Friday, May 26, 2006

Gone East for the Summer

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I invented a new fetish, feel free to use it

Late 70s product characters!
Remember how in the 70s during the feminist revolution suddenly all the cleaning products and food products got all manly? As in "it's not a sandwich, it's a manwich?" I LOVE the term "manwich". It could be used to describe a 3some involving a girl and two guys.

And also, Brawny paper towels. During the feminist revolution of the 70s were they trying to make substitute manly husbands who helped with the cleaning? i.e. the Brawny Guy, the Warren Beatty yacht-guy in the Tid-E-Bowl, Mr. Clean--or maybe they were trying to make housecleaning more manly so that men would want to do it? I don't really think it worked, except that children of single mothers imprinted on the male archetypes of the Brawny guy, et. al, and now yearn for lumberjack types who did the heavy cleaning. I am so hot for the Brawny guy. I wish men still looked like that.

The fetish could involve the female dressing like the Sunmaid Raisin maiden (or maybe the tuna mermaid) and the male kitted out like the Brawny guy and they could have naughty product-placement late-70s style sex. You know, with vaseline-lens lighting, and string-bikini tan lines, and meadow flowers, and polyester backdrops. Wouldn't that be a fun fetish? I also love the babe on the Land-O-Lakes margarine container. And Mr. Clean always wet my whistle. Damn.

Also, I found the giant Koolaid pitcher simaltaneously frightening and erotic--the way s/he/it blasted through barriers, brought Koolaid, and had shapely legs in red tights. Now what do we have? That scary animatronic Snuggle Bear (creepy) and that's about it. Bring back the Brawny man! Bring back the lady with the dentures! Bring back the Koolaid monster and the tiny little man who puts his periscope up your ass. People could get so kinky with this... And in the afterglow, they could ride the Rice-A-Roni cable cars to a nice bar and drink some good old Blue Nun....

poison oak is draining

Literally. It is draining in these magical yellow crystals, like I am exuding my own personal amber.
And it is draining because it itches, it feels like something is simaltaneously chewing its way out from the inside, and lighting fires as it goes. I am showering every hour. I wake up in the middle of the night itching. I have showered so much I am sick of showering. And the showerhead in my apartment broke, and was trickling about as much water as a drooly baby, and I was screaming, covered in TecnuExtreme and cursing and itching, so I finally dismantled the whole f*cking thing and now shower in a hard stream of water coming out of bare pipe; it's disgusting.

And all I can think about is poison oak, and how the hell I am going to sit on a round black cushion for hours at a time when my ass is like a topographical map with raised archipelegoes of rash, and my car is busted, too, and no one knows what is wrong with it, and I guess I can be grateful her clutch cable didn't snap on the Tassajara grade, because I'd have been off a cliff like Thelma and Louise, and I guess car trouble and a rash is better than being dead.

So I'm leaving very soon, and I can only imagine that all these setbacks are my unconscious ambivalence about returning to the monastery.

Whatever, I'm going.
I'll probably get bit by a rattlesnake, but I'm going.
So I won't be around here for several months.
Have a great summer, blogland.

Friday, May 19, 2006

My Gollum continues to harass me, and I continue to be convinced that it is the evil poet. This has catapulted me unexpectedly back into regions of memory I have worked very hard to repress, patterns of addiction and emotion that were as piquant as they were grotesque. He is my Gollum.

He's as furtive as a crab. He insinuates. What I don't understand is why. I mean, Gollum was obsessed with the Precious, the ring had him in its thrall. He didn't really have anything else, being a twisted creature of darkness and slime. But the evil poet has a successful career as a full time poet and teacher, a lovely and talented wife, and a baby daughter. He is well regarded by all hs peers (except me) and has already published three books, won numerous awards, and charms almost everyone he meets.

It is only with me that this shadow emerges--the deviancies, the lies. I suppose either he feels free to express his shadow with me and only me because that is the only safe place he can act out, and possibly the fact that I exist is saving him from far worse depths, maybe I'm all that's standing between him and the prostitutes, or between him and a series of grisly ritual murders. I don't know.

What I do know is that it really, really gets to me. We had a really bad, bad, bad relationship for three years and I lost health and time over it, while he thrived. I would be reduced to migraines and hives, unable to get out of bed for days at a time after an especially violent fight. He, on the other hand, would go home and write a poem. As if he fed on blood. It's only fairly recently that I've realized I cannot metabolize stress very well, and that I have to guard against depression the way people in medieval times guarded against the black plague.I have to propitiate ghosts, wear garlic, and fight like hell just to be fairly even, fairly normal. He was an alcoholic at the time, but he has this amazing resiliency. He could drink, fight, stalk me at all hours, and go home zesty-fresh and ready to write another poem. Like a vampire.

And yet with him, I could exorcise my shadow, too. But it is terrifying, what happens when you really let yourself go, let yourself cross all the lines. It is exhilirating, the way driving off a cliff might be exhilirating, or the way that beating the shit out of someone might be exhilirating. But then you crash. I crash. I crashed. And the result is that it has taken me five years to put myself back together, and there are pieces missing, pieces that got smashed in the fights and that he either ate up or that got ground into the floor with the rest of it. He has gone on to quit drinking, write 2 books, marry, and father a child. The greatest accomplishment I can boast of is that I managed not to commit suicide.

