"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."
In Sydney Pollack's wonderful documentary about the architect Frank Gehry, there's a moment that is especially memorable. Anyone who has seen Gehry's work, particularly the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain or the Disney opera house in Los Angeles knows this architect is both an artist and a visionary. In the film someone asks where he gets the inspiration for his buildings. Genry picks up a wastebasket next to his desk and says "In here, for example. If you look into any trash can you'll see shadows and angles, light falling in different ways. There are combinations of impossible things thrown together by chance, connections that shouldn't be but are. If your eyes are really open, you just have to look into a wastebasket to find all kinds of inspiration."
From what I can see, exotic expensive cars are almost exclusively driven by three types of people: middle aged men, ostentatiously beautiful women who are frequently married to (much older) men like that, and young people who look very spoiled.
Small mystery department: A new store opens after having done a complete renovation of the premises. The store fails after a short while and closes. A new tenant takes over, but not before gutting and re-doing the store again so that it looks completely different. Store two fails. Store three comes in, but not before doing a complete renovation, etcetera. Yet the place was recently redone. Why do they need to do it again? Why can't they just move in as it is? I have watched this process happen repeatedly over the years and it never fails to confuse me.
Twice a year there is a big two day street market held nearby. It's a really festive affair and very crowded. There's a homeless man I often see walking around the neighborhood. He loves talking to people but normally not many want to stop and listen to him. So when I see him he is usually alone talking to himself. Whenever this street market is held he is always there and emanating happiness because inevitably he finds an audience. For those two days, there's always someone for him to talk to.
eBay online auctions has a smart system worked out. People leave feedback for each other after every deal. If the seller doesn't deliver the item after it has been paid for, or they send it late, you can give them negative feedback. If you don't pay, the seller can do the same. Everyone's feedback is posted on the eBay site so you can immediately see who's reputable and who's not before making a bid. Wouldn't it be interesting if somehow we could see each other's life feedback? I know there are dating websites that literally do this. If you're interested in going out with X, you can go to a specific site and check what other people who have dated X have to say about them. But I would think that sort of thing is notoriously undependable or untrustworthy for obvious reasons. I'm thinking more of a fantasy situation-- dentists, prospective dates, business associates, even people you buy bread from in stores... somehow there would exist a trustworthy system where all of them could give you feedback and vice versa. It would then be accessible to anyone who wants to check. Susan is interested in going out with you? She checks your feedback and sees your past loves generally like you and give you a thumbs up. Fred wants to buy a car from Fritz? Feedback check-- oops! Not a good idea. Fritz has a habit of selling bad cars and not telling the prospective buyer the truth about them.
When I first moved to this neighborhood years ago, I often used to see a strange and lovely sight. A very good looking dark bearded man pushing a woman in a wheelchair who I assumed was his wife. She was very plain but always seemed to be smiling and he was too. They appeared to be about the same age. It was only after the second or third time I saw them that I noticed the man was always barefoot. Winter or summer, he was always without shoes or socks. Of course that sort of affected my view of him. In the dead of winter this guy was *barefoot*. He would be wearing a heavy coat and one of those Russian hats with fur earflaps-- and barefoot. The woman dressed normally, according to the season. As the years passed I saw them less frequently. Once or twice I glimpsed a baby in her arms. Then later that baby had grown into a small child sitting in mother's lap, laughing. It has been a long time since I saw them last. Today out of the corner of my eye I saw a man pushing a wheelchair. He looked old and when I saw the woman in the chair I thought at first that it was his daughter because she appeared so much younger than him. Then it clicked in my head and I realized it was the barefoot couple, as I had come to call them. He looked twenty years older than her. White hair, white beard, much heavier and balding. She looked in her early thirties. It was hard to encompass. And then when I remembered them fully, I quickly looked at his feet. He was wearing not only shoes but socks as well.
"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful."
"What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story."
F. Scott Fitzgerald
"When people kiss they've stopped talking. If her kisses were words, what would they be saying to you?"
