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n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency
Friday, September 30, 2005
knowing there's a force....
Background Setup: An all-around bad day. I mean, I have a solid interview with a splendidly nice girl, but I also get my ass whomped on the first mini-critique in travel writing. That is, I'm read by a fellow with an opposite writing style from me [heading-to-Hemingway sparsity], so we just kinda look blankly at each other... which I maintain, but he doesn't: he tells me he received "no sense of place" from my piece, which is a little disillusioning in a class about place.
Event 1 - That Night: I get home after this, feeling a tad dejected and blue, and there on the table sits a letter from the Art Institute notifying me that they have cut my grant by $1,150 because I'm only taking four classes and not five... even though both are considered full time.
Intermediate Action//The Next Day... Not Exactly Tension Building, but in a way, Suffused with the Question of How I'm Going to Save My Ass From Financial Plight & Flight: I get offered a job, take it. Go grocery shopping, eat it. Computer calls, write it.
Event 2 - That Night Same Time as Previous Night: My mum calls and says she's accidentally opened my mail and I've recieved a fishing-retro from 1 year ago... to the tune of $1,117.
Question Generated: Am I alone in thinking that a $33 dollar discrepancy points to divine intervention? Or is this 'just' really really speedy Karma?
Thursday, September 29, 2005
two months ago, an event that marked today. strange that, strange that.
i bucked. that is, I bucked with my sister. with her aid. we fell through the light bright night tucked under the eaves of foreign highways, rats roaming in sweet gangs. we were. simply so.
and the fellow screaming at us to be mindful. Ha! mindful – like he knew what, really What, that was (and we were. simply so). of all the danger (he was speaking about death, wasn’t he? the desired live cage what we love. to hold time tight inside / safe. the oldest urge to safe[hold] our value. but my new value releases), he would protect us from.
after a night of it, walking. slipping away into the silence that clearly clearly denoted the absence of control (voices yelling at us to not die, not die, not die…). we found a dead bluebird. really. ask my sister if my words aren’t strong enough. we found it as we parted the white columns of rock-ocean to my home (temporary, temporary). i almost stepped on the poor little blue corpse, almost mashed its skin and bones to bloodied pulp. but i didn’t.
“poor little thing.”
“poor little thing.”
we discussed moving it. off the pathway. let's. it looks so alive in its death. lying flat on its back with its head twisted, the parted beak. legs cracked and furled like small desert creatures. “let’s move it” we said. (i was swaying a little, just slightly drunk, some spin to that pathway, some movement of my sister’s sad face looking down.)
i bent down. my hand wavered, but no, that was me (drunk as sin). ran my finger down its broken chest, twisted claws, not touching it. “let’s move it,” she said. and so i reached my hand underneath.
it took off.
i swear i screamed so loud i'm surprised the guard didn’t come and whistle at us from his post under the light-cone. and then ali and i, looking at each other, mouths parted, arms unfurled like some wave opening.
“what the fuck,” [pithy statement from sis], “was that?”
that. was a blue bird, not dead, not dead at all, not even the slightest of deads. absolutely notdead (not even broken!). now perched on the pathway columns we only thought we had parted.
“why,” [pithy statement from me], “did that happen?”
the answer is two months off. here it is: wave particle silent spoken caged-belonging free. my story fits like the other truth. how unexpected. i'll just leave it here, and it’ll find its way.
"I ain goin home, mamma."
"Come home, mi amor, you need to go to school tomorrow."
"She wit me now. And fuck, I can turn and walk away. That what you want? But I got a good job, and I'm goin take care of her now!"
"That's right mamma. And he don even care; Papa din even notice me gone, and I ain goin back with you. I'm with my man now."
Ah, fourteen year olds.
But even the older couples argue here, the screams subsiding to semi-hushed whispers down in the subway. Not much is hidden. Not much.
Last night I was talking with N on the phone out on my balcony and a man screamed through his window, "You're being too fucking loud, bitch." The English mother came out in me. I laughed, but wanted to say, "And how would it hurt to simply rephrase that: Excuse me, but you're a little loud out there. Any way I can ask you to be quieter?" The differences of response; I don't think it would ever occur to me to call someone a bitch through a window, no matter how loud and obnoxious they were being. Plus, I've gotten used to all this noise, all the sounds of planes rising and falling, trash being collected, late night parties, etc. down in Guayaquil... so maybe the noise is something I take for granted at this point. But I do notice how it's changed its tenor here. People are noisy, but they are noisy on the streets, like arguments were just meant to happen out in the open.
The conversation above I heard while waiting at a bus stop at 3am on Belmont the other night. The bus stop was right next to a huge church with gothic stained windows, and I had selected the stop after wandering around a bit because it seemed that I would have something to look at and think about while I waited. But the conversation with the family-in-crisis kept going on and on in repetitive cadence, and I couldn't even stand standing there anymore. Very unwriterly of me, I suppose. So I went up a few blocks to the next stop, which was at the intersection of two very busy streets. And behind me, in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot, a fight broke out... first two men making pathetic sweeps at each other, and then a third ran out of the liner-watchers and joined the bigger of the two. Do these fighters know how comic they are? All I could think of was that this seemed to be a satire of Fight Club. The public man-thing. The bullied-guy backed away, and pretended to reach into his pocket.
"Ah, man, he fuckin pullin a 'weapon' on us." The other two dropped away, and the evening subsided.
Was I watching? Yes, no. Some voyeurism instinct in me, but it is so short-lived. I usually just get bored. Either it is something that should cause a response in me (like rushing in to help), or it is small and none of my business. The way I figure it is that almost all of these things are none of my business. So why are they all out there like they were? Like everybody here wants an audience. So, all this psuedo-fight took place in the 30 seconds I turned around to see what the noise was, before I turned back thinking... jeesh.
Chicago is a big city, true, but it is not so intimidating anymore. Transparency seems to make the fear subside, you know.
Walking: I've been walking everywhere, walking walking, mostly because I don't know what else there is to do. I mean, I could go to movies, art-exhibits, museums, but what happens with the movement instinct? I somehow don't know what is actually "doing" if I'm not in action these days. The action of the brain just doesn't seem enough. But here I am, in the city again, with little escape-power, and I'm just going to have to figure out what there is to be done in a city to not feel trapped and hemmed in.
So, I've been walking. I get my map out, pick a spot, hop on the El and take off. Get out, wander. Look. Try to escavate some unknown meaning from all the buildings around me. I need a book. Would that help? I feel resistant.
I crossed over from UIC campus, across the river, and into the downtown area. A little fishhook of movement. The river was so good that I stood there for about a half hour looking at everything. It was one of those metal grating bridges that looks like cheese-grater meets architexture. Every time a car came onto it, my whole sidewalk shook, and I welcomed the dizziness as I looked down on the small little stream where just a couple of ducks were swimming. Some greenery, some underbrush, some garbage bags. To the west, train tracks and the comforting holler of their comings and goings. To the east, temporary greenspan and then highway and buildings. To the south, a big industrial bridge and some smokestacks. My back to the north, where all the cars crossed over the grating and shook me all over. At one point, the bridge shook so bad I thought I was going to fall off and so I looked: three continental buses surrounded by police car escorts. Who was passing and shaking me? Did they see me quivering on the side, the results of their passing? Must be a politician, I thought to myself.
Seasons: And so far, all the wind on my walks... warm warm. I haven't been wearing coats or anything. But now, the cold is setting in. Out my window, the tips of the leaves are starting to brown. Every day I can watch the radial progress inwards, the slow tamping down of season. I'm really enjoying it. Right now, I'm sure I'll change my mind, but the coming of the cooler weather seems a welcome newness. A new sensation I haven't felt in awhile.
Dancing: I went out dancing and here is not super different than there. The music was pretty good: Bjork, Fischerspooner, Techno Be-bop, you know. And me riding the sounds like bucking the bull. Feels really good. I went to this one spot and holed up in the corner behind a guy in a red shirt with dreadlocks. He was fabulous, smiling all the time at the music, and there to move and watch. So I felt safe around him, an accomplishment because it took me scraping up all my guts to go there by myself... And there were all these guys -- some told me they were Mexican -- standing next to me, edging in, grinding slowly, and the second their hands find my waist and they start smothering, I'm out of there, off the dance floor again. Sometimes it makes me feel like a pea being popped out of its pod.
I love all the gay boys, who inevitably make a point of telling me that I'm "beautiful" just because I'm out there, obviously dancing to dance and not giving a shit anymore what the socio-political movements are in the thoughts of everyone around me. That is, I love watching other people dance, I like seeing them slip into their bodies. Finding different rhythmns than me. But I don't want to talk... the sensation of everybody moving is more than right for me. And yeah, this is beautiful if we needed to tag a word to it.
Grad student parties: So, I'm finally getting out there a bit. I don't have to force myself exactly, but I do have to calm myself down once I'm there. I'm very excited about meeting all these people, but I have this type of too-heightened (self-) consciousness about what's going on around me when I'm with all of these folks. I'm curious to get their stories, but they seem so young. Okay okay, they are young, but that's not what I mean. I mean, the place that they are in their lives. So many freshy-faced from undergraduate, and I try to remember that space and it was so changing and different from where I am now. I have not been in undergraduate school for 7 years now. And those 7 years have been so many lifetimes. But hey, everybody is different, and so I'm just trying to listen more, hear things. I feel outsider though. Maybe we all do, I don't know?
