Thursday, December 24, 2009

attacus atlas for my girl

Indebted again to the Writer's Almanac:

Vladimir Nabokov's short story "Christmas" is set on a country estate buried in snowdrifts outside St. Petersburg, Russia. The main character, Sleptsov, carries the coffin of his adolescent son to the village church plot, goes to bed, and wakes up on Christmas Eve Day.

He goes into the room that had been his son's summer study, separate from the main house and unheated, sits at his son's desk, and numbly sifts through some of the dead child's belongings. The son (like Nabokov himself) had enjoyed butterfly-collecting, and at the desk the father finds the tools of the hobby: cork-bottomed spreading boards, supplies of black pins, a torn muslin net, and "an English biscuit tin that contained a large exotic cocoon." Nabokov writes that the cocoon was "papery to the touch and seemed made of a brown folded leaf. His son had remembered it during his sickness, regretting that he had left it behind, but consoling himself with the thought that the chrysalid inside was probably dead."

Sleptsov sits, sobs, and returns to the main house carrying a few of his son's belongings, including the biscuit tin with the cocoon...He's convinced he'll die of grief, the next day, Christmas. He sees earthly life "totally bared and comprehensible — and ghastly in its sadness, humiliatingly pointless, sterile, devoid of miracles."

And then, Nabokov writes: "At that instant there was a sudden snap — a thin sound like that of an overstretched rubber band breaking. Sleptsov opened his eyes. The cocoon in the biscuit tin had burst at its tip, and a black, wrinkled creature the size of a mouse was crawling up the wall above the table. It had emerged from the chrysalid because a man overcome with grief had transferred a tin box to his warm room, and the warmth had penetrated its taut leaf-and-silk envelope; it had awaited this moment so long, had collected its strength so tensely, and now, having broken out, it was slowly and miraculously expanding.

"... And then those thick black wings, with a glazy eyespot on each and a purplish bloom dusting their hooked foretips, took a full breath under the impulse of a tender, ravishing, almost human happiness."

Which led to finding the picture of this gorgeous moth (named Attacus Atlas):

via happyraindrops' photostream

And this antennae-bedazzled close up which I hope will delight my dear color-texture-shape-enchanted daughter:



via NatureFreak07's photostream

Sunday, November 22, 2009

bubonic marketing

I love that it's named Black Friday. For the retailers, it's all about being In the Black, as opposed to where they're swimming right now, which is In the Red. For those of us who loathe shopping, it's a plague warning shot and we're quarantining ourselves/hunkering down...only venturing out into Target-Shopper-Free zones, if at all..

Saturday, November 21, 2009

dynamic tension

I was writing to a friend about the ongoing, internal sparring match in me brain.

In the far corner The Inner Pragmatist dances in anticipation of a slugfest with The Inner Purist. It's a necessary battle, I believe. But not constantly. Except while you're in it, it sort of feels like you're always in the ring.

Here's how it goes. I agree to do "x" because it's sensible and potentially beneficial financially. Inner Accountant raises its arms in victory. Inner Philosopher sulks and starts picking a fight because "x" is also time-consuming and sucks a little of my soul out.

I agree to do "y" because it's practical and appropriate (goddamn, I so hate that word). Inner Intellect applauds, Inner Emotion jeers.

Oh, fuck. Enough with the "x" and "y". Too much cryptic annoys.

I agreed to be a supervisor at work and I'm crabby as hell about going to meetings and I'm letting myself get all anxious as if I'm responsible for the fucking world. That kind of hypocritical, egotistical, counterproductive whining is OBNOXIOUS to the nth degree. And yet, here I am.
Come down off the cross, we could use the wood, I tell myself.

The "y" is so much harder. A couple of years ago, I/we stopped paying for our children to fly home for the holidays. (Which, by the way, they never asked us to do and were ever grateful for the gift.) Economic constriction made it easier but ultimately, they are adults and need to figure out whether they want to come home enough to figure out how to do so, she said firmly...

...while her heart howls with grief.

I just can't get this shit aligned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"tart gratitudes"

From Saturday's Writer's Almanac. (Read it out loud if you can.)

Cranberry-Orange Relish

by John Engels

A pound of ripe cranberries, for two days
macerate in a dark rum, then do not
treat them gently, but bruise,
mash, pulp, squash
with a wooden pestle
to an abundance of juices, in fact
until the juices seem on the verge

of overswelling the bowl, then drop in
two fistsful, maybe three, of fine-
chopped orange with rind, two golden
blobs of it, and crush
it in, and then add sugar, no thin
sprinkling, but a cupful dumped
and awakened with a wooden spoon

to a thick suffusion, drench of sourness, bite of color,
then for two days let conjoin
the lonely taste of cranberry,
the joyous orange, the rum, in some
warm corner of the kitchen, until
the bowl faintly becomes
audible, a scarce wash of sound, a tiny
bubbling, and then
in a glass bowl set it out
and let it be eaten last, to offset
gravied breast and thigh
of the heavy fowl, liverish
stuffing, the effete
potato, lethargy of pumpkins

gone leaden in their crusts, let it be eaten
so that our hearts may be together overrun
with comparable sweetnesses,
tart gratitudes, until finally,
dawdling and groaning, we bear them
to the various hungerings
of our beds, lightened
of their desolations.
Poetry done right is magic. This rolls over the tongue and imagination:
"...for two days let conjoin
the lonely taste of cranberry,
the joyous orange, the rum, in some
warm corner of the kitchen, until
the bowl faintly becomes
audible..." (italics added)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

when the wild thing stole my heart


I went to see Where the Wild Things Are for my birthday. With a little trepidation, of course. If you love a book dearly and know it damn near by heart, you feel protective of the story. Right or wrong, it is woven into your life and there is a wonky sense of ownership.

Simply put, the movie was wonderful. Those that criticized the pace as slow have spent too much time in the world of Transformers. This is a story. A story you tell your children as they drift off to sleep. The creation of Max's backstory was surprisingly illuminating and seamless. His behavior even more dimensional with those layers.

Among the more wonderful aspects was keeping the truth of Sendak's non-Manichean world. Love is mixed with fear is mixed with violence. When the monsters pile up to sleep it is warm and comforting and dangerous for Max. When he urges the dirt clod fight it is fun and exciting and hurtful. But the undercurrent remains an unsentimental love.

And this gem: Max's costume becomes filthier and filthier throughout the adventure. I can't express how delightful that is.

It is a reminder to me of my lifelong fear of and fascination with "rough-housing." God, that expression sounds dated. But here is the way it went: wrestling and fun-fighting started out with laughter and always ended with tears. With adults or just children. I began to fear chaotic energy because it was associated anger and hurt. I am sorry that I don't enjoy the wild rumpus enough.

That said, the story shook the kaleidoscope of maternal memories more profoundly. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Nonetheless, that was my Wild Thing. My own boy. Swirling in a world of fear and love and anger. And guilt and sweetness. So clear a snapshot of the world from his point of view. The blur of love and anguish from that time came back into brilliant, harsh focus. It was overwhelming. Overwhelming.

So when a towering muppet with James Gandolfini's voice begins to cry, it was the last straw: I cried my fool head off in a public place. Thank god movie theaters are dark.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

stopping by for a sec

So much to tell you, so many things pulling on my coattails...this from last week's Writer's Alamanac:

The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.
-Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)
Addendum: And this from today's:
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
-Richard Dawkins, biologist and author (b. 1941)
Be back soon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

48 in 58

Yesterday was my birthday. It was wonderful, full of all the things that make me happy. St. Barbara, calls from my children, family and friends. Cards and presents and great food. And incidently, the most beautiful weather we've had here in 6 or 7 months.

Listening to the Writer's Alamanac this morning, I learned something that would make a birthday-phobic person shriek. But I am not all that phased by the number associated with my years on earth so I didn't.