I am bitter about this, though I try not to be. So any time I hear from him, (he always finds me) I can't help but think what a weak person I must be, not to have done better. And I can't help seeing him as somehow demonic, for thriving on other people's, on my, pain. And I can't help but think I must be talismanic for him, or else why would he need to contact me again and again?

I have a frightening tendency to cling to continuity at any price. I think I moved so often and lost so many friends and family member, pets and teachers and places, that anything that offers continuity, no matter how vile, feels vital to me. It is very seductive. I have lost touch with some of the people who really loved me and cared about me, and I think some part of me believes that continuity, even with people and things that are damaging, will keep me whole, give me a sense of time and place that I never had. The first time I rode on a airplane, I was in the womb. I haven't stopped moving since. So, too, it is perversely comforting when I hear from the evil poet, knowing that the devil, at least, hasn't forgotten me.

The greatest hold he has over me, I think, is that I feel like I have to GET HIM. That I have something to prove. That I still, still, in spite of everything, want to WIN. If you can get someone hooked into you that way, they're pretty well hooked for good. If I could give up wanting vengeance, or proof, or to prevail, if I could let that go, then I'd just feel sorry for him and get on with my business. Why can't I let that go? The hook is really, really, deep. So I can't completely blame him for all this. It is something we're still doing together. Sometimes I think we'll go on like this, like Spy vs.Spy,until one of us dies, hopefully him, he can't last long on one good kidney. But he's so full of bile and will, I'll probably die first.

What kills me is he has the life I want. The writing, the marriage, and hardest of all, the little girl. I worry about that little girl. Her father is a very unstable person, and he acts out toward women. All women. Not just me. That little girl is going to have a very confusing childhood. But still, I envy him.

So, envy and vengeance, the two least attractive human addictions, and he brings me bushelsfull, and I take them.


Thursday, May 18, 2006


Back when I was completely insane I started dating an evil poet. What can I say, I was doing penance for sins I'd committed. Anyway,evil poets, believe me, are worse than evil clowns, evil twins, evil scientists, or evil dead.

Their torture methods are as strained as their verse. In fact, this particular evil poet used to torture me by reading--no, I'm sorry, reciting his poetry aloud. To me. While I was trying to write.

But I was way up there in the self-flagellation trying to prove that if I just took it it would wash me clean of my sins.

The problem is, if you date the devil, you begin to change in subtle ways..

But that's a story for another time.

Anyway, my point is, even now, almost five years later, I am convinced that this evil poet is still trying to get under my skin.

For example, this morning I come into work and there is an email from someone calling himself "Dan Evans" aka

The email says: Guess who I am? (Hint:I am not Dan Evans)

Of course I am an easy mark--unsatisfied with job, obsessed with secret identities, secretly yearning for distraction and perhaps a secret admirer, even a stalker. I am still a little crazy. I am working on it. So of course, this email is going to bug me obsessively, because even though I am pretty sure it is the evil poet, it might be I dunno, Wes Anderson, or someone worthwhile.

But I doubt it.

It could be that someone's pulling a "Da Vinci's Code" on my ass, or it could be a more global prank--someone doing a kind of Rorschach psychological experiment to see what respoinses they come up with, because everyone has an evil poet or two tucked away, everyone has, or believes they have--a tormentor--and this prankster probably has a book deal already about this experiment, and I fell for it, and all these suppositions say more about me than about "Dan Evans", but I still think it is the evil poet. If there is anything I've learned from self help books and detective stories, it is to go with your hunch.

Anyway, my readers (all 2 of you) are welcome to send this mysterious "" emails asking him if he has 4 kidneys, does he know where the pyramids of malaphagi are located, and why the hell he isn't tending to his baby daughter and wife instead of harassing innocent people?

Of course it could be a virus, or spam, but my spam filter didn't catch it, so use a public terminal or something if you do email him/her/it. But my gut tells me it is him.

Or not. This is going to bug me all day.
Which is so exactly the evil poet's style.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

the things we keep

Sometimes I see my life as this big cane laundry basket--and I know where I got that image--my mom bought one 20 years ago at some Maryland farm auction, and I am not sure what became of it--the kind where some of the canes are broken and cut your hand if you do'nt carry it the right way, and the weave is coming loose in places, and the basket holds most everything, but as you carry it from the clothesline to the house, things fall out, things that you don't miss at first, because the basket is piled so high, embarrassing things, like underpants, or a favorite shirt, or little things, like a single sock, or maybe that handkerchief you started using because your best boyfriend used them, and you wanted to be close to him, so you bought one too. Sometimes you're walking and you trip and the whole basket spills and you miss things in picking up the pieces. Some things the wind takes. Others seem to leap out of their own volition. Some are left behind in the dryer, some get stolen from the line, some you ruin through mishandling.

And then as you're folidng it all, you think, what the hell--where did that go? And certain items you miss and you miss and you miss, and you go for years missing them, and they are gone forever, and often it's your favorite this or that, and the things you keep--or that keep you, well isn't peculiar, what we don't lose?