"There are days when everything is about you."
He had a bottle of good wine and three glasses in his car. After they had talked a while about that night, silence gradually fell between them. So he went to get that bottle. For quite a while they just drank his wine in companionable silence. He seemed to be a great guy. When she asked his name, he said just call me Stanley.
'Stanley? Is that your real name?'
'No. My real name is The Angel of Death, but that is quite a mouthful to say. Stanley is easier. Stan, if you prefer.'
'You are The Angel of Death?'
'I am.' A big annoying fly had been buzzing around them for some time. Stanley pointed a finger at it and the thing instantly dropped out of the air like it had been shot. He smiled and said 'Special effects.'
from the new book
"Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined"
I like the times in life when your own language is handed back to you, improved by an unlikely source. Today I received a very nice letter from a reader, although it was plain that English wasn't their native language. They closed the letter by saying "Have a good mood." On first reading that I smiled, but a moment later I thought what a terrific way to end a letter to someone, to anyone. Not the typical "Sincerely" or "Love," but a small blessing, a wish, and a hope all rolled into one.
"Have a good mood."
I like it a lot.
Once Again I Fail to Read an Important Novel
Instead, we sit together beside the fountain,
the important novel and I.
We are having coffee together
in that quiet first hour of the morning,
respecting each other's silences
in the shadow of an important old building
in this small but significant European city.
All the characters can relax.
I am giving them the day off.
For once they can forget about their problems
desire, betrayal, the fatal denouement
and just sit peacefully beside me.
In the afternoon,
at lunch near the cathedral,
and in the evening, after my lonely,
historical walk along the promenade,
the men and women, the children
and even the dogs
in the important, complicated novel
have nothing to fear from me.
We will sit quietly at the table
with a glass of cool red wine
and listen to the pigeons
questioning each other in the ancient corridors.
And the Men
want back in:
all the Dougs and the Michaels, the Darnells, the Erics and Joses,
they're standing by the off-ramp of the interstate
holding up cardboard signs that say WILL WORK FOR RELATIONSHIP.
Their love-mobiles are rusty.
Their Shaggin' Wagons are up on cinderblocks.
They're reading self-help books and practicing abstinence,
taking out Personals ads that say
"Good listener would like to meet lesbian ladies,
for purposes of friendship only."
In short, they've changed their minds, the men:
they want another shot at the collaborative enterprise.
Want to do fifty-fifty housework and childcare;
They want commitment renewal weekends and couples therapy.
Because being a man was finally too sad
In spite of the perks, the lifetime membership benefits.
And it got old,
telling the joke about the hooker and the priest
at the company barbeque, praising the vintage of the beer and
punching the shoulders of a bud
in a little overflow of homosocial bonhomie
Always holding the fear inside
like a tipsy glass of water
Now they're ready to talk, really talk about their feelings,
in fact they're ready to make you sick with revelations of
A pool of testosterone is spreading from around their feet,
it's draining out of them like radiator fluid,
like history, like an experiment that failed.
So here they come on their hands and knees, the men:
Here they come. They're really beaten. No tricks this time.
No fine print.
Please, they're begging you. Look out.
A woman walks into the cafe, sits down and drops her keys on the table. The sound is impressively loud and the mound of keys takes up a large space on the table. As always, I look at that metal mound and wonder what does she do for a living to *need* all of them? Is she a locksmith? Or in charge of safety deposit boxes at the bank? From what I've seen, people generally like carrying lots of keys. Maybe it's a power or prestige thing: There are so many valuable, lockable things in my life that I have to carry this metal bouquet with me wherever I go.