And I feel this horrible torn instinct to both protect myself and to throw myself out there all open, when it's probably something in the middle that I should be shooting for. I was talking to A last night and she is also returning to school, and expressed this same impatience I'm feeling about making friends. "I want friends right now," she said. And damn if I didn't feel relieved to know that I'm not the only intense impatient one out there. But what I've been telling myself is that I can't subscribe to the Cup-o-Noodles concept of friendship: just add water and have a meal. I have to wait. Be slow. For myself, too.
So, I've been going to these get-togethers and talking loudly to cover up my loneliness. I think I come across as arrogant and brassy, which is an interesting sensation for me. I start thinking about masks... whether I'm now wearing one.
Read something the other day that said we never get the essences at the beginning. At the beginning, we emphasize the commonalities so we can fit in. And so it is always in the middle that we get the real... when we start feeling comfortable enough to express the parts of us that don't fit. Funny - this theory was about cinematic time, and was also about what you get with the historical process of new media, but it felt just about right about that "story" written over and over again.
But I feel so few commonalities really. That of language-love, I guess. Is that enough? I think I'm the only non city-girl here. I think I'm the only one...
I like everyone though. Not anyone who rubs me the wrong way (they'd probably become a best friend). I got into an elongated conversation about the perceived mind-body split with a paralegal named after an All Creatures Great & Small character. A funny conversation; I felt like I could antagonize him all evening if need be. Probably a result of being Big T's friend -learning the lawyerly buttons. That is, how people who have been to law school just love to argue circles and all you have to do is provide the curve. I also got to dance a little groove to Outcast - very interesting to see who jives and who's shy. I still think the girl who looks like N could be a good friend, but damn is she ever reserved. And I'm not sure how much prying I'm in for. (too tired, maybe... would like to be met sometimes). And another girl who has a blog... I've looked it up (she's more generous with her url than I am), and she's pretty funny. A culinary giant. I'm thinking about linking to her, but I'd open my blog to being read by those I'm surrounded by, something I've always been resistant to (I like to be openly gossiping and say what I think without fear of reprisal or hurt feelings). I'll have to decide. And there are a bunch of guys who talk quite a bit about baseball, pretty nice fellows. Always a place I can escape to when the conversation turns to shoes and Renee Zellweiger. So, we'll see. Possibilites are always... something.
But I think I've been spending more time trying to convince myself that it will also be Okay if I just don't make friends and instead focus on my work. Isolation isn't the end of the world, is it? Something important for me to feel inside, so that I don't start feeling desperate. Desperate for connection is a bad place to be. So I've been honing the happiness, walking, forcing my head to stay on track and not slip off again... I've come too far to start walking backwards again.
Anyhow, I think that's about it for now... assuredly there will be more Smatterings later though.
Monday, September 26, 2005
A Study in Still Life
Something I was reading last night: “Paradoxically, for Benjamin, as the iconic and spatial characteristics of photography became more accurate by decreasing the interval of exposure, the image lost its temporal anchoring in the experience of duration, as well as the fascinating ambiguity of its ‘aura’” (Roderick 9).
This is something I’ve been thinking about: a scientist named Marey out to capture time. To capture time by capturing movement, breaking the stream into a thousand, then a million, distillations of image all caught in the frame of one plate. What he discovered was that the closer he caught to catching movement, the further he got from understanding. That is, the more light entering the plate, the more vision blurs until all that remains is white noise. Too many photons. Legibility, as they put it, falls away.
But Benjamin was pointing out the loss of instantaneity. How, by contrast, a representation with long duration can hold a time, an anchor in time. The question: legibility or time?
The house the two figures enter is one I remember well. My initials are carved into the lower-floor room. It is the house my mother built. She still has the house plans, I think because she put so many dreams into its construction. It is the first house she built after losing her husband and taking her two young children far far into the distance where she would take care of them herself. The struggle of her years. The house was not the first thing she built, but it was a tangible one.
I once sleepwalked in that house, once wandered around the living room moaning and crying. Every particle of the house had somehow changed. Everything was different, right down to the atoms. The landscaped had shifted, and what was once, had left. And somehow it was my fault and I couldn’t put it right. So I sleepwalked moaning and crying until my mother came to the balcony.
“What are you doing?”
“The house,” I whispered. “It’s changed, it’s all gone. I can’t put it back.”
“Go back to sleep, sweetheart. It’s only a dream.”
But now I wonder.
Memory is the template of time. It is where the traces live. Freud argued that everything was there.
Maybe I was just remembering the future. Maybe the shutter caught on itself.
The lower-level room still has my initials etched into the closet. I carved them there when we moved out of the house four years after we moved in. It was the first place that felt like home in a long time. The window in my room perfectly framed the Big Dipper in winter, and I refused to close the shades when I was getting dressed. Off in the distance, I could just see the ocean, and off in the background I could hear my mother and sister laughing.
We vacated that house ages ago, ages ago. My mother sold it to a family who kept it up nicely, continued planting in the yard she terraced out of the mud. When I’m in town, I sometimes go by the old skeleton, look at all the new development surrounding it and blocking its view, and think it’s a good thing we got away from it when we did.
But I also remember the kittens abandoned by their mother. They lived with me in the concrete basement and shat on my covers in the night until I trained them, one by one, to find the litter box, to clean themselves up afterwards. I washed their little bodies with a napkin, using the motion of a good mother cat so they’d understand what to do. I played softball in the back yard with my dog. No matter how far I hit the ball, he’d always bring it back, of course covered in slobber. I cooked in this house, I sleepwalked in this house, I fell down the basement stairs in this house and was covered with bruises all along my thigh.
From the raw bones of my view, where the stairwell is on the opposite side than reality, I watch them make their way up the stairs of a house that hasn’t been mine in ages. The shutter seems caught open and the edges of this image grow fuzzier and fuzzier. The room that once was mine is their office. The carpeting has been ripped up, and a desk with computer cables twines out under the window. My initials are still there. Upstairs, the room with the slanty roof that my mother designed has three windows to capture each Northeastern angle. Perfect windows to climb up to at night to watch the northern lights. To breathe softly next to my mother in the dark as we watched the sky bulge and concave with color. This is the room where they make love. Make love under the colors.
From the distance, I can see all the time. My mind like an archive. But photographs are far away and removed. They exist outside of the self, and are something to merely wax rhapsodic over. And when the shutter stays open, everything falls away… all that is left is the ‘aura,’ the sensation of time existing and passing, a replica of movement, a failure. What goes missing with duration is the sense. Everything is captured but nothing is seen. Time leaks out on the white fuzzy blur at the edges. Time doesn’t so much as overlap as it rubs out the distinction. My home, someone else’s home: who knows which came first? Who knows who owns time?
Maybe my initials are the only anchor available.
But it doesn’t have to make sense: I open my eyes with a snap. And come here, to this place of dwelling.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Static like a Long Lightening-hit Night
And so, I awoke in the morning just a little stiff, but rolling with… rolling with. And the day, so mellow and just what I needed. I will never get over how many people wrote me, sent me cards, Created for me (lolly lolly), called me, made a point of telling me they loved me. They Love Me! And so, I spent most of the morning editing co-student papers from workshop and loving the privilege of understanding another person’s mind-on-page.
And then I went shopping for me and for my turtles. I bought myself presents: three tetras for my little turtles, plants for them, light, catnip for Fuji, cat-toy for Fuji, all the objects I’d place around myself were I living in a terrarium of my own design. I spent over an hour in the Pet Store, listening to animals. (Does it matter that my hatchlings, my babies, the ones who I bought three fish for in order to keep them company in the small little worlds they live in… snapped the head off one of the tetras in order to welcome her home?)
And then, I went to a party…
And got smashingly drunk. Way way way far too drunk.
And the girl that looks like N: I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to know who she is past the person who reminds me of N. I wanted to learn the difference between (to make friends and feel their insides over. to understand another soul). So, I got far far too drunk and was too familiar and afterwards we went for this long walk, and with all those Wonders who’ve been in my life – I’ve been thinking about them, missing the ones I no longer know, missing D, missing S, missing Rosario…
(I called Rosario and she is still dating Rosario. Rosario hugs Rosario, loves Rosario, is making it work with Rosario. The masturbatory incest of those who leave me… the irony of their loves, of who their Chosens reveal them to be… the revelation. And the way their Chosens call me puta barata and they claim I’m a conquistadora or worse yet. Worse yet. Worse yet. So many betrayals of my language… I will look carefully to the places I strike, the energy I expend and the words I speak. Rosario told me off again when I talked to her, and I told her that I couldn’t keep in contact with her if she was going to keep running me down with old lies… and she said okay, not to call again. And I’m so tired. So tired. And there aren’t even words to describe the other. Rosario deserves Rosario. They are a match. Heaven will reveal itself in the white space between their names.)
Anyhow... just thinking of them and, in a sense, carrying them around in this new moment. A warning, maybe? But obviously not enough of one:
I walked with the girl who reminds me of N, and reveled in the being with a being. But with N, I'd know that a long walk is a long walk and it is about feeling the night, looking at the bridge lights as they reflect the city back to me. It is about hearing words, and looking at the church she pointed out and told me was Greek, but really was Catholic. (I wanted to climb inside another person and laugh with them). And so, I babbled late into the night and she said, "Um, where are you going?"
