Flare and Fade

Give me five minutes of your time

Rebecca Brink

So, in the next few days/weeks I know my blog is going to be getting more traffic for various reasons, and I want to be a little opportunistic and ask you for some help but I promise it's not for me, it's for a clinic that is extremely worthy.

I'm running in the Chicago Marathon this October on behalf of Advocate Hospitals, and specifically on behalf of Advocate Illinois Masonic Behavioral Health. Before Emanuel closed 50 of the Chicago public schools last year (disproportionately affecting black students, BTW), he closed half of the city's publicly-funded mental health clinics. Mental health services in the city of Chicago are poorly-funded to begin with, and it's extremely difficult to find quality comprehensive mental health care if you're a low-income patient.

Advocate Illinois Masonic Behavioral Health is a privately-run clinic that serves low-income patients almost exclusively. They do terrific work; their patients are accountable and consistent, their counselors are top-notch, there are psychiatrists available for each patient, they have some of the best group therapy resources available in the city, and maybe closest of all to my heart, they have fantastic trauma recovery services, particularly for women. If you read my work on The Frisky, you know how much I care about helping women who have been raped, assaulted, abused, and/or otherwise isolated. Quality mental healthcare can be difficult for women to access, particularly if they have recently left an abusive situation and are now economically independent, and a lack of good mental healthcare resources can be what keeps women in abusive relationships.

That being said, I'm going to ask you to donate anything you can to my fundraising page for the marathon. Every cent you donate goes to Masonic Behavioral Health, and I am so, so proud to run for them. My fundraising goal is $1500 but I would love to smash and exceed that goal. The option to enter whatever amount you want is at the bottom of the suggested donation list, so if you can't afford more than a few dollars, please don't be turned away. Every penny counts and will go to good use.

Click here to go to my fundraising page, and thank you in advance!

Books and bros

Rebecca Brink

I made a point on a white-male-dominated literature forum that a poster's list of necessary works to read if you're going to be taken seriously as a writer was white-male-dominated (The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, 1984, Lolita, you get the point), and that it implied that women and POC don't write works of literature that are "necessary" to read, which is racist.  The reaction I got was that I was being racist to whites and dismissive of men.

So, OK, here's the first thing. "Racism" doesn't mean, like, "dislike." It doesn't mean "dismiss." It means that white people have been able to keep people of color out of power for a long, long time. It means that white people have been able to keep access to power away from POC for a long, long time. There is no such thing as reverse racism, because POC do not have the power necessary to do the same thing to white people. When someone excludes whites, it doesn't affect the fact that white people hold power. There is no such thing as reverse racism, because there is no system by which white people are disenfranchised in any viable way.

Second, the implication that by suggesting that women and POC have also made great works of literature, I was "dismissing" white guys, is precisely the problem with white guy rhetoric. There's this false sense of victimhood, a feeling that as a white guy they've lost power by someone suggesting that other people are worthy of respect. No, white guy, you have not. I never said that literature by white men was lesser, I said that literature by anyone else should be considered as greater than the original list implied.

White guys: Power and respect are abstractions, and in that that's the case, they are not finite. Let go. Share. It's OK, you'll be fine.

Brevity is becoming

Rebecca Brink

I got into a short "debate" on Facebook that wound up with someone saying that they had been misunderstood.  When I pointed out that it was their poor choice of words that led to the misunderstanding, they replied with a three-paragraph comment.  I replied, "TL;DR."

That's "too long; didn't read" for anyone who was about to go Google it.  I'm sure some people feel like it's important that every single masturbatory word that comes out of their mouths (or fingers) be listened to and they'd be upset to get this reaction.  His was "SMH," which means "shaking my head," which, ironically, conveyed his meaning better and more succinctly than anything else he had written in the thread.

I try to operate on four-sentences-or-less for my casual Facebook comments.  That being said, I just posted one that was, oh, maybe eight.  It was a serious discussion in which more fleshed-out opinions were being welcomed.  All the same, I got to the damn point, and communicated three ideas in the course of eight sentences.

