"A friend asked yesterday if this blog is addressed to anyone in particular? I said yes– it’s a love letter to someone I haven’t met yet."
Someone told me the other day about their first love who by the sound of it, was easily a candidate for the girlfriend from hell. He laughed about it all these years later, but it didn't sound like he was laughing back when he was in the midst of her fire and brimstone awfulness. On the other hand, someone else told me a while ago about her wonderful first boyfriend and how in many ways, he spoiled her for the other men who came later in her life. He was her gold standard and no one else ever came close. Truth be told, this woman has not been very successful with romance. So I'm wondering if her Early Mr. Wonderful really did have a long term affect on her way of perceiving how things should be when you fall in love. Ergo that's the question of the day-- better to have a wonderful first romance/sexual partner/spouse, or an awful one? I'm sure there are some people who could not point a finger and say specifically THAT was my first girlfriend, but come on-- you know who it was, so don't cheat. Just answer the question.
Comments in already about today's blog:
"I was the 'other man' for the first woman that I ever slept with, had my heart broken a few times over by the girl I got involved with after 9/11, and learned plenty about baggage with everyone in between. All of which prepared me well to recognize a great woman when she came my way. She wasn't like any of the previous ones.
I don't usually comment, but I was just thinking about this the other day while discussing with a friend the possible effect of the novel _Reunion_ on Alan Lightman's wife. I think, though painful at the time, an awful first partner is better in the long run. Provided you aren't so affected by the experience that you never find another. I had a first relationship that was disastrous looking back on it, and painful in many many ways. My current partner is all the positive things my first was not. I think it's a question of feeling that life has to get better when you reach a particular low point.
There's the possibility that, rather than spoil you, a wonderful first love could teach you exactly what it means to be wonderful. To teach you a language that you can take into your future relationships, enabling you to bring wonderful out of other people.
it's interesting reading what other people have written about first loves. it made me think that neither having a bad nor a good first relationship is "best" but that some people take the best from either situation and others will take the worst: i.e. i had a great first relationship but i've never felt that it spoiled me for subsequent relationships, they just got better and i knew what was possible. but i can also understand how a bad first one could make you more wary and careful about accepting less than you deserve.
All the ingredients
To turn your life into a nightmare--
Don't mix them!
I can see angels sitting on your ears
polishing trumpets, replacing lute strings
stretching new skins on the drums,
and gathering wood for the evening's fire
they danced all night but you did not hear them.
Fear is the cheapest room in the house
I would like to see you living in better conditions
The Mind is ever a tourist
Wanting to touch and buy new things
Then toss them into an already
all excerpts from THE GIFT by Hafiz
We all have our inexplicable quirks and one of mine is wasting paper. That sounds odd coming from a novelist because as a category, writers are traditionally among the world's worst paper wasters, but not me. I hate the idea of trees being cut down so someone can write "buy milk" on a sheet of paper and then throw it away once the milk is in the refrigerator. So I write on the back, sides... wherever there's free space on a piece of paper, subway ticket, movie ticket... Since I write by hand, I do rough drafts on the backs of old typescripts, etcetera, rather than putting them in the recycle bin. With this newest novel, so far I have written most of it on the back of a photocopied manuscript someone sent me a while ago. This morning while working I realized for the first time that means literally two books will have been written on those pages-- his and mine. Whether our books are any good or not, two separate stories on a page is a damned good use for one sheet of paper.
"He's such a snob. Always using lots of SAT words."
"What do you mean?"
"He always use these big obscure words that you only ever see on the SAT exam. You know, like bellicose or lubricious, adenoidal... Who the hell ever calls someone bellicose?"
For those of you unfamiliar with the SAT, it is the examination all US high school students must take if they want to go to an American university.
