The purpose of this entry is to add visuals to the mood of my last entry.
Every year at the lakehouse, I take pictures. When I look at them months later (as I just looked at 2010's a moment ago), I notice a theme. Okay, not a theme, but a general ambiance that reflects the mood I was in that year. So even though I've photographed every square inch of the lake, the beach, the dock, the boathouse and the cottage in Upstate New York spanning pretty much my entire life, each year the results are different.
Usually they're calm, at peace, poetic and lilting.
Last year's were fiery and fun.
And then there's this year, which matched my sluggish brain to a 'T'.
I should mention that I do not purposefully set out to have my photographs match my mood. It just happens. In a way, it's a striking diary of where I've been, headspace-wise, for each of the last 20 years or so.
This summer I went through a strange bout of … depression? … for lack of a better term, which manifested itself by my brain kinda just shutting down instead of dealing, confronting, processing, etc. I spent a few months floating around in a daze, unable to get my cranial capacity past first gear.
I was very much looking forward to a week at my lakehouse in Upstate New York — my childhood Mecca and my adulthood retreat — the only place in the world where I can read a book cover to cover uninterrupted by people, technology or (most importantly) the noise from my own head. Considering how much noise there had been this summer, the day couldn't come soon enough where I could shut everything down and live on the equivalent of my laptop's "sleep" mode.
My dates for the lake were August 9th through the 16th, Tuesday through Tuesday.
On Monday the 8th, Ben and I were in Metairie doing errands. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch when I got a call from my uncle John. I smiled. He's calling to tell me how happy everyone is I'm coming, and how lovely the weather is, I thought. I answered the phone, "Heyyyy! How's everything!"
"Great!" replied John. "Where are you?"
"Oh, just doing some last-minute stuff at home, getting ready to pack."
[a long pause]
"Well, I'm at Rochester airport," said John, "waiting for you."
Something heavy in my chest detached and fell through my torso, down my leg, and landed inside my foot.
"But … tomorrow's Tuesday," I stammered idiotically, blood pumping in my ears with dread.
"Yes, it is. But today's the 9th," replied John.
No, that's impossible. My trip is from Tuesday to Tuesday, I argued pointlessly with myself. That Tuesday-through-Tuesday line was a near mantra to me for the last several weeks. I couldn't be wrong. I couldn't. Could I?
I checked my phone's calendar. Of course, he was right. I had missed my morning flight because I was incapable of keeping the days straight. Laptop : sleep mode.
"I'll call you right back," I said.
Ben stared at me incredulously in the restaurant parking lot. "You missed your flight?!"
I rang AA to see what could be done. Miraculously, the woman told me I could still get to Rochester today, late. I didn't think it was possible. Both MSY and ROC are one-horse airports and American only flies to either begrudgingly. A later flight was something I didn't think possible.
She charged me a mere $50 change fee (or "idiot tax" as Ben and I call it), as opposed to the $400+ I thought I'd have to pay by buying a new full-fare ticket. Considering my embarrassing synaptic lapse, I thought I was getting off pretty easily.
I called John back: "Okay. I got a flight. It gets in late," I said, wincing, knowing John's bedtime was usually 8:00, being one of those early to bed, early to rise people I've read about in stories, but rarely met in real life.
John is also an incredibly easy-going person whose sense of humor never flags. Instead of sighing and lecturing, he laughed and said, "That's fine. I'm glad you got a flight. I'll go play a game of golf and take in a movie."
"Wow. You're incredible," I said, my mind still in a fuzzy state of dread and embarrassment. We hung up.
"Sorry Ben," I said in the parking lot. "No time for lunch. Gotta go home and pack. I should just be able to make my flight."
"Yes. Okay. Let's go," said Ben.
Driving home, feeling lower than low, I asked myself aloud, "What is wrong with me?" This flight snafu was merely another manifestation of how my brain had been working — or not working — for several weeks. I looked to my boyfriend for comforting words.
What I got instead was that same incredulous look. He repeated my words back to me: "Honey, what is wrong with your cat head?"
"I don't know!" I fairly screamed in the car. Trying to lighten my mood, I added, "But hey, at least you can drive me to the airport and I can save the $40 cab fare I would have spent tomorrow morning — or this morning — or whateverthefuck morning…"
I packed hastily and we drove to MSY. I was routed through Chicago. When I got to ORD, I found my brain was even more sluggish, as if it were a puppy kicked one too many times and now hiding under the coffee table. That's okay, I thought. I won't need my brain for the next week. That's what the lake is for. I'll recharge my batteries, reading books on a raft in the water for a week, and come home sharper, improved, positively bionic in intellect!
I checked my iPhone. I had three or four hours of layover in Chicago. I went outside, had some smokes, beeped and bopped on my iPhone for awhile, mind as addled as a late-career Ronald Reagan.
At 9:30, I went to board my plane. There was no one at the TSA queue. The airport was suspiciously empty. I didn't think much about it.
The TSA dude wouldn't let me through. "Your plane already left," he said. "I can't let you through security."
I blinked bovinely. "What are you talking about? My flight's at 10:00pm."
"It's 11 now," he replied.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
"No, it's not," I said, taking out my iPhone and turning it on. "See?" The phone read 9:15.
He showed me his watch. 11:15.
"Your watch must be wrong," I said, glancing around the empty airport, that feeling of dread returning tenfold.
"I promise you it's not."
My mind "raced" (such as it was [in]capable of "racing") trying to figure out how I had bungled my travel plans twice in one day. Did I forget to take my phone off Airplane Mode? Was it not talking to the satellites? No, the phone was on the 3G system. And anyway, New Orleans and Chicago are in the same time zone.
As it turns out, my iPhone chose that one single time to decide that I had somehow moved to the west coast, and was reporting the time two hours earlier. Despite Apple's, or AT&T's incomprehensible fuck-up, that made me feel a little better — it wasn't entirely my fault.
Except, of course, it was. I should have known I didn't have a five hour layover, but, as I've said, my brain was thick porridge and my sense of the passage of time was as weak as that of a snake's or a goldfish's.
I went to the AA desk to arrange a new flight, but they had all gone home. I rang AA again and explained to them that this is what happens when they sell tickets to retards. The woman was very kind, and booked me on the 7am flight to Rochester with no fees.