Some of the things that survive wreckages and moves take on a kind of value just for surviving--stuff you didn't care about that much in the first place--a cashmere sweater that you got from him that he got from her that is so ratty it must've originally belonged to a beatnik and that you only wear when you are very cold and very sick and running a fever, and it is so soft,but such a hideous maroon, that comfort in illness is its own function as a garment, or an ugly shirt, say, and after a while you think, how come THIS particular thing sticks with me, when I lost that other thing, the thing I loved so much and wore constantly, how come that is gone and this isn't? And then it seems unfair. And you don't know whether to be pissed off or grateful, or to just go shopping and buy new clothes, hoping you'll find something that will take the place of that perfect dress, or that one pair of shoes. But you never find those things through looking. Sometimes they find you. And then you lose them.

Then there's the stuff that's so lame you can't even give it away--and all the crap that accumulates that you don't really want, that just shows up. The guilt gifts, the bad choices, the stuff you got in a fit of mania, or maybe you were drunk, or stoned, or lonely, or depressed, or just had five bucks burning a hole in that pair of jeans that you've had forever even though they never really fit.

But you keep on missing the things that dropped out. That can never be replaced. After a while you start to mythologize them--the dress that always looked good no matter how bad you felt (even though if you're honest you were always ambivalent about it--half of you thought it was hideous, and wore it anyway), that eccentric velvet thing that, if you were being objective, had lost too many buttons but that made you feel like a madcap genius, pettable and brilliant--and the mythologies dwarf the things themselves, and you miss them and tell stories about them and spend too much money on shit that vaguely reminds you of them, that would better be spent on therapy and a gym membership.

That's how I feel about some of the people in my life, or should I say, the people who were once in my life, and aren't any more.

Sometimes it really rankles that objects outlive people, disasters, love, all of it. I mean, the flip side of "you can't take it with you" is that these objects stay behind--passed from hand to hand, saturated with meaning--while their givers, their possessors, pass away. Sometimes I want to howl because I still have a maroon cashmere sweater, when I don't have the person who gave it to me.

Back when I was pretending to be hard-boiled, I used to call these remnants trophies--like I was a great white hunter or a serial killer. But now I look at them and think, shit, why didn't I take better care? I would much rather have shrunk the damned sweater down to doll-size by washing it in too-hot water and kept the precious intangible. These fucking mementoes are just a pitiful assemblage that hints at what was once complex and alive. It is grisly.

But if I lose the things, then everything is gone. Because there's voodoo in them. If I have the thing it reminds me and if I am reminded I remember and if I remember than it isn't wholly lost. But ultimately we lose even the objects, and they go on to other people, trigger other memories, and they persist and persist and persist, and we perish like uneaten dairy products.

This, my friends, is why I dread packing up my stuff and moving. And this must also be why, my friends, I move so often. So I can pick through the wreckage once again. Sometimes I envy people who lose things in fires or floods. I think if I lost my shit I would probably get amnesia. Which might be a good thing.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

revenge of the mole

I like to think that my liberated mole reinvented itself as the boppy dot that bounces over the words in karaoke videos, and is even now happily bouncing along on top of the lyrics to "Copacabana" in a happy place, maybe in Japan town, maybe at a mall in Bangkok, or even in good old Bear's Place in Bloomington of a Thursday night.

that mole bugged me. It was an outie mole, the kind that sticks to you like a tiny spit ball, and it hurt whenever it got tangled in a necklace or high collar. But what a hole it has left in me.


It looks like someone put their cigarette out on my neck.

This makes me think of a Gogol story, "the Nose". If my mole is out there having a better time than me, I am going to be pissed.

I bet she is. I bet she's perfectly spherical and dressed in Versace and playing kissy-face with Peter Sarsgaard or even the hunky Mark Ruffalo. Maybe she wound up on some starlet's lip, thus ensuring her career. Bitch.

Oh well. I just have to say to my departed mole, ooh, baby baby it's a wild world...what are the next words? If only my mole were here to lead me through the lyrics. Alas.

Monday, May 15, 2006

relative values, 2

My God, I could cry. Actually, I did cry, a little.
So it turns out that my editor, bless his heart, is a sensitive person, fond of harmony, mild and quietly brilliant, who suffers the tortures of the damned because he is in the wrong job. I remember his face in meetings--he had the stoic,pained look of a secret agent stubbornly resisting the commandant's ways of making him talk. He looked like Albrecht Durer with a bad migraine. He looked like the picture of quiet desperation.

I became incredibly fond of him after he once, in a rare moment of actually speaking, made a reference to Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener". After that it was as though we had a secret pact between us--we knew that there were other worlds than these, better worlds.

So this editor's daily existence consists of having to deal with crazy rich folks who call him every two minuts about the status of their overpriced, overratedLarry Newman art (name has been changed to protect me from google searches). If dealing with harrassment from the rich with bad taste weren't stressful enough (and trust me, it is), he has to fight for every little decent thing for the other artist he handles, and this means going head to head with a hyperactive, garrulous, stingy and extremely rich and thus entitled boss, who changes his mind every three seconds and tends to follow his nose, like Toucan Sam if Toucan Sam liked blow. Long story short, the editor decided that he'd rather pay me out of his own pocket than risk the contretemps and dickering that would come of suggesting that I write the damn thing and that I get paid for it. This is what made me cry. First, that he'd do that. (That explains the modest figure. He can't make all that much money there. None of us did). Second, that he is under so much pressure that he would consider it worth it to be out the money rather than having to spend even a few minutes being badgered, harassed, and worried to death with fighting for every little goddamned thing. In fact, if this were domestic, I'd say he is in an abusive relationship and needs to Get Out.

