Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolution: THE BOOK

The new year is just around the corner. I have only one resolution: Write. The. Book. Yes, I know, those of you who are faithful readers have heard me say this before. But this time I mean it. Really. Why is this time different? Because my life is at stake. Friends and readers alike have begun threatening violence if I don't do this thing. Okay, not really. But if looks could kill...

Seriously, here I go:

I, tall penguin, do solemnly swear that I will write at least one page towards THE BOOK every day during 2010. I also swear to checking in with you, my reader, each and every day to notify you of my progress. If I do not, I hereby give you permission to comment here, email me or call my lazy ass and harass me. Amen.

So, that's it people. That's my big resolution for the new year. I had other resolutions, like quitting smoking and moving into a completely vegetarian diet, but hell, to do this book thing I'm going to need to bribe myself with the occasional clove cigarette and Big Mac. You have to choose your battles.

In other news, dogs everywhere have begun wincing in pain as the tall penguin whine of avoidance gears up for full throttle. You know full well that half of my check-ins are going to be me complaining about how much I hate writing, don't you? If we make it through this year together, I will officially move you from the reader category into the friend category. And possibly buy you a beer. Or at least send you a picture of myself drinking a beer in your honor. When I hit the bestseller list then I'll buy you a beer.

Geez, I'm afraid to hit "post" on this entry. It's been a long time since I've allowed myself to be held accountable for anything of this magnitude. I feel like I'm committing myself to birthing a hundred-pound baby. And so it begins.

tall penguin

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


She neither remembered,
Nor forgot.

She just knew.

tall penguin

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Sometimes, late at night, just before sleep overtakes my weary eyes, a smile comes upon my face. I'm not sure from where it arises. I can rarely recall a preceding thought to warrant the expression. But there I am, lying in my bed, with a smile on my face that would make the Buddha, well, smile.

At that moment, I like to imagine that there are gods in the heavens playing a game of Telephone. But the celestial version is, of course, perfect and profoundly simple, so the message gets relayed without any errors:

Smile. Pass it on.

And somehow, at two in the morning on a random Monday, the message reaches me. It doesn't feel like a whisper in my ear though. It feels much more like the wings of angels reaching out and upturning my lips. Perhaps a smile is the kiss of God.

tall penguin

Grow Old With Me...

Grow Old With Me
Lyrics by John Lennon

Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one
God bless our love
God bless our love

Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done
God bless our love
God bless our love

Spending our lives together
Man and wife together
World without end
World without end

Grow old along with me
Whatever fate decrees
We will see it through
For our love is true
God bless our love
God bless our love

Hopping the Fence...

I spent some time with my parents over the holidays. It seems that they're getting nostalgic in their old age. And I'm completely delighted about it. I'm learning things about my folks that I never knew before. One particular story told to me recently made me smile.

My father, who came to Canada from Italy at the age of 11, spent his teen years in a house not far from a local community centre where there was an outdoor swimming pool in the summer and an outdoor skating rink in the winter. Knowing neither how to swim or skate, he would hop the fence late at night, smuggle himself into the pool or rink and teach himself, through much trial and error, how to do both.

All I knew growing up is that I had a father who was fearless. He could skate and swim well (although he never learned to float), as well as any one of the other dads around. I asked him why he didn't just take lessons, why he decided to do his learning incognito.

"Sometimes it's easier to learn when there's no one around," he replied.

And I smiled. I get that. When I left the Jehovah's Witnesses some four years ago now, my then-boyfriend (also an ex-JW) suggested repeatedly that I go to University. The suggestion terrified me. I would cringe every time he brought it up. I cringe now just thinking of it. Bleh.

Let's be clear though, I graduated Grade 13 with a 91% average; I'm no intellectual slouch. But there was, and still is, this desire to do my learning behind closed doors. Why? Because sometimes it is indeed easier to learn when there's no one around. This is the reason I've spent the better part of the past year reading incessantly, pushing my boundaries, questioning my beliefs at every turn and not sharing much of it with you (although I've probably still shared more of the journey with you than most people would...that's my way of facing the I don't want to get it wrong in front of everyone fear).

I needed to hop the fence in the dead of night and teach myself how to swim, as it were. And I'm glad I did. Sometimes you have to listen to the fear in your gut and find your own way through it. And for some of us, that means going underground to gather knowledge rather than shining a light directly on our own ignorance.

By the way, I will share with you "My Year in Books" in an upcoming entry. It's going to take some time to prepare so bear with me. But it's coming. I promise.