I hate keys and have always carried as few as possible. House key, elevator key, mailbox key, car key. End. But so many people carry around so many that seeing them sometimes makes me wonder is my life too simple? Are there too few things to unlock in my every day? Recently when someone whipped out their fat bunch I asked point blank what the hell are all those keys for? She happily said in a kind of child's singsong voice: this is to my apartment, this is to my office, this is to... At which point I zoned out. Maybe that's it-- a heavy handful of keys is proof for some people of what's theirs. Constant visible proof. A friend of mine always carries the house key in their pocket no matter where they are, even on a business trip to New Zealand. When they get nervous about something, like an upcoming meeting or speech they must give, they wrap a hand around that key to reassure themselves that sooner or later they'll be home again and safe
The small wisdom is like water in a glass:
clear, transparent, pure.
The great wisdom is like the water in the sea:
dark, mysterious, impenetrable.
In the sea of women
few men shipwreck at night;
many at dawn.
But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters
until they found me.
Sex without sin is like an egg without salt.
I was watching track and field events on television the other day. There was a women's long distance race which was mildly interesting (as are most track and field events to me) until I realized something: I don't know anything about the sport, but in the long distance races I have watched, there always seems to be one runner who flies out in front of the pack at the very beginning. Does that runner *ever* win? It seems like they invariably poop out early and end up at the back by the end of the race. Maybe some reader will write in and tell me you're damned right those early bullets win, you idiot. Or else that that specific runner's job is to start fast to set the pace, then fall back and let others pass them, etcetera. Even if that's so, why would anyone train their whole life for the sole purpose of setting a fast pace for others but then lose every time? It's sort of like the team that always plays the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and inevitably loses.This time, the tv commentator said "There goes Smith sprinting right out to the front, as usual." Suddenly I was interested to know if this Smith had ever actually won a race. If not, why the hell did she start out running every race as fast as she could if she knew by doing that she would lose?
IT says this:
"Steve Prefontaine used to start out front and never relinquish the lead and he was a 2000 to 10000 metre runner"
Today, another story from someone else. I asked if it were true and they promised it was.
A friend of mine went to a new dentist who was recommended to her. She was sitting in the waiting-room when she saw his diploma hanging on the wall. His full name was on it. Immediately she remembered a very handsome boy in her high school class who had the same name. Was it possible that this dentist was the boy loved by every girl in school 30 years ago?! No, when she finally saw him she knew that it was impossible: Bald, wrinkled, big stomach, he was too old to be that beautiful boy from her class. Definitely too old. But just in case after he checked her teeth, she asked if he had gone to her high school. He nodded and also said that he was one of the best students. What year did you graduate? He said in 1976 and then she knew it really was him! Excitedly she said I was in the same school! He looked at her with wonder and asked: "So, what did you teach?!"
"Last May, workers cleaning up garbage on Britain's highest mountain made a startling find: There at the top of Mt. Ben Nevis was a piano. How did it get there? Three years earlier, hikers in Indiana's Yellowwood State Forest stumbled upon an equally inexplicable anomaly: a massive boulder lodged in the topmost branches of an 80-foot-tall chestnut tree."
An interesting horrible story about youth just in from one of the crew. The last paragraph is my favorite:
I went to church camps when I was a kid. They were Baptist instead of Pentecostal, but still very intense. Very black and white - you were either serving God or an enemy of God. There was nowhere in between. There is a verse that is employed which says it is better to be hot or cold in your "dedication to the Lord," because being lukewarm makes God want to spew you out of his mouth.
One of my clearest memories was an event toward the end of each week called the Fag Burning. It was a bonfire in which twigs (fags) represented sins we wanted to renounce as we prepared to go back to the world which we were "in but not of." Imagine preadolescents breaking down emotionally over some secret or lie that they used to name each stick before hurling it into the flames. If the sin was so bad that you couldn't bring yourself to say it, you could just call it "unspoken."
Even then, so long before realizing I was gay, and really having no big sins to confess, I felt that there was something incredibly creepy about dragging up this outdated definition of the word fag for such a purpose. I was scared, but I believed there was some hope in all of it. Some magical release from the aspects in each of us that kept us at a distance from God.