So I was very touched, and very worried, and I told him to just forget it.
So it's all relative. What I thought was a stingy offer was incredibly generous, generous enough to make me cry.
And I wind up with bupkiss, yet feeling ok with it.
Funny thing, money.

relative values

Money is so insane.
I pay $200 for a doctor's visit that took fifteen minutes and doesn't involve (in the moment) any particular skill--I mean, a sushi chef could have lopped off my mole, lanced the infection.
$200 for 15 minutes = $800 an hour.

I remember being asked to find a Burberry raincoat, size 2, for one of my former's boss's girlfriends. Said raincoat cost about $2,000.

I got a gig I was excited about--writing a piece for my former place of work. The assignment gave me a week's deadline,(which is an incredibly short turnaround, considering I had to drive to SF, interview the artist, look at and analyse the work, transcribe the interview, and write the article) and I worked for a solid week--oh, let's say about 20 hours, after work and on weekends, on a freelance article for said former boss. They are offering me $75 for it.
That's less than 4 bucks an hour.

I was hoping this would cover my doctor's bill (my insane and stupid doctor's bill).
It will cover gas.

So now I have to dicker, and I feel really unworthy, dickering, like they are going to tell me my time and my work isn't worth it, because let's face it, they will find out I am a lazy slacker who cuts corners, they will unmask me and I don't really deserve to be paid anything. That's what I am afraid of. Or I'll come off looking like a greedy gold-digger because everyone knows writing isn't really WORK, anyone can write, it doesn't take any effort or skill,and a real writer writes for the joy of it, and poops words the way toads in fairytales spit out diamonds, and it is easy, and therefore worth less than say, a bottle of champagne.

Ok, a lot of art goes into champagne.

But when you really think about it, a lot of art goes into everything, and the amount of labor keeping the world spinning is boggling, and everyone has debts to pay, and everyone is contributing, and I don't understand why the rates are so skewed, and maybe I'll just up and become a communist.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

THERAMINS!!!! (in honor of JohnnyC)

The greatest, most mesmerizing invention ever. On earth.
You play the air. Literally.

"The Theremin is one of the earliest electronic instruments, and is played without ever physically touching it. Outfitted with two antennas, a magnetic field surrounds the instrument, and when the hands of the player enter the field, changes in pitch and volume occur. The left side controls the volume, and the right controls the pitch."

I learned about it from watching Hitchcock's "Spellbound". It beats the Dali dream sequence hollow. I love these things. They used it in "the day the earth stood still" and tons of other sci-fi movies.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


After seven years all debts are cancelled, right?


Davenport is a cement plant and a stoplight and these hellbox cliffs that go down to a beach.
Whales migrate past there, and there's a bakery where you can get decent brownies, as well as cheeseburgers. Bikers love to stop there on their way down to Big Sur. You have to cross a railroad tracks to get to the bluffs that lead down to the ocean. Right now they are covered in vivid green grass, and the wind is always blowing. I will miss Davenport when I leave this area. I used to go there alone with a dog and walk around letting my skirt blow.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Masochist's Day Out

So yesterday I really decided to pamper myself. Now, some women would happily drop $225 on, say, a day at a spa, being wrapped to the eyes in detoxifying seaweed and getting massages from brawny men with gentle, yet firm, fingers--maybe dipping into the sauna while maidens spritz them with lavendar water, soaking in mineral baths, getting their pores vaccuumed.

Or, for women of another stripe, buying that one pair of really hot shoes, the delicate, elegantly crafted kind make your ass look pert and your legs long, the kind that that make your feet look likes works of art,and that make someone want to sweep you off them.

Some women might drop the $225 on a good haircut and a decent meal--sushi, perhaps, with as much sake as they could hold. Some might buy a new outfit, or some good jewelry, or spend it on a series of dance classes, or on a few sessions with a personal trainer, or on therapy, or even (in the olden days) on a plane ticket somewhere.

But not me.

See, I had this troublesome--oh, let's say boil--on my left calf. It appeared last Friday. I thought it was an ingrown hair (my punishment for depilation--I never should have shaved. God doesn't want me to shave. He really really doesn't) or maybe a zit--but it grew, and grew, and grew. First it itched, then it swelled to the size of a cuckoo's egg. And it hurt. It kind of throbbed, like maybe there was a heart incubating in there. It turned red. It started to flash. Cars thought it was a stoplight. Many people died.

And did I mention it hurt like hell? I thought, great, I have boils. This is great. I had a boyfriend who had boils, and I always assumed it was because he was such a vile and poisonous human being. But that theory would not longer hold weight if _I_ had boils, because I am a sweet and pure person who harbors no ill-will whatsoever.

God must hate me. He hates me because I dared to shave my legs, in spite of his injunctions against it, in spite of his giving me cheap irish skin that you can't do anything to, because it screams in terror at sunlight, irritants, and synthetic fabrics. I must have a touch of leprecaun blood. Everyone knows they can't shave, either. But I digress.

So this growth on my leg, blazing and throbbing and distracting me from my fascinating duties as an editor of standardized tests, and it was driving me so crazy I started having lancing fantasies, which, as you hard core types know, I am sure, involve sterilizing a giant punk-rock safety-pin with a zippo and driving the point of the pin into the boil, causing a shower of pus to fly out onto the upturned faces of your adoring fans. But I had no such punk rock safety pin. I started fantasizing about poking thumbtacks into it, just to release the pressure. Or maybe, if I could stand it, using an unbent paper-clip.

