Tuesday, November 26, 2013


His name is "Spike" the hardware-man said as he rang me up on his till
He had speared his friend, a fellow succulent only that morning as well

Spike was a cactus I saw on the street while I contemplated buying shoes
I knew he was mine when my eyes laid on him, I knew together we'd never lose

And so I carried him on the bus, from Haight to downtown SF
From there I took him into a coffee shop, and hid him under the desk

From the shop to the bathroom, and then to the Court, and even into a bar
He patiently waited while I played pool (I won by a fluke, it was gnar)

Finally it was time to take him home, to flourish next to his soon-to-be-friend plants
But as we descended into the gloom, Montgomery station proved stuffed as a fat man's pants

We nervously chuckled and waited for BART to alleviate the obscured tunnel
And as the next train rolled to a stop, we smooshed through doorways that acted as funnels

As the car packed fuller, full to the brim, the more and more panicked I got
I held Spike closer, and whispered to him, "this was a bad idea that we wrought"

As patrons of transit squished towards us, I cringed as bodies grew near
I said more than once, "I'm holding a cactus!" and people's faces turned in fear

Stop after stop (and even the tube) I sweated, vowing to impale myself first should need be
Finally MacArthur loomed towards us, and in a breath of fresh air we were free.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

All the Foreign Colors

I was meeting a friend in the city for dinner, and as per usual, I was early.  After spending time Instragramming a beautiful (and original) sunset, I made my way to the burrito shop.  After peering through the windows and determining that the members of my party had yet to arrive, I posted up across the way, learning against a graffitied wall to read my book.
When I read, I get lost in the material, and it wasn't until I sensed something, well, amiss did I look up from my activity. A man, long hair pulled back in a low pony under a small, brimless hat, holding a six pack of beer (and this may be my fanciful imagination, but I could swear he was also wearing a trench-coat) was standing next to me, and just unashamedly gazing at me.  Upon making eye contact he simply stated, "You look foreign."
I giggled, "Um, I'm not."
He continued, "It must be the haircut, you have the foreign haircut.  It also may be the colors you are wearing."
I laughed outright and gestured towards my outfit (blue skirt, grey nylons with knee high grey socks, goldenrod sweater all pulled together with a creamy white belt and boots) "I am wearing all the foreign colors?"
He briefly smiled, "Where do you live?"
I answered, "I live in Oakland"
"What brings you to San Francisco?" he asked.
"I am meeting some friends for dinner" I replied awkwardly.
"And what are you reading?"
"Oh, just the Bell Jar", I offered him the cover.
He smiled even more widely, "I thought you looked gentle, so I decided to say hello."
Again I laughed, "Well thanking you for saying hello!"
He started to move on, "Many blessings to you this night."
"And you as well!"I shook my head and continued with my reading.
I have a feeling that the Bay will suit me just fine.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I am constantly waiting

I'm constantly waiting.
For a package in the mail, for a midterm/a final, for it to be time to eat again.
I wait for the holidays, for a birthday, for summer, for school to start once more.
I wait for Friday, for Monday, until the end of the month, for it to be cold/warm.
I wait for a text, for a phone call, for my cat to come inside.
I wait for the water to boil, for a book to be done, for my brother to be home.
I wait for the morning, I wait for the night, I wait for the time to be just right.
I'm constantly waiting.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Closing

I came to this city when I was still young—just ten + eight
That first year was rough, determining my fate

But as the days swiftly passed, Portland softened the edges
I danced in her streets, was schooled amid green hedges

I commuted to obligations through puddle and rain
When I looked up at her gray skies, my happiness unfeigned

I worked for years in an office of pure magic
They plied me with treats and laughs, leaving was tragic

Through cars and motos and bikes I shuffled
I gained a constant companion, who liked his fur ruffled

It was sex, heartbreak, bliss, contentment I learned here
The taste of good food in my mouth, a hearty liking for beer

I know this city, she is my home
Everywhere else, I only roam

Her trees and leaves, and flowers blooming
The years ahead of me without her are looming

As I pass over the bridges my throat catches, my heart drops
I loved her, I love her, I promise to never stop

