Sunday, May 29, 2005

video pug

video pug
Originally uploaded by AEP.
You can never have too many pictures of pugs.

the house York Street

the house York Street
Originally uploaded by AEP.
I lived in the attic.

video store pug

video store pug
Originally uploaded by AEP.
Ollie the pug at the local video store.
Because it's not just about me.

Big Chief Kisses Horses

Big Chief Kisses Horses
Originally uploaded by AEP.
Moving day.
I will miss that horse mask. It won't fit in my tipi.

Mr. Samy!

Mr. Samy!
Originally uploaded by AEP.
Goodbye Mr. Samy.
The only time this man has ever smiled.
I love the Samys, two people more depressed than I was, selling hooch to local panhandlers and cheetos and orangina to me.

I hate moving during carnivale

I hate moving during carnivale
Originally uploaded by AEP.
It's carnivale. People are dancing in the streets.
I however, am hauling shit.
But Justin got me some beads.
Which I had to PACK!
No, I gave them to him to give to Mrs. Samy.
the wife of see next photo.

I would rather be burned alive at the stake than move another fucking box of shit

Saturday, May 28, 2005

religious hangover

religious hangover
Originally uploaded by AEP.
finally, I see god.

3rd world hangover

3rd world hangover
Originally uploaded by AEP.
hangover two--oppressed and in need of intercession...

jedi hangover

jedi hangover
Originally uploaded by AEP.
first of the three faces of hangover

Friday, May 27, 2005

Tolstoy, the genius of well-being

Tolstoy is the great genius of well-being.
The only writer who can capture that sense of fitness, of fullness, when your cup runs over and you feel like you're right there, in harmony with everything, and brimming.

When Natasha screams at the climax of the wolf hunt.
Levin, harvesting in the fields.
The whole book (seven?) about russian christmas in War and Peace.
Natasha at her first ball.

Pierre and Andrei on the ferry crossing the river.

He is the only writer I can think of who can capture the moments of fullness as well (or better) than he captures the longing, the deprivation, the sense of futility and violence.

Many many writers write well of the ache of emptiness, of longing, of yearning, of absurdity.

But how many artists can capture that sense of being full?
Those rare moments when you could be struck down, and annihilated, and it would be ok, you'd die smiling, lacking nothing?
Only Tolstoy. If you can think of others, I'd like to know. I want to read them.
I feel full today. Don't know why. I am hungover and have a lot to do. And yet, if I die on Highway 1, or crossing the street, I just want you to know, I'd go smiling, lacking nothing.
love again,

Goodbye, goodbye, I will always feel a great attachment to you ALL

"Lady Iris, will you ring for my wrap?" (and get rid of those damned COWBELLS)"

No, really, I love you all, I love you ALL, you all know who you are, every one of you, or maybe you don't, but I love you with such fierceness, such mad glad hunger I wish I could squeeze you all, sing to you all, scream it dance it draw it, whatever, because oh yeah, I love you. All of you! And I also love everyone you love, and by association everyone they love, until it touches everything, pretty much.

Everyone I have ever loved, know this, I love you still. Romantic love, fraternal love, filial love, friendship, combative love, lying love, cowardly love, all of it, all of you, I love you still.

It's not just the triple caffeine, it's this overwhelming welling up that always comes with a summing up, and I dream about you, all of you, every one of you, still, and I wake up smiling, or crying, or aching, and none of it ever leaves me, suffers a sea change maybe, but never leaves, you're all rolling around in the surf of my love, all the wrack and treasure alike, oh, I wish I could see every one of you, in the flesh or as a disembodied spirit, just peek in and bless you all, and heap you with goodness and happiness and wonder and health, I am so totally in love with everyone I have ever known right now. And I miss you all. I miss you!

I love the story of the Zen Master who, toward the end of his life, became so filled with love that he had to give up teaching, because he had lost the fierceness required, and could only sit on his cushion crooning love songs to his disciples...

That's how I feel at the moment. Give me a zither, or a washboard, and I'll sing it.
Be thou me, west wind, and blow it across the whole world, over all of you, even the ones I barely knew, even the ones who were only (you're never) tangential, even the ones I betrayed, or who betrayed me, yeah, even you.

This mood won't last. But right now I'm a kamikaze, on a henry-miller high, spitting out franc pieces and rising like a kite.
"World I cannot hold thee close enough."
"If we had world enough and time"

Yeah, I'm in love with every last one of you.
Just thought I'd say it somewhere.
God, grant me when I die the chance to fly around and peek in on every single one I've ever, just one last time.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Procrastinating instead of packing

Originally uploaded by AEP.
Saying goodbye to the kimono collection.
It gets deep sixed in the garage until I stop living in a tent...


