Monday, May 31, 2004

Feline passenger manifest

Larry's sitting on my lap, supervising. Larry, if I haven't mentioned him before, is a little black cat bent on stealing your soul. He's been eating like it's his job, which it kind of is, and he's finally put on all the weight he lost over the winter. He has attained roaster dimensions. If you live with cats, or are in fact a cat yourself, you know that if you come to rest in a certain kitty pose, the humans around you involuntarily picture you with a golden crust and cornbread stuffing.

Memorial Day. Gray and raining. We spent yesterday in the sun with our friends from the bar. After years of this, you'd figure I'd get used to seeing them in daylight, but I never do. In this case, hooray! The sunlight was warm and steady, the food abundant, beverages resting on every surface. One dog, one child, two grills. There weren't even any lame-brained riding mower accidents, though the landscaper really shouldn't have left the weed whacker unattended like that.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Tine Wars

So Nana and I are talking about culinary karma. It's really a blizzard of emails, but - oooh! - such fun.

Me: I can't tell you how the history of dinners is littered with
dispute-related corpses.

Nana: Ohhhhh...I feel a good book topic coming on. What dinners did you have in mind, hmmm?

Me: If you read Miss Manners for fun, you find that eating utensils and manners developed in Europe and Japan based on the potential harm dinner guests occasionally did to one another. Perhaps it happened in other places too, but on the European and Japanese customs I can be specific. In Japan, a knife at the table is considered barbaric. Because you stab people with them! And in European place settings, the knife sits to the right of the plate, blade facing the plate, so dinner guests didn't spend the evening waiting to be - say it with me - STABBED. Apparently, stabbing is an indoor-outdoor sport, practiced without worry about gender or station in life. Miss Manners is pretty damned hilarious on the subject of place settings.

Nana: Gentle reader, it is not for this outspoken writer to condemn the place settings or wittisicms of others, and so hope that you will accept my deepest and heartfelt acknowlegement without fear of misunderstanding. Furthermore, it is with the greatest of pleasures that I peruse the etiquette titles carried locally.

Me: You can't hear me, but I'm squealing with glee! Glee! There's at least a short story here.

Nana: Tell me! Which part?!

Me: WHEN DINERS ATTACK. Somehow this plot includes powdered wigs. It's an etiquette manual based on brutal and disastrous meals.

Nana: I wouldn't miss this for anything. Especially the powdered wigs.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Thinking the funny thoughts

It's important to amusercize yourself. Walk around at a stiff pace, noticing the funny things in your neighborhood. Notice the guy on the riding lawnmower, mowing in time to the music in his headphones. Observe the bird sounds on the otherwise empty street. See the line of red cars on one side of the street and realize cars on the other side are white. It's all coincidence and curiosity, but your brain's doing laps, and that's a blast, yes?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

whale song, sow single

It's Saturday night. I've already been out and come home. Paulie's going out to the bar and I'm happy to become One With the Couch. Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

My privacy is important to me. I spent all those years on stage, telling the audience everything, but I chose my subject matter carefully. The distinctions between what I discussed and what I didn't meant the difference between art and blowing my brains out. So there are people who never figured into my work, such as it is and was. I've been thinking a lot about privacy as I open myself up as a person in this blogging experiment. What can go wrong in this age of repression and censorship? Gee, I don't know. Some low level bureaucrat could decide my articles have crossed some wacky line, and next thing you know, I'm Ethel Rosenberg.

...Not that I think what I say should register on anyone's radar. Lately, I've felt like the Voice Of Reason, which bugs the hell out of me. I'm supposed to be the Voice of No Fucking Reason Whatsoever.

But, y'know, this moment in time is awfully peculiar.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Power polka, away!

You have magical powers. Everyone does. You just don't think of them as magical until you look sideways and notice nobody else could do what you just did. Your magical powers probably aren't "It's a bird! A plane!" - more like, "Mr. Rourke! De plane! De plane!" And nobody notices little Tattoo's hawk-like vision always spots aircraft first. So be it. Mamie has the power to find a space where she wants it; we call it her Parking Karma. I have the magical power to get into hospital rooms at odd hours, though I couldn't possibly look as if I belonged there. Do I look like I showed up to change bed pans? I don't. But in I go, and there I stay when I am needed. It's like I'm invisible to the stern eye of the night nurse.

One magical power I do not possess is the ability to make a fine witness. Let's be serious: I'm a little fruity for jurisprudence. Suppose you were on trial and I was your character witness. In no time, it'd look like you were a wack job in a monkey suit, clown nose optional, because that's what I look like from the outside. To a certain extent I accept this external view exists, but just because someone says something about you doesn't make it the truth. In fact, I don't own a monkey suit and refuse to rent one.

When it comes to very serious issues, I'm crazy and I know it but I'm not stupid, and it is a serious error in judgment to confuse the two. Yesterday, I wrote an Altrok column on a grave matter. I didn't know if it'd be suitable for publication in that forum; I was willing to put the column here if the editor decided it was off-topic. I wouldn't have blamed him if he were unwilling to stand as a lightning rod for the kind of attention no one wants. I respect him for publishing the little piece, despite the fact that our political views sometimes diverge.

Now the reason I mention the column is that in the here and now, I expect to look around in any room and feel small and covered with fur. I expect to utter a line, have an audience that laughs and demands I cut it out, and life goes on. Not that the punchline wasn't pointed, mind you. I expect bigger minds with longer lists of credentials to stand up and keep a straight face. After all, we accept that I'm Unconventional with a capital U, and sources should always be considered.

