Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Nancy Caroline, A Timeline: 2007-2008

I took wellbutrin to get through writing my Master's thesis. I went from scattered and emotional to jittery and ultra focused. I wanted to get out of the states, get back to my man, get back to a country that valued...well, humans. So I dove in while my thesis advisor was facing his own struggle with politics at the university. His notes were always charming. Like a monkey throwing poop at me. Charming. I taught classes at the university during the day and sat in front of a computer at night. Then I defended it, and they passed me with the caveat that I continue the research.

Margaret Fuller challenged every notion of woman. She called it as she saw it, faced off with some of the greatest thinkers of her time, or any time. She travelled, single, with the permission of her family, as an adult, and she left everything to work for a newspaper in New York. She was a literary critic, transcendental disciple, and foreign correspondent. I cried when I wrote the last few paragraphs of the paper, when I wrote about her death. She was full, even then, at too young an age.

My dad drove me to the airport in Atlanta on the day before Thanksgiving. I had two large suitcases and a Klonopin. I bought a huge Captain Morgan's Spice Rum at the duty remind me of home....

Then I cooked Thanksgiving Dinner for my new housemates in Turnpike Lane (North London) and they all remarked how clever it is to have a holiday entirely devoted to eating. The English love food. they eat food at the table. I never ate a meal with people that wasn't at the table in England. At my boyfriend's parents' home, we ate most meals in the kitchen and special meals in the dining room. We had wine with every dinner, and the English use both hands to eat. I love it. I used to practice eating with both hands when no one was home when I first noticed the distinction. It might look really simple, but it is not.

I spent a majority of my social time in England sitting around tables and discussing the legitimacy of homeopathy (home-ee-op-athy), world news, or differences between American English and English English. Once, the core group of friends (my boyfriends' friends), sat around a table and discussed the fact that none of us had done crack and whether or not we should try it. The consensus was no.

There were always pints. The boys drank cider, and when I made fun of them for drinking what we would call a "bitch beer" in the U.S., they retorted that cider was a, "man's drink," due mostly to the high alcohol content of most English Ciders. I always drank Bitter. It was creamy and foamy. I liked that.

You can't buy Fritos in England. There is no equivalent. In fact, most U.S. junk food can be found only at a novelty store in China Town that sells primarily American sweets. Chips and salsa aren't free, and authentic Mexican food is really and truly non-existent. And that's important, access to Mexican food, to comfort food.

I worked as a receptionist for a bank then as a PA for the CFO of a charity organization who was also a "Dame," like Judy Dench. I scheduled luncheons for her with duchesses and the like, and when I asked where she would like to luncheon, she simply replied, as if I should have known, "the palace." I contracted the Norovirus and wept like a baby while I projectile vomited along with the rest of the nation that had recently been instructed by the BBC to stay away from Hospital if you begin to experience symptoms of the virus. Then I finished out my tenure working with baby nurses for the NHS, which, although it has its drawbacks, is quite the organization.

I had a doctor whose office was about a two minute walk from my house. To make an appointment, I simply registered at the office once and never filled out paperwork again. Then, when I needed to see the doctor, I simply called the office and chose, from the myriad of options, when I wanted to come in for an appointment. When I came in from my appointment, I signed in, sat down, and waited for them to call my name in ten minutes. Then, I sat in the Doctor's office, face to face with him, and discussed my issues. He gave me as much information as he could, sent a prescription to the pharmacy next door, and I was done. Then, I left the office and picked up my prescription for 7 pounds ($14). That's all the money I spent. It was HORRIBLE. If I had questions, there were hours during the day that I could call and speak with a nurse, and getting an appointment was never, ever an issue.

What I didn't learn from actually receiving care from the NHS, I learned by working in an NHS facility.

