This blog is welcome to anyone and everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Unless you don't like writing short stories or smelling bear. Or if you voted for the other guy. Also, I don't really like it when you leave up the toilet seat, so could you stop doing that? Muchas, muchas gracias.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Bellybutton Is Deceitful Above All Things

Since Matty and Roximoon were kind enough to show us their bellybuttons

I thought I'd do the world a favor and give you an eyeful of mine.

Note that I have no tats, no piercings, no nuthin'. Just pure, hot, unadulterated belly button action, babies! Now when are you going to show me yours? Because you can run, but you can't hide. We will find your bellybutton, and we have ways of making it talk, should it come to that. Let's see it, people.

Howdy, suckas!

The next order of business is this tagging thing. I have discovered that the only rule, here, is that you're to post five things you decide you want the whole world to keep in mind in case you should die in some kind of fiery accident involving whales and harpoons. You must then tell five others to post the five things they would say to a cheetah, if the cheetah would only listen and understand them for once. If you do not break the chain, you get a million bucks and a night on the town with the bellybutton of your choosing (choose me! choose me!). If you should break the chain, the only consequences will be that you'll turn into a werewolf. Which, that's not so bad, is it?

I pick ginab, Matty, Davi, Ticharu, and um. . . let's see. . . you know who's due for a huge tagging? Yup, Chris Capp. (Chris, you owe me half a mil now.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Five Things You Should Know About Ing

First, I'm sorry not to tag anyone back just yet, but before I'd even consider doing so, I need to know if this is a bad-luck-good-luck situation. If there's the remotest possibility that if someone breaks the chain they will have bad luck (I'm a weensy bit superstitious), I won't risk continuing the process.


I don't read novels because I can't stand interrupting a story before I've finished it. So I'll stay up all night, skip meals, and hold my pee until I simply can't hold it any longer before I'll put down an unfinished novel. If I have to interrupt the story in order to go to work, I'll be grouchy about it all day and maybe even rude to the customers who ask me about which novels I recommend they read. And then after work, coming back to the story after pausing for so long -- well, it diminishes the book in some very important way.


I hate washing my hair and only do it for everyone else's benefit. My hair is longish and I'm keeping it that way, but it takes forever to dry. It's also a little curly and blowdrying turns it to frizz.


I'm scared of the vacuum cleaner. It's the noise it makes, I think. Same with the blowdryer and the bathroom fan. When I was little I used to scare myself by imagining that the devil was sneaking up on me, from behind. If the vacuum, for instance, was running, I'd never hear him.


Do not touch my eye!


Today at work it was really slow and I was alone in the bookstore sitting next to the space heater. I spent like thirty minutes looking out the window at the traffic; the lights in the apartments and shops across the street; people in hats either walking their dogs or walking without dogs, quickly, with their hands shoved deep into their vest pockets; the quaint little street signs on their quaint little poles. And I was thinking about men who've entered and exited and re-entered my life. I was thinking about how nice it would be to live in my own apartment. I was wondering about Austin, TX. I was thinking about you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

How David Foster Wallace Broke My Heart

The other night I heard that David Foster Wallace, Adonis of the written word, would be reading in the Haight, so I fixed my hair, slipped into a slit skirt, grabbed a couple of books for him to sign, and I was off.

Because I spent so much time agonizing over which bra to wear (you never know), I arrived a mere half hour early and all seats were taken. Though my skirt was skin-tight, I managed to sit on the floor without a) falling into someone's lap b) flashing anyone. I clutched my new Garner's usage dictionary and my copy of Wallace's Consider the Lobster.

Twenty minutes to go and someone tapped my shoulder. I looked up, and attached to that tapping finger was ultrababe David Foster Wallace, his long and lovely hair, those scholarly spectacles, that five o'clock shadow. . . And I'm pretty sure he's been working out, because motherofgod, the t-shirt! He knelt to run his fingers along the spine of my Garner's usage dictionary, and for the first time in my life I was jealous of a book, and then he said in a deep, steady voice, "that's an excellent, excellent resource, you know." Then, get this (by now, everything seemed to be going in slow motion while Barry White played in the background): before disappearing through a side door he swept his fingers through his hair, and I swear that in his wake lingered the smell of wool, ocean air, and libraries.