We were talking about a mutual acquaintance. She was complaining about what a showoff he is in just about every way, even down to his vocabulary. The guy *is* a jerk, but I felt sympathy for him when she attacked his word choice. For anyone who likes language, there is something genuinely satisfying about *le mot juste* as the French say, and not just choosing any old word. Saying someone speaks in a high whiny voice is not the same as saying they have an adenoidal voice. Just saying the four syllable word is a chore and it sounds vaguely annoying, as does listening to anyone who speaks in a high whiny voice. When I was teaching, I used to tell the kids to lay off words like that in their essays only because they almost always misused them. But like hitting a baseball on the sweet part of a baseball bat, or a tennis ball on the sweet part of the racket, using one of those SAT words in the right context is both small gold and very satisfying. Especially when you're insulting someone to their face and they don't know what the word means. Given the right amount of paranoia and imagination, hearing they're lubricious drives them absolutely nuts...
Isn't it interesting that the American public these days is obsessed with three blond women-- Jessica Simpson, Brittany Spears, and Paris Hilton, all of whom are the stone-cold epitome of a specific type of girl in high school: the pretty airhead dumbbell who never says two interesting words but usually talks a lot anyway and is frequently the center of attention, both male and female. She normally sits in the back of the classroom ignoring the lesson so she can whisper about guys with her sycophantic friends, and copies her homework from someone else. Still, admit it, you liked being seen with her because it added to your status in the eyes of your peers. However much you disliked these girls and bad mouthed them behind their backs, whenever they were around you hoped for their attention and to be included in their conversation.
Everyone in Vienna is talking about the 18 year old woman who escaped her kidnapper after being held prisoner in a basement for eight years. The news is everywhere-- on CNN, in the NY Times, so you can imagine how the Austrian press is playing it up. I was getting a haircut yesterday in a neighborhood friseur that caters mostly to women, so everyone who works there is female, none older than 30. Naturally they were talking about it and how terrible those three thousand days must have been for her, what a monster the guy was, etcetera. Finally one woman who I think was the boss said something that silenced the whole place for the first time since the discussion began, because it had such chilling ramifications: "And can you imagine, the whole time she was there she didn't have a TV to watch. He only gave her books to read!"
"Some people are born with a hairy heart, and that they are exceptionally brave and resolute. An example being a Messenian named Aristomenes who killed three thousand Spartans. He himself, when severely wounded, was taken prisoner and for the first time escaped through a cave from confinement in the quarries by following the routes by which foxes got in. He was again taken prisoner, but when his guards were fast asleep he role to the fire and burnt off his thongs, burning his body in the process. He was taken a third time, and the Spartans cut him open alive and his heart was found to be shaggy"(XI, LXIX)
"It is surprising that elephants can even climb up ropes, but especially that they can come down them again, at all events when they are stretched at a slope. Mucianus, who was three times consul, states that one elephant actually learnt the shapes of the Greek letters, and used to write out in words of that language: 'I, the elephant, wrote this and dedicated these spoils won from the Celts'"
"The most learned authorities state that the eyes are connected with the brain by a vein; for my own part I am inclined to believe that they are also thus connected with the stomach: it is unquestionable that a man never has an eye knocked out without vomiting."
excerpts from NATURAL HISTORY of Pliny the Elder
Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.
