Wednesday, January 30, 2008

yet more

Names. [Him / Her / Him]

Gin and tonic on the table, leaving condensation rings, building card houses out of the coasters. Single women of thirty, united in pursuit of that elusive goal, unity through partnership, one woman chasing the Bachelor of Putney, the other acting as side-kick and encouragement for this particular round of the hunting of the Snark. Having an operational report on the successful seeding of a phone number, followed by hours of deep and meaningful speculation on that most incomprehensible of life mysteries, the great question: "Will He Call?"

Well, will he or won't he? Will cocktails with a single friend be replaced by romantic dinners a deux? Will future phone calls be of domestic bliss? Will the Vermonter, well-educated, installer of composting toilets, curly haired, succumb to the charms and talons of the professor who chases him?

In between discussions of the great mystery of Will He Call fall divergent episodes of previous men, how they were acquired, procured, hooked, and then released back into the ocean of humanity, some to flounder and others to predatorily hunt for more fisher-women to land. In these discussions, which loves are chosen for their anecdotal properties, and which are never alluded to or discussed? Have names and characters traits been changed to protect the innocent, or not so innocent?

Two girls drinking gin and calculating their statistical chances of finding that particular improbability: the ideal male who can cope with cranky, perfectionistic, driven women. And cook. Think of all the hours spent discussing the man that never was, or the one who shouldn't have been.

But did he have a name? Did he have a factual assemblage of parents, siblings, employers, quirks, charms? Did he exist as an actual person, or as a projection? Do you name him, the names his parents provided, the nickname from his pals, the pseudonym he adopted for nefarious purposes? Do you give him a nickname, an allusion, a play on words, a foreign translation? Is he a city, a job, an age, a musician, a gentleman?

Names are powerful. The power to summon, the power to destroy. Using a name can turn into a call, can bring the dead back to life, can force the past into a new focus. Did you call his name, beseeching the night through gin-hazed vision? Or do you only refer to Him: perhaps a city, a job, an age, or a physical metaphor, but never playing with the power of who he really was.

Or maybe you can't actually remember the names any more, so many years, a blessing, a curse.

Typing with cat on arm. Not recommended.
reading the unreceived email
weather unpredictable

Sunday, January 27, 2008


You find the perfect house.
Three bedrooms, one bath.
A garden.
Windows. More windows. Still more windows.
In your town.

Then it is placed for sale.
Absurdly cheap.
So cheap that even you could afford it.

It is like being in love, the unrequited kind,
The only consummation
The knowledge that the person exists.

reading bank statements
weather snow expected

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

full moon angst

{Being a grownup and still being chastised. A bother.}

Looking across a windowsill overflowing with cut daffodils into the Churchyard, on the other side of a tall flint wall, across the lane. The Churchyard and Church buffering my room from the emotional maelstrom of the main house, which sprawled, unkempt, across the grounds.

My room was cluttered, of course, piles of books, shoes, conference papers, sweaters, and, somehow, more shoes vying for floor space with the guests and fashion magazines and spreads of snacks and cups of tea, acres of daffodils filling every potential vase-like container, daffodils purchased at a market in Newcastle, my friend mocking the frivolity of armloads of daffodils in my lap on British Airways. One is apparently permitted to take liberties at a tea party: sprawled across my bed, the gangly, ungainly Canadian, declaring the position divine, surrounded by feather duvet and down pillows, wallowing in the opportunity to be somewhere he had never been before and would, he knew, never be again.

The duvet represented freedom, independence, liberation. As many female undergraduates discover sex and then bob their hair in a break from the constraints of their high school persona, such was the duvet a declaration of sexual liberation from fidelity. Remaking identity as a woman, one bedsheet, one pillow, one comforter at a time. The new theory, announced to those who question, being that if one sleeps alone, it must be in comfort.

Every break-up, dalliance, flirtation, and fling followed with another addition to the altar of the bed. Others place marks on the headboard. I buy another antique hand embroidered pillowcase. When one has eight feather pillows, the pillowcases are a necessity. That man was a dreadful kisser, I recall, discovering an appliqued coverlet from the 1920's. The banker was a complete cad, but an amusing specimen of the type: another wool blanket. The man who loved me, whom I mistreated: more flannel sheets.