When I was born, there were only 48 states.

49th state: Alaska January 3, 1959
50th state: Hawaii August 21, 1959

Wow. Just the sound of that seems to evoke sepia tones.

Friday, October 16, 2009

ides of october

Today is Oscar Wilde's birthday. Hear Garrison Keillor's brief bio of him on the Writer's Almanac.
And in his honor, here are Mr. Wilde's last words. I can only hope that I will have such presence of mind in my final moments.

Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.
~Oscar Wilde, writer, d. November 30, 1900

Thursday, September 24, 2009

feedback

The Chronicle, like most newspapers, gets its fair share of irritated reader feedback. Here is one that I particularly enjoyed (edited to maintain this moron's anonymity):

I have a comment on bad or poor taste. On Sunday's paper there was a half naked pregnant woman on the front page. My daughter commented on it. And I am tired of seeing Mexicans in your paper and reading about foreigners.



Reminds me of a friend of a friend who, after telling a wealthy client over the phone that her items were ready, the woman actually said, "Good, I'll have my Mexican come by to pick them up."

There's so much material here I'm stymied. Where do you start?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

anti-depression

Maureen Dowd's op-ed in the NYT today:

According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier.
I'm not making judgments on these studies and their scientific or social accuracy. For all I know they are solid studies. For all I know, they're quackery. It's the reaction to these publications that I find disturbing.

Personal observations can be dismissed as anecdotal and tainted by a lack of objectivity. Be that as it may, I've noticed that reports like these tend to give many women (and men) something to point at and say, "See, proof that women ARE depressed!" and snuggle down into what they now see as justifiable malaise.

Yes. Women often juggle two demanding jobs. Yes. Women are not treated equally in the workplace. Yes, yes, yes, women are judged on their looks in ways that critically devalue their talents and intelligence.

It sucks and it's wrong.

But it's external. EXTERNAL. And the only way for that gross unfairness to destroy you is if you let it in and make it comfortable.* Forgive the annoying self-help sound of that. We are not helpless. And the old adage is true: Living well is the best revenge. If you're not happy, stop sulking and sighing. Figure out how to get happy. Or happier.

Happiness is not something presented to you, wrapped up in a pretty, beribboned box. It's not something that you experience and keep forever. It's not something that solves all your problems. It's not a automatic perk of financial success or physical beauty. Common sense, right?

Start small. Do something that makes you happy. Focus on that. Repeat.

*I have met so many people who seem invested in misery. They invite it in, serve it some nice tea and make sure it feels right at home. When good things happen to them, they are reminded by their permanent house guest of all the wrongs done to them or that something shitty is just around the corner. Many people look at their past and bemoan that they should have appreciated their youth, enthusiasm, potential or health. Whatever patience I once had has been worn thin on this. Boot your inner hand-wringer and stop investing in your own gloom.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

huntsville via nyt

Building AND Recycling! In Huntsville, Texas of all unexpected spots. God I love this place.

But I really love this roof. Made from salvaged roof shingles.

Dan Phillips started Phoenix Commotion, a company that makes low-income housing out of construction leftovers and salvaged materials. (I just read this article on the New York Times website...a long way get to a city just a few hours north of here.)

He also says that mobile homes are a blight on the planet...can't argue with that.

I've been researching solar roof panels. I'm interested in finding ways to combine long-term money-saving and, you know, not accelerating the polluting of our little planet here. But I would also like to have some decent aesthetic, in addition to frugality and conservation...most of the solar panel solutions I saw were butt-ugly (and expensive). I mean, a beautiful clay roof with dozens of large blue-black reflective slabs plopped on top like an afterthought? What a shame. I'm hoping solar panel technology advances in manner of the microchip-smaller, faster, stronger. It's a great concept, especially for those of us living right next door to the sun.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

i confess

I went to see Julie & Julia and like dozens of clichés under which I am loathe to fall, I am yet another blogger who loved it.

  • Not just because I happen to love writing and cooking.
  • Not just because I believe fresh bread is divine but may have been created for the sole purpose of conducting sacred butter into our pastry holes.
  • Not just because Meryl Streep is fucking amazing and enchanting as Julia Child.
  • Not just because there were two love stories I could relate to and empathize with.
  • But all these things and a Saturday afternoon matinee with my own St. Barbara.
I'm a little embarrassed to say I'm making hamburgers for dinner. Half ground beef and half ground turkey at that. Oh, I'll saute onions, add beautiful ripe tomato slices and place them on a bed of fresh romaine but we're still talking hamburgers here.

I also have another confession. Some of you are aware of this and seem to have forgiven me but...I'm seeing another blog. Yes. It's true but I love you best and this is only a fling. A three-month infidelity that makes me love you more. I understand if you are irritated. Maybe you won't want to have anything to do with the other blog.

But just in case you do...it's all about DIY. Fixing up the place. No. I mean that's what it's called. I talk about tools and fixing my house. See, you aren't even interested! It's a very narrow scope and is no threat to anyone or anything right here. There are some good diagrams, however, I must admit to that.

PS. About that movie. You know, if you filled a life-sized glass cow to the brim with butter and cream and floated it in a olympic pool of wine that's probably close to what Julia Child consumed in her life. And she lived to 91! Fuck all the hater dieters. Julia sneers at your Lean Cuisine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

thought for the day

From today's A.Word.A.Day:

There will be no Homeland Security until we realize that the entire planet is our homeland...
-John Perkins, economist and author (b.1945)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

food for thought; pie for poetry

Another delicious morsel from [today's] Writer's Almanac.

Blackberry Pie

by Jennifer Rae Vernon

is kernels of juice
blue, mom makes it do
magic heat to vanilla ice cream
purple dream

there were many nice things,
the corduroy pinafore
the daily notes in lunch sack
of a smiley face and curly cue hair
your mama loves you, and do great
with a thermos of homemade soup

dad too, he rocked me on front porch
after seven yellow jacket stings
i howled through the valley
in baking soda paste
while he sang, in the big rock candy mountain...

but just like grandma vernon always said
don't bother doing anything nice for your children
they'll only remember the bad things, anyway

like when she tethered my dad
to the front yard tree
so he could play when she was at work

was that bad? a ruined childhood?
bless her heart
and pie too, is sometimes
tart

Monday, August 24, 2009

sexy, sexy salad

From yesterday's Writer's Almanac. Poetry that makes your veggies blush.

Vegetable Love

by Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth's tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth's voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

why pink and blue annoy me

Interesting article in today's New York Times on Caster Semenya, a South African runner who won gold at the world track and field championships in Berlin but who is being gender-tested because she was 2-seconds faster than the rest of the runners (though she did not break the world record) and it seems, she just doesn't look female enough.

First of all, let me get the wordplay out of my head: Her name is Semenya and I want her to be from Kenya. Okay. Thank you. Moving on.

Two quotes from the article were particularly fascinating:
It turns out genes, hormones and genitals are pretty complicated,” Alice Dreger, a professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University, said in a telephone interview. “There isn’t really one simple way to sort out males and females. Sports require that we do, but biology doesn’t care. Biology does not fit neatly into simple categories, so they do these tests. ”

Dreger...said the doctors could examine genes, gonads, genitalia, hormone levels and medical history. “But at the end of the day, they are going to have to make a social decision on what counts as male and female, and they will wrap it up as if it is simply a scientific decision,” Dreger said. “And the science actually tells us sex is messy. Or as I like to say, ‘Humans like categories neat, but nature is a slob.’ ”

Nature is a slob. That's my kind of science.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

hats off to dad

Last year I wrote a post about my father. It was, in part, about waterboarding. His retired police friends have a habit of sending mass emails about this or that. Last week they sent him an email that accused the Obama administration of arbitrarily denouncing waterboarding and taking away this effective interrogation tool. This is his response and it makes me proud:

The worst mistake we make as free thinking human beings is that of allowing others to lead us by the ears. Waterboarding is torture and its classification as such predates The Inquisition in the 13th century. It has been denounced for 700 years, give or take a hundred. Neither President Obama nor Nancy Pelosi had anything to do with the promulgation of this as torture, they are just not that old.