I know I am back in L.A. because I recognize it by its women. They are not like the women of anywhere else, they rampage in a way that is endemic to Los Angeles, wild like the animals that flee a fire in the hills. That they are all beautiful, these women, means nothing. They are auditioning, that is what makes them Los Angeles women, and they are auditioning for more than a movie, for more than fame or success. In L.A. famous people are a dime a dozen and beautiful people a nickel a dozen, which makes people famous for being beautiful barely worth a red cent. In L.A. both the awe and contempt for beauty has been raised to an art form.The contempt is for a gift that time and experience detract from rather than enhance, a gift that reaches its zenith in a single dazzling moment, a day or an hour or a minute when a woman blossoms to her most impossibly beautiful, whereupon the autumn of age begins, instantly and indiscernibly, to weather the petals. The awe is far more complicated. Of course it goes without saying that this awe has a distinctly male gasp to it. It goes without saying that it is men who get particularly silly about beauty. To which I offer this familiar pathetic male whine we cannot help it. As a friend of mine puts it, a beautiful woman is the face of our dreams. Those dreams may span the psychic spectrum from primal to infantile to transcendent but they are our dreams nevertheless, and down in the ego muck of the barbaric male that dream is likelier to be embodied by a beautiful face than any other vision. And as my girlfriend puts it, Los Angeles is the Ellis Island of beauty, not just because beauty crosses its borders on a regular basis but because, like those who once came to Ellis Island not just for a new home but to be part of the American dream, beauty immigrates to Los Angeles not just to trade on its surface allure but to become the face of peoples dreams. Manhattan and Paris and Milan may teem with beautiful women who are also in the business of beauty, but in Los Angeles that business is more than selling merchandise. L.A. is where the objectification of beauty is tethered directly to the unconscious. There are so may beautiful people in LA that no one becomes famous just for being beautiful. LA is the city where, if it is to mean anything, mere beauty must transcend itself. The streets of L.A. abound with women and men who are clearly mad from their beauty. They are clearly mad from the burden of becoming the face of our dreams, and from their compulsion to carry this burden. They invest everything in this mission that money can buy and technology can achieve, until they are plastic from top to bottom, bone and cartilage and fat carved away to make way for more plastic until there is not any more plastic left. When the plastic is gone, the doctors fill them up with whatever is handy. Open up any one of these beautiful people that you see on the street, any one of these people whose life is an audition, and inside you will find anything you could want or need from modern existence: lighter fluid, dish soap, cognac snifters, bookends, collapsible umbrellas, matching monogrammed bath towels, dog biscuits, remote control, margarita mix, the Sunday comics, the collected recordings of Bessie Smith. Almost everyone in LA positively glows with the bric-a-brac and spare parts of the millennium. In the city where there is no time, the most transient of gifts which is beauty strives to be endless, added to or subtracted from not by time but at will. One invents ones beauty as one invents ones name or destiny or dream; and a thousand exchanges transpire between the dreamers: I will be the face of your dream, if you will be the dream to which I can give a dream.
Steve Erickson, *Amnesiascope*
I was reading an article about what rich people do with their funny money these days. Most striking was the $600 haircut the really cool women in Beverly Hills have done at least once a month. $7200 per year seems a bit steep for streaks, but more than anything it reminded me of where I used to go to have my hair cut when I was living in California in the 90's. I discovered the place because out front it had an actual old time-y striped barber pole that whirled round and round. I hadn't seen one of *those* in years so I had to go in and investigate. The place however was owned by a Russian family, none of whom seemed to speak English. There was a father and two sons who all looked alike. They would glower at you when you came in for one of their patented $9 jobs. The haircut itself took about three minutes because they only used electric shavers and when you're like me, there aren't a lot of hairs to cut. But the interesting thing was that no matter how much they glowered, they always offered you a cup of tea while cutting your hair. And not only that, but Russian tea that came in one of those marvelous Middle European cups that consist of a glass sitting inside an ornate metal frame with a small lip on the side to hold it. No matter how hot it was outside, there was always tea. Although I don't like tea, I always drank it. I can't remember now if I drank it as a courtesy or because I was afraid they would murder me if I didn't.
MP read this blog and checks in with this bet you didn't know news:
The name for that "ornate metal frame with a small lip on the side" is *zarf*. Ever since Mr. Glidden made me learn the word in sixth grade in Riverdale, NY it's been one of my favorite english words.
I received an email today from someone whose return address was "ChiefBigToe@." That started me thinking about the addresses we choose for our email handles. Like most people, I have several email accounts for various reasons. The most private of them has a very odd sounding name and only a few friends know what it actually means. Is that because I'm secretive and paranoid, or just trying to be witty? The question of the day is does your email address say anything about your personality, like the things people pay to have put on their vanity license plates? Is the Joe whose email address is simply email@example.com a dull guy who doesn't have the imagination to come up with something more clever? Or is he simply a no-nonsense pragmatist who can't be bothered with the kind of lame cleverness or cutesy that makes us cringe or wince? I have seen email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com When I see addresses like that I often wonder is this person serious or just trying to be funny? I have even received mail from readers who chose characters from my books as their email address. Counter to what you might think, reading them makes me feel extremely weird when I see something like firstname.lastname@example.org Some months ago I wrote a blog about the ringtones people choose for their cellphones and what it says about their personalities. There's some of that same second guessing going on here too.
