Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let's talk about the gun

The other day I posted the above photo and got several inquiries about what looks like a gun pointed directly at the fireplace.

So, that's not a gun. It's a brass telescope, readers. Yes, we lived in what was known as the boonies of Atlanta, Georgia in the mid-1970s. Perhaps there were others in that part of Georgia who would proudly display a gun in their family room, but those people weren't us. We'd moved to what was then the hinterlands of the city proper and lived in a large subdivision whose borders were still being drawn even as I sat there at our faux aged fireplace, dark paneling around me, enveloped by the lustrous sateen browns and rusts of the decade. Just behind me were two sliding glass doors that led to a deck that overlooked a small backyard and the deep, dark woods. The Toll's lived on one side of us in a dark, gloomy Tudor, and the Deal's lived on the other side in a colonial. Why a brass telescope was set up and what, exactly, there was to peer at, is beyond me, but perhaps it just looked good, in the same vein as that fabric on the couch, my red and white checked jumper with the white turtleneck and my curling-ironed hair.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Staycation, Day Two

Henry and Oliver are on spring break this week, and we have no plans. Sophie is back in school. We're sleeping in when we can and hanging out for the most part. Today, we took a trip downtown on the metro for a visit to Little Tokyo, or Japantown.

We got out of the train at beautiful Union Station and then walked a few blocks to a tiny restaurant that served typical Japanese ramen, teriyaki and tempura.

Then we wandered into and out of little stores, filled with Japanese stuff, both traditional and hip. I've never really "gotten" the modern Japanese culture -- anime, Hello Kitty, metrosexual fashions -- but I did like these glasses:

Dang. I should have bought them.

After browsing through many of these stores and arguing with Oliver over his desire to own a Japanese saw (they're so cool, Mom, and they cut wood so much better!), we made our way to the Japanese-American Museum. Oliver's disappointment was transformed by an interesting Los Angeles Dodgers baseball exhibit that demonstrated the integration of African American, Japanese and other minority players on the team. I feigned interest, relieved that they were largely silent and, for once, united in their mutual love of baseball.

We then walked upstairs and saw an incredible Japanese tattoo exhibit called Perseverance. 

I was bowled over by the beauty and artistry of the tattoos.

Remember when I said that I was going to get one when I turned 50 last August? Hmmmmmmm.

Monday, April 21, 2014

All I've got is cake, some Emily Dickinson (who loved to bake them) and some Lord Byron (who loved another kind of cake)

Love's oven is warm

Emily Dickinson
 (from one of her letters)

from Don Juan, Canto 1, Stanzas 60-63

Her eye (I'm very fond of handsome eyes)
   Was large and dark, suppressing half its fire
Until she spoke, then through its soft disguise
   Flash'd an expression more of pride than ire,
And love than either; and there would arise
   A something in them which was not desire,
But would have been, perhaps, but for the soul
Which struggled through and chasten'd down the whole.

Her glossy hair was cluster'd o'er a brow
   Bright with intelligence, and fair, and smooth;
Her eyebrow's shape was like the aerial bow,
   Her cheek all purple with the beam of youth,
Mounting at times to a transparent glow,
   As if her veins ran lightning; she, in sooth,
Possess'd an air and grace by no means common:
Her stature tall—I hate a dumpy woman.

Wedded she was some years, and to a man
   Of fifty, and such husbands are in plenty;
And yet, I think, instead of such a ONE
   'Twere better to have TWO of five-and-twenty,
Especially in countries near the sun:
   And now I think on't, 'mi vien in mente,'
Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue
Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.

'Tis a sad thing, I cannot choose but say,
   And all the fault of that indecent sun,
Who cannot leave alone our helpless clay,
   But will keep baking, broiling, burning on,
That howsoever people fast and pray,
   The flesh is frail, and so the soul undone:
What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate 's sultry.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Bookworm Thrills

The Bookworm, circa 1974 or 1975***

I've just been reading The New York Times Book Review, have downloaded several new books, added a couple to my Amazon wish list and spent several hours dipping into the old reviews of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude and a few of his other novels. That made me search for my old copy of the book, which I found and which I'm thinking I should re-read. Marquez loved Joyce and Woolf, and just the other day I was talking to an old and dearest friend, and he reminded me of Joyce's short stories, how amazing they are, how you can pick up anything of his and just dip in wherever, start reading, re-reading, whatever. I had told him that I couldn't get through the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch, that it bored me and I wasn't sure why. I'm wondering if I can get through the Marquez, this late in the game or whether I should stick to shorter novels. I haven't read a biography in years, so I'm pretty sure that I'll be buying the hard copy of the new Updike one by Adam Begley. The review made it sound fantastic, and while I came late to the Rabbit books, I fell in love with Updike over the four summers I spent reading each of those books, culminating in my seeing him at UCLA right before he died. I can still remember my surprise at his warmth (I'd thought he'd be patrician and snooty), at how long and thin his fingers were, how I wanted to jump from my third row seat right into his lap. And then there's Barbara Ehrenreich's Living with a Wild God (that's the one I downloaded), described by the reviewer as electric, but then later as discursive, repetitive and claustrophobic, but Ehrenreich fascinates me, and so do people's lives and their mystical experiences so I'm going to read it. When I was a child, I'd walk into a library, move toward the children's section and have to kneel down, my foot wedged in my crotch, such was the urge to pee. This ridiculous side effect of book titillation carried on well into my adulthood when I still frequented bookstores, and even now, as I click and download and order, I feel the same sort of urgency and excitement at the prospect of so much to read, so many books. There's still time.