I then had two more ugly phone calls to make. First, Uncle John:
"Hey. Um. You're not going to believe this…" I explained the situation. "So, I was thinking, if you want to grab a hotel near the airport, I'll happily pay for it and see you in the morning." It's a 3 hour round trip drive from the lakehouse to ROC.
John was exhausted, his bedtime having long been passed. Incredibly, he laughed at my predicament and, by proxy, his. "That's okay. I'll go back to the lake and your Aunt Kim will come out in the morning."
"Oh, god, seriously? All right. I'm sorry I've ruined your entire day. How was golf?"
"It started pouring, so I drove around Rochester for five hours," he said, laughing so hard he could hardly get it out. "This is the most depressing city since Kodak pulled out."
"And your movie?"
"Awful!" he howled. God, I love you John, I thought.
Then I called Ben and explained what had happened.
There was a long pause. Then, with absolute awe and disgust, as if there were palmetto bugs crawling on his phone, he repeated what he'd said to me so many hours ago in New Orleans: "What is WRONG with your CAT HEAD!?"
"I DON'T KNOW!!!" I wailed, near tears, except tears are a luxury reserved for those who can actually think clearly enough to to cry. My brain was too constipated to allow such relief, and I could feel the porridge getting colder, thicker, slower and more viscous by the second.
"You travel all the time!" said Ben. "What is wrong with you!?"
He was right. Getting from A to B in airports is something I can do blindfolded. It's as second nature as driving a car. Fucking up not one, but two flights in a single day felt like waking up and not being able to speak the language you were taught as a child and had been conversing in for 40 years.
I spent the night beeping and bopping on my phone. I didn't trust myself to take a nap in a seat in the airport lobby, although I was exhausted. If I missed my morning flight, I would have to do the proper Roman thing and take my own life. There would be no other honorable option.
My iPhone was losing its battery. The only electrical outlet I could find in the terminal at ORD was inside a janitor's closet, so I spent the next ten hours sitting on cold, hard marble next to brooms, mop buckets and bottles of cleansers, booping and beeping on my infernal, lying iPhone.Occasionally I would have to go outside into the warm August Chicago night air to thaw out my numb fingers, for the A/C in the terminal was set on 'stun'. 52°f, I'm thinking.
I caught the morning flight and got into ROC without incident (the gods do smile—infrequently, but still…) Kim was angry with me on the phone the night before, but we still somehow had a nice drive from the airport, laughing about my retardation. (Sometimes you have to laugh so you won't scream.)
I told her that my self-imposed penance would be to do all the dishes for the week (usually we all split up the chores at the lakehouse), and to assign myself the time-sucking task of driving to the airport to pick up anyone else flying in.
"There's only your cousin Eric tomorrow," she said, "and you're welcome to pick him up," she added, relieved she wouldn't have to make the drive again. I told her it would assuage my conscious to perform that task.
When the time came, I finished cleaning the dishes for the nth time and got in the car to pick up Eric. "Don't forget to get a dozen eggs on the way," said Kim. We had run out. No problem.
Somewhere around Canandaigua, an hour away from the lakehouse, I realized with a shock and another dropping feeling of dread that I had left my wallet back at the lake. This could be a huge problem because the NY Thruway is a toll road and I was penniless. I briefly considered doing the honorable Roman thing again, there, on the side of the road; such was my dismay at once again not being able to perform the simplest task without fucking it all up. My mind was so sluggish and thick I began questioning if this were a dream or a waking-state problem, Seriously.
Then I focused on the problem at hand. Should I drive back to the lake, adding two more hours onto the trip, to get my wallet, or was there another solution?
Upstate New York is a rustic place that seems to have stopped evolving around 1952. As such, there are little carts on the side of the road set up by farmers selling their fresh corn. (Sidenote: I'm not much of a corn eater, but Upstate NY sweet corn in August is something I look forward to every year.)
The carts are based on the honor system. Take some corn; drop some cash in the bucket.
DING! I would stop by this unmanned cart coming up on the right, take a couple ears of corn, feign putting money in the bucket, and extract the toll cash I would need. I justified this theft by promising the absent farmer I would stop on the way back and pay double for the corn, borrowing the cash from Eric.
I began to pull over to the cart when I remembered that John had a FastPass or whatever it's called in the windshield of the car, which bills the toll charge to your account. Phew. I wasn't looking forward to stealing from an Amish farmer. I planned the rest of the trip: I'd ask to borrow money from Eric for the eggs on the way home, and Kim need never know of this additional evidence that maybe her dear nephew was suffering from a brain tumor.
And so that's what I did. And my feeble plan worked, though that in no way made me feel any better about my recent track record.
The next day, I was floating on the raft in the lake, trying to contemplate just what the hell was wrong with me, but coming to no conclusions. I cracked open my book of Tennessee Williams' short stories and flipped through the contents. With short story anthologies, I usually read them in order, but one jumped out at me, entitled, "Happy August the 10th!" How could I not start with that one as it was the 10th, and a notable one for my departed senses and sensibilities.
The story was about two awful, single, middle-aged women sharing a flat in Manhattan, and explored their relationship of loathing for each other, and their complete co-dependency upon one another. It was very good.
John swam by. "What are you reading?"
"A short story called 'Happy August the 10th!' It seemed appropriate for today," I said, smiling.
He laughed. "Yah, except today is the 11th."
A flash in my mind: throw the book into the lake, secure some rocks around my midriff, and just drown myself right then and there.
Ben, upon reading this, said, "I come off pretty mean in that story."
"No!" I argued. "You weren't mean! Is that how it read?"
"I offered to get you a hotel in Chicago and rebook you through another carrier. I didn't just say, 'What's wrong with your cat head?'"
Just wanted to add that: Ben's not mean. He's super-supportive. That's why I married him.
P.P.S. I've been meaning to write this story since August the 10th (or, I guess, the 11th, actually), but I haven't been able to. Perhaps being in Chicago this week finally allowed me to revisit this mental place?
Yesterday docbrite and I went to the snake/reptile/bird/spider/weird bug expo in Westwego, setting our alarms for the crack of noon so we could spend a few hours with the creepy crawlies, and be back in New Orleans in time for the Saints game* at 3:00.