When I was in high school, we were taught to make our essays shorter, which I know is not something that generally happens in high school.  My teachers said that Thoreau was a fantastic example of brevity.  I beg to differ; I wrote my undergrad thesis on Walden.  I would say that Kurt Vonnegut is a better example of what you can do with fewer words.  When I got to college and there were word minimums, I didn't know what to do except to fill out the extra space with more data (therefore my neurosis about including and citing data).  That makes for a good argument, though.  Have a clear and concise assertion and back it up with lots of data.  Fantastic.

When you spew out words and words and words, the likeliest thing to happen is that your meaning will be lost.  State what you mean and don't over-explain.  It's boring to read through tomes of people's feelings and opinions.  I know people don't like hearing that, but really, most of the thinking we do is completely unoriginal. 

Am I on too much of a roll with the "humility" kick?  Really, in my experience, most bad writing comes from thinking too much of yourself and the worth or originality of your ideas.

Deductive reasoning is the only type of reasoning I'll accept

Rebecca Brink

As Sherlock Holmes says, "It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence."

Deductive reasoning is when you make an argument based on the best available evidence.  Inductive reasoning is when you gather evidence to support your hypothesis.  I feel like high schools make the mistake of telling you you have to make a hypothesis and then do research; that is bad reasoning, bad arguing, bad writing.

It works in science because the idea is that you have some familiarity with the field and can make an educated guess as to the behavior of whatever set of principles or matter or whatever you're studying.  In addition, there are plenty of laws and theories already in place that have been thoroughly tested upon which you can base your hypothesis.  The expectation after you make a hypothesis is that you test the hypothesis, and if your hypothesis fails, you must change your hypothesis and test again.  It's a very humble process.

It doesn't work this way in the humanities.  Because so much of the humanities is subjective and abstract, you could posit literally any opinion and find evidence to support it, even from reputable sources - say, if you took a quote out of context.  The humanities are wide-open.  You can finagle a lot of things to make it seem like you're right.

What does "right" mean in the humanities?  To me, it means the clearest and simplest possible identification of patterns that exist throughout the totality of the best possible work on the subject.  In other words, I will believe you're right if you can demonstrate to me that you've done a lot of reading and a lot of research, paid close attention to your documents, and instead of desperately trying to piece together the truth that you want to have exist, you identify the common points in all of the documents you have and provide a logical interpretation of those common points.

That's deductive reasoning.  You pick a topic, you read all the work you can get your hands on about that topic, and you base your conclusions on the best available scholarship (scholarship not merely meaning scholarly journals, etc., but also popular books, magazine articles, news articles, and so on).

We treat the humanities as if they're supposed to be a source of personal expression.  They are not.  That's unfair to the work that's been done in the humanities.  That's unfair to the artworks, human experiences, music, philosophy, and books that we study.  We owe great things our intellectual rigor.  We owe it to the things we care deeply about the care deeply enough about them to treat them with intellectual respect.

This is why I'm neurotic about citing sources.  If I don't cite sources, it's because either I'm stating common knowledge (i.e. the info on reasoning in this blog post, you can look this shit up all over the place) or I'm stating an informed opinion.  I don't write about things about which I am only mildly informed; for example, I have opinions about the way our culture has treated black hair, but I'm not going to share them because I am neither read up enough nor, more importantly, culturally close enough to the topic.

Sharing your experiences is a different story, of course.  Telling people about something that happened to you is providing evidence, not making an argument (unless you're using your experience as anecdotal evidence, with the caveat, of course, that it is merely anecdotal although maybe part of a trend you've noticed, etc.).  But when you're making an argument, make sure you have sources handy.  Make sure you can back it up.  I hate hate hate bad arguments, and they are almost always inductive.

Listen up, guys

Rebecca Brink

Ugh, why does ANYONE publish a headline that starts with "listen up"? It's commanding, it's rude, it presumes that the speaker has such interesting things to say that everyone ought to listen when usually the phrase "listen up" is a precursor to a lot of unimportant opining over something trivial.  No one says "Listen up, we found the cure for cancer," they say things like "Listen up, you can still feel like a princess."  Barf barf barf.

So Here's a Thing I Hate: Comment Sections

So Here's a Thing I HateRebecca Brink

I've decided to make regular sorts of posts/regular posts in general!  OK!  This is the first of a series called So Here's a Thing I Hate, because there are things that deserve critique in the way we talk and write in our culture.

