A Potato Reading Virginia Woolf

Your eyes do not deceive you, that is indeed a potato reading Virginia Woolf. You see potatoes love post-modernism and the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. I do as well. That’s why I bought this custom print from Marc Johns, who will forever hold a special place in my heart.

It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song
I’ve been digging on Pete Seeger today. He’s like  Mr. Rodgers with a guitar. Or maybe like that guy who tells everyone to paint happy little clouds. Anyways, he’s pretty amazing. Here he is on the Johnny Cash show:

“You know these old songs, they never really die out. This song is the whole human race!”

This is the song I remember my parents playing as a kid:

Funny how at the time I just thought it was a fun, silly song with boxes and colors. I thought ticky-tacky was a good thing. It was such a silly word and it was so fun to say. As it turns out ticky-tacky is just the man trying to get me down! Once again, I have been disenchanted. But, you know, in a good way.

Strangers’ (Books) on a Train
Tonight on my way home, the passengers of the J train were reading the following:

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman 

The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The Imperfectionists really wasn’t too great in my opinion, but only because I really wanted it to be great and it let me down. Sometimes I think the idea of a book is better than the actual book. (You can read my whole Goodreads review here.) The Devil in the White City sounded cool–murders and the World’s Fair. Okay, sounds cool, I’ll bite. And I’ve never read Journey to the Center of the Earth but I absolutely loved the cheesy movie they made us watch in grade school.

And okay, since I’m YouTube happy today, I have to embed the old trailer:

Oh man, that takes me back. How glorious. There’s something completely wonderful about old movie trailers.

Time Does Not Exist. I Ate It.
I’m still reading The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace and it’s still wonderful. Below is a selection that had me laughing out loud the other night. I should have shortened it up for you but I had a hard time stopping myself. (I guess I’m not the only one.)

“Didn’t I say to look at me? Can’t you tell what I am? Listen to me very carefully. I am an obese, grotesque, prodigal, greedy, gourmandizing, gluttonous pig. Is this not clear? I am more hog than human. There is room, physical room, for you in my stomach. Do you hear? You see before you a swine. An eating fiend of unlimited capacity. Bring me meat.”

“Have you not eaten in a very long time? Is that it?”

“Look, you’re beginning to bother me. I could bludgeon you with my belly. I am also, allow me to tell you, more than a little well-to-do. Do  you see that Building over there, the one with the lit windows, in the shadow? I own that Building. I could buy this restaurant and have you terminated. I could and perhaps will buy this entire block, including that symbolically tiny Weight Watchers establishment across the street. See it? With the door and windows so positioned as to form a grinning, leering, hollow-cheeked face? It is within my financial power to busy that place, and to fill it with steaks, fill it with red steak, all of which I would and will eat. The door would under this scenario be jammed with gnawed bone; not a single little smug psalm-singing bagging-skinned apostate from the cause of adiposity would be able to enter. They would pound on the door, pound. But the door would hold. They’d lack the build to burst through. Their mouths and eyes would be wide as they pressed against the glass. I would demolish, physically crush the huge scale at the end of the brightly lit nave at the back of the place under a weight of food. The springs would jut out. Jut. What a delicious series of thoughts. May I see a wine list?”

“‘Weight Watchers?”

“Garcon, what you have before you is a dangerous thing, I warn you. Human beings act in their own interest. Huge, crazed swine, do not. My wife informed me a certain time-interval ago that if I did not lose weight, she would leave me. I have not lost weight, as a matter of fact I have gained weight, and thus she is leaving. Q.E.D. And A-1, don’t forget the A-1.”

“But sir, surely with more time…” 

“There is no more time. Time does not exist. I ate it. It’s in here, see? See the jiggle? That’s time, jiggling. Run, run away, fetch me my platter of fat, my nine cattle, or I’ll envelop you in a chin and fling you at the wall!”

“Shall I fetch the maitre d’, sir? To confer?

“By all means, fetch him. But warn him against getting too close. He will be encompassed instantly, before he has time to squeak. Tonight I will eat. Hugely, and alone. For I am now hugely alone. I will eat, and juice might very well spurt into the air around me, and if anyone comes too near, I will snarl and jab at them with my fork–like this, see?”

“Sir, really!”

“Run for your very life. Fetch something to placate me. I’m going to grow and grow, and fill the absence that surrounds me with my own gelantinous presence. Yin and Yang. Ever growing, waiter. Run!”

“Right away, sir!”

