Friday, February 12, 2016

Love on the shelf

For those of you familiar with my life and work, it should come as no surprise that February 14th is my least favorite holiday. The reasons are many, and I am sure you can find other posts about it really being for the jewelry and restaurant industries, not to mention florists and confectioners. But in any capitalist system, you will find holidays being corrupted; it just depends which is your favorite and it is likely over-commercialized.

If you cannot rebuke capitalism, then indulge in a local version of it.

As you can well guess, I think the best place to find love is a bookstore. Elliott Bay Books in Seattle is a passionate getaway for me. I will take you there if I love you. (Powell's in Oregon is  like a week- long orgy. I am sore after going in there.)

Sure, you can use Amazon, but that's a lot like Tinder, now, isn't it? Why not go to a bookstore and browse? If you prefer an arranged marriage, there are actual matchmakers there to help you.

These people are called booksellers. They will help you: not necessarily find the book you are looking for but the one you need.

First, are the things in it made up or "real" (a dubious concept)? This is how Tom Nissley divides up Phinney Books in Seattle.  Whether something is non-fiction, fiction, or poetry is up to you, and much is the same about our loved ones, is it not?

A quick book, or rebound, shall we say is often a good thing. I am not speaking of Junk Reading, although some could call it that.

A rebound book gets you through a difficult time, you probably won't re-read it, it often leaves you horny, and you can always give it to a friend. I would still recommend a real book in this case, although one can say that eBooks could do the job here. But with DRM in some cases it's not that easy.

I am not talking about books that are quickly read through and then tossed aside to read another in a series. That is the condition of book junkie: an individual addicted to plot and character formulas. I do not judge, but I also don't understand, and cannot know. Therefore—of book junkies who much simply pound their way through a book—I will remain silent.

Then there are the long-term books. The life-loves.

One sign of such a book is that it seldom goes out of print. Don't let that be a sure sign, though. It simply means a lot of people like it and so when they wear one out, or wish to pass this love along to someone they care for, they will purchase another book and the print runs continue. I have given away several copies of Borges Collected Fictions and I imagine this will continue.

If I meet you and you are under 10 and I like you—if I continue to like you—if you read: you will likely get a copy of The Hobbit because everyone needs a proper introduction to Tolkien's voice and world. Long after Jacksons' execrable adaptations have been forgotten, people will be buying the book.

If I meet you and you are say, 18 or so—if I like you very much—if you aren't sure you're a boy or girl or what you want to be—if you love words for their own sake: I will give you a copy of Carter's The Bloody Chamber. And maybe Fireworks.

If I meet you and you have no family or have been abandoned by yours—if you read and understand the deep places of the heart can sometimes be dry and beautiful and desolate—if you are building your own family out of the scraps of other families: I will give you Erdrich's mighty Love Medicine to keep the keel straight.

Those are a few of mine. Think about the true long-term books in your life. They need not be classics, but they have some sort of staying power because they speak of a story that is near to you. Moreover, they are written in such a way that allows you to fill in the gaps and add meaning: perhaps your own.

This is the sort of love medicine you need for February 14th.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


My friend Celeste was worked up.

"I felt like he wasn't even listening. I'm not sure he ever listens. Ada? Ada? Oh great, now even you aren't listening to me. God! This entire thing is about Kevin's disregard for me."

"How can he have disregard?"

"Have you heard anything I've said?  He doesn't listen. Look I brought in the petit fours and it was like…"

I'm not really sure what Celeste said next. I was not paying attention.  But I was very interested in something she had said. I had to admit that I wasn't sure whom she meant. Kevin may have been her boss, or a man she was interested in dating, or, knowing her poor choice in men, Kevin was both. Whoever he was, he had not paid attention to her.

"… and so here I was. Alone."

"That is not disregard," I said.

"Then what is it?"

"He is not paying attention to you."

"Like you?" she asked.

"Well, it's hard to really claim that. I have heard this before. Or something near enough like it. Change a few details. DeSean, for example. Weren't you upset about him and a kayak or something?"

"That was totally… Yes, that was kind of the same but that's not the point."

"No, neither of them had disregard. They cannot. That is the point," I said.

"But they both lied to me."

"Are you sure? Or did they not care? There is a difference. The word disregard is simply a lie we all use. You've been using it all through this conversation. But he did not listen to you and I doubt he cared. This Kevin guy. Do you have any proof he hadn't listened? If I asked him about the petit fours, would he even remember you made them for… you're not dating him, are you?"

"God, no! He's my boss and he's grotesque. He's like one of those monkeys who sits in hot springs and scratches his ass all day."

"A macaque."

"More like a MacCock," she added.

I had to laugh at this.