And I said, "I'm walking. I'm walking with you. This is not the direction home, but I'm dedicated to the cause of walking."
And she said, "Oh, I was just walking you to the subway."
How many miles past subway had we rambled, how many light years past hello and goodbye? Probably never as far as I need. Finally she got tired, ran out into the street and caught a cab and left, and I realized just how very very pukingly drunk I was. That I overstayed my moment. That I talked too much for one walking.
And so, I tried to catch the subway home, and instead I found that the night had shut down around me while I was walking with this girl who reminded me of N, but was coming out differently. Differently in a way that was good. I liked her. The story she told me of was of finding shells on the beach as a child, coming home and looking for them as an adult. Then having it revealed that her parents put the shells on the beach for her to find. And realizing that the shells were never what she thought... Ah, I wanted to say, ah…. I like this girl, yes. But I wanted a friend so badly I think, I wanted to talk and talk and talk, that I ended up lasting out the night as it shut down around me.
And so, I caught a cab home with Falil-the-cabbie, who tossed his hand over the partition between the front and the back, told me he liked me, and then asked if I "wanted to get fun with him." And when he overshot my home, and I said, "turn right turn right," he stopped and asked me if I wanted to get fun with him. I said, um no, I have to go. And then he asked if he could hug me goodnight, got out of the cab when I did and tried to kiss me. And I just turned my head and felt a little lost and drunk for a minute. And yet I knew exactly where I was: back in familiar territory. And so, I walked home...
Now, I have sworn off alcohol for a month, at least a month, and I've sworn off letting too much of myself out there in this world. Sworn off wanting instant friendship and connection, wanting people to meet me in the river Right Now just because I've been swimming out there for a long time.
This world is too beautiful for me. This world... I am too beautiful for it too, sometimes.
But here I am, twenty-nine and a thousand lives old. Waking up, finding things around me to be grateful for. Feeling the gratitude, feeling it well up through the violences. I’ve found a good head space, and I’m going to stick to it… a prime number, a movement, a Real not Drama, and the intensity that burns, burns inside, and will jut out and strike where it may, a white streak to follow with good deep-belly laughter.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Here's where we left off last time: "That is, Jose Luis got pissed off and decided that it was time to re-align this County's ethical and financial status quo."
**********Here's where I've gone from there:
And so, that’s what he and Errol had been doing. It started off easier than might be expected.
One day, when Errol and Jose Luis were walking in the closest thing to a Ferndale park (a harvested field), Jose Luis offered Errol a cigarette. Errol had been waiting for this opportunity his whole life. Not the cigarette, he had smoked before, but the moment: the way rain was still dripping off leaves nearby, and the humid cool felt like something flowing away; Jose Luis, sharp and lined, his face creased with something outside of Ferndale; the birds scuttling and flying from under skin. Bobbing in his curled Mariner’s hat and his muddied brown boots, Errol dragged off the proffered and prodigal cigarette like a man who had just stumbled out of the desert after years of communing with nature and honing monkhood. Errol needed that cigarette, perhaps not the smoke, but certainly the semiotic message it sent out into the world: here was a boy who wasn’t alone, searching for the action, any longer. Here was a boy who had already seen that there was nothing here, and thus, through wisdom and insight, was running someplace else fast. Actually, it was cute that this is what a cigarette with Jose Luis meant to our Errol.
Considering Errol’s background, he should have known better. Both of his parents smoked, and sometimes smoked with folks who were also sharp and lined with the life they found when they opened their eyes. And although you could never say anything other than “they meant well” about Errol’s parents, these fine intentions were as specks of chopped cilantro in a very oily salad dressing. Sometimes people are just that way; they want to give their children everything, they want fabulous jobs and real estate, they want to work very very hard and still have time to read to their children at night, but secretly, deep deep down where everyone can see it, they have absolutely no idea how to go about it. They’re completely clueless about how life should be lived, how to pay the bills, how to get a job in the first place. In other words, they were raised middle class.
And so, for Errol’s parents, and everyone affiliated with Errol’s parents, cigarettes were commonly used, but never read in the same way that Errol read them. Maybe he simply read them backwards. Because his parents’ crew all knew, although never acknowledged, that cigarettes were simply a fence erected against the ferocity of decisions they didn’t want to face. Perhaps the glow on the end of the stick blinded them enough that they didn’t need to look at everything full on—the virtual equivalent of looking at Medusa by watching her shadow, or of looking at God through a burning bush.
And that cigarette, that single one, was the start of some greatness for Errol and Jose Luis, because as Jose Luis watched Errol swilling down the smoke, something settled gentle in his chest. Settled and burned. A ferocious protection of the cruel innocence Errol was, and maybe always would be.
They walked in that field at half-light of evening, the rain dripping, soggy worms done screaming at the sky and now lying flaccid and half-drowned in small culverts of mud, and Errol was telling Jose Luis the story of something. Something. What it was, Jose Luis didn’t know. He was instead listening to the tones in Errol. The tone of genuine. The tone of cigarette inhalation. He interrupted the story, whatever it was.
“Why do you suppose we’re here?”
If Errol expected something to come of the cigarette, it wasn’t a question of life’s meaning. The question of life’s meaning was not something that interested Errol particularly, as it was a question he had come to associate with his grandmother’s Baptist church, where everyone wore pressed clothes and expected soggy dripping evenings to be nonexistent or blessed by the Lord. Errol was sixteen at the time, and felt that church was Satan’s own punishment for his followers. If he were completely to be completely honest with his buddy, Errol would have answered right away: video games; being abducted by aliens and growing into the universe’s greatest hero via capacity to target through digital screens; sneaking cigarettes from his mother’s pack and heading out to the roof where, if he peeked carefully over the single-storied eave, he could see into the window of the married nextdoor neighbor two houses over; and smelling fresh donuts. Instead, he dissembled.
Jose Luis was not to be put off. “Seriously.”
“Eat. Sleep. Do shit.” He paused, “Yeah, I think we’re here to do shit.” The answer surprised even Errol, who did not know he was going to say it, but decided to go with the ideas once they had spun their way out of him. He did. Yes, he thought, a good answer. Action. Motion. Flying the coop.
“Stuff. I mean, does it need a plan or something?”
Jose Luis thought this was a very good question. “To plan or not to plan” seemed to be the most profound question, a quandary that got to the quick of a person’s interaction with time, the ability to eat omelets in the morning, and whether or not to commit to any particular relationship with anyone. You could plan to be friends for life, to be close to your family, to react well and truly in any given situation, or you could go, move forward in a helpless, but honest motion that surrendered in good faith to chance and dynamic. So, Jose Luis decided to probe Errol for the extent to which he was willing to devote himself to engaging entropy.
“So, you have no plan?”
“Well, um.” Errol reflected, “Maybe we’re supposed to do good. Is that what you mean?”
Jose Luis felt a flash of energetic anger that traveled up his legs, through his bowels and flushed his face bright red. The reason for this physical reaction was probably linked to the amount of time Jose Luis had been spending holed up in his room, not playing with any of his toys, but instead lying silently on his bed and waiting for a new ache in his body to subside. An indefinable ache. An ache that had come to dominate his head, spin neurons around and around endlessly, waiting for rescue, waiting for his head to clear up, waiting for something in the world to change, but suddenly realizing that nothing would unless he exerted a new control over everything and assundry. And so he was angry with Errol’s obvious deception, but just as quickly as he felt like punching Errol, he realized how befuddled and confused he had probably made the poor Ferndale boy, and so instead, took the cigarette back and puffed a few seconds before tossing the butt off into the damp weeds of the slough they were nearing and then passing in silence.
“Do you really think that the plan,” he finally continued, “The Plan, is really for us to do good?”
“I dunno, you got anything better?”
In fact, Jose Luis did. He had a distinct “plan” (as was previously mentioned). His plan was actually quite developed and ran unarticulated—for the time being—something like such: Let’s fuck shit up. Let’s take on the boredom, the sheer routine of this place, going to work, griping, flirting, banking, not noticing, whining, gossiping, typing. Let’s steal and rape and pillage, like the inner Vikings we are. Let’s not pay attention to the rules other people have written. The rules that have caused playgrounds to topple for safety, children to sit at home instead of working towards some great and glorious end, and mommies to overuse antibiotic soap. Let’s not care anymore. Let’s put on dark clothes, pull hoods up over our heads, and lurk in dark alleys. Let’s smell the scent of the garbage and tossed babies overflowing from the huge green dumpsters as we squat down low and watch the streetlight entering into our alley from off the near empty streets of Bville, our almost-cousin and the closest thing to a city within a fifteen-minute drive. Let’s wait until some hapless young man, or old fellow, walks by from a nearby Place of Business and let’s walk up to him and ask pleasantly, and then demand, that he right the wrongs of the universe and hand over his wallet, from which we will take our undue earnings and make off like photons into the vacuum. Once there, we will spend the money on stupid things that we really don’t want. We won’t be Robin Hoods and turn over our money to the poor and wretched because we are not actually young, well-intentioned, but misguided fellows. We will be exactly what we are and the world will not fall apart because of it. And when you think about it, those suits will thank us. Any man or woman or kid we rip off, we punch and hit and steal from, will thank us. They’ll thank us from the bottom of their heart because we changed things. We broke into this huge circle and cycle that none of us can put our finger on, and we changed things. Even if they brood for hours in the night about the $50 they lost, they will secretly be loving the fact that they are brooding because their pain will feel like Something, and they probably haven’t had Something in their lives for awhile.