“Some breadsticks might have been nice, too, do you hear? What kind of place is this, anyway?”

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That’s what I want to recount: The cruelty and exquisiteness of life

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I have a problem. (Well, I have a lot of problems but I’m only going to talk about one of them tonight.)

I buy a lot of books. A lot.

And the worst part of this problem is that I’m secretly proud of it. When buying books is your problem and you love bookstores and print and good books and the silent awe you feel while walking into a good, quiet and lovely public place; the whole experience of it… the closeness of the shelves, the rows and rows of stories and information. The feel of a crisp new hardcover as you open it up and read in the inside jacket, the weight of it as you place it in your bag.

Or the way people move in a bookstore, like they’re lost and confused, looking for something yet perfectly at ease in their search at the same time.

Or the children who come in tugging on hands, dragging their parents to those large flat books in the back section with all the stuffed animals and colors and books on the floor.

When you love the dogs outside, the posters inside, the tables and the recommendations section, the bookmarks, the workers–the old men with friendly smiles, middle-aged woman with kind smiles and smudged glasses, or the young literary men with nervous ticks and a word and a book for everything.

When you love the rows of titles, the different colors and the aesthetics of all those different type-faces all lined up and next to each other.

When you love it when something jumps out at you–a blurb, a quote, a cover or a name.

When you love bookstores. And books. And you know you will always, always, buy your books in real, wonderful magic (yes, magic, I said it, magic) places for as long as you possibly can…when you know all this…

Well then, it’s really rather easy to justify every one of your purchases isn’t it? Because really you’re just supporting one of the things you love most.

So ya, I’ve bought a lot of books lately. It makes me happy. And I’ve spent a lot of money and I don’t regret it.

Here are a few of the things I supported recently…

The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

He looked at the autumn sky. Somewhere above, beyond, far off, was the sun. Somewhere it was the month of April on the planet Mars, a yellow month with a blue sky. Somewhere above, the rockets burned down to civilize a beautifully dead planet. The sound of their screaming passage was muffled by this dim, sound-proofed world, this ancient autumn world.

The Seas, a novel by Samantha Hunt

The problem I have with authority isn’t because I’m particularly wild, but the idea of supervision. I know the way I see the world is more super than a policeman that charges me $55 for a U-turn in a dead intersection. If they asked him what he saw he’d say, “a car, a light, a solid line.” That’s not super vision. But ask me what I saw. From here he looks like, Head, brick. Head, brick. Headbrick, headbrickheadbrick.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

And so she’s stuck doing a cloak-and-dagger number without a cloak. Relying on her face alone, its guile. She’s had enough practice by now, in smoothness, coolness, blankness. A lifting of both eyebrows, the candid, transparent stare of a double-agent. A face of pure water. It’s not the lying that counts, it’s evading the necessity for it. Rendering all questions foolish in advance.

The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories edited by Carlos Fuentes and Julio Ortega

I’ve lived for many years on my own, as a solitary woman in this huge house, a cruel and exquisite life. That’s what I want to recount: The cruelty and exquisiteness of life in the provinces. I’m going to speak about all those things that are normally hushed up, what you think about and what you feel when you don’t think. I want to tell about all the things that have been building up in a provincial soul, things that have been polished, nurtured and practiced without other people suspecting. You may think that I’m too stupid to try to relate this story which you already know but which, I’m sure, you don’t know properly. You simply don’t pay any heed to the river and its courses, the pealing of bells, nor the yells. You haven’t always tried to understand what they mean, all together in the world, these inexplicable things, terrible things, sweet things. You haven’t had to give up what they call a normal life in order to follow the trail of something you don’t understand, in order to be faithful to it. You didn’t fight day and night to make sense of certain words: to have a destiny. I do have a destiny, but it isn’t mine. I have to live life according to the destinies of others. I am the guardian of what is forbidden, of what cannot be explained, of what brings shame, and I have to stay here to guard it, so that it doesn’t get out, but also so that it should exist. so that it should exist and a balance should be achieved. So that it shouldn’t get out and harm others. 

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender sat on his bed with his desk on his knees. It was private study time, and Ender was doing Free Play. It was a shifting, crazy kind of game in which the school computer kept bringing up new things, building a maze that you could explore. You could go back to events that you liked, for a while; if you left one alone too long it disappeared and something else took its place. Sometimes they were funny things. Sometimes exciting ones, and he head to be quick to stay alive. He had lots of deaths, but that was OK, games were like that, you died a lot until you got the hang of it.