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Play Me

Tonight, after leaving the club/bar a teensy bit tipsy, I made my way home past the churches and museums in the park blocks, hoping that the public piano located on Madison (and the space surrounding it) would be free, allowing me to satisfying the night's sky with my chords.
I justified my desire to create noise in a slightly residential area late at night: it was romantic.  Even if people woke up to my notes, it would be as a pleasant lullaby to their ears: lulling them back to sleep.
I turned the corner, and my eyes found the piano with the stick-on lettering plastered to its side: Please Play Me.  But alas, there was already a pedestrian seated at the bench.
I made my way over to the instrument, and calmly smiled, "Are you the guardian of the piano? Making sure that no one plays it late at night?"
Ryan was deeply tan.  He had dirt underneath his nails, oversized clothes garbing his body, and he wasn't wearing any shoes.  He quickly jumped off the piano, "oh no! do you play? play for me.  I am just trying to figure out what a "suspended chord" is".
I answered, "I do play, but I am terrible with theory.  I have no idea what a suspended chord is."
He asked if I had a pen, and I supplied him with one. For the next twenty minutes we poured over his tiny notebook, comparing a six string guitar with the octave of the piano, discussing half and whole notes, and talking about Chopin and the om symbol.  I asked him where he got the music he was trying to figure out (he had handed it to me upside down) and he answered that he had "stolen it from the bench".  I asked him where his shoes were, he said he didn't have any, he had lost them earlier, everything that he owned, I was looking at.

After we argued whether or not the piano should be moved to better light (he won), I clumsily attempted to play.  I admitted that I was slightly inebriated, and embarrassed I stood up to go, slinging my backpack on.  He barely looked up from his notes (a scribbled "Brook" was written above the penned guitar frets in his notebook) as I told him I was headed home and that it had been nice to meet him.  After I had already started to walk away, he called after me, "your pen!"
I told him to keep it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Attack of the Appendix, and Other Hospital Tales

Let me lay the scene out for you:
I had been in the hospital for over three hours with an excruciating pain in my side.  The pain was so severe that I had already vomited several times, both in the waiting room, and in the smaller room they place you to wait some more.  Granted, it was a pretty busy day at the ER, we saw sick children, a pregnant mother who came in sobbing and did not stop--her cries could be heard fading away as they led her into the back--a bloody homeless man, a whole family (in which the mother indicated she had "severe pain" of her skin on one side, yet I literally saw her skipping through the waiting area at one point) her daughter would screech from one end of the waiting room to the other, a man with a guitar and no apparent ailment passing out business cards to the unfortunate, an older woman complaining of dehydration, and finally a couple who both appeared to be receiving treatment, the woman handcuffed and accompanied by a police officer.
A paramedic intern was finally called into the room (where I was kneeling on the bed, doubled over, my boyfriend hovering around me, rubbing my back, angry at how long everything was taking) to place an IV line and inject me with morphine.  She "blew through" the first vein she chose, meaning she passed the needle through the vein entirely, causing the blood from the vein to leak into the skin around it, which, on the outside, looks like a huge, nasty bruise.  I was in so much pain I barely even noticed.  The nurse helped set the next line, and soon morphine had taken over my system--the relief was sweet.
The doctor/surgeon ordered a CAT-scan (A side note about the scan--they pump iodine through your veins in order to see any infection more clearly, the iodine creates a warming sensation throughout your body, but especially in the pelvic area.  I legitimately thought I wet myself while being scanned). A nice, older lady came by to pick me up.  She was very thoughtful and attentive, and when she was wheeling me out of the room, she placed my wallet on the bed with me, "just in case!" she sang.
"You can leave the clothes" I said
"No one will steal those" she smiled.
"Hey! Those are some nice clothes!" I laughed
"I just doubt anyone around here is your same size, and shares your same style" she said, kindly.
"Oh, well, I guess that could be true" I let it be.
"Except for maybe, a beginning transgender".
EXCEPT FOR, MAYBE, A BEGINNING TRANSGENDER.  I am not sure what this means, and my only reply was a laugh, "ha".  This same lady, after I thanked her profusely for being so nice to me, went on to say, "who knows, you might be my next daughter-in-law!"
Yes, maybe.
The doctors were unsure as to what was causing my pain, but were closing in on "appendicitis".  I was not running a fever, and my white blood cell count had come back normal.  My body was not treating whatever was happening to me as an infection, which made the doctors wary of operating on me.  Furthermore, my CAT-scan had come back inconclusive.  There seemed to be some fluid surrounding my appendix, but as far as an infection was concerned, the scan did not show it.  All my other symptoms were consistent, however, and the surgeon eventually approached me with three options: operate, wait, or see if a round of antibiotics helped.  I chose to operate.
Luckily for me, I was experiencing an appendicitis, and the one side of my abnormally long and skinny appendix was indeed infected.  It was snip-snip! and then zip-zip! and I woke up in recovery.  I spent the night in the hospital, and the staff ensured that there was a pull-out couch in the room, and my bf spent the night as well.
I was discharged the next day, and then the next week was a haze of pain killers and a sore, unable-to-move body.
I am feeling much better now!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Orange, ORANGE!