Originally uploaded by AEP.

jo sisters feet

jo sisters feet
Originally uploaded by AEP.
I think my sister and I look alike.
Don't you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

fragments from the Airconditioned Nightmare

I was drawn to this book while dogsitting last month on Nob Hill. I'd known Miller through Anais Nin as a 19 year old and later through his trilogy, but this book compelled me, and still compels me. I think he saw America damned clearly, with the emphasis on damned. He wound up in Big Sur. He died there.

He describes his arrival in Boston after being overseas in Europe:
"it was like following in the wake of a demented giant who had sown the earth with crazy dreams...there was nothing of the animal, vegetable, or human kingdom in sight. It was a vast jumbled waste a delirium of greed. It was something negative, some not-ness of some kind or other. It was a bad dream..."

I remember coming off the mountain after my second summer at Tassajara and feeling a similar sense of dislocation, and of recognition--of witnessing collective delusion. After months of total immersion in a narrow valley lit by kerosene lanterns and people with humans practicing silence, (I thought of it as akin to Tolkien's "last homely house") to come down into the visual barren clamor of the United States was a terrible shock.

I remember being struck, in particular,by the boxiness and divisiness of all the structures, and how obvious it was to me that these were physical manifestations of thought forms, of beliefs about property, and about basic reality, that were collectively and deeply held, so deeply that they permeated--no, they shaped the landscape. And the landscape in turn shapes us. Serpent eating its tail. We are what we dream, and what other people dream for and about us.

I saw what Miller saw, the jumbled waste, all physical manifestations of the American beliefs about containment, ownership, and Having, all squared into boxes--homes, storage units (so much STORAGE, I noted--things we usually edit out of our visual and mental fields, when we are used to them) hoarding, privacy, division--everything neatly cordoned and contained and seperate, each unit unrelated to its fellows, and the consummate utility (which is a kind of madness, when it is isolated from relationship, as many buildings in the american landscape are) of each structure horrified me and made me feel a deep sorrow. The irredeemable ugliness of american practicality, of american boxiness, of american compartmentalization and american lonliness struck me hard, after those months of communal life, where you could leave your belongings out in public and find them days later undisturbed, where people worked actively to cultivate awareness of their interconnectedness (sometimes to the point of neurosis, but that's a tale for another day).

In the american landscape I see the tunnel vision, the devastating myth of the individual, of the self, in the self contained units, related neither to one another nor to the landscape, but superimposed with what willfullness and what blind despair and what arrogance, the deep practice of segregation that has dominated this country since we first set foot here, the real american dream, the dream of the self in a vaccuum of comforts. Instead of Tiny Tim we have the Boy in the Bubble, every one.

The billboards steal your attention on the highways; they distract you from the superabundance of waste, of wasted space, of surplus.

I felt insane, those first few months back in the world. I was on the other side of the mirror, for a little while. And then I slowly assimilated. Acquired my own things. Inhabited my own bubble. Painfully. It was soul deadening.

I think the web offers us a kind of collective limbo, and also the dream of connectedness. It's shifting and permeable, and the containers we create for ourselves herein are easily breached, linked, (and links are everything, we leap from block to block,like runaway slaves crossing an icy river to freedom! ha!) and we can hook into one another. It's a radical, communal space where people are both freer and more playful. Among other things. I think those wounded by the delusion of seperateness, or the merely wounded (and also the bored, but boredom is a wound, perhaps one of the worse) congregate here to lick themselves, and to connect.

E.M. Forster says "only connect".
Now we can link.
But the boxes in the landscape remain.

sleeping seal

Originally uploaded by AEP.
A seal can sleep upright in cold water.
I can't sleep!!!


I have been so driven this week I think I know how alpha personality types must feel.
First of all,they don't. They are too busy doing.
To be this task oriented is disorienting. Like someone pulled the plug on my heart.
I can't feel. I can't imagine. All I can do is think and act strategically. Implementing checklists.
To do to do to do to do to do to do to do to do to do to do to do to do.
What's the big to do?

I sent the cat off.
I got my teeth fixed.
I did. I did. I did.

Do be do be do...

Doing is sort of mindless, but at the same time your mind never stops. It's always planning the next maneover.
where to go what to do who to be and how and when.
It's dizzying.
I mean, I am watching my mind map the coordinates of these actions and tasks, and my body follows, and they are both in hyperdrive right now, and I don't dare reflect, for fear that reflect will Slow Me Down, Get in My Way or god forbid, Stop Me.
Nothing can stop me. i can't stop.
not even to sleep.

So I got rid of the cat. I feel nothing.
I am leaving this job, and the security of benefits, and a paycheck, and I feel nothing.
Not exhiliration. not panic. Why not? I am too busy.