In related news, I'm bursting my stay-at-home-and-learn bubble. I have enrolled in two classes this coming new year. One in creative writing and the other in drawing/painting. It's time to bring the penguin out into the world just a little bit more, just enough to give her wings a little breadth but not too much as to send her back to the cave in abject terror. I imagine this penguin will forever do a dance between pushing herself out into the big, scary world and retreating to the safety of the cave. Perhaps this is the dance most people do and it could even be considered a "normal" path to success.

Normal can be good. Who knew?

tall penguin

Friday, December 25, 2009

Always Take The Weather With You...

He was all the way across the world now. He may as well have been across the universe, he was so far away from her. She checked the weather every day. Not her weather, but the weather where he was. She smiled every time she saw sun in his forecast. If it could not be her kissing his skin she was happy that the sun would fill in.

She could still feel his arms wrapped around her the night before they parted.

"Remember me here," he said, pulling her closer, "I'm always right here."

She laid on his chest and breathed him in. Deeply. She hoped she could remember all of him. She hoped that even if her mind forgot, her body would remember.

tall penguin

Happy Anniversary To Me!

I just realized that I missed my three year anniversary of this here blog. It just passed on December 20th. Wow. I can't believe I've been blogging for three years now. Here is my first entry:


Testing 1, 2, 3

So, this is a blog. It's all new to me. I figured I'd just dive right in rather than look at what other people have done here, since my inner voice will kick in and tell me I can't do it as well as everyone else and all my creative juices will pool in the lower recesses of my brain causing me great angst. So, here goes. Be gone inner voice.

Once upon a time, I wrote. A lot. Every day. Poetry. Journals. Essays. Whatever I felt like ranting about. And then life happened. Not the good kind of life. The crappy, kick-you-in-the-stomach-and-stomp-on-your-head-kind-of-life. And the muse left or rather cowered deeply within my soul, like the vulnerable child she is and refused to come out to play. But she's back. And I'm back. And well, here I am writing again.

It feels kind of strange really. This whole cyber world. The ability to put your thoughts out into the cosmos so freely, so easily, at the click of a button. It's a strange sort of vulnerability that creates, to be so exposed. I've always felt that sharing my writing was like lying spread eagle on a bed for all the world to see. So blogging for me is the equivalent of coming out as a porn star. I'm naked, I'm shaved and I'm about to climax. Everybody watch.

tall penguin
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I still get squeamish when I read other people's blogs. I still think everyone else does a better job at expressing themselves than I do. But I'm also still that girl who's willing to jump into the fray and expose the deepest, most vulnerable bits of herself for the sake of the journey.

Thanks everybody for watching. Hope you'll be around for the next three years. I think the best is yet to come. (Pun entirely intended.)

tall penguin

Life Soundtrack...

I have a Life Soundtrack. It's a collection of songs that I imagine would be played over a montage of images of my life, like they do in the movies. I've added to it over the years, and occasionally subtracted from it, but the core of it has remained the same for at least four years now. It's my favorite playlist for my late night walks through my city. Actually, it's my favorite playlist. Period.

Interestingly, many of my selections are instrumentals. I love music without words. I love the images my mind creates to go along with them. And I love the emotional journey they take me on. But the songs with lyrics are also so very special to me. Both the words and the melodies tell a story.

Songs that make the Life Soundtrack seem to choose me. Over the years, they have found me, coming to me from varied, and sometimes odd, sources and often at the most serendipitous of times. Each song captures well the journey that I call my life. And no matter how many times I listen to this soundtrack, it still moves me. To laughter. To tears. To a glowing appreciation of all that was and will be.

I'm not going to share it with you though. I bet you thought I was, didn't you? Well, I thought about it, and up until two minutes ago, I was going to, but It's too personal. It would be like letting you hold up a mirror to every line on my face. There's something kind of sacred about the Life Soundtrack. All I can say is, make one of your own. You'll be surprised.

tall penguin

Growing Up...

I don't understand adults. I didn't understand them as a child and I understand them less now. I sat in a room full of adults tonight at a family Christmas Eve dinner and felt completely out of place. I just can't relate to these people with full-time jobs and mortgage payments and lives so busy that they have little to discuss but how busy they are.

Strangely, I have always longed to be one of them, thinking that that would finally mean I'm "grown up". But I don't think I'll ever be grown up. And I'm not sure I want to be. If I ever find myself living a life where I can't stop everything in the middle of the week and sit at a cafe with a tea and a good book, please shoot me. No, really. If I can't stop and savor a few hours of people-watching and journal writing (or spontaneous lovemaking for that matter), I think my life is headed in a direction that I don't want to go. So, put me out of my misery then and there because really, it's no longer my life. I've fought long and hard to carve out a life that is mine and I don't ever again want to find that I'm being shuffled along for the ride.