But I am a wuss. Then I remembered there's a Doc-in-the-Box clinic at the bottom of the hill, right next to the Starbucks. Before you could say Buck Rogers I was in my little red wagon and laying tread for the place.

I got there. I didn't wait long--only long enough to count the ridges in Teri Hatcher's breastbone (there was an old issue of People lying there) before the doctor came to see me. Oh, and what a doctor. He was young, handsome in a human way, with a wedding ring and lots of soft brown hair and the kind of nose I like. What a relief. A cute doctor really makes a difference, because everyone knows that flirting cuts most pain in half.

So first he says, "oh, it's an infected insect bite, why don't we just do hot compresses and see if it drains on its own?"

But I thought, heavens no, you're cute, and I'm probably going to be paying through the nose for this anyway, and I've had these lancing fantasies all day, so I'm not leaving here until you take something sharp and stick it into me, buddy.

So I said, batting my eyelashes, "couldn't you just lance it, since I'm here anyway?"

And so he went to get his sharp sterile shiny knife-thingy, I think it is called a lancet, and he looked into my eyes and said "I don't like to cause anyone pain" and while I was melting he drove the wicked little blade into my goose-egg, and it didn't hurt at all. Until he squeezed.

He said, "Pus isn't really disgusting. Just think of it as all your helpful white blood cells rallying to clear the infection."

I loved this man. Then he lanced me again. And squeezed. And lanced again. And squeezed. It hurt like a bitch. I became very concerned about my breath. I'd had Greek Salad for lunch, and even without onions, that stuff can be pungent.

When I mentioned that I didn't have any medical insurance, he told me he wouldn't charge me for the lancing. I melted some more. I have never met such a nice doctor. Why, he was as nice as a hairdresser! Nicer! Then he lectured me very seriously about the importance of antibiotics. I could tell he thought I was a giant hippie who mistrusted the western medical establishment (probably because the hair was growing out on my legs--I couldn't shave because of the giant BOIL).

As he was about to dismiss me, I remembered the little twirly mole I've had on my neck forever, that's been bugging me for YEARS. Rebel Leady Boy once encouraged me to clip it off with nail clippers, but I am not hardcore.

So I figured, as long as Mister Doctor has his knives out, why not?

"Um, before you go," I said, "Could you just lop off this mole on my neck?" I arched my neck coquettishly.

"I'll even pay for it."
He threw down his latex gauntlets with righteous fury.

"Now that's just what I hate!" he cried. His noble nostrils flared.

"People will pay for anything that has to do with their vanity, but when it comes to something serious like an infection---" he trailed off.

"Oh no, doctor, I take your point. Please, though, it's been bugging me for years and I never go to the doctor and I'm not hardcore enough to use nail clippers and since I'm here and your knife is already out. I'll pay for BOTH. Please??"

He agreed.
And then the real pain began.

First he lopped off the mole, which hurt a bit. But then came the coup de grace. He held out this stick tipped with silver nitrate.

"It's a chemical cauterant," he said. "This might hurt."

The stick looked like one of those fourth of July sparklers before it's lit.
And when he pressed it to my wounded neck, it might as well have been a fourth of July sparkler after it's lit. It fizzed. It burned. I screamed the kind of scream a soldier on a Civil War Battlefield might have screamed during an amputation. Flesh sizzled.

Silver nitrate. Now I know what will cure my lycanthropy.


So now I have a silver mole on the side of my neck.
And I've been infected by an insect bite.

Perhaps I will mutate into some sort of superhero.
And the doctor will be my Lois Lane, trying to cure what ails me, little knowing that it is precisely my ailments that make me so powerful, so wonderful.

They rang up my bill, and that's when the hurt really came. 90 bucks for a consultation. Another 99 for the boil/mole (I think he only charged for one). He peeked his head around the door and waved a nice goodbye. My heart lifted.

"Does he do pelvic exams?" I whispered to the nurse.

She smirked. "Of course."

"How much?", I whispered, even more intently, and with the sense that I was talking to his pimp.

"$90. Would you like to schedule an appointment?"

I sighed. It was a very, very deep sigh. From the depths.

I just couldn't do it. He was too cute. It would feel too much like paying a gigolo. Lop my flesh he can, but a cute doctor with a speculum is more than my psyche (or my purse) can handle. So I left. I will now suffer pangs of unrequited fantasy about Mister Doctor, his knives, and his stethoscope. He really was very nice. I didn't know there were nice doctors. I thought they were all cold-hearted, cold-handed, money grubbing righteous pricks with ugly faces and no bedside manners. It's nice to be wrong. Even if you have to pay $225 to find out. (The antibiotics cost $25).

So, if you are a masochist and like to spend money and don't have any medical insurance, I recommend a few hours of lopping and lancing at the hands of a cute doctor. Who knows, it might even bring you superpowers, as it did me.

