snaps

One of the main ways I use the phone in my camera is as a memory aid. I take pictures of products at a store so I can look online at home and compare prices. In New York, I take a picture of where the car is parked, since we have to move it every other day and the days and parking spots blur together. I take a picture of a passage in a book if it mentions something I want to remember, like the name of another book. (I also use the notepad in my phone for things like that, but quelle chaos. I have 25 separate notes, each one listing dozens of fragments of things I must’ve thought I’d remember, but looking through them now it’s a disastrous approach.)

Yesterday I had to clear up some space on my phone and realized that I’d been collecting things with a similar tone. (I also had a couple of screen shots of Amelia’s pavlova recipe, and I’m dying to make it so I kept those.) A kind of theme emerged and showed me where my attention has been collecting:

kierkegaard

Isn’t that true — how horrible to lose yourself, and how invisibly it happens? How quietly? You just wake up one day and don’t recognize yourself, maybe you’ve been giving yourself away and there’s nothing left, or maybe someone has been chipping away at you and you flinch and diminish yourself until there’s no you left. Both have happened to me, and when you finally have that moment of clarity and see it, it’s shocking. And he’s right: it’s the greatest hazard of all.

mad

I think this one goes with the one above in an inverse way — and maybe especially for those who have needed to reclaim/rediscover/rebirth themselves. And if you’ve disappeared yourself, it was because in some way you were willing to choose what other people thought over your own thoughts or experiences or even who you were (or maybe you had to, to save yourself in some way). So coming back around to yourself, and being willing to be knowledgeable, willing to express your power, and especially willing to be angry . . . well, folks never like that. I’ve learned that, too.

pretty

YOU DO NOT OWE PRETTINESS TO ANYONE. Be pretty to yourself, the way you feel pretty. You don’t have to wear make-up and dye your hair for anyone (do it for yourself if you like it). You don’t have to wear shoes that hurt your feet. You don’t have to squeeze into clothes that make it hard to breathe. You don’t have to smile because a man on the street tells you to. Of course this is still a fraught thing for women, because you can be killed for resisting those demands, and in the United States, the political tenor is flying so fast towards Handmaid’s Tale it’s FRIGHTENING. Especially in states controlled by Republicans, like Texas, where you get the double whammy of federal and state constrictions on being female. (Or rather, not-male.) But I think this bigger view, “you don’t owe it to civilisation in general” makes it clear what a ridiculous idea it is that we have to spend so much time, energy, money, and discomfort on “being pretty.” Fuck pretty, man. Fuck it. If you are pretty and enjoy that, if you are pretty and like making yourself pretty because it pleases you, then go you. Do that thing. Otherwise, fuck it. I’m so done. I get to participate in a Handmaid protest at the Texas Capitol next Tuesday and national press will be there; we have to agree to be interviewed in order to participate, and I’m going to need to rehearse answers to possible questions, because I AM SO ANGRY my responses would likely be incoherent otherwise.

rape

The specific article that we were discussing in the thread is no longer available on the site, unfortunately, but I strongly recommend The What’s Underneath project. (FOUND IT! It’s by artist Diane Goldie.) Obviously I was moved by the comments of a woman who had been raped (who hasn’t?? Fewer than those who have, I fear), and still feel a chill at her perfect description of what it can do. If you have time for one video, you might enjoy this one: God is a Black Woman With a Good Sense of Humor. The article opens with this great quote: “My favorite thing about aging? That I’m still alive.” Me too, Roselyn Lionhart. Me too.

tas

The least we can do is try to be there. I love this quote that beautiful Maggie shared, because it resonates with something I always say, which is that the sky is just there, day in and day out, putting on a big dramatic show, new in each moment, and we don’t even usually notice it. (I mean, I tend to be one of the oddballs who does notice it, and when I point it out to someone they often seem a little bewildered, like yeah, clouds. 🙂 )

(Also, follow Maggie on IG. She’s a glorious writer of books and articles, and lives on a farm in Tasmania, and her photographs knock my socks off so often I just wear flip-flops.)

Happy Wednesday. After a cold, rainy, windy time in NYC it turned gorgeous yesterday, on my leaving day….and I arrive in Austin after a period of gorgeous days to a period of upcoming rainy days. Life, you jokester.

the surest sign

​This was parked outside my living room window this morning:

Surer than any robin longing to be the harbinger of spring, surer than any yellowing, oranging, or reddening of a leaf, surer than the shift of light, surer than a cooling of temperatures, the oil truck means the season is changing. Winter is coming — even before we get the pleasures of fall, the oil is here. Even though the temperatures are really wonderful, perfect during the day and sleeping-cool at night, the co-op board will have the super turn on the boiler, and it’ll run until next May (and late May, at that). And when that happens, air conditioning season begins in earnest.

Even though the season mentioned in this quote is spring, not fall, I thought of it this morning for some reason. It’s Joan Didion:

“I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.” 

