Santa Barbara CA, 5.30pm, balcony of Bath St Inn 5/24/14Never having owned a car, I never really understood what people meant by the American love affair with the motor car, or why, in the face of all the negatives, car culture is the one pervasive presence across climates, states, attitudes to life in general. Today we had a sun dappled and windswept drive, top of the car down in the twisty roads of the Hollywood hills, and a long run up the 101 North out of Los Angeles as half the town crawled painfully South after Memorial Day weekend. Watching thousands of cars stationary on the other side of the median was immensely guilty-making, but reinforced the luck, the privilege, the liberation from the norm that we embodied as we sped along - everything, I think, Krissa had been hoping for when we first talked about getting a convertible. I'm not saying I fell in love with the motor car today, but her appeal was made exquisitely clear, even as her downsides - a miles-long jam under smoggy skies, were embarrassingly intrusive as well.
I was in stitches at this, and Krissa had to take me to a room with gargantuan iron spiral forms until I calmed down.Having traveled from Germany to Manhattan wrapped in felt, Beuys spent a week in a room with coyote.
"Well, you and I are probably now two out of perhaps six people in New York State that know this. Right! Anyway, you know where I am if you need me for anything else. Bye."
I wrote this in February 2012 for my old writing group, and only got to read it last night as the group was meeting at our apartment - Krissa is still involved.
In Brooklyn and waiting to cross a street two women on the other side share a kiss and turn and smile out at the world and I smiled back, doubly happy to see love and its free expression, when there are places in the world where it would be possible but not prudent to kiss at a crosswalk when your lover is of the same sex. The taller of the two caught my eye and my smile and I held it , suppressing the fear of being thought a leering voyeur, but she smiled again and looked away and I was relieved at not breaking her out of whatever world they were inhabiting.
Sitting in a mostly empty subway car at twenty to seven in the evening and heading to the village, near me was a drag queen in a large curly wig and leopard print minidress adjusting her makeup with a jerky staccato movements that suggested a mixture of verve and nerves. Halfway down the car behind her, two men in white lace skullcaps and leather jackets were loudly discussing alcohol in Islam in the middle of the carriage and I realized I would be okay with living in New York for a long time.
I get a sort of mental tic from time to time, like I imagine some people get vertigo or flashbacks, of what it is I?m looking at or doing. Making coffee in a skyscraper made of hot-rolled steel and long-set concrete, three hundred feet above the ground. Sitting in a ponderous heavy metal canister propelled along rails by electricity at forty miles an hour, reading a book, under a river. Breathe in. Alveoli exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide at the gas-blood barrier, do nothing with the nitrogen. Breathe out. Stepping outside onto the office balcony for some fresh air and a view of downtown and the harbor, where a tugboat is buoyed upwards with a force equal to the weight of the Hudson river water it displaces, and moves forward due to the effect of differential pressure over the moving blades of its propeller like wings and described by Bernoulli?s equation which you can demonstrate by blowing between two sheets of paper... I have spent so much of my life learning how to isolate things...to recognize the systems in the world. When alone they can be simplified and understood. Sometimes things will ?click? into that isolation of perception when, suddenly alone on the stage, they embody a remembered fact or relationship that is completely and abstractly true but utterly irrelevant to the ocean of real movement and life in which we are immersed.
I stepped out of my office building, abrupt into streams of people and into the path of a blonde woman in a smart blue coat walking hard, crying, brushing her hair from her face and talking on the telephone.
?And now you?re trying to break up with me like this, when you?re mad at me, and you don?t want to talk. Let?s not do this now.?
Blocked by flow in both directions I was forced into an evasive intimacy with her as she listened, and a snatch of voice, digitized but unmistakably emotionally aroused in tone, briefly dopplered past my ear and I couldn?t help but turn as she passed me and heard her say, ?It?s not right to do this,? as she became lost in the crowd.
I thought of a boyfriend, an angry situation of no real importance any more and a sudden coldness of the heart like a blanket being lifted from the skin, and the ease and surgical finality of using the telephone to remove someone from your life, and how terrible it is.
I pursed my lips in sharp sympathy and crossed the street to the subway station by the church and thought that it might only be through the persistent application of humanity to time, day after day, that we ever accomplish at all. Just think of all the impersonality and restriction and structure we?ve made and have to deal with and how simple and sad it is to become inundated by it, or to withdraw into it, to be seduced by its ease or broken by its complications. It is near miraculous and bloody marvellous that we manage to reach out from behind all our thoughts and memories and ego and through our perceptions to find consensus on anything at all, let alone to love and share and risk...that we all take small steps - forward and backward - we progress and regress - deliberately, accidentally, and voluntarily for long stretches of time for a million reasons which occur to us from one moment to the next and even though we realize what we?re doing isn?t that tiring and inspiring at the same time?