I knew a girl who went to a similar - but Pentecostal - camp in which they had men dress up in fatigues and stormed into the dorms with masks and guns claiming that it was Armageddon and it was time to chose whose side they were on. The kids, who had been asleep just seconds before the men exploded into their bunks, were lined up and all the ones who said they loved Jesus were separated into a separate line to be executed. Instead they became honored for their bravery in the end. The most chilling thing about this story has always been that the girl who told me about it considered the experience as a unique opportunity to discover her deepest convictions since she'd had no idea while it was happening that it was being staged.
good site to know about:
A guy I know has decided to take the plunge and try internet dating. He thought he'd start on "MySpace" and if that worked, join some other sites as well. He sent me a bunch of pictures of himself and asked which I thought would be best to use. Before deciding, I thought it best to take a look around MySpace and see what others have posted. It's fascinating because there seems to be a pretty even divide between people who post nice (attractive) portraits of themselves, people who post no pictures of themselves but rather their cat, dog, child, or view of something pretty like a flower or a mountain. But the third bunch, and there are quite a few of them, post suicidally bad pictures of themselves making ridiculous, truly unfunny faces, or looking strange enough to set off loud alarm bells. I cannot imagine what was going through their heads when they chose to show that image to their prospective friends or dates. The people who don't put up a pic of themselves probably think if someone is really interested, they won't care what I look like. Maybe, maybe not. But what on earth is going through the heads of people who post pictures that beam I am an idiot, or I hate you, or I am insane and if you get involved with me I will destroy your life for sure.
"The practice among escaping Russian and Soviet convicts of taking a naive companion with them for food is documented. An entry in Jacques Rossi's GULAG HANDBOOK under the heading korova (cow) begins: "A person designated to be eaten; suspecting nothing, any novice criminal, invited by his elders to join them in an escape, is fit for this role...if, during their flight, the escapees food supplies are exhausted, without prospect of renewal, the "cow" will be slaughtered..." Rossi notes that the practice predates the Soviet Gulag system, being recorded in a Russian medical journal as early as 1895."
from THE PEOPLE'S ACT OF LOVE by James Meek
Out of the blue someone I hadn't heard from in two decades wrote me an email. It was a long letter mostly detailing what they had been doing in the ensuing years. Then they reminisced about the last time we saw each other way back when. I didn't remember the event at all, but they did in detail. The gist of it was we were crossing a busy street together when a dog ran out in front of us and was hit square on by a speeding car. The impact was so great that it spun the large dog round and round like a top. I had forgotten this completely and only after reading their description did I have one of those "Oh yeah, I remember that!" moments. It led me to wonder how much else of my life have I forgotten--lost-- but other people still possess because they remember. There are so many things that happen to us along the way that we forgot. But someone often does remember them, as we remember things about others that they have forgotten. Isn't it strange that events in our lives-- OUR lives--belong to others now? Unless we see and talk to these people again, we will never know those things again. Yet even without us those experiences, those parts of us, are still very much alive in other peoples' lives and memories.
So, if someone remembers something that happened to you that you forgot, who actually owns the reality?
This story made me think that people can be like removable flash drives on a computer...
This reminds me of something I read about an African belief that people do not really die until they are completely forgotten. We remain alive in others.. and if you gain fame and glory enough, you might never die - like culture heroes, demigods and the like, who are remembered, if mythologized.
"Every word once spoken, every deed that is done, every sentiment felt is recorded somewhere; it has not gone, it is not lost."
Hazrat Inayat Kahn
The Vienna tourist bureau uses any excuse to create a theme around Mozart and this year is no exception. Being the 250th anniversary of his birth, the town (and Austria generally) is going all out to beat the drum about one of their most famous native sons. Which means everywhere you go you see Mozart candies, t-shirts, books, concerts, etcetera. Some financial historian examined the maestro's finances and posited, contrary to popular opinion and the film AMADEUS, that Mozart wasn't poor at all and made the equivalent of $50,000 a year. An uproar ensued. At one restaurant they have created a special Mozart goulash, and there are even gaudy posters up everywhere advertising an-anti Wolfgang festival called "I Hate Mozart." From all accounts though, Vienna did not treat the composer very nicely when he was alive. It did not treat Beethoven very nicely either. Or Egon Schiele. Or Schubert. Or Joseph Roth. Or Sigmund Freud. In fact there is a saying that the only way to become famous in Vienna is either to die or leave the country.
