Hating hipsters is as common a pastime as drinking PBR and smoking Parliaments. (It's pretty easy to talk shit about people you surround yourself with.) But really, the term is so generic these days no one should be offended by it. I'm not even going to bother trying to philosophize on hipsterism, but my general take on hipsters is this: If you're my age and you're reading this, you are probably a hipster, at least at the most basic level--you give a shit about being cool.

But there's also the extreme level of hipsterism. For this definition see Vice magazine.

Last Saturday in Montreal, I diddled in this Vice realm when I went to a party thrown by one of the editors. (Say what you want about me going to such a party in the hippest French city not in France. Like I said, I'm not defensive about it.) It was ironically (token word usage) located in his loft/permanently converted dance space above a Starbucks overlooking the Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal.

I don't think there was a purpose other than it was Saturday but there was a theme: the Apocalypse.

At first glance I thought the host was dressed as a baby. But he was actually Jesus, swaddled in a white diaper cloth with a crown of thorns and a detailed heart muscle painted onto his bare chest.

Fake tattoo art was the easiest way to express being struck by the Wrath while not having to sacrifice everyday costumes like mini rompers and neckies. Such as this girl with an upside down cross on her forehead:

A few others had 2012 written in their knuckles but couldn't explain much more than they knew it had something to do with the Mayan calendar. One guy I talked to opted for a gang member tear below his eye instead of the forehead cross. (Trying to be ironic without properly using the term perhaps?)

This was about as far as the apocalypse theme went, other than annihilating ourselves with vodka shots from espresso cups.

The music--mostly spun by the host, sometimes by a bear in a fur vest and red-and-white striped boxer briefs--was the real superstar of the party.

For instance, this song has been added into my instant classic repertoire: Let Me Smell Yo Dick by Riskay. Sample of the lyrics: Why you coming home five in the mornin? Sumtin's going on. Let me smell yo dick. (I highly suggest clicking on the link for the video. I'd embed it but it's been blocked.)

At around 5 a.m. the dance floor was still booming but we thought we'd depart the Vice disco bus. We were hungry tourists (and basically just not on drugs) so we opted to sneak out during the Thong Song and dive into a mound of fries covered in cheese curds and gravy, otherwise known as the Canadian delicacy, poutine.

Another annihilation accomplished.



A conversation in Montreal (a.k.a. what Canadians think of Oregon):

Canadian: Ahh Oregon! The dwarves, they are so cool. 
Me: Excuse me?
Canadian: You know the show. The Little People? 
Me: Oh, yes that show. Little People, Big World?
Canadian: Yeah, I love those little guys. This is Oregon, no?
(Canadian lights cigarette, brings over lady friend.)
Canadian (points at me, exhales): The midgets, the little people, this is where she lives! 

Analogy lesson of the week: A pumpkin-farming family of dwarves is to Oregon as a raittailed, meth-head hunter is to Hawaii. In other words, reality TV brings the world together.



Today, for the first time in 24 days, I left the compound. I got into a car. I saw the cover of an US Weekly. I entered a strip mall. Twenty-three days I went without leaving a quarter-mile radius, and to be honest, even though we only drove ten minutes through manure pastures to get to the next town, our rendezvous made me feel like I was cheating on Johnson.
The good news is that I'll get over it in a few hours. The reason for the trip was to buy hard alcohol to celebrate the artists' open studios and one of our last nights here. Which makes this a record-breaking day all around for me; yes, it's also been 24 days without vodka.

But I digress (a lot), I've become so enmeshed in small town life that I recognized over half the people at The Hub last night, including:

1. Two of the three girls who work at the coffee shop, Lovin Cup Cafe. When I approach the register most mornings, one of them will call out "Double Americano" to the other. Within a two week period, I've already filled up my second "buy 10, get one free" coffee card.

2. The lacrosse/frat guys, a.k.a. my friend's next door neighbors. This afro-sporting pair (one looks like Richard Simmons) stands out in the room full of dreadheads and lumbering overalls. They're always decked out in their Saturday-night-out-in-the-village gear (but on $2 beer Tuesdays). Richard wears a long, thin, khaki-striped scarf draped around his neck like a crochet snake, and the other flaunts marijuana leaf bling on his earlobes.