       My family, being many mouths to clothe, feed, and house, was never rich.  Although we grew up in a fairly nice neighborhood, and my dad was always employed, my parents went to great lengths to save money—coupon clipping, no allowances, food bought in bulk, eating out was a rarity, and family “vacations” were never trips to Mexico, or flying across the country to see the Big Apple.  While “vacation” may not be the correct word, family trips were taken almost every summer.  We had cousins in California, Washington, and Idaho, and when the hotter months rolled around and school was out, the parents would pack their kids in their large, brown, 12-seater van (sometimes, if their were not enough seats to spare (before the seatbelt laws), a child would sit on the floor in between mom and dad’s captain chairs in the front of the vehicle), and head off down the highway.  
            Mom would wake us early in the morning (at around 4 or 5am) the day of the trip, and we would all wearily stumble into the van with our pillows and blankets dragging behind us, bags already packed and stacked in the back, seat assignments planned and handed out the night before.  Leaning up against windows and each other we would doze off, and wake up already bumping our way down the road to our destination. 
            Family trips, long and usually hot, were always pretty fun.  My mother, a cooler at her feet, would prepare sandwiches and snacks, passing them back with questions like, “who’s hungry?” or “who wants turkey, who wants ham?” Apples, and a knife would be produced, and she would cut away, whistling all the while.  This meant we always made great time, only stopping for gas (and you had better go to the bathroom while we were stopped at the station, because we would not stop again until the gas gauge indicated need). 
            For family road trips, my dad bought had purchased two large, 64-oz plastic jugs for soda.  These jugs were fastened to the seats with bungee cords, and pulled out at gas stations to be filled with pop.  My family, devout Mormons, could only drink soda that did not contain caffeine, so the options were limited: orange, root beer, and sprite.  Two, special children were chosen by father to carry the vessels into the convenience store, each to be filled with one of the designated flavors.  The other children, forced to stay in the car, would hang out the doors, or call through the window slits—the van had those wretched windows that only popped opened with frog handles, creating a small opening at the base of the window, barely wide enough for a child’s hand to feel the wind caress his skin, let alone get a blasted breeze going through the vehicle—yelling to the chosen ones what flavor they should bring back, “Orange, orange!” “ROOT BEER ROOT BEER ROOT BEER!” “Sprite!, get Sprite!!” And heaven help the children who brought back two of the same flavor. 
              After we were back on the road, the pops would be passed around the cabin, “Orange, third row”, “I SAID ORANGE THIRD ROW”, “Sprite to the front, please”, “Who has the Sprite, Matt, will you get Kendra’s attention, SPRITE TO THE FRONT, KENDRA”.
            Should the arguing becoming incessant; my mom would flip down her rearview mirror, sunglasses glaring into the back rows, searching out the problem the child, threatening punishment.  If the arguing insisted, became irritating, or too much to handle, my dad would boom, “Pass the mugs up front”.  A cry would go up from the children in the back, “No, please no, we will be better”, “Thanks a lot Lance, look what you’ve done!” The mugs would solemnly be passed to my dad, who would roll down his window—of course the front windows rolled down fully, a privilege of being a parent—and he would open the lids, and poor the sweet, sweet liquid out on the road.   
            When the road became boring, with the sun high in the sky, my parents would start us singing rounds, row by row.  We had:
Round One:
Get up ol’ Dobbin, We’re going to town
Get those wheels a-turnin’ around
Get those wheels a-turnin’ around
Giddy-up! We’re homeward bound

Round Two:
 I like to take my horse and buggy
While I go travelin’ to the town
I like to hear ol’ Dobbins clip-clop
I like to feel the wheels go’ round


White coral bells, upon a slender stalk
Lilies of the valley line my garden walk

Oh don’t you wish, that you could hear them ring
That will only happen when the fairies sing

            When we neared the end of the trip, my parents would call for all of us to take out our headphones, and “clean up your areas, put on your shoes, We’re almost there”.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Keep Going!

