“I’d fix on the Chief’s raw, rope-burned palms or all the gray hairs collected in his sink, and I’d suffer this terrible side pain that Kiwi said was probably an ulcer and Ossie diagnosed as lovesickness. Or rather a nausea produced by the “black fruit” of love—a terror that sprouted out of your love for someone like rotting oranges on a tree branch. Osceola knew all about this black fruit, she said, because she’d grown it for our mother, our father, Grandpa, Sawtooth, even me and Kiwi. Loving a ghost was different, she explained—that kind of love was a bare branch. I pictured this branch curving inside my sister: something leafless and complete, elephantine, like a white tusk. No rot, she was saying, no fruit. You couldn’t lose a ghost to death.”—Swamplandia!, Karen Russell
And all you can do is suddenly sneeze. This observation is not profound, but against loss.
My schedule for the next 5 days consists of 3 shifts at the bar, including a double-shift today, 3 days at my day job, and then an hour on the A train to JFK and a flight across the country, home.
I haven’t been home, Washington state, since Christmas. This trip is going to be far too short. I’ll get to see my dogs, walk around my parents’ new hometown, eat dinner with my parents and best friend, then drive south to the Oregon coast for the annual family reunion. Coffee and morning walks along the beach, loud family conversations, maybe a ping-pong tournament. These are happy things. I’ll be back in NY by Monday evening.
The subject line is from Rosmarie Waldrop, who kept me company this morning. I picked her up after I read that Boehner had compared the White House to a bowl of Jell-O.
Today wasn’t the greatest day. Learning curves can be rough.
I got home tonight all tired and moody, found this recipe, and decided to turn it into my night’s goal. However absolutely indulgent it might be, I would go to Whole Foods and find the mint leaves and black tea and wooden spoon and pitcher (I was basically lacking every single ingredient, besides sugar), and I would make me some mojito iced tea.
IT’S SO GOOD. I would marry this mojito iced tea if I could.
So, the day is saved. There’s this, and maybe a bike ride tomorrow morning through Central Park, if I can get myself out of bed early enough.
And! Also tomorrow!
Poets’ House is hosting a 75th anniversary reading & reception for New Directions — Summer Celebration! around 7, if I’m right. I’m going. If you’re around, you should too! Many many great people are going to be reading, including Susan Bernofsky, Eliot Weinberger, Susan Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, etc etc etc. I’m excited.
Do you ever watch a movie trailer and think it must be a parody of all things blockbuster right now in 2011, but then it’s a genuine movie trailer about the entire world exploding? Again? That.
I can’t keep still with a book lately. I’m in the middle of eight but none are quite it right now. Which is decidedly and awfully my fault.
Today I had my bangs trimmed. When I walked in, the place was empty and the stylists were sitting against the back wall, gossiping. “Girl,” one said to the woman stabbing scissors dangerously close to my eyes. “Girl you getting married tomorrow.” “Yeah.” “I wasn’t invited.” “That’s cause I don’t like you. Anymore.”
My “G” key now needs to be hit hard to type.
Last summer, the first night my best friend was in town to visit (she’s coming back in September! I am so excited), she and I went to a psychic down on 1st Ave. There was a certain uncanniness to the things the psychic told me, but by the next week it was all null. Isn’t the point to see beyond the immediate present?
I never believed in Ouija boards.They never worked when I tried.
There’s a lingering loud click in my left ankle, leftover from my high school cross country “career.” Some days the popping is more pronounced. When I point it out to friends, most grimace.
There’s a large purple and red bruise on my hip. There are always bruises on my hips. I will never not be a klutz.
“This is how you have changed since yesterday, you who insisted you preferred a book, something solid, which lies before you, easily defined, enjoyed without risks, to a real-life experience, always elusive, discontinuous, debated. Does this mean that the book has become an instrument, a channel of communication, a rendezvous? This does not mean its reading will grip you less: on the contrary, something has been added to its powers.If on”—If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino
Perhaps because I find the prose of women writers such as Jean Rhys, Anne Carson, Lydia Davis, Marguerite Duras, Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, Octavia Butler, Eileen Myles, and their ilk often fiercer in form and effect than that of their male counterparts, from Ernest Hemingway to Raymond Carver, Western literary history’s habit of aligning men with tough rigor and women with a hazy “écriture féminine” (or, analogously, Western art history’s tradition of aligning men with the muscular decisiveness of line, and women with the spacey formlessness of color) has always struck me as odd: more of a prescription or fantasy than a description or observation.
“Because being willfully naïve is the only way forward. The only way to live is to let everything break my heart over and over and over again—not only my heart but also maybe my stomach and my mind and really my belief in the kindness of others—and then to get up again the next day and continue to be naïve. Being a writer is to continue to have faith in people despite the world giving me millions of reasons to think otherwise, even if that means knowing the world will keep trying to destroy my naïveté and, by extension, me, over and over and over again.”—
“Finding no nucleus to which we could cling, we became a small nucleus ourselves and gradually we fitted our disruptive personalities into the contemporary scene of New York. Or rather New York forgot us and let us stay.”—
"My Lost City," F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’m gifting some friends New Directions’ new Pearl edition of Fitzgerald essays, On Booze, which I haven’t read in full yet. I maybe got lost in this essay. My friends might have to be okay with a slightly worn copy.