I don't know. Maybe I suffer from some form of a Peter Pan complex. Maybe I want to be a child forever. No, that's not it. I can behave like an adult well enough. It's just that I don't ever want to lose touch with that child within me that lives in the eternal moment of now. I want to be easily distracted by butterflies and passing clouds. I want forever to be the girl who can get lost in daydreams and be found skipping down the street. I want forever to be the one "adult" in the crowd who young kids look at and think, "She's one of us." Sure, it may mean being awkward and silly and different for the rest of my life, but I think I'm okay with that.

Finally. I'm okay with that.

tall penguin

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Festivus!

Festivus for the rest of us. Happy Holidays to all. Whether you're a believer or not, you get a few days off to savor the season with family and friends, so whatever you may be doing or whomever you may be with, enjoy.

My tip of the season? Never pass up an opportunity for laughter. Even if you've missed the conversation that preceded the laughter, if you catch others laughing, go ahead and laugh. Life is short and you can never laugh too much, in my opinion.


tall penguin

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


His love knocks gently
At my door
A faint whisper
Beckons me
Always, always
To that which is true.
I hear his call
Even though I travel far
It is the light
Which guides my footsteps
The beat
To which I dance
The robe
Which clothes me
In the dark of night.

The sirens
Sing not so sweet a song
As my lover's glance.
His eyes shine
Like a sun-kissed petal
In the morning dew.
He plays my love
With a gossamer lute-
Heavenly chords
And sublime incantations.

He lays me open
Like a book,
Skimming my pages
In search of stories
Yet to be told.
Secrets dance on his fingertips
Bewitching my every breath
Until, until
The words escape like fire
Through my skin.

And then,
He turns to go,
Leaving me bare
And clothed.
And filled.
And open.
And nothing.

How terribly perfect.

tall penguin


"To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life."
~~Elizabeth Gilbert

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Podcast Debut!

After hearing the show done over at Irreligiosophy on Jehovah's Witnesses last month, I connected with the podcasters to thank them for their work. After a few email exchanges, they invited me to come on their show as a guest speaker and talk about my JW experience. So, I did. And here it is.

Something has shifted for me as a result of doing this podcast. I can't quite explain it but it feels like this is some kind of turning point for me.

Oh, and it's funny too. Let me know what you think.

tall penguin

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Bit of Hope...

Something wonderful happened a few weeks back that I'd like to share with you all. But first, a little of the backstory. I've blogged here about how close I was to the children in my Jehovah's Witness congregations. The children were my lifeline, the rare spark in an otherwise gloomy cult existence. I loved the children and did my best to see them, something the JW organization was not very good at. The JW org has a tendency to see children as mini-adults, mini-proselytizers even. From a very young age you are made aware of how sinful you are and how mindful you need be that your definition of "fun" matches God's. In other words, it's hard to just be a kid being a kid. But I digress.

I always held the intention around the JW children that I wanted them to have fun around me and just be allowed to be who they are. I would take them on outings, plan parties and scoop them up into my arms any chance I got.

In the last congregation I was in, before I formally left the Jehovah's Witnesses, there was one little girl, S, who I was particularly fond of. At every JW meeting, she would bounce in the door of the Kingdom Hall and leap up into my arms with a shriek of delight. She would nuzzle her cheek next to mine and tell me how much she loved me. Sometimes, her parents would let her sit through the meeting next to me. My job was to help her pay attention (S had some attention issues) but I would just let her doodle or fall asleep on my shoulder.

S was one of those kids, much like I was, who could feel the world around her at a very deep level. You could see her wheels turning with existential questions and ponderings.

One of the last things we did together was spend a girl's day out shopping. This was some five years ago, when she was just 5 years old. We took the streetcar to the downtown core of our city. This was a treat as she'd rarely done this before. As we were watching out the streetcar window we passed a lot of buildings with graffiti. S turned to me and asked, "Why do people do graffiti?"

I paused and then turned the question back to S, "Why do you think they do graffiti?"

S looked back out the window for a long time, then turned to me and said, "I think they're angry and they just want someone to listen to them."

I smiled and said nothing. Her insight was enough. We sat in silence the rest of the way.

When I left the JW's four years ago, I did not say goodbye to any of the children. My cult exit happened rather quickly and I'm not sure I would've known what to say even if I had had the opportunity. Sometimes it is best to just leave quietly.

S was about 6 when I left. I have missed her terribly over the years.