3. The hustler.

Other indications I'm in a small town:

* One day, a fellow writer knocked on my studio door. He had my wallet in his hand. I'd left it on the cafe's counter. Thankfully, he happened to be the next person in line.

* The only thing I carry are keys. I go from the studio to the dining hall to the gas station to other people's studios to my apartment--all steps away from each other. I don't need to plan or pack for later. My right shoulder muscle is grateful after years of purse lugging.

* On walks to the gas station for beer, we play games like, "I wonder which guy will be working tonight, the curly haired one or the teenager?"

* Beer was mentioned quite a few times in this entry. Also, the only non-essential store in Johnson (a description that can be disputed for the purpose of this list) is a smoke shop.



Someone once told me that if you want to be a writer then do what writers do: Writers write. Sound, simple advice. And a complete utter lie. 

Tell a writer that he has the entire day free to write, and he'll spend most of his day finding a way not to. There's a guy here at VSC who purposely packed 50 unsharpened pencils and no pencil sharpener to give himself some mundane, non-writing chore (like seeking out a pencil sharpener). Surely, there are regimented, devoted writers out there who wake up, make themselves a cup of Earl Grey and churn out 20 pages from their their antique mahogany desk and ergonomic chair, but most writers I know agonize and torture themselves about why they aren't writing AT THIS VERY MOMENT. Which makes them not only not write at this very moment, but also the next moment because the agonizing has now perpetuated. We are an anxious, neurotic breed.  

In the last few weeks I've had to adapt my "writing process" to my new studio. These are my five favorite activities to do when I stumble:

1. Chew a lot of gum. Someone came into my studio and commented that it smelled minty. That's because there's 45 pieces of wadded spearmint gum in my trash can.
Not staged.

2. Click on Facebook. I'm too anxious to do any full blown stalking, like hunting down an old coworker I had a dream about last night. I usually just run through the updates and read what the same three people are doing every hour, three people I barely cared about in high school and care even less about now. Because I don't want to appear to be one of these people with too much time on my hands,  I rarely post any of my own updates. Well, with the exception of my last post: 

Jessica Machado is blocked. And needs to be blocked from FB so this block has a chance of being overcome. 

3. Consume multiple beverages. This is the way my mind correlates my thirst to my productivity: I can't start writing without an 16-ounce americano to the right of my computer. (See trash can pic.) But I also need water to hydrate. Hydration is important to balancing my physical and mental state. Okay, my americano is now gone but I still can't concentrate. I need more caffeine. Maybe I should take a walk to the dining hall and get a soda. (This usually leads to me running into someone and the both of us making a 10 minute conversation out of "Procrastinating too? I wonder what's for lunch? Smells like curry.")

4. Take naps. I feel sort of guilty about premeditated nap-taking so instead I sit in my chair and "read." 

After the first time I did this and dozed, I decided to prepare a little better.  
Creative footrest.

Today, I stopped fooling myself and threw the seat cushion on the carpet. 
My senile writer neighbor, thinking my studio was his, opened my door by accident today while I was "reading." Lord knows what he thought when he saw my feet on the floor through the cracked door. 

5. Blog. Blog about being blocked. Keep typing so minutes will go by. Keep my fingers moving so it will feel like I'm doing something productive and more minutes will pass and this block will disappear, or it will seem like a decent enough hour to retire for the night. Like 10:36 p.m. Hit "publish post."



Quote of the week:

"The only reason to get an iPhone is for that Grateful Dead app. You know, the one that's got all the recordings of pretty much every one of their live shows ever? It's amazing, man. It's like a dollar or something. I swear there's like 2,o00 songs on it." - What the dreaded bartendress at The Hub said to me, a gal wearing sparkly lip gloss and tight jeans.

I learned this fascinating tidbit last night during a conversation about the iPhone. (Okay, really, who thought to market every Deadhead's wet dream to a population that buys a $300 telephone?) I had whipped out my nifty party trick called Shazam, a free iPhone application that picks up the sound waves in the room and tells you what song is playing. It's for the spacy, instant gratification types, who while in a bar or department store, wonder who's singing the song buzzing in the background.  

Unfamiliar with the local sounds of Johnson, my friends and I thought we'd give Sahazam a try at The Hub. 