Busy bodies, I get it now. I get it.
You can be so busy little things like processing information can totally bypass your heart, your reflective capacities.
it's unnerving. I don't recognize myself.
I don't want to.
I am too busy.

And all these men. Like, for instance, the guy who was really into me when I was twenty five, and who ditched me without a Word of Warning (as PL Travers puts it) and went back to his screw-him-around-married-girlfriend, four years later she leaves him and her husband and he wants to have dinner now.
Yeah. Don't people know the difference between a 25 year old in an abusive relationship and a near-30 year old in an amorphous state (like a free radical) are like cheese and chalk, only related thanks to alliteration? I really get the sense that he assumes we will pick up where we left off.

Or the married 4 kidney poet who called this morning to talk because he is thinking of writing a novel,but really he wants some unnameable thing from me that takes the metaphorical form of phone sex, which I don't do with him,because his wife is pregnant.

My problem is, I love the attention. I hate the attention. My other problem is, I get where they are coming from. Who isn't lonely and delusional? Show of hands? Cast the first stone, you know? I get where they are coming from, part of me aches for them, for myself, for the whole bloody mess and if I could fix it I would but when I try I fuck things up worse and I am starting to get the compassion of being a bitch.
All you bitches out there I used to marvel at and look down upon, hear me now: you were on to something.
Being a bitch isn't mere self preservation. It's a public service.
It really is.
You get bitchy on someone, and that snaps them into reality. Or at least cuts through complications.
Which, in my new alpha mode of the bypassed heart, sounds pretty damned good.
Hell, if I can mail a cat to Chicago, I can do anything.

Who needs this heart, anyway? No, not you, caller number one, and not you, caller number two, and yes, I will probably end up like amanda in the Glass Menagerie, browbeating my gay son about my glory days when I was such a doormat I was the desire (or fallback option) of every cracked teacup hoof and mouth shuffler on the block, but... what was I saying?
Ah, bartleby, ah humanity.
That's about it.
Maybe now I can sleep.

Monday, May 23, 2005

So Kiss me and Smile for Me

Image hosted by
Farewell to Schmitty!
My cat. I never loved her. I don't know why.
So I'm sending her down the river. East of Eden.
To Chicago. She's taking the red eye tonight to the Midwest, poor thing, she's never known winter, or hunger, or sorrow, let's face it, she doesn't know much, she's a cat and we all know that cats, like certain beautiful men and women, only have an air of wisdom because they are so damned pretty, and for some reason we dumbo humans conflate beauty and truth (thanks a lot Keats) and project the depths of the cosmos onto anything that's green-eyed and symmetrical. So Schmitty, wart and all (see her wart?) only looks like she has a soul. She doesn't. She's a cat.
Image hosted by
Me and Schmitty, we tolerated each other, but it was a marriage of convenience. We both knew it. She will be happier with my friend in Chicago. We're both mysoginists, and I'm a dog person anyway.
Good bye, Schmitty, I hardly knew ye!

A Very David Lynch Weekend

I went to a party in the hills above Palo Alto on Saturday. Went with Bodhi.
One of those California houses shaped like a spaceship, all windows and a deck jutting out over a little vineyard.
You could see the Palo Alto particle accelerator in the distance, if you used binoculars. But we didn't have any.
And the bay.
And the gently waving cypresses.
And the perfect smoke from the perfect fire puffing out of the perfect chimney.
It was one of those houses that only the rich can have, maintained by money and invisible elves, and inhabited by a baby boomer who collects wooden indians.

Every two feet there was another one, counting coup.
I sang Kawlijah, but no one got it. Except Bodhi.
Gloria Estefan on the stereo.
It was that kind of party.

Spent most of the night talking to a Russian guy about literature. He would rather have been seducing his ex, who ditched him 20 years ago because he refused to stop living with his mother. He still lives with his mother, but he pined visibly for the ex, who was at the party, and flirted with him outrageously. She's the wild type. Even at 51. Wild, raw-voiced, adventurous, and callous. Poor schmuck.

There was one women there who looked like Charlotte Rampling.

THere were three crispy 50 year old blondes who all looked alike. They all must have been former cheerleaders. They still had that sweet, perky, wholesome vibe. And the makeup. And the pep rally smiles.

There was me, with paperwhite narcissi in my hair, all hippified (someone told me I look like Frida Kahlo, thanks, lady)and out of place, and young enough to be all their daughters, and the host dropped a spoon down my back when he was clearing the plates and got icing all over my ass and that is the longest I have ever spent wearing high heels without sneaking off somewhere to take them off, and the bathroom had stereo music piped in, and I kept looking for hidden cameras, and the food was delicious.

Image hosted by

We had so much champagne I lost count.