I don't have a ton of pictures from England, so here's a picture of me eating a bus in Rome:

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment. If you want to delve further into my life after moving to England, you can go to the very beginning of my blog and start with this one: Ghost Town.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nancy Caroline, a Timeline: 2006 - 2007 (slowin it down a bit)

Apparently...we look like we are "straight up gay" in this picture.
I started Grad School in 2005, drank like a fish, spent New Years in New York after both of my grandmothers died within a month of one another. I tried to date, but everything promising terrified me to the point of self destruction. I did lots of self-destructive things my first two semesters in graduate school. I had never rebelled as a young thang. I was steadfast and loyal....good. Oh how I tried so desperately to be good.

Then the summer came and my best friend and I lived like we were kings....that drank a lot, loved the boys, belched and farted like no other woman has or should, woke up hungover...most days, and laughed...because it was the only true remedy to the hell of real life. We shut down the Hi-Tone (the original Hi-Tone on Poplar Ave) on a weekly basis, broke into apartment complexes with pools and jacuzzis, befriended booth owners at the Memphis International BBQ festival, danced at the Lindy Hop, danced, drunk as hayle at Ernestine and Hazel's, and ate many McGriddles. We had a love affair with Midtown Memphis. We were partners in crime. She turned to me one night and told me that it was a time we were having and that it would have to end at some point, and she was right. I taught English in the Czech Republic, but not before stopping over in London to visit my college roommate who happened to be there attending art school. We went with an Englishman friend of mine (that I kissed a bunch outside of The Buccaneer in Memphis while a bluegrass band played inside and then months later again in a churchyard in Prague after getting totally wasted at a nightclub on dollar beers) to a club called The End where the DJ Erol Alkan hosted a party, Trash, which he ended every night by playing The Smith’s classic “There is a Light that Never Goes Out,” while the English boys smashed their beer glasses on the floor, and everyone, everyone, EVERYONE sang along like the night would never end and we would never grow old. My local tour guide (and worldwide makeout buddy extraordinaire) also introduced me to my next boyfriend that night, a fella from Manchester that was studying Diatoms to predict climate change (I think) in grad school. We talked about England’s recent loss in the World Cup, to Portugal, and he struggled to describe how it felt to know he had to wait four years for another chance. I helped him by reminding him that presidents in the U.S. serve four year terms. He laughed at my cleverness. He turned to me at the end of the night, pointed up to indicate the song everyone was singing, and yelled over the pulsing crowd, “THIS IS A TCHUNE!” I took a class on Emerson the semester after that summer, and fate’s hand dipped its fingers back into my stew. The instructor, on the first day, informed the class that we would just be reading a lot of Emerson and if anyone wanted to drop the class, that was fine with him. No one dropped, and we entered into a philosophical journey that led me to my research obsession, how to apply Emerson’s transcendental tenets to women in a world that did not allow women the freedom to “transcend.” The instructor introduced me to Margaret Fuller and her essays, letters, journals, and activism began to guide my life in directions I had never imagined. I spent the next two years, travelling with my English gentleman and reading about Fuller, buried in printouts from JStore, academic articles examining Fuller’s relationship to her mentors like Emerson and Hawthorne, her admirers like Poe and Whitman, and her relationship to herself, the most torrid, the most confused, as she wrestled with society’s expectations and her own nature. She was a beast of an intellect, obsessed with learning as much as she could and sharing that knowledge, but her fervor was lost on the men in her life. They did not know what to do with the feelings they had for her that she pressed them to explore in the name of life and liberty. They would fall short, literary giants, lost for words in the company of a woman that did not fit the mold. How curious it is that her history is known by so few…
Beautiful Bar"th"elona
Before I finally put pen to paper to write and eventually defend my Master’s Thesis, We travelled to Spain, Valencia and Barcelona, road bicycles out into the countryside and ate Paiaya and locally grown almonds on the beach of the mediterranean sea as the sun set. Then we fell asleep listening to the echoes of night owl footsteps along the stone streets below us. We fought. We went to food markets and bought avocados that we ate on fresh bread spread with Marmite and bananas. It was weird. We visited art museums and read the labels for each piece, took naps in the park, and fought. We made it to Prague a few days before we were to begin teaching in Pilsen, and we explored her medieval streets until our whole bodies ached, and we fought. Then, we taught English for three weeks in West Bohemia, drank with teachers and students from all over the world but mostly Memphians and Czechs. We smoked Hookah in a tea lounge off a quiet street in the center of the city, drank liqueur that put hair on my chest, and ate beef knuckles and Goulash, slept on beaches in the shade, and road trolleys everywhere.  And we drank beer, rushing under the city from the source, pure and fresh, our nourishment, for in the Czech Republic, beer is food.

