Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Personal Darkness in G-Minor

After all these years, I often feel like a particularly stubborn and finally well-trained dog. I take a certain stupid pride in being able to roll over, sit, and speak—like they all do, like they want me to—at last.

Would I tell a child: "you don't really want to be the weird little kid eating ants to gross out other kids and get attention. You will be unhappy when you are older." Because: am I certain the inverse is true? We learn our certainties on at least 7 billion different paths. And explaining the mathematics of probability is problematic.

Correlative of Kant: the only knowledge I have is personal. This is somewhat misleading though, because the tautology of Being Me renders anything else nonsensical. I could just as easily say "All of my knowledge is personal because it occurs within this framework I call myself." Where does that get me? Back to Ada. Or I.

I put on a coat with too many sleeves. Perhaps it was tailored for an Indian deity. It also has too many shoulder pads, and odd pockets for things like a Concise Oxford English Dictionary and a Goldfish Bowl (which is full of water and leased to a fantail). I then blunder around in a dark room that I have let myself into by checking into El Hotel de espíritus perdidos. I despise myself for doing this. For accepting the darkness and the goldfish bowl as somehow necessary. But worse, I hate myself for finding a chair of some sort and just sitting in it waiting for all this profound darkness to go away when I know it won't because the darkness never goes away. It just waits with me.

Knowledge is a key. No, not that kind. The kind that describes the scales of experience. Time results from this: with each performance, the notes are necessarily different, even if the song remains the same.

In the end there is only Chopin's Nocturne 11 in G minor. For now, it is the only refuge I have from being human. And therefore, the only one I need.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


I understand that quantum physicists have proposed solutions to the grandfather time-paradox. I am not particularly interested in traveling back in time to kill my grandfather and put the fact of my existence in doubt. I loved my Grandfather, at least the one I knew. (My father's shadowy family remains a mystery).

It does make me think about going back to visit myself.

While I am always prone to nostalgia and contemplation of the past, I find as I grow older the subjunctive desires, wishing what it could have been have fallen by the wayside: travelers on the road of Time that step aside to allow the freight of inquiry along. To put it in a simpler way—because I have no intention of abandoning my idioms of complexity just yet and so delete the former sentence—I wonder if I even understand the past at all. This realization correlates into the uncomfortable suspicion that I don't understand the present at all either.

I look at the portrait she did of me and I think about that woman. Not her, per se. (although I still think about Astrid quite a bit at times), but rather the woman I was.

Granted, I've had this hairstyle for quite some time. The swallow tattoos have been there since my early twenties. And Astrid even made me look a little older in that picture than I was. We had an argument about it, I remember. It was her take on Picasso's supposed rejoinder about his portrait of Gertude Stein
"But she doesn't look like that."
"She will."
Whether he actually said that or not is irrelevant to me. Painters can often be egotistical shits in love with their idea of enforcing will upon the world through vision and craft. At the time I thought Astrid was trying to control and shape me. She was always doing that sort of thing: telling me what to wear, how to use a fork properly. I often hated her and I was utterly in love with her.

Or was I? Did I know how to love? Or am I merely enforcing what I have learned, which I never would have learned if I had not lived through it?

If I traveled back in time would I really be recognized by my former self? So much has changed owing to subtleties I can barely fathom. This part of aging, the slow maturity than in Grand Crus can take decades, is actually comforting. Perhaps at most I would appear as a frightening Döppelganger.

I would approach myself, perhaps on that day when I was alone and angry sitting in the rain at Volunteer Park. After I calmed down from the initial shock, I would say to myself (reflexives are confusing in time travel, of course.)
"Don't worry. I'm not here to commit crimes so the police will think you did them."
"Or steal my girlfriend?"
"I don't have to do that. She's going to leave you in two months, so quit worrying about that fight you had with her."
"Leave me?"
"Like the others. But don't worry. In about 10 years you're going to meet someone wonderful. "
"Why do I have to wait so long?"
"Because it will take ten years to become me, that's why."
"That's not really an answer."
"Of course not, but you know we enjoy vague stubs of thought that we can fracture open and look at like a..."
"Geode. Yes, a trope you will keep using although the rest of you may change. Oh yes, and go get a copy of Heraclitus and start reading him again."

Am I throwing wishes into the past? Perhaps. It was something Astrid always criticized me for, and Morgan before her. If I still spoke with my mother she would do it as well.

My boyfriend likes the picture.
"If I just saw a picture like that I wouldn't know what to make of it. It's nice and all, kind of cartoonish, but there's a reason for that I guess. But I know you better when you talk about it. I see someone in love, but a little nervous about all of it. You're wearing her favorite camisole, I'll bet."
"I was."
"And you still have it."
"How did you know?"
"Because you look a little bit like a thief to me. Stealing hearts, memories, underwear."

Friday, May 26, 2017

Across the Sea

How far across the ocean was it from Ogygia to Nantucket? Enough for one evening, I remember, even if it was just across the Sound.

We said very little. The wind was from the southwest and way-finding was in the manner of reflection—the setting sun sparkling in your eyes, how it made the glitters on the waves. The purple and pink tones in the sky were a background for my life for cellos and violas to try their fluid, crimson polyphony. Notes repeated. Mistakes repeated. Love and days repeated. For a moment I closed my eyes to capture the fields of August as they blazed in the light—your hair waving in the wind that moves across the deepest waters.