\"Alright, so your boss wasn't listening to you. He does not really know what projects you work on because they aren't important to him. Don't look like that, I'm just repeating what you've told me before about this man. As a result, I would guess the amount of time he spends thinking about you is zero. Well, maybe he thinks about your tits, but that is about it. There is no regard. It doesn't exist. Disregard cannot be something someone does."

"It sounds like you've been reading Wittgenstein again."

"Yes, but that's not the point. I regard Wittgenstein highly. And that is something, a mental thing. But a lack of a mental thing, which is the problem with your boss and the men you tend to date, is disregard only insofar as we have to have some word for the general situation."

"Nothing is the same," Celeste said.

"I agree."

"But Ada, that doesn't really help me feel any better, you know."

"I do. I was fond of that word for quite a while, you remember Morgan? I used that word about him for a long time. But when I realized his disregard did not even really exist, then all I was left with was abuse. That was easy enough to walk away from."

"It didn't sound like it."

"Well, yes. It wasn't easy. It's difficult to get away from these meaningless phrases, but we need them to get to the coffee and Black Forest Cherry Cake."

"And friendship."

"I think I said that. Sort of. Anyway, I was creating the disregard, both linguistically and as a phantom. Once I realized there was no connection between us, it was easier to get over him. I think you can do that with this boss of yours and clear your head a bit so you can find a job where people appreciate you."

"That bit about 'easy enough to walk away' was a lie?" Celeste smiled at me.

"I suppose it never is in those situations. I told a white lie to you and myself. Let's keep it between us."

Monday, February 1, 2016


At times, one can perceptibly hear the dripping rain. Each drop falls, is unique and is then gone again in a terrifying ocean of amnesia.

Can art ever hope to offer insight into the iteration of the everyday? I do not think art is a sop to Kerberos that keeps us in this world. The third head knew the secret you know. Kerberos did not so much guard the entrance from intruders, but rather guarded the knowledge that the world with its time was Tartarus.

Today I had the misfortune of seeing art suggest through sound the death of a man. There is no contest in death, whether it is abrupt and horrific: say a bulldozer pushes his house down upon him because he will not leave the place he was born—or whether it is slow: the grains of nows too small and indistinct in the blurry mental cataract of dementia.

But the art appeared to fail because no matter how big the stage, it is never quite as big as life. It is left to me as observer to make the rest of the scene: that which lies beyond the proscenium—both in the heart and out upon the  vast dark matter of the world.

Then I realized: it didn't fail.

Friday, January 29, 2016

In September

I drift on the outskirts of life, both sinking and floating, occurrence becomes its perfect ruin of desertion.
-Du Fu

Alone and silent, we are here together. Others still sleep in the boat, and the cormorant is by herself. There must not be very many fish in this stretch of the river.

I know that in September, Autumn plays around the corner. In this moment of hunger, my perception through the logic of emotions is most keen.

Man. Boat. Song. Lintel. Shadow.

But I am looking for you—through you—on this river. You have taught me that this wandering will never cease. Respites come in purple mornings and bamboo afternoons.

The cormorant dives under and I open the blank book.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Villanelle in Gray

Is it because of the night in the day,
And the ferry boat is standing still
In the uncertainty of gray?

Does the Puget Sound have anything to say
While I am crossing memories until
The night has crept into the day?

And I am not sure what this villanelle will say
A structure in search of will
And uncertainty of gray

I used to welcome winter in its stay
The rain-breath dreams, the green shade's thrill
Was it because of the night in the day?

Or is it all the years’ decay
The broken love, the world that’s ill
And uncertainty of gray

I wonder if there ever was a way
Beneath detritus and the chill,
Is it all because of the night in the day
And uncertainty of gray?

Sunday, January 17, 2016


It is not exactly an antique. It is a replica, but I do not know how old it is, so in some ways it could be an antique. Or a fake, a word I prefer not to use—it is pejorative in most cases. A bold fake is a forgery, and is thus elevated by the allure of criminality.

It is made of bronze and has long ago lost its luster. It is now green. I do not even use it anymore. Both of these facts are due to my incipient sloth. On the one hand, polishing bronze is boring and to be avoided. I still care about how I look, but I find myself not as scrupulous regarding make up. Do I look decent enough? Is something in my nose? I know other women who attempt to stave off the effects of age with make-up in varying degrees of success and technique. The more successful enhance the graces of maturity. The unsuccessful replicate the cakings-on once deemed necessary for hiding acne. Age and acne. Both begin with A and end with E.

Like most women I have other compacts. The number varies as to how much space I have to keep things. I used to keep one in a boyfriend's car, for example, because I lived in the City and didn't need a car. When I found someone else's compact in his car, I knew that it was time to move on to a new place. Now I think there is one in the cab of my pick-up truck somewhere. So I will dig through my bag for The Compact. This one. The one from Marseille.