I tend to be on Donald Judd's side when it comes to talking about things you don't really know about.  He said:

The majority of the society, as the descendants of peasants, brand new people who remember little, has had to be educated. There were not enough educated people to do this; the group was originally very small. As they taught their much more numerous successors, the level couldn’t be maintained, until finally only bare information was taught, if science, and academic nonsense, if the arts... The opposition can’t be an institution but must be lots of diverse and educated people arguing and objecting. These people must have real knowledge and judgment and they must have an influence upon the less educated majority.”
— Donald Judd, '...not about masterpieces but about why there are so few of them.' Art in America, New York, September 1984.

In other, less elegant words, if we're to create great cultural works or even have coherent conversations, the people who know what they're talking about must be allowed to speak in the role of teaching and influence.  Implicitly, then, people who don't know what they're talking about have an imperative to learn.  To listen, and to ask questions, but not to speak with an air of authority, and not to be granted validation merely because they have an opinion.

I understand that this is borderline-elitist if not just elitist, especially in the context in which we live, one in which women and people of color and various other marginalized groups are left out of academia.  But if you broaden Judd's point, there's no reason to say we're only talking about academia, first of all, and second of all, I'd like to imagine this system in an ideal world where everyone is given the same respect.

Back to the point: I hate comment sections because more often than not, they serve as a jumping board for poorly-formed opinions that are built on a shaky foundation of knowledge on a topic.  And everyone is given equal authority despite that not everyone actually has the command of knowledge or depth of background work done to speak with authority on a subject.  When you go down that path, you wind up in the territory of trolls and stalkers.  It's a generalization but it tends to be the case.  Look at what happened in the comment section of an article about how to make a rainbow cake.

We tend toward mob mentality and anonymity only makes it easier to mob up in comment sections, because you don't have to attach your face to your stupid ideas or someone else's stupid ideas, you don't have to explain your thinking, you're not held accountable.  Inasmuch as that's the case, I hate anonymity too.  Anonymity is cowardice except when you're speaking truth to power.  Speaking vitriole to writers and artists and people with different opinions than you isn't the same thing as whistleblowing, although I'm sure compulsive commenters would think otherwise.  If you can't hook your name to your opinions and ideas, you're just trying to insulate yourself from the bad reputation you're willfully creating for yourself by spouting off ideas without doing the hard work of research and composition and editing first.

If someone wanted to talk to me about the quality of my ideas, there are about a million ways to get a hold of me because it's clear who I am.  I'm willing to present my ideas publicly because I'm proud to publish the ideas that I do and use them to create a positive public reputation.

When was the last time you saw a comment section that had respectful, well-informed debate?  When was the last time you saw a comment section that demonstrated that the commenters had really read the article and considered it before posting a response?  I think a lot of people cry "free speech!" about comment sections, but this is a venue for speech that we didn't even have twenty years ago.  It's not necessary for our daily lives and it's almost never a good place to find productive speech, although it's frequently a good place to find harassment.  If you have to voice your opinion, start a damn blog.  Let the quality of your ideas or of your delivery determine your audience, don't coattail on someone else's audience.

That's why I turn all the comments off here.  I don't have a choice elsewhere, which sucks, but I do have a choice here.  So I'd ask for you to leave your thoughts, but I guess instead just think on it, and if you have respectful feedback, you know where to find me.


Rebecca Brink

I love the analytics that I get on this publishing platform but seriously, who is subscribing to my RSS feed?  That's crazy.  Some of you want to know when I post something new on my blog (on the rare occasions I do).  Well hi.  Do you have me in your Feedly?  God, I feel like now I have to post more regularly.  PRESSURE'S ON, THERE ARE SIX PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD WHO REALLY WANT TO HEAR ME SAY STUFF THAT I DON'T SAY IN OTHER PLACES

I am still a bad, bad blogger

Rebecca Brink

Ugh I said in my last post that I'd write more often and I have failed to live up to that promise GAHD GUISE STOP PRESSURING ME

J/K no one has pressured me.  But since I'm getting a lot of traffic from my fashion/beauty articles I thought it'd be a good thing to do to talk about some fashion stuff so without further ado, I'd like to make some notes about clothes and other bodily adornments.