Thursday Night's Playlist: 

This could play in the background for hours on a continuous loop and I wouldn't notice it, nor would I think to Shazam it unless prompted to do so for this exercise. Mr. Obrien's serenade isn't really drinking music, nor is it visually stimulating concert material, but I don't think beer is Vermont's vice of choice anyway. Even at a bar.  

Shazam couldn't pick up several songs, but it's safe to assume that many were from this band: 
Why do I believe that this is where John Mayer's career is heading if he's lucky?

This was the only song and artist I could figure out without Shazam, even though I'd never heard his rendition before: 

Before listening to this, I wasn't sure it was possible to hate an Otis Redding song so much. I wasn't even sure I had much of an opinion about Eddie Vedder or his gargly voice post 1995. But upon consideration, I'm starting to get angry that he was ever compared to Neil Young and that people liked that Into the Wild movie just because of the soundtrack. (It was a terrible movie.) And looking back at Vedder's peak, the acclaimed epic video about a mass murdering teenager, that video really is pretty lame. I mean c'mon. A kid wrapped in a burning flag? His torture expressed by the flashing words "numb," "disturbed," "wick-ed" (yes, there's a hyphen) and "90210"? Please. Brenda Walsh was the most pleasurable thing about living through puberty in the 90s. 



Welcome to the cafeteria.

At the Vermont Studio Center, we 50 artists eat three meals together everyday. At night, the Red Mill dining hall is also the place where we listen to readings, watch slides, attend craft talks, and make plans to build bonfires and hold dance parties. In other words, we are constantly here and we are constantly engaging in small talk.

Over the course of four weeks, the talk can't help but get bigger, if for no reason other than we've all run out of our best cocktail conversations. Friendships that normally take years to grow (or fester) in a work setting are fast-forwarded here at VSC. All we have is each other and the freedom of days, hikes and naps. On our compound, Mondays don't matter and neither do showers. At this point, we believe the rest of the world has stopped existing.

Though this solitary solidarity bonds us, there's a natural progression that happens within a large group: Cliques. And here, cliques form fast.

Nothing is a bigger metaphor for this social breakdown than a cafeteria. Enjoy the view.

Week 1 at Red Mill:

Shopping for friends. Most of us have been in large group settings enough times to know better than to sit next to one person on the first day and continue to eat every subsequent meal with that same person. There are 48 other people in the room who may not annoy you as much. Meals are approached like speed dating.

Names are hard to remember. People whisper to each other, "Who's that again?" Residents are referred to as San Fran, Houston and Brooklyn.

Week 2:

Cliques are solidified. Tables are marked. The staff has the corner table; the writers have the one near the window; the residency hoppers (or veterans) are spread out on smaller tables and the younger artists/MFA students are in the center. But because we're all adults and we're all aware that this whole clique thing is absurd, some of us will sit outside of our chosen group if we show up late for a meal. We act like this is where we wanted to sit anyway.

We stop referring to each other by hometowns and instead use each other's most striking characteristics or odd habits, i.e. Lanky Mike, The Nineteen Year Old, Regurgitation Karen.

The writers start bringing wine to every dinner.

By week's end, shit talking has begun. Everyone knows who they like. These are the people we can now tell who we don't like. But unlike a small town where you look over your shoulder before you say something nasty or catty, here, you continue smack talking in your regular speaking voice even if the subject's right next you because he/she is probably engrossed in the same.

Week 3:

Major disruption! About 8 to 10 people leave because they were only enrolled in a two-week session; another 10 or so arrive for the last two-week session. These people are abrasive. They storm already-established tables, hungry to make friends and fit in. No cute or polite stories, but in your face demands for attention. We old timers may've acted this way too when we arrived, but we were all doing it at the same time, so no one noticed.

The new people are all given the first name Abrasive, as in the Abrasive One With The Rhinestone Pinky Ring or the Abrasive Ukrainian Guy.

We stop sitting at tables with empty seats and instead scoot vacant chairs over to the corner of our clique's respective table.

Prediction for Week 4: Quirks and annoyances will become somewhat endearing. Nostalgia will set in because we'll know our time here in our studio bubble is ending and no one else in the outside world will understand us.

Prediction for Week 5: We will form a long distance support group for people going through withdrawls from disco naps, excessive putzing and being fed three square meals a day.



The sun has risen. Just like Jesus. 



