A year ago yesterday, Anna Nicole Smith died.

God. I know this is gonna mark me a sucker, but Anna Nicole always reminded me of Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby. She was simultaneously mercenary and vulnerable; a platinum blonde vortex; the musky-sweet, baby-voiced essence of the archetypal madonna/whore. I never romanticized her (any more than the fictional Daisy romanticized herself), but the palpable Little Girl Lost vibe Anna Nicole exuded gnawed at my heart. I always pictured her clutching Gatsby's shirts, ravenous and overwhelmed by their transitory beauty:

While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher - shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such - such beautiful shirts before."

She was so terribly, laceratingly hungry.

Maybe it's because I grew up Southern and understand that no matter how pretty you are, you can't truly dodge the trailer park. You have to be extremely canny and desperate to escape the caste system of the Junior League, the debutante balls, the St. Cecilia Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution. Maybe that's why my heart ached for her, why it still aches. She lived her life at a dead sprint, blindly running from the very things that defined her. She was streetwise and cunning, needy and toxic, utterly voracious in her single-minded desire for attention. She clawed her way out of one hell and into another.

There was something about her that made the rejected, damaged, raw parts of me stand up and cheer. She used her god- and -surgeon-given assets to make something nouveau for herself - her very own unapologetic creation - something ravishingly tacky, something pink and spangled and scented and feathered that had its genesis in a little girl's dream of being a princess, of being universally loved and liked and accepted. She was a dish, a tart, a morsel; she satisfied appetites: that was her gift and her downfall.

She was the embodiment of every female insecurity and every man's deepest, wettest dream. She wasn't Marilyn Monroe; she was in a consumerist, populist, lonely league of her own. She was a Greek goddess and a cautionary tale. She sold herself, and she wound up completely bankrupt. She peddled an illusion of herself, and she ended her life alone with a grasping sociopath in a seamy Florida hotel room.

There's no romance there, just a hard-bitten, hardscrabble memory planted like a tombstone in the red Texan dirt. She's tragedy writ large by a near-illiterate hand, her bones picked clean and white by the vultures of a diseased culture. I didn't like her, but part of me loves her.


So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.

- A Song for Saint Cecilia by John Dryden

Being sick does wonders for the subconscious mind, apparently. For the past four days I've had a 103 degree temperature, a bad cough, aches, and pains. More snot has passed through my nostrils in these past few days than normally ventures forth in a month. But damn, I've had some interesting dreams.

My first dream was simple, but odd. I was really cold because of my fever, so I turned on the electric bed warmer to max, and crawled into bed. Of course, a few hours later, it was way to hot, so I started thrashing around in my sleep. I dreamt that the Japanese Government set up television cameras in my room to watch my hapless plight, and broadcasted it on national Japanese television. For reasons I cannot fathom, this footage was the biggest hit since Pokémon. All over Japan, Japanese kids were watching me thrash about in fevered agony; some of them decided that I was really cool; they wanted to be just like me . They started churning and wheeling about, all over the floor, generally spazing out, and then they went and hurt themselves. The Japanese government tried to sue me and my family for damages, but my parents said, “what the hell; why did you put cameras in his room in the first place?!” I guess that resolved the issue, because I woke up.

Yesterday, I had three dreams, all of equal strangeness.

I dreamt that I was visiting some family friends on their ranch, but in addition to horses, they also had pheasants, cows, and other farm animals. The ranch owner, Frank, asked me to do some chores during the night, namely making sure that none of the animals escaped. It was supposed to be an easy task, but I ended up chasing after cute little animals all night long. The most interesting chase took place when an itty bitty baby cow that I could hold in my arms decided to make a bid for freedom by jumping over the cow pen, three times its height, and running down the main road. It was really fast, and I wasn’t able to catch up with it. Luckily, a mysterious masked man, clothed in a black, flowing cape, top hat, and blue and indigo striped scarf appeared out of nowhere and swept up the baby cow. He put the cow on top of his hat; I thought, “Wow, this dude has some serious cow-catching skills.” To which he replied, “Of course. That is because I am a thief! Buahahaha!”

I freaked out and chased after him. He almost escaped, but I leaped into the air and caught hold of his trailing scarves. He tumbled to the ground, and the baby cow flew into the air to land on a telephone pole, about as big as it was. The thief, who was actually just a kid—my age, but I was younger in the dream than in real life, perhaps 11—was totally bummed out and complained loudly. He said, “Aw man. Can’t you just let me steal stuff?” I replied, “Sorry, but I’d be letting Frank down. Can’t you steal stuff some other time when I’m not watching the animals for him?” “But this is my week off from school…” He left, dejected. I left him a note suggesting that he start small, like stealing pheasant eggs, since he could hide them in his top hat. I somehow got the cow down from the telephone pole, and carried it back to the cow pen. It had fallen asleep while I was arguing with the thief, and it would kick occasionally as I carried it back. It was really cute, and warm. After I put it in the pen, everyone came out of the house, got in the truck, and left, leaving me with no breakfast!. It was also at that point that I realized that I was completely naked, but it was dark and no one seemed to care.

Then I dreamt that I was horribly, horribly late for school. I was panicking. I tried to throw together a lunch, and ran out to the car, where my mother was waiting for me. I threw my stuff in the car, then realized that I left my book bag in the house. Thinking of my book bag reminded me of my books, which reminded me that my presentation on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was that day. I was totally screwed. Not only did I not have the book, I was already a half hour late for the class. I ran back to the house as fast as I possibly could (of course, that was pitifully slow since it was a dream); when I got there, it was no longer my house, but a hotel. I took the elevator (which was also slow) up to my floor, and ran into my room. Throwing open the closet, I reeled in shock and horror as my eyes fell upon piles, great heaping mounds, of Evan’s stuff. He had already left, and forgotten all his things. Utterly crushed, I trudged back and told my mother that it was hopeless: we would never make the airplane flight because my useless debate teammate had left behind all of his stuff, leaving us to take care of it. If this plane flight was seven tequila shots of stress, I declared, Evan’s stuff had already brought us up to six shots. I have no idea where that came from, since I don’t even drink tequila.

Then I was in the same hotel with my best friend, who we shall call Riz, and all of our classmates were along for some reason. We decided to kill the hapless fools by engulfing them all in a giant fireball of death that would carbonize their pitiful persons and leave some impressive scorch marks on the walls (no worries Mintz, you weren’t there—for some reason--come to think of it, it was only people we didn't like or didn't know very well). The main problem was getting them all in the same hallway…So I came up with an elaborate ruse. I asked everyone to say their favorite line from a book they had read, and I would record it. But then I actually became interested in what people had to say, even though the first response was a pathetic jab at Riz; they said that it was “from Indiana Jones.” The interesting part was that the entire episode was supposedly contained in a book that Riz gave me for Christmas which I haven’t read yet. When I woke up I thought, “I should write that down” but then realized that I didn’t need to because it was already in the dream-book. I have yet to see if the actual book contains a similar episode.

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