So, what Jose Luis’s plan was, as he soon put to Errol, was to go into town and jack some fellow’s wallet.
Errol’s reaction was to be startled. This was a new Jose Luis he was seeing, and not the boy who had grown up ten blocks away. Errol had no access to the underlying thought patterns of his friend, and so was forced to interpret the proposition his own way, which was: this was something to do, and damn if he wasn’t bored. And so the night was a good one, a first, and the two country kids walked long in dark silence, enjoying more cigarettes while the pointless harvest moon popped up huge like a snapped brown yo-yo against the backdrop of more and more furrows of soil, some of which occasionally rose higher than Errol’s boots and coated his jeans and shirt with a damp discomfort he could only revel in.
Errol and Jose Luis finally gave up the search for alcohol after spending a solid hour lurking about Ted’s Gas and Grub down on Holly where it met up with F Street. This store was as likely a place to encounter booze as was around, being strategically placed at the two-block radial center of five such attractions: (NW) the harbor where all the fishermen came in off their boats with fish entrails on their jeans; (SE) the biggest church homeless shelter where one could stay without too much commitment to righting wanton ways; (NE) the town’s most aloof Adult Video Store + special toys; (SW) the one-day Labor Temp Agency where if you passed the written entry test, you had the dubious privilege of working at the local fish processing factory or becoming a construction site grub; (S) downtown where drugs were always available near Pump It and Pat’s Diner. Yet, in spite of the wealth of potential marks, the corner store was unexpectedly quiet and starting to close up. Since Jose Luis’s inhaled mojo was starting to wear off, and Errol’s thoughts were actually reverting back to the video arcade, they picked themselves off the concrete, and agreed it was time to make the walk to an associate’s digs, where they thought they were more likely to have luck with the whole issue.
The walk really wasn’t too far, but was nevertheless elongated by silence as they prowled inland. Errol never would have acknowledged this, but space was already growing between him and Jose Luis, who had found the planned anarchy everything he thought it might be, but was just starting to acknowledge that maybe he’d been hoping to find things a little more surprising. And this looming desire grew fatter, even started bulging, between him and Errol, so that moments that previously felt like comfortable silence now seemed like uncomfortable silence. So their steps grew quicker and their movements grew swaggier, and each of them jumped up and down off the mighty passing sidewalks under their feet.
They both sighed in relief when they found themselves at Carton’s, where all the lights were on in the garage apartment that Carton had managed to fill up with broken bicycle tires, stumped-out tips, cigarette smoke, drums, soft lighting and drying-up house plants. They made their way to the door and didn’t bother knocking, because Carton—who was at one point a local college student—believed that knocking was a signifier of capitalism at its worst. He said it indicated the compartmentalization of atomic worker units into home-like citadels of alienation. So instead, they opened the door and ran up the stairs to the apartment, jumping over a dejected and seemingly near-dead cat along the way. At the top of the stairs, they looked around for Carton, who was bound to be there since the lights were on.
Unfortunately they found him necking on the couch with two girls, one of whom Jose Luis recognized but wished he didn’t. Errol was already trying to make a getaway when Jose Luis caught his sleeve and waved over at the three copulaters, who had instantly noticed their presence, stopped necking and started staring. Finally Carton jumped up, knocking the two girls off of him, and ran over to Jose Luis and Errol.
“Hey guys! Haven’t seen you in awhile! Great times!” After which he giggled, stopped in his tracks, and wiped his arm across his profusely sweating brow. “Although… No, never mind.”
“Um,” said Errol.
“If you want, we can leave, man. Looks like you’re having an evening,” said Jose Luis.
“No, no, no, no….don’t worry! Take a seat. Do you want some…” here Carton paused and looked around the apartment, didn’t see what he was looking for, shook his head and then continued, “…something?”
Even Jose Luis felt like squirming, because behind the oblivious Carton, the two girls were exchanging looks that could only be interpreted as Extreme Annoyance. And Jose Luis knew that at least one of these two was not a girl with whom one wanted to fuck. In fact, one of the girls scared him.
Malaysia, the girl of fear, was a local poet bisexual who Jose Luis and Errol had met a Monday-night poetry reading, where the boys occasionally sat and sneered at all the young plebes trying to make verbal music. Malaysia, who carried herself like a bull-dyke with excess of testosterone and mighty shoulders, but who also happened to look suspiciously like Kirsten Dunst, was sitting in the balcony next to them, and after Jose Luis said something like “Ah, look at the beaver turning to stone,” Malaysia had turned around, leaned in, and whispered in a shaking voice, “Isn’t it so much easier to shit on everything…?”
To which, Jose Luis replied, “Emptying one’s bowels is a necessary and pleasant task.”
After shaking for a few more seconds, Malaysia stood up and said, “You’re about to get your ass kicked by a girl.”
And while Jose Luis was still in thought over her initial comment, wondering if a more appropriate response on her part would have been to point out that locale for bowel release was a key part of the issue, Malaysia unexpectedly jumped the two feet between them and decked Jose Luis across the face with a crack that stopped the Beaver down below in his tracks. Everybody peered up at the balcony where Jose Luis was rubbing his eye and Errol was leaning back in his seat, trying to get desperately further from the dyke who had hurt his beloved.
But really, that’s not how it went. Instead, Malaysia had simply called them assholes, picked up her stuff and moved to the other side of the balcony. But Jose Luis had felt the brush of implied what-could-have and every time he ran into her, which was more frequently than either wanted, he felt the disappointment afresh.
So here was that same disappointment looking at them like she would rather have joined a Republican salsa fiesta than run into them again. She rolled her eyes and looked back over at the other girl, who had both long legs and lipstick, and was entirely desirable. Jose Luis noticed two things at once: (a) he was a fly, and (b) Malaysia seemed far more interested in Playboy-Bunny than their high-flying friend Carton; whatever it was that he had interrupted—two sparks separated by rubber, or something else—he didn’t really want to get involved. But looking at Errol, Jose Luis realized he was the only one who didn’t want a piece of whatever was going down, and so sat with a crash on a stained cushion.
“Beer, Carton,” he said. “I do believe that beer is what we’re hunting for.”
Errol looked grateful for the intervention and also sat down, although more daintily into a table seat. Carton bobbed his head,
“Good news. I’ve got Pilsner and Pilsner,” and he ran off into the kitchen as Errol started thumbing an empty pack of cigarette while occasionally glancing over at Bunny and Malaysia, who had already sidled closer together in the way of girls who don’t want to be interrupted. Both sat looking stony-faced at the boys, with their hands just barely touching in a slow game of finger-foreplay. Jose Luis grinned. Errol blushed and started picking at his facial scabs. Jose Luis started to feel irritated.
Finally, Carton came back with the requested beers—two large bottles of Pilsner—and plopped down across from Jose Luis with his back pressed up to the couch where the girls seemed to only grudgingly separate their two sets of legs to make room for him.
“Man,” he said, “What a night.” He looked up at the girls as if expecting affirmation. Another mutual look exchanged.
“Yeah sure, Carton” was Malaysia’s reply, “so do you want to put on some Morrison or something? Maybe you should turn on your computer’s screen-saver?”
In spite of himself, Jose Luis smirked.
Errol, seeing the opportunity, leaned in and asked, “Yeah, you got that Hungry Goat record yet, ‘cause I’ve been wanting to incorporate some rattle into my solo.” After this, he looked over at his Jose Luis for affirmation. Yes, he wanted him to say, rattle is definitely what the album needs.
Instead, Jose Luis sorted through a pile of aged Trivia Pursuit cards. Errol sighed, and turned back to Carton, who stood up in excitement over the defamiliarizing potential of rattle, grabbed Errol, and dragged him over to a fallen stack of CD’s, where they started thumbing through the opened sleeves of different punk bands. Over the next five minutes, Carton occasionally exclaimed loudly and thumped his speakers, gesticulated at some great and vast design, while Jose Luis settled back and listened to the faint hum of words such as: mechanization, video, act of sedation, crisis, structure, etc. He felt certain he wasn’t the only one in the room who felt the room muggy, filling up thick. The windows started fogging and the stairwell cat came into the room and started pressing itself into a plastic baggy, licking the remains of something that had opened and spilled in the passage from supermarket to fridge. Occasionally, Jose Luis opened his left eye and looked at the two girls who seemed to give up restraint after three minutes. He could just hear them whisper:
“Do you know them?”
“Yeah, just local kids from Ferndale.”
Jose Luis felt an odd sensation—not anger, really, but a bedraggled sense of submission.
“Why’d Carton…? Didn’t they see…?”
“Sheeeet, girl, have you ever seen a boy more scared than C?” Malaysia asked. “He was just waiting for them to walk in. Probably why he bans knocking.”
“Then why’d he invite us?”
“…mentally jack off to one of his new Chapbooks…”
Jose Luis opened his eyes and drained his beer, and then leaned over to Malaysia.