I can't say what happened in the interim between the hair-sweeping incident and the moment he so gracefully ascended the stairs to the stage (and readers, I won't even try to describe the way he filled out his jeans). I may have been unconscious. But I came to in time to hear Mr. Wallace inviting everyone who was sitting on the floor to move up to the front, near the stage. Which I did, and I listened, rapt, while he read "The View From Mrs. Thompson's," an essay about witnessing the events of 911 unfold on TV while sitting in a neighbor's crowded living room. One sentence, in particular, struck me:

[The] thing about [. . .] hay fever is that you can't ever be totally sure someone's crying, but over the two hours of first-run Horror, with bonus reports of the crash in PA and Bush being moved into an SAC bunker and a car bomb that's gone off in Chicago (the latter then retracted), pretty much everybody either cries or comes very close, according to his or her relative abilities. [Lobster, 138]

After the reading I asked David Foster Wallace what he meant by the final word, "abilities," in that quote; I privately wondered if he was referring to "the ability to hold back tears," or "the ability to weep?" The answer, I thought, would provide me with an even deeper insight into David who, I'd pretty much decided, was my soul mate; we both read usage dictionaries cover-to-cover, after all. And as I mentioned, those pectorals of his. . .

His answer was long and surprising and to be honest tedious and addressed the idea that watching the events of 911 unfold on television is highly ironic because one can't help wondering how much of it is staged, so it's difficult to cry without feeling stupid when one is so detached from blah-bitty blah blah blah.

Which, okay, do we have to intellectualize even those things that might move us deeply? By doing so aren't we purposely distancing ourselves in order to sort of "step" on them, and further to use this new and elevated position as a vantage for pointing out how we are too clever to simply view a thing on its own level? Can we not be clever without always having to be more-clever-than? Can we ever, in this present world, cry without feeling ashamed? By constantly casting doubt on sincerity aren't we destroying its very possibility?

To be fair, Mr. Wallace's popularity reached its peak in the early nineties, when he was cast as a writer who spoke for the most cynical generation of all. He was live, in person, and on stage, speaking to an audience of generation X-ers who (perhaps) might have come to expect a certain ironic approach. And after having read Mr. Wallace's stories, 1 I don't for a minute believe the defensive posture.

David Foster Wallace, I still love you, but the candle I once burned for you is no longer the brightest.

1See "Incarnations of Burned Children," and here's an excerpt, just to prove my point: "If you've never wept and want to, have a child."[Oblivion, 116].

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cartographies of Love

For Jane, and for anyone who's lost in the heart's rough geography, some guidance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pop Quiz No. 1

Someone just told me, "You should take consolation in the idea that there's a higher power." I hope I don't offend anyone by admitting here that I've never believed, though for a time I tried. And that if I did, belief would be the opposite of consolation.

Tonight, I have a certain strain of piano music playing in my head, and before I navigated the stairs in the dark, consolation was the idea of sitting on the stoop to have a smoke, a dark blue sky, a warm breeze, stars and moon and these rambling hills around me, and the stucco buildings scattered like pieces of broken shell.

Instead I found consolation under a gray night sky, the slick-wet street, and the same piano I mentioned above made less melancholy (for some reason) because across from the stoop is an empty building, its interior walls now rubble in the back of a truck. More precisely, it was in the particulates of rain haloed in the street lamp, just heavy enough to fall.


Tell me about something so beautiful, it hurts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

For What It's Worth

I live on California's Central Coast, where too many people have stuffed their souls with money.

Last weekend I visited my ex at the tiny house we bought together. Seeing the place always makes me sad; we spent years fixing it up. First, we tore off the roof, added skylights, and replaced it with something that wouldn't leak. I painted the place dark green, so it would blend in to the wooded surroundings. We saved up for, bought, and installed a woodstove. The Japanese gate I designed and built still swings near the top of the driveway.

The day I left, we were remodeling the kitchen. I loved to cook for my ex, and there was the new stainless steel stove, the cookbook niche I'd built in the wall, the shiny pots and pans hanging at ready above the sink, the spice drawer, the knife sharpener, the cutting board I'd sawed from a cottonwood stump. The things that still represent what I loved.

This was the ex: he knew the latin names of all the plants native to our neighborhood; he never once killed a spider; children lost their shyness around him, and stray dogs followed him home; he gave one-third of his money away, and he never held a grudge. Last March, though, something went suddenly and horribly wrong with his mind. I won't tell you the details of what happened -- not here.