Growing up, there were a lot of rules in the Harrison household.  We could only eat “cold” cereal on the weekends, and even then only before 9am (a tactic my parents used to get us out of bed on the weekends), there was absolutely no TV allowed during the week, and only a specific allotment of time for TV on Friday and Saturday nights.  We were only allowed to play on the computer or play video games for an hour a day, and of course only after our homework was completed.  Also, expected each day, every child was to practice the piano for forty-five minutes.  I was in the younger portion of the family, and the last three children were to practice an additional instrument (mine was the cello) for thirty minutes per day.  One hour and fifteen minutes of pure torture, per day. 
Did I mention I grew up in a big family? There were twelve of us.  I am number eleven; the eleventh of twelve.  Now, we were all required to play the forty-five minutes of piano as we reached middle and high school, but as younger, elementary-school-aged children, an hour was expected of us each day (barring Sunday, the Holy Sabbath). 
In the morning, my mother would enter each bedroom and wake up the sleeping children who occupied each said bedroom (there were usually two, and sometimes three occupants in each room).  She would brightly sing:
Rise and shine
Get up it's mornin’ time!
Rise and shine
Get up it's mornin’ time!
Rise! And! Shine! And!
Get up it's morning time
Of the
Children of the Lord

We would grumpily roll out of bed, and when we heard the “dinner bell” (a large, brass bell that was rung in order to call the family from all corners of the house—used for prayer time, breakfast, dinner, and scripture reading) we would stumble into the living room, still in our PJ’s for family prayer.  And that is when the action started. 
The elementary school kids were allowed to play the piano for thirty minutes in the morning, before school.  If this was accomplished, after school was over you would only be required to play thirty more minutes of the hated instrument until you were free all evening! The only catch was, we only had two pianos.  There were five or six of us at the ripe age of splitting our piano time, but only two pianos.  So, in the mornin’, it was an all-out sleep-still-in-our-eyes war for who got to play the piano. 
We would position ourselves carefully in the living room:  the grand piano was located there, and the best spot to be in the family prayer circle was in the back of the room, nearest that piano.  The older piano was downstairs, so the planning had to be strategic—either you got the good piano upstairs, or you had to sacrifice it to at least get one of the pianos in the morning.   A second catch: due to the battling of the children for the pianos in the morning, it was forbidden to have your piano books already in your hands or (God forbid) already set up on the piano, ready to be played out of by some smartie-pants who thought ahead the night before.  So, after the bell was rung, and the children stumbled into the living room for family prayer, things got serious.  Children pushed and shoved each other for the coveted kneeling positions, and after the parents selected a child to offer up the supplication to heaven we would all bow our heads, tensed and ready to spring as soon as the prayer ended.  If you were the selected orator, you had an advantage—you got to choose when the prayer ended, and therefore you were the most ready to run for your piano books, and subsequently, for the piano itself.  The other children were would peek their eyes open, and gauge the other’s reactions and future moves, as well as eyeing the prayer-giver, sizing them up and guessing what tricks they had up their sleeve, ready to jump up as soon the word “amen” was spoken.  And then, it would happen.  The child would utter the trigger, “amen”, and the living room would erupt in chaos:  children running for their books, desperately trying to be the first to get their bums on the bench.  Every morning ended in fights, and exclamations of, “I got here first!” and “Mom! Lance cheated!” or, “Mom! Trent doesn’t even have his books yet!!”.  Often, the daily morning battle would end in tears.   
After the morning action, everything settled down a bit. I, along with most of my siblings, objected obstinately to practicing the piano.  I abhorred the forty-five to an hour (plus an additional thirty on the cello) spent each day playing music.  I would often “cheat” on my time by speeding up the timer, and if I didn’t do that, I would lie down on the piano bench and wish away the seconds.  My parents were cognizant of all this degenerate behavior, and they could be heard from distant corners of the house hollering, “Keep going!” Sometimes, in the act of lying down, and with the pressure of the parental need to hear music flowing from the living room, I would attempt to pick out the tune with my toes.  
I wouldn’t ever leave the bench, though.  As much as I hated playing the thing, I couldn’t leave the thing, because I had an obligation, and again only two pianos to accomplish this expectation on.   Going to the bathroom was tricky.  You had to be quiet and quick—lest a sibling steal your piano. An empty piano bench, regardless of how much time you had left, was fair play. 
            When I was sixteen, I talked my parents into letting me quit music lessons.  I never felt such relief, and such freedom when they relented.  Suddenly I had so much extra time for activities! It wasn’t until a little later in my life that I realized what a privilege it had been to learn to play two different instruments, as well as to develop the skill of reading music.  My parents had paid for lessons year after year (ten), and I had squandered the opportunity.  I wasn’t bad at playing the piano by any means, I had learned to do so, and quite well, but I could have been so much better if I had just appreciated the prospect.  But such are the ways of maturation, and the honed ability to value your parents and their attempts to shape you into a well-developed adult that only come once you are grown.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013