Waterboarding is an attractive interrogation technique because it causes great physical and mental suffering without leaving any marks on the body.

In the past when law enforcement authorities in the U.S. (Texas 1983) use[d] waterboarding, a sheriff and his deputies were convicted and sentenced to four (4) years in prison.

In 1947, the U.S. charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for waterboarding a U.S. civilian. Asano was sentenced to 15 years in prison at hard labor.

We are the good guys, we do not torture even our enemies.

Friday, August 07, 2009

frontal lobe combustion

Did you ever deal with an issue so confusing, contradictory and demanding that you were sure the problem-solving part of your brain was about to burst into flames? It feels like I've had a couple of those every day this week. All I've got upstairs is soot and ashes. And, mixed-metaphors be damned, a cranial charlie horse.

Not that I'm alone. My family members have had a trying week and mine can't even compare. I just think the wisps of smoke coming out of my head holes deserve some 'splainin', Lucy.

Speaking of 'splainin': Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor–the sound of that makes this Puerto Rican woman stand a little prouder.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

saturday morning solace

"At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived."
—Rose Macaulay, from today's Writer's Almanac

Last weekend I was in Michigan visiting my sister. Grand Rapids in July (fleeing Houston) is a delight. Houston in December (fleeing Grand Rapids) is likewise. The berries were abundant and the mornings were cool. I was thrilled to have four whole days with my sister. Just two sisters and the occasional child, grandchild or friend stopping by. [I, not too subtly, also celebrated the absence of her rod-up-his-ass, soon-to-be ex-husband.] We tinkered around her new/old (1925) and completely beguiling Craftsman bungalow. Fixing this, unsticking that. In between we dined and napped and talked and laughed.

This weekend I'm facing a little post-visit slump. And the return of the What Am I Doing with My Life Short and Long Term Goal Review. I probably go through this too much, but time passes and a girl wants something to show for it.

So I review. And remember to count that time spent relaxing with partner or self is not wasted time. Inner Puritan be silenced. But there are items ahead. Projects. Travel. Health care. House Repair. Writing. Reading. Major and Minor Expenses. And I want to do it all and do it really well. Which is a key to my inaction.

When I was a girl, I joined the ranks of band fags everywhere and took up the french horn. I loved the horn. I loved the sound it produced (when I didn't make it sound like an elephant in rut). I loved the design of it. I loved the way it blended in the orchestra and I loved when it rose above the ensemble. But I was a mediocre horn player. That was clear for 8 years. It was one of the only activities I persisted at, knowing that I would never excel.

I remind myself of this when I am unwilling to complete something that isn't exactly what I wanted. When I become mired in perfection. Which is part of the reason I am writing this mediocre, self-serving post. Blogging can be a tiresome examination of all things mundane. It's not my goal. But I'm getting out of practice, so this is my response to just writing something.

I have some lumber that needs cutting. I refuse to go outside and work in this bloody heat. I ought to clean the mess in the rest of the house...but hell, why not haul in the miter saw and cover that back room in sawdust anyway? Unkept or unlived? It's a pretty easy choice.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

the perils of overenthusiasm

Bought a new shredder. Isn't it a beaut? Felt quite droll using the registration card for my first shred. Ha, ha, so ironical am I.

Then, we went to town on the bag of accumulated sensitive paperwork. Worked pretty well, only overheated twice (it has a temperature sensor and I appreciate the heads-up...rather than other shredders which just stopped for no apparent reason).

Damned if I can't find the manual now.

not related to the previous post

Sometimes when you cook, the simple joy of Nature's bounty is payoff enough:

The only disappointment was that the yolks weren't conjoined. Now that would have been amazing. Still in all my years of baking, I've never run into a single twin (hehe) egg, so three two cheers for mitosis.

Friday, July 03, 2009

step 1: admit that you are powerless over the flesh

More important than the immature, yet decidedly funny, retort to the Vegan support group flyer is the alt tag to this image: soyfuckers anonymous.

From the famous (I assume) passive-aggressive note I loved so much.

I only regret that I haven't started the Houston chapter of Soyfuckers Anonymous. Or designed the Bacon is Life logo.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

what they said

Religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.
-Stendhal
via Wikiquote

A belief which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition.
-Jose Bergamin, author (1895-1983)
via A.Word.A.Day

What gods are there, what gods have there ever been, that were not from man's imagination?
-Joseph Campbell
via Wikiquote

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.
-Napoleon Bonaparte
via quotdb.com

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
-Voltaire
via Wikiquote

Do you, good people, believe that Adam and Eve were created in the Garden of Eden and that they were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge? I do. The church has always been afraid of that tree. It still is afraid of knowledge. Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas. So does whiskey. I believe in the brain of man. I'm not worried about my soul.
-Clarence Darrow, American Lawyer and Civil Libertarian
via wikiquote

I have always felt that doubt was the beginning of wisdom, and the fear of God was the end of wisdom.
-Clarence Darrow, American Lawyer and Civil Libertarian
via wikiquote

Thursday, June 18, 2009

a few of my favorite things

There are times that I can feel great despair over the human condition. Then I see something like this and, difficult as it may be for some of you to join in my glee, I feel hope.

Rather than choose shame or self-loathing for a genetic condition that falls outside the norm (syndactyly), this person takes their particular set of assets, marries form to function and infuses (an offering, oh mighty pun-gods.) the whole thing with humor. What a marvelous tat, indeed.

Then there is this. I want my driveway covered with lizards.

Have I mentioned that I adore Cory Doctorow? I don't read sci-fi as a rule but most of the random boingboing posts I am drawn to are authored by him.

I'll read his stuff...got to get through Moby Dick first. Which, by the way, is great but not quick read. Halfway there.

In the meantime, I will dream and plot all the ways I can surround myself with beautiful, well-crafted, funny things.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

the muse is probably not amused

After writing about creativity and divine inspiration, I feel a little crass posting this. Like trading out A Muse for amuse. But I kind of have to. For balance.

Okay, you know this happens regularly. A graphic behind the talking head is not the breaking news. A photo is published that doesn't match the story. Two stories are published side by side that produce an unintended (most of the time, I assume) irony.

Okay, so it's not funny that people died in the ConAgra plant in North Carolina. It's not funny but the juxtaposition of the image is amusing. Not hysterical, just amusing.

Amusing. Like one of the first eyewitness quotes that started: "I was getting ready to pick up a piece of meat off the line and I felt it [the explosion]..." said worker Chris Woods.

Amusing like the atypical comment (as the comment section following most articles is a huge fetid pile of human brain waste) I read: "Explosion...what the heck is in those Slim Jims anyway?"

But my favorite thing about this unfortunate event was the image of a building spewing forth cellophane-encased Slim Jim spears like so many fireworks streamers. That amuses me.

fucking genius



I've kept this particular talk on the back burner of my must-see TED talks. A back burner piled high right now. My daughter just emailed me this same link and helped me reduce that pile by one. Worth far more than the 18 minutes it took to watch...

I don't believe in daemons or spirits but all my life I have felt that creative inspiration was as close to (my limited understanding of) divinity as anything I have ever experienced. I don't feel the need to overanalyze that notion because atheism is just as much anti-certainty about the unknown as it is anti-god.

It is good to feel proud of your "work." But whatever it is, absolute credit is the flipside of total blame...it's not all you. If you believe in the spiritual component, give it due. If you believe in the collective experience of history, share the spotlight. If you believe in capricious Fate (as I do), make room on the podium or the gallows.