1. Shop at your Army-Navy Surplus Store.

OK, so part of the reason I wanted to talk about this is that I got my incredibly cute new jacket at the Army-Navy Surplus store and I wanted to show it off.


The clothing is super durable, well-constructed, well-cut, utilitarian.  That jacket is going to work spring through fall, which is all I really wanted from my jacket; but on top of that, it's ADJUSTABLE AROUND THE WAIST.  I mean that's really all they had to do to sell me on it.  I look like a badass painter in that jacket.

2. Make your own jewelry.

For a really low investment (like, dunno, $50ish?) you could have everything you need to be making new bracelets and earrings all summer.  OK, maybe if you're like me and you want to hang chunks of pyrite from your wrist it might get more expensive.  But all the same, once you're sick of whatever you've used those pyrite chunks for, you can unleash them and reattach them to some other fly-ass piece of jewelry you've made yourself.  I also used some Polynesian coins someone had stamped holes in to make another chunky friendship bracelet.  

Here's the thing about this kind of... thing.  No one looks that closely at your jewelry.  I'm gonna wear that out and people are gonna be like "That's hella fly!" and I'm gonna be like "hey thanks!" knowing full well that I did a bunch of those knots wrong and it doesn't look factory-perfect.  

But part of it too is that this stuff isn't supposed to look factory-perfect.  It's almost summer!  We're supposed to be all bohemian and whimsical well into October!  Make your own jewelry and never regret all the money you spent having someone else make the exact same thing for you.  Embroidery thread costs $0.39 each and you can make hella bracelets out of like six of them.  Get a few beads and shit and you're set.  Even chain-type stuff you can probably find a tutorial for.  Here's the Buzzfeed article where I got some refreshers on friendship bracelets.

3. If you're going to buy jewelry, buy it from someone who crafts it by hand.

There is nothing I hate more than factory-made jewelry.  Seriously.  I don't want to puke shade all over the place, but I feel like if I started wearing factory-made jewelry I'd just be announcing to the world that I had lost both all my taste and all my sense.

Why taste?  Because why the fuck are you going to concede your own sense of style to someone who's designing jewelry with the specific goal in mind of selling their jewelry to hopefully hundreds of thousands if not millions of women?  I hate using the word "tacky," but it's tacky.  Want to be sure someone comments on how cool your jewelry is?  Don't wear shit that everyone else is wearing.  Get something small-batch.

Why sense?  Because more often than not, I've found that artisan-made jewelry - even the really great stuff - costs less than factory-made jewelry.  I could not for the life of me tell you why, because I'd be happy to fork over more money to people who are not only crafting my jewelry by hand, but also designing it in the first place.  

The necklaces in the picture above: on the left, molded from a finch skull and available at Paxton Gate in Portland, OR (they also sell dead things, which is incredibly cool); on the right, a bronze bar with pyrite (sense a trend?), available from Sea and Cake on Etsy.

Got any fave small businesses/vendors you like or good how-tos to share?  Comment away, I will gladly peruse.

Whoa, so people are actually visiting now

Rebecca Brink

Hi!  So, uh, you're probably here because I don't wash my hair, which is a thing I didn't think would get me very much attention, but there it is.

So - my name is Rebecca Vipond Brink.  I deleted my earlier blog because it sucked.  If you want to keep coming back, I'll do my best to make sure the blog doesn't suck.  Also, please look at my pictures - I'm significantly less awkward with a camera than I am with conversation.

I'm a feminist and a hippie-type (ergo no-shampoo) and a very bad minimalist.  I'm more than happy to talk about these things and if you'd like to know my views on something I will be sure to give you the most detailed, educational answer I can.  Comments are on!  Ask away!

I have a B.A. in history from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and I have a lot of education in creative writing, PR, and music production.  You can ask me questions about that stuff too.

I also have an awesome boyfriend and in my imagination I have an arctic wolf for a pet and am the captain of an 18th-century-style pirate ship.  For now I'm settling for my bike, who I call Indiana, and no pet.  Maybe a pug soon.  If you have a dog, post a picture of your dog in the comment section!  I will be sure to tell you how jealous I am of your dog ownership.

WELL THAT'S ENOUGH FOR NOW or else you'll find out all of my secrets and I'll have to send you off to Lake Silencio, if you know what i mean.

(If you know what I mean, post in the comment section.)

