December 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

One of those days where I had to do everything twice. Wrapped up the wrong necklace, got a brain tickle and remembered in time, opened it, realized I also had to re-string it, wrote up the new description for it and rewrapped it, forgetting to restring it so I had to unwrap it a third time…this is when I start wanting to run around and bite my tail like a dog withdrawing from Prozac. Then I lost files on my computer. Not anything of importance, just more grunt work. And was overcome by a wave of CFS, yes I still have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the disease everyone loves to disbelieve in, after 24 years. Self pity smells like pine sap, don’t you think? A little Christmasy. I like it when it’s late and all my potential readers are asleep; I don’t feel self-conscious anymore but like one of the pre-dead.

My niece and I keep having a conversation about whether sentient robots would be a good thing. She says not because they’d be slaves. But I want one as a companion. Smarter than a cat, not as crazy as me. Is that too weird? Not quite Dr. Spock, but…Oh, I don’t know. I get lonely here in this decaying mousetrap of an apartment, but remember living with someone, how difficult that was. I love Charles so much more cleanly and sweetly now. If only I could figure out how to do that in regard to myself.

My friend Andree’s brother died and it’s made me very sad. For her, for him, for the old pain of brother-loss. She’s lost two. I can’t bear the idea of losing my siblings. Yet even so, feeling more family love than ever, sometimes I look at my nieces and think it’s been like a sadistic science experiment bringing them into our family. At first they were just Davis’s children…but now, as adults, they’re part of all of us, heirs to a past they’ll never understand (I’m not going to divulge all the bits I haven’t spilled yet), and of course going far beyond us but still…

I have to buy a Spiderman sleeping bag for Daniel because I’m not going to write a story. I need something for William. Hannah and Myles are taken care of —Shea stadium mementos, pretty clothes, great books. Jaden and Jack get books because I’m not sure they get read to enough and I haven’t seen them in so long…barely know them.

I’ll have another Christmas in late January for all my girlfriends. We’ll need it then.

Myles, William, Hannah

Myles, William, Hannah

A Chrismas Story

December 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

It’s a little late, but I want to write a book for Daniel for Christmas. Whitney says he likes Spiderman and rocket ships. I went to amazon.com to look for toys and games and found the usual junk. He’s four. This may be his best Christmas. Shouldn’t he have his own book about a boy named Daniel taken up in a rocket ship by Spiderman to visit the weird creatures on a moon of Jupiter? I’m thinking he’d be interested in how astronauts deal with having to go to the bathroom. The recycling of urine: fascinating when you’re four, and still deep inside the mysteries of the body, your body, your one and only. (That sinuous, silky feel of being a child. Nimble, agile, balanced, low center of gravity!) He’s four, and sometimes life at home is a drag. Why not go up on a rocket ship with Spiderman? I would. I’d go with the aliens of our 1980’s mass fantasy—world peace or anal probes, adjust for type. At the time,  I wouldn’t have (a little timid) but now? Now I’d go almost anywhere that’s unquestionably strange.

So I want to write a story for him, and I guess I won’t have time. I’d have to be utterly happy with it. I’d want it printed somehow, or at least handsomely bound. And I’m afraid if I started writing about Spiderman I’d make him too much my own. I’ve already got him living on the West coast of Mars (Jupiter is a little too far, chilly) with a talking cat who escaped from a top-secret lab, Count Chokula and Young Frankenstein, Sid Vicious and Mary Poppins.

I’d do better to stick with astronauts and recycled pee. But what about drifting in black space, held only by a slim tether while one fixes the that part of the warp drive that’s making a whimpering sound? Is that part of his fantasy? Or does he just like the explosion, take-off, the shimmery acceleration as the rocket splits open the sky?


December 10, 2008 § Leave a comment

There was an middle-aged woman who lived just like you
But with many beads she didn’t know what to do

I have pearls. I have turquoise. I have lapis, amethyst, opal, and agate. Rounds, squares, diamonds and oblongs. Chips and bits. I have crystals, new and vintage (the vintage are like kaleidoscopes and the stars when I was eight), and Venetian glass, sometimes with roses painted under the faintly cloudy surface, or zigzags of gold dust on the outside. If I hadn’t bought these beads, I could pay off my credit card debt, which has now leapt from 2.99% to 29.99 %, due to some confusion over the meaning of the phrase, “For the life of the loan.” What they meant was, “For the life, until we change our minds.” Oh. Like marriage. I’m still married, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish—how about you? We just live apart and love others. We can’t let go. We’re sticky. (Hot new word, ‘sticky’. Ideas and trends are sticky or not. Coined by someone who never cleaned up after children.) My debt is sticky, but my beads aren’t. They roll off the tables and under the furniture, vanish into the vacuum cleaner, are stolen by the mice. Mice had my wedding ring for years. It was hung on a hook in the throne room of the King of the Wallkill Smaller Rodents where hundreds gathered to feast before their nightly Olympic games. They only gave it back when I was preparing to move, sliding it back out from under the baseboards in thanks for the cookie crumbs and lack of cat.

