so, thanks to daniel, I’ve joined the collective. no, not stoopid poopy friendster, bastion of the socially mercenary– I’m talking about thefacebook. where you can connect via your skooooool connections. college/grad school AND high school. it’s just like that publication we had at hotchkiss, names & faces, which we (girls) used to pore over literally for hours– memorizing who was who, who was dating whom, identifying cute boys. and the boys, well, they in all likelihood pored over the thing, too, just not in our sight line. it was kinda like the yearbook, as a resource, only way better because it came out at the beginning of the year. each new school year you’d go in to the registrar’s office on the first day to get your picture taken for your i.d. card (what did we even do with those things when I was in h.s.– late 80’s–? me, nothing. except collect them in a box as testimonial to my vast improvement over time) and apart from laminating your photo in rigid plastic, They’d used it to fill the pages of names & faces, with name and home address beneath each photo– which was, frankly, quite useful at boarding school. not only for sending christmas cards, but also for identifying who else came from the midwest, who the super-fancy manhattanites were, and who hailed from darien and greenwich (tho to be honest that was pretty self-evident). and who came from the midwest but seemed, or wanted to seem, like they came from darien or greenwich (aka, lake forest and grosse pointe). and who came from places just completely off the map of the known world (“tennessee? kentucky?? florid– now, wait just a minute here, this has to be a joke– do people acually live there? I thought it just shut down when we left.”). I always craved a names & faces of college and grad school– especially when I was in the writers’ workshop, which is every bit just like high school otherwise, so why the heck not. it might have helped me get a lay of the social landscape. cuz, my friends, make no mistake: it’s a minefield out there. it helps to know where to step and where to tread carefully. yeah, so. but thefacebook.com isn’t entirely the same thing, then. I mean, beyond the obvious, digital and what-all. it’s more, I dunno, Proactive, I guess. the rabble taking the printing press into their own sweaty grimey hands. you know– like the web used to be. power to the people. unfortunately, you can’t necessarily count on seeing what people look like, since some of us are uncooperative and put up photos of our front porch. but come on! what if that cute boy in biology class thinks I’m vain?
so while everybody and their cousin fred is traipsing off this week to san francisco (where I should be, if I hadn’t so badly budgeted cash that I couldn’t afford a plane ticket) for professional composition conferences and visits to friends and excellent restaurants and so on, I shall be cooling my heels right here in iowa. now, now, I’m not complaining—and I forbid you to feel the least bit sorry for me—the fact of the matter is that a span of days undisturbed in my lovely home with zero outside obligations and even few (but a couple, so not to despair entirely) friends left in town to offer distraction is precisely what the doctor ordered. and just how am I using these great glorious lakes of undisturbed time? glad you asked: working on my web site’s appendages, joining lovely new cybersphere communities, playing with pots and pans and my excellent new blue mixer in the kitchen, working on several collage boxes, getting class-teaching stuff squared away at a sane pace, and bringing my brain back into line on the diss: sifting through the beginnings of my AWESOME student data, gorgeous multimodal projects, and doing little manageable bits of writing that, over time, are accumulating into a larger whole. how excellent! couldn’t be better, now could it? see, told ya not to feel sorry for me. aaaaaahhhhhh.
for days, even weeks, at a time I’ll forget to open the curtains in my bedroom. for one thing, I don’t spend a whole lot of time in there during the day. for another, the curtains are semi-translucent, so it’s hardly dark in the room. but there’s a big difference between direct and indirect light, and I know it, even if I tend to forget about its importance through busyness and neglect. neglect, in particular, of charlie the cat. I mean, I don’t single him out for neglect or anything—hardly, in some ways he’s even my favorite (tho I don’t like to advertise the fact around the others). I’m simply prone to extensive albeit unintentional neglect of those I love, and it’s always been that way. I’m dramatically periodic in my attentions—when I remember to do so, I’m all about the cuddle and wide-eyes-only-for-you—but the truth is, I’m in this space rather infrequently. far too infrequently for my ex-husband, let me tell you. and the evils of this tendency in the current case are compounded by the fact that charlie the cat lives most of his time upstairs, in my bedroom. so, you know, he doesn’t literally get to see much light of day. fortunately, my most excellent $1 armchair from the auction sits right by the best window in the bedroom and makes for an optimal snuggle spot when I do (appropriately enough, on a sunday) get recalled to my senses and scoop him up for a few minutes’ injection of love. and its lovely and easy enough to reach up and snag the curtain back behind the iron holder, so we can bask in the bath of light together. I mean, for gracious sakes, it’s no wonder the poor cat is so durn fat—he’s probably deeply depressed.