Because I love
There is an invisible way across the sky.
Birds travel by that way, the sun and moon
And all the stars travel that path at night.
Because I love
There is a river flowing all night long.
Because I love
All night the river flows into my sleep,
Ten thousand things are sleeping in my arms,
And sleeping wake, and flowing are at rest.
I used to write fan letters to people whose work I admired. I don't do it nearly as much anymore and that's wrong. It's a very important thing to tell someone what they do genuinely matters to you. Especially artists, who work so much of the time in solitude and receive little feedback other than reviews. I read there's a new film of a Charles Bukowski novel out now. That reminded me of the letter I received from Bukowski years ago. I'd written to tell him I'd been reading his work nonstop recently and had joined his throng of rabid fans. Like so many people, I happened onto one of Bukowski's collections of poetry in a university used book shop. I stood there a long time, drinking down his poems for the first time like they were cold Coca Cola on a hot day. I'd never read anything like them and it was a thrilling experience. In my college boy "I want to be a writer too someday" voice I wrote him all that. A few weeks later I received an envelope from the Sunshine Inn Motel in San Pedro, California. Not knowing anyone in San Pedro, I was puzzled. Inside the envelope was a single sheet of paper stained all over with beige coffee cup rings. Whoever had written this letter was a sloppy coffee drinker. There were three typewritten sentences.
"Thanks for the kiss, Jon. It means a lot to me. Keep your pen moving. Buk."
It took a while to figure out who "Buk" was, but when I did I floated around for the rest of the day.
We're talking animatedly while walking down the street together. We pass a busy outdoor cafe and there's a very fat young man eating a very fat ice cream sundae. Without a pause, she says to me "death by spoon" and keeps moving.
I like those old women who sit in a park every day in the same chair at exactly the same time. Often two sit together but never say a word to each other. They always have stern or grumpy expressions on their faces and their hands are crossed primly in their laps.They rarely have anything to read or keep them busy other than to watch the world passing by in front of them. You see these women in any city. They remind me of those giant stone heads on Easter Island looking out to sea.
Whenever I pass a building or contruction site, I make a point of sniffing the air. For some reason, the smells emanating from these places are always pungent and almost impossible to recognize. You will never smell anything remotely like them anywhere but there.
That was one of the nicest things about physical intimacy-- for a little while you got to see your partner at their most vulnerable. However that's also a problem with certain people. Because sometimes we take our new knowledge of that surprisingly fragile person into the everyday but they do not. They leave "naked fragile me" back in the bedroom. So if you try to address this being, they either don't recognize who you're talking to, or resent you've witnessed that side of them.
from the new book
Virginia Hamilton Adair
A man told a story.
He was a watcher of womens eyes.
In the midnight bar he asked a stranger
Why wear shades in this half-lit place?
She felt for his hand, pulled it
below the counter. A stein winked in a beam of light.
He thought she is a prostitute.
She directed his hand downward
to a tuft of coarse hair, a warm mound
that stirred a little.
This is Pilot, she told him,
Who guides me with pure intent
through the unseen city.
He raised her hand to his lips.
He said Forgive me.
I too need Pilot to lead me
around barriers I see too late.
She smiled, groping for the harness
of the dog he had touched
but still could not see clearly.
He envied their trust, their closeness, issuing into
the flash and glare of her sightless city.
The man who told the story
prided himself on perceiving
from a womans eyes her mood,
her purposes, and how if he wished
he could control her. Now, he said,
he walked out into the night
aware of a strange helplessness,
a need for the blind woman.
But I had learned only
the dogs name, he said.
Have you ever noticed that delicious street food almost always smells bad when someone else is eating it? You pass a person eating a hot dog, a taco, or here in Vienna a "doner sandwich" and no matter how luscious it looks, it's always sort of stinky in another person's hands. But if you were to buy one of the same five minutes later, it would smell and taste delicious. Some kind of interesting metaphor is lurking around that thought but I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot kebab skewer.