100 really outdated fucking questions

Rebecca Brink

Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?
My closet doesn't have a door and it's big enough to be a very cozy bedroom.

Do you take the shampoos and conditioner bottles from hotel?
I don't shampoo or condition my hair.  If they provided me with baking soda, I would take it.

Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?
I usually pull the sheet out with my feet and then re-tuck it in the morning for posterity's sake.

Have you ever stolen a street sign before?
No, but someday I will.

Do you like to use post-it notes?
Who does that anymore?  Don't we just use our phones now?

Do you cut out coupons but then never use them?
Again with the phone thing.

Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of a bees?
A swarm of bees, if I had to choose.  I wouldn't die.

Do you have freckles?
I have freckles on my shoulders because I have a bad habit of biking for a long time with sunscreen on my face but none on my body.

Do you always smile for pictures?
No.  And I'm usually the one taking the picture.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is when I say that my biggest pet peeve is mouth-smacking sounds and then someone goes "Oh, like this? *Smack smack smack*"

Do you ever count your steps when you walk?

Have you ever peed in the woods?
No, but I have peed without a toilet before, so I get the basic idea.

What about pooped in the woods?

Do you ever dance even if theres no music playing?
Yes.  I always have music in my head.  Right now it's the Pepsi theme song lyrics set to the melody of The Habanera.

Do you chew your pens and pencils?

How many people have you slept with this week?

What size is your bed?
Full.  What the hell kind of pervy question is this?

What is your Song of the week?
"Spirit" by Future Islands.

Is it okay for guys to wear pink?
Is it OK for me to track down and punch near to death the person who wrote this question?

Also, it's "OK" not "okay."  Stop it.  Stahpitstahpitstaphit.


Do you still watch cartoons?
I blazed through the entire five seasons of Adventure Time about six weeks ago.

Whats your least favorite movie?
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the only one that comes to mind.  I've seen some really shitty movies, but that one's offensive in that it sexualizes and glorifies rape.  The book and the movie were clearly written by people who have never been raped.

Where would you bury hidden treasure if you had some?
In a bank account?

What do you drink with dinner?

What do you dip a chicken nugget in?
Honey.  Try it sometime.

What is your favorite food?

What movies could you watch over and over and still love?
Away We Go, Paranormal Activity 2, Eternal Sunshine, Vertigo, Death Proof, Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, Shaun of the Dead, Run Fatboy Run, Spirited Away, Stranger than Fiction, The Little Mermaid.

Last person you kissed/kissed you?
Mah Birdie.

Were you ever a boy/girl scout?
Brownie, and it was fucking stupid.  The only thing I gained from it was phone ettiquette.

Would you ever strip or pose nude in a magazine?

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
I wrote my boyfriend a just-because card a few days ago, does that count?

Can you change the oil on a car?

Ever gotten a speeding ticket?

Ran out of gas?
Ha, yeah, I did that once.  It was really bad.

Favorite kind of sandwich?

Best thing to eat for breakfast?
Grain meal with dried fruit and nuts or seeds and soy milk.  Banana.

What is your usual bedtime?

Are you lazy?
I think so, but no one else does.

When you were a kid, what did you dress up as for Halloween?
My favorite was a badass Catwoman costume my mom made for me in kindergarten, because I wanted to be Catwoman when I grew up.

What is your Chinese astrological sign?

How many languages can you speak?

Do you have any magazine subscriptions?
No.  Wanna buy me a Juxtapoz subscription?

Which are better legos or lincoln logs?
I liked Lincoln Logs better but I never had enough to build the grand structures I wanted to.

Are you stubborn?

Who is better...Leno or Letterman?
They're both awesome at sucking.

Ever watch soap operas?
I used to watch Passions when I got home from summer camp.  It was awesome.  There was a gate to hell in someone's bedroom closet!  There was an animate doll!

Afraid of heights?
Yes but FUCK IT ANYWAY.  I went rock climbing two weeks ago and got to the top and it was fucking BOSS.  I got a clear view of Mt. Hood.  Fucking incredible.

Sing in the car?
Oh yeah.  If I'm driving.

Dance in the shower?
It hasn't occurred to me to do that, and I think I would slip if I tried.

Dance in the car?

Ever used a gun?