A few months after I left the JW's and was knee deep into being shunned by the whole community, a member of the congregation died. I was not informed about the funeral. As an "apostate" I'm not supposed to be privy to congregational happenings. JW's aren't even supposed to mention me in conversation or ask anyone how I'm doing. For all intents and purposes, I am dead. I found out about this particular funeral from my brother who attended the funeral home viewing to pay his respects. He told me that S was there with her mother and older sister. None of them acknowledged him. Even though my brother was never a full-fledged JW, he would sometimes get shunned because of his connection to me.

Then out of nowhere, S quickly bolts across the room and slides quietly up to my brother, watching over her shoulder to make sure her mother or anyone else isn't watching her. She knows full well she's not supposed to do what she's about to do. She gets up on her tiptoes and whispers to my brother, "How's 'tall penguin' doing?"

My brother smiles and says, "She's great. I'll let her know you were asking about her."

Then S takes a quick look around and goes back to her family.

Needless to say, this happening made me very emotional. It was bittersweet to say the least. I was so happy that S had the courage to stand up for what she felt and inquire about me, but I was also so sad because I missed her so terribly and hated that she was in this stupid cult that caused this distance between us.

It's been four years since that happened. As my parents and S's family are still in the same congregation and my folks have become lax with their execution of the shunning doctrine (thankfully so), I regularly inquire about S and am updated by my mother just to let me know she's okay.

Fast forward now to three weeks ago. I'm visiting my brother who lives in the heart of my old JW territory. We go for coffee at the local donut shop. I have my back to the door and am told by my bro that S and her mother have just walked in. I'm afraid to turn around. I know I will be shunned and to see that girl and not be able to speak to her will just be too much to bear. So I keep focused on my brother and just keep talking.

A few minutes later, my brother looks at me and says, "S is coming over here." My heart skips a beat.

I turn and see her coming across the donut shop. She is tall. She is beautiful. In the last four-and-a-half years since I last saw her she has become a young woman. We lock eyes and she begins to run straight across the shop into my arms. I try not to cry but I can't help it. I hold her tight to me, showering her head with tears and kisses.

"I've missed you so much," she says to me. I move her just to arm's length so I can see her face. She is 11 years old now. She is beautiful. I can't stop looking at her. I'm holding her in my arms like she is my own. She feels like my own. She has always felt like my own.

We embrace again and again. There are so few words between us. I don't even notice anymore that we're in a public place. I don't even care that her mother continues to shun me from the other side of the donut shop. None of it matters. There is just S and I locked in a moment of pure love and joy.

S looks at me and says, "Remember the time we went shopping and we took the streetcar?"

"Yes, I remember that," I say. Of course I remember. I remember all of her.

"I wish we could go shopping like that again."

"Me too," I say. If she only knew how many times I'd imagined such things.

Again and again she tells me how much she's missed me. And again and again, I hold her to me and kiss her head.

I see out of the corner of my eye that her mother is almost through the line and ready to leave. Not really thinking, I ask S, "Can I give you my phone number?"

She smiles from ear to ear with excitement, "YES!"

I scribble my number down on a small piece of paper and palm it into her hand. "Call me anytime, day or night."

"I will guard this with my life." she says, slipping the piece of paper into her pocket.

We embrace once more, tighter than ever. "I love you, S," I whisper into her ear, "Don't ever forget that."

"I won't," she says, looking up at me with her big brown eyes, And then she turns and walks back to her mother.

I turn my back to them once more. I refuse to watch them leave. I want to believe that this isn't the last time I will see this child.

I look at my brother and the tears gush forward. For every bit of crazy I've been through as a JW and as an ex-JW, somehow, in this moment, it's all okay. Somehow, there is hope. And I like hope.

tall penguin

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Must Stop Posting Beaker Clips...

Yes, I'm Obsessed...

...with BEAKER!!!

tall penguin

Ode to Joy...

Is it wrong that I have a crush on a muppet?

tall penguin

Oh Beaker...

My stomach muscles are sore this morning from laughing so hard last night. My friend D and I were perusing old Muppet Show and Sesame Street clips. This was the hit of the night. It's my beloved Beaker, of course, as he attempts to sing "Feelings". Priceless.

tall penguin

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Muppets Do Bohemian Rhapsody!

Okay, I'm a few days late to the party, but I have to get in on this as I do believe this will make internet history. Here's a newly released video of The Muppets doing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". I grew up on both Queen and The Muppet Show and seeing them in combo makes me very happy...very, very happy.