I've always said that being hungover is more dangerous than being drunk. While I may say or do something careless or senseless after my fourth glass of wine, at least at the time, I think what I'm saying or doing is interesting. However, when I wake up the next day, the opposite is true. I'm a complete space cadet, incapable of putting together a series of words without a splattering of "um"s or "uhhh"s, and so indecisive that I stand in the bathroom for ten minutes, contemplating whether I should brush my teeth or take a shower first. 

May I even be so bold as to say that driving hungover is worse than driving drunk? My reaction time is nil and my judgement may be even worse. And I'm a sensitive, paranoid mess. I've spent quite a few hungover mornings, poring over an email someone sent to me. (Why did my editor push up my deadline? Is she hinting that my stories are so atrocious that she needs more time to edit them?) Only to return a painfully awkward, overwritten email that just should have read, "No problem."

Well, it looks like The New Yorker supports my theory: 

But hangover symptoms are not just physical; they are cognitive as well. People with hangovers show delayed reaction times and difficulties with attention, concentration, and visual-spatial perception. A group of airplane pilots given simulated flight tests after a night’s drinking put in substandard performances. Similarly, automobile drivers, the morning after, get low marks on simulated road tests. Needless to say, this is a hazard, and not just for those at the wheel. There are laws against drunk driving, but not against driving with a hangover.

So back to the relevance of this diatribe: After drinking from a smorgasbord of cheap red wine and canned beer last night, I decided to take on the remedial task of doing laundry this morning. I haven't been to a laundromat in quite some time so that may explain part of the confusion that follows, but really, the whole thing is pretty inexcusable. Anyway, I unloaded my bag of clothes into the machine and turned to my friend, who also had her share of assorted booze the previous evening, and asked her, "Where do I put the detergent?" 
"Right on top?" she shrugged, pointing to the clothes. She had been to this laundromat before. 
I stared at the pile in the machine, the detergent box weighted in my hand. Something didn't look right. 
"Hey, where do you put the detergent?" my friend called out to one of the locals doing laundry. "On top?"
He turned to us and said, "That's a dryer." 

The scary part is that before all this laundry hoopla, I successfully scooped peanut butter, filled cereal containers and displayed (and ate a lot of) bacon. I guess all this proves is that when riddled with a hangover, my body is more used to performing restaurant tasks than domestic or common sensical ones. 



As part of my fellowship, I have kitchen duty three mornings a week. This usually involves working with materials I hold dear, like scooping peanut butter, filling up cereal containers and displaying a tray of bacon. So naturally, I don't mind. My supervisor was immediately impressed by my innate restaurant work ethic, although I must say I was a little disturbed to have retained a decade's worth of service industry knowledge. It's like riding a bicycle I suppose, but then of course I don't know how to ride a bicycle. Dare I assume though that bike riding is a way more practical skill than balancing a tray of lettuce on your hips while opening a walk-in fridge. 

I'm also in charge of salad prep. My supervisor expected I'd be just as quick with these craftsman-like tasks as I was with the laborious stuff. He was wrong. I'm a bachelorette. I didn't eat salad until I was 25. I make tuna burritos for chissakes. I do not have the patience, or apparently the skill, or maybe it's just the passion, to cut vegetables. 

On day two this happened while chopping cherry tomatoes: 

Two hours ago while piling the cutting board onto the egg tray: 

Seriously, how did I get Rudolph finger from a plastic board? 



A few friends and I were curious to sample a slice of local life here in Johnson, so last night we headed to the place where the name says it all, The Hub.  

We even wore plaid to fit in. (Actually, this wasn't planned.) But then someone told us that our plaid made us stand out. (Maybe because mine had a poetry ruffle and I paired it with pearl studs, as one friend pointed out.) 

Anywhoo, much to our surprise, we had stumbled upon $2 beer night. The place was packed. Our main objective was to play a game of pool but this turned into quite a feat being that a gaggle of locals had dominated the table even after we put our quarters on the rim to show them we meant business. After much coercing, we got them to let us play as a team. It goes without saying that we lost. 

At one point, a man who described himself as a local sculptor came to our table with a deck of cards and asked us to play strip poker. Let me mention there were also dudes at our table. It also goes without saying that the sculptor won. We kindly turned down his request to remove the plaid from our bodies. 