Mice and debt are always with us, but beads can be strung prettily and sold. I’m trying. I stay up late making jewelry and feel like those mothers in fairytales who work all night to sew clothing for their children. (Not like real mothers who do such things, because I am not actually suffering, except from insomnia.) I wouldn’t like to calculate how many necklaces I’ll have to make to use up all these beads. Nor to divide that number by the days and weeks left in my life, assuming I live to be 99, which is not the plan. In the beginning I excused my extravagance by saying that as a writer, I was used to having every word in the language at my disposal. My creativity had been nourished on abundance: to choose among too-many-to-count was the craft I learned. And it’s true that my best necklaces are made from combinations I couldn’t have imagined in advance, wouldn’t have shopped for. But it’s also true that one of my favorite children’s books is called “Millions of Cats” and is about an old man and woman who go looking for a cat…the prettiest cat…with results you can guess. At the book’s end, the millions have dispersed and they have only one gray kitten, but I never cared for that ending. The mice were right to thank me.

I know. Ladies with too many cats live in stinky apartments, die alone and are eaten by pets gone feral from sheer numbers. Which is why I bought polished rocks. It would be hard to kill me with them, even if an army of Lilliputians decided I needed it. Guinness World Record holder Michael Lotito, a performer also known as Monsieur Mangetout, ate bicycles, televisions, and an entire airplane (a Cessna 150, over a two year period). You can’t even do that with beads because to say, “I am an artist and I’m going to eat 10,000 beads,” would be as if some timid hippie crawled out of the cave she’d been living in for decades and thought to be provocative. There are bead artist yes, like Lisa Lou* but she uses the tiny ones as pointillist color. For me the only solution is to buy millions more (fast, before Visa comes calling), to buy until I am crowded into a tiny corner of the bedroom by the open window, unable to reach the kitchen or the front door, hearing the words of my friends distorted into growls through the shifting walls of stones, and thinking Beauty! Art! Death! just as I did at 14 when my favorite activities were getting stoned, reading Yeats, and walking anywhere in my smelly, fleece-trimmed Afghan coat with the tiny mirrors sewn all over it.

*Liza Lou, bead artist extraordinaire
CURRENT EXHIBITION http://www.lmgallery.com/exhibitions/2008_9_liza-lou/?view=pressrelease
Lapis Carnelian Necklace

Porkbelly Futures

December 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

Since it got cold a week ago, I’ve gained a nice new layer of fat around the middle, which feels as bulky as a life jacket but is probably no wider than a pork chop ordered in a cheap diner. A pork chop girdle, good for attracting canine friends. I have pork on the brain as well. Bacon twice this weekend and for dinner last Friday a roast pork loin with garlic slivers poked into the flesh (the knife-slit flesh); a mustard, salt and pepper rub; and a few good splashes of Knob Creek bourbon poured over the top. Cooked until done, as the old cookbooks say.

In the 18th century, as attested in The Discovery of France, by Graham Robb, French peasants would sleep most of the winter, getting up only now and then for a piss and a bit of dinner. Government busybodies from Paris were appalled…the village as quiet as a graveyard, no industry…I’m thinking New Yorkers could use a bit of that. Everyone is scared-to-terrified—lost job, maybe-soon-to-be-lost-job, no savings to speak of, debt. And we can’t afford to go out and drink, not with cocktails going for $12 to $16 a pop in Manhattan. The solution: afternoon naps and home cooking. I’ve had enough of restaurant food—the best chefs cook better than I do, mais non, but so what? Making the dinner is the journey. And at journey’s end one finds, traditionally, only sorry death…I’m mixing up my analogies, but food and death go together, don’t they? Ask a pig.