Then....I sold my stuff, and I moved to England with the intention of not coming back for a long time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nancy Caroline: A Timeline 1999-2005

Abilene, Texas. That is where I decided I needed to go to college, in the desert in Texas. It has a great many gems (including some fantastic steakhouses and some hole in the wall BBQ places that are decent for Texas) and it is a unique city, but in Abilene, I discovered the maze of my brain, and I dug down deep, saw the abyss for the first time, never recovered. The four years I spent in college (1998-2002) were exciting and tumultuous and the world changed forever for everyone. I made new friends and strengthened my bonds with old friends. I opened the door. I didn't look back.


  • I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis after a miserable few months of pain, panic attacks, embarrassing tests, magic muscle relaxers, and steroids that eventually led me to contract Mononucleosis from the cesspool of germs that is a college campus….for Christmas 1999. During Finals week I remember thinking, “If I die this week, at least I won’t have to feel like this.” Because of my diagnosis, I would not be able to buy health insurance for myself until I was 34 years old. Ulcerative Colitis is too expensive to treat. So I haven't.
  • I fell in love for the first time, with a boy. I could write you our story, and maybe one day I will, but it would take too much time. I feel, after more than ten years, that today, I remember why I loved him, and the time we had, and it doesn’t hurt. He broke my heart, and I am certain I broke his. I was more graceful about it, although he would argue. My tongue was always too sharp. He did things in secret. A sharp tongue stings, but betrayal is like taking a gutting knife and stabbing it into the side of my waist and not ripping it out right away, just kind of tugging it and watching that hook blade thing on the other side of my flesh while I ask, pleadingly, what I can do to make him stay with me. You never forget pain like that. I still have the wedding dress because you can’t return a wedding dress.
  • Early one September morning, my senior year in college, after Biology, my only 8 a.m. class my entire college career, I walked towards my Strength Training class to discover that a plane had hit one of the twin towers in New York. I spent the rest of the day sitting in rooms with people I knew and saying nothing.
  • 2002 I graduated from college and thought, as my mind wandered during the commencement ceremony, that I had no idea what to do with my life, that I was going to have to start making adult decisions, and I had no clue how to do that.
  • I left Abilene, and I lived in an apartment that I painted Kermit Green in Lakewood, Dallas, TX, to remain somewhat close to my boyfriend. I had always imagined I would go to North Carolina, my birthplace, and pursue a life there, in the Blue Ridge mountains. In Dallas, I waited tables at a dinner theater called “The Pocket Sandwich Theater” in which “melodramas” were performed and popcorn was served to throw at the bad guys. I taught Junior High School in south Dallas for a year, worked as a cocktail server at the original Dave and Buster’s and performed improv with Comedy Sportz in Plano, TX. Then, I gave it all up to move back to Abilene in an attempt to save an engagement that didn’t want to be saved, so that when I realized I had to let it go, I also discovered that I had nothing else to hold onto. My mother drove me from Abilene back to Memphis, and I started over. Completely.
  • My parents separated. My unit, my family cut our ropes and went floating out into space in different directions. This, three months after the end of my engagement.
  • I moved into an adorable apartment in Midtown Memphis, pre-gentrification, paid about $475 for a one bedroom with a little balcony, bought myself a queen size comfy bed because an old friend of mine told me, one night, whilst in each other’s embrace, that his father taught him a good night’s sleep is always a good investment. I dated the charming and ever steadfast lead singer of a metal band and waited tables at the Outback Steakhouse. I made friends that I still cherish to this day. I blended in. Kind of. I was still spinning from the fallout. So....
  • I bought a Kelty backpack and took it to Europe along with a Euro-Rail pass, and some various sundries. I got wasted in a pub crawl in Berlin, cried alone in a hotel room in Switzerland while I ate an entire jar of Nutella with my fingers, saw the last installment of the Star Wars prequels at an English theater in Austria, ate Gelato twice a day in Italy, cried alone in a “cabin” at a family campground outside of Rome while a German family played some sort of talkative sport outside my window, nursed a hangover on the isle of Capris, and wandered the streets of Pompeii on my own. I stayed in a Best Western for one night in Paris and took a bath (it was awesome), fell down in a conga line in a cozy little pub in Brugge and later offered to have a threesome with a couple after we smoked a joint under a bridge in some misty night scene from a movie, but in the end, I just went back to my hostel and farted in the echo-y bathroom with another girl until we hurt from laughing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nancy Caroline: A Timeline 1979-1998