Each face, set of eyes, feel of hands translating into new linen, Egyptian cotton, flannel, lace, paisley, matlesse, embroidery, overstuffed, subtly striped addition to the boudoir. One of them became a bedskirt. Why have one bedskirt when one can own two? What is the final tally of linens for a one bedroom apartment?

The morning sunlight pours into the room, through curtains which were made from men's shirting, chosen because it resembles the delicate stripe of boxer shorts. The two cats have each claimed a pillow, leaving me to huddle under the duvet and rest my head on my arm.

reading No Signposts in the Sea
weather winter continues

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writing Assistance


I dream of the abandoned factory
living testament to a good idea
now allowed to rest and to ruin.

My foundation grows into the ground:
grasses and weeds both anchor me
and consume my own structure.

Rooks nestle in my hair;
feral cats fearlessly hunt equally fearless feral rats.

Teenagers throw stones into my eyes
cracking the glazing:
plywood cataracts temper vanished vision.
My arms, my head lost to vandals.

At rest, alone, one with the elements.
Sitting in the window,
the wind rustles the trees.

reading yet more travel itineraries
weather brisk sunshine

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

beginnings, middles, and ends

1. Commitment (is this the beginning or the middle?)

For several years now, I have been dating my studio. Spending quality time together, in the early days lots of evenings and weekends. Having coffee, dining, courting with new equipment and hanging pretty pictures and generally being on my best behavior and not cursing too loudly. A few long, long nights here and there.

Then I signed a lease. Rather like a marriage, perhaps, although I had to pay a lot more for the first/last/security/insurance fees than one does for a marriage license. Didn't buy a new frock to celebrate, although did spend money on the studio equivalent of registry items from Home Depot. Settled in. Bought drinking glasses, tables, and chairs.

Not that things in the relationship are starting to get stale -- it just happens that I have been advised to take a lover.

2. The Lover (is this the middle or the beginning?)

Apparently, beginning to mature into one's voice as a writer is about carving out the regular time to actually, oh, write. The advice I was given is to treat writing like a love: if one has a lover, one makes time for the person. Not only does one make time for said being, but one makes atmosphere.

So my writing is off in a corner somewhere, sulking and reading bad magazines and drinking cheep beer, because I begrudge the Time When Awake and Coherent that it requires, and because I don't even attempt atmosphere. Aren't a collection of typewriters, the complete Oxford English Dictionary, wire-rimmed glasses sufficient atmosphere? What more is there?

3. An end. Not to end on a downer, but if the majority of my writing, regardless of quality, is ending up here, one can't be too exclusive.

Living in a series of garret apartment rooms: this attraction to being above the push and pull of the fray, the mass of human bodies below. Gazing down from one's windows, god-like, into the swarming action. My very first very own bedroom, the sign of liberation from the ever-present younger-sister, who was given the nicer bedroom with two closets; but my own room, with the long, slanting ceiling ending at a row of windows placed at just the right height for watching the backyard from the bed. The carpeting an irrepressible kelly green stripe, unfortunately indestructible and so never replaced. The lure of the slanting ceiling meeting with visions of the Sistine Chapel, and the beginnings of the project to turn the room into High Art.

Not being an artist myself, this also became the first in a series of life discoveries on the nature and value of delegation, and so a friend was recruited to design, draw, and paint the history of Art, from the Etruscans through the Greeks, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and all of the various movements of the modern era, onto the ceiling, in a series of tableaus measuring 18" by 24". The difference between the installation as realized as opposed to those in textbooks was that each parodied famous art work was drawn using the feline form, rather than the human.

The pencil sketches were of a surprisingly high quality, given the constraints of suburban Dallas, and my budget, a promise of $60 to be paid upon completion. Sixty dollars in high school was a fortune.

What I remember most about that summer of Art, though, was what we called the "trash wall," the flat wall of the room which was the receptacle of our energies when the slope of the ceiling became painful, and we graffitied to our heart's content. My friend and I copied out favorite poems onto the wall, such as that by Edwin Arlington Robinson:

"Together in infinite shade
They deny the invincible dawn:
The measure that never was made,
The line that never was drawn."