Whenever I feel bad about having to cook in my microwave-oven-sized kitchen, I remember a story about Anna Akhmatova entertaining Western guests during the long days of her fame and deprivation. Hospitality demanded that company be served food so she offered what she could: a small dish of boiled potatoes. Knowing, of course, how dramatically pathetic this seemed to them. As a child I yearned to run away and live in the woods on nuts and berries, waiting for Robin Hood or the fairies or a talking lion. Not quite mad enough to try it then, I’m willing to attempt the adult version, and think of my apartment not as too small, poor me, I’m a failure not to mention stupid, but as an enchanted hut in the vast forest, the kind of place where the witch comes up with dinner out of an old bone and a withered stalk. If my cooking skills aren’t quite magic, I’m not really poor either. Not yet.
Be it ever so humble

Making Jewelry

December 5, 2008 § Leave a comment



I’ve been working madly on making jewelry all day, trying to get it on my ebay site in time to send out a newsletter and perhaps make enough money to pay the fees for my ebay site. Making the jewelry is deeply satisfying, scanning it and photoshopping it is fun; looking it on ebay and seeing what they do to my photos is not fun. I have to work on ways to make the best use of their pitiful platform, being too overwhelmed to attempt my own. I should also put everything on sale, slash prices, 50% off, but how can I do that when I hardly charge more than the cost of making the stuff? I am a bad businesswoman. I love my materials. I take my time. My image of myself is always as a eccentric-gypsy-crazy witch woman in a cave or hut, making art or medicines or magic without heed for the world until the world comes to me and then, since nothing cost anything to begin with, I can sell it for whatever I want. I blame the stories I read as a child. I remember takes of labor–the wheat from the chaff, etc, all those tasks that involved the kindness of elves—the cold miserable years of Psyche’s quest to find Eros after she spilled candle wax on his delicious nakedness because doing it in the dark wasn’t fun and her sisters said he was a monster: fairytales and legends are full of travail. But living in the woods, or an island, or in a cave upon, basically, nothing, what the earth would give freely, was what resonated with me. One might say this was because this was how I already lived, in a house. I was just adding some solitude, injecting autonomy into the easeful days of childhood. But I think artists do live like this, even if only for a few hours at a time.

I am purely happy when I make things, and then the social whirl is is too carnal, like a rib roast of beef salivating on its china platter when you only want a few autumn vegetables with a sprinkling of fresh thyme and a piece of whole wheat bread. If I had no engagements for the next two weeks, I would be disconsolate; having them, I feel pressured. They are stealing me from my leopardskin jasper, my venetian glass, the fantasy novel that will make me solvent.

I went to a party at St. John the Divine last night; the reopening. It was quite beautiful—the huge vaulted space, the tapestries, the crowds—and I saw a few friends, met Jonathan whom Philip has often spoken of. Saw my brilliantly talented painter friend Camilla. Then went home with Philip and he heated me up some frozen tamales from Trader Joe’s and we made love until we got too tired. That middle aged thing—the fucking is nice, but we can finish it tomorrow, right? It was nice to feel excited, your body against mine, tenderness; orgasm is no longer required. Not that it ever was for me, but I’m used to male lust. To feel it changing int osomething–dare I say–softer, is disconcerting but rather pleasant. As long as it’s not because I’m not losing my charm, which of course I must be, but perhaps very slowly

15 years ago I stopped having sex with Charles because, a) it had been deteriorating for a long time, and b) he told me I was too fat; I looked like a ‘giant green hamburger.’ (The green was the tee shirt.) That led to many years of misery culminating in Internet wanderings and Philip: the erotic frenzy of the turn of the century. Now Charles is visiting his old flame–the first time he’s seeing her that I know about ahead of time, and it makes me feel so amazingly calm. Happy for him of course, relieved of my own guilt, but also just calm as if the world is back in order. I don’t know quite how to explain it. I don’t want to think about what they’re doing, feel none of the prurient, anguished left-outness I still often feel vis-a-vis Philip and Christine, but am still glad that there is a story there, real emotion and event happening—just nothing that’s my business

Meanwhile my sister’s boss dropped dead of a heart atttack while running on a treadmill. I’ve always thought they were dangerous. I used to hope GWB would drop dead on one. This man, my sister’s boss, never sounded very nice, and I never met him to care one way or another, but still it is unnerving how death just snatches us. I would like to write more about the underworld before I die and am disappointed to not find one.jasper-pendant