The drive out to the W'ank was pleasant. I saw a Piggly Wiggly, the southern grocery store that is never not funny to me. I didn't think we had any in Louisiana; thought it was a Mississippi/Alabammy thang.
I commented to PZB (and subsequently ruined the Piggly Wiggly logo forever) that the mascot's paper hat looked like an upside-down wahjayjay.
"Or a camel toe!" the Doc responded, cringing and fidgeting. Henceforth the Piggly Wiggly will be known as the Camelly Wammelly. Just so you know.
What, you don't see it?
We got to the expo and began examining the varmints. I had no real plans to buy anything. Ben had frowned at the thought. (He stills calls my python Scully, "that serpent," with a sour face.) PZB's own man was even more explicit in his instructions, having adjured me a few days earlier, "Don't let any more reptiles end up in my house!"
"Awkward!" I thought, being mediator between two opposing-idea friends. I relegated myself to the mute role of Switzerland.
I'm no herpetologist, and my experience with snakes is limited to my ball python, and the occasional boa constrictors I have seen and petted in my life, so I was wide-eyed as a child at Christmas examining all vastly differing and exquisite types of snakes on display in their little tupperware containers. King snakes, corn snakes, milk snakes, hognose snakes, each category boasting hundreds of variations. In the python world, I learned from a breeder that, "If you mix a spider with a pie, you get a bumblebee." The terminology was as foreign and hilarious to me as the nautical lexicon.
Every booth was a cavalcade of beautiful or bizarre critters. The "spitting horsestick bug" confused me the most, as it looked like neither a horse nor a stick, and it wasn't spitting.
Roadkill frogs (as I called them), apparently flatten themselves when scared, upset, depressed, moody, or contemplative and introspective.
A large begging tortoise was waddling about the expo asking for handouts.
The miniature dragon lizards liked to piggyback on each other (very cute), and who knew that scorpions liked to pile up on each other by the hundreds?
We encountered a full-grown ball python (both PZB and I have the same kind of snake, though both are several feet away from their optimal length) and its final size seemed perfect to me — about 6' long, girthy, and then it stops growing, unlike those meaty boas that go on and on like a clown's handkerchief. I mean, I dig the boas, but who has room for a 32' cage in their house?
Here's Poppy with the full-grown ball python. ("We both have balls," she said to the breeder, who either didn't hear her, or wasn't on the same elevated level of witty humor as we clearly were. Gender dysphoria is hilarious!)
Of course Poppy had planned from the beginning to go home with a snake because she's conniving like that. Either a tri-colored king snake or a hognose. When we came across a tri-colored hognose (an erstwhile unknown breed to us), the deal was sealed. Some watery species of "permission" was asked of me. I shrugged and kept my lips shut, remembering my Swiss role. But it started spinning the wheels in my own feeble head.
"Scully's gonna be about six feet long," I reasoned aloud with myself. "I'm going to need a bigger terrarium. But then I'll have this other tank that Scully's currently occupying. I might as well put something in it, right?"
"Oh yah, totally!" cried Poppy. "That's a great argument, whatever you just said! You should do it."
I took out my phone just to check the time. Poppy was alarmed, thinking I was going to ask permission from the husband. "Don't text Ben! What do you think will happen! Fool!"
Flashback two years: "Ben? Can I get a snake?"
Ben: "Can I get a gun?"
We now have both.
What bargaining item would he demand of me for a second serpent? A get-out-of-the-doghouse-free card that allows him to bring home a 19 year old stripper, is what Ben posited.
Meanwhile, back at the snake expo, I start getting weird texts from Ben:
Porn movie plot that just happened for real. Some weird foreigner rings the doorbell and asks if our house is a bar.To which I immediately replied: You can do him if I can get a snake.
I had already seen the one I wanted — a baby king snake, yellow with black Ben-Day dots that resembled the mode of my paintings. I'd never seen anything like him in nature, and at $35, it was an easy decision.
(For a moment, I considered buying the female counterpart to Poppy's male tri-colored hognose, with the intention of mating them when they're mature, but both its price [$275] and our complete lack of know-how on how to mate snakes dissuaded me.)
So I bought the Ben-Day dot king snake and immediately named him Roy, after Lichtenstein.
Kickoff was approaching, and I still wanted to stop by the pet store and buy a bigger tank for Scully, so we left the expo and drove to the Pet Co., where I found that my shitty tupperware containing Roy had malfunctioned and the snake had escaped and was somewhere in the car.
Poppy and I spent 30 horrible minutes or so scouring the dark corners of my car. My god, there are so many places a 6", pencil-thin snake could hide in a Toyota! Things were not looking good, and the mood of the day had just nosedived. My hand was cut in several places from feeling around in the complicated underside of the seats, looking for snaky crevasses. Blood spattered my car and my clothes.
"Well," I muttered, dejected, "I guess I don't need a new tank now. Let's just go."
"I should have mentioned that king snakes are notorious escape artists. Hindsight, eh?"
We discussed ways of trapping snakes on the way back to Poppy's house, and then YouTubed how-to-catch-a-snake videos while the Saints pissed away what should have been an easy win against some Arizona team. The day was taking many turns for the worse.
Chris was, shall we say, less than ecstatic about the new addition to their household. ("What manner of worm is this!?") I shied away silently in the kitchen, like a bashful Swiss.
The Saints game turned into arts-n-crafts hour for me, and I made this little trapdoor bottle contraption and baited it with a pinkie (baby mouse) and put it in the backseat of my car, which I checked pointlessly every twenty minutes, like the scared little snake would really feel like eating just then.
The Saints were losing, my snake was still lost, and I had a dinner date with Ben, so I took a few extra pinkies from Poppy to replace the one in the trap when it turned putrid and drove off.
Walking to dinner, Ben asked, "So. Did you get a snake?"
"Well, Poppy got this really beautiful fruit-striped baby snake…"
"Honey, I don't care how many snakes you have. I'm not giving you a hard time. I just want them to be in their cages, not slithering around the house or loose in the car or some crazy thing."
"Funny you should mention that…" I said, and disclosed all.