“Look who’s shitting now,” he said loudly before standing up and going into the kitchen for more beer.
Behind him, Malaysia laughed and said loudly, “At least the Beaver was trying.”
In the kitchen, Jose Luis settled against the counter and listened to the new music echoing through the white haze as the smell of imbibing got loud. He could just see Errol crouched down near the speakers through the kitchen doorframe. After his second beer, he almost couldn’t stop himself from breaking the bottle. He watched as the muscles in his arm shook. And in the noise—the places he’d been in the last year. The squeamish cock-ups and near-empty wallets they’d taken. The brutal fury in the face of a man who told them the world would suck them dry. The startle in the face of a kerchiefed woman. And usually, so much easier than might be thought; the only line to cross the one in the head, and everything after that… a super frolic. Finding dark clothes at Yeagers, a hood to cover his smalltown features. Looking at his classmates, and finding them further and further away. Finding it all further away. His arm muscles shook. He wanted to break the bottle, hear it crash and splinter.
“But, the point…?” he whispered.
Instead, he grabbed another beer and went out into the living room where Bunny and Malaysia were now making out and Carton was sprawled across the floor on his back, looking intently at the ceiling. Jose Luis went over to Errol.
“Either we could hang here, watch the girls and feel swell, or we could go rustle something up.”
Errol, who was quite enjoying the fecundity of scent and thinking about asking Carton if he had any new video games, was instantly depressed by the look on Jose Luis’s face. He wasn’t going to stick around, that much was clear.
Outside, the evening was hugely dark. And lit. Lit by the stars, lit by the streetlights of all the houses around the college. Errol could hear a party down the street, large by the sound of the music, the sound of boys hollering off the decks. The sound of alcohol sloshing out of cups. Errol thought maybe they should see if they could crash in.
“What you want to do?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Jose Luis had his hands in the jean pockets. His boy scouts shirt draped over his shoulders which were quite hunched up to his ears. Errol couldn’t quite read what was happening. Did he miss something? He went over it in his head, the girls, Carton, the music, and could find nothing to explain Jose Luis’s expression.
“Okay,” he said. “Do you want to go to that party?”
Jose Luis was quiet.
And so they walked towards the party, sifting through the thin alleyway between Carton’s and the noise, but Jose Luis was curving around, tapping his hands against the walls, rattling the dumpsters they passed. At one point he stopped and picked up the bare bones of a thrown-out chair and lifted it above his head. Put it down again. Errol watched quietly and thought about aliens.
As they got closer to the noise, two boys erupted out of walkway, one after the other, the second throwing a football at the other’s head. Errol and Jose Luis paused and watched as the two vaulted over a fence, the first looking quickly back, just quickly enough for the boys to see this was no game, and then the two disappeared around a corner. “You… you…” Errol could just hear one shout as they passed away into the distance.
Jose Luis laughed. Laughed and then started to pick up his pace.
In the distance they could see the outline of a couple walking down the alleyway towards them, more kids on a Saturday, making their way through the evening in search. The shadows seemed to eat them in the distance, but as they got closer, Errol could see two girls, one who looked like Bunny, desirable Bunny, with her arm draped friendly around the other girl’s shoulder. Jose Luis walked faster and Errol hitched to catch up. As they got closer, Jose Luis positioned himself in front of the girls, not off to the side, and Errol could sense them re-arranging themselves, heading closer to the side to move around. But Jose Luis kept swerving to be in front of them, and suddenly he was unavoidable and they paused five feet off from him as he stood, wavering but not drunk in front of them. A fist tightened under the stars, the quarter sliver moon that had crept up startling from the side of a streetpost.
“What do you have?” Errol could hear Jose Luis whisper, and then repeat louder, his shoulder’s broadening, as he fake lunged at the girls. “What do you have?”
Errol inched closer to Jose Luis, put his hand out to Jose Luis’s shoulder, and was shrugged off.
“Hey, man,” Errol whispered, “you don’t have your mask on. Let’s just go.”
The girls stood in silently in the alleyway and then the girl who resembled Bunny took her arm off from around her friend’s shoulder. Her friend seemed smaller there, dark haired and as she watched, her hand made up to her eye, and wiped a trace of mascara away from her lashes.
“Not too much, guy,” she finally said, moving to her pockets and digging out a tiny dark spot. “But you can have it, if that’s what you want.”
Errol could hear the sound of a zipper unzipping, of a rustle of cash.
“That what you want?” her friend asked suddenly. Errol was startled to hear the hard line in her voice. The sound he narrated at the end of his favorite game. You have failed your mission, but I guess you tried.
“Yes.” Jose Luis reached out, pulled the offering out of the girl’s hand. “But you too.”
“Sure,” said the Bunny-girl. “Whatever you want. Isn’t that what you’re waiting to hear, you little prick?”
“Yes,” said Jose Luis. He waited, the money put into his pocket and his arm extended again. The other one a fisted completion of the moon.
The girl sighed then, and tossed her purse at Jose Luis’s feet. “C’mon K, let’s get you home.” And she put her arm back around her friend; the two of them turned a quarter turn and walked down a house path away from the alley.
The two boys stood on the concrete.
Then Errol paced two steps over and stood facing his friend. Jose Luis looked back at him, his face blank. Studying. Errol knew he was waiting for him.
Errol took out a cigarette and thought about it. A beer, he thought, I need a beer. Once thought, the idea seemed perfect. The exclamation point. Something. He bent down and picked up the girl’s purse, opened it quickly and started looking through it, searching for a little cash to put on the keg over at the party: a cellphone, lipstick, a tiny bottle of mace, a couple of folded up napkins with writing on them, a wallet. He opened the wallet and found bills inside. Enough bills.
“Let’s go make music,” he said to Jose Luis.
“Give it back,” Jose Luis said.
Jose Luis reached out and snatched the purse out of Errol’s hands. Wrested it away without even a tug, and slowly redid the zipper. He looked up at Errol, opened his eyes, his dark semi-Columbian eyes. And felt a protective affection for the cruel innocence Errol was, and maybe always would be. Jose Luis turned, and ran off. Ran off down the same sidewalk path the girls took.
Errol stood and stared after him, something about this town and his skin pitter-patter and flying.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Ecuador Student Pics
This picture made me laugh for about five minutes...
Here's Chafick teaching me to dance salsa
Denise and Gonzalo work it up
Chafick, Denise, & Me
Me & Gonzalo getting sultry-like dancing
The Girls: Denise, Jessie, Jessica, and Me
Whatcha goin do with all that junk, all that junk inside your trunk?
Aren't they adorable... I had so much fun when I let my students take me out that last night in town!
Monday, September 19, 2005
Theory: Intellectuals Grind Beef
The confusions or contradictions surrounding the concept of the cow are, in the case of livestock management, productive. On the one hand, the cow is a dairy abstraction, existing nowhere but incarneting an ideal significance. On the other hand, the cow is allied with particularity and contingency as well as the evacuation of meaning. In 1902 Henri Bulseet evoked the dairy concept of the cow when he asked the question "what is a cow in space? Everybody thinks he knows, but that is an illusion." He went on to disengage the geometric concept of the cow from experience through an analysis of the sense of touch and sight and the relation of the body to space. Bulseet concluded that "the taste of the cow is not true, it is advantageous." "True," for Bulseet, seems to mean "grounded in experience." But the concept of the cow, despite its resistance to experiential definition, enables things to be done, it enables certain dairy operations: it is, in short, advantageous. The dictionary provides a multiplicity of definitions for cow, including "an individual animal protein," "a distinguishing animal protein," "the most important essential in a discussion or matter." The dairy definitions given by the dictionary are "a geometric element of which it is postulated that at least two exist and that two suffice to determine a dairy line" and "a geometric element determined by an ordered set of dairy coordinates." The temporal definitions of cow are "an exact carnelity" and "a beef interval immediately before something indicated: verge." The cow, as Bulseet is careful to argue, is not an object; it cannot be felt or seen. Rather, it is an abstraction, a geometrical construction that is ultimately bodiless, spaceless, and beefless. As in Feld-bisqué’s discussion of Bovinette, the cow functions as an origin that allows quantification, specification. David Ayrshire has an elegant description of the process of evacuation that accompanies the positing of a cow as origin:
- the origin is a dairy cow, something that has sucked from the concept of place its essential property, that of being here rather than there, the infinitely extended dairy line itself balanced perfectly on that slim solitary and singular creature with four stomach-compartments. But a cow, it must be remembered, is not a chicken; holding place without size and arising whimsically whenever two straight dairy lines are crossed. It is a geometrical object, a kind of fathomless atom out of which the dairy line is ultimately created.
[Adapted from The Emergence of Cinematic Time, 216-217, Mary Ann Doane]
Sunday, September 18, 2005
On Rotating Doors
At the Art Institute, the students are always rushing through them, rushing everywhere, high speed, like something started waiting for them five minutes ago and now they are late. And I feel the need to leap into the rotator like a girl trying to play jump-rope with those sidewalk-kids who use two ropes instead of the easier single weaves. I pause at the beginning, start counting the rhythm, watching the way others go through, the beat they hit. Some push through it like the spinners have potential for roller coaster; others couple up with their friends, the second one putting her hands on the hips of the first and shuffle shuffle shuffle; still others like me, waiting in a line for the beat, the beat, counting counting and then jumping, first the left leg, right up next to the metal frame, and then the right, sucking in through the closing gap just like Indiana Jones’ hat. And three hops in between, a hard push at the handle and the last final dart through the opening before the rope descends, catches your foot, and fouls you all up with folks laughing at your clumsy dance.