oh, laptop, how I love thee. when my body is exhausted, joints sore with insomnia, susceptible to chill, sneezing and blowing, but the racket in my brain sprung in small hours won’t kindly shut up, I can lie most pleasantly abed, muffled in flannel, propped by pillows, and give vent to the odd bits I can’t seem to slough. like projects in compulsive collection. like interstellar transcriptions. ibook, my trusty buddy, so shiny and white, so portable and flexible, so handy with usb and firewire ports for flash drives and dv recorder downloads. the best debt ever. debt being something I have a degree of expertise in.
an hour and a half west of g.p., and here’s the idea: move west & market my aesthetic– a shop called “farmland garden,” import/sell midwest stuff + shop locally and sell midwest-type stuff– keep a record player playing scratchy copies of bessie smith, tom waits, squirrel nut zippers, m ward, gloria deluxe?, etc. have a samovar set up with tea + teacakes or other snacks. lamps and indirect lighting. sit there and make collages on an old farmhouse kitchen table. also little books. also have wireless internet. maybe also an espresso machine? food and drink on/in old dishes, linens. squishy chairs, low tables. nextdoor thru the heavy curtain: “brocade lounge”. wine and beer. smoking, if excellent ventilation. old spinny ashtrays. dark walls, dark textiles: reds. sconces. overstuffed. tiny stage for singer acts. out back: shared courtyard terrace. roses & water fountains. little lights in pachysandra. stone flags. candles on tables. live down the street in a small arts & crafts bungalow.
the whole thing was tilting: walls, floors, doorways, staircases, all gone crazy. windows idiosyncratically aimed gazes into sky or, alternately, ground. everything inside trembled, live and inanimate– elderly lapdogs cowered under beds while antique dressers heaved themselves across hardwood floors. and each time we moved, the whole thing shifted with us: make for the door, and the floors headed south; retreat too quickly, and the walls ground backward in sudden overcorrection. we were frozen in place, terrified to turn it, to send everyone and everything crashing down one way or another. still, some made dashes and attained the outdoors– but once outside, how could they live with the guilt? a few ran back in to do what they could toward salvation, ushering out anything they could lay hands on– a cat, a stranger. some worked the exterior, searching for ropes and adequate anchorage. we were miles from civilization, off the map, off the radar, unlooked-for. we were on our own, doing our best with disaster. I discovered a cell phone in my hand and told the rest I’d call for help, but somehow never placed the call. maybe there wasn’t time, maybe we tipped, maybe I had immediate issues staring me down. eventually, we knew they were on their way, but what could they do? we knew we were in for it. we were in it: to go down or make it out alive all on our own devices. we gritted teeth, touched one another’s shoulders, readied ourselves for whatever was coming next.
how come sometimes, when I’m feeling tired, when it’s a grey and rainy sunday afternoon far from the world, removed somehow from every busy friend– how does it happen that holding my breath helps? just like it helps for the hiccups– the only thing that does, face-down into a pillow. and when I’m tired like this, it seems there’s an empty cobwebby spot down at the bottom of my lungs that needs to be filled, a dim pocket that ordinary breathing won’t reach– a part of me that’s been neglected, oxygen-deprived– and then I need to flood it and hold it in until I feel the silent beat that tells me to let go. and I’m better, for now. afternoons like this I need my flannel and the yellow lamplight and this purring cat. as well as deep, concentrated gulps of air.