Going Home

December 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

Today is my last day in Florida. I worked in the morning, walked on the beach and made banana coconut bread. I got the recipe from Epicurious.com, Gourmet 1990, and tweaked it a bit, replacing the vanilla and lemon zest with fresh ginger, cognac, black pepper and nutmeg, and the macadamia nuts with pecans. I already know from tasting the batter that Charles will think it too sweet but as long as it stops being goopy and becomes bread I will be happy. The area I use for cooking in NYC is not properly called a kitchen—in its previous incarnation it was one of those large closets with a sink and counter hotels had for people to mix drinks in. That was before mini bars. You brought your own bottle and mixers; the hotel provided glasses and ice. I remember watching my grandmother make drinks in such a room —so adult, so sophisticated. In the picture in my head my father is there in his Mad Men suit (it was the 60’s, he was handsome and in publishing) but I can’t figure out when I would have seen them together in a hotel so I’m probably just adding him for color. Or because I saw him make drinks so often the very idea of whisky poured in a glass filled with ice brings him up out of the grave for a Proustian get-together. In any case, compared with my kitchen, Charles’s modest space with the crooked stove shoved into one corner—only the small burners working and you have to adjust for the tilt—and fluctuating oven is a rare treat. Charles bought a table especially for me to use baking so I’ve been churning out the stuff, cookies, muffins, etc.

I’ve liked hiding out down here. I don’t look at my bank account. Now that I have to leave, the terror is coming back. I have to turn my life around 100% financially in a year or so. My 2.99% loans have suddenly morphed into 30% and not because I was late with a payment. They just changed the rules. I think too often of suicide.

Wilderness Adventure

December 1, 2008 § Leave a comment

Today we went for a walk in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, gold medal winner for best state park, the only one to win two gold medals, the sign informed us. We were proud to be part of such success. And it was a very nice park, although I’m not sure it deserves two gold medals. Maybe it won for litter management: it was very clean. We saw mangroves and lovely man-eating trees and coconuts whirling round and round in a stream. That stopped us. We thought they must be doing a mating dance but nothing happened but more whirling, so we revised our theory and thought they were dervishes, and then we walked on and who knows what they did behind our back.

Charles made me pull my shirt up so he could photograph me au naturel, in response to my brother’s recent art shot of Laura naked in a meadow, but my brother’s photo wins the gold medal. So, yes, we still act like the same old goofy married people even though we are both amorous elsewhere, though not polyamorous, a word which reminds me too much of polyunsaturated fat to ever be used as a self-descriptively. In Central Park a few weeks ago they had a Polyamory Conflagration. Yes, I mean ‘Conference’, or some other ‘C’ word, but Conflagration hit my brain first, and it’s staying. Look at the picture adorning this post and think about it.

Anyway, I don’t want poly—two’s more than enough. One and a half would do, though which man would give up half?  If only I could photoshop them, cropping bits from Charles and bits from Philip—and not the ‘nasty bits’ as the Brits call them, but the redundant DNA, the unnecessary facial hair, those personality flaws they are not emotionally attached to. Charles could still be disorganized (a vast excuse for almost everything), just give up the memory loss regarding birthdays, plane tickets and what I asked him to do five minutes ago. Philip could keep his righteous anger, but not the excess that he slops around the room in moods of untidy despair. Why shouldn’t he learn to aim it like a smart bomb against those who understood the term ‘credit default swap’ before September (always excepting Paul Krugman)?

In regard to that, Michael Lewis has a clever piece about Wall Street in the December Portfolio.com http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2008/11/11/The-End-of-Wall-Streets-Boom
It fills in some of the details I didn’t quite understand, as well as contributing a depressing but lucid history of the last 20 years. Folly on such a grand scale is most of all educative. I feel like I’m back in 5th grade, deciphering algebra. The only difference being that I liked algebra. I wonder what this would mean to me if it didn’t affect me personally, if I’d been smart with my money, or won the lottery last week. It seems like I was foolish partly by contagion and am now gloomy partly by contagion, and if I found cash breeding like mice in my bank account I’d still be feeling dark, and not only out of sympathy.*  But maybe I’m only experiencing, finally, what most people feel all their lives: a solid linkage to others. TV will do that to you.

We got back from the park, I worked on my web page, it rained and we had tea. Now it’s Sunday night. I don’t want to go home. Subways, elevators, boots, bills. I’ll remember the good parts when I get through security. (Yes, dear, I miss you. I’m not talking about that.)

* I’ve never experienced rabbits breeding uncontrollably. Mice I know about. I’ve heard the squeaks from the nest under my bookshelves and killed the babies one by one. I know ‘they have their own little mouse lives’ as my sister says, and I don’t really like it when they’re caught by a hind leg and thrashing all over the counter, dragging the trap like the National Toxic Debt behind them, but it pleases me to think of exerting dominance in the creation of order.

Hugh Taylor Birch

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