I briefly considered not telling him anything about the day's misadventures, but I'm not in the habit of lying to, or keeping things from the husband. Plus, we were going to Green Goddess, where Chris is the chef, and I figured he (Chris) would ask at some point, "Ever find that snake loose in the car?"
"So there's a snake loose in the car," said Ben with grim countenance.
Then, a little later, "I can't believe there's a snake loose in the car."
Then, later, "There's really a snake wiggling around in the car?"
I just checked the trap and water dish this moment. Still nothing.
Ben has to drive Uptown to get his contacts in a minute.
"Is there still a snake loose in the car?"
Who fucking knows.
*I am still not a fan of zee fútbol, but I will suck cock or do any other manner of menial chore for the Saints.
…to live in New Orleans?
Last night was a micro-encapsulation of everything you love about this town.
You start at 7:20pm, being roused from your late-afternoon nap by your husband telling you it's time to get dressed for an 8:00 dinner with a couple of friends. You're trying a new place tonight on a recommendation, and you realize again that you can have approximately 2,749 delicious, original meals in New Orleans and still not have scratched the surface of your dining bucket list.
You drive to Mid-City, a place you've heard about, but don't visit that often — for no good reason at all. It's charming.
The dinner is inventive, successful, and surprisingly cheap. You talk with your friends about how you can eat at, say, Commander's Palace or another fine dining establishment and have a meal you will talk about for weeks for the same price you could have a mediocre pizza in Manhattan.
You talk with your friends about your mutual friend out west who was in a movie recently, and make a date to watch that movie together.
Getting in your cars to drive home, you turn on WWOZ, the best radio station in the world, and are not too surprised to hear your friends in the studio doing a live set. You call your friends in their cars because your radio friends are also known by them, and alert them to the fact.
You text your friends at WWOZ and invite them out for after-radio drinks and congratulate them on a great show. One of them texts back that they'll be flyering on Lower Decatur.
You put the husband to bed for a 4am wake-up call for the airport tomorrow, grab your pet python, and walk through a crisp, early-October French Quarter to Decatur Street.
At one of your favorite bars, another friend is standing on the street. "I saw that coat two blocks away and thought it was something you'd wear," says your friend. You join him and a group of others in a courtyard bar.
There are people you know well, people you know peripherally, and new people to meet.
Your friend is a snake expert and tells you that just because your python has those little hooks next to his butt, he's not necessarily male. Every night is gender-bending in New Orleans.
You text another friend with a snake with gender issues and inform him of the news.
WWOZ friends call and say they're on their way home, sorry they missed you, but you're glad you came out nonetheless.
Your snake friend renews his standing invitation for Movie Nights at his place on Mondays. "What did you watch last night?" you ask. It turns out they watched the movie that your west coast friend is in, and it's good. You show a picture of him on your phone to your friend. Everyone laughs at the serendipity. You text your friend out west and tell him of the small-world'itude of the situation. He "LOL's" back.
You wander towards home, but get stopped by a girl from Oakland on the street who wants to hold your snake for a minute and take pictures. Other friends walk by and a small, social street scene ensues for ten minutes.
You wish the girl happy trails back home, then decide you'll pop by a nightclub to say hi to others, and hopefully catch the after-party of a show you meant to go to, but forgot what day it was.
They're closing up the nightclub, flipping chairs onto tables, but you have a drink with them anyway.
You leave once again with the intention of going home, but get sidetracked by your old haunt where your good friend works the graveyard. You pop in, but she's out sick. You have a drink anyway and make friends with the bartender and some people who work hard for the money on Bourbon Street. It's an awful street to hang out on, but many of your friends work there for the $$$.
You decide that your one-beer nightcap (the third of the night) should extend until 4am when you can finally go home and meet the husband as he's waking for the airport.
You kiss him farewell at the start of his day and put your head down for the end of your day.
You wake up with a minor hangover, but a well-earned one, and many happy, cozy memories of last night's excursions swirling through your head.
And a profound sense of contentment, peace, and belonging.
I got home from post-work carousing around 3am on Saturday night. Ben was asleep, and I wasn't quite done with the night, so decided to pop around the corner for a nightcap with friends.
My street was quiet at 3:00—not a soul to be seen nor heard—except for one fat, white, middle-aged guy leaning against my neighbor's stoop, talking on his cell.
In the thickest you-got-a-purty-mouth backwoods accent, his conversation went a little like this:
"Yah. I'm in New Or-lee-unnz? And I'm lost. I can't find the MO-tel? And there's, like, rainbow flags n' shit? And I'm scared. I'm scared for mah life?"REALLY?, I thought. Scared for your LIFE? 'Cos of my little ole rainbow flag that I haven't taken down since Decadence?
"No, I don't know where I am. I'm lost. And I can't find the MO-tel. I'm so frightened. There's rainbow flags n' shit here? Should I call 911?"Does his Baptist preacher warn against the sudden, violent cornholing that all queers are just itchin' to toss into fat slobs like him?
"Can you just come find me? I'm lost. And I'm scared."I walked down the street towards the (rainbow-flag-bedecked) bar around the corner, singing loudly, "DANG-O-DANG-O-DANG-O-DANG!"
Though in retrospect, I should have minced my way over to him, put a calm, reassuring, caressing hand on his meaty shoulder, and lisped, "Oh, Mary. There'th no need to be thcared. By the way, you've got the purtietht little mouth!"
Looking through my archives for something, I stumbled instead upon my old Lit Libs, my old contribution to “Suffering Is Hip” which takes classic literature and turns it into Mad Libs.
I nearly choked from laughter rereading my "Gone with the Wind" one. God those are fun. You should do one. They're still there.
Without further ado:
by MARGARET MITCHELL
Scarlett O’Hara was not needy, but men seldom realized it when caught by her antennæ as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate waffles of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of Haitian descent, and the uprooted ones of her icky Irish father. But it was an abused face, pointed of pimple, square of widow's peak. Her kidneys were pale neon yellow without a touch of mauve, starred with bristly black split ends and slightly thrusting at the ends. Above them, her thick black ovaries slanted upwards, cutting a startling oblique line in her spotted skin — that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with knickers, hat pins and bobby socks against hot Georgia bar flies.