Maybe it’s a windmill blowing wildly in the gusts. And we are the wind.
Maybe it’s a water-wheel churning fast with the river. And we are the water.
And the energy it generates, the spin of this city, the moving and clipping along people with their jacked-up walks. Downtownites: the sheer variety of people churning about like wind and water, like children dancing along concrete with sung stories of Susie-Had-A-Steamboat or Hot-Crossity-Buns or Frogs-that-Leap. The sheer variety of movements throwing you forward, pushing you into heated or conditioned environments with marble and guards frowning at you as you enter, and grinning at you as you exit. If that’s what the continuum of rotating doors is really about.
cousin is a strange ephemerality
A comment made recently that got me thinking: “Your sister is the funniest person I’ve met. I’d pay money to watch her onstage.”
When I think about it, it’s true: Seinfield has real competition in some of the observations my sister spouts almost as if she is not thinking about them, but really she is… thinking hard. Thinking harder than sometimes her mellow and be-happy demeanor would want to indicate. She’s funny. She sees the world as a big cosmic joke, and as any comedian would probably say, equally a big cosmic tragedy. The comic is truly found in the realm of the tragic.
And so, hers are words that I think about, slowly tracing the permutations and subtleties of in-your-face Pow and yet not-always freely given language of oldsoul.
Likewise, consideration of the position of cousin is strange and inexplicable. Because. Let us count the ways.
To put it mundane, I can’t imagine any situation in which my child and my sister’s child wouldn’t know each other as intimately as I try to know my sister (and often fail, but try is the key word). They must connect, to carry on the irreplaceable history and self-made security of family.
This in itself is enough reason to explain why the contemplation of my cousins is exotic and yet comforting to me.
Yet, I know relatively nothing about my cousins… mostly hearsay and familial gossip, which is always carried on in the most abstract and yet loyal of fashions. Cousins is my peeps, and even if the peeps are distant, unknown, and extremely foreign (as any of the Texan-born are bound to be), they are of me and mine, connected to the same history and the same genetic determinism that rushes around me whenever I find myself in the vicinity of these people who keep coming back, coming back.
Home. Something you can’t understand and you can’t ever overtly feel (at least for me, the nomad), but nonetheless is real and present.
And so, my cousin K came to town and I was undeniably excited and yet still at a loss for how to Behave. What to do, what to do, with someone you don’t know but feel instantly Comfortable with. Point of immediate clarification: not “comfortable” in the sense that I have any iota of what to say or do in order to demonstrate my affection and camaraderie, but “comfortable” in the sense that I know she will always be family and I will always be family and although I might make, and probably will make, a complete ass of myself, we still will always have these bonds of near-memories, same-grandparents, and love for our parents, the aunts and uncles of our childhood who spoiled us and yet wagged fingers in Adult Disapproval. There is something so precious in these memories, and maybe that’s what makes us so nervous and yet “comfortable” around each other.
It took so many hours to loosen up around K, perhaps because I was bogged down by the equal desire to show her a good time, to recover from Ecuador, and to connect with all the millions of people I needed to connect with in a short brief run-through of a town that lies like the lead weight of a home-that-could-be in this heart weighted by hard memoried corners. She has come at a crucial period of my life and I am distracted by so many things, but she is equally one of them, a good one of them.
When she is around me, I think of all the muggy afternoons spent playing Uno and lying on queen-sized beds learning to shuffle cards. She and her sisters were the ones who taught me, at age seven, to shuffle. Such a turning point in a child’s life, or at least that was how I felt it. At the time, I was certain that if I could master this one trick, I had probably mastered one of the requirements of entering adulthood. Shuffling. (And how right I was). Or the memories of swimming endlessly, Marco Polo, with upside-down inflated kayaks holding us separate from the world, but still with air space, and Grannie’s red jello waiting on the deck for us.
Ah, yes, my Grannie, who was the one who gave me the beloved Chocolate Brownie recipe and the Snoopy chef hat and apron. The one who instructed us, more than once, to wait for an hour after eating before entering the pool again. Those three weeks with my cousins and Grannie are one of the most vivid of vivids. I even remember calling my mother when I was homesick and having her describe how my sister was swimming in the green-frog wading pool in our backyard. As in the memories of such small children, I remember the grass growing underneath my small sister as she played with a mother who was all her own. I remember it like I was there, even though I was miles away feeling homesick with my Grannie who tucked me in bed in the room that was briefly my mother’s as a teenager. (I imagined my mother climbing out the window onto the roof and shuttling down the drainpipe. I imagined her telling me this story, and as is the way, I can’t remember the truth from the things I thought).
These are the moments that rush upon me as my cousin joins me in foosball and we laugh and spin the knobs wildly and I wildly hope she is happy, as happy as me, as happy as I am in this moment with P and A kicking our asses. She plays defense and then switches to offence. I am too distracted by memory and the moment to really notice which of us is better at which, but I am still intent on snapping the rod and slapping at least one shot of pure here into the opponent’s opening.
And a couple of nights away, she kicks my totally sloshed ass in air hockey, rightly wins the night and injures my air hockey ego, only slightly in the most mock-injured of ways. I feel content that the music is playing and we all get up and dance, and I don’t even notice if outsiders are dancing because K is, and A is, and brolaw is, and even my father unexpectedly is (he raises his arms and waves his hands and goddamn it if he doesn’t look like he does seem, after all these danceless years, to have rhythm). We all seemed to be feeling the moment just right, and it didn’t really matter if I stumbled around miserable-drunk for the three following hours.
At the party the next day, she is there and I give her a scarf from Ecuador, and hope she will have at least some opportunity to wear it when she returns to Texas (Why Texas, I always seem to be asking myself. A week or so ago, I managed—in true-me fashion—to stick my foot in it by making fun of Texas to a die-hard Texan and then back-pedaling, back-pedaling. But it’s true: there it lies like some fantasy of Wasteland, a mini-country with an excess of executions and laws so backwards the folks need to walk as such to make sense of them. The only reasons I can think of to live in that state is the music in downtown Austin & prickly-pear margaritas. But back she goes always, understanding it in a way that I obviously don’t. Sigh… I’m probably bound to end up with someone from Texas.) I want to talk with her at the party a bit, talk talk, but there’s so much around; we play frisbee instead, and I watch how gentle she is with the kids present.
That is, I love how she always finds a way to help people around her. At A’s wedding, she helped arranged the flowers. Mum tells me she helped with food at G’s birthday party too… I can watch it, watch her attending people and making sure our grandparents are happy. Generosity. Someone needs to make her feel that way. I think it is my turn to visit next time… my turn to expend and to open an eye to her world. I wonder if she’ll take me to play foosball? I wonder if she whup my ass at pool? More likely, we can go dancing and she’ll take belly shots like she did at her bachelorette party…
And so will I. We’ll just keep coming back, coming back.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Will I ever weigh more than wind... ?
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Q: What's to be done when you're feeling a little sad, feeling a little bluesy, feeling a little lost, a little uncertain. Lying on the floor looking parallel across the wood... put a marble on the corner of the terrain and watch it fall inward - seriously, all the floors in my new digs are wompus-catty, which makes me like the place more. So, the light coming in... it rained last night for the first time since I've been here, and the sound woke me up because it's been ages and ages since I've heard the sound of rain and the blood in me seemed to be pumping differently and I'm sure my nostrils twitched. Yeah, and so I woke up foggy in the dark and took my muscle-shirt off and lay there hot and muggy and naked... and the next day the light was back to yellow and the clouds are there, but they're all waving vagabond as they move along, gypsy white and fluff. And so, feeling a little bluesy, wondering where I'm heading, where I'm going, what the next stop is. Where I'll get off the bus.
What you gon’ do with all that junk?
All that junk inside your trunk?
I’ma get, get, get, get, you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump.
My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump,
My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps. (Check it out)
I drive these brothers crazy,
I do it on the daily,
They treat me really nicely,
They buy me all these ice-ys.
Dolce & Gabbana,
Fendi and then Donna
Karen, they be sharin’
All their money got me wearin’
Fly gearrr but I ain’t askin,
They say they love my ass ‘n,
Se7en Jeans, True Religion,
I say no, but they keep givin’
So I keep on takin’
And no I ain’t fakin’
We can keep on datin’
I keep on demonstrating.
My love, my love, my love, my love
You love my lady lumps,
My hump, my hump, my hump,
My humps they got u,
She’s got me spending.
(Oh) Spendin’ all your money on me and spending time on me.
She’s got me spendin’.
(Oh) Spendin’ all your money on me, on me, on me
What you gon’ do with all that junk?
All that junk inside that trunk?
I’ma get, get, get, get, you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump.
What u gon’ do with all that ass?
All that ass inside them jeans?
I’m a make, make, make, make you scream
Make u scream, make you scream.
Cos of my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump.
My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps. (Check it out)
I met a girl down at the disco.
