Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I have moved into a new apartment.

My name is on a legal document with a significant other (who is not Mason).

I turn thirty two this weekend. I keep thinking I'm turning thirty three.

A hurricane named after me is set to hit (ok, at least brush) New York for my birthday.

My bowl is broken; I did not go crazy. Maybe just a little crazy, but not much.

My cat has learned how to spoon.

Orchid blooming in the bathroom. The moonvine didn't die, but did refuse to grow this year.

I really want to shave my head but I like my haircut so I feel like I can't shave it all off right now.

The keys for my new apartment are ugly so I can't wear them on a chain around my neck. I hate keys in my pockets.

after the fall

(this was written weeks ago. I am safe and secure in a new abode. I apologize in advance for my melodramatic musing.)

I have not bought a one-way ticket to Mexico and I am not hitchhiking vaguely towards the western openness and the liberating/dangerous adventures offered by unplanned time in arid and alpine expanses. Equally surprisingly, I have not crawled head first under the covers of a tightly made bed and slowed my breathing, nor have I piled the couch cushions on top of myself and lain flat pretending both that this is completely normal and that I am somewhat invisible, secretly wishing that oblivious people would come in and sit on the cushions to add that delicious numb weight that the cushions themselves can't deliver. I can claim small victory in having not fled in any meaningful geographical sense; this I did choose. I looked at tickets and didn't buys them. I randomly chose meaningless destinations, but forced myself to think of the practicalities required for the trip and to acknowledge what I would be leaving, what it would cost me. This sounds like simple practicality, an unenviable affliction I am occasionally struck with, but it is not. Thinking practically breaks the magic. A man in free fall or the drowning woman doesn't consider their options; there are only two: acceptance or panic. Not consideration, and that is what I have been doing, so whatever descent I might have found myself is not the final trip after slipping over that edge.

Staying out from under cushions and not crawling into bed the wrong way isn't an actual accomplishment though. I really want to (and would), but our current couch isn't long enough and it is too hot to be under a sheet, much less enough quilts to offer the gentle smothering required for a moment of pretend relaxation and pantomime calm that is the point of such an exercise. Of course it is a good thing that I haven't quite cracked or gone over that edge; I'll concede this. That I can't quite manage my sillier coping mechanisms I'm going to lament for the moment, but at least being unable to act out in such a way makes me appear something that approximates stable. This is not an illusion. I'm stable, deadly stable at the moment. The problem with that is that this isn't any balanced stability. It is, perhaps, more geologic, like a rock or lump of clay. I can sit unmoved and weather most anything, but I can't say that I've got much dynamism or oomph.

I'm getting tangential; back to not snapping as a good thing. I've got to dwell on this because falling is the dream of heights. Vertigo is not only the fear of falling, but also the desire to fall. The dream of the control freak is loss of control. When not confronted with some true menace directly threatening actual survival, so many of our fears are also perverted desires. The idea of flying off the rails terrifies (like rattles my bones terrifying) but also titillates me. Note that I only deal in extremes, so when I'm talking about losing it and acts of rebellion, I don't mean half measures. Acting out for a moment just sounds like so much clean up work. This is why I don't tend to lose my temper and why I gave up on things like grudges or revenge: if you aren't going to go all the way, why waste the effort? But oh how I dream of letting it all fray at the edges, just let go of the narrative and take off. Losing it doesn't have to be violent, but it should at least have flair.