On either side of her, the twins bled easily in their chairs, squinting at the cupcake through tall mint-garnished glasses as they laughed and dissed — their long nipples, booted to the smile and thick with saddle muscles, crossed negligently. 843 years old, 4000 feet two inches tall, long of butt hair and hard of viscera, with brunette faces and deep auburn hair, their eyes merry and blonde, their bodies clothed in identical blue coats and escargot-colored wifebeaters, they were as much alike as two buttloads of snowplows.
“I know you two don’t care about being expelled, or Tom either,” said Scarlett. “But what about Boyd? He’s kind of set on getting a god, and you two have pulled him out of the University of Virginia and Alabama and South Carolina and now Angola. He’ll never get wretched at this rate.”
“Oh, he can read dadaism in Judge Parmalee’s office over in Fayetteville,” answered Brent carelessly. “Besides, it don’t matter much. We’d have had to come home before the term was out anyway.”
“The crayon, marshmellow peep! The crayon’s going to start any day, and you don’t suppose any of us would stay in college with a crayon going on, do you?”
“You know there isn’t going to be any crayon,” said Scarlett, bored. “It’s all just wine glasses. Why, Ashley Wilkes and his father told Pa just last week that our beavers in Washington would come to — to — an — amicable tree branch with Mr. Madonna about the Confederacy. And anyway, the jungle bunnies are too nothing-very-special to progress. There won’t be any crayon, and I’m tired of bullying about it. Well then just fuck me up the ass!”
A few obligatory thoughts on the 5th anniversary of the one-eyed bitch named Katrina:
This is nothing I want to think about, much less translate from thoughts to words, and still less to "publish" on a blog for all the world (or just my seven readers) to see, yet I feel compelled today to do so.
Let me begin on an up-note with an optimistic link to the most positive, heart-lightening K-5 piece I've read, by my dear friend Paul, incidentally, writing for the Daily Mail, UK.
An Open Love Letter to New Orleans.
Just as inspiring are the pages and pages of love-responses from his readers. Tragedy really can bring out the best in people, even as it brings out the worst.
Excerpt from an email to scottynola yesterday:
It really is refreshing to read a K5 love letter as opposed to all the grim news (that I'm actively avoiding). Not that I'm against the news, per se. I think it's crucial this tunnel-visioned country is reminded that we exist, and reminded of the atrocities we suffered at the inept hands of a mismanaged, misguided gov't. So while I don't choose to "revel" in Katrina nostalgia, I'm glad we're still getting some media attention, even if it is only once a year. Like a morbid Santa Claus for the Midwest flyover states.Of course it's not just for the Midwest flyover states. It's important, if a bitter pill to swallow, that we take a moment each year on 29 August and mourn and grieve and heal and contemplate. And talk and communicate and commiserate and reach out and touch.
Katrina did not stop at forever changing the map of New Orleans and how it rolls. It left its indelible mark on everyone who lives on the Gulf Coast, or have ties to the people and places in this unique part of the world. So what we have now is a "new" old city, still trying, five years later, to figure out how to get though the day, like a stroke victim relearning how to walk and talk. This extends to the population of the Gulf as well. Some have healed with a quickness and resiliency and forged a new path for themselves. Others are shattered for life, or at least the time being.
I confess my own weakness as I belong to the latter group. Until the late summer of 2005, I always thought of myself as flexible, adaptive, elastic, and able to cope with any adversity. This was not vanity nor self-delusion; I had 30+ years of evidence that I can lob back any explosive missile hurled my way. There was no tragedy I couldn't cope with and bounce back from, stronger, sadder, but wiser from the experience.
Katrina was a backhand I couldn't return, and I'm still trying to figure out who I am and how to get along. Stroke victim.
My friend louismaistros wrote this spot-on piece for the Times-Picayune, thankfully with a more positive slant than I'm currently feeling, but he really did nail exactly what's going on in my head, and the heads of so many others here: Unpacking the Boxes.
It was Katrina who bade me go on Crazy Pillz, despite 20 previous often severely depressed years where I vowed that I would not medicate away my problems like the rest of the country; I could always bootstrap myself out of a bad situation.
In ’09 I broke down and realized that I was not sorting out the Katrina aftermath properly, and I needed chemical help. A humbling confession of impotency that still rankles me.
Katrina pulled the rug out from under me. Or, if you prefer, you know that trick of yanking the tablecloth out from under the dishes, wine glasses and floral centerpiece? Yah, that. Except the yanking was done badly, and all the china was broken. Everything I thought I could count on proved useless, from my own internal resources to the gross neglect and mismanagement of the shittiest federal administration anyone in our lifetimes has ever seen in this country.
It is expected that Gulf residents say, "Katrina changed my life." The difference is in how.
I do not like the person I have become. Nervous, uptight, Crazy Pillz. Bad sleeping patterns. Teeth grinding. Muscle tension. (Oh, victorine, why did you and your magic fingers have to leave me?) Inertia, black thoughts and panic. Walking with the feeling that with each step I could crash through the floor. Weight gain. Gray hair. Lines on my face. This is how I have lived every day for exactly five years. In many ways, it's not living at all. Sudden noises or movements startle me like a kitten. There are frequent bad days where I cannot get out of bed at all. Every day's fleeting, waking thought, a practical, calculated, "Well, there're fistfuls of Seconal—if it comes to that."
PTSD is a slow boil, I've learned, not an instant snap that leaves you a dribbling mess. Who knew! But the result can be the same.
Every day I count my blessings, of which I have many. It's necessary to examine the good things constantly as a reminder that all is not lost to me. I feel like an old woman poring over her yellowed, crinkling photo album.
Family: I have a great one, both nuclear and extended. We're all close and supportive and it gives me a spine.
Friends: my chosen family, and I have chosen well. The love I feel for my friends and that is reciprocated is often enough to bring me to tears — the good kind. Like now, just a little bit. Awww. My friends are my inspiration to carry on, to do things. I'm just mimicking them, but it's a start.