Oh, and, I must confess, here publicly, I heart Beaker. What can I say, I've always loved geeks.

tall penguin

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I saw my father today. He's almost near retirement. He came to Canada from Italy when he was just eleven. He was bullied by the local white kids for being a Whop and when he wasn't defending himself, he was ditching school and mastering his billiards skills. At the age of thirteen, he started working in a local produce market. For the past fifty years he's been a fruit and vegetables man. He met my mother at that local produce market when he was thirteen and they've been together ever since.

My father provided us a decent home with his meager wage, while my mother stayed at home to raise my brother and I. I can't say that I ever felt our poverty. I never felt lacking due to our financial state. My folks sacrificed a lot for us and for that I am grateful.

But today, today something changed in the way I see my father. I have always looked at him as a God amongst men. He always showed complete self-confidence and held his head up high. He has always shown this amazing ability to just shrug off life and keep moving. People have always looked up to my father. Something about the way he says very little demands respect.

Over the past few years, my father's hours in the produce biz have been cut. To make ends meet, he found himself a local agency that hooks him up with seniors in the community who need landscaping chores done. He spends the summers outdoors, tending their gardens, cutting their grass and doing whatever odd jobs need doing. And he loves it.

Recently, he was asked by a friend to refinish their basement. Now, my father doesn't read manuals. He doesn't take classes. Over the years he has just had the uncanny ability to watch and learn and throw himself into a task and find a way to do what's being asked of him. He took my brother out to see the work he'd done in this basement. My brother, an engineer, was taken aback. Apparently, the work he did is beautiful. Beautiful. So, I asked my Dad about it today.

"So, I hear you did some great work over in L's basement?"

"Ya," he replied.

"You've always been good with your hands, Dad."

"I took pictures of it. I look at it and can't believe that I did all that work. It looks really great," he said, with a mix of surprise and pride. I can count on one hand the times my father has revealed a bit of himself in words, and this was one of those times.

"Well, I think you've found your true calling late in life. You should start a little business," I said.

Without a moment's hesitation he looks at me, "Maybe if I'd figured it out twenty or thirty years ago. But it's too late now. I'm too old. And too tired."

And there it was. The kind of admission that hits you like a bullet between the eyes.

There was no anger in his voice. I could've handled anger. There was no grief in his voice. I could've handled grief. No. He was just numb. It wasn't resignation. Not even acceptance. It was just a statement of fact. Numb. I don't know what to do with numb. I find it hard to respect numb. I wanted to scream for him. I wanted to cry for him. I wanted to say, "Well, maybe if you hadn't married Mom. Or had us. Or joined the stupid cult. Maybe it all could've been different for you." But I said nothing. All I could wonder is how long he's been numb. How long has this keep-it-together exterior masked this? And yet, he still seems happy, happy-numb. Like a porcelain clown with a painted-on smile.

So I carried it all home with me. The grief. The anger. Everything left unsaid. And I sat in a hot bath and smoked a cigarette, watching the tendrils of my father's might-have-been life dissipate in the air with each exhalation of smoke. I don't know what to do with numb. I can respect anything but numb. Cry. Scream. Take up drinking. Slip into a depression. Punch your fist in a wall. Fuck, have an affair. Do something that shows you're still alive. But numb? And worse still, happy-numb?

I don't know what to do with that.

tall penguin

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sometimes... is easier to find myself in the eyes of a stranger than the arms of a friend.

tall penguin

Podcast on Jehovah's Witnesses

I came across this great site today, Irreligiosophy, which recently did a podcast on Jehovah's Witnesses. It's an hour-long consideration of the movement, its history and its doctrinal bizarreness. The podcasters, Chuck and Leighton, former Mormons, who can relate to being raised with crazy beliefs, do a great job of dissecting the J-Bots, and religion in general. Definitely worth a listen.

tall penguin

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Bones of You

It's rare that a song, its lyrics and its video will all resonate with me. This one does. Thanks to S for sharing.

"When out of a doorway the tentacles stretch
Of a song that I know
And the world moves in slow-mo
Straight to my head
like the first cigarette of the day"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just a...

CLEMENTINE: Joel, I'm not a concept. I want you to just keep that in your head. Too many guys think I'm a concept or I complete them or I'm going to make them alive, but I'm just a fucked-up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me yours.

JOEL: I remember that speech really well.

CLEMENTINE: I had you pegged, didn't I?

JOEL: You had the whole human race pegged.


JOEL: I still thought you were going to save me. Even after that.


~~from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, script by Charlie Kaufman

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wake Up

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little god’s causin rain storms turnin’ every good thing to rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

~Arcade Fire, Wake Up

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What Makes You Come Alive?