I don't take the compact along as much because I am somewhat afraid of losing it. I don't usually lose things, as a rule, but these things happen. Yes, I am aware that we lose everything at some point, but this particular object is a souvenir as well as a utilitarian object. It doesn't just hold make-up, it holds memories.

This compact makes my nose look right. Not small, as you may think. No, by this point I know that my nose is large, but it is also not entirely condor-like, either. In the mirror, I am beautiful, brown and big-nosed—a Mediterranean woman. As always, I remember when I first saw the light.

Was it the light of Marseille? Was it that light on that compact? I am not sure and like many things I do not wish to question too deeply, I simply don't look for disappointments. They find me all too easily without any work of my own.

But no, that is not the end of it. It is rather before, when I walked out and in the light of Marseille I looked in the mirror and saw a woman who has been around since the dawn of civilization. For a moment, I saw myself going around topless in a massive hooped skirt with snakes winding around my arms, this woman was also a reflection on the thinnest sheet of reflecting metal. Mirrors do not lie, exactly. I do not mean the distorted ones that allow "objects are closer than they appear." That is simply a truism of living.

I am not going to wear make-up today. I just wanted to look in the mirror a bit and not see myself but reexamine that 27 year old woman I used to be. Like mirrors, make-up is not there to hide things but to tell different truths/

(A shortened version of an essay-in-process for A Closet Full of Lies)

Sunday, January 10, 2016


"I can read your mind, baby."
"Oh, you know."
"No I do not. I can barely read my own mind, how could you possibly do that?"
Baby was the bait with which he was fishing for a compliment on his technique. I had come, it was true, but more by my own work which is usually the case. Still, I was in a good enough mood. Perhaps it was all of the oxytocin in my head, but I had asked out of a sense of dizzy wonder.

I suspect that one of the deeply held beliefs—held perhaps by a spiritual arm, for like Indian deities we are not limited to two—that we can read each others' minds!
"How can you read my mind? That clearly delineates a text, and moreover a linguistic text.  When presented in media, it usually takes the form of words (useful for cinema) or diagesis (in novels, where it must be). According to this presentation, if you don't actually speak the language of someone, then you cannot read that person's mind."
"I don't know what you mean."

"Is that because I am thinking in Latin right now? Quo usque tandem? Or do you mean the other notion of emotional sympathy? Knowing someone else so well that you can read that person's mind. Married couples and very old friends would be good candidates, but that could also simply be considered an aspect of inductive familiarity. I barely know you, and so the intricate tapestry of your dissimulation is still beautiful and shimmering like the sweat on your chest."

"I think you're overthinking this. Look, when a man and a woman have a connection…"

"…I disagree with all of this, mostly because it frequently stinks of wish fulfillment."

"But your body language makes up 80% of what someone actually says. And your body is saying a lot."

"My body is saying nothing, unless I had a hundred mouths all over me. Even then, I doubt they would be in agreement. And where did you learn that? It sounds like the sorts of stupid things one learns in a half-day management or sales seminar."

"I don't know, yeah. The instructor said…"

"The instructor said what? That it takes many years of specialized discipline to know, primarily because the source of telepathic information is often equally if not more confused about who he or she actually is. Don't you see? All of this presupposes a True Self that the right psychic skills can discover."
"You don't think you have a true self?"
"I certainly can't say I know it. Let's say there are many selves in me.I will grant that an astute mentalist or magician probably is able to read a certain amount of conflict between the Jekyll and Hydes in each and every seat of an audience and can perhaps even spot out the ones who respond better to suggestion and the other tropes of psychic entertainment." 
I was quiet for a moment. But he said nothing. He traced the shape of my shoulder blade on my skin. Eventually I caved in and began again.

"But of course the age-old Bedrock of Magicians must be there. A desire to believe that we can somehow 'communicate with others' without these damn words getting in the way. So there is also simply using 'reading your mind' as a convenient metaphor for inductively guessing what someone is either thinking or about to do which may of course be the same thing. I suppose this usage is innocuous enough if not carried to extremes."
Kent said nothing. I realized that I had been the willing audience, but no magic can be sustained forever. The actual performance: the dinner, the walk around Highland Park to look at the view, the drink he bought me at Cannon, was a well-rehearsed series of brief routines. The climactic illusion had been good and he actually listened at times. And pillow talk is where my relationships die anyway.

He was a six-hour lie I told myself. He lay down and his breathing softened to that of a sleeping man. There was comfort in that, and I wondered about telepathy some more. Another lie that works because so many of us wish for it to be true.