Sleeping with him was like going out for ice cream -- it was never as good as she imagined it'd be while walking to the ice cream place, and afterwards instead of satisfaction all she usually felt was a coating of guilt in her mouth for having indulged.
He was talking about an extraordinary looking woman he had dated for a while. "Have you ever bought a beautiful piece of fruit? I mean, like, one of those peaches that's so luscious looking that it could be on the cover of a magazine? But then when you eat it, which you sort of hate to do because it's so beautiful, it has almost no taste at all. You can't believe it, so you keep taking bigger and bigger bites out of it waiting for the flavor to hit, but it never does. It's the damndest thing-- how could something so amazing looking have so little flavor?"
E says about this:
"The attractive but flavourless fruit analogy is one I've often used to excuse all my interesting 'flaws'. The fruit bowl of a Spanish housewife, who understands these things, is frequently filled with all sorts of irregular shaped items, each of which will sate one's desire for flavour; while that displayed on the tables in many English (and probably American) homes catch the eye, but catch in the throat when one attempts to swallow."
Years ago I knew a man who had a late night radio talk show. Every Friday he had a sex expert on to answer call in questions-- A psychologist, as I remember. I asked what was the nuttiest question he ever heard? One night a man called and in a very calm voice, said he had sex with his radiator four or five times a day. He wanted to know if the expert thought that was too much. The expert (who was a very cool, hip woman) asked the caller if he thought having sex with an inanimate metal object was a little odd. The guy said no, not at all. He just wanted to know if he was overdoing it.
Sometimes I find a heart in the street. Don't look at me like I'm nuts or trying to write a Country and Western song. Looking down, I see someone has stenciled a heart on the sidewalk or the street. Or some stain--oil, paint, whatever-- has landed in such a way that it is shaped like a heart. Looking at pictures on Flickr.com I saw that there are photographers around the world who have documented this occurence. It reminds me of finding money on the street. A small surprise, a wink from the gods. A good reminder that sometimes love can be found in the oddest places.
Everyone you see, you say to them,
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying;
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
In the middle of downtown Vienna is a square known for its large decorative clock. It's a pretty thing and when it strikes noon, two typical Germanic folklore figures dressed in trachten come out of a door and slide from left to right. That's all. Hansel and Gretel (or whoever they're supposed to be) appear, move slowly from the left door to the right and then disappear. Basta. But the funny thing is every day just before noon, crowds of tourists gather in anticipation, cameras lifted and ready to photograph the proceedings. But only the boring happens-- Hansel and Gretel go from left to right and the show's over. The expressions on the tourists' faces are identical-- they keep expecting something more to come. They share this big "ANNNND?" look. But when they eventually realize nothing more is GOING to happen, they look at each other with bewildered expressions that slowly harden into "What a gyp!" looks. It is always the same. I must have watched ten times to see if anything ever changes. Yet many of them remain there a long time afterwards, waiting for the clock to do something to merit their having stood there expecting clockwork magic in quaint old Wien.
"Your heart and my heart
Are very, very old
I have wrapped my laughter like a birthday gift
And left it beside your bed.
A madman inside of you
Who is always running for office--
Why vote him in?
For he never keeps the accounts straight.
He gets all kinds of crooked deals
Happening all over town
That will just give you a big headache.
And fix on your face
All the empty plots,
All the ghosts and fears.
All the grudges and sorrows have
I must have inhaled
all from THE GIFT by Hafiz
I like those instances in life when an event happens and as soon as it's over, a big buzzer or red light goes off announcing METAPHOR!