So, I add my "Olé!" to hers. And Olé! to the creative souls of my daughter and my son.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

awad of words

From yesterday's A.Word.A.Day:

If your morals make you dreary, depend on it they are wrong.
-Robert Louis Stevenson, novelist, essayist, and poet (1850-1894)
Take that, Puritans.

And from Monday's A.Word.A.Day:

PURLICUE (PUHR-li-kyu)
noun:
1. The space between the extended forefinger and thumb.
2. A flourish or curl at the end of a handwritten word. Also known as curlicue.
3. A discourse, especially its summarizing part.
I've highlighted my favorite definition.

Friday, May 29, 2009

five years later

On Saturday, May 29, 2004, I gingerly launched into this blog thing in an internet cafe in Madrid. I wasn't even sure I was doing it "right."

For the past five years (minus the one-year hiatus following my exchange student experience when I didn't think this blog was necessary anymore) I have raged, snarked and confessed here. I have waxed poetic, verbose and danced the happy dance. I have made friends and rediscovered the absolute joy of writing. For my dozen faithful readers, lurking and not, I am grateful and touched by your companionship on this journey. For those of you who stopped reading or didn't find my entries compelling, I am grateful to you for stopping by anyway.

For those I've offended, well, move along. Go on.

Jesus, it's starting to sound like I'm breaking up with my blog. I'm not.

[Note: No, I haven't lost my mind and reposted. Last month, thanks to the miracle of setting the publish time for a blog entry to a specific date in the future, I wrote this post.
Then, promptly forgot about it.
So, yesterday morning I dashed off the previous and now redundant post. This is what happens when you try to out-organize yourself. I'm going to go check the draft section of my blog now.]

epiphenita turns 5

Five years ago today I sat in an internet cafe in Spain trying to peck out my first post on a Spanish keyboard. I was sure I was "doing it wrong." I was far from home, excited and a bit homesick. Not to mention struggling to decipher the melodious cacophony around me. Or rely on words and humor to make myself understood and accepted.

I loved my experience in Spain. It was all about communication. And the perfect marriage for the birth of a blog (though married to what I'm not really clear. Hell, I call dibs on immaculate blog conception). I love writing here. It is one of the no-brainer wins for technology in my life.

I've been absent these 4 weeks. Well, these 2 months. I am constantly jotting down notes on paper or in text files on my hard drive. I take photos to share. I've got a b(ack)log of shit to share.

However, and speaking of backlogs, I am off to a routine colonoscopy* exam so I can't spend much time here. No really. Gotta go.

*If the mention of a colonoscopy brings a chorus of "TMI" you really shouldn't read this blog anymore. I plan on breaking down whatever flimsy politeness barriers I've been working behind. Buck up. There will be shit jokes.

Friday, May 01, 2009

max! wild things! mischief!

I was skeptical but this looks amazing.

And if that weren't enough this just in:
"Sendak mentioned in a September, 2008 article in The New York Times that he is gay, and had been living with his partner, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, from 1957 until Dr. Glynn’s death in May 2007."
via wikipedia

Okay, it's not just in, as evident by the quote. Am I the last book-loving queer in North America to find this out?

How I love Max. I'm so making a wolf suit for my first grandchild. If and when that ever happens...no pressure.

m'aider m'aider m'aider

Enter May.

I feel like I've stepped into the ring everyday this week. Sometimes the opponent was Job Queue or Sorrow or Domestic Repair. Most days (and I am not alone in this) I felt tag-teamed by arthritis, impending salary cuts, swine flu, domestic chores that have no end, etc., all underscored by an atypical desire to flee.

I breathe. I take my walks. I rely on common sense and past experience to know that this bombarded feeling will pass.

The other day a tree roach (for those of you in cold country, read: huge motherfucking roach) crawled up my leg. I yelled, I swore, I danced. Critters are back from their brief winter holiday. It was amusing to watch, I'm sure, and oddly grounding. Sometimes we get balmy days and butterflies. Sometimes we get swampy days and a roach crawling up our pant leg.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

argenteena

That Argentina, my friends, the country in Catholic/Christian-saturated South America and a fucking bank, symbol of capitalism and greed. Amazing.


via boingboing

We haughty United States citizens ought to hang our heads. This is the image of "America" I want representing me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

i'm still here

Everyone I know is posting blog apologies. Blogologies, if you will. Or even if you won't. I don't owe you a post but it's hard not to feel...neglectful. And on a purely selfish level, I miss writing. Just so much flying around in the shitstorm right now. Will be back. Have all sorts of stuff simmering on the burners. Hope the pressure cooker holds until then.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

new technology crab

Twitter sucks up the "real" blog writing.
Facebook sucks up the personal emails.

I miss that shit.

Feel like a tech-loving luddite. An oxymoron if there ever was one.

And someone get those damn kids off my lawn.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

back by popular demand: the easter menu

In response to my friend Martie's request and just in time for the holidays, here is the official reprint of my own...

Evolving Easter Menu
(recipes not included because creation is not a science...you just make it up!)

Breakfast
30 Silver-Dollar Pancakes
Holy Ghost Cinnamon Toast
and the ever popular:
Stigmata Frittata

Appetizer
Crucifix Chex Mix

Entrees
Son o' God Steamed Cod
with Apostle Pesto
Crucify Stir Fry
Chewed Rustic Carrots
in Stations of the Cross White Sauce
Crown o' Thorn Creamed Corn

Desserts
Magdalene Cherry Tarts
Resurrection Confection
Doubting Thomas Jelly Donuts
and, of course,
Divinity

Bonus pic! Years ago another wonderful friend, John Paul, invited us over for the resurrection festival. I said I'd bring an appropriate dessert. Yesterday I looked high and low for these photos. They seem to have been carried off by the dust creatures that squat in my closet. The whole exercise led to cleaning out that gulag–a task I never willingly undertake (and must trick myself by looking for something)–and tossing 85% of the shit I'd accumulated. So here is a reenactment of the brilliant Peeps Crucifix. (Unseen are the toothpicks used to impale the peeps to their styrofoam stations. That's right, kids out there in tv land, there were peep stigmatas all over the place. What good is a theme if you can't beat it to a marshmallowy pulp? Please take note of the Calvary-esque Easter grass.)

Bon Appetit to my friends, saved and damned alike.

diary serendipity, part five (final)

Monday evening, 09/10/01
Rushdie and Fury

Attended a reading by Salman Rushdie sponsored by a writers group here in Houston. He was brilliant. I mean like all the bright, breathtaking, multi-faceted, shimmery things that have ever taken your breath away. Articulate, deeply funny, self-deprecating, right on about so much. A man who has paid for his allegiance to expression and truth in a way that most of us will never understand. Talked obliquely about the fatwa he had survived for writing Satanic Verses but mostly read from his new work, Fury. I am completely taken with this rumpled, professorial man.

Outside [before, during and after] are Islamic fundamentalists protesting Rushdie’s "heresy." There are unexpectedly quite a few of them but they are peaceful and I find their presence disturbing and comforting—their right to disagree is so honored yet his disagreement brands him a blasphemer.

Tuesday morning, 09/11/01
Surreal

Eight days after I flew out of and seven days after Daughter left Boston for St. Louis, 2 airplanes depart Boston's Logan Airport and are made to crash into the World Trade Center. We watch the news in open-mouthed horror. A live view of the burning towers in the background. The news commentator doesn’t see the second tower collapse until seconds after we do. It’s like nothing I have ever seen.

Wednesday 05/22/02
Gone

9 months after diagnosis, Dave died of a brain tumor. He was 46 years old.
And this is where my diary ended. Almost 7 years later, I still find myself wishing I could pick up the phone and talk to him.