The hustler

The hustled

Contemplating our losses

A few other noteworthy things we learned from being in The Hub: 

* Unlike Vermont Studio Center, where the ratio of male to female artsy fartsy pansy residents is 5:50 (no joke), here at the bar, the air was thick with testosterone.

* There's at least one man in Johnson who doesn't touch sugar anymore. He uses maple syrup to sweeten everything. Even coffee.

* Although my first guess was that many of the patrons were from the community college up the road, when I conducted a survey, I found I was wrong. Most of them had graduated from the college and were, um, I'm actually not quite sure what they did for a living. (Sorry, I had a few glasses of wine. Local career options will be the focus of my next survey.) 

* And this is what the start of dreads looks like: 

On a side note, my friend here is modeling a 100% cashmere Juicy Couture sweater that she found in the town thrift store for $2. 
I have no idea what to make of this steal but I'm more enamored with the name of the store: Teen Challenge. I feel like when I walk in (it's located in a laundromat), kids should be competing for these Juicy sweaters by running through wacky obstacle courses like they did on that 80s Nickelodeon game show "Double Dare." 



Several of us around here have noticed a few things about Vermont. 

Tattoos are to Portland what dreads are to Vermont. Johnson's effortless look not only matches the current state of terrain (clumpy, muddy) but also coincides nicely with the continuous loop of jam band music played at the town bar (yup, I was there by last Wednesday) and the less hipster, more authentic lumberjack style of wool flannels, dirty blue jeans and knee-high hiking boots. On a related note, Vermont also beats Portland in being "whiter than sour cream," as one resident put it. 

Mud is to Vermont what spring is to the rest of New England. Right now, we are in the crux of maple and mud season (the other two seasons being the more traditional winter and summer). Walking along, you'll find maple trees "tapped" with tubes, dripping sap into buckets. You'll also be doing this walking in a lot of dirty snow and mud. 

In an attempt to force the season of spring, everyday my new friend Megan, a performance artist, takes her hairdryer (connected by a zillion feet of extension cords) around the campus and tries to melt the last pockets of snow. Yesterday, a fifth grader walked by and muttered almost hostiley, "Yeah. Right. I get the joke." (I was going to film her today, but alas, it's actually snowing.)

She has also written an open letter to the Vermont tradition of "sugaring," the process of making maple syrup. 

She also has a few opinions about milk.

This may be more of a reflection of the colossal milk dispenser in our cafeteria than the drink's statewide popularity. Though I have to admit that I do hit up that monstrosity every night to wash down my frosted brownie or pecan pie. Yup, we have dessert seven days a week and the rumor is there won't be any repeats all month long. 

Which leads me to one last analogy: Cupcakes are to Vermont Studio Center what unicorns are to um...an already magical place? (Where do unicorns live? Wikipedia tells me Germany.) Whatever. Whipped cream cheese is fantastical. 



I spend most of my day staring at this river. I hear there's a canoe somewhere on campus that we can use. This sounds like an excursion that will be made on a Saturday, probably after midnight, when the liquor store has closed and the case of High Life has been plundered. 



Bare with me as I take a moment to reveal myself as a pretentious MFA student.

I went to a craft talk this morning with our visiting poet, Rosanna Warren. Although I know nothing about an iamb or a couplet, she said some pretty interesting things about art in general. One of them being how we now live in this confessional culture, where we believe people should care about everything we think or say, but how these rants and ramblings (and ahem, blogs) don't necessarily make Art. And while I'm sure there are bloggers and YouTubers out there who could rattle off numerous arguments about what constitutes art (and have done so many, many times because this argument is not new), this one point is indisputable: Not everything we say or do is worth reading or listening to. 

To paraphrase Warren, art has to start with truthfulness, but we don't know why those truths should matter until we create a story. 

Here's a few lines from the poem "Symptoms" by Robert Lowell. While I'm no poetry scholar, I'm convinced that the man can turn confession into art by using honesty and imagery (the physical contradictions of dolphins) to describe his struggle with manic depression:

I feel my old infection, it comes once yearly:
lowered good humor, then an ominous 
rise of irritable enthusiasm....
Three dolphins bear our little toilet-stand,
the grin of the eyes rebukes the scowl of the lips,
they are crazy with the thirst. I soak,
examining and then examining
what I really have against myself. 

Writing careful, poignant lines like these is a lifetime aspiration and a daily challenge. It's the reason why I write. 