They were nice people. From a galaxy far far away. But kind. Welcoming.

Still, I kept expecting something bad to happen.

Like a time-loop, or a grisly murder. Or a demon named Bob.

But the only thing that happened was, my one silk cocktail dress now has a chocolate frosting skidmark. I felt poor, and drunk, and amused, and sad, and bored, and mystified and felt that there really are So Many Americas in one place.
And the cigar indians didn't even get dusty.

the search for signs of intelligent life in the universe

I have discovered, as I always discover every time I move, that I am essentially,
without the shopping cart.

Aren't we all, pretty much bag ladies, except that our carts don't have wheels, and are bigger?

Donald Trump is a bag lady.
Paris Hilton is a bag lady.
Queen Elizabeth II is a bag lady.

It's all just. STUFF.

And yet I cling to it tenaciously as a decorator crab, sticking it onto myself until I am crusted over with accoutrements that somehow define me, but they don't, they burden me and you can't fit much in a tent cept your own carcass and maybe, if you're me, an IKEA clothes rack from which depend a kimono collection and a beaded ball gown... Miss Havisham on line two...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Cor blimey, all I want is a room somewhere!

So Boz agreed to be my Henry Higgins and turn this filthy cockney flower girl of a blog into a duchess, in exchange for my password and user name.

Isn't that the web-equivalent of giving the devil your soul?
That's ok, I always loved George Burns and his ability to play both god and the devil; it was comforting that both dudes talked funny, smoked cigars, and pinched women's asses...

Image hosted by

So anyway, if this blog gets any readers it is because I sold my soul to Boz.
Thanks, Boz.
I am sure it will be worth it.

Now about those magic bullets...

Bus-World, two years of my life

To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, "I don't wanna ride in no city bus again."
All his songs are about cars. Buses are the car's fat sister.

Crossing this town in a MUNI bus is like trekking across a wasteland on the back of a wounded animal. Not just wounded, but vitally wounded, and stubborn and tempermental even when in the pink of health; the thing pauses and heaves every few steps, shambles, drops to its knees, foams and pants, trailing blood and wheezing, and you're never quite sure when--or if--the damned thing will Get Up and Carry On.

My last two years have been lived on buses. My memory of Frisco will be a memory of buses. The door hiss and the scree of brakes, the perfumes, varying by neighborhood, bad cologne, hair treatment, fish and mothballs, feet, dried shit, booze, the blood-tang of insane furies, aluminum-bitter sadness and general filth--the greasy poles, the plastic seats with various unnameable substances dried onto them, the tiny windows that let in rain but not air, the tinny songs from ipods, the bad dreams, the dts, the glazed looks, the looks that will not back down, the children with their metal teeth, the coiffed hair, the hair jumping with lice, the ponytails, the women in scrubs, the garbage bags, the cripples, the teenagers eating fries and spitting into condoms (a version of water balloons?) the rants, the fights, the horror...the horror... It's a moving Grand Guignol for those who have the stomach for it. But Over and Over and OVer... the new Ship of Fools, moving like a planet on a track, Over and Over and Over...

I will not miss my bus-body, dumpy and resigned, spine sunk in on itself, spreading thighs, flattened ass. The bus has shaped my body into its image.

To cross the city in a bus, an hour or more each way, morning and evening, day by day, back and forth, is slow torture. You never sense any progress. It's all arrested motion and bursting, or brown and settled, impatience. The bus is one of the city's symptoms, loaded with the working poor, the out-of-work poor, the just plain poor, the mad, the sad, those pressed by necessity, all sufferers. Except the tourists. They're like indifferent angels gazing down on hell... On the bus it becomes obvious that the poor are being robbed, outright robbed of time. The bus spends time like water, wastes it, dissipates it, eats it and shits it out and there's nothing you can do but try to make the best of it, reading, or dreaming, or writing, or fighting with your cracked out spouse, or taking the varnish off your nails, or talking to your imaginary tormentors, or calling your buddies on a cell, or exposing your genitals, or praying for death. Time, time, the buses are thieves of time, fat intenstines on wheels that belch out people and eat their time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Dreamtime

I am waking up early these days--before 7, which is unusual for me.
I have lots of dreams, densely peopled with figures I yearn for, have never met, or have lost.
I dreamed I was playing with a five year old boy; I dreamed about the ex of mine I always dream about--he usually shows up livid, chews me out with the bitterest invective, and then leaves me. This time he was completely drunk; still livid, but so drunk that he could barely keep it together. He was as vicious as ever. I missed him as much as ever. And then I dreamed I was screaming at my boss; we were having a fight about the poor job I've done at the gallery, and I was calling her cunt at the top of my lungs. So much violence in these dreams. Vivid, as if televised, peopled with ham actors.