And now, we haven't determined what to do with the house. Sometimes the ex wants to live there and sometimes he wants to sell. I'm just glad he has a safe place to stay. If he stays. In the meantime, I rent a room in San Francisco. Don't get me wrong; it's a nice room, and I'm lucky to be here. It's not home, but it's something. I wait and I wonder and I try to scrape by.

The weekend of my visit, an old friend of my ex's stopped by. He toured the house, speculating on how much we'd get if we sold. He stopped in the doorway of what used to be our bedroom. From the ceiling hang two longboards. Mine, the shorter one with three fins, I took as payment for helping rewire a house. I stood there and listened while the guest offered my ex four hundred dollars for it. Is it normal to walk into someone's house and start bidding on the items therein?

This is what it's all been reduced to, this life. The negotiations have begun. I've lost everything, everything, everything.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Truman Capote: Cutie Patootie

Young Truman Capote, O. Henry winner, short story writer (he may have written other things, too, but that's unconfirmed), gossip hound, and host to some wild parties, was a major cutie. Vintage recently released the paperback edition of his complete stories, and while his earliest pieces seem to end just when they're beginning, as Capote matures so does his voice -- and ooh, wouldn't you love to hear that voice as he whispered in your ear? Something that wasn't a malicious lie about you and your wealthy friends, I mean?

At times, Capote's writing could be hecka stylish; check out this transitional leap from a line of dialogue spoken at night to a description of the next morning:

Papa used to bring us Christmas trees from there: carry them on his shoulder. That's fifty years ago. Well, now: I can't wait for morning.

Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered woods. A wild turkey calls. A renegade hog grunts in the undergrowth.
["A Christmas Memory," 220]

Here, Capote proffers his authorial elbow as he escorts the reader gracefully from a time fifty years in the past, to the present, to hope. Next thing we know and with only a paragraph break and a one-word sentence (Morning), Capote sweeps us to daybreak, which, be still my heart.

And where does this dashing writer take us from there? We find ourselves on frosted ground. Then he lifts us over his head, we twirl over the semicolon, and land safely on the sunny side. That's just the beginning of the routine, ladies and gentlemen of the Olympic committee, which is packed with difficult tripping steps, e.g. the repetition of the word "orange," which Capote uses two different ways in the span of an and, yet the overall effect is smooth as an ice rink. I think I'm going to faint.

Arguably the best story of the lot is the exquisitely titled "Children on Their Birthdays," which begins, "Yesterday afternoon the six o'clock bus ran over Miss Bobbit."[135] "Miss Bobbit" is a sophisticated and eccentric ten-year-old girl (think Becky Thatcher, if Becky Thatcher had studiend theater in Paris). She and her mother have just moved to the story's setting, a very small Alabama town. Soon after her grand arrival, two boys who at the beginning of "Children on Their Birthdays" were best friends fall for Miss Bobbit, and they become sworn enemies. One of the boys reflects on Miss Bobbit thus:

She was the queer things in him, like the pecan tree and liking books and caring enough about people to let them hurt [you]. She was the things he was afraid to show anyone else.[153]

The story was made into a movie, and readers, don't bother. Don't even think about it. Just read the book, will you?

The 1966 publication of In Cold Blood changed nonfiction writing forever and with its release, Mr. Capote became wildly famous. But in 1975 Truman Capote published excerpts from his book Answered Prayers, which contained scandalous and sometimes untrue stories about the his famous socialite friends. Which he then lost in droves.

He drank, he took lots of drugs, and in 1984, he died.

I prefer to preserve in my memory a version of Mr. Capote that resembles his own memories, so lovingly captured in his prose: forever at his pinnacle, suspended in the crowning moments before the bus rounded the corner.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

How To Deny Yourself

It's the new year, and already I've broken my vow not to smoke. I can't deny myself what I want and I can't help wondering if this is my weakness, or if I'm just principled.

Last night I saw Brokeback Mountain, a film about the cruelest denial there is; the denial of true love. One character, Jack, is principled enough to get what he wants as often as he can get it. For this, he's killed. The other character, Ennis, denies himself and winds up alone, in a windy trailer, with only his memories of those few moments of paradise he allowed himself to have.

Doomed love. It's been portrayed in many films and novels, often so sentimentally that doomed love doesn't touch me. Last night, though, I left Brokeback Mountain shaken, embarrassed to be weeping hot tears. That's when I bought the smokes.