Husband: Ben often doesn't understand me, and that's okay. I don't want him to! I don't think we could get on so well if he understood the horrible things going on in my mind; it would mean he thought the same way, and one of us doing this is one too many. Instead, he chooses to simply love me, nearly unconditionally, and at such a time when I can still hear the echoes of the crystal and china smashing to the floor, the fact that I can count on him — count on the most important thing — is a luxury so awesome that it borders on the surreal. And the love I feel for him sometimes overwhelms me.
New Orleans: You might be tempted to say, "Well, if Katrina fucked you up so badly, leave the scene of the crime!" Except that's wrong. New Orleans is recovering nicely, thankyouverymuch — wish I could say the same for me. And anyway, you don't escape your problems when you take them on the road. It's better for me to be here, my adoptive city, and the only place that's ever felt like home in my long years of trekking about the country and globe looking for exactly that. I've been here nearly fifteen years — a personal best by twelve years — and I mean this literally when I say that I cannot leave my house and walk around these well-known streets without being awestruck by the beauty and magic and palpable pulse of New Orleans. It's everywhere, embracing every jagged oak root pushing up the flagstones on the sidewalks, in every tenacious fern growing from a crack in a building's wall, in all the percussive punctuation from the music that surrounds us. The Mississippi River, throbbing like an artery. The verdant air, swamp-alive, and bringing vibrant life to me with every lungful. I love a lot of places in this world, but only New Orleans is home, and at a time in my life when I search madly for a foundation that won't crumble under my feet, it would be folly to turn away from my home.
That's all I can manage right now. I make a concerted effort not to Go There too often because I'm not sufficiently equipped to come back. Once a year. 29 August. I can do it once a year.
Now, back to my physical therapy. Stroke Victim, y'know.
I've got a small arsenal of my homemade prototype fuzzy iPad cases that I've put up on Etsy.
Visit me here!
They're book-format, and supercool. Ben gets lots of comments (mostly the positive kind) when he takes his white fluffy case out on the road.
They're all different mix-n-match fabrics, and look a little like this:
Perfect for yourself, birthdays, or Southern Decadence gifts. (What queen could live another minute without one of these?)
So buy one. Or two. I'm broke. Bless.
People are dumb. But I still try to talk to them like they're smart on a one-on-one basis. Benefit of the doubt. This ends up in me being disappointed and them being confused, more often than not.
Occasionally, I'll smart-talk to someone who can smart-talk back, and then I know I found a friend.
Or am I the one who's dumb, and the dumb ones are smart, and we're not speaking the same language? If so, then all my friends are dumb as well.
If you're my friend, please tell me: which are you?
Ever have those weeks/days/even just an hour when you don't just suspect, but you are positive that the magnetic and electronic forces in the universe are all conspiring to bring about your demise?
I biked to my shift at The Saint last night — a mere two miles or so, but through treacherous, badly-paved New Orleans surface streets, populated by insane locals and drunken tourists.
Biking in this town is always treacherous; you have to constantly be on your guard for other people's mistakes, because they all make them, and a bit of clairvoyance doesn't hurt either. Ben's not allowed on bikes any more because the last five times he's ridden one (once a year, approximately) horrible things have happened to him.
Me, I have good enough vision, fast enough reflexes, and a wee smidge of precognition that I usually do okay.
I knew yesterday it was going to be one of "those" days the moment I got my bike onto the street and saw some crazy fucker backing down my street the wrong way swerving around like a scuttling cockroach-car. And it just got worse from there.
People parked in the middle of busy streets, jolting forward at obscene angles the moment I became hittable.
People stopping at green lights and running red lights.
People flinging open doors of their parked cars one after another after another, always timed so a slower reflex would ensure a crash.
It became a video game to me, each and every car representing a threat. I tried to figure out what this SUV or that minivan would do wrong the moment I got near them, and more often than not I was right. "This guy in the Hummer…what's going to happen with him? I think he's going to suddenly signal left, then make an abrupt right. I better be on his left." Sure enough, the yellow behemoth bumblebee blinks left then cuts violently to the right, which would have squished me like a bug if I hadn't guessed his bad driving skills.
My Tweet from last night:
If biking Uptown were a video game, someone set my console to EXPERT/DIFFICULT.At one point I got a bad feeling about a redneck in an enormous flatbed truck and jumped my bike onto the sidewalk. And I'll be damned if the guy didn't actually swerve into the space I had occupied two seconds ago and actually hit a tree in his mad effort to commit manslaughter.
I hadn't eaten anything yesterday, and I was a bit shook up by the predictable unpredictability of NOLA's murderous motorists. My electrolytes were spent. I was dizzy. Didn't have a lot of time before I opened the bar, so I stopped by the Burger King on St. Charles for a tiny burger to take to work.
There were two people in the restaurant. One, a skeevy older gentleman in a wifebeater that proudly displayed his gout, goiters, blisters and lesions. He looked like a warty toad. I gave him a wide berth.
At the counter was a black version of my favorite woman from last year's CrackWhore Ball. Her hair was a strong diagonal that begged the question: What The Fuck? Short-shorts rolled up showing more than I cared to see. A filthy polyester-satin slip, perhaps pink once-upon-a-time, with the right spaghetti strap falling off her bony frame. A faded "DERRICK" tattooed badly between her scapulæ. Neon orange toenail polish underneath a forest of hairy black legs.
The patois was familiar New Orleans to me: "Gimme a small drank. Nah. A mee'jum. How much dat be? How much a small fry be? Gimme dat. Ahkahava free sample?" And on and on. For ten minutes.
Once her complicated, cracked-out order had been placed, I stepped forward, wanting to get this transaction over and done with and open my bar. The hour was growing late.
Suddenly, a friend of hers materialized out of the Matmos. I mean that literally; one minute it was me and boil-man and DERRICK's ladyfriend, and then next, in a puff of smoke, there was her girlfriend.
Girlfriend had a teeny waist and the most ginormous ass I've seen in a long time, made more jarring from its disproportion to the wasp-like midriff. I seriously considered if she had put water balloons down the back of her once-upon-a-time-pink pajama bottoms she was wearing over her knock-off Swarovsky-crystal-embedded flip-flops. Her junk was liquid.
She had somehow materialized in front of me. And wordlessly, she turned to me, gave me the hairy eyeball, raised two fingers ominously, waved them once to the left, once to the right, and uttered her decree of, "UH-uh!" Her way of inquiring if she, perforce, might essay the temerity to cut in line, I gathered.