Don't get me wrong, the custody battle was 2 years of textbook awful and I'm not one to forget the past in a wave of sentimental eulogizing. Like current relationships, I prefer the messy gestalt to sanitized interpretations. I miss him. I sometimes mourn what this has done to my relationship with Daughter...but I prefer the excising of myth to living in deception, no matter how pleasant the illusion.

This tragic event was juxtaposed with a critical stage of parenting, a visit to my past, a brilliant writer, a brush with Islamic fundamentalists, a horrific attack on our country by another group of fundamentalists and subsequent horrific war launched by our country on Iraq. Difficult to tease out which parts took center stage in depression, rage, hope, healing and mourning. Like a sticky ball rolling down a painful hill, the time period contained so many terrible and wondrous components.

[It wouldn't be honest if I didn't add that Dave's death was indirectly responsible for the birth of this blog. The insurance money did help us stay afloat during Daughter's final 3-4 years of college. A part of it also helped me to achieve a childhood dream: to study Spanish in Spain. That was why this blog was born. As a way to communicate with friends and family from one central point while I was there. I never envisioned that I would continue posting after my exchange program ended and I didn't for a full year. Then, the urge to write compelled me back but I couldn't have anticipated it would mean so much to me...all of which is, in part, a result of his passing.]

So Dave is gone these 7 years. My son has grown to a man I am deeply proud of. My daughter graduated from the university and is amazing, complex and beloved. They have to deal with grief in their own ways. My lovely St. Barbara steps back and lets me deal with mine and this is how I do it.

part one part four

diary serendipity, part four

Thursday, 8/30/01—Monday, 9/03/01
The Visit (continued)

Little brother wakes us up before 8am, full of running chatter and sporting a pirate costume.

I am anxious to visit with Dave while the day is young. He calls me “my dear”, ”my darling”–expressions, like all terms of endearment, that he could not abide while we were married. I am unnerved and moved. Fleetingly concerned that he is mistaking me for his wife.

Dave’s younger brother arrives. It is so good to see him and visit. I really liked my brother-in-law when I first met him (he was 16 to my 18), before he turned into an arch conservative. Time and experience seems to have mellowed him. I’d forgotten how strikingly good-looking he is. I am grateful for his presence.

We spend the day moving boxes and furniture. All is chaos, but somehow we manage to help organize things a bit.

Dave becomes fatigued by early afternoon and naps for a long time. A glimpse of him asleep on his younger daughter’s bed while she reads beside him is poignant. I quell the rising grief and tears and try to keep busy. Daughter periodically escapes to nap in the attic room. I am sympathetic yet mildly irritated–she is here to help and I want her to stop being the carefree child. But I say very little, godknows she’s going through enough.

In the unpacking I come across an album filled with photos from Dave’s and my early years of marriage. He kept most of our photos and doled out a lean portion to me during the divorce. I haven’t seen many of these for 17 or so years. I am hungry for the images and memories that part of me feels are mine. I want desperately to take this book, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

Before I left Houston, I called a couple of old friends of Dave’s and mine and ask them to contact some others. I am not very popular with that group after leaving Dave (and having affairs with a couple of them). Their reactions are both cordial and cold. I am glad I contacted them, but just as glad to be done with that.

It turns out that two other people from that group end up coming to see Dave the same weekend that I’m there. Old home week. It’s all so strange and right. I find myself comfortable with who I’ve become.

Another old high school friend of mine picks me up for dinner and I am relieved to leave the bustle and noise of guests and children. I am nervous about reconnecting with my friend but it all turns out well. We eat, talk, drink, and look at photos. Each day is hard work and healing. She takes me back and I am grateful for the now quiet house and comfortable bed.

Sunday morning is cool and sunny and beautiful. Dave's wife runs to the bakery and I have a few moments with him while the small children are still sleeping. Every moment is precious. We reaffirm our love for each other. We talk about how happy we are with our respective partners. We talk about our children and how much joy they have brought us. He says “wife” “ex-wife” “daughter” and “son” as he refers to people. He cannot always call up our names.

His wife has removed his stitches (so handy to have a nurse in the house!) and he has dressed up a bit this morning. I am tickled to see this small vanity. I show him some of my projects and he is so happy that I’m enjoying my work. I wince inwardly as it hits me again that he will never hold another job.

I am riding a large PMS wave and feel even more emotionally torqued about the already emotional situation. Can’t even think about saying good bye to him. Again and again, I feel myself hoping for a miracle and know that my hopes are unrealistic. The results of the biopsy are inconclusive but it doesn’t matter—malignant or benign, this tumor is going to kill him. But first, it is going to rob him of his brilliant mind, destroy his ability to communicate and steal his memory. There is no focal point for helpless rage.

I prepare to leave. Daughter needs to be at the airport for a 3pm flight. Dave is visiting with friends. So much activity is exhausting him. I wish they would leave or let him rest. I go in to say good-bye and don’t care that the room is full of people. We embrace, weep and kiss each other’s cheeks. I tell him that I love him and he says the same. I will probably never see him again. If I do, he may not even know me or be able to communicate with me. It is too painful to contemplate. I leave as quickly as I can.

Thankgod I have given myself plenty of time to get places all weekend. I continue to be plagued with travel problems.

I need to find a gas station and fill up the rental car. United Airlines couldn’t find Daughter’s name on her flight because, as it turns out, her flight doesn’t leave until the next day. I drive her back to West Newton, then turn around and drive back to the airport only to discover that the rental car return place was relocated (during massive airport construction) offsite. Gas up again, find the Thrifty place and take the van to the terminal. Just before walking through the electronic detectors, I reach into my pockets to empty the change and find the damn rental car key. Jeez. I call from the airport free phone, then track down the next van driver to arrive and hand him the key. A comedy of errors. Only it's not really that funny.

Finally, I arrive at my gate with more than an hour to wait. Tried to call my sisters with no luck. Ended up calling my friends M & T at their lake house west of San Antonio. I had been able to contain the bulk of my sorrow for three days and now the damn dam was breaking. Thank goodness M was there. After we talked I felt calmer and sat down to write this rambling account.

It’s odd how conscious I’ve become now of normal memory “blips.” When I can’t remember something, I’m keenly aware of the process by which we, usually, successfully retrieve words and concepts.

Dave's wife told me today that he woke her up in the wee hours to tell her that he was so grateful that I had come to see him in spite of the fact that he had behaved so badly toward me. Old wounds and residual bitterness fade further away.

I feel scrubbed pure…bruised from the vigor of the cleansing and fatigued. Drained by the rigor of these past three days, I want to lie naked between cool fresh sheets and weep until I have no more tears. I want to sleep and sleep and sleep, quietly in Barbara’s arms.
part three part five

Saturday, April 04, 2009

diary serendipity, part three

Thursday, 8/30/01—Monday, 9/03/01
The Visit

Waiting for my flight home in the Boston airport. The past three days have felt like ocean waves breaking on rocks: steady, crashing, and concussive…beautiful, frightening and exhausting.

Where to begin.

Thursday afternoon I arrive in Boston. It’s beautiful. Didn’t realize how homesick I get for the green, for the older neighborhoods, for the sounds of the Northeast.

I’m running on three or four hours of sleep and functioning as both navigator and driver, but it’s oddly exhilarating to find my way. Find a local folk music station and could swear I hear the DJ say something about Michelle Shocked performing in Cambridge. How odd, because I’d been wondering recently about whatever happened to her.

Get to my hotel and I am childishly delighted with this little studio suite. I settle in and look longingly at the bed. I’m waiting for a call from an old high school friend but she must be running late, so I lie down and fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Two hours later she calls and we decide it’s too late to get together that evening so we’ll see each other tomorrow. I verify that Michelle Shocked is in fact performing at 10pm that evening and worry briefly about the irresponsibility of spending money while unemployed…then I head over to the House of Blues in Harvard Square (one of these things is not like the other).