Here it is, either my ultimate narcissistic gesture, or something I had to do to be able to see what others see in me. I started writing my timeline on the eve of my birthday, last Tuesday. Birthdays always offer an opportunity to reflect. Funny how that is. How, before, it was a celebration of milestones, and now, it's a time to look back and let go, to remember and look forward. Great time to do mushrooms or something, so if anyone's selling, I'm looking to buy.

Once I started, and the years began to reveal themselves to me, I realized how much fun it was, to look back over my life and condense it to fit a timeline of events. Each bullet point could fill an entire chapter of a book, and each time period, a volume, and that is the gift I have been receiving since I wished for it years ago, to own my life.

We begin with the beginning, my formative years, as a little girl in the world, connected to the ground through roots that grew out of my velcro tennis shoes, sent shoots out from my fingertips, and bloomed at my lips.

  • Birth, Hickory, NC to James Anthony Allen and Martha Lois Nevills. Cesarean section. Explains how ravishing I am.
  • Moved to Memphis, TN in a really cool 70s car so that my dad could go to school for Theology. I ate ice cream for the first time, I hear.
  • I make countless cassette tapes of myself hosting some sort of talk show. I never listened to the tapes because I always always always hated the sound of my own voice.
  • I have vague memories of dirty knees, spider webs, Christmas lights, and kittens. Also countless hours digging holes in the back yard or on the playground and searching patches of clover for one with four leaves.

  • I sprained my ankle on my tenth birthday when I jumped off this Hamburgler on a playground at McDonald’s that you climbed up into like a hamburger jail mouth thing. My parents regaled me with stories of the day I was born to help keep my mind off how bad my ankle hurt that night.
  • Mom and Dad used to wake me on Saturday mornings by “sneaking” into my room on their hands and knees, but I always heard them coming because they couldn’t stop giggling.
  • I kissed a boy for the first time in the back yard of a house in Memphis after we jumped on a trampoline and drank orange-tangerine Mystic Waters until we almost threw up. It felt rushed and close. I said, “Orange-Tangerine,” when it was over. That was pretty much it.
  • I took piano lessons, sculpting classes, art classes, and drama classes because my parents were pretty intent on making me into a complete and interesting human being.
  • I got my period!
  • I played the flute, and I loved it. You might say, she was my first great love. In those moments I spent alone in a soundproof practice room, I learned how to be honest and open, how to think and how to feel, how to sit with myself. Then, I got scared that I would stop impressing people, and the more frightened I got, the less I wanted to play my flute, until I stopped altogether (but only after more than ten years).
    Prom '98
  • I discovered the Theater, my second love. I’m not 100% sure who, my mother or father, gave me my keen distaste for dishonesty, but the only real gift you need to be able to enjoy theatre is the ability to look life in the face and not back down from what you see. We back down from life in a lot of ways, take the easy way out, wonder what that ache is, even though we know. I felt like I could be myself in the theatre crowd. And then, for some reason, probably anxiety, I felt like an outsider, but that was much later.
  • I graduated from High School.