I like watching people wait out the rain in doorways. The bicycle delivery guy wearing yellow spandex, red shoes, and a silver helmet. A cigarette going in the corner of his mouth. Cool guy taking a well deserved break.The old woman in the plastic rain hat smiling at nothing, happy to be waylaid by the storm. Her glasses are misty. She does nothing to clean them. The kids playing grab ass and being goofy-- shoving each other out into the rain and then running back to the protection of the doorway. Both of them are soaked but they're having too much fun to care.The pretty red head and her afghan dog, both looking up at the sky with the same annoyed expression on their faces-- how dare you rain on ME.
Thought is only a flash in the middle of a long night, but the flash that means everything.
A friend's dog is very old and very ill. In preparation for the inevitable, the friend called the only animal crematorium in Vienna to talk about the process, the price, etcetera. The family plans to bury the dog's ashes in their backyard, so they'll need a proper container, etcetera. The ancient dog lies around the house most days barely coherent and a lot of the time visibly suffering. But my friend told me that the other day almost as soon as she started talking to the people at the crematorium, the dog suddenly stood up as best it could for the first time in ages, and to everyone's great surprise, started walking sort of normally around the living room in front of the amazed family. It got more and more animated and kept looking at my friend on the phone the whole time as if to say wait a minute-- I'm not dead yet. There's still a lot of spark left in this old engine, not so fast. Everyone began laughing. Later they talked about it and realized they had all thought exactly the same thing-- the dog knew who was on the other end of that phone call and was doing its damndest to keep the grim reaper at paw's length.
I saw a beautiful object in a store window and went in to have a closer look: A wooden stepladder which flipped around in an ingenious way to become a kind of footstool. One of those objects you see in someone's house and covet. Not a major thing, but a thoughtful, beautiful one that adds a cherry on top of life's everyday aesthetic. Anyway, I got up close and the ladder was as lovely as I had first thought. A salesman came over and we chatted about what a cool thing it was. I asked how much it cost. He said eight hundred euro. Eight hundred euro. Some part of me feels almost physically ill when I experience something like this. All the enthusiasm I had a moment ago drains. I just want to leave the store as fast as I can without having to make eye contact again with the salesman. Aren't they ashamed? Aren't they even a little embarrassed to say to your face eight hundred euros when two feet away from both of you is a wooden ladder? Obviously not.
At night, when the hair grows on your face, and your body grows longer, and dinner is changed to blood, and your nails grow longer, you ought to remember, however empty your sleep, how much is untouched by the conscious mind."
I remember the pastrami sandwiches at Stan's luncheonette in New Brunswick, New Jersey. And the grilled chicken from the dumpy roadside stand in Brittany eaten while sitting on top of that old Nazi bunker; the chili cheese hotdogs at Pink's in LA, or the fat bag of cherries we shared while sitting beside the Danube on a hot May day 23 years ago. The elegant meals at snooty restaurants I remember only as events in themselves-- remember the time we ate at-- Yes, I remember the event. But the food itself? Nothing. The food I remember in careful, loving detail were meals like the big sandwiches Stan served. Nothing more than pastrami on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing. Or fresh cherries.
"I believe that perfection is even dangerous in a work of art. If a film is perfect, the public has nothing to add. The audience should always be trying to finish a picture... fill in the holes which we didn't fill."
by Stephen Dunn
"Anything that you rub long enough becomes beautiful."
I once saw a painter smear black paint
on a bad blue sky,
then rub it in until that lie of hers
was gone. I've seen men polish cars
so hard they've given off light.
As a child I kept a stone in my pocket,
thumb and forefinger in collusion
with water and wind,
caressing it day and night.
I've begun a few things with an eraser,
waited for friction's spark.
I've learned that sometimes severe
can lead to truer, ever true.
But few things human can stand
to be rubbed for long-- I know this
and can't stop. If beauty comes
it comes startled, hiding scars,
out of what barely can be endured.