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because the world needs people who have come alive."
~~Howard Thurman


I see a light, but no fire. Is this what my life is to be like?
Better to head for the grave.
A messenger comes, the grief-courier, and the message is that the woman you love is in her house alone, and wants you to come now while it is still night.
Clouds unbroken, rain, all night, all night. I don't understand these wild impulses - what is happening to me?
A lightning flash is followed by deeper melancholy. I stumble around inside looking for the path the night wants me to take.
Light, where is the light? Light the fire, if you have desire!
Thunder, rushing wind, nothingness. Black night, black stone.
Don't let your whole life go by in the dark.
Evidently, the only way to find the path is to set fire to my own life.

~~Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

At the Edge...

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It's too high!
And they came
And he pushed
And they flew.
~Christopher Logue

There are moments in this life when you know that you are standing on the edge of something greater and grander than you ever imagined. And you know that soon, very soon, you are going to be pushed over that edge by some unseen hand and find the wings that you previously had hidden tucked away so tightly that you scarcely remembered they were there. And then, you will fly.

tall penguin

Monday, November 2, 2009

Late Night with Tall Penguin...

During my neighbourhood walk tonight I popped into my local drug store, which has expanded recently into more of a pharmacy/supermarket. I had wandered in to take advantage of the latest sales on necessaries. As I'm perusing the store, I head down the aisle containing feminine hygiene products and find this:

Yup, merchandised right smack in the middle of the tampons and maxi-pads are the chocolate-covered almonds and peanuts. Brilliant.

At the end of the aisle, I find one of the late-night stock clerks replenishing boxes of toothpaste.

"So," I say, "Nice marketing in the feminine hygiene aisle."

He laughs, "Hey, it wasn't my idea. Must have been Head Office."

"I'm sure it was. It's brilliant, really."

"Well, it worked," he said, looking down at my basket containing a package of the chocolate-covered almonds in question.

"Yes, it did. And I'm not even PMSing." He laughs some more.

I continue my shopping and the clerk and I meet later in the potato chip aisle, aka Mecca for the Tall Penguin. I pull two bags of Sour Cream 'n Onion off the shelf. He looks into my basket and snickers.

"A basket full of junk food, eh?" he says.

"Not so," I say, "Look again. That's a basket full of junk food and condoms. All a girl needs these days for a satisfying life." We laugh. "And hey, don't knock it," I add. "Remember, I'm helping pay your slave wages." I make my way to the checkout, leaving my newly-made friend to his job.

The cashier rings through my purchase. Somehow I've managed to spend more than I planned. But such is the rule of late-night shopping. The munchies always get the best of you.

As I'm heading out of the store, my clerk friend meets me to offer a "Sleep well." I smile. It's moments like these that make life just a little more bearable.

tall penguin

Waiting For The Night...

"I'm waiting for the night to fall
When everything is bearable
And there in the still
All that you feel is tranquility."

Although my brain and body crave the light of day at this time of year, my heart and soul crave the darkness of night. It's an odd thing that I've never understood. Seems counter-intuitive but there it is. I spend my days during the Winter in the deep pit of despair, squeezing every bit of energy from my body to get through work and my other daily commitments. Mostly though, I fight a battle with my mind as to why it is necessary to get out of bed at all.

But somehow, once the night falls, and everyone is tucked away in their homes for the evening, my spirit does a turn. It is as if I can lay down the battle of whether I did enough that day and just be. I feel creative and alive and semi-okay with all that is.

I just returned from a neighborhood walk. And a smoke. And I was reminded of a rather beautiful touch of grace I received while visiting a hearing specialist this past week. From our short time together he gathered enough information to deem me a "sensitive soul". The wincing into the fetal position while I was having my ears cleaned was, I'm sure, his first clue. The second being my taking meds for sleep and mood stabilization. In the course of his taking my medical history he asked if I was a smoker. I said I was, but that I only smoked occasionally, one cigarette every couple of days.

Later on in the visit, after he'd determined that my hearing issues were not physiological but, as I suspected, auditory processing issues, he says, "You got a lot of stuff going on in your head?"


"You're ADD, aren't you?"


"No worries. It's just part of how your brain works. Nothing to be done. Your brain just has a lot on the go and finds it challenging to parse out conversations sometimes."

I then told him about frequent nosebleeds and asked if the smoking could be an issue. He said that smoking does indeed dry things out but that I just needed to keep things well-hydrated and prescribed an ointment. And then, he said something really kind to me:

"Ya know, I'm not a fan of smoking, of course. But it's obvious that you're not abusing it. And I sense that it's one of the few things that gives you a bit of relaxation right now. So, don't worry too much about it."

