Stuff that has happened and stuff I have seen

My cat killed a bird last week. He has never done this before and yet he dragged a headless sparrow into my apartment.  (I am calling it a sparrow because it looks like what I imagine a sparrow looks like but really I have no idea what it was, or if sparrows even live in San Francisco–perhaps it was the only sparrow here, perhaps it was the last sparrow of San Francisco and now my cat has killed it.) It was early in the morning (around 2:00) so I just let him in and he played with his sparrow in the dark–tossing it up, throwing it down, ripping it up–for a good ten minutes before I finally realized that he was romping with his catnip mouse with just a tad more enthusiasm than was usual. I had to scoop the poor bird up and throw it away.

And then, two days later I went to the Picasso exhibit at the De Young and there was a painting of a cat with a bird. This painting:


And it looked so much like my cat, and it seemed so odd and fated and connected somehow that there should be this painting of my cat at this exhibit (and all in the same week) that I had to buy the ridiculous print. It’s hanging above my head now. I kind of love it.

“Maybe he was Picasso’s cat in a past life,” my friend Stephanie, who was with me at the time said.

I always have called Rupert the Hemingway of cats (from an old conversation Victoria and I had about him) so it would not surprise me at all if he had hung out with Picasso. A cat’s life is A Moveable Feast afterall. And everyone hung out in those days. I know because I saw them all together in the movie A Midnight in Paris, that was playing at the Kubuki Theater last weekend. And then they were also all in The Stein’s Collect exhibit that’s at the SFMOMA. (That’s not to be confused with the Picasso exhibit I saw at the De Young or the Five Stories exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.)

I like when all the museums in San Francisco get together. It’s like the whole city is having one big conversation about art.

(I say this like it has happened to me before, like I know all about this connection between museums, but really this is the first time I’ve noticed this supposed connection since it’s only the second month I’ve lived here.)

The man who works at the corner store across the street from me (the corner store across the street, I think I like that) asked me what I do for a living tonight. I told him and then he asked me, “What is marketing?”

I didn’t know how to answer so I laughed instead. The man had just sold me a sandwich I didn’t want or need. (I’m eating it now and it’s delightful.) When I couldn’t explain my position he asked me where I worked.  After I told him in the financial district he said, “Did you know that I have two sons?”

I didn’t know the answer to that either so I laughed again.

This is a common pattern with me–unknowingness and laughter.

There is another, completely different man on my way to work. He works in the hotel that’s connected to the building I work in, but on the other side of it. I noticed him waving at me when I walked by the glass door he works behind. I’m usually kind of out of it in the morning, lost in my own thoughts and walking and daydreaming, listening to music. But I looked up and caught his eye once and he waved at me. At first I didn’t really think he meant to but then the next day I checked and he did it again so I waved back. I started checking every day and he waved at me every day and so I waved back every day. Then I started looking forward to waving back. At first I thought I was special, like I was the only one he waved at, but then I noticed… Other people were waving at him too!

There are a lot of us. I knew for sure what was going on when there was this old woman who stopped in front of his door and waited for a good oh, minute or so (he must have been talking to someone) for him to look over and wave. The sidewalks are busy in the mornings, especially at this spot, but she stopped and she waved and she got her wave back. After that, I started noticing all the others. You can tell who knows about the man because they pause a little bit before approaching his door. And, I have to admit, he’s a great waver. He doesn’t just wave. He smiles. He smiles big and he waves like a little kid–full of enthusiasm. Like a little kid in the back of his parents’ car on a really long boring roadtrip. Huh, and maybe it is in a way.

But it’s just about the best, most beautiful thing ever, his wave. Anyone who knows me at all knows that it’s things like this that get to me. It’s like being in on a secret. It’s such a small silly thing but it makes me smile. And when I think of how many people he must wave at, how many people that must be in on the secret too, it’s like joining some kind of amazing waving club. It makes me giggle to myself every time. It makes me smile like a little kid too.

There is an old woman I met on the J the other night. She wanted to know where I had gotten my New Yorker. “I’ve looked all over the city for one,” she said, “and I can’t find one anywhere.”

I found this hard to believe but couldn’t be sure if she was exaggerating or not since I have a subscription. Still, she told me about how she had just moved here from Florida to be close to her daughter–she had been living with this daughter and her husband but it was “time for her to get her own place.” I told her I had been living with my brother and part of the reason I moved here was that it was time for me to get my own place too.

“Family shouldn’t live together for too long,” she said.

Which I thought was hilarious because isn’t that part of what a family is? People who live together? Not for long apparently.

I met a cab driver who hates traffic. “Funny thing, a cab driver who hates traffic, ” he said, “but I HATE it.”  Seemed kind of expected to me.