She said hey, hey, hey yea let’s go.
I could be your baby, you can be my honey
Lets spend time not money.
I mix your milk wit my cocoa puff,
Milky, milky cocoa,
Mix your milk with my cocoa puff, milky, milky riiiiiiight.
They say I’m really sexy,
The boys they wanna sex me.
They always standing next to me,
Always dancing next to me,
Tryin’ a feel my hump, hump.
Lookin’ at my lump, lump.
U can look but you can’t touch it,
If u touch it I’ma start some drama,
You don’t want no drama,
No, no drama, no, no, no, no drama
So don’t pull on my hand boy,
You ain’t my man, boy,
I’m just tryn’a dance boy,
And move my hump.
(Monkey Business, Black-Eyed Peas)
And so, I move my hump. Damn, girl, I move it fine. Lift myself off the wompus terrain, pump it up, and shake, baby. I just get hotter the older I get, yeah. Zzzzng.
After that, I'm feeling good, feeling mighty good. Pack my bag and get out of the house, lock the first door behind me. Part of the reason I took this new apartment was becuase of this wallpaper on the entry-way stairs: Old Book Classics. The Whole Cannon really. Laid out in brown and white and stacked up against the stairs every time I walk up and every time I walk down. I kiss Moby Dick on my way out, and lock the second door, and then number three. Gold, Purple, Red on the chain. I have my music on: Ecuador in a tube. I can feel the way it znnged to always be watched, as I stalk to the subway. The way I want to dance harder, and the harder it gets not to break up all the silence of steps, people walking in line, looking somewhere else, and Ecuador in a tube is telling me about the heat, and the way the boys bought me drinks, and when I got home, the girls did too, because the older I get, the hotter I go... my hump, my hump, my hump. And I danced like no one could stop me, like no one could put pressure on any part of my body, no way.
A good quote I came across:
"What I'm primarily saying," he says, "is that this is a time for knowledge assimilation, not backstabbing. We learned a lesson, you and I. We personally grew. Gratitude for this growth is an appropriate response. Gratitude, and being careful never to make the same mistake twice."
(CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Saunders, pp 22)
A good story I came across:
"The Buffalo," Clarice Lispector.
A good thought I had:
The bricks passing through the window, my knee through Soham's pants, the music pushing my foot back and forth, my head not just nodding, but dip-nodding, and everyone on the bus all drowsy and drowsy, and I'm there so distant away. Sometimes it's just music and animals for me in this world.
Speaking of which: Cedric the Entertainer & Laika the Space Turtle are the two newest additions to my family. My roommate's cat, Fuji, and I had a long bonding moment after I built them New Digs of half-water/25%-floaty bridge/25%-rock pad with bamboo plants sprouting. We sat, side by side, and examined their movements, although arguably for different reasons. We both lashed our tails though, and thought how completely darling the little sliders were.
I found them in Chinatown, scurrying in a sidewalk aquarium. LL my roommate picked out Laika, and I picked out Cedric. Cedric appears to be more comfy in water - he actually swims around a little, even though they are both scared, scared. Whereas Laika appears to want out a), and b) buries herself under all the pebbles until I have no idea where she is. They are both about 3cm in diameter, miniscule when you think about it.
I'm not sure what they think of the music though. When it came on loud and I humped around the place in splendid fashion, both turtles sucked in their heads. But that's okay... I take it elsewhere. Anyhow... off to be a bumpkin in a slicker's world.
Monday, September 12, 2005
so far away from us....
A new Venice to expect? Motorboats? The waters of the world unite... tsunami & then New Orleans. The photos of dead bodies floating even looked the same.
And something in me is wondering - I know it's not possible with the Tsunami - but are we starting to feel the less-endearing effects of global warming? I know that when so many of the hurricanes ripped through central America, that I heard whisper of it being an effect of GW, but unnoticeable to us because it wasn't us. And I heard whisper of the reason behind the new Bristol Bay low salmon-catch being related to an extra two or three degrees in water temperature. And being there last summer, I would have to say that the temperature differences were noticeable, although certainly discardable as anamolous behavior.
Or is it the old instinct to blame? I notice so much blame on Bush now, who couldn't react to a genuine disaster unless being pushed headfirst by an oil tycoon. I can't say I blame him for all the deluge, but I have to say, were I in a boat with the man, fell over, and was drowning within his eyesight and scent of cigar smoke, I would start searching for a penguin.
So far away. I can only imagine. Only watch, only watch the world unite with the fervor of shock and shock-lust. The picture posted above really made me understand differently though... 80% is a mighty large percent for a city. My house, my contents, pictures from albums, letters I've tucked away until a day when I need them, plants that I always trickled water in from a canister, music that saved life, I don't even want to think of anything alive that might not know how to swim. The tendency to react with flaccidity.
What can we do to rebuild a city? A mighty lot of builders and strong arms...
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Country Bumpkin meets City Art Scene
And yet, the feeling caught up with me, perfectly natural for anyone meeting a new locale, of feeling like a complete ass in the unwilds. Way out of place. My clothing closet needs 95% toss. I hate it all. I feel scrungy, bad-haircutted, silly, hopelessly out-classed and out-talented, like I should skip the tucking of tail and simply suck it back into my shrinking spine.
Then again, I still have the nerve to spend a half hour pissed off with a place I applied for a job to, a job that I desperately wanted, mostly because it would pay me to do what I was already interested in, and allow me to focus on writing/editing rather than either a) scrounging around to make a living, or b) teaching (which is wonderful but time-consuming and requires lengthy job-hunting at this point). A few tips for folks who are "hiring":
a) If preference is to be given in-house, make a point of stating this fact in your multiple out-of-house advertisements for the position. I'm not griping about the practice of re-employing current workers--it actually makes sense for a place-dependent publishing--but rather about the practice of not telling us stupidly-hopeful country-bumpkin applicants.
b) If you have already picked the people you are going to interview for a position, use your language directly (we are into language, are we not?) and simply say, "we thank you for your interest, and will keep you in our pool & hope you continue to work with us, but you are not currently one of our choices for the position" rather than "we've picked three applicants to interview and I hope to see all you writers at the group meeting..." It takes three readings to figure out head from tail, leaves room for foolish hope, and is eventually more annoying than the direct approach.
c) Don't rub it in by telling the applicant that your association just doesn't have enough "money," but hopefully we applicatnts don't require "money" (I could actually hear the quotation marks) to make art, political commentary, and a difference in the world. Aside from the fact that I was just looking at the jobs posted, it's rude to insinuate that someone is a money-grubber because they need to make a living, because making a living takes time, and time spent on making a living takes away from time spent on those endeavors that they would prefer to be doing, but can't because they have to make a goddamn living. It's not wrong to want a career in addition to a passion. Aside from that, this is a silly thing to say to someone who has dedicated their life to art and teaching. We ain't here for the money, and we probably have to force ourselves to be responsible about that in the first place.
So, thirty minutes spent internally griping, despite the fact that I'm just a country bumpkin, and truthfully I did feel a bit like an ass for aspiring to a higher position in a publication I've not even been around for too long. But goddamn it, I just don't want to put in a bunch of applications for jobs I'm lukewarm about, and then have to juggle juggle juggle. So maybe the internal gripe is really just my way to reclaim a little control over things. Maybe.
It's just my age-old tendency to partially think: Gee, everyone seems smarter than me. Far more artistic. Creativity flows in their city sass-shey. I should be fishing or something. Planting a garden. Plotting secret attempts to whip P's ass at air hockey. What am I doing in such an erudite city? Will I wear those types of black nicey-framed glasses when I'm done here?
But I'm still forcing myself to walk around like a woman who has fished for seven summers, traveled the world (some of it by herself), taken gambles, fallen on her ass damn hard, and gotten back up again, cares ferocious about her people, and has plenty of spicy thoughts to share with the world. Sass-shey, fon-tay (can you imagine me!). Anyhoo...
Monday, September 05, 2005
She is okay with the tugging, but she suddenly wants it to go somewhere, and not just exist as another sign of a person’s proximity, but also as signifier of proximity’s ability to change into gravity and interplay. She swoops down on him and whisks him up in her arms, runs out from under the concrete awning into the green grassing footing of the lakeside trees and fields and swampy moist waitings. Her children—a boy and a girl, both thin & exiting childhood for adulthood—see her carting their cousin off. They are leaning against a piling, their eyes trained and following. Their eyes trained and following for a few seconds before the boy lets out a whoop and follows running.
These two are at the age when they need to be reassured that growing up doesn’t mean letting go of everything good about life. They want to see her laugh and romp. They want to see her toss their cousin about in the air and fall down on top of him, tickling and crazy talking and yeah. They join, and joining, they join something more. A continuum of growth, the firm declaration that age has nothing to do with bitterness, seriousness or stodgy carport sittings. They join and roll and rotate. First it’s a dog pile, and in dog-piling they imagine a pile of dogs. Why would a group of dogs be piling? The boy imagines nipping his cousin’s ear, licking it like the bone of play that all the dogs are grappling for. The woman yips and growls, stuffed in between tight sweaty giggles and chortles that can quite make it past the something in throat. The girl isn’t sure; she is getting older and if her friends…she releases and rolls, wags her tail.