***Really, one can't exclaim enough over this perfect shot that my mother took one Christmas when I was ten or eleven years old. She always claimed that she'd practically shout at me such was my reverie when immersed in a book. I think she made that maxi dress for me, and I'm struck by my hair grown out and curled, evidently, with a curling iron. There would be several painful years of adolescence still to get through when the hairstyles got even more scary, and let's just say that being a bookworm was not a ticket to popularity and ease at a fancy private middle school in Atlanta, Georgia in the seventies. Oh, and let's not even talk about the couch fabric.


The Palm at the End of the Mind

After fulfilling everything
one two three he came back again
free, no more prophecy requiring
that he enter the city just this way,
no more set-up treacheries.
It was the day after Easter. He adored
the eggshell litter and the cellophane
caught in the grass. Each door he passed
swung with its own business, all the 
witnesses along his route of pain
again distracted by fear of loss
or hope of gain. It was wonderful
to be a man, bewildered by 
so many flowers, the rush
and ebb of hours, his own
ambiguous gestures--his 
whole heart exposed, then
taking cover.

Kay Ryan

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lacrosse in Bellflower -- A "Californians" Episode

So today's sporting activities involved a 25 mile trek south to the city of Bellflower, a trek that involved The 101S, The 5S, The 710S and The 105E, a veritable Californians scenario. Henry's team was playing the notorious St. John Bosco High School -- evidently the best football team in the country, many of whose players join the more recreational lacrosse league in the spring. Henry's team beat Bosco's lacrosse team, though, and it was an exciting game that more than made up for the location. When I dropped him off at the school, I traveled up the main drag a bit, trying to find a place to get a drink, and I do believe it was the ugliest town I'd ever visited in southern California. Honestly, I'm wondering whether the Catholics sucked up all the money to build and school the 800 boys that attend Bosco and then send them to the national football championship, because from what I saw, Bellflower just ain't belle. And it didn't look poor, ya'll, it just looked profoundly ugly. My apologies to any readers who might hail from Bellflower -- maybe you could enlighten me on its charms?


Today I'm going to forget about the fact that for the third morning in a row, our dog has thrown up in my bedroom in the wee hours of the morning. I'm going to count on the wisdom of the Buddhists who claim that nothing is permanent, even the darkest of moods, even seizures, even circumstance and inequality and injustice and stupidity. I won't despair. That also means that lightness and ease, seizure freedom, equality, justice and intelligence are not permanent states either. I will be grateful.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Futbol: The Beautiful Game

Henry, his friend Noah, Sophie and I walked over to LACMA to see the exhibit Futbol: The Beautiful Game. I don't have much interest in soccer, to tell you the truth, but the exhibit was thrilling. Here's how the museum described it:

The exhibition examines football—nicknamed "the beautiful game" by one sports commentator—and its significance in societies around the world. As a subject, football touches on issues of nationalism and identity, globalism and mass spectacle, as well as the common human experience shared by spectators from many cultures.

It's also intensely masculine, and the concept of machismo was explored as well -- no female athletes represented, here -- and I have to admit that a series of black and white photos of some Italian stars "looking vulnerable despite victory" were very easy on the eyes. I'm sorry that I don't have the artists' names -- there was one Andy Warhol print of Pele, but the more than thirty other artists weren't familiar to me.