And yet...

So the buddhists would say that emotions of waking life are also like dreams, and the emotions in a dream doubly so. Images that race like clouds. I don't know. It is painful, even when I wake up and know it was a dream, or possibly especially.

We found the dreamtime of the seals in Big Sur, my sister and I.
According to Gary Snyder, in "The Practice of the Wild", the aborigines regard the dreamtime as specific to a sacred place, a place that is a kind of cradle of the essence of a particular animal or spirit. So a dreamtime of kangaroos would not only host plentiful living kangaroos, but would be a nursery for the kangaroo spirit, regenerative. This dreamtime of the seals really did feel otherworldly. It was at Point Lobos, in whalers cove. She and I were walking and we heard snoring coming from the water. There was a seal, floating upright, fully asleep, snoring. The more we looked, the more we saw--sleeping seals, a grove of them, all bobbing in the water. The cove was dreaming. Even among the presence of divers and lookers on, the seals slept in the cold water, sinking down (still asleep) to lie along the rocky bottom, and then buoying back up, (as a sleeper will turn their face to the cool side of the pillow). .

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished

So I've been reading Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild because my copy of Walden has disappeared. I suppose it went off to the woods to live deliberately after getting tired of gathering dust on the milk crates that pass for shelves in my hovel.

I have been thinking about the connection between wild animals, carnivores in particular, and people. Mountain lions attacking mountain bikers, bears wandering into Albuquerque during a drought and, in one case (this really happened) eating an old woman in her kitchen.

The mountain came to Mohammed. Civilization has reversed this--we are coming to the mountain in unstoppable droves. It only seems like the wild things are coming down out of their "habitats". Really we are just inching on, and on, and on. So when someone gets mauled or eaten, I feel a thrill of mysterious delight. It isn't schadenfreude. There's no moral tinge to it. I don't think, bad human, good bear, just desserts, or anything like that. Rather, I feel a thrill that such a brush with nature, such an annihiliating encounter, still happens, is still possible. "Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished." Imagine if Hamlet had been devoured by wild beasts, instead of by his own ego. I think of it as the ultimate transcendence, your substance, yourself, being taken into the body of an 'alien' being, becoming it, feeding it, and an egoless being at that. To be eaten by a bear, or a killer whale seems especially profound.

The other animals not so much. Shark, crocodile, too antediluvian, too chilly and cold. A snake--that could be interesting. Being torn apart by wild dogs would suck. But a lion, ok. Tiger, ok, as long as it wasn't a sadistic tiger. A bear, yeah, because they are so nearly human.

We are eaten every day by so many things, eaten from the inside. I think it might be thrilling, even satisfying (beyond the terror) to be eaten up completely, licked down to the bones, by an honestly hungry animal.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sorting the books brick by brick

From an email I sent to CK:

I have been spending this sunday going through my books trying to decide what to get rid of. The going through of the books before every move is a profound review for me of my past selves, both what I have accomplished and where I have failed. This is similar to the going-through of my clothing that I did with my little sister, who is about twenty pounds thinner and ALWAYS looks better in my castoffs than I do--this time I wasn't so resentful or envious, but as I gave her things to keep, I insisted she listen to the provenance of every single garment. The books have a provenance even more profound, and the simple act of sorting brings up all sorts of grief, delight, wonder, sadness. I think of Thoreau choosing only a few good friends to bring to walden (tell me agian, what they were?) and I am going to do the same thing for Big Sur. The rest go into storage...again. There are some books I do not love and yet can't throw away. A copy of Coover's Pricksongs and Descants, a book and author I dislike immensely, but it was the first gift my first serious love ever gave me; all my critical theory books, because they link me to Collins, CMLT, your classes, my own promise--even though let's face it, those guys just don't speak to me; I am too lazy; or they are too convoluted, whatever... and for some reason I can't get rid of any of my Medieval Women writers books. I don't read them, I can't let go of them. It's weird. And of course there are the ones I have read countless times, Moby Dick so soft and thumbed and underlined, and the silly ones like Dianne Brill's "Boobs, Boys and High Heels, or How to get Dressed in Under Six Hours" that I can never replace... books like bricks or albatrosses or insurance policies or vanity plates or hopes for being or becoming someone I have not been and won't become, all the books that plate me like armor, all the books that have been my true houses.

It's sad. I hate moving. My hands are dusty.

I drove my sister to the airport today. Seeing her was very intense. As I get older, my illusions about people seem to be burning off. I hear and see things I couldn't hear or see before; I guess my willfully romantic eye has cataracts or something.

