved to Wordpress.

I hope you'll consider moving too. And perhaps signing up for email alerts.

My latest essay, a short one, is about meeting the legendary Smokin' Joe Frazier. A girlhood dream. Perhaps a strange girlhood dream. But there you have it.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Performance by Arachne Aerial Arts 
She and I stand on the sidewalk in front of my Washington, DC apartment talking briefly as she drops off her daughter. She is Sharon Witting, the co-director of Arachne Aerial Arts and she's going to work.

"Thanks for watching her. The warehouse where I'm rehearsing is filled with sharp metal shavings."

I hate when that happens.

No worries, I reassure her. Company for my son means I can get more done. Sometimes two are better than one.

Sharon's daughter is an only child like my son. And like some singletons (a word I learned from Parents magazine) he occasionally asks for a sibling. I get that. What I don't get is when other parents ask, not if, but when I'm having a second child. What if I can't? What if I won't?

I'm surprised to learn that people plan such things as siblings. The whole concept of sibling math is new to me. If so-and-so is two years old, we should have so-and-so in less than three years but no more than five. 

But this is coming from a woman who is also shocked to learn that some little girls, and some not so little girls, dream of their future wedding. Complete with tear sheets and story boards. I've never been much of a planner.

Sharon's advice, though, is spot on. Get a cat. Hell, get two. This satisfied her daughter's craving for a playmate.

"What he doesn't realize," she adds, nodding in my son's general direction, "is that you're not going to pop out a 5-year old brother for him to play with."

Sharon Witting and Andrea Burkholder (Photo by Enoch Chan)
As she drives away, I'm still laughing at the the image of birthing a 5-year old boy for my son with a complementary demeanor he'll find agreeable and toys that he doesn't already have.

The laughter then turns to abdominal cramping. And I wonder where I could put a litter box. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Oh No He Didn't

David Sedaris 2007

"You should read David Sedaris. You'll love him." That's what one of the Wenches said to me recently at our monthly W.E.N.C.H. meeting in Washington, DC where I live.

(W.E.N.C.H., a professional woman's group I founded, stands for Women Exploring New Career Hemispheres. I wanted to name it Careers Undergoing New Transformation, but the ladies voted that one down.)

So I did just that. I read three of his essay collections and loved them. Funny. Self-deprecating. Dark. All things I love. I began imagining that with practice, focus, and the proper amount of childcare, maybe one day I could be a humorist writer like Sedaris. Except with boobs. And hair.

I start researching his agent because that's what Betsy Lerner, in her book The Forest for the Trees, recommends as a smart first step. After I type "David Sedaris" in Yahoo, the first hit is not his representation information, but rather  "Chicken Toenails, anyone?", an article he published on July 15 in the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The article floors me. It's not his usual hysterical account of Life as David. It's a mean, scathing diatribe of his recent visit to China with not a trace of the self-deprecation for which he's so famed. No disclaimers of any sort. He just drones on and on about the lack of sanitary conditions and the poor quality of food, sounding like a hoity toity bitch. And I don't call just anyone hoity toity.

Maybe I fell in love with Sedaris too quickly and now I'm seeing him in the morning with bad breath,  scratching himself through dirty, worn boxer shorts.

I fell in love with China too. But that took much longer. It's where I lived for several years, the first half of my 20s to be exact. It's where I got one of my degrees, making me the first Westerner to graduate from Henan University. It's where I became Kaifeng's Beer Girl with television ads and everything.

View from my beloved tiny, humble, concrete room at Henan Univeristy, Kaifeng, China. 

I won't go in for a tit-for-tat. Not here anyway. Jeff Yang, in his follow-up article "David Sedaris talks ugly about China" published in the San Francisco Chronicle, does a better job than I could. And he's Chinese.

I'm just wondering what happened. Was it the typical you-become-famous-and-turn-your-venom-outward syndrome? Sedaris, in his secluded fame bubble, should remember his own recipe for success. Direct the venom where it belongs, at himself.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Surviving a heat wave. Or a dirty bomb.

Heat wave hits Washington, DC. Temperatures to reach 103 degrees.

But my apartment is cool. And shady. Mainly because my husband is a master of something he calls, Shade Management. He is so serious about this concept that as I type, he's on the roof blocking our skylight with a blue camping tarp. My son squeals with joy "It's blue in here! Can we leave it like this forever?"

I'm not exaggerating.
Until the heat breaks, I will be living in a bunker-like fortress with a hodgepodge of makeshift window treatments giving my home a certain crack house chic. Or perhaps meth lab circa 1990s. I'll have to ask my decorator friend.

Naked windows let in the view. And the scorching sun. So, he's taped cardboard to one, clipped a beach towel over another and, in the kitchen, stapled one of my favorite sheets to the wall, promising that he didn't put a hole in it. And here I've been living foolishly under the impression that making a hole is integral to the stapling process.

He also rigged the floor ducts with pencils and books to redirect cold air away from the windows where it immediately gets sucked out and burned to a crisp. They look like a snares for trapping small woodland creatures should the take-out grid go down. Which is exactly why I'm a loyal viewer of Dual Survivor. They cover things like that.

Some would complain. But actually, it inspires the survivalist in me.   

Wind-up flashlight? Check. Canned tuna? Lots. Can opener? Got it. (You need only have that nightmare once.) Plenty of candles, bottled water and Zip Car on my speed dial should my attempts at hot wiring an escape vehicle fail.

I go into survival mode very quickly. And becoming a mother has only quickened my response time.

When a tornado warning threatened DC, I packed emergency food supplies before the first raindrop fell. Actually, I was still breast feeding at the time and therefore a Survival Goddess. Not only would I be able to feed my son without modern technologies, but I could also treat wounds because breast milk acts as a topical antiseptic. When choosing teams in a game of Judgement Day, always pick the nursing woman.

So, as much as my aesthetics are assailed by all the barricading, I kind of enjoy temporarily living in a shit-just-hit-the-fan film. As long as it's not the quiet, apocalyptic delight Right at Your Door because nothing goes as expected in that one. Although, I do recommend it. 

And of all the decorating styles out there, Modern Armageddon isn't so bad. The only thing I'm missing is a bad-ass costume which seems to be a necessity when all systems break down.

Though, as great as this full-length leather trench would be for looting a grocery store of all non-perishables while evading armed foreign interlopers, it could be a little hot in a heat wave.