If I wasn't still in a state of over-sensitization from the exam, I would've hugged him. I felt seen and understood. A doctor who manages to do that for a patient in less than thirty minutes is okay in my books. Better than okay.

So, I smiled as I lit up a cigarette tonight. I may not always be a smoker. But, for now, it's alright. Just like my penchant for the night is alright. And my current brush with melancholy is alright. It will all pass. Eventually, everything does.

tall penguin


No one asked her who

No one asked her how

The worse words are those left unsaid.

They slipped her a pill

A smile and a touch,

"Trust us, we've done this before."

But she hadn't done this before.

She sat in his car

And drove to a place they called home

But it was never hers

Never really hers

She was a temporary resident in his land.

She slipped into a pill

And comforted him with a smile and a touch

"Trust me, I've done this before."

She didn't say who

She didn't say how

The worse tears are those left unshed.

tall penguin


Holes dug in ignorance

Leave scars on the earth

Where there should be daisies.

tall penguin


Rung by rung

It rises.

The pulsing rhythm

Sears through each layer

Of flesh and thought.

Spiders crawl

Weaving synaptic webs

Of abandoned dreams.

Sleep brings forth

People long dead,

Faces that no eyes ever beheld.

Columns of bone

House fantasies of freedom

Movement without pain.

A dance of promise

Twirls up and out

Down and in

Around and around.


He says,

But she remembers

What he forgets.

tall penguin

Halloween...yip, yip, yip

So, Halloween was a blast. I went as Cat Woman. Well, my version of her anyhow.

But next year, I wanna go as these guys. Remember them from your Sesame Street days? Let me know if you're game for being my Yip Partner in 2010.

And just in case you've forgotten, here's one of my favorite Yip Yip clips:

tall penguin

Saturday, October 31, 2009


...I could spend every night for the rest of my life on a dance floor, I would be one happy penguin. Nothing feels more natural to me than moving to music. Doesn't matter where in the world the music is from, if it's got a beat, I can dance to it.

Some of my earliest pictures as a child are of me dancing. At the age of 5, I would choreograph dance numbers in my bedroom listening to 45's my parents bought me. I would practice and practice and then call my family into the living room to watch my performance. For reasons I will never understand, my mother put me in gymnastics class instead of dance class. I hated it. With a passion.

Life takes odd turns and sometimes you're left wondering what if. Is it too late to become what I might have been? I wonder.

tall penguin

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nurturing Creativity...

Thank you to Eric for sharing this with me. And thank you to Elizabeth Gilbert for oh so much. I am in tears and beyond words.

tall penguin

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The words that lingered
Behind his eyes
Since he learned to see
Leave his lips
And fall like a kiss
Upon my cheek.

I breathe in
The fragrant wisp of longing
Scenting each syllable,
My eyes closed tight
With dreams.

He speaks
With carefully picked peonies
And tulips
And roses in bloom.
He brings his bouquet to my table
Filling me with the radiance of Spring
And an endless Summer.

He spreads himself
Like a garden
At my feet
And I lie
Curled up in his grass.

We search the skies
For falling stars
And clouds of dust
Finding heaven
In each breath
And soft caress.

An everlasting embrace
Wraps us in Fate's design
A blanket of gossamer
And gold
Weaving us into
The threads of immortality
Where all lovers come to rest.

tall penguin


"The awareness of the ambiguity of one's highest achievements (as well as one's deepest failures) is a definite symptom of maturity."
~~Paul Tilich

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Friends Don't Let Friends...

My friend L introduced me tonight to Oreos dipped in peanut butter. Oh my. Now, I'm not sure you can call someone a friend who introduces you to fat and sugar dipped in fat and sugar. I mean, really, what sort of friend is that? Obviously not one worried about my expanding waistline or the implications of my slipping into a sugar coma or even one worried about what happens when PB-dipped Oreos become my latest substitution for love and affection. No, he's no friend at all. L, you're an evil, evil man.

tall penguin

Existential Amnesia...

I've blogged many times here about my sense of existential angst, that squidgy feeling in my gut that reminds me that I don't know why I'm here. That feeling stems from what I feel is a sort of existential amnesia.

I wake up every day feeling like my brain has been wiped clean in a really fundamental way. I remember how to do all the basic life-maintaining stuff, but I don't know why I'm doing it. Even if I've gone to bed feeling relatively okay with my place in the world, I awaken with this sense that I'm starting from scratch, that today is new, but not in the "Wahoo! It's another day!" kinda new. No, it's more like, "Who am I? And what do I do now?" kinda new.