I am braced for an emotional weekend and grateful to begin it with music I love. I find my way (poorly) through the Boston labyrinth.

The show is sold out…but the lovely young man in the ticket booth sold me a ticket when no one else was around. One of the many, many strangers who unknowingly showed me great kindness this week. Intuition? Like pheromones for sex, does our body produce crisis signals to which others respond? I’m skeptical about the new agedness of it all, and am pretty sure that my usual isolationist façade is just subconsciously wearing thin.

Michelle Shocked is wonderful. Her voice and band are tonic to my soul. Home very late.

The next morning I can’t seem to get a hold of Dave's wife to get directions to their house. End up calling L at work and she mapquests me over there. I find the house, Dave's wife (on the phone working out one of the innumerable red tape issues in her life) smiles, waves me in and asks her four-year-old son to show me where “papa” is–working on setting up his computer.

The little one leads me through one room and into another where his father is sitting. Dave stands up, I walk over to him and we embrace. And, somewhat surprisingly, both of us begin to weep. Can hardly let go of one another. The left side of his head is swollen and stitched up from the biopsy. I am awash with relief and grief at the sight of him. He holds me and says he is so grateful I have come to see him...he seems sincerely happy to see me and says “I can’t believe you’re here; I’ve been such an asshole.” In those few words, years of jagged, painful exchanges are blunted.

We sit and talk and past conflicts fade into pale background images. His speech is at once thoughtful and halting and abrupt. He speaks with difficulty about this growth in his brain and how he is so angry and trying to come to terms with this “thing” that is robbing him of his mind and life.

People and places and concepts. The names are adrift in his head. He struggles to describe things with his hands/with image associations.

He is stymied by complex tasks that used to be so easy and rote for him: their tax returns, hooking up his computer or organizing spaces.

His vocabulary has been decimated.

He can no longer read.

He has some good periods–mornings mostly. His balance is off. Because of the deadly swelling in his brain, he is on diuretics and steroids and is only allowed to drink very small quantities of fluid. He repeats himself and needs simple things repeated to him.

My heart breaks for him. I want to bribe the gods. I want to damn the gods.

His wife is amazing. Unpacking, tending to Dave, their 8 year-old daughter, and wild four-year-old son; greeting guests; running interference with insurance companies and hospitals. She gives Dave and I the gift of time and privacy to reconcile. I am forever grateful.

She is a hard woman to comfort and help, however. I make her “give me an assignment” so I can be useful in the massive unpacking [they had just moved into this new home]. They easily own twice the shit that I do and their new house is only about one and a half times bigger than mine. Seems like a gallon of substance poured into a juice glass of space. Still, she is undaunted.

Goddamn. So much happened–so hard to express it all.

Mid-afternoon I leave to visit an old friend, check out of the hotel and then, later, pick up Daughter from the airport. Dave and his wife really want me to stay with them…of course it’s all surreal, staying in my dying ex-husband’s home, but it seems to mean so much to him and I want desperately to spend time with him each morning while he’s alert.

Driving around is crazy. Traffic and not-quite-accurate directions have me u-turning all over creation. Finally arrive at my friend’s house. We reminisce, share photos and catch up on twenty-five years of history. An unexpectedly warm and comforting time.

Having been warned about the Boston airport’s construction confusion, I leave early to pick up Daughter, and am unable to check out of my hotel.

Arrive, with plenty of time, through the formidable maze of Logan airport only to discover that her flight is delayed more than two hours. So I leave, drive all the way back to my hotel in Waltham, check out and turn around and go back. (This logistical mess is absolutely characteristic of the entire weekend. I am pleased that I’m able to roll with the punches.)

I feel Barbara’s absence keenly; her presence calms me like nothing else.

Daughter walks out of the gate and I am delighted to see her. We pick up her bag, head over to West Newton and proceed to get lost another three or four times. Pretty much our standard in new places.

We arrive at Dave’s late and go up to Daughter’s attic room. We both sleep soundly.
part two part four

Friday, April 03, 2009

diary serendipity, part two

Wednesday, 8/29/01
Saying Goodbye

Am leaving in the morning for Boston...couldn't bear the thought of Dave* dying without saying goodbye face-to-face.

The tumor is completely untreatable. It's not localized...more like a snake with tentacles than a mass. I talked to him last Friday. Profoundly upsetting—the cranial swelling is affecting his communication/thought processes. He can't find words...or remember his children's names. Jesus Christ what a tragedy; he's such an articulate man. He has periods of greater lucidity between bouts of confusion. And he's completely aware of his condition.

The doctor said he could live 2 weeks or 2 years...but his ability to function may be seriously compromised before too long.

Feel like I'm throwing out disjointed pieces of a horror story. Can't even begin to express the pain my children are experiencing. Their brave/numb/stricken responses would thaw the most jaded heart. Washington University will defer Daughter's scholarship till next semester—she's moving to Boston in the next week or so. My son will be going there in the fall instead of moving back here as he'd planned.

And all you can do and look around and find yourself ass-deep in clichés...because clichés are just common-sense truths that have been beaten to a pulp.

*I'm using his fairly common name instead of constantly referring to him as "my ex" which seems too, too...cold.

part one     part three

Thursday, April 02, 2009

diary serendipity,* part one

I don't keep a diary. Except for this odd blog thing. When I was young, I kept a hand-bound diary. Full of weepy, dramatic, romantic childhood effusiveness. My sister found it and that turned out pretty much how you'd expect. Mockery is a sibling's job and bless her heart, she did it well (although I'm much better at it now than she is...overachiever that I am). I swore I'd never chronicle my life so nakedly again.

Of course, sometimes I did anyway. In fits and starts. More like random scribbled pieces of my life. The way you find bits of paper with notes or lists years later. Okay, the way I'm always finding bits of paper with notes or poems or wordplay or cryptic observations that are no longer decipherable. Even though they were mine.

Almost eight years ago I had one of those brief journal periods. I recently rediscovered (and transcribed it from handwritten to digital) but hesitated to publish it. It's so much information. However, I think it's worth it and the retelling comes just before the 7th anniversary of these events...so here goes Part One of Four or Five, I'm not sure yet.

Friday, 8/17/01
Driving to
St. Louis; Taking Daughter back to start her second year of college

The entire Natural State was under highway construction. Isn't that a contradiction? Added almost 2 hours to our 13-hour drive. I love that truck but a comfortable place to sleep, it's not.

Paul Simon's Graceland playing. Pair of billboards that read:

JESUS/Denny's 4 mi. ahead
and
Donate Your Old Shoes for Orphans' Souls.
(Really? A whole soul for one pair of shoes?)

Picked up keys to Daughter's first apartment. It's in an older neighborhood of converted brick buildings about a block or two north of campus. Lots of trees and diverse architecture. Appealing.

Saturday, 8/18/01
Garage Sales

Up early to catch the dozens of garage sales; taking advantage of the influx of fall students. Can't leave truck with items in open bed, so I stay put whilst they peruse the offal. Praisejesus. I hate garage sale shopping.

Morning and evening weather is blissful. In the 60's and breezy. How DO we survive summers in Houston? I sit in the cab with the windows open, listening to the Blues and writing. Don't care how many garage sales they want to pillage. Daughter and her roommate keep coming back to place their treasures into the truckbed. They are delighted with the bargains. So much shit for so little!

After unloading two truckfuls (including one FREE dining room table--missing only one leg!...looks like my project for the evening) we go to campus where these sweet, unorganized girls have storage bins full of projects and possessions that need to be loaded and unloaded. Stuffed animals trailing their stuffing, barbed-wire-wreathed furniture, materials of every kind waiting to be transformed. And everything in little inefficient clumps. Ay.

Exhausted but done with local foraging. On to Target and groceries.

Called home for phone messages, hoping one of them holds the offer of work.