Part of why I am moving to Big Sur (though it feels like madness, and terrifying, and a fucking hassle) is to have more of a relationship with beauty again. To open up to what I think of as the ministry of the natural world. To sit by the ocean and watch the small stirrings of life in the sand and receive full blown penetrating metaphors from the movements of crabs, the shape of an anemone, the light, even; nothing a city can offer me comes close. My older sister once told me that she could never live in SF because she feared that eventually all her art would be about garbage.

I took it a step further; I stopped making art.
But just contemplating moving to Big Sur is generating ideas in me, excitement, narratives, possibility. I worry that the anti-intellectual atmostphere will make me even flakier around the edges, but it cna't be worse than the commercialism of the gallery; it will be different.

I have to go to the dentist before my insurance runs out. As soon as I decided to make an appointment, I got a cavity. Haha. It's true.

Ok, enough for now. It's late sunday evening and I should be turning my dwelling into a seductive showcase for prospective tenants. Ugh!


Since I've been 18 I've had the fantasy of just torching everything I own and taking off.
But I guess I need to learn how to do it brick by brick.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

up close/the real/fantasy/beauty/habitation

The problem, I have discovered from various episodes of yearning to live in a place that seemed (and was) profoundly beautiful and magical when I passed through it and couldn't stay, is that once you live there, and it becomes your real life, then suddenly it isn't a place to retreat to to get away from your crappy life, it becomes the setting for your crappy life. Not that life is crappy per se, but wherever you move and set out your shingle, your own interior bends and warps, your bad habits, mental and otherwise, shift with you, and then suddenly they're planted in what was the landscape of your dreams, your hopes, your "Away" becomes your "here and now" and it can be shattering. I have never learned how to drink the milk of a place, once I lived in it. Arriving and leaving bring out the sweetness and clarity of perception--the poetry inherent in any place, and I feel very tender and aware. But living, living, dulls the shine, and the fault, I know, lies with me.

It is a flaw or condition that I fear, or am wary of, because I'm doing it again, I'm moving to a beautiful place that I simply love, or have passed through and loved, and I don't know how long I'll stay but I don't want to dull it, I don't want to make it into another little prison. Will this awareness help? Can we learn to love, to inhabit, to change and to live without sinking into a sump?

This condition applies to relationships with people, as well, but for me not as radically. I still don't know how to belong. I keep moving to try to find it out. So far, I haven't.

I seem to only be able to take most things in sips, skimming the cream and imagining everything else. I can construct, (like certain monstrous detectives) or deduct, an entire existence from a glimpse. But only if that existence is imaginary. Constructing a real existence, in every moment, is a task that I fail at, over and over. I can live an entire life in a matter of seconds, in my head, and feel breathtakingly alive, aware, connected ecstatically, and feel that I have penetrated the very essence of a place, a person, an idea, and then I move on. This is fun,and useful in creating fictions, interpreting or unpacking metaphors, but it's a magic carpet that never touches down. And it seduces and fails me every time I do try to touch down. I have had glimpses of a way to live daily--at the monastery, for example, but even these glimpses, I don't trust, because they are just that--glimpses, and probably just the cream-skimming in another form. Details, I love them. But the grain-by-grain building of a life, how? Once you settle the question of where, how? Of course, if you settle the question of how, where doesn't matter, although each dictates, to some extent, the other.

I do believe that you can change your life by changing your environment. But I also believe you can't change your life by doing that--I've had enough, plenty, too many instances of that.

But this move feels right. Not quite as surrounded by fantasy and illusion. I haven't had time to create a fantasy existence, and I am fighting that urge. I am just going to Go and See. Go and See, and Work, and stay calm, and see...

I love Big Sur. Maybe it will love me. Maybe we can find a way to live together, and even though there will be no more "away", perhaps the "here" will reveal itself, if I stay calm, if I don't shut down, if I am brave.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Chile rellenos and a banjo from 2000 miles distant

We met her in the BART station and she walked barefoot the ten blocks (glass littered, crawling with invisible terrors) back to the attic where I live. My little sister, desert girl, she's outgrown me, that's for sure. As always I am awed, impressed, and slightly aghast but also overjoyed to see her. She's been living in the mountains up of Taos, no phone, no internet, just a banjo and a beloved and apparently lots of elk. And she's burnished terra cotta and she looks good and I don't really know what to say, I always want to deny her vulnerability and ascribe some super humanity to her because it's there.
She's spent the last four (shit, is it four?) years well. I have spent them badly, losing things, losing the tips of things, letting go, deadened. And I wonder if in part this is a function of her having found someone to love and be loved by, or is it the other way around? The way she TCOB generates love, as the self help gurus would have us believe. Will, and habit, and patterns, and luck. I don't know. So she's teaching herself to play banjo and I walk around feeling like a double amputee,but who was the surgeon? Again, I don't know. The chile rellenos were cold. But good anyway. You couldn't pay me to walk barefoot in the Mission. Berkeley, maybe.