I'm dreaming of the fall because my cabinets fell. As best I can read from the pattern of wreckage that greeted me when I returned to find a terrified kitty (thankfully so, the fear drawing a line she would not cross, keeping soft feline paws away from a landscape of broken glass) glaring at a blitzed kitchen, the screws near the top pulled loose first letting the cabinets lurch forward allowing a few pieces in the front to fall out of the doors onto the floor. My bowl was in this number. A single screw seemed to resist the momentum, dragging through the drywall at the bottom edge and leaving a deep gouge. This appears to be the only one which presented any real resistance, but this perhaps is what caused the beast to lurch forward and hit on its front edge midway across the sink, mercifully(barely) sparing our kitchen faucet before flipping across its face, slamming back in much of its contents and flipping completely onto its back to lay confusingly prone on the floor. It spared my orchid and avocado trees a foot away in the window and didn't hurl anything more fatal than bacon grease (previously collected in an empty tin can) at the tv, but it did manage to send broken glass flying into the tub through the open door to the bathroom. Where it had resided on the wall is a mosaic of mold, which I'd find strangely beautiful in an abandoned building. In my kitchen, not so much. Adding to the texture and pattern of this sporific landscape were clues to the why behind this great leap. Among the fungal blotches, walls and mounds of dirt and crud. Not dirt that had fallen behind, but lovingly and painstakingly applied, a careful construction. Here and there on the floor amid the shards we began to find strays of these foul architects: termites. When broken glass isn't enough, add an undermining infestation to the mix.

Living on the fourth floor of a structure which apparently is infested enough with termites that they have made it to the top floor and compromised at least some of the studs in the wall to the point that screws can't hold in the wood should be why my mind is numb this week. And I suppose to a certain extent it is; I'm very good at worrying... full-on, hyper-realistic, this-is-how-the-world-will-end worrying. So don't doubt that I am doing plenty of that, but that kind of worrying has real world parameters to reel you back in at a certain point. The real catalyst for mental disarray was one bowl, neatly split down the middle and chipped on the edges.

This shouldn't have ever been my talisman. My sister brought it back to me after she spent a year in France. I remember thinking, "Oh, thanks... a bowl." Eventually though, this bowl (and a cup, of thick plastic, able to survive the fall) took on a special meaning. In a crowded house and an emotional adolescence, this was one border I could guard. This was the line I drew that no one crossed. It wasn't until years later when people unknowingly attempted to choose this bowl (or cup) that I discovered that this wasn't just a vague boundary; this was inviolate. This was my singular sacred ground. All other trespasses forgiven even if not always tolerated or allowed. Nothing else could shake me.

This sounds crazy and in a way it certainly is, but it is my crazy and, I don't mind saying, a comforting neurosis. If you are going to compartmentalize all fears and weakness and vulnerability, stash it somewhere mundane. Blandness is its its own certain protection and if someone really is fired up and crazy enough to want to strike at what they know you hold as sacred, they will want a sexier target. Smashing a mirror or keying a car is so much more cathartic than taking a hammer to what your enemy eats their cereal out of and attacking a bowl would feel kind of silly even if you know it is the only chink in the armor and you would feel rather stupid having to physically fight off a crazed attacker because you assaulted kitchenware. Occasionally people wanted to steal into the sacred and simply use said these vessels; I understand this instinct and perhaps am willing to do something that approximates forgiveness, but forgetting is asking too much. But unmalicious attacks I do let go of. Even this event of unspeakable destruction -the worst thing I can imagine happening to myself (I can imagine worse things happening to loved ones; in speaking of comparisions with the bowl I go only as far as my own skin)-, it wasn't intentional. It wasn't done to me; it simply happened to me.
Perhaps this is some of the frustration; there is no enemy to fight back against. It is just my bowl, lying broken on the floor. Spare me suggestions of taking rage out on the termites or my landlord, I'll get away from both.

All of this isn't so much a lament as a frustration. This happened and this is what it means. Nothing more. Dramatic explosion would only make it all seem silly. It is frustrating to me for the same reason it would be an unsatisfying target to a potential enemy: at the end of the day, it is just a bowl. The sacredness, its life as a talisman was always all in my head, nothing inherent in and of itself. Screaming and wailing wouldn't be about the bowl, it would be about everything it represented, every assault that didn't matter or stick to me because this boundary stood between me and those dangers. And it did to its job, it did stand between me and all that, everything. These threats and assaults weren't stored in the bowl; it wasn't a terrible artifact imprisioning demons and monsters. It sent them away.