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy 

The boy turned and spat into the dirt. He could feel the wolf lean against his leg. He said that the tracks of the wolf had led out of Mexico. He said the wolf knew nothing of boundaries. The young don nodded as if in agreement but what he said was that whatever the wolf knew or did not know was irrelevant and that if the wolf had crossed that boundary it was perhaps so much the worse for the wolf but the boundary stood without regard.

Every Night (When the Sun Goes In)

I stumbled across this song tonight and fell in love. It’s so beautiful and sad and slow. It makes me want to melt somehow.

And I don’t even know what I mean by that.

So yes, I know I said I’d write in here every day and I kind of did not do that at all. So um… ya, oops. Sorry about that. But really, I should have been more clear. When I said, “every day” I didn’t mean every day so much as “quite often.”

Magical Book Moment Number 1,397

The other day while taking the train home a guy was sitting next to me reading Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. He was really close to the end and he ended up finishing it after about six stops, after which he looked around in that wonderful dazed way people always look when they are coming out of a good book. But then he suddenly looked lost. Like he didn’t know where he was at all. I dunno, there was something really confused about him and he started tapping his closed book against his palm. Then he looked out the window. He looked around the train car. He looked at me. (I was reading my own book). He looked down at my book. He looked at all the other people on the train. And I did too because I was kind of following his looks by this point, trying to find out what he was looking for. And almost everyone on the train was reading , looking down at their own page or device. So then at the next stop the guy gets up, takes one final look around, then leaves his book on his seat and gets off. I think he was looking for someone to leave his book with, but everyone else was reading so he just left it on the train. I had my own book so I didn’t pick it up. And I’m not a huge Christopher Moore fan so I felt like I should leave it for someone else. But it was nice. It reminded me of how finding books can be somewhat serendipitous, and that there’s this whole life to a book and how it’s traveled that you don’t even know about when you read it. How even the book doesn’t tell the whole story.

Things I Like (More For the List)

When you’re in the backseat of a car and you catch the eye of someone else sitting in the backseat of a car and you just kind of both look at each other for a while. You’re in the same position, moving in the same direction, but somehow in two totally different worlds going to two totally different places.

How whenever I go to the beach there is always a group of kids, no matter how warm or how cold it is, playing in the waves with all of their clothes on (jeans, t-shirts, all of it) while screaming and laughing and not caring about anything at all.

Melted Witches All Over San Francisco?

I’ve been noticing this for a while but lately even more than usual… There are always piles of clothes on the streets of this city. Why are these clothes there? Where do they come from? And often they will be whole outfits. A sweater, a shirt, pants, and shoes. It’s so odd and they always remind me of the part in The Wizard of Oz, where the witch melts and after she’s gone all that’s left is a pile of her cloths, her broom, and some green smoke. What if people are going around melting witches all over San Francisco and stealing their brooms? That’s a lot of melted witches. And yes, I know that’s not the answer, but it makes me wonder even more where these piles come from. I suspect that they are offerings just like the book the guy left behind on the train–that people don’t want these clothes anymore so they leave them behind for someone else to pick up.

People are always leaving things for other people. I like that too.

Met a four-year old who likes music and Goldfish crackers tonight

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She was watching me while I was waiting for my train in that curious little kid way that makes you feel like you have something on your face but really it’s just that you’re an adult and therefore somewhat mysterious and unknown. Also, if you’re me, you’re probably wearing bright colors and have pretty nail polish.  (Two things that most little girls and 20-somethings love.)

So yes, this particular little girl was dressed in all pink and wearing pig tails. She walked up to me, said hi, and asked, “What are those?” while pointing to my headphones. So I said, “Headphones, want to listen?” And she said yes please, so I gave them to her and she said, “Here you take one too.” Which is very thoughtful and nice.

So we sat there and listened to The Dog Days Are Over (which just happened to be on Pandora at the time) and her grandma, who was watching us, was smiling that smile that says, It’s okay that you talk to my kid. 

So I did.

And she told that she was four, in pre-school, and then she explained how to mix colors together to make other colors, asked if she could see my ipod, and showed me how to dance.  After that, she got some Goldfish crackers  that were orange, not white, and got on the N train happy as could be.

Kids are cute. And fearless sometimes too. It’s nice to see. When you stumble across a stranger who also happens to be four and completely delightful it almost feels like some sort of gift. Especially when you both love the same cheesy Goldfish crackers.