This was my favorite piece:

And I loved this one, too:

You can read more about it here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Black Magical Thinking

William Blake

Joan Didion, in her formidable memoir The Year of Magical Thinking describes the way she thought in the year after her husband's sudden death as I was thinking as small children think, as if my thoughts or wishes had the power to reverse the narrative, change the outcome. In my case this disordered thinking had been covert, noticed I think by no one else, hidden even from me, but it had been, in retrospect, both urgent and constant. Didion, of course, was grieving for her husband, and her magical thinking, although not entirely conscious, was that she could actually bring him back. Today was the second day of Sophie having quite a few seizures, certainly far more than the few to none that she'd had in the previous two weeks. I heard her thump onto the floor in her room just a few moments ago, and when I stood up and ran to her bedroom, I knew that she was probably seizing, had probably stood up from her bed and then gone down like a tree, felled. I picked her up off the floor and comforted her, changed her diaper for the fifth time and pulled the covers over her. I felt bitter and not a little angry, wondered if she'd eaten anything off or whether she was having an allergic reaction to something or other. I went over the day -- the last two days -- and wondered if she was having a delayed reaction to the cold she'd been struggling with for a week. I even, for a moment, thought that she might be reacting to me. Don't assure me that this is not so. There have probably been hundreds of times in the last near-twenty years that I've thought it -- wondered if the core, the reason for Sophie's seizures lay in me, in my literal cells. It occurs to me that this is a sort of magical thinking -- a black magical thinking, the subversion of magical thinking. The power to reverse the narrative is beyond my grasp, and if I don't stop grasping, trying to figure out why, why, why, the outcome won't be changed. 

This black magical thinking is childlike, near primitive, actually, and definitely urgent and constant. 

Memory Cast

I lay on my back, under the sycamore trees, the pods prickly, outlined by blue sky. Your drawl in my ear, Sophie in her chair, cast my memory back there, Lord, sometimes I'm overcome, thinkin' bout.

We met at someone's house on Lake Placid later that summer, you from Canada and me from Rhode Island. Lying in someone else's big bed, you noticed that my thighs were slightly bigger. You're generally too scrawny, you said. I like you this way. I held onto the spindles, scratched a mosquito bite, made a cross with my nail to stop the itch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How We Do It, Part XLIII

The sheer number of Sophie's seizures and the fact that I couldn't leave her alone or unrestrained for one single second today might have driven me to drink. Permanently.  Instead, I listened to Oliver play Tequila -- slowly but pretty damn well. There was a moment later, when the three children and I sat down to dinner, when Sophie flung her cup and Oliver caught it, instinctively, even mid-conversation without missing a beat, that I knew I was where I was supposed to be and that where I was supposed to be was a very, very good place.

The Italian Ax-Wielder

So, no sooner had I posted the previous post on how Sophie has had no significant seizure activity despite being sick and there being a full moon, than she began seizing this morning and hasn't stopped since. My southern Italian grandparents, pictured above, were deeply superstitious, and while I can't confirm it right now, I think they definitely believed in the power of the jinx. Their blood runs powerfully through my veins (as, apparently, my facial characteristics with theirs), so I'm going to attribute Sophie's bad day to the jinx I caused by posting so exuberantly this morning.

However, that Italian ax-wielder is yet unable to knock down this obdurate tree. Sophie did have more days than ever before without seizures and, I imagine, will continue to do well.

In the meantime, I'm hunkering down.

Inspiration by photo with a CBD update

So, I'm sitting here at my desk (yeah, I know, I'm sitting) staring at this photo of Sophie and then this photo of a tree that looked exactly like a stooped woman in a long dress:

and since I'm often inspired by photos, place them in front of me before I begin to write, I stare at these two and empty myself of all thought, place these fingers on the keys and

just go.

Sophie, despite having several days of a terrible head cold and the accompaniment of a full moon (which ordinarily causes mucho seizure activity) has had no seizures to speak of in weeks. We raised the CBD dosage, and I do believe we've found the right amount. Other than an occasional weird tonic thing in her sleep or napping that is momentary, we haven't seen a single thing.

Holy moley. Holy crapola. Holy shit. Allelujah. Praise Jesus. Praise Allah. The universe is abundant.

And that tree. Now that I think about it, I might resemble it. A bit stooped and perhaps sagging under the stress of the last couple of decades. Obdurate and long-faced, my roots deep. Still here. Silent, knobby, folded in upon myself. Hunkered down. It'd be hard to get an ax through my trunk to cut me down.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DIY Stand Up Desk

Have ya'll heard that it's bad for you to sit down for any length of time even if you exercise regularly? Those who know me know that I sit down a lot -- writing, driving in my luxury vehicle through the streets of the metropolis, etc. -- and those who don't know me probably don't realize that while righteous, my fanny is a prime one for spreading. I really don't want to order one of those hipster stand-up desks, so I thought I'd kill the proverbial two birds and gather up a number of books that lie -- well -- everywhere in this house. Then I built myself a stand-up desk -- a place where my righteous fanny can stand free and taut in front of The Borrowers Aloft and back issues of Poetry, The Teenage Liberation Handbook, a couple of shoe boxes and the Kate Atkinson novel that I haven't gotten round to reading, yet.

What do you think?

The consensus from the Peanut Gallery and The Teenage Gallery was:  that's just dumb, Mom.


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