The title was "Too Much Coffee."

The project, of course, was never completed, although the pencil sketches were thoroughly drawn, and subtly shaded; this testament to life at fifteen turning to sixteen standing for another dozen years, until one Christmas when I painted everything over with three coats of primer and two top coats. My mother was heartbroken at the loss of the monument to youth; for her the cats really were High Art and also the physical presence of her surly eldest child.

What we did not paint over, though, when readying the wall for occupancy by the youngest daughter, was the small, flat portion of the ceiling, a strip perhaps 3 feet wide that ran the length of the room, and was labeled "The Summer of Our Discontent." This will hopefully remain as created until my parents abandon the property, for the ceiling of the summer of our discontent holds the painted handprints of all my friends from this fragile era, an era which one of us did not survive, his death becoming ultimately the cause of his mother's, and shattering our unity.

His handprint is the only physical notion which remains, preserved in cheap poster paint on the ceiling of the room.

reading film schedules
weather undoubtedly January

Saturday, January 12, 2008

two poems

Worshipping at the altar of the broken body.

high noon
high maintenance

Rescue Remedy, Advil,
Tylenol: family size, not child-proof
Vitamin A, B, C, D,
cod liver oil, Robitussin,
Calcium, St John’s Wort,
acupuncture, primary care

Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.


Bitching by Candlelight
Broken hip
Torn rotator cuff
Sore back
Sleepless nights
Another snowfall in the forecast
Lack of sleep in the forecast
Bad projects
Ill conceived ideas
Unsuccessful meals
Cancelled plans

bureaucracy, unending
the past, unending
the future, foreboding

perfect oatmeal raisin cookies
perfect loaves of bread
Rescue Remedy

reading Li Po
weather brittle sunny clear

Thursday, January 10, 2008

sushi and such

When dining a deux, sans voce, there is only one answer.

Consequences: the literary exquisite corpse

LITERARY GENRE: ________________________
{noir, bodice ripper, detective fiction, etc., announced at start}

HER: ________________
{fold over and pass}
HIM: ________________
{fold over and pass}
She said, "___________________"
{fold over and pass}
To which he replied, "_______________________"
{fold over and pass}
The consequence of this was that: _____________________
{fold over and read aloud}

In the version which I was taught -- in a train between Florence and Rome -- I think that the gender orders were reversed, so we met the hero, then the heroine, and he spoke first, and she responded. But being liberated and such, women now make the first move.

I. {Forgot to announce a genre}
Her: A woman in red, waiting at the dry cleaners for her black business suit.
Him: One of the Malagee pirates ... an orphan ... snaggle-toothed, curly haired, muscular, and unhappy. Searching for crime.
She said: "Well, that isn't actually the reason I accosted you in this way. Normally I refrain from begging local firemen for immediate assistance, and the parson is visiting his sainted aunt, so you, though a stranger, are the only one I can rely upon."
To which he replied, "I totally think it'd be awesome to go to the other place. My nails are like really the wrong color and they clash with the Pepto-Bismol shade of this burb lane snot-hole, babe."
The consequence of this action was that the entire town saw the mad dash of the farmer and his wife around the courtyard square with a cleaver. The woman observed to the man, as the passing couple darted by, "Darling, I refuse to let you keep swine or cattle."

II. Cyber-space
Her: Furry-clad one-woman tank-driving army. Bug-eyed goggles. Cigar with lipstick colors in five different shades up and down its shaft. A woman on a mission. A woman staring straight ahead at the sunlight, not looking where she's driving. Over one nipple is tattooed LIVE FREE. Over the other is tattooed OR DIE. She wears no shirt.
Him: He had hacked into his first Atari at the age of seven. By fifteen he had rewritten the Microsoft operating code, and launched and lost a thousand games. But this was only in the mornings, for the true desire and light of his life was his bicycle. Most girls didn't understand. He needed, he craved, a girl on wheels. Literally. At least rollerskates. So he founded CraigsList, searching, hoping.
She said, "I can't believe it's you here the nerve to show up here after you totally let the commune mainframe get hacked by the Weasels. You rat! Taking snow on the job! That day they burnt through the wall all I could think was, great, I'm homeless, and it's YOUR fault!
To which he replied, "I thought we were destined to never meet. You live in Estonia, with a husband and three children, yet you fly across the seas to meet me in Shanghai. I recognized you at once. Yes! You are my one true love. But we can never meet again. You lied about your height, weight, and eye color. I'm sorry."
The consequence of this action was that she accepted his proposal and became a partner in the project so that together they forged the greatest encyclopedia of all time which preserved the knowledge of all 42 alternate dimensions of fire.