She turned to the counter, ass a-jigglin' and began her complicated order. "How much a [meow-meow-meow] be? Does that [meow-meow] with a codrank? Gimme a [habba-zabba]…" Etc.
Finally water balloon ass and DERRICK's bitch sat down to await their repast. I put in my simple order, paid the $2, and stood off to the side to wait.
This being the BK on St. Charles, there were eight busy bees behind the counter, seven of which were completely idle, and the eighth was conspicuously absent. We all waited. A long time.
Wifebeater man started popping his boils and blisters and scratching his corns. I scooted away from his pustulance.
Water Balloon Momma, exasperated at last, walked up to the counter and yelled, "HEY!"
She snapped her fingers at the air. "HEY! Ahkahava courtesy drank!?"
A WHAT? I thought? The very word "courtesy" seemed to have no place in this particular circle of hell.
"HEY! C'MERE! AHKAHAVA COURTESY DRANK!" she screamed, sending ripples of liquidity down her backside, flip-flops twinkling merrily in the florescent lights.
To my amazement, one of the girls working actually handed this fine lady a small cup, who betook it to the soda machines and filled it with something neon-colored that matched DERRICK's friend's hobbit-like toenails.
That's when I sorta lost it. I stood, very small, in the corner, laughing/sobbing to myself, thinking, "I'm surrounded by insane people. Oh, please don't let me get hurt. Or touched in any way."
Then I realized that I made the fourth of the insane quartet in the BK lounge. I was The Guy In The Corner Giggling/Crying To Himself.
Finally my victuals arrived, I beat a hasty retreat, dodged a few more video game demon cars on the short ride to The Saint, ate my little burger, and quickly threw it back up.
Some time later in the night, a short, squat black woman came into the bar while I was busy serving four or five other people. She yelled at me, "HEY!" I ignored her.
"HEYYYY!" she screamed louder over the music.
Then she snapped at me in exactly the manner Water Balloons did earlier: [SNAP!] "HIGH LIFE!"
I stopped what I was doing, walked slowly over to her, leaned down into her face, and said through gritted teeth, "My name is not High Life."
The whole Burger King experience had left that bad a taste in my mouth — in all senses of the phrase.
De La Soul said it twenty years ago, and it still applies today:
Bitties in the BK lounge.
Sitting, bored, in the Miami airport, waiting for my flight to Boston, I started browsing through my LiveJournal photo folders—pictures I have posted in entries dating back almost ten years now.
It's fun, and not a little perplexing, to see these photos out of the context of a journal entry.
Here then are some of my favorites.
( Behind the cut, for your spatial convenience.Collapse )
Texts to my friend Pamela late last night:
Several years ago when I worked more or less full time at The Saint, the back room was a disaster. Forty years of junk piled up to the ceiling everywhere. And, in the summer, rats would die amidst the piles of crap. There was so much useless garbage that you could never find the rat, and it would decay and decay and smell worse and worse in that hot back room until it was finally bones and stopped stinking.
One day, must have been August for the smell, I found the rat. I had dropped something on the floor, bent over to pick it up, and voilà! Dead rat! Only, I didn't realize it in time, and my hand not only caressed its bloated, fœtid body, but my fingers burst through the rubbery skin and I found myself wrist-deep in warm, maggoty, reeking rat guts.
I took the next several hours off to vomit and disinfect my hand under scalding water with a metric ton of soap.
That was gross.
Here's something even more gross: Ben came home from Vegas today after a three day sojourn. And now that he's back in the house, I'm dancing around. The house is alive once again. I am experiencing an obscene amount of contentment. I walk into a room, see him, and smile hugely — involuntarily.
And we're getting married in two weeks.
That's so gross.
I have a fetish for little old black ladies. Not a sexual fetish, mind you. I just like to be in their presence. I like to listen to their stories. I want to pick them up and pinch bits of them.
There is a woman who comes to The Saint (the bar I toil at a whole four hours a week). She's in her seventies. She's very wee. She has that New-Orleans-black accent that I cannot get enough of. And when she introduces herself, she says, "Just call me Grandma, honay — everyone does." Charmed!
Because I'm predisposed to adore little old black ladies, and because I cannot picture a time better spent that sitting at one's knee listening to stories, it took me a little while longer than usual to admit to myself that something was not … quite … right … with this one.
The first night I met her, a month or so ago, the bar wasn't busy, so I happily settled myself down in front of her to listen enrap't to her tales. She was displaced by Katrina. Lived in West Virginia. Only moved back this spring. All well and good, but something was nagging at me that I would not admit to the forefront of my mind: her stories were … dull. No, she's not dull, I argued with myself. She's a little old black lady telling me stories of how the storm affected her. There's no way to make this story dull!
She left eventually, after her one High Life, and I was disconcerted to not find that the exchange had been as satisfying as I would have expected.
The next week she came in while I was in the weeds, asked for a glass of water, and wanted to talk my ear off. I listened as much as I could, but I was too busy, and made apologies, "I'm sorry, Grandma. I'll be right back. Hold on, honey."
Last night she came in. "Hi, Grandma," I greeted her with a smile that felt fake. "High Life?"
"That'd be wonderful, honay."
She sipped her beer and began a pointless rambling about some cousin in Minnesota or some sister in Iowa or some bullshit — I wasn't in any way interested, and though I tried to sit through the narrative to get to the point of it, we never arrived at any. I wandered off, a little hurt and confused that the embodiment of my fetish was not Doing It for me any more.
Then, she voiced this opinion: "Oh honay. You been puttin' on weight, you! Looks like you ain't missed no meals. Where dey feedin' you at? Mississippi?"
"Wow. Grandma. Fuck you."
"Naw, honay. It look good on you."
"Okay. Still though. Seriously. Fuck you, okay?"
Eventually she bid me farewell.
"Okay, Grandma. Thanks for coming by. $2, please."
"Oh honay. I don't gots no money. I thought you done bought this for me!"
"Okay. Whatever. Have a good night," I said, walking away, legitimately annoyed now.
Jon, my barback, came in at 10:00. I asked him, "So what's up with Grandma?"