          Harrisons like to identify with one another.   There are quite a number of us, and when we get together, conversations are often sprinkled with, “Harrisons are….” or “That’s because you are a Harrison”.  Common Harrison phrases include, “Harrisons are loud”, “Harrisons are smart”, and “Harrisons are funny”.  Physical qualities of a Harrison involve, “the tight hamstring of a Harrison”, and “the Iron Bladder of a Harrison”.  As a child, and an adult, I have assimilated these traits and qualities, took them as truth.  But the real truth is, I do not, and have never had, an Iron Bladder.
            It all started in elementary school[1], when the urge to urinate would overcome me in places like the playground, or the hallway.  To combat these urges I would immediately drop to the ground in a crouching position, and bending one leg, I would place it firmly in between my thighs.  I would sit there until the urge would pass, and my friends would be standing above me, “uh, Brooke, if you need to go to the bathroom, just go to the bathroom.”, to which I would reply, “I DON’T need to go to the bathroom.  I’m just resting.”  Sometimes these compulsions would attack me so quickly and without notice, the use of my hand cupped over my crotch would be in order.  At other times, when I was alone at home, the urge to pee would be accompanied by a quick waddle[2] to the bathroom, and once I’d arrived, the urge would overwhelm me right there in the bathroom, two steps away from the toilet I would assume the crouching position, and counting in my head to seven or ten, at the final number I would jump up and on to the toilet, hoping to make it in time[3].
            There were a few instances where I didn’t even make it the bathroom; I didn’t even make it close. 
The first occasion I can remember occurred when I was in kindergarten.  I was wearing a white t-shirt and jean overalls.  The details are a bit hazy, but I did pee[4] myself, and I was very, very embarrassed.  I went to the office to call my mom who brought a change of clothes, and the wet clothes were placed in a plastic bag. When my mother arrived, I begged her to take me home.  But she insisted that I stay in school.  She had brought a change of clothes that resembled the others I had had on earlier, and now I was wearing a jean dress over the same white t-shirt.  During the last recess of the day, my friends and I were sitting on the metal “climber”, and doing flips on the bar.  A friend noticed the change of clothing, and probed me about it.  “Why had I changed clothes?” “What happened?” I maintained that these were the same clothes I had been wearing all day, and kept on flipping. 
The second peecurrence was when I was much older—in the sixth grade.  It was recess, and I was playing foursquare[5].  I was in square “B”, and the game was getting competitive. I had to use the bathroom quite badly, but a line was forming outside the square, and to step out now would mean giving up my spot and having to wait in line upon my return.  I chose to play on.  As the game continued, my need to pee grew in urgency[6], but I petulantly refused to answer nature’s call.  The ball bounced here then there, I pushed it past me and into other player’s territory again and again, and suddenly it was happening.  Pee, it was coming.  My eyes widened in horror in recognition of the shame that was running down my legs.  I sprinted away from the game mid-play and rushed inside to the bathroom, peeing all the while.  Once inside a stall, I slumped in humiliation on the toilet, the need to be in the restroom at all gone.  I had worn a skirt[7] that day, and a slip under that.  Fortunately the pee had all soaked into the slip, and I took that off, scrunched it tightly in my hand, and marched to my homeroom, where I pushed it deep inside my backpack, praying the smell wouldn’t carry. 

[1] It actually realistically started when I was just a baby.  I probably never properly learned how to hold my pee in, the diaper was my best friend and my mortal enemy—it taught me to pee at my leisure. 
[2] I had mastered the art of walking when I really had to go to the bathroom.  It consisted of a disjointed squatish-walk in which one leg would be left behind, and the other would cross over in front to create a sort of pressure against my crotch, (mentally) holding the pee in.  
[3] I didn’t always; make it in time I mean. 
[4] It is interesting to write this story in an adult voice, where the most correct terminology to use here would most likely be “pee”, (which I used above). When I was younger, in fact during these instances we weren’t allowed to say the word, “pee”.  We were only allowed to refer to urination as “pee-pee”.  It feels a little wrong to mash these two worlds. 
[5] Foursquare is a playground game that is a square, divided into four smaller squares designated A-D.  A big ball is bounced from square to square, directed by the player in the square.  “A” is the best square, “D” the worst. The ball is allowed to bounce once in your square, and then you direct to the next square without holding onto it.  Players get out by missing the ball, holding the ball too long, or throwing the ball out of bounds.  A line forms at the edge of the encompassing square, and when a player gets out, everyone moves up a square, and a new player enters, in square “D”. 
[6] Talking about peeing so much is making me have to go right now!
[7] Odd that both elementary occurrences involved a dress or a skirt.