Last time you got a portrait taken by a photographer?
About a month ago, and I was the photographer.  I'm the only person who takes pictures of me because I'm the only person who takes good pictures of me.  And also because I'm the only one who carries a camera with me everywhere.

Do you think musicals are cheesy?
Cabaret changed my life, and I'm not even kidding.

Is Christmas stressful?
Yes.  I love the spirit of the holiday, I love festivity, I love giving things to people, but I hate splitting time and living up to other people's expectations.

Ever eat a pierogi?
Yes.  Plum pierogis are good.

Favorite type of fruit pie?
Strawberry rhubarb, or the blueberry-and-amaretto pie I make.  I have similar feelings about baking and photography - it's better if I just handle it.

Occupations you wanted to be when you were a kid?
Catwoman, we went over this already.  Later I wanted to be an artist, and then I wanted to be a musician.

Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes, but I really hate admitting it.

Ever have a Deja-vu feeling?
Yes, and again, I hate admitting it because I have premonitions in my dreams that cause me to have dejà-vu.  This isn't uncommon with the women in my family.

Take a vitamin daily?
I'm a weekday vitamin consumer.

Wear slippers?
I wear TOMS.

Wear a bath robe?
I have a Dalek bathrobe, and if you want me to make a point with it, I also have a colander, whisk, and (clean) plunger that I can use to prove that it truly looks like a Dalek.

What do you wear to bed?

First concert?
Hanson.  YEAH, HANSON.

Wal-Mart, Target or Kmart?
Target but none if I can avoid it.

Nike or Adidas?
Ugh neither.

Cheetos Or Fritos?

Peanuts or Sunflower seeds?
Sunflower seeds, peanuts are muy malo.

Ever hear of the group Tres Bien?
What the fuck kind of question is this?

Ever take dance lessons?
In high school dance was one of our P.E. electives.

Is there a profession you picture your future spouse doing?
I hope he writes.

Can you curl your tongue?
Seriously, are there people who can't?

Ever won a spelling bee?
2nd Place.  Lost on the word "occasion."

Have you ever cried because you were so happy?

Own any record albums?
You mean vinyl?  Yes.

Own a record player?
Yes, but it's a piece of shit.

Regularly burn incense?

Ever been in love?

Who would you like to see in concert?
Jimi Hendrix, but obviously that ship has sailed.

What was the last concert you saw?
I think it was MIKA, and it wasn't great.  I'm seeing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as well as Margot and the Nuclear So and So's in May, awwwwwwww yeaaaaaaah.

Hot tea or cold tea?

Tea or coffee?

Sugar or snickerdoodles?
Sugar cookies.

Can you swim well?
No, but I can swim.  I would not be able to escape a shark.

Can you hold your breath without holding your nose?

Are you patient?
Not very.

DJ or band, at a wedding?
Obviously DJ.  I don't think most bands would have many of my favorite songs as standards.

Ever won a contest?
Yup.  I won a poetry contest in seventh grade and was published in a newspaper or journal or something.  I submitted seven poems.  Six of them were genuinely good, but I submitted the seventh because I knew they'd pick it - it was a super melodramatic piece about racism.  I thought it was fucking terrible, but I guess when a seventh-grader writes "passionately" about racism it's worth publishing.  Whatever.

Ever have plastic surgery?
Yes, because I was seven and my mom didn't want me having a scar in the middle of my face after getting a fibrous lump taken out under my eye.  Smart move, mom.

Which are better black or green olives?
Kalamata, motherfuckers.  Or green.

Can you knit or crochet?
I used to be able to knit.

Best room for a fireplace?

Do you want to get married?

If married, how long have you been married?
I was married for two years.

Who was your HS crush?
My best friend at the time.

Do you cry and throw a fit until you get your own way?
No, because I'm not three, and even when I was three no one bought into it, so thank god I was raised right, I guess.

Do you have kids?

Do you want kids?
Only when I'm scared that I might be pregnant.

Whats your favorite color?

Do you miss anyone right now?
Yeah, but "missing" is one of my least favorite subjects to discuss.

Did you watch, Next Great American Band on FOX?
I vaguely remember that existing... When was this written? 