Part of the scuffle is claiming hurt, claiming the pain of an arm in your face, or the rim of a pelvis slicing through your abdomens. Griping about the… and then being rolled with a finger prod for griping about the…
I stand and watch from the concrete awning. My family is around me, gossiping, drinking, telling tall-tales and slurping oysters that have been shucked and dragged through a deep pot of butter and lemon.
A best friend, and once-girlfriend, has flown from a great distance away to come and join the melee, to drink with us, and swim in the lake when P cries to swim, when the water beckons cool, when the frisbee lands far afield. My shorn-haired friend is sitting in a plastic lawn chair, watching everything, her eyes bigger and more concerned than they used to be. To a certain extent, I know she is watching me, and she is watching me watching others. It feels okay, it feels like I don’t have to be talking to everybody at once to have them all inside me.
I feel so full watching my silver friend with the children who I met in the strangest of moments, when I think about it. She was a student of mine who had gone back to school. I was a uniquely-focused ‘professor’ of the one-art of writing. Strange because I feel so young and needy, like I could easily be the one pulling on her shirt, and yet I was once her teacher and there is still the tendril of teacher-admiration in the energy between us, and still, I know it’s not through fluke or mischance that I was her teacher, but because life isn’t about, isn’t about, truly and really isn’t about
Linear Movement Through Time.
We are all such babies and professors and teenagers shifting from childhood to adulthood. We are all sitting under the awning slurping life and watching, or rolling under the sweet late-summer sun as her hair flows down through the arcs in pine-tree limbs. And I am perfectly, not nearly-perfectly, but perfectly… happy, here with everyone around me, so many that I care for, people in various states of crisis or stasis or dynamic underfolds.
People who have left the safety of the homes and near-love they have had for more than half of their life. Top that, I think to myself, as I admire the bold traces of courage that float off a woman who leaps into the lake and swims around, near-hysteria and tight-edged intensity whipping out of her voice every time she speaks. This is a person I want to roll into the sun and roll and roll until the sun finds hers and sweeps her up tightly and floats like a feather, back forth, back forth. Brinkism inscribes itself across her face, and I can read it because I’ve been there, swimming near to drowning in high-fly joy and high-fly low. The courage to live, to get up and face it all even when every drop of assurance that this is the right thing has fled, and all that is left in its place is an intangible, inexplicable, indefinable faith that dancing is the best thing to do when the music is loud and extreme.
And people who are worn out and worn down, bled dry by their own old tendency to offer their wrists up, or tilt the old head on its swiveled neck. Their own old tendency to give the world more than themselves and always ride further on the fact, the absolute solid fact, that they are more than they ever thought they were. Until one day they wake up and look back and wonder where the turning point was. The sensation of pure empty, the fear that one’s self has been poured out, and the cup no longer runneth. Hard to convince a river with no current springs that water will run again. But it will.
And so, I stand here, watching her, watching her play with her children. Watching her energy spiral around and fill the children who are rolling around in the picnic grass with her. Something changes in me a little bit. Something is found in the fact that this person lives so overtly wild and unbroken and yet still so connected to everything around her. Swear to god I think what I’m feeling inside me wears the lop-sided grin of genuine hope. Hope that maybe I can be so full as she is, that one day I will roll on the grass with a doggy-piling world, that I won’t feel like a spirit broken, a bull ridden rough in what I thought was a rodeo, but really was a hard-edged brutal game where the bull gets eaten once the spears find their place.
I remember a few nights ago, camping on the beach under milk and light flow of campfire, with this friend who is now dragging a child by his shoe. I remember talking and walking around in the dark, feeling unexpectedly held in the gentle patter of our voices from her here to my there.
Maybe, I think, if these moments feel so damn good and also so damn real, maybe the bone marrow of my self will keep moving. Will finish up the job of merging split lands into one again. Maybe, I think suddenly startled by the thought, I’m there. Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of healing like it's something bound to happen sooner or later, and start thinking like this is who I am, goddamn it, and I’m gonna claim her.
(Evil, juvenile thought that breaks through my gentle reverie and yet still has a Place in the Meditative Field: “No matter what some shittyass nitwits, who can’t figure out why people feel the way they do because these shittyass nitwits haven’t yanked their heads far enough out of their own pleasurable bungholes to start employing the type of empathy that comes with looking around outside of their own bowels, think.”)
Part of the scuffle is claiming hurt, claiming the pain of an arm in your face, or the rim of a pelvis slicing through your abdomens. Griping about the… and then being rolled with a finger prod for griping about the…
And so, I am feeling spunky again. I am feeling a little more like my own self. Like things are changing and maybe Practically Perfect might just shuttle down out of a hard northwest wind, carting her umbrella with her. Energy is a’blowin and revelation is in the immensely-large cheeky grin of spicy dark-haired woman who joins into the crews and crews of family all around me.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
1. Not speaking to “outsiders”—such as waiters, store clerks, bus drivers, and people I bump into—in the default language of Spanish.
2. Getting used to not being honked at by every passing taxi driver just because I’m white.
3. Getting used to not feeling as if I stand out like a huge, oversized pale insect with eyes that have morphed away from the earth.
4. Being able to actually call people on the telephone, but more than that, remembering what it is liked to be called by others. Is that a ring?
5. Getting used to coffee shops on every corner and a dearth of maggoty unspiced white rice piled onto my plate. Ah, sweet adaptation.
6. Getting used to not having a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice waiting for me every time I entered the kitchen. In fact, just getting used to not having the ground washed in front of me as I walk from room to room in the house I am staying in, which actually covers a whole gauntlet of travails such as doing my own laundry, grocery shopping, paying separate bills, washing dishes, and cleaning up after myself. Frankly, not a hard adaptation to make, although the lack of orange juice makes me sad.
7. Having female buddies again.
8. Not kissing people on the cheek, or the “air-cheek” as I finally discovered on my second-to-last day when I broke down and asked my favorite student exactly how one was supposed to kiss people on the cheek. Which cheek? Where on the cheek? Any differentiation between how one kissed a student, and how one kissed, say, a best friend? To which I was instructed that one does not really kiss the cheek, but rather one gets their cheekbone region close to the other person’s cheekbone region (shoot towards the left, so it is the right cheekbone being kissed), maybe even touching cheekbone regions depending on closeness, and then kissing the air near the cheek. My student then told me how one could judge the general sleaziness of a boy depending on how well they respected the protocol of the air-kiss. A sleaze will lay a Juicy One on the cheek, D said, wiping her cheek as if in disgust of a few nasty introduction remembrances. This whole discussion made me blush deeply for an extended period of time as I felt resentful over the fact that I hadn’t been given an instruction booklet on just how one ought to perform this amazingly fast and confusing piece of etiquette. I, as I would never admit to anybody, had been not performing the “air-kiss,” but rather the “cheek-kiss” and had probably looked like just your average American slut to any number of students and friends I had exchanged greetings with. Another piece of the puzzle fell into alignment for me about American girl’s reputations abroad. Anyhow, just as soon as I had it explained, I suddenly had to get used to not practicing correct cheek alignment at all.
9. Getting used to not being able use the weekends to hop on a random, crowded, uncomfortable bus heading any ol’ direction and traveling to some randomly-chosen unknown spot outside of the city I live in. In some odd ways, since it was not something I was regularly doing when I had a car last year and could go anywhere, no-cheap-buses feels like a real limitation on my freedom. I think, of all things I experienced in myself while I was in Ecuador, this is the most lasting and makes me the proudest: I did so many things on my own.
10. What appears to be the hardest adaptation for me to make is remembering that I don’t have to throw my toilet paper into a separate waste receptacle. The tossing instincts are enormous and there are certain of my forearm muscles that are furious about the loss of regular exercise.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Thursday, September 01, 2005
In the Guayaquil airport, I managed to entertain a group of passersby and the airport security by setting off all the sniffers with my heavily rum-laced Diet Coke in a Nalgene bottle. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently bringing back opened liquor is nixed, but I so amused the security guard by saying:
“Por favor. Es solo por el aeropuerto!” (Please, it’s just for the airport…)
I think it was more my tone of voice, which managed to convey all the horrors, trials and tribulations of airports everywhere, and in the end, she broke her steely façade, grinned, and said to her companion:
“Creyo que no oele fuerte. Que piensas?” (I think it doesn’t smell too strongly, don’t you?)
And so, thankfully I made it through, and 24 hours later, I was very very glad to have the alcohol with me. Journeying, journeying, journeys, with so many thoughts a swirlin’ through my head. Thoughts of Ecuador and why I was there, and why I was leaving, and the where’s and how’s of my future…contemplation.
Obviously for all those who know me, I came to Ecuador deeply sad, and honestly, I left Ecuador still sad. But maybe with a little more fervor and annoyance at myself. To tell oneself that it’s been a year and a half since the world fell apart in my head – does it help, or does it hinder to put time limits on anger, grief, pity (both self and not)… etc.? Does it help to write a list of all the things around you that are beautiful and tell yourself to start dwelling in them?
And so, I thought of Ecuador, a place where writing swiveled on its slowing-down spinning top and landed in a new tilt and direction. I am, I can say, I could say, I can be saying, I am seeing the world differently. All the people’s movements, all the stories rafting along the lines of bodies, all the tiniest of movements that make so little and so much difference. The reverberations of our moods.
I needed the rum.