Monday, May 08, 2006

"felonious while moving"

Been thinking about the relationship between self-destructiveness and creativity--the obliteration of the ego and the freeing of the self through whatever means necessary--and the dissolutions, positive and disatrous, that come as a result. There's something about giving in to the looseness and danger and uncertainty and madness that we all hold back from that unleashes tremendous and terrible potential. Maybe addiction is a form of committment, and maybe at heart that committment to throwing yourself into anything is where art comes from, even if it comes at the expense of the physical body or, some would say, soul--certainly at the expense of normal relationships and "happiness". The key, of course, is to channel that terrible freedom, to give it form, rather than to just let it dissipate, which is what most addicts do, I imagine. They experience it, but don't give the experience form.

Townes Van Zandt considered himself "felonious while moving", which means, I guess, the he figured as long as he was conscious and doing, it was probably breaking some law or another. And yet the image this conjures for me is one of beautiful, terrible, freedom--the freedom that will destroy you. But what's the alternative?

There are lots of alternatives, many of them sane, productive, and fulfilling. I just don't know how people do those, either. I fall somewhere in the middle--too cowardly to ride the back of chemicals and destitution--to really let go and see what it's like on the margins, to be 'felonious while moving', and too far from the norm to achieve any sort of centrality.

Sometimes I have the urge to dive off the nearest cliff and sing as I'm falling. But I hold back at the last minute. Ultimately, I guess it doesn't matter what you use to cut the ropes--alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, Zen, love, sprees of every stripe--what matters is to cut the damned things--if, and only if, of course, you want to be an artist, a mystic, a saint, a whatever it is...

Almost every writer/creative person I admire is/was/has been an addict--drunks, mostly, but throw in a few junkies for good measure. I can't think of a single favorite writer who wasn't an alcoholic. I also tend to adore alcoholics in person. So the question is, what is going on with this? The river of alcohol tends to carry them to places both liberating and unwholesome, and, of course, winds up killing them. But I love them. So. I don't know.

Sometimes I think all this trying to get healthy, all this upwardly mobile self help is a load of tripe and that maybe "healing" or getting "centered" is a different kind of suicide--or if not a suicide, at least a pipe dream, a fantasy, a way of sanitizing (Sanity-sanitary?) those places where the ground is most feral, most fertile. I'm too chickenshit to really let myself go and find some bottom, and I'm too suspiscious of the alternative--of getting my shit together... maybe I should just go on a major bender instead of trying (or pretending to try) to know what I'm doing and who and how I should be.

Maybe I should stop fearing the long arm of the law and become a moving violation.

Sometimes I don't know where this dirty road is taking me

all taken from "Townes Van Zandt: the self-destructive hobo saint". by John Kruth

"Townes was always quick to credit "a greater power" as the source of his songwriting abilities. He truly believed that his songs came from out of the sky and would suddenly shoot through him like a lightning bolt. Van Zandt merely wrote them down as they occurred.

"It just goes from the top of my head out my right arm," Townes once explained, attempting to describe his supernatural inspiration. He often felt "slammed upon, hit between the eyeballs, out of the blue" by the muse. "Some of my songs, I just felt like I had nothing to do with. It was like, god, my arm's tired, what did I write?"

"Lauded as "the James Joyce of Texas songwriters" and "the Van Gogh of lyrics" by
Billboard Magazine, Townes Van Zandt lived the life of a wandering bard, scribbling down lyrics on placemats and napkins in coffee shops and old truck stops. He wrote sitting by the side of the road, in train stations, airports and taxicabs--some of the loneliest places on Earth. There was a certain kind of purity to his lyrics, an underlying formality that few of his peers possessed.

"You won't find a song that's better written, that says more or impresses songwriters more," Steve Earle claimed. According to Townes, "Pancho and Lefty" just floated in through a window one day after he made himself sit at a table until he wrote a new song. Van Zandt believed anybody could've done it. They just had to be sitting in the right chair.

"Whenever an aspiring songwriter questioned him about his artistic process, Townes jokingly suggested they get themselves a guitar as it's much easier to carry around than a piano. Then came the rap that had most neophytes quickly searching for the exit sign. "You have to blow off everything else," he explained. "You have to blow off your family. You have to blow off comfort. You have to blow off money. You have to blow off security. You have to blow off your ego. You have to blow off everything except your guitar. You have to sleep with it. Learn how to tune it. And no matter how hungry you get, stick with it."

The level of Townes' commitment to his art frightened most people. "Townes was a brave soul," Guy Clark said with a sigh. "Very few people are willing to go that deep and take a hard look at the darkness. Nobody cut it that close to the bone. He went for the passion, not a bunch of clever bullshit."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

making an effort to join the phenomenal world

My head is full of voices. That's ok. It doesn't mean I'm crazy--at least not crazier than most. If the voices were 'outside' my head, then maybe I'd worry. But I'm not hearing angels telling me how to save France, and I'm not hearing dogs telling me to commit grisly murders; mostly I have your garden variety neurotic stream of consciousness narratives going blah blah blah round round round round like the Beach Boys. The problem is that they drown out the phenomenal world--so that I can't or don't hear or see what's going on under my nose. I don't see the tasks at hand. They're chatty. So chatty. They are mostly also full of shit, and act as a kind of blizzard of distraction, so that I can be listening to them and driving 80 mph on the highway and look up and realize I've gone ten minutes without seeing the road. It's making me snow-blind.