The Zoetrope Train

Rebecca Brink

There was a moment after I fell and hit my head when everything felt pure.  I was forgetting things that had happened just seconds before, but I was aware of who I was (Rebecca, daughter of Jean and Bill, sister of Sara and Manda, sister-in-law to Yessar and aunt to three nephews; Michael’s girlfriend; photographer), where I was (my apartment), and what my purpose was that day (moving Michael in) – but everything else was gone.  Everything else was gone, and I had the epiphany that I had maybe never felt that good in my life. 


I had no idea that I had only gotten three-and-a-half hours of sleep because I had manically painted the front room of my apartment and then re-painted it, intending to make it a light grey, but having chosen a grey that was so light that it just looked like the white I started with.  I had no idea I had been upset about that and just suppressing it so that I could get through the day.


I forgot that I had been so worried about my friend Alyssa coming over and Michael’s brother helping him move in that I had spent almost all of Friday trying to get things “move-in ready” which meant “minimized, repainted, clean,” so that they wouldn’t think I had been living in a sty.  I forgot that I thought I was living in a sty even though I knew I certainly was not. 


I forgot that I had been agonizing about a duvet cover.  The duvet cover I currently have is not very “us,” for Michael and me – it is very, very me.  It’s fuschia with metallic gold plaid.  My mom got it for me as what we can call a “separation gift” after I left my former spouse.  It was a great gift because I had seen it in a store, been outpriced, and chalked it up as one of those things that you can’t always get, but it was a nice idea.  But it is so perfectly me, and my mother knew that, so she surprised me with it one day when I was living in her house, in the room next to hers.  I consider this duvet cover my swaddling blanket, because it was given to me at a time when I might as well have been being born all over again.


There’s no way that, visually speaking, any duvet cover can match up to this duvet cover.  This duvet cover is a sign of divine providence.  This duvet cover is the duvet cover of my life. 


That being said, though, Michael is the love of my life, and so while I have to acknowledge and honor this duvet cover and all it has been to me, I also have to very carefully consider what a life together looks like.  And it doesn’t just look like me – all fuschia and gold – it looks like us.  This duvet cover will not do for us. 


I had forgotten that most of the day before, I had spent fixated on balancing duvet covers, pillowcases, and room colors.  I forgot that I had gone into what I think might qualify as a manic rage trying to make all of this duvet stuff happen.  For about an hour, I was clean and happy and the walls looked fine and when I opened my computer I saw the duvet cover I’d wanted to buy and the plan about the cover and the sheets and the paper flowers I wanted to hand-make out of the pages of contemporary art magazines all came back to me, but none of the buzzing and tightening and keeping calm and carrying on and gritted teeth and cold and weighted hands came back.  None of the walking around Lincoln Park from Urban Outfitters to Bed Bath and Beyond to West Elm to World Market to Home Depot and then back up to my apartment.  None of the actually putting my hand up to the side of my face so that I couldn’t see the clock because I knew that once I saw it I’d feel tired.  All of that was gone.


And I remember it now, thirty-six hours later, as a fact.  I remember the fact that I had felt that way, but I still don’t feel that way now.  When I opened up my computer after I found myself magically in my apartment, not knowing how I’d gotten there, what popped up was a browser with a duvet cover from West Elm in one tab and sheets at Target in another, and I remembered: grey duvet cover, coral sheets, purple pillows.  Right, that was the plan!


Sometimes I wonder if this is how great people do things – they make plans and execute them, and in the meantime they don’t agonize or put the same problem through their head over and over and over, and over and over and over.  They spend that time aware of their own thoughts and perceptions and they act on that self-awareness.


On Friday night, when I was walking around Lincoln Park trying to find just the right duvet cover and just the right paint color, I had to pause at the southwest corner of Willow and Bissell because a northbound Brown Line train was passing and on the curve the track takes at that exact spot, at night, the train passing looks like a zoetrope.  It made me profoundly and purely happy.  It made me happy enough to say “southwest corner of Willow and Bissell” to myself over and over while I was navigating over iced-over sidewalks.  It made me happy enough that even without the memory of the evening, I could remember the sight of the zoetrope train at the southwest corner of Willow and Bissell, and happy enough that while Michael and I sat in the ER waiting for my x-rays and the doctor’s opinion about my concussed head, I could remember to tell him about my pure moment of joy with the zoetrope train.