SS wrote me an e-mail yesterday mentioning Janis Joplin. Seeing her name there reminded me of an afternoon I had completely forgotten about:
A long time ago I was in San Francisco trying to romance an unattainable Russian goddess. Naturally that didn't succeed but I certainly tried. One day we went for lunch to a place called Tommy's Joint which is famous for serving buffalo meat everything. It was packed and we got the last available table. About halfway through our buffalo burger meal, I heard a smoky woman's voice ask timidly, "Do you mind if we sit here?" I looked up. It was Janis Joplin and Big Brother his very own self. Gulp. We said sure. They had a huge pitcher of beer, were completely friendly, and generous with their suds. We sat for about an hour talking with them and as God is my witness, they were both just folks.
In school I was always terrible in math. If I passed I was thrilled, but I usually didn't pass and had to repeat or go to summer school. In tenth grade, my parents shipped me off to a difficult private boarding school because I was doing so poorly in public school. It was a disaster. Not only did I flunk math but other classes as well. Summer school loomed. And not only that, but summer school there which meant I would have to live on campus. I didn't like school but my best subject was English, so I decided that since I had to be there anyway, I might as well take a creative writing course. It was taught by a man who had published a couple of stories in THE NEW YORKER years before, so he was considered the school's writer in residence. I liked him as a man but as a teacher he was boring. After the class had been in session for a couple of weeks, he came in one morning and said today we're going to do something different; I'm going to read you a story. I don't know if we groaned but we probably did. It was summer. It was hot. There were a million other things we would rather have been doing. Most of us read only for school and then only because we were forced to.
It was a story by Thomas Wolfe entitled "Circus at Dawn." It's about two little boys who live in rural North Carolina. The high point of every year was when the circus came to town for a few days. The story is essentially a description of the boys sneaking out of the house very early one summer morning to watch the circus train arrive at the station, unload, and then set up. The kids watch as exotic animals are led out of their boxcars, performers appear, the workmen start to work putting things up. Of course the boys are goggle eyed at everything. It was a pretty interesting story and while listening to the teacher read, I gazed out the window at the summer sky. Towards the end when the tent has been erected and most of the work is done, the circus people sit down together to eat. Wolfe describes in glorious detail the meal they were served. Stacks of pancakes and waffles with butter and maple syrup, hot smoking canisters of coffee, fried eggs, steaks and hamburgers hot off the grill, etcetera. He went on and on describing breakfast. Caught up in those delicious sentences, I was right at the table, smelling, tasting, eating it. The teacher stopped to take a breath. I heard the slightest "plip" sound somewhere nearby. Slowly looking down at my brown wood desk, I saw a shiny spot. Saliva. I had drooled. I was so affected by Wolfe's descriptions of food that I had unconsciously drooled. I stared at that shiny drop on my desk and to this day I remember very clearly the awe I felt. *Then.* That's when I knew I wanted to write. If something I wrote could have that effect on someone fifty years after I had written it, then that's what I wanted to do.
When it rains hard, you rarely see womens' faces because most carry umbrellas. They hold them low and at angles that often hide their faces. Nowhere near as many men carry umbrellas. Most wear hats and squint at whatever water is on their face. Or they wear nothing at all, toughing it out, showing the world that this wet stuff doesn't bother *them*.
You said: I will go to some other place, some other sea,
find another city better than this one.
Every move I make is doomed to come out wrong
and my heart, like something dead, lies buried inside me.
How long is my mind to wither away like this?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruin of my life, here,
where I have spent so many years- wasted, destroyed them
You will not find some other place, some other sea.
The city will follow you. And you will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhood,
in these same houses watch yourself turn gray.
You will always end up in this city. Do not look for things
there is no ship for you, no road out.
Just as you have ruined your life here, in this small corner,
you have destroyed it now everywhere in the world.