We had a great scotch (thanks Luke) and a cigar each (thanks Jen and Lavina) around a fire, telling jokes in the dark in the stand of tall trees behind the lodge. And Harry showed me how you can heat copper pennies in a fire, poke them when they get soft, and drain out the zinc inside.
To live in one land is captivitie
Women, are like the Arts, forc'd unto none,
Open to'all ſearchers, unpriz'd, if unknowne.If I have caught a bird, and let him flie,Another fouler uſing theſe meanes, as I,May catch the ſame bird; and, as theſe things bee,Women are made for men, not him, nor mee.
Donne was a priest by the way. It's basically a treatise on how monogamy sort of sucks.Though Danuby into the ſea muſt flow,The ſea receives the Rhene, Volga, and Po.By nature, which gave it, this libertyThou lov'ſt, but Oh! canſt thou love it and mee?
...rather let meeAllow her change, then change as oft as shee,And ſoe not teach, but force my'opinionTo love not any one, nor every one.To live in one land, is captivitie,To runne all countries, a wild roguery;Waters ſtincke ſoone, if in one place they bide,And in the vaſt ſea are more putrifi'd:But when they kiſſe one banke, and leaving thisNever looke backe, but the next banke doe kiſſe,Then are they pureſt; Change'is the nurſeryOf muſicke, joy, life, and eternity.
I wanted to post something...so here's a snapshot of right this second.
I'm sitting in the cafe carriage of an Amtrak train heading towards Boston, Massachusetts. It's about twenty to six, and it's dark outside. I'm set up with a laptop and phone and mouse and water bottle in a corner, with headphones on and a colleague on the other side of the table. It's getting a little cold in here, but the orange and white lights of stray roads and houses out in the darkness are wheeling and flowing past one another to the sound of Mr. Scruff's 'Jazz Potato' and the Cinematic Orchestra's 'Flite' and it's good train music.
I'm working, on and off at least. After working on the project for almost 7 years (on and off at least) I'm attending the public opening of the new Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum extension. My suit is in my bag and I'm excited, although the bag is in a luggage rack at the other end of the carriage behind me and I am worried someone has walked off with it. I will probably give in to the anxiety and check on it soon.
While I haven't missed the concern over blogging everything in my life, it's apparent when there are gaps on flickr or here that where there was an account or could have been an account of my life (autoblography, hello) there isn't one. And while I may not feel the urge to share as much as I used to, through age, apathy, prudence or all three, that record is something I love having. So whatever it is, however infrequent or pointless, I'm just going to keep doing this. Snapshots, or small moments, tiny aides-memoire, small links to what is a much more personal whole, anchored fragments in the greater stream of time slewing past in the real world like landscape past a cafe car window.
Getting George to perform is not always easy.
This becomes obvious.
TO DO: URGENT!!!1. Ensure own existence2. Bring Dad back from dead (secure socio-economic wellbeing of USA if time)3. Rescue Doc from ravenous schoolteacherPS: Do not, repeat DO NOT BOFF MOM
A shift in perspective of 200 miles...New York to Boston, or London to Manchester...and the sky is a sea below.
It's infinity is deceptive; it is far from neverending, and merely big things can change.
Especially as those orange lights spread and burn in the night.
Krissa: Okay, I love you! About pizza tonight...I defrosted the sauce and the dough and they're stored separately in the fridge. I'll keep you posted on when I leave class so you can start the pizzas while I'm traveling...I'll try and text from the bridge so you can preheat the oven and roll out the dough; if you decide to assemble it while I'm walking home that's fine, or we can assemble it together!
7 minutesStuart: I just ate a chicken foot
I am learning Portuguese - Brazilian Portuguese. Six years after marrying into a multilingual Brazilian based family I am going to upgrade from ‘gringo’ status to ‘enthusiastic gringo’. In December there will be a big Brazilian family get together. I'm really looking forward to it, but I have three months to avoid sitting in the corner smiling politely with a Caipirinha for the entire week of Christmas.
I studied French and Spanish in school, and the Gallo-Irish nun who taught me French lambasted me for choosing Spanish over German for my second language. She thought very little of the romance languages. “Thee are all the seem!” She said. As a habitually lazy student, I saw this as a rare opportunity. Learning Spanish would get me Italian and Portuguese with very little effort, and by great coincidence, very little effort is my specialty.
Fourteen years on there are some linguistic dregs still sloshing about at the bottom of the memory glass, and while my remaining stock of Spanish phrases is starting to consolidate around the ones used to complain about late takeout, I still try to follow whenever conversations with Krissa's family completely accidentally slip into Portuguese even though I am sitting right there next to them at the dinner table. Sometimes the flow of the conversation is so obvious I join in and make a comment in English.
This never works.
When I am learning on the computer, this is what I must sound like to Krissa, who speaks both English and Portuguese.
I worry that the computer takes pity on me after five or six attempts.