Netflix queue, top dozen:

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams
Taxi Driver
Chori Chori Chupke Chupke
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Train Man: Densha Otoko
Chori Chori
Chan at Monte Carlo/Behind That Curtain
Shaolin Soccer
Scotland, PA

weather still warmish

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

vox populi

Well, the gods have spoken. Due to continual misbehavior and refusal to follow protocol rules, my voice was removed three days ago and will be gone for an unspecified length of time. One day I hope to be able to speak again, as one day I may start to follow the rules of order.

Or maybe not. Life by text message it is.

reading tutorial for Scrivener
weather three cheers for global warming

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

by request (kind of)

I. The Adventures of Sid.
1. In which we meed Sid, and the adventures begin

There was an alligator. His name was Sid, which is to say his name was Stevenius Ignatius Darlington III. I do not know if he was happy, for it is not something we ever discussed. Sid did, however, suffer from insomnia; he would use these hours of tossing and turning to balance his account books. He was that type of alligator.

Sid had spent a quiet lifetime working as a government employee, shuffling between departments, watching policy changes and political appointments slowly trickle down to affect his own department, his own workspace. For a time he attended every inauguration, every state of the union address; he collected signed autographs of each Secretary of the Interior from 1947 onward. It is likely he would have continued in these quiet and gentle pursuits, but his first and only love, the city of Washington, DC, suddenly terminated their relationship.

(yes, there will be a happy ending)


II. A place of one's own

Lying catatonic on the couch. Or, rather, slumped, indecorously, in a heap on the couch, a pile formed of barely conscious human and alternating purring cat and back issues of the New Yorker. Psychology articles are full of references to holiday breakdowns. but so rarely do they mention any requisite post-family-intensive-recovery-period, funded by Zombiton, a new anti-anxiety anti-depressant anti-travel-sickness medicine by the makers of Ambien, Zoloft, and Prozac. This medical cocktail is also available as a generic, ask your pharmacist how a Bloody Mary may be able to assist you, today.

Forsaking the temple to silence and contemplation that one has carefully constructed of perfectly matched china and polished silver, a land free of televisions, republicans, and god; and entering the safari of family, the territorial trumpeting of brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and mysterious small children whom belong to no one in particular but multiply by the millisecond. Is there a domestic form of the malaria pill?

So we return to lying, slumping, slouching, not quite dozing in a land where nothing traumatic is permitted to occur and pandemonium and bedlam are merely encountered in stories of revolution in eighteenth century Britain. Occasionally this temple of protected space enlarges, when the day is sunny and deadlines do not loom, the walk between old factories. Gazing beyond water towers into the fragments of the industrial age, skeletons of human ingenuity which have been forsaken to the ever stronger pull of natural destruction.

As the incessant drowning siren of noises is the family, it's symptoms similar to leprosy, so too do the factories reflect the wear of their distant cousins: neglect, wind, sun. What is the time allotment between abandonment, and grass growing through perfectly leveled asphalt parking lots? What is the lifespan of a brick wall? Following ghost towns of America, or simply finding the gas station deemed unprofitable: watching illness and aging cracking into the human ideal of perfection, as our inclinations change and vision declines to see what no longer holds our interest.

In many ways, I dream of becoming the abandoned factory, the living testament to a good idea that is now allowed to rest and to ruin. The rooks may nestle in my hair; teenagers may throw stones into my eyes, cracking the glazing, until cataracts replace vision with plywood inserts. My foundation will grow into the ground, just as grasses and weeds both anchor me and eat into my own structure. Soon I will lose my arms, my head to vandals; feral cats will fearlessly hunt equally fearless feral rats. Finally, at rest, alone, one with the elements, sitting in the window as the wind rustles through the trees.