Instead, my ex-husband's wife's voice is on the phone. She has a timbre to her normal voice that can be hard to listen to, and it seems moreso this time; I hold the receiver away from my ear a bit. Hard to understand at first but then the disjointed phrases assemble: my ex-husband is in the hospital/brain swelling/large inoperable brain tumor. The sound of panic in her voice and my intake of breath have Daughter sitting up in alarm.

How do you tell a 19-year old these things when at 42, you can hardly bear the thought of losing your own parents? She is an oddly stoic creature, this daughter. Refusing comfort until the reality sets in later when the enormous pressure inside her escapes in barking, staccato sobs. Then, abruptly she pulls it back in.

Sunday, 8/19/01
Limbo

We hang around a little later than we'd planned to help set up the place and maybe make arrangements to send Daughter to Boston. I drill holes, assemble beds and make a damn good "peg leg" for the gimpy table. Daughter had tickets to go to Boston over Labor Day, so we defer flying her out for the moment. There is too much swelling for them to do a biopsy yet, so no real information forthcoming. He's always had migraines, but for the past year (we learn) they've become incapacitating.

We say goodbye to Daughter at around 4pm. Decide as we pull out to get a sandwich and some coffee before the drive. After eating, we sit in the shade in front of this shop while St. Barbara has a cigarette. The late summer sun is perfect, and a breeze is blowing. We read our books (flaunting good sense and the voice in my head that keeps saying, "shouldn't you be on the road by now?") for the next three hours. Spontaneity and Impulse. My new apprentice muses.

It's been a little while since a book has been so compelling. Bone People (Keri Hulme). I am enchanted with it.

Finally, we climb into the truck and start our journey back.

Relationships seem to work like tectonics. When you try to fit the plates together there's bound to be edges that crash/break off/need filling in. When you're young, the borders seem less clear, foggy and unexplored but certainly more pliable. As you get older you know the shorelines of your own peculiar personality, but they're more entrenched...less likely to re-form and mold to another. My relationship with my ex reads like a geographical history of how just how much work it took to erode so many areas and build up so many others. And that was when I was much more flexible.

Yet, I am shook by how desperately I don't want him to die.

My mind drifts to money and how I can cover Daughter's college costs without him. Thoughts of insurance policy coverage come unbidden and I am nauseated by the sense that there is comfort there.

[Side note: The closing chapter of marital history with my ex was fairly predictable, I'm afraid. My sexual orientation–which, by the way, sounds like I'm some sort of human compass pointing the way towards deviance–gave him the leverage to threaten, then fight me for custody of our two children. His wealth and my decided lack of it, made for the kind of unbalanced battle that left terrible scars. On all of us. I retained custody only because I am tenacious and stubborn...and godforgiveme, because he had spent all he had planned on spending on legal fees...information I learned the ugly way–from an ex-girlfriend of his who decided to spill her bitterness in one surprising and disturbing late night phone call.]

More billboards. Outside a Baptist church:

Trouble often starts out as fun.

Goddamn those lifeless christians. Suck the marrow out of everything and hand you the dry husk of self-righteousness.

Then just before an adult bookstore:

Pornography Destroys; The Citizens for Decency.

Would that I could take out the semi-colon. Perhaps I've misplaced my sense of humor.

Monday, 8/20/01
Home at last

Stopped to rest for a couple of hours in Arkansas and didn't get back to Houston until after 2pm. Read some more. Reminiscent of how I felt reading Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction (and I don't like it JUST because the main character is a Puerto Rican-Irish woman, though we are damn few and far between) and Skinny Legs & All. Not that Hulme is really like Robbins, just that my level of enjoyment is so similar.

Tuesday, 8/21/01
Progress and Hope

Somewhat recuperated. Got a call from my team leader. Looks like I have at least a one-month reprieve from Corporate Cubedom! A good-sized job has come through, although the time frame is really crazy so I am probably going to be nuts until mid-September. But, like a good friend once said, the only thing worse than too much work is not enough. I'll try and keep that in mind.

My ex's wife calls. They're doing a biopsy today.

* serendipity as in unexpected and fortunate discoveries, such as finding these journal entries at this particular time; I'm not sure the adjective "fortunate" feels right...just couldn't find anything that came closer.

part two

Monday, March 30, 2009

good times in tampa

This is me and my beautiful little sister. Warhol style. It was her birthday this past weekend and we scheduled our Florida trip to coincide with it. I framed this image for a present. I also commissioned the endlessly talented Queen Bodacious (aka, "Dr. Ding") to whip up a little jewelry for her. Sister-the-Youngest loved it all. Reluctant birthday girl that she was, she had a great time.

We had so much fun. And got to watch her lovely daughter play softball and hang out with her sweet son. My mom and dad came down for the festivities. There was merriment. There were outdoor festivals. There was chocolate mousse cake.

I don't have a family member that lives less than a thousand miles away from me. I miss them greatly but it does make the visits pretty sweet.

On Friday night, Sister-the-Youngest and her best friend, who I affectionately call (Mr. Fabulous) "Anonymous," St. Barbara and I went out to the local gay bar for karaoke night. For the price of a $12 wristband, well drinks were free. I found the rum & coke fountain and made that $12 stretch like the fishes and loaves.

Ave Maria, did I get schnockered, plastered, lit, fucked-up, shit-faced, loaded, drunk off my ass.

What a great time. I danced. In public. I sang along with some bad karaoke. (I did NOT however, perform any karaoke...there isn't enough alcohol in the free world.)

When we got back to the house, the festivities continued. Well, that was the plan anyway. I walked into the master bathroom to use the toilet and passed the bed. The beginning of the end. However, when I lay my drunken self on the bed, it transformed into a Tilt-A-Wheel. Amazing. I slid off onto the floor, where the ride mercifully ended.

The next morning I woke up more hungover than I've been in 15 years. I stumbled to the bathroom and must have peed 30 proof urine. Swear. We had to sober up and get to the softball field. Where there were millions of people. Sonic boom level noises and blinding sunlight.

No regrets. Had a GREAT time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

depression update

Well, the cuts have been made and our department didn't suffer too badly but lots of good people have been laid off in other departments. (It turned out that, for us, it was just "Dark Gray" Tuesday and the layoffs affecting us were on Black Wednesday.)

For a bunch of reasons, good and lousy, corporations have a cold way of ejecting members of the "work family." It reminds me of images of out-of-favor politicos disappearing* from history textbooks in Stalinist Russia...all of a sudden a cube is empty with no goodbyes, no best wishes.

*Which leads me to wonder, as a designer, how those out-of-favor faces were erased so well without Photoshop. I know how to do it in the darkroom...but damn, it's hard.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

how depressing

Welcome to part one (Black Tuesday) of two in the quarterly Houston version of the Nation's hit series: HR is Calling You. Between today and tomorrow (Black Wednesday), the Chronicle will cut 12% of its workforce.

Wish I could fast forward.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

happy birthday, Billy Collins

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

via The Writer's Almanac

Goddammit, I love good poetry.

not guilty, your honor, by reason of t-shirt declaration

This via boingboing.net:

Man in "I [Heart] My Marriage" t-shirt arrested for domestic battery


 Assetpool Images 093179834 0316093Marriage1This gentleman was arrested on Monday for attempting to strangle his wife. Bradley Gellert, of Apollo Beach, Florida, was indeed wearing the "I [heart] My Marriage" t-shirt at the time of the arrest. From WTSP:

The arrest report says that the couple were arguing over drugs, and during the fight at their home, Gellert screamed in his wife's face, threw things, grabbed her neck and strangled her, and knocked her to the ground.


What's not to love about the irony of this story? Those I [heart] My Wife/Husband or I [heart] My Marriage or I [heart] My Filipino Mail Order Bride are already disturbing. If we are married and feel we have to assure the world in general that we love our spouse...well, it's just creepy public grandstanding.