And that says it all.
No, it says nothing.


I am going to try a revolutionary experiment and dwell on my competence around my little sister, and what I have to offer, rather than running into this selfish retreat of assuming I'm shit and she's shinola. (and there are times when I wish I had read fewer self help books and more philosophy, because somehow their idiom always comes up in my relationship to my sister--why? I read acres of them when trying to deal with this thing with her, and so did she,and we traded them back and forth,and it was our way of communicating. To name a few:
The Dance of Intimacy--Harriet Lerner, Phd MD
The Dance of Anger-- Harriet Lerner, etc
Radical Honesty--Dr. Brad Blanton (meaty lipped Kurt Russell looking guy on the cover)
Non-Violent Communcation--Dr. Marshall Rosenburg (this is actually a fantastic manual for revamping knee-jerk modes of communication--I've since lost it, of course)
Pema Chodrun--When Things Fall Apart
and on and on...
what was I saying? Oh yeah, I don't remember.

If I could compile a list of self-help books that I've read in the course of trying not to slit my wrists over this breach with my sister, I would have to put Uncle Kurt Vonnegut at the top of the list.
Uncle Kurt saved my life. The very bleakness of his vision was a consolation. The absurdity and the pragmatic tenderness that runs through most of his books bolstered me. And he loved his sister. She died.

Christ I am rambling, but so what, this thing just hangs in a vaccuum anyway, it's interstellar graffitti, or the wash of thoughts that runs through you as you're falling asleep, easy come, easy go.

I was talking about my younger sister, and the idioms we embraced in trying to find a way back to each other, and thinking about how canned wisdom takes hold, and cliche, and how there are kernals there that really can help.
I draw the line at "Chicken Soup for the Soul."

Friday, May 06, 2005

Pascal's Sphere, borrowed from CK

Thank god there are people in the world less lazy than I.

Here's an excerpt talking about a grand project my friend Chris is undertaking (and everyone is implicitly invited to join in). He articulates questions that only have dim cumulus forms in me. He takes what are, for me, unsettling wisps of vapor, dim flashes behind gauze, and lays them out in letters. (thanks Chris!)

His energy, integrity, and intensity are to be emulated.

But as it is, I'll just cut and paste.

Taken From:

"Although I am currently the sole proprietor and inhabitant, I created an on-line community today at, it's called Pascals_Sphere

"The community name comes from Pascal’s Pensées #72 – titled “Man’s Disproportion.” There Pascal talks about the gap between the immense swath of nature we can see or experience, and the incomparably more vast conception of creation we can form if we try to imagine what we encounter through our senses (you can, for example, imagine infinitely more stars behind the stars you can actually see). I’m always interested in ways the finite and the infinite might connect and interilluminate. But for Pascal, what is produced by such interplay is a dazzling blindness that brings us into the experience of a truth about ourselves that leaves us changed.

"Pascal sets out to dizzy his reader, saying:

"The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge our conceptions beyond all imaginable space; we only produce atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short it is the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imagination loses itself in that thought.

--Pensées #72 (p.16)

"It’s hard to conceive a more powerful claim – that if we try to imagine what we experience, the endlessness of the experience will connect us directly with the power of God.

"The logic Pascal here explores was also taken up by Kant and by Burke under the heading of the sublime, and although they didn’t invoke God directly (at least I don’t remember them doing so), they also say that trying to imagine totality opens it up to infinity in ways that leave us speechless and transformed.

"Pascal talks about how this line of thought can change our self-perception when he writes: “For in fact what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything” (p.17).

"In “The Fearful Sphere of Pascal” Borges notes that Pascal drew on one of humanity’s archetypical metaphors, and he outlines some of the key instances in which God or the infinite is imagined in terms of contrasting infinities as “an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere” (Labyrinths, p.190). Borges writes that with this idea Pascal and other metaphysical thinkers situate humankind between the everywhere and the nowhere in order to produce a feeling of being lost in time and space. “In time, because if the future and the past are infinite, there can not really be a when; in space, because if every being is equidistant from the infinite and the infinitesimal, neither can there be a where” (Labyrinths, p.191).

"Pascal’s sphere is “fearful” because of the self-alienation that results when we cannot establish where we are in time or space (Kant considered these to be a priori categories. Without them, he argued, human perception is impossible). Pascal dislocates our sense of ourselves when he writes:

"Let us then take our compass; we are something, and we are not everything. The nature of our existence hides from us the knowledge of first beginnings which are born of the Nothing; and the littleness of our being conceals from us the sight of the Infinite. . . . This is our true state; this is what makes us incapable of certain knowledge and of absolute ignorance. We sail within the vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.