But more than that, these not-so-helpful voices, the legion of storytellers, the mind-bandits, tend to set me up for things by creating wondrous epic dramas of projection and then tormenting me with cruel disappointments when the external world flouts my internal scripts. I don't know if "writers" hear more voices than other people, or what, but this merrie band of brain-robbers hangs out in the sherwood of my synapses and sit around a-robbin and a-stealin and sometimes, yes indeed, they strike up a never-ending chorus of the Beastie Boys if I am threatening to get away off somewhere with reality for a change.

I am convinced that the solution to most major depression/despair/ennui/negativity and so on is not in taking happy drugs, but in somehow getting the Merrie Men to can it, or at least to change their tune, or to somehow stake them *punkt* through the heart so that they are blown to dust like the vampires in Buffy. That's one of the points of doing Zen practice. It gives you a stake to puncture the voices,and it teaches you to sit still and be quiet. If I remember from experience, if you sit still and stare at a wall for long enough, the voices get really really desperate and noisy, and then they throw tantrums, and eventually they get tired and shut up. But it takes a long time. And until then, you'll be delighted with discovering near-total recall of song lyrics, tv shows, jingles, movies, memories, encounters, etc, until you're deafened.

Of course when the voices get really quiet you discover they've just moved into your body. Suddenly sitting hurts like hell and there is no Greek chorus to distract you from it--physically, the sensations I recall are the certainty that the ligaments in my knees were slowly parting like string cheese and that if I stood up I'd fall apart like a marionette with severed strings; bolting, shooting sciatic pain from the ass-bone up my back, kind of like electrical shocks and then settling into a steady internal pain sort of like microphone feedback; the delightful (and surely psychosomatic) certainty that my ribs are actually caving inward and puncturing my lungs, so that every breath is like being knifed--and this comes with a rising sense of panic and the absolute feeling that if I don't stand up RIGHT NOW I am going to scream and scream and scream and scream; pins and needles, needles and pins; heart feeling like a bruised bag, part cat-guts, part lead; oh shit, there's the tearing sensation in the knees again, and then I start to sweat, and a fly settles on the corner of my eye, and if the bell doesn't ring soon, I'm really going to lose my shit, I'm going to stand up and scream, drop my baggy zen pants, piss, kick things over, what the hell are all these smug diamond-shaped bodies doing sitting there like that? can't they hear it? can't they feel it? and suddenly I'm one of Poe's madmen, screaming YOU FOOLS, IT IS THE BEATING OF HIS HIDEOUS HEART!

Yeah, why am I going back to Tassajara?

Because... I think, I hope, I believe that after the madness, if I stay with it, comes a pool of sanity, of vast, unconditioned sanity and from that pool I, you, anyone can, as Issan Dorsey says, "take the water of compassion and pour if over your own head", and then I/you can pour it over others. And that, my friends, is what we're rounding up the Merrie Men for, and that is why I am going to sit on my ass and feel my knees tear and my lungs fill up with imaginary blood and panic and panic and panic until the panic passes and then? and then?

Who the hell knows? I guess I hope I find out. Every time.

Babysit your boredom

From one of my favorite writers, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (who reminds me of Donald Kilbuck, or vice versa):


"When people say they are bored,often they mean that they don't want to
experience the sense of emptiness,which is also an expression of openness
and vulnerability. So they pick up the newspaper or read anything else
that's lying around the room --even reading what it says on a cereal box to
keep themselves entertained. The search for entertainment to baby-sit your
boredom soon becomes legitimized as laziness. Such laziness actually
involves a lot of exertion. You have to constantly crank things up to
occupy yourself, overcoming your boredom by indulging in laziness....The
remedy to that approach is renunciation....For the warrior, renunciation is
giving away, or not indulging in, pleasure for entertainment's sake. We are
going to kick out any preoccupations provided by the miscellaneous
babysitters in the phenomenal world."

Another way to put it is:

blah blah blah becomes blog blog blog.

Ok, kiddies, who wants me to sing songs from the "Little Mermaid"! please don't pee on the floor! please don't color on the walls! please don't throw gobs of jelly in your sister's hair, and please, whatever you do, don't hide in your parents' suit of pseudo armor and get stuck in there. Please, no!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


So I am reading this book called "Ravens in Winter". I chose it because I am interested in natural history, and because I liked the title. It made me think of Stevens's "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", and Poe's raven, and all the crows I've known in parts of California, and I thought, cool, this will be all poetic, but what I forgot was the real truth of nature--it's not just a metaphor. It's an organism that lives and dies and eats--bent on survival.

So there I was last night, happily reading about how ravens swoop and roll and dive and execute amazing flight manoevers in their courtship flights, thinking, what a groovy bird, how amazing, and reading about Odin's ravens riding on his shoulders, and reading all sorts of other tidbits--scraps of flesh, if you will, about ravens, and then I come to the passage that says, roughly:

Ravens, hunting in pairs, will pluck out and eat the eyes of newborn baby reindeer.

Right. after. they. emerge. from. the. womb.

while they are still alive

They also aggressively seek to divide the newborn reindeer from its parents, attack it, and kill it.

Suddenly I'm thinking of Hitchcock's "the Birds". Suddenly I'm picturing bleating, blinded, baby reindeer, and I'm thinking of my own precious eyes, the little brown jellies, eyes that I think of as "mine", that could easily, easily, be taken by birds. It is fascinating to think of one's eyes--organs of sight, of identity, our primary sense any more, our primary fascination--to think of them as FOOD. It really shifts your perspective. It's a chilling but helpful meditation, I think.