It's like going to sleep erases any sense of self I had. It's as though I forget why it is that I get up every day and live my life. Perhaps this is not that uncommon. I don't know unless you tell me that you've felt the same way. Perhaps you notice it and can quickly put it to the side, grab your coffee and move into your daily routine. I wish I could do that. I really do. But I can't. And I don't know why. Sure, the docs have their explanations--brain chemistry issues, sleep disorders, a lifetime of stress and various traumas...blah, blah, blah. But it's more than that. It's like some brains are wired for living life and mine is wired for endless contemplation and wondering.

I've spoken before about my mind's tendency to obsessively (yet, not compulsively) count, perform math operations and do shorthand. This has been a default setting in my brain for at least the past 15 years. I think it was my way of giving my brain something to do so it would stop badgering me with existential meanderings, like giving a dog a bone so it doesn't chew up your couch. But it doesn't work. It helps, but it doesn't solve anything. There doesn't seem to be any easy solution to these existential perturbations. I've done the meditation thang, the meds thang, the psychotherapy thang and still, this daily sense of futility and deep feeling of nothingness remains.

I think too much. It's tiring. Bleh.

tall penguin

10 Ways I Know Winter is Fast Approaching

I hate Winter. Or rather, Winter hates me. It's only two weeks until Daylight Saving Time ends and already my body is in full revolt. So, how do I know that Winter is fast approaching? Let me count the ways:

1. Out of nowhere, I've gained five pounds.

2. Every morning, my body feels like it's been hit by a MACK truck.

3. I bought a bag of Oreos the other day and they weren't even on sale.

4. I'm making a list of must-have bubble baths.

5. I haven't eaten a piece of fruit in days.

6. Facebook is becoming my main way of connecting with the outside world.

7. I cry. A lot.

8. I actually know what's on television.

9. My book, DVD and music collection is expanding rapidly.

10. I have daily conversations attempting to convince myself that life is about more than staying home, sleeping and eating carbohydrates. (I have yet to succeed, by the way. These days, life looks so much better from my apartment window, me wrapped in a duvet, tenderly caressing a bag of Lay's.)

How long until Spring?

tall penguin

Churches Attacking Children as Witches

We need to grow up as a species. Seriously. This shit shouldn't happen. It's 2009. Haven't we learned anything yet?

According to the linked story at msnbc, a number of children in Nigeria are being accused of being witches by their neighborhood pastors. The article states:

The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria's 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

Now, you know I'm not a big fan of organized religion, and have a particular contempt for Fundamental Christianity, so it's no surprise that this spins me into a frenzy. It saddens and enrages me that children are being beaten, maimed and killed because someone in the name of "God" thinks they're evil. It's bad enough that people continue to believe in their imaginary Sky Daddy, but to take it a step further and decide that their Sky Daddy has given them special powers to detect witchcraft and practice exorcisms, well, that's just madness. Really. It's psychotic behavior.

And I'm the one on meds. Sigh.

tall penguin

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Established Men

I'm sitting up watching TV; it's almost 3:00 a.m. and an infomercial comes on from a company called At this time of night, I'm used to seeing ads for dating sites and phone sex lines, but this particular infomercial went further. It became obvious pretty quickly that this site's agenda is to hook up young, beautiful women (Gold-digging princesses) with "established" men (Sugar Daddies) for relationships (sex). I had to look up the site because, frankly, I thought it was a joke. I don't remember getting the memo where prostitution became acceptable late-night infomercial fodder.

So, I hop over to the official site to find a very real service, whose tagline is "Where Beautiful Girls and Successful Men Meet". The main page says it all: "Welcome to a brand new service catering to ambitious and attractive girls seeking successful and generous benefactors to fulfill their lifestyle needs."

Here's a story that ABC Nightline did on the company.

Thank Goddess such a service exists. I'm so completely overjoyed that shallow people can find, and use, each other in this big ole world. Just please, use a condom; I hate it when ignorance spawns.

tall penguin

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


George O'Hearn: Beautiful women are invisible.
David Kepesh: Invisible? What the hell does that mean? Invisible? They jump out at you. A beautiful woman, she stands out. She stands apart. You can't miss her.
George O'Hearn: But we never actually see the person. We see the beautiful shell. We're blocked by the beauty barrier. Yeah, we're so dazzled by the outside that we never make it inside.

This is a scene from the film Elegy. I loved this film. Unlike my last entry, I don't think I have the emotional fortitude to explain why this film affected me so.

The heart is a deep ocean,
Waves of secrets,
Tides moving in and out
Of a life
That is only seen clearly
From the bottom
Looking up.

tall penguin