I got this print at the SFMOMA exhibit:

It’s by Marie Laurencin and shows her, Picasso, his mistress, and a poet named Apollinaire who was Marie’s lover. How scandalous it all seems and yet how dignified they all look. (Except maybe the girl in the bottom right corner, who is Laurencin the artist.) Something about it makes me happy. Maybe it’s just the story. Or maybe it’s the dog. I like thinking of artists all hanging out and loving and making mistakes with each other. I know it’s me romanticizing again but ha, isn’t what I’ve been doing this entire post? Isn’t that what I always do?

I’ve been reading a beautiful book. Here is a quote:

Because Momik has this gift, a gift for all kinds of languages no one understands, he can even understand the silent kind that people who say maybe three words in their whole life talk, like Ginzburg who says, Who am I who am I, and Momik understands that he’s lost his memory and that now he’s looking for who he is everywhere even in the garbage cans, and Momik has decided to suggest (they’ve been spending a lot of time together on the bench lately) that he should send a letter to the radio program Greetings from New Immigrants, and maybe someone would recognize him and remind him who he is and where he got lost, oh yes, Momik can translate just about anything. He is the translator of the royal realm. He can even translate nothing into something.

All of the kids in Noe Valley dress like princesses and superheros. If you go out on a Sunday, or even a weekday or a Saturday (but always on Sundays), you will see them skipping around the streets or tugging on their parent’s hands–Little princesses in Disney costumes somewhat at odds with their bicycle helmets. Boys wearing spiderman pajamas and crocks. It’s like stepping into another world where everyone is magic and has lots of money.

I’ve been listening to new songs recommended by an old friend. They make me happy and sad at the same time. But then, most everything worth loving usually does. Except for maybe dogs, potatoes, and ice cream. They’re always perfect.

I found a dive bar by my house where the bartender dances, they play Johnny Cash and Bonnie Rait, and the other night when I was walking by on the way back from the grocery store everyone was singing take me out to the ball game during the 7th inning stretch of the Giants game.

That. Is. So. Cool.

I was talking on the phone today, and I wanted to finish my conversation so I sat down on some steps before getting on the MUNI on Montgomery. A man saw me sitting there in my dress on the phone, I might have looked worried though I’m not sure why, and he came up and asked if I was okay.

I told him I was great but it was nice of him to stop and check.

I like it here.

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Megan’s wannabe literary week in review

The extremely organized system I use to gather my thoughts.

The extremely organized system I use to gather my thoughts.

“I have made up thousands of stories; I have filled innumerable notebooks with phrases to be used when I have found the true story, the one story to which all these phrases refer. But I have never yet found that story. And I begin to ask, Are there stories?” – The Waves Virginia Woolf

Yes! I love starting off a piece of writing with a dramatic quotation. I wish I could start off everything I write this way. Don’t you feel like I’m about to say something really profound now? Don’t you feel like the rest of my writing should somehow follow through on the deep sentiments introduced by this most beautiful and amazing of all quotations?

Well, sorry, it’s not. (Well, not much anyway.) I’m just going to do what a lot of other amateur blog authors do and talk about myself.

Lets get to that shall we…

So okay, the quote above is not completely unrelated, since this little post is about my phrases and stories (and/or the collective lack there of). You see, I do this thing where while I’m at work, or in the car, at home, or anywhere really I’ll write down random notes to myself about books, authors that sound interesting, phrases I found particularly fun, ideas for stories I’ll never actually write, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea.

Most of the time, I never use these notes in any constructive way (I currently have three notebooks filled with this stuff) so I thought I’d at least use them as creative fodder for blog posts. You know, to fill the time until I find my one true story to which all these notes refer–whatever that story may be. (With my luck it’s some lame chick lit novel or I dunno, a self-help book, or, worse than all that–maybe there IS no story at all in which case I will die a terribly lonely unnotable death.)

But until that day, I’ll console myself with the notes thing.

So here they are.  Above you will see a photo of this week’s accumulated notes. Below you will see (and hopefully enjoy) their actual content…

Books Found
My friend Laurie gave me Newsweek’s list of Fifty Books for Our Times at work this week so most of my book selections come from there.

  • A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor
  • The Bear, William Faulkner
  • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
  • The Rehearsal, Elenor Catton
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery

I saved The Elegance of the Hedgehog for last because it’s one of those books I’ve probably picked up at the bookstore about four or five times now but I’ve never bought it. (For whatever reason whenever I read the back jacket it just hasn’t sounded appealing enough to buy.)

But all that’s in the past. Because all this week, I kept seeing and hearing about this book everywhere–and by everywhere I mean in the real world, in the printed world, and on the internet (the web wide world?).

Places I saw this book:

  • On a table at the Bookshop Santa Cruz
  • In the hands of a woman at Sea Cliff State Beach. (I was running by and she was holding it, though not reading.)
  • Powell’s Book’s (online) bestseller list
  • In the Fifty Books of Our Time list given to me by Laurie
  • And I can’t remember where else but probably some review online or something.