"But dreams don't have fingers, they have fists, so it must have been scorpions."
Lately, my dreams have been sticky. When I wake up, I have to blearily walk through my apartment multiple times, rationally convincing my irrational sleep-logged brain that whatever it believed was there is not.
No, I am not still at the bar. No, there is no one here waiting to be served (per my dream last night).
Always someone waiting in the next room: for beer, for entertainment, for a book recommendation (serious).
Maybe it’s the heat doing this to me.
It’s only happened a couple times before. On the first night after I adopted my cat, I woke up convinced there was a second kitten in my apartment that I needed to take care of. By the time I realized/remembered there wasn’t, I had managed to scare the one cat I did have.
The worst, though, is having to force myself to go back to bed, even though the side of my brain still firmly lodged in dreamland doesn’t believe the realityland side’s insistence that none of this is real. That dreamland side wants to stay awake and figure out whatever it is that’s supposed to be going on in the other room.
It makes for a restless, uncomfortable night of sleep, maybe because of the heat, maybe because of the odd hours I’ve been keeping since I’ve been back, juggling the day job and the night job and the jobs in between––the in between, of course, being the jobs I care about most.
Although, also, I’ve been reading a lot of Bolaño. Maybe he’s to blame.
“1. Subjective as these terms are, cursory internet research indicates, e.g. here and here, that assholes are generally understood to be worse than douchebags (thus George W. is a douchebag, Cheney an asshole). To clarify, I’m not saying Dante’s Inferno doesn’t contain a large number of assholes – just that they aren’t necessarily the same people as the douchebags.”—
So, just biked down to the East Village for my shift at the bar. I’m wearing my glasses and Moby-Dick tshirt. During the day-long lull, I’ll be reading Infinite Jest (trying to do Infinite Summer, but am so far behind).
There has to be a joke where I’m the punch line, right?
when I hear I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers, I think of these.
Summers, of course, being the theme here.
There was this place, halfway between the Dalles and Hood River, along the Columbia River in Oregon. Every summer, my mom and dad and brother and I would climb into our circa 1980 VW van––boxier than the 60s classic, but still with the pop-up hatch, a mini-oven we never used, and a tape player with The Proclaimers and Tracy Chapman and Cat Stevens on repeat. We parked the van in the middle of the property, near the wooden outdoor kitchen, feet from the steep steps that led down to the humble cove our parents windsurfed from. Sometimes, we would sit along the rocks, fishing with our Looney-Tunes-themed poles, never catching anything, and we’d watch our parents windsurf from one side of the river to the other and then back. At night, we rolled out foam mattresses and sleeping bags and watched the silhouettes of bats flying overhead; in the morning we woke damp and poorly-rested, but content. You know that childhood summer contentment? That.
Years later, I worked as a counselor at this summer camp (boating, swimming, archery, etc) on the Oregon coast. My name was Pocahontas. Everyone called me Poco. We didn’t tell the campers our “real” names until the end of the week. When we did, they scribbled them in notebooks. Names felt sacred. Everything always caked in dust. Campers spreading rumors about counselor couples. Breaks spent eating Red Vines. Each night at campfire, we sat on logs in a half-circle, sang songs. Cabins sang ‘cabin calls’: adaptations of camp songs or popular songs. Two of the guy counselors were musicians. One night, they adapted “I Would Be,” giving it lyrics about archery (“I would be the camper who shoots five hundred arrows and I would be…”). I’d almost forgotten the song. Everyone sang it for the rest of the week. Two nights later, the same cabin readapted “Bohemian Rhapsody”—the entire eight minutes.
The summer after graduation, I interned for my hometown newspaper. A woman who ran a knitting store called me an apple, said I should go into television. I wrote about a woman who was riding across the country on her horse, another about a woman competing in a logging competition. I remember her yellow gatorade, the way she looked at me askance as she answered my predictable questions. One weekday, I drove thirty minutes along the highway, to a church that was not being torn down. I interviewed the man in charge, waited for the photographer to come and take photos, then I left and drove the long way home, through shady back roads that smelled so green. I rolled the window down, turned the radio on, and the song came on. When it ended, I took out my iPod and put it on repeat three or four more times. It took me longer than it should have to get back to the office that afternoon.
Other summer moments, too, that are probably too personal or silly to mention.
Most recently, walking along boulevard Saint-Germain before eight in the morning, wandering aimlessly, awake, my worthless Duane Reade umbrella barely protecting me from the rain that soaked rather than fell. “I Would Be” came on my iPod and even there, on the other side of the world, in decidedly not summer weather, that song that’s managed to define most of my American summers still fit.
Because, dammit, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door.