Earlier this summer Krissa ridiculed a British character on television for their accent, and attempted to mimic the way they said ‘milk’. There is no real L in the Cockney ‘milk’. It’s a dead vowel sound instead. We spent a while in conversation about the finer points of this.
"Miuhk," I said."Moiiik.""Miuhk.""Moiiik."
"Moiiik""No. Pow.""No. Moiiiik.""No. Powwoo.""No. Moiiik."
Now I am learning Portuguese properly my vocabulary is expanding but my pronunciation is still terrible, and the fear I have, as my rough and ready skills expand, is that confidence and the delight in learning will lead me to completely ignore pronunciation because it’s insanely difficult. I am haunted by one of my childhood favourite TV characters - in ‘Allo Allo!’, a rompy sitcom set in Nazi occupied France over a garish laugh track. ‘Crabtree’ was an undercover English spy whose French was perfect - apart from the vowels. He would walk into the cafe and draw the owner conspiratorially aside.
"Good moaning. I am the bronger of bod toadings. The Brootosh Air Farce have dropped their bums on the witterworks."
This is exactly how I currently sound in Portuguese, but I’m getting a little better here and there- I don’t have a completely inflexible accent.
When precisely drunk enough and in the company of not-too-many people I can do an English country bumpkin accent. When slightly drunker and in the company of just Krissa, I can apply my 6 years of living in these United States and do a passable American accent, as long as a gravelly 1980s movie announcement qualifies as an American accent.
I understand that the intricacies and myriad subtleties of human expression mean that the tiniest shift in tone can change a meaning and that any language student needs to be sensitive to this, and above all patient with themselves and the natives. For example! I once bought a train ticket from a window booth in the South of France without getting arrested.
“Good morning!” I said, in French. “I would like a ticket to Grenoble, please.”
“Grenoble.”“I do not know this place.”“Grenoble...it’s one of the largest cities in France, in the mountains-”The salesman cut me off triumphantly.“AH-HAH! You mean Grenobl!”
Reading Leah's post here about how strange it is to have blog relationships that go back longer than other 'real world' ones (and it is), I looked back at my banner.
I took this last night on the approach to La Guardia after a trip to DC. The stewardess only asked me to turn the phone off after I'd finished taking pictures. It's okay if you plunge everyone to death by avionics failure if you're in first class.
I don't really buy into the mindset that iPods and other non-broadcasting electronics are capable of electromagnetic leaping ninja kicks. The whole idea of turning off anything electronic during takeoff and landing is overkill. There has to be a good debunk of this somewhere online.
20th September, 2003. Refugio de Los Albergues, Pitres.
Let me bring you to this place.
There is no road that can being you here, no train. You can only reach this place yourself. On a sparsely wooded stretch of the valley slopes there is a small flat area of land, five minutes' walk from the village, along a dusty and rocky path that smells of goat droppings. There are trees all around. A terrace below supports apple trees and pine, beneath spiky-fruited chesnuts. The mountains surrounding this place are scrubby, gold and green and brown, grey-blue in the distance. The sun is warm and low, and the shadows are long. It is late summer and trodden-down yellow hay fills the gaps between grey stones. It is silent but for distant cocks crowing, the bells of a church at sunset, and the village dogs. There are tables, with metal chairs painted white that sit awkwardly on the uneven ground, and there is a long, low building here, its walls covered with piles of firewood. Off to one side of the terrace there is a swimming pool, five metres long and lined with black plastic tarpaulin with a rusting ladder at one end, lined with rough stones around its edge. It is slowly replenished with water from a garden hose, covered with pondweed, and full of fish. The old German woman who runs this place sits by the side of the pool smoking a rolled cigarette, staring into the water. She is wearing thick grey hiking socks under her plastic sandals, light blue and white three-quarter length trousers and a green t-shirt. Her name is Barbara.
A spinning column of midges dance in and out of the tall frame of plant-knotted steel that receives the telephone wire.
The building is made of stone, with irregular mortar; it has a roof of terracotta and bamboo. The window frames and wooden shutters are a deep maroon, and the fly-screens are green. The inside walls are white. The kitchen has two sinks and a gas stove run from round orange bottles. The wooden kitchen shelves are covered with packets of teas from countries all over Europe, and three-quarter empty plastic bottles of oil which give the room a rich musky smell. There is an wide open sitting room with a smooth concrete floor and a large fireplace bordered with woodpiles. Highbacked chairs surround a table in front of the fireplace. A hand-held griddle for making toast rests on the mantelpiece. There are two squat bookcases, with books in seven languages...literature, guidebooks, maps. A large chessboard rests against the wall next to the fireplace, beneath a German anti-war poster from 1924. There is a dartboard, a chalkboard and three paintings; abstract, bold lines; and a map of Andalucia on the door to the dormitory. There are 12 bunks, closely spaced, with thin mattresses. The washroom has two sinks and a shower where a tree from outside is growing through the wall.
The stars are amazing.