Let's say I saw someone sporting a I [heart] My Newborn t-shirt. I would be tempted to run up to the parent and ask, "as opposed to...what? I am lukewarm about my infant? I loathe my baby?" Seriously, if you don't love your newborn then your t-shirt is not going to make it better. If you do love your newborn then plastering it across your tits seems to assume that the t-shirt reading public is extremely dull-witted and needs it spelled out that you do have warm parental feelings. Be that as it may, I don't think these t-shirt wearers have ironic sociological commentary in mind when they don their warm-fuzzy shirts.

Finally, I feel not a little umbrage at the opening line:
"This gentleman was arrested on Monday for attempting to strangle his wife."
I reject most notions of "ladies" and "gentlemen" in any culture but I'm pretty sure that attempting to strangle your wife puts you just outside the definition of being a gentleman.

back door to sci-fi

I have never been much of a sci-fi fan. For whatever reason, my introduction to most sci-fi left me rather meh.

Over the past few months, I have had boingboing.net on my ever-evolving Google Reader. I love the gadgetry and weird found on the internet and I am not unique in that respect. BoingBoing has an amazing following.

One of the editors, Cory Doctorow, is a science fiction writer (among other categories for which he is well-known). Well, it's become a private game with me to find something fascinating on that site and see how often the person posting or writing the entry is Cory Doctorow. The answer is: a hell of a lot.

So, it doesn't surprise me that he brought this* to the collective attention of internet viewers:

Between this and too much else to list, I may become a fan of sci-fi yet. Or at least C.D.'s work. (Not to mention John Pilger's work.) This video is stunning. Wikileaks is critical.

Uncharacteristic as it feels, I am more aware of the danger of posting ideas than I've ever been before. Truth is not only some pure hue on spectrum of information, it is also murky and dangerous. I am struck by Pilger's comments about Pol Pot, Rwandan genocide numbers and the difference between the assumption of 100% media/journalistic propoganda by citizens of fascist dictatorships and U.S. viewers' more naive expectations.

* John Pilger's speech was filmed in Chicago at Socialism 2007: Socialism for the 21st Century by Paul Hubbard. June 16, 2007

Friday, March 20, 2009

enough

Protesting my government's actions in Iraq does not make me unpatriotic.
Protesting Israel's actions in Gaza does not make me antisemitic.

I am so fucking tired of these dangerous labels being applied to divert attention and silence criticism.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

redefine

My dear daughter sent me this link and it made me very happy:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

3.15

If I owned a Cajun restaurant, I'd change the name of one menu item tomorrow to etoubruttee (et tu brute?). Served with a small Caesar on the side.

As if it needs to be said: Happy Pi Day, y'all! 6 more years to the best Pi day ever.

P.S. Friday the 13th, Pi Day, Ides of March. It's like the trifecta for calendar/number nerds.

Friday, March 13, 2009

the name of the rose

Hey, look: I'm only 20+ years behind on movie viewing! We saw The Name of the Rose this past week. This is my jumbled review.

The Intro
The director described his work as "a palimpsest of Umberto Eco's novel." Palimpsest. It's a beautiful word. With a poetic meaning:

pal·imp·sest n.
1. A manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible.
2. An object, place, or area that reflects its history: “Spaniards in the sixteenth century... saw an ocean moving south... through a palimpsest of bayous and distributary streams in forested paludal basins” (John McPhee). [bolded text my emphasis]
The Star
Sean Connery. Sean Connery's voice has the same effect on me as Garrison Keillor's voice: I am comforted and compelled by it. I also think he was beautiful as a monk.

Side Note Quote
"Females, by their very nature, are perverse." Yawn.

What I knew about the Story/Plot
Okay, I knew the basic components: monks are suspiciously dying, a monk and his acolyte come to investigate, set in the Middle Ages.

What I figured about the Story/Plot
This was a story about the power of religion (state, culture). Since it involved the Middle Ages and the Inquisition, it was a story about the extreme power of religion. And, there would probably be chanting and coarsely woven cassocks.

What was reinforced in me by the Story/Plot
One of the fallacies of ancient and modern religion is bastardized logic.
  • Throw a suspected witch in the water. If she floats, she's guilty...and will be burned at the stake.
  • Throw a suspected witch in the water. If she sinks and drowns, she is was innocent.
  • If you don't confess, you will be tortured until you do.
  • If you do confess, you will be tortured for your sins.
  • And of course, if you disagree with the Inquisitor, you are a heretic.
And a modern application:
  • If a baby is abandoned in a dumpster and dies, it was god's will and he's now with God and safe.
  • If a baby is abandoned in a dumpster and lives, it was god's will and god intervened to save him.
You cannot, of course, argue with this kind of logic. Unfortunately, when religion begins to impose itself on society in a political way, it must be able to stand up to some logic or, you know, the whole innocent-until-proven-guilty fairness thing gets fucked 12 ways.

I was also right, there was chanting. Ditto on the burlap robes.

What I didn't Know about the Story/Plot
SPOILER: For those of you 25+ years behind on your cinematic education, you might want to skip this part.

This is a story about the perceived danger of COMEDY.

This was a surprise. The old, blind monk believed a rare, single copy of Aristotle's work on comedy to be sinful. To prevent anyone from reading this work and "converting" to Aristotle's ideas on comedy, he applied arsenic to the page corners that were routinely turned by licked fingers. Thus, poisoning and killing the readers.

As a former religious fanatic and convert to the joys of comedy, this is fascinating. Not new...I was aware how humor could be juxtaposed against sobriety with admonitions against too much levity. It's very difficult to judge medieval behavior by our modern standards--there's so much historical context to fully understand. But think about the incredible control an organization has that strips wealth, limits knowledge, forbids questioning AND bans humor from its followers?

And lest you think this only applies to dusty history, this type of control exists in every fanatical movement. Today. Because autonomy, laughter, questioning and knowledge are powerful tools against orthodoxy.

Indirectly related, I read this post by atheist blogger Greta Christina and particularly liked #3 on why she doesn't believe in god. It ties in here. Really.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

me and my little iPlod

Like a mole in the tunnels, I'd been walking for a year-and-a-half before I had any rhythm, I mean, music. I don't mind walking to the thoughts in my head but they take a lot of taming and can't keep a beat for shit.

For Jesus' birthday I got one of those Apple things, you know the cute ones with the silhouette marketing campaign? An iPlod Shuffle. Yes. The people at Apple can thank me anytime. Because when you return from the holidays, logy, sated and out-of-practice, those first few weeks of The Return to Walking are not, um, peppy. Or strident. Or bouncy. They fall somewhere between a plod and shuffle. Suddenly I'm in that verdant valley between vocabulary and...v's be damned, design. Ah.

It's been 2 months or so since iPlod has been clipped to my bosom. I love iPlod dearly. (The accompanying ear duds, not so much. Don't fit my ear swirls quite right.) Anyway, I have been thinking about walking and musical beats. Like which time (4/4, 3/4, etc.) best matches my epiphenitan gait? Nike & Apple have come up with one fascinating, albeit expensive solution.

I, on the other–more frugal–hand, have begun to adjust my stride. It doesn't work with every song but works with quite a few of them. And musicians? Don't keep fucking with the meter within a song, I'm trying to not to look so white here.

The adjustment probably makes me walk funny anyhow but you know how much that's going to keep me up at night...iPlod, however, is going to have to learn to deal with embarrassment.

P.S. This is the second post in a week that talks about exercise. I will not go on again about this for a while. I find excessive references to exercise/diet tedious as all hell. This is borderline excessive. It's why my bloglob is not about one issue. I find it 2-dimensional; it bores the precious. So enough with the tunnels. On to glass-blowing or blow jobs or nose jobs or snotty noses...