The clenched purple fist of my own particular heart

I told myself I was going to start writing in here once a day again–even if what I write is that I’m tired and I don’t want to write–so here I am doing it. We’ll see how long I last… Last time I made this resolution it was about a week and a half.

I’m feeling good about it this time though. It’s a good time of life–summer is starting, days are longer, I’m reading more, watching strangers and noticing things.

I started reading The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace last night. I’m only on page 59 but I’m hooked. He’s hilarious and so fun to read–totally my style so far. I don’t know why I waited so long to read something of his. I’m so very late to the party.

But better late than never I suppose.

Either way, here is a passage from my train ride home to end the night on…

I feel an empty draft and look down and find a hole in my chest and spy, in the open polyurethane purse of Lenore Beadsman, among the aspirins and bars of hotel soap and lottery tickets and the ridiculous books that mean nothing at all, the clenched purple fist of my own particular heart, what am I to say to Rex Metalman and Scarsdale and the sod webworms and the past, except that it does not exist, that it has been obliterated, that footballs never climbed into crisp skies, that my support checks disappear into a black void, that a man can be and is and must be reborn, at some point, perhaps points?

If fish dreamed and yawned and you swallowed their yawn-dream bubble would you dream fish-dreams?

Going through old emails tonight and found some old weirdness. Sometimes I think my best writing takes place on stressed out Thursday afternoons. Ha, then again, maybe it’s the worst. I’ll leave it up to you…

I have a science question for you… Why do people yawn?

Also, are there animals that don’t yawn? Like, do only mammals yawn or something? Because I swear I saw a crocodile yawn once but maybe he was just stretching his jowls. I think a crocodile should be able to yawn if he wants to.

What about fish–can fish yawn? Does a fish-yawn make a bubble? Is it possible to swallow a fish-yawn bubble while you’re swimming? Do you think it would make you tired? Or would you just get a taste of what it’s like to be a fish because you just swallowed a piece of the fish’s fish-dreams?

Can fish even dream? If fish dreamed and yawned and you swallowed their yawn-dream bubble would you dream fish-dreams or would you yawn your own yawn-dream bubble? Because I know that yawning is contagious but can it really pass from species to species? Because I also know a lot of things that are contagious can’t pass from species to species because of genes and stuff.

Do you think dreams are contagious? Can you catch someone’s dreams like a cold or a virus? Are dreams hereditary? Are dreams and yawns connected at all?

Do you think maybe yawns are how dreams travel? And when you wake up and yawn that’s really the dream coming out and you think you’re remembering it normally but really you’re smelling it in your yawn or something?

Because I know that smell is the sense most connected to memory so maybe that’s right.

Do you think fish remember things? And can they smell? Do they have noses? They have little holes right?

Do you think fish think fish smells bad? Or do you think fish think people smell bad? Like, instead of saying, “something smells fishy in here,” do you think a fish would say, “something smells peopley in here.” And then the other fish would answer, “You know, I thought I smelled something weird too.”

Do you think fish can smell things like fear? Because I know bees can.

Do you think fish know when you’re sad like dogs? Do you think that would make them swim closer to you or farther away? I’d like to think closer because I like the idea of fish swimming near me when I’m sad.

Can fish cry? Can anyone cry if they’re underwater? I mean, is it really crying if you’re underwater? Because you’re not making tears-you’re just making more water. Maybe if we all cried under water we really wouldn’t be crying. We’d just be making more water for us to swim in.

And also, going back to the first thing, is there a plant version of yawning? Probably not, but that would be cool if trees could yawn. Maybe when trees are really tired they make that creaking noise and that’s how they yawn.

Or wait, do you think trees get tired? What is being tired really?

Because sometimes you can be really tired but it seems like you’re really awake but you’re just kind of functioning and being awake without really fully functioning and being awake. Can trees do that? Or is that what trees do all the time because they don’t have brains and stuff?

Well, that’s it.

I would like my answers by the next hour please.

Oh, Lord Byron, you’re my favorite of all the heroes

Today’s poem is a selection from an old favorite…

I have not loved the world, nor the world me,–
But let us part fair foes: I do believe,
though I have found them not, that there may be
Words which are things,–hopes which will not deceive,
And virtues which are merciful, nor weave
Snares for the failing; I would also deem
O’er others’ griefs that some sincerely grieve;
That two, or one, are almost what they seem,–
That goodness is no name,
and happiness no dream.

From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Bryon

(Please note: This blog post was originally much longer and more interesting but I accidentally deleted it and I’m sorry, but I can’t write all that all over again at the current moment. The poem, however, is still very nice.)