So yes, I’m aware that seeing a bestselling novel around is not really all that weird. Especially if you tend to read a lot about books and frequent a lot of bookstores. But still… don’t you think it’s just a little weird? I mean, especially the beach one?

The last time this happened to me with a book it was The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss. I kept picking it up at the bookstore but I never actually took it home until Camille, another friend, actually photocopied a passage from it she thought I might like and gave it to me at work. And of course I loved it, because Camille knows my silly heart well, and I went out and bought it the next day. I think I read The History of Love in two mad nights where I ignored all my friends and social plans (or lack there of haha) to stay in and lose myself in other people’s sad beautiful lives. Ha, and now it’s one of my favorites.

I think it’s rather fitting the way I found the book though. I mean, it’s almost its own love story. Kind of like the ‘meet cute’ stories people tell about how they first met… “I kept seeing him around town but never really went to talk to him until one day a friend introduced us at a party…” It was like the book and I were meant to be. And as sad as it may be that I feel this way about books (the same way that I feel about people) I also secretly think it’s really cool.

Because you know what this means?! It means that maybe my most favorite of all books–my one, true, and only book–is right under my nose and I don’t even know it yet! It could be on my bookshelf right now. It could be sitting on my desk. Or, ooooh, maybe it could be The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

I dunno, I like the idea that there may be stories out there waiting for us to find them.  That there is some kind of weird book destiny that gives us the exact book we need to read at the exact moment we need to read it. Just like how we can meet the exact people we need to meet at exactly the right time.

And wow, it kind of ties in to the introductory quote huh? Because maybe there are stories waiting for us to write them as well. Maybe there are stories out there just just waiting to be told. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Authors Found
Or, in this week’s case, poets.

  • John Clare
  • Hugo Williams

Words or Phrases Found

  • “Poets are different from other people in that they remain inconsolable.”
  • “noetic and ineffable” and “epistemological profundity”
    (I thought these were just too silly. I love knowing that there are people in the world who actually talk this way.)
  • “And if I am singing, then loneliness has lost its shape, and this quiet is only quiet.”
  • “Children feel your pain.”

Stories Found
As in weird ideas for stories I will never write…

Preface
I write marketing copy for a living and every single time I turn something in for review I have to fight the urge to preface it with a long description of all the things I think are weak, the parts I don’t like, and the content I think could be tweaked to make it better. I dunno, it’s this weird desire I have not too look like an idiot. Some insecure writer part of me that wants to let people know, “Ya, I know this sucks, I’m not stupid, but I don’t know how to make this not suck so any suggestions you have would be great.”

 

Most of the time it’s not even bad, it’s actually pretty good. But there are always a few things I’m unsure about.

 

So I thought a fun story might be the notes someone adds to the beginning of a story or manuscript before turning it in. I could indulge in my own blatant insecurities while, hopefully, making people laugh. This is pretty much the bulk of the idea. I suppose I should have a character who I’ll make even crazier then me.  And, naturally, they will be incredibly desperate.

I don’t know why but I really enjoy writing about desperate people. I should probably not think about that too much.

What Happens to Pictures After They Burn
I was reading about a house fire earlier this week and I got to thinking about how what most people really regret losing is their photographs. How do you console these people? How do you confront the loss of these simple material things that so easily become more than simple material things? After all a photograph is an odd thing — it’s a piece of art and yet, like many pieces of art, it’s also sort of a piece of yourself. And maybe it’s just a memory, a memento. So how do you deal with the loss of such things?

You write a story about it I guess. Ha, but this is my answer to many of life’s questions — one of those non-answer answers. Kind of like how supercalifragilisticexpialodocious is what you say when you can’t think of anything to say.

But the story idea is this — while looking over the remains of her lost home a mother consoles her child’s (and in the process also her own) worries about what happens to pictures after they burn. She will, of course, do this by lying and telling outrageous stories.

Some of the things she will tell her worried child about the pictures and what happens to them:

 

 

 

 

  • One picture will turn into dust, get breathed in by a sleeping child, and become a dream.
  • Another picture will become a black square a woman will find while walking home. The woman will always wonder what that black square was a picture of and in this way the picture will become a mystery.
  • Yet another picture will turn into ashes which will float away in the wind, get stuck in a man’s eye at a particularly opportune moment, and become the catalyst for his tears–In this way the picture will become a release.

This story will, of course, be incredibly bittersweet like most stories that are built on beautiful lies.

Endings Found
So okay, I didn’t actually “find” an ending so I’m just making this one up instead.  Though the idea of a found ending does sound kind of creepy and fun.

Either way, hopefully these notes will one day turn into those great big cosmic stories of destiny (or will at least contribute to them somehow) but until then they can  just chill here.

Hm… like a purgatory of sorts. I like that for some reason. (Though maybe it’s just because I like all the hidden meanings I create for myself.)

Then again, maybe it’s that I can relate. Maybe it’s because I’m always waiting for something too.