You taught me how to sail: to trim the sheets, hold the tiller. A rope is a line, which had been only words before. When to fall off and when to pinch dangerously close—close enough to topple, to capsize and then be lost into the cold and darkness.
On land we know the Laestrygonians, at sea Leviathan will chew off our pretty legs. Everything is eaten, dissolved into the salt and accidents of stars that make us one. 
In the course of this voyage across the water, across my life and sound, I dream my body will wash upon Scheria and be tended by your curious, eager hands. And later, a bowl of chowder, a counterpane and the embrace of your arms—gifts that can kill without remorse or hesitation. Your arms are tattooed like mine
In the summer I sail across the Riddle, dead reckoning from birth.
This moment is what I want: the paradox of being alone with you, whether you are here or not.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


The unofficial motto of Washington State is “Alki” a Chinook word which means “by and by” or “sometime in the future.”* There is no “official” motto because the notorious State Legislature hasn’t gotten to it. Presumably it will be (like fully funded public schools) something they will get to by and by.

Once you move here the initial exasperation you feel—either in traffic, or a Seattle public meeting, or waiting for contractor —will change. You will either descend into madness or you will make a clean break and live fully in the present, dismissing these concerns as being taken care of by and by.

Part of it comes from the curious nature of time here. I should say that I’m going to be speaking about Western Washington at this point. Those East of the Mountains will be quick to tell you (and I agree) that they actually have seasons.

You know it rains here a lot. Well, you may know the amount of rain is less than many places in the US, but when the rain stops by (and by) it sometimes feels like years. That is because Western Washington usually has two seasons. Drizzly and Summer. The curious thing is that because of the near constant cloud cover, the light diffuses dramatically so that 8:00 in the evening in May looks very much like 3:00 in the afternoon in December. And the temperature is about the same.

Drizzly starts in September usually around Labor Day which is why the biggest Arts and Music festival in Seattle is called Bumbershoot. It then continues to the day after the 4th of July. In between is a beautiful summer. This is fairly common knowledge.

But as I mentioned, it’s the daily tricks that a diffuse world brings. Shadows, which define so much in our lives (just ask Caravaggio) are fuzzy patches of dark gray if you see them at all. This renders what could be beautiful architecture into vague planes of gray and blue gray and a gray that’s in between.

And as I said, you can never tell what time it is, so you get used to things happening by and by.

Insofar as the sun and moon, well, those celestial markers of time are a faint memory from summer evenings. Natives immolate themselves when viewing the former and become lunatics when they can see the latter.

I moved here from a sunny place a long time ago. I used to relish the rain in October. It was perfect for books and thinking and coffee and snug places. I still feel that way in October, but T.S. Eliot must have spent a winter here to appreciate how it extends into April: the cruelest month drives one mad. A wet May (like we are having as I write this) just turns the whole thing into a hideously absurd Beckett play.

True, we can trust our watches but those are only approximations. We open umbrellas (real native Mossbacks only use GoreTex) and wait for summer to come.

By and By.

*Alki Point itself is a beautiful spot in West Seattle looking out over Puget Sound. It is destined to become the New York of the West Coast. By and By of course, which is how it got its name and it does have a Statue of Liberty. (She’s a bit smaller than the East Coast version). You can learn more about it here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


I look down in the water and wonder, why should I think the world owes me anything besides this reflection.

I know a man who would worm this scene through the muddy lenses and gears of machines, which in the complexities of multicellular aggregation, I suppose we are. I find his explanation thorough, and the induction of his thought is swift and convincing but utterly meaningless.

I know a man who would twist this scene through the cataracts of God, who is the only real thing and the rest is illusion. In the complexities of ontological agglutination, I suppose this might be true, but it always seems to return to the preacher.

Both of them profoundly wield words. To me, this entire arrangement explains why poets drown in poverty for the kiss of the moon.

I find that on a quiet night like this, the water in May is beautiful enough.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

You Can Fly

"Now you can fly..."
“Peter Pan.”

“Peter Pan is your least favorite fictional character?”

Don’t ask me how we got onto the topic. One of the things I love about Will is that we can just lie in bed together and the conversation just goes on and on. Sometimes one of us is doing most of the talking. (Usually me, according to him) and sometimes we share.

“I hate that little shit. If I could kick his ass, I would,” he continued.

“You never liked him? Have you read the book?”

“No, I don’t need to. How would you say this? The Disney version, even Sandy Duncan, they’re all the same. Iconic. Think about it. It’s a very sexist story. Wendy has to clean up and be mom for all these little boys who won’t grow up. Total male fantasy. Or really anybody who just uses people wants a Wendy to clean up and take care of things. Tell stories maybe when it’s all over so they can go to sleep. It’s the only reason they haul her to Neverland in the first place and even there she has to put up with all of the shit from the mermaids or Tigerlilly. I won’t even go into that whole racist thing.

“True,” I said.

“And Tinkerbelle hates her too. It’s that whole keep them divided by fighting with one another and at the top of it all is Peter Fucking Pan.”

“A bit of jealousy?”

“Not jealousy. It's Bullshit, Ada. That’s why. Yeah, I wanted to be him when I was really small. He could fly. I mean, who doesn’t want that? But when I got older, I watched it again at a cousin’s house and I couldn’t believe how stupid it all was. “Not growing up.” Every kid I know wants to “grow up” because that’s when you can do whatever you want. So it’s doubly false.”

“Maybe that’s a subtext that Barrie wanted.”

“I don’t’ think so.”

“So Peter gets all the girls to love him. He always beats Captain Hook.”

“Exactly. He always wins. There’s never a doubt. But really, growing up is when you learn you can never win. Maybe you never have, but you don't really notice and that’s why childhood seems so precious and all.”

“But you were figuring it out all along,” I said.

“I just don’t need some asshole in tights lording it over me.”

“You never were Peter Pan, baby. Maybe you're more like Wendy?”

He thought about this for a bit. He smiled, and then kissed me.

“Yeah. You're right. I never thought of it that way. You're not Peter either. I think that’s why I love you,” he said.

“Oh, I love you too. Besides, if Peter won’t grow up, he’s never going to regally shag his girlfriend on a Sunday morning.”