So to defend what I'm doing at this very moment, all I can say is I'm not sure what I'm doing. Right now, the blog's serving as a travel log, my test run at this whole blogging thing. While I'd like to focus it on words, beautiful words, meaningful words, other people's words, humorous words, relatable words, not-taking-myself-too-seriously words, for now, it's the gray area between a journal entry, or maybe a conversation, and something slightly more composed, or just edited more closely. But it's definitely not Art. You can't rush discovery. 

** (Rereading this last paragraph now, nothing sounds more confessional, or skitzophrenic,  than all that rambling. Sorry.)



It's been five days since I came into contact with a full-length mirror. I would like to say that this just occurred to me, but it didn't. I'm vain.

In my apartment in Portland, a mirror the size of a large child meets me at every turn. Not that I live in a funhouse; I only have one mirror. But my apartment is a studio and the mirror faces out toward my so-called living area, so every time I get up from the couch and walk to my desk, or walk from my desk to my bed, or from my bed to the fridge (my kitchen is technically in my bedroom), I look in the mirror. I always look in the mirror. I look in the mirror tilted above the produce at the supermarket; I look in the mirror behind the bartender's head while I'm ordering my drink; I look in the rearview mirror when I'm sitting in the back seat of a car and leaning over to talk to someone in the front. 

What's ridiculous about this besides the obvious (again, that whole narcissism thing, basic chick insecurity nonsense, being a victim of habit) is that I'm going nowhere or that I've gone nowhere since the last time I checked myself out. I won't somehow look slimmer in my jeans since breakfast and wacky eyebrow hairs haven't manifested between my second and third cup of coffee. 

But here in Vermont, I only look in the 1o-by-10-inch mirror behind my closet door to put on my makeup in the morning and to double check it before dinner, and this is because of this one simple reason: That shiny piece of glass is not constantly in front of my face. Suddenly, magically, here, I don't need to see if my ensemble looks well-put together or if I look "hippy" (as in "of hips," not as in "of Eugene"; let's hope that's never an issue) because guess what? I've worn this ensemble about four dozen times before (can you say, v-neck, green cardigan, black jeans?) and I've had breeding hips since I hit puberty. Nothing has changed. It's pointless. And I've always known it's pointless but I'm forced to make a new habit, and not to sound all Oprah-esque or self-help enlightened, but it's freeing. Yes, I said freeing. It's the most accurate feeling I can think of. Plus, there's always my reflection in glass doorways if I really get desperate. 

iPhone reflection: the epitome of ridiculousness.



Someone observed that many of the buildings here in Johnson are either schools or churches or were once schools or churches.

The main block of Main Street. 

The painters' studios are housed inside of this old church. 

An old masonic temple is appropriately the home of the Johnson Historical Society, which may or may not document how many old schools and churches are actually in this town. 

A real, working elementary school. Honestly, I see more school buses on the road than anything else.

The rest of Main Street:

To decorate my very plain studio (it's so plain, I'm close to rummaging through the artists' dumpsters), I went to the town thrift store, hoping to tear up some old fabric or photography books to color my walls. Alas, all I found was a collection of 1971 American History encyclopedias and a variety of VHS tapes, titled "Jesus." (Yes, they actually just said "Jesus" on them. Maybe all the converted churches around here mean that people are giving up Christ. Not sure.) Anywhoo, the rest of Main Street includes a book store, a grocery store, a maple syrup store, a post office, a cafe, a diner, a Chinese restaurant with Wok in the title, two laundromats, two salons (who'd guess that clean clothes and highlights would be big business around here? One of the salons even advertised tanning), and last but not least...

...a bar, which surprisingly, looks like the most modern thing on the block. More surprisingly, I have not seen the insides of it yet so I can't attest to the modernity of its decor, but I'm sure I'll report back soon.

Also, here is where I lay my head at night. A converted wool mill, which also conveniently functions as the dining hall. Yes, I'm just a flight of stairs away from my very own peanut butter and jelly bar, which may be why I haven't needed the alcohol just yet.

And here is my writing studio. The three-year-old building is home to 11 other writers and is the newest on the lot. Every "room of one's own" overlooks the Gihon River, which I was told was name of the waterway flowing out of the Garden of Eden. Hmmmm....