III. It's a bird! It's a plane!

Everyone knows about Sputnik, and the early canine Russian space explorers. How they sent dogs bravely where no man had gone before, and neglected to include the means to return home to their beloved masters.

His name was Fido. It wasn't much of a name, but, to be honest, he wasn't much of a dog. Parentage uncertain, but as a puppy he had dreams of the grandeur of his ancestry. A great-great uncle who hunted with the czars. A grandmother who visited the courts of Europe. A second cousin three times removed who was a gift of goodwill to the Chinese emperor. In return, Russia received a panda bear, and Fido has always felt a small thrill of familial pride that his genes may be deemed as valuable as those of a panda.

Such is the strength of willful delusion. In reality, Fido was the product of a quick and dirty evening in an alley of Saint Petersburg, where the rough and tumble rubbed shoulders amongst the onion soup cast-offs from the local cafe. His mother was a rat-terrier, more rat than terrier, and his father was nothing other than a stranger from out of town, breed unknown, markings ambiguous.

Which is why Fido became the hero of our story. It just goes to show that a life on the streets can lead to the stars, although the scientist Ernst Maxenweuller never actually asked Fido if he wanted to achieve greatness, or to have greatness thrust upon him. Ernst Maxenweuller simply asked his able assistant Teddy to find a mongrel weighing no more than seven pounds, and less than a foot in length, preferably under eight inches tall. Hence Fido. He was named by Teddy's younger brother, who otherwise does not figure in our story.

So Fido posed for photographs, next to Sputnik and inside Sputnik and with his little custom made and hand embroidered dog space suit and oxygen tank. Publicity is a strange thing: they could have just as easily sent a sack of flour, or a chicken. But then I would be writing about Emma the Hen and not about Fido, Dog of the Heavens.

For the story does not actually end with the satellite successfully being launched into orbit, Fido hailed as a national hero and then abandoned to his kibble- and oxygen-free fate, to spin through the Milky Way for eternity. What actually happened is much less worthy of a Russian melodrama and rather more interesting. But the Russians rarely seek happy endings, and so their news reports left out the true story of Fido.

For space exploration was much more advanced than the Russian or the American governments were willing to relate to the general public. Fido's one way ticket to the Man in the Moon was actually a cover for a much more intriguing experiment in domestic dynamics: the nuclear family in space. Fido was being sent as a Christmas present for the young daughter in a colony on the shadowed side of the moon. She had requested a pony, but, alas, the Russian government felt too conspicuous sending a horse into space. People might suspect the truth.

She and Fido lived happily every after, a girl and her dog in space.

reading ski package prices
weather is this good/? is this kind? is this necessary?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


According to Wikipedia (o! Wikipedia! Without you, I am nothing.),

The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year, so it is important that a suitable person does the job. A tall, handsome, and dark-haired man bearing a gift is strongly preferred. According to popular folklore, a man with dark hair was welcomed because he was assumed to be a fellow Scotsman; a blond or red-haired stranger was assumed to be an unwelcome Norseman.

So, I'm looking for a tall, dark, handsome stranger. A man from my acquaintance would, of course, qualify, but there aren't any such in my circles (which is a crying shame, actually). If you know any potential good-luck candidates, let me know. I'll bake cookies. If he is fond of shoveling snow, I'll wash your dishes for a year.

But I had adamantly determined that there were to be no New Year's Resolutions this year (that saving-lists concept that I mentioned in an earlier post? it lasted about three days, until the desk was cleaned and the piles of lists consigned to the recycling bin), excepting the decision to finally get a pedicure.

Demonstrating my stunning ability to both make decisions and change my mind, I now have a formal list of 2008 resolutions. If they are submitted to the General Public (that would be you), there is a chance -- a slight chance -- that they will be successful beyond measure, as opposed to my now ten-year-old resolution (some people's children are younger) to learn how to sail.
Ambitions, long term, formalize
Artist's books, produce
Ceaseless whining, cease
Deadlines, make
Pedicure, receive
Savings account, accrue
Writing group, continue
Xilitla, visit

reading The Economist end-o-year double-issue (thanks for the renewal!)
weather eight inches of snow -- eight!