He snickered. "Yah. Grandma. I dunno. You gotta make up your own mind about her."
"What does that mean?" I asked him, and related tonight's little miscommunication issue.
"Yah, that's Grandma. I dunno. Some people put up with her. Some don't. "You know she's a crackhead, right?"
(Blink. Blink.) "Oh god dammit!"
"Yah. She's 86'd from the Half Moon [the bar on the next block] on one girl's shift because, and I quote, 'They caught me givin' earl sex in the terlet."
(Blink. Blink.) "Who's 'Earl'?"
"No. Earl sex. Sex administered early. For crack, presumably."
"Earlier than what?"
"No, early. Like, sex in your earl cavity."
"Oh my god."
The rest of the night was a blur. Jon and I were laughing too hard till my shift ended. As soon as we'd stop, one of us would say something to crack the other up again.
"I hope she takes her teefs out before she gives earl sex."
"In the terlet?"
And we're off again.
The moral of this story is that even the little old black ladies whose stories do not, by some weird misfortune, entrance me, that's no reason not to like them. They're going to end up being amusing one way or another.
Gwen was my last remaining piano student, and now she's flown off to the leftern-most Portland.
It's been nice teaching a few friends, and it's been nice to exhume some old pieces geared towards beginners.
Beethoven's "Für Elise," for example. I find most people play it too stiffly. I throw in a bunch (too much?) rubato. It's how I hear the song.
And it goes a little like this. And a one, and a two…
Rani & HiLo in some RED! HOT! GROOMIN'! ACTION!
"Tales from the Jersey (S/W)hore"
On Sunday, 13 June, Ben and I set sail on the Norwegian Dawn from the Hudson River in Manhattan to Bermuda and back.
Here are our observations and thoughts.
Here are several selections from Bach's seminal Well-Tempered Klavier, Bk. I.
I have a love/hate relationship with Bach. His music is, of course, pure, extracted, essential genius, but my brain and my hands always, always have to struggle with him. Especially on the four-voiced fugues.
I have the hardest time getting my two poor hands to play "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in four part contrapuntal harmony. I think it would help if I were schizophrenic and could manipulate the four overlapping songs through a necessarily shattered brain.
Considering the challenges Bach presents to my simple country head, I think I did a fairly good job on these. But that's for you to judge.
Go easy on me. Bach makes me feel vulnerable.
This is the product of several years' work. I wish I could still play them all, but my cranial hard drive just isn't big enough to store all the nitpicky note-info.
J.S. Bach: Selections from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Bk. I (33MB)
Last night was a bit rough. Worked at The Saint till midnight, and stretched my poisonous evening out a bit longer than it really called for.
In a brave effort to quash this hangover, I thought a good idea might be to bike up to scottynola's book signing by Commander's Palace instead of drive.
The ride was pleasant and uneventful, if a bit bloody hot. (L'éte, elle est arrivée enfin!)
Parked my bike. Locked it. Then began this brief text exchange with docbrite
Me: On my way to Greg's book signing/discussion at Gard Dist. Books at 1.
PZB: I'll be there but prob closer to 2. Feeling kinda crappy today. Not pain, just sick to my stomach. :-P
Me: Ugh. Okay. See ya in a bit.
I hit 'send' on that last one, paused on the sidewalk, felt extreme salivation in my mouth that portends odious things to come, leaned into some handy bushes, and puked up the glass of water I had before leaving the house. It should be noted that four seconds earlier, I was feeling perfectly fine.
Me: Dude! Fucking bizarre! I felt totally fine biking Uptown. I read your txt, responded, then leaned into a bush and threw up. Sympathetic nausea? WTF?! Creepy.
PZB: Holy shit! Sorry! You can come over & lie down if you need to.
Me: No, it's done now. Brief & sudden. I attribute it to the heat, exercise, & the hangover.
PZB: That'll do it.
Of course what I really attribute it to is this new iPhone app the good Doc must have acquired that uploads illnesses via text messaging, and I imagine alleviating the sender from said illnesses. Well-played, Doc!
Where did you GET that app?
Thanks, docbrite for reminding me this site existed. I too haven't done it in awhile.
I'm almost done with the States. I'd like Alaska, New Hampshire and Maine filled in. The northmidwestern states I don't really care about.
To be honest, some of the lamer states I've just driven through. Does that count? I do not count states/countries where you had a layover and never left the airport. You have to leave the airport and its immediate grounds to stick a pin in the map. Them's the rules. I think driving through counts because, for a while, you're intimately familiar with a vast amount of the area you're passing through.
visited 42 states (84%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
For the world map, I've got a few new hits. And I'm pleased and perplexed to note that my reissued-just-one-year-ago passport has countries in five continents stamped in it. (Those are, amongst others, US, Spain, Thailand, Australia, and Argentina.)
A lot of the itty-bitty "countrylets" in the Caribbean don't even show up in red on this map, but I checked the boxes nonetheless.
I like to check boxes. It makes me feel like I exist.
I remain envious of Paul who's hit all seven continents (Antarctica's a toughie to get to). Not to mention a helluva lot more countries.
visited 27 countries (12%)
Create your own visited map of The World
Speaking of travel, here's my vague preview of what's coming up:
A year or so ago I shot this footage with my brother Chris in Lake Tahoe. I'm just now getting around to editing it, as a birthday present to him, who makes one more step towards 40 tomorrow.
Starring Chris's Fozzie Bear action figure which he takes with him whenever he travels.
(Me, I prefer Vicodin when I travel, but each to his own.)
Happy birthday, me bruddah!
I'm taking little Final Cut tutorial lessons, and want to get my hands dirty editing and familiarizing myself with some F/X. So here are a couple "new" (uh, 100–200 yrs old) songs for ya.
First, Grieg's one and only Nocturne. Pity he didn't write more. I think he had a knack for 'em.
Next, a little finger-bender I like to call Schubert's Impromptu in A-flat. It's seven minutes of pure hell on the right hand, and the left don't get off all that easy either. I can usually only make it through this piece once before I need a break, so I had to use my first take, despite a few minor errors on my part.
For an added kick, plug in your sub-woofer speakers and blast the shit outta this song around the 2 minute mark when he switches into C# minor. Angry little Franz.