The subway pulled into the station. Passengers got on and off. One man who had been waiting on the platform started running towards the front of the train. People do that when they know the exit they will use after getting off is either towards the front or the back of the station. But a moment later the car doors closed abruptly and the train began pulling away from the station. A few feet down the platform I saw the guy slowing up from his run, a very angry look on his face. He had missed the ride entirely because he wanted to save a few steps later. The moral of the story being just get on the train and don't try to be clever.
"When you were seventeen, you thought that the world was made of the same substance as your own theories, so that you had control of it and could turn it to your own advantage. But one day everyone had to confront the bitter truth that it wasn't like that, that the world was soup and thought was generally a fork: it seldom resulted in a good meal."
"He understood nothing about her; for him she had the unfathomable look of a creature from another world, and that was precisely what bound him to her. He experienced her presence in his house not like that of a dog, which has no secrets from human beings, but like that of a cat, which is itself a secret-- and to that extent he felt free and unthreatened. And just as a dog belongs to a human being but a cat belongs to a house, so she merged with the order of his apartment and became a part of it. Dogs knock over tables, scoop cushions from armchairs, and carry things out of the room with their heads held high; cats do not even touch what they touch..."
both quotes from Harry Mulisch's THE DISCOVERY OF HEAVEN
cool magic just in from MD:
Outside the kindergarten on the afternoon of the first day of school, many young mothers are waiting for their kids to come out. The expression on the womens' faces cover the widest range of emotions. Some look happy and expectant, as if they can't wait to hear how the first day went. Most look simply pleased. But a surprisingly large number look haunted, as if they still haven't gotten over the shock of bringing their baby to this place a few hours ago and leaving them. It is the first day of the rest of their child's life. It is the first time they have spent hours apart from them. Those haunted looks might come from realizing life at home will now be very different forever.
I'm watching the man read the morning paper. He's meticulously dressed in a pressed black suit, white shirt and tie. The shoes look new. The way he reads his newspaper reflects all that. I think again of how our smallest unconscious gestures are often a clear window to who we are. The way we put sugar in the coffee and stir, the way we brush our teeth, clean our glasses... He reads with full attention. After finishing a page he carefully, slowly turns it over and folds it back so it won't intrude on what he is reading next. At one point however he encounters a maverick page which refuses to follow orders: it refuses to turn and be folded like the others. It won't do what his insistent hands tell it to do. The guy gets increasingly more annoyed as that long piece of paper will not be bent just so like all the others. Once he manages to fold it badly and with too much effort, it will not stay in place; It keeps swinging back at him. This small drama says lots about the guy and the way he probably is. I watch a while and begin to smile because it is so universal. Then snapping to attention, I look quickly around the place wondering if someone is watching me watch him. Life as the never-ending Borges story-- the watcher being watched by the watcher being watched, etcetera.
This Sunday treat comes from RPC:
I was watching a documentary on TV about the ultra rich in Los Angeles. One of the people they interviewed was a super star film agent who lives in a 13 million dollar house. They toured his home. Its opulence and grandeur were sort of like a small Xanadu from the film CITIZEN KANE. The man was blase about everything there and only really lit up when they got to the garage and his cars. He owned a perfectly restored Austin Healey, Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet Corvette, all from the 1960's. He couldn't keep his hands off them as he described their restoration in long loving detail. This powerful man in his mid fifties who obviously has seen and done everything, only got visibly excited about three cars which were considered cool half a century ago. He has so much money he could have bought ten of each but these three seemed to suffice. It was easy to imagine him as a teenager someplace in America looking hungrily at these cars while dreaming about owning one of them some day. That day has come and he owns so much more, but the only things that appear to bring him joy now are those leftover, vaguely sad forty year old dreams.
"In Venice in the Middle Ages there was once a profession for a man called a *codega*-- a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection through the dark streets."
from EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert
In the end, that's sort of what we're all looking for in romance, isn't it? Our own personal codega.