I have a friend who is pretty, smart and loves sex. But she also wants a man to spend time with sharing, talking, building a relationship, etc. Unfortunately the majority of men she tends to meet and connect with are the kind who want the obvious and then disappear. Once she wrote me a sad letter saying it had happened again and what should she do about it? I asked if she ever ate at McDonald's. Confused, she said yes. I asked what she ordered there. Quarter pounder with cheese. All right, then think of these guys as Mr. McDonald's--you go there now and then to have a quarter pounder with cheese, large order of fries, and a giga Coke. Yummy. We know it's shit food and all the blah blah guilt that goes along with eating junk. But it's also delicious in its sinful way and that's why we eat it, like hot fudge sundaes, peanut butter sandwiches, or a bag of pork rinds. These guys are McDonald's. You have it, feel both good and guilty at the same time (the Oxymoron Meal!), and afterwards go back to a healthy diet. If you're going to eat a cheeseburger, enjoy the damned thing. Don't guilt yourself out about doing it, any more than you should feel guilty about taking a vacation and lazing around on the beach all day. Mostly because it happens infrequently and given the choice, you normally eat what you should be eating.
I'm always interested in oriental rug stores. I don't like oriental rugs, but find the stores fascinating. No matter what town I am in, whether it be Szczecin, Poland, Santa Barbara, or Salzburg they are almost always the same: Empty of customers, full of stacks of hundreds of uninteresting rugs, and inevitably over in a corner of the store no matter how big or small it is, one or at most two mustachioed men sitting at a cluttered desk looking glumly out onto the street. None of these stores, NONE, ever seem to do any business. None of them ever seem to have any customers. Generally half of them have giant yellow signs in the window stating they are going out of business and everything inside is between 50-70% off. But there are at least three Oriental rug stores in my neighborhood alone which have posted those signs in their windows on and off over the past twenty years but have never gone out of business. They just take them down after a while and go on as usual. Closing sale finished. Nor has new management taken over. I am convinced these stores are all members of a huge worldwide underground conspiracy/ring which is up to no good. They only use rugs as their cover while all the naughty dealings go on in the back rooms. Or behind the desk between the mustachioed men.
Just after the Iron Curtain came down at the end of the 80's, I bought a new car. I'd had it only a few months when one day I went out to use it but it was gone. After searching frantically for it, I had to accept that it had been stolen and went to report the theft to the police. The first question they asked was what kind of car is it? When I told them, the three cops sitting there smiled at each other and nodded. One looked at his watch and said, "I'll bet it's in Prague by now, eh?" His two buddies nodded. I asked what he was talking about. He said there was a bunch of car thieves from Prague who were only stealing this model of car and no other. Apparently it was very popular in Czechoslovakia at the time and they could sell it as soon as it arrived there. They didn't have to hide it in a garage or wait around for a buyer. Steal it/sell it/steal another. Although angry, I was also impressed at the business sense of the thieves. Then the cop said something I've remembered. "People always thought when the Iron Curtain came down that the first ones who'd migrate to the West from those Eastern bloc countries would be the professionals-the doctors, lawyers, scientists and professors. But the truth is almost always the first to arrive are bad guys-- the thieves and low lifes. Because criminals are the most enterprising people in the world. They're always the first to take advantage of any new situation."
by Thomas Lux
on wheels:car, bus, cycle, truck, scooter
roller skates, trolley, tram, tumbrel.
like every river on the Andes eastern slopes
towards the Amazon: unceasing, around, or pooling
for a while then spilling downhill
again-- through, as in how a tunnel
is drilled through a mountain. Towards you
by air-- jet, turbo, prop, balsa biplane driven
by a big rubberband, jumbo
airbus, on Dumbos
neck, one-seater copter,
homing--you are home-- pigeons pouch--hyperbole,
perhaps-- rhapso babble,
but true. In a car
towards you-- how many yards,
therefore seconds, lost
changing lanes, two more red lights
instead of green?
Towards you more oxygen
each breath, towards you
each mile lifts lead xray vests
from my chest, each mile
removed from my eyes.
Towards you I willl take a sled, chariot--swing low--
rent a llama. I will run
two miles, walk one,
run towards you, towards you
I am on a sure course,
every inch of sail aloft,
towards you: harbor, origin, heart.