--Pensées #72 (p.19)

"Drifting in uncertainty, Pascal’s solution is to have faith in a God we could not hope to understand. With Borges, as is true of our generation in general, the cultural faith in God has disappeared (this is what Nietzsche – or Zarathustra - meant when he said “God is dead.” God no longer serves the central cultural concept settling the West’s existential problems). With the disappearance of the centrality of God, Borges suggests, humankind disappears as well, because:

“No one exists on a certain day, in a certain place; no one knows the size of his own countenance” (Labyrinths, p.191).

"Borges’ conclusion is pessimistic. Anyone might be anyone else – or no one at all (these alternatives being rough equivalents). Hence we have no identity. Each of us turns out to be someone different than we thought, a chess piece sitting on a board that, in its turn, is but a chess piece on a yet larger board, which likewise is but a chess piece on a still larger board, and so forth. It’s chess boards within chess boards (circles within circles, or Gods behind Gods) all the way down.

"But I think there is another, a less corrosive, way to look at Pascal’s Sphere. If my identity is fluid, then I am endlessly responsible for what I choose and what I avoid in the way I connect with others. Cavell makes this point in a beautifully wrought passage:

"The fantasy of a private language, I suggested can be understood as an attempt to account for, and protect our separateness our unknowingness, our unwillingness or incapacity either to know or to be known. Accordingly, the failure of the fantasy signifies: that there is no assignable end to the depth of us to which language reaches; that nevertheless there is no end to our separateness. We are endlessly separate, for no reason. But then we are answerable for everything that comes between us; if not for causing it then for continuing it; if not for denying it then for affirming it; if not for it then to it.

The Claim of Reason, p.369

"This, I think, is the hope of a “community” like Pascals_Sphere – here we might try taking responsibility for what keeps us apart, and we might do it in the company of others who are as interested as us in fashioning new models of experience, sincerity, beauty, and ethics.

"I have no idea if something like this can work. But it does feel like it’s ours to try.

"Borges finds something frightful in Pascal's image of God as an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. He feels it becomes a figuration of dread when God drops out of the picture. As Borges puts it, we don't know where we are in time and space. Thus the Kantian a prioris (those features of experience and knowledge that are constitutive of them as such -- everything we sense or know is encountered in time and in place) don't apply -- which means we experience a very different kind of identity -- if we can call it identity -- from the one we normally recognize as being human.

But isn't this what Thoreau's experiment in being present to all occasions means? Isn't pure presentness (let's pretend such a state were possible) another figuration of Pascal's Sphere? Everywhere becomes the center of creation. In terms of writing, Pascal's Sphere might be imagined in the way Cavell describes Emerson's procedure: Each sentence of the essay is its thesis. Certainly Cavell's approach to reading stands at this angle to the text -- he presses each word endlessly for its responsiveness trying in his turn to remain forever open to it.
"What do sincerity, obligation, love, and all of the other existentially central features of life mean, what do they become, when recontextualized in terms of Pascal's Sphere? The web confronts our generation with this question in pressing terms. Everywhere has now become someplace else, every identity can morph into another identity, this time is now flooded with all time. The spouse clicking away in the next room or in the chair beside you may be a thousand miles away with an illicit lover. This has always been possible in imagination. But now technology makes it possible to actually distribute identity in real time. The Lacanian Imaginary has become the technologically mundane.

"What would life, what would human relationships, be like if Thoreau's experiment in presentness were undertaken in our (rhizomic) place and time. Would it be worth living?

"Marxists, jihadists, and all varieties of fundamentalism say "no," life without foundations is not worth living. But I'm not ready to concede the point. As Thoreau said of his place and time, the experiment of living has not been tried. Life should be found wanting before we give it up for something safer.

"This experiment matters because, if we don't find our way into modernity as it is (rather than how we wish it to be -- the latter agenda belongs just now to the Neocons), then we are condemned to Hamlet's fate -- forever skulking, resenting, soliloquizing, but never acting until that last extremity, when we extinguish action itself. "

Running up

So I was a finalist for this big writing fellowship. Not as big as the one I had before, but big.
It would have "changed everything".
When I heard I was a finalist, it was like the cage door swung ajar and I had a glimpse of redemption. Haha.

I got the letter yesterday. Skinny envelope, self-addressed.
Those are never good.

Ah yes, the SASE.

The sight of your own handwriting on an envelope is not a friendly thing. There's something cruel about it, really. I mean, to receive a rejection addressed in your own hand. It's as if your beloved shadow gave you the finger, or your reflection, independant of you, suddenly spluttered a rasberry in your searching face.
The SASE. I know foundations and journals demand them to save money, but Jesus. Expediency can be diabolical.