Still, the column had to be written, the point made and the punchline put aside for the moment. I feel as if I've been pushed into being a Voice of Reason and it annoys me. Grown ups! You are not doing your jobs! The discourse of our time has become so skewed with irrational rhetoric that crazy people have to talk sense. Is this how you want your moment in history to be remembered?

Now if you please, I'd like to go play with my ruby slippers...

Monday, May 17, 2004

Gear whine and glovebox gavotte

When I read novels, the words disappear and I see a movie behind my eyes. Sometimes, I feel the movie, and sometimes I'm *in* the movie. When I should feel suspense, I feel sick with fear, and when the characters feel pain or terror, I feel it too, and sometimes I have trouble getting out of their emotions.

It follows that the years I read everything about Joan of Arc, I served as a shining example of emotional instability. In the context of what I was reading and learning, the emotions made sense. Applied to my own life, they made everything go haywire. It was in the middle of one of these episodes that a friend said, "There's a context for everything she says. We just don't know what it is." About ten years later, I realized I have these internal shadow boxes, and the play is playing, and my blurting out a line here and there only serves to confuse things.

Thus, you can imagine the ebb and flow of surrender to the book and return to more-real real life after another book about the witch burnings of the Middle Ages. I was a wreck yesterday morning, and I still feel so drowned in the pathological jealousy, rage, intense grief and terror of just one case, I can't consider the whole horror of it.

Perhaps a little light reading of Edmund Wilson before I go back to the Gnostic Gospels.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Drawing a rhumba line in the sand

I look awful, I mean it. This week: a thousand things to do, and read, and research and - whatever, upshot being this morning, I'm tired but I feel fierce.

Nana lit a fire under my butt a few weeks ago. Since then, I shut off the TV and spent every minute I could reading, mostly about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Audrey struck the match with the Nag Hammadi Library, which all made sense when Nana recommended the Perfect Heresy, a history of the Cathars.

On the other hand, the same week video surfaces of a stray American kid getting his head hacked off in Iraq I'm reading about crusaders burning heretics in truly terrifying numbers. The cruelty with which human beings treat one another shouldn't surprise me at my age, but it does. It really does. Yesterday I stared off into space awhile, trying to locate in myself not the murderous impulse - most of us have that - but whatever it is that makes one follow through on it. Break a beer bottle over a head, maybe; shove the broken bottle into the jugular, I don't think so. Probably not.

Song on the mental jukebox: Theme from "H.R. Puffenstuff."

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Shocking the Monkey since 1966

Johnny asked if I could put my hands on one of his stories. He's sent me stories since 1980, so I have quite a collection. The two I found right away were from 1991 but weren't the one thing he was looking for. I promised to look in storage. He said never mind. I believe I have the most complete collection of Johnny's artwork, letters, photographs and songs - but only if his brothers aren't pack rats. It's a library, really. I possess a library.

That tale went nowhere. is taking off. I'm tickled. Suddenly, everywhere I look, there we are.

Monday, May 10, 2004

A Mob of One and a Pop Gun

The song in my head this morning: Joan Osbourne's St. Teresa.

Blogger's upgrade looks pretty cool. I have Paragraph Joy! Joy! Even I know what I wrote, which is unusual.

Mamie's helping me figure out what kind of car I should buy. My needs are so modest, most of the time, but style is all. I wish I could find a small Italian car in my Christmas stocking.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

St. Paul and a hot plate

It's bothered me for a few decades that the body of testimony re: the life of Jesus came from people who never laid eyes on him. Before you object, the Gospels were penned by four someones between approximately 40 and 100 years after the crucifixion, and nobody can prove who those someones were. That brings us to St. Paul, who's always struck me as a nasty piece of work. I can understand the business of the secondhand biographies - if that's the best you can do, I can see that, write down what you remember, we'll see what sense we can make of it. Paul's corpus of work, on the other hand, has always felt to me like a dark cloud settled over Jesus, and no flashlight would help you through it. Currently, I'm working my way through a pile of books on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and I find I'm not alone in my antipathy. The residents of Qumran felt a murderous rage toward someone from within their midst who betrayed them, the community at large, and the Teacher of Righteousness, who was probably James, brother of Jesus. I suppose I should feel vindicated, but mostly I feel curious about the terrible things done in the name of spreading Paul's word, and the sorrow created by it. Then again, some people devote their whole lives to learning what they can about these things, and I can't decide what to make for dinner.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

High tide on the west coast

Nana appeared from nowhere and charms me now with the wildest ideas and stories that sound remarkably like Johnny's. She says, "I was just out on the balcony. There's a fat moon hanging in the sky illuminating the bay...the crickets are going crazy, cars zoom softly by in the distance. For some reason this makes me think of springtime in Tulsa, with the frogs so loud down in the creek. I remember them spilling out onto the road, the sounds of them, all squishy crunchy ribbetting popping under the truck tires, hundreds of them frozen in the headlights and cottonwoods and the fireflies, bright little splashes of cyalume on the windshield, driving south into Texas late at night. Somehow I ended up buying a harley davidson shirt from Oklahoma City, tho I dont recall being in OK City, I vaguely remember headlights illuminating a dirty shack we stopped in the middle of the night, so maybe that was it. I have no idea whatever happened to that shirt. Did I give it to someone? A.? I haven't the foggiest. The night is so lovely out. Smoochie has been out in the back, I can tell where she's been by her paw and chest smells, lavendar, eucalyptus in back or the smelly yellow flowers by the stairs, or the fresh earth from the gopher holes...It must be just fucking aces to be a young cat on a night like this."