I mean, what do people get complimented on most often? Their eyes. What's the first thing we do in the morning? Open our eyes. They're the gates between "us" and "them"--they bring the world into us.

Now imagine them being eaten.

Plucked out, pierced, digested, and plopped from the cloaca to the ground.

Interesting, huh?

Nothing really belongs to anything or anyone. Not the eyes in your head, not the meat on your bones. Sometimes I think the world's main activity is eating itself.

Are my eyes bigger than a raven's stomach?
Turns out, the answer is no.

A conspiracy of ravens, an unkindness of ravens, a constable of ravens

Terms from the 16th century:
a shrewdness of apes
a pace of asses
a cete of badgers
a sloth of bears
a fleet of birds,
a dissimulation of (small) birds
a blush of boys
a clowder or glaring of cats;
a dowt or destruction of wild cats
a peep of chickens
a chattering or clattering of choughs
a drunkship of cobblers
a rag or rake of colts
a hastiness of cooks
a covert of coots
a cowardice of curs
a dole, or piteousness of doves
a paddling of ducks on water
a business of ferrets
a chirm of finches
a stalk of foresters
a skulk of foxes
a husk or down of hares
an observance of hermits
a siege of herons
a mute of hounds
a desert of lapwing
an exaltation of larks
a leap of leopards
a pride of lions
a tiding of magpies
a sord or sute (=suit) of mallard
a richesse of martens
a faith of merchants
a labour of moles
a barren of mules
a watch of nightingales
a superfluity of nuns
a muster of peacocks
a malapertness (=impertinence) of pedlars
a congregation of plovers
a pity of prisoners
an unkindness of ravens
a parliament or building of rooks
a dopping of sheldrake
a walk of snipe
a host of sparrows
a murmuration of starlings
a sounder of tame swine
a drift of wild swine
a glozing (=fawning) of taverners
a spring of teal
a rout of wolves
a fall of woodcock

A female cat is called a quean.

Other terms:
ants: colony
bears: sleuth, sloth
bees: grist, hive, swarm
birds: flight, volery
cattle: drove
cats: clutter, clowder
chicks: brood, clutch
clams: bed
cranes: sedge, seige
crows: murder
doves: dule
ducks: brace, team
elephants: herd
elks: gang
finches: charm
fish: school, shoal, draught
foxes: leash, skulk
geese: flock, gaggle, skein, arrow
gnats: cloud, horde
goats: trip
gorillas: band
hares: down, husk
hawks: cast
hens: brood
hogs: drift
horses: pair, team
hounds: cry, mute, pack
kangaroos: troop, mob
kittens: kindle, litter
larks: exaltation
lions: pride
locusts: plague
magpies: tidings
mules: span
nightingales: watch
oxen: yoke
oysters: bed
parrots: company
partridges: covey
peacocks: muster, ostentation
pheasants: nest, bouquet
pigs: litter
ponies: string
quail: bevy, covey
rabbits: nest
seals: pod
sheep: drove, flock
sparrows: host
storks: mustering
swans: bevy, wedge
swine: sounder
toads: knot
turkeys: rafter
turtles: bale
vipers: nest
whales: gam, pod
wolves: pack, rout
woodcocks: fall

I have been thinking about animals, extinction, language, extinction, the connections. The ice is melting. The lights are being doused. Polar bears and hippos have made it onto the shortlist. Frogs are the canaries in the coal mines. People, our heat, is suffocating out life forms. Exhaust. Exhaustion.
An exhaustion of automobiles.
A melt of poles.
A boneyard of extinctions.
A snuffing of candles.
We're not set apart from this. Ultimately, we're going, too.
A dissipation of beings.

Remember how, in Frosty the Snowman, he has to go home before he melts, and it is really scary and sad, because Frosty is dying, and it's a race against time, but once he makes it to the land of eternal snow, he's fine--he can live FOREVER?
Not anymore, nope.
Nothing lasts.
A sunset world.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

If I weren't already leaving I'd stage a protest

Corporate Life -- a minor fracas

The weekend started badly with a case of major segregation at work. All the official company workers were given a corporate sponsored barbecue, and all the temps were not. This would have been merely gauche, except that there was no food in the cafeteria for temps to purchase, and none of us had been given notice to bring sad-sack lunches, so we did not eat that day.

It was like Potemkin--no bread! or no meat! or whatever it was. (Ok, truthfully we went down the hill and bought overpriced salads, but it was the principle, the principle of the thing!)

Temps do the same jobs--identical--to the regular workers, for less pay and no benefits. And they remind us of this with spitted pigs and potato salads and long tables blocking the exits at which the tenured ones are seating, swapping stories and wiping their chins. It's enough to make me want to dig up Jimmy Hoffa. Or make a voodoo zombie out of Cesar Chavez.

I had one of those depressing nutshell-epiphanies and so am engaging in my sad little protest by refusing to eat in the company cafeteria ever again. I wrote a brief letter of protest to my supervisor, but naturally the response was neutral and basically a brush-off. It was bad. All the temps were upset and bitching, and taking petty revenge by doing crappy work or screwing around on the clock or taking extra long lunches, but it was just--faintly pathetic. No one gave a damn. 24 more days...