This distress is vertiginous, not any kind of fear of the dark. The bowl was never my only totem. The cup and the cactus remain. The cup is thick plastic. It survived this fall and I imagine it could survive far worse (note to the cosmos: this is not a challenge). The cactus could be happier and will die one day anyway, but for now it seems happy enough and it has its own formidable defense system. And it never protected me; it was never supposed to. It has always just been a friend; one that makes no demands except the necessary and which makes me feel comfortable in loving and refusing to shed my spines and dangerous edges. It would look silly without its spines; it would be something all-together different. The same is true of me, and when other people try to convince me to let them prune me, the cactus quietly reaffirms my decision to refuse these makeovers. So I am hardly left defenseless after this fall.

These are the talismans that I admit to; these are the famous ones that I'll bore anyone about who is willing to listen. They aren't my only magic. I also have a feather. It is from a blue heron, it was floating on the surface of our lake in the middle of the night. This is where I admit that I was that ridiculous type who would go paddle around a silent lake during full moons partly because it seemed that a moody, misty atmosphere like that shouldn't be wasted and partly because I was a chronic insomniac perpetually looking for an alternative to staring at the ceiling until I started hallucinating flashes of color in the darkness. I saw it as perfect in the moonlight, floating on its back on the rippleless water. I'd never seen something so perfect. This is really how I felt. I stepped outside of everything else around me for a moment and was only with this delicate message of peace. Its edges were perfect, it had no blemishes or frayed bits. When I picked it up and examined it in the moonlight I couldn't believe how amazing this thing was, and, still being my uptight self, I couldn't help feel silly as my never resting inner realist whispered persistently that it was just a stupid fucking feather. That voice was of course correct. It was(is) just a stupid fucking feather. It said this again when I looked at in in harsh artificial light back in my room: it did have frayed edges and was not by any stretch of the imagination some pure undamaged beauty. This did not seem to me any reason to let go of it or how I felt when I saw it. It seemed rather useless as a perfect object; the tatters gave it more heft and made it something I could live with instead of something to be in awe of. I have retained this preference over the years.

The fall isn't something I only feared; the excitement and disruption also seemed like something exciting. When I sat in miserable jobs or felt like going crazy, the existence of these sacred objects held me fast. I'd dream dramatic escapes of taking off and going AWOL, just disappearing. My zephyrous path might look flighty and not so thought out from the outside, but the truth is I am plodding and careful. The path might not be direct but I am careful where I put my foot down. The idea of one of my objects being destroyed was so horrible, but because this seemed so momentous to me, it also seemed freeing. Having these stabilizing anchors also meant not having permission to go off the rails. If I go off the rails while they are secure, it means they weren't what I believed they were and this wasn't an option I was willing to consider. But if one broke...

This is vertigo.

One did break... now what? It feels in a way like I have been cheated by the mundaneness of how the tragedy played out. Or rather by not going nuts: this is my one big chance. If I want to just lose my mind make some dramatic shift/complete change of direction, this was the one chance. If I had still been sitting in a quiet office feeling directionless and frustrated, this would be my moment to quit my job and take off for some exotic locale. Or just walk out and slowly head down the road. I could do something crazy and rash, just go and quit thinking about practical responsible ways of changing my situation. This kind of catharsis seems so dreamy and amazing to me. Act and just pick up the pieces later.

Even if this kind of dramatic rashness has its charm, how can I do it when I am happy? If I don't want to be somewhere else, why would I take off from here? Actually let me correct that: there are many other places I want to go; I have not lost my adventurer's heart. If I want to be where I am, why would I leave?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

we the sheeple

I've been letting some of my political rage simmer. It is summertime and I've got a beautiful community of people around to love enjoy the (occasional) sunshine with. But I'm still just as pissed off at all the stupid.

Among the more odious things happening at the moment are these asshole teabaggers trying to shout down townhalls meant to be opportunities to discuss healthcare reform. Over at Talking Points Memo they are doing a great job reporting on this. Shamefully, not so many other news outfits can have the same said of them. They are looking at how this push is being framed in the media, today suggesting that this is likethe Brooks Brothers protests used to disrupt the 2000 recount. I take their point; this is the same monster and some of the same players, but I think we have a more iconic comparison to made. Is it possible to learn of this activity and not think of Animal Farm? Even if you where in this bleating blob, surely you must know that in our game of George Orwell edition if-we-were-who-would-we-be? that these players are the sheep. The stupid, stupid sheep.