​Isn’t that so lovely? And we who saw 22 or 23 in the rearview mirror a few decades ago probably remember that sense of having a high emotional balance in the future — I sure do. And here I am, chock full of emotional balance. I wouldn’t mind, just for an hour or two, having her feeling once more, although I do know and experience the sense that something extraordinary could happen any minute, here in New York. That doesn’t go away.

​Happy Tuesday, y’all. We’re autumn drizzly today, which isn’t too bad now and then. Hope it’s whatever you want, wherever you are.

reality

Happy Monday y’all! Want to think about reality and scripts? That’s what I’m doing over coffee this morning.

I always wonder about this, when it seems like everything I take in is converging on the same theme. It must not be, really; it must just be that I’m thinking about something and so I see it among all the rest, call it out in some way. But what I’ve been thinking about lately is reality and genuine experience, and how difficult it is to have that in a pure way. I mentioned this last week when I was talking about Gillian Flynn’s great book Gone Girl, the way we’re all operating from the same script and we know what to do in any situation because we’ve seen it so many times. Someone grabs a gun for the first time and knows just how to hold it in a number of different situations. Creeping around a corner? Hold it in both hands, pointing up near your ear. In an urban setting? Sideways, ghetto-style (but don’t really do that, it’s not how you shoot a gun). Have a minute, and need a good aim? Spread your legs out, both hands on the gun, arms rigid out in front. In the dark? It’s useful if you have a small flashlight so you can hold it in one hand directly above the gun, in the other hand — they’ll never see your gun.

When I was a kid, I don’t think most people knew those things. We watched Get Smart, Mission Impossible, Gunsmoke, the Mod Squad.  Guns were played for a joke, or for decoration, or for shootouts down by the corral.

Now I’m reading Half Empty, by David Rakoff, and one of the chapters is about what it is to be a creative person — an artist, a writer.  In a brilliant take-down of the hallowed and revered play Rent, he smashes the tropes of creative person as moping slacker, the creative person as drunk abuser, all those ways we “know” creative people behave. Brooklyn hipsters, he could’ve added. Actually, a creative person creates. If you do not write, or paint, or draw, or sculpt (or whatever your medium), you are posing. But we all know the ways to pose, don’t we? It’s part of our vocabulary, we have it among all the other dog-eared, worn-out scripts.

This morning I was thinking about ways to have genuine experience that isn’t so deeply filtered through the media that it can really be called genuine and I was struggling. Something outdoors, I thought, pushing the edge in nature. Skydiving..,nope. Rock climbing nope. Seen it. Know what to wear, how to stand around waiting, how to appropriately display my joy and experience. OK, something intimate, between two people, born of a moment and everything else disappears. Nope. Seen it. Know all the various ways it can play out (oh so many ways), how to hold my face, things to say. My own idea of a great reading experience came from Little Women, when Jo took a basket of apples up into the attic and sat in the window, reading and eating apples and glancing out the window at Laurie, who was there in the snow. So when I have the rare opportunity to do some luxurious and pointed reading, I always think about getting an apple. Saturday morning I met my friends Sherlock and Peggy for breakfast downtown in the meatpacking district, and there we sat, like characters in a movie, at a table on the sidewalk, with our charming waitress of indeterminate European accent, our adorable little salt and pepper shakers shaped like cute dogs, our catching up. We three are pretty clever and the conversation was great fun, and with just a little script help from Woody Allen, maybe, it could’ve been a scene in any movie about New York. (I’d prefer to be shot in black and white please, for a stylish look.)

Most of our experiences are of the utterly mundane variety, and we’re probably not even thinking of them as experience. We go to meetings, we do some tedious work, we walk from here to there, we make a phone call, we stop by the store on the way home, we clean the kitchen after dinner. When I first learned about scripts in a college psychology course, I thought it was fascinating; ah, we have the “go to a restaurant” script, that’s why we know exactly what to do. Stand at the hostess spot, she gets menus, escorts us to a table, the guy fills our water glasses, we read the menus, the waitress tells us the specials, comes back and takes our orders, etc. Isn’t that interesting! Now, though, I’m thinking it’s not interesting as much as it is kind of terrible. I read this Lorrie Moore quote, from Birds of America:

What makes humans human is precisely that they do not know the future. That is why they do the fateful and amusing things they do: who can say how anything will turn out? Therein lies the only hope for redemption, discovery, and-let’s be frank—fun, fun, fun! There might be things people will get away with. And not just motel towels. There might be great illicit loves, enduring joy, faith-shaking accidents with farm machinery. But you have to not know in order to see what stories your life’s efforts bring you. The mystery is all.

And that’s my exact point. The mystery is all, and there is mystery to be had, sure, but we know how we’ll hold our faces if any of the known endings comes about, we know what we’ll say. I kind of hate that.