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Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

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The fabulous [profile] lifeinroseland is visiting this weekend. Whirlwind of activities!

Exciting tour of the Poughkeepsie ‘hood!

Strange dinner cobbled together from ingredients found at Ocean State Job Lot.

Sl-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eep!

Dragonboat fest!

Local Downton Abbey sighting!

Rhinebeck retail! (I bought a $3 pair of scissors at Sharpy’s!)

More sl-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eep!

Barbecue with L’s drunken boyfriend!

Sl-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eep!

###

Today’s itinerary:

An intimate meetup with the Biggest Buddha in the Western Hemisphere.

Antiquing in Cold Springs.

Teary farewell!

###

I am dying to see if that pink Dior jacket in perfect shape that I didn’t buy for $50 three years because it was a tad too small is still in that antique store in Cold Springs.

It was still there two years ago although bizarrely, the store had doubled the price – I mean, if something doesn’t sell, aren’t you supposed to discount it?

The jacket was beautiful, and for an entire year, I tortured myself: I will write away to Hong Kong for fabric swatches to find one that will match its precise color – something between Hello Kitty and that frothy color you get when you beat Cool Whip into raspberry jello – and then I’ll find some struggling seamstress who is struggling to make commissary money to send to her sons – all three of whom have been locked away in the Fishkill Correctional Facility on cocaine trafficking charges – and I will pay her $25 bucks to lengthen the sleeves and do something about the shoulders –

But damn! A hundred bucks for something I can’t possibly ever wear? I don’t know.

If it’s still there, it should be up to $200 by now.

###

C is a pretty bright guy, but when he drinks, he turns into a total redneck. And not just any redneck: a redneck with liberal kneejerk biases. Thus, instead of the usual All Muslims are scum! from C, you get, All Republicans are scum!

“And the bastards are trying to shut down Poughkeepsie’s bus system!” C growled.

He had started slurring his words.

One of the big local issues hereabouts is that Dutchess County is finally wresting control of the city of Poughkeepsie’s flailing bus system. Really, the City of Poughkeepsie should not be running anything. The City of Poughkeepsie can barely keep its streets plowed in the winter: I still remember Adventures in Grocery Shopping between the months of December and March when I was living in Poughkeepsie and I did not have a car. They involved hopping from ice floe to ice floe kind of like Eliza fleeing the hounds.

Lois Lane does not have a car and is completely dependent on the public transportation system, so I get weekly updates on just how awful the City of Poughkeepsie’s administration of its bus system is.

Public transportation, in fact, is one of those few areas where economies of scale make perfect sense.

So, it was kind of a ridiculous argument to be having, plus I have a deep sense of C’s underlying tragedy – I can hardly look at him without flashing on the beautiful young artist wife who went mad and the beautiful young artist daughter who went mad: How do you survive tragedies like that without hating yourself, without thinking, It was something I did, I drove them mad?

Nonetheless, I continued having it – fueled, no doubt, by my deep contempt for Joel Tyner whom C kept citing as some kind of an authority. Joel Tyner is the flamingly left-wing county legislator from Rhinebeck, a weasely attention ‘ho of a type that’s very common in Berkeley – I used to date his clones regularly, which no doubt accounts for my deep, irremedial hatred for him. Talking about Joel Tyner in front of me is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

Anyway, at some point, I realized I had an incredibly well-behaved guest sitting to my left who had not made a peep but who no doubt was bored to tears by this conversation, so I made C shake hands with me – See? We’re still buds! We can still discuss the finer points of cinematography in “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”! – and toddled off to the Patrizia-torium where I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca.

What a ridiculous movie, and how Hitchcock must have suffered when Selznick and the Hayes Code board forced him to tack on that awful ending.
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Spent another day doing absolutely nothing.

This is probably Not Good since starting this evening, I’m embarking upon ten – count ‘em! – days of intense socialization with (one assumes) limited opportunities for revenue generation or imagination mining.

And yet, and yet, and yet…

Absolutely nothing seems to be what I like to do.

Other people like to drink, take drugs, and party; climb Mt. Everest; sail yachts; watch PornHub; have orgies; eat German sausages; cook Italian food etc etc.

I like to do nothing.

Why not indulge myself?

###

In the afternoon, I did venture out in the oh-so-oppressive heat – 92 degrees, dew point 74 – to do some light shopping at Ocean State Job Lot. Ocean State is a bottom feeder in the liquidator food chain.

The setup of the store physically nauseates me – crude shelves, fluorescent lighting, no attempt at display – and yet I find myself really fascinated with the place: This is where brands go to die. It’s artificially created demand’s graveyard.

This is where Nabisco unloads all those Watermelon Oreos and Banana Split Oreos that nobody in their right mind would ever buy at a supermarket.

Wiffle ball set, anyone? Ocean State’s got like a billion of them.

Discontinued olive oils doctored with chlorophyll? Right this way.

I particularly like the counter of anti-aging skin serums, which since they’re the same ones being sold for $80-plus at various mall anchor client department stores, one must assume are years past their expiration dates so all those carcinogenic chemicals have had a chance to ripen and burst into bloom:

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Sometimes, it's true, you can find rare and wondrous things. Where else outside an ethnic grocery store (where you would certainly be overcharged) would you find six separate flavors of dried seaweed?

But in general, what you are looking at is the retail equivalent of cholesterol plaque.

##

Why the hell is there so much surplus inventory? Be-caw-w-w-se… we have an economy that owes the illusion of its robustness to the production of crud.

This would seem to indicate that inefficiencies exist at some very basic level of the capitalist economic model, no? It’s a particularly interesting question in light of the fact that bricks and mortar retail is under siege right now. Customers much prefer to buy their useless retail items online, which adds yet another layer of inefficiencies (distribution and transportation costs) to the model.

Really, it’s an unsustainable model.

Artificially created demand a/k/a marketing is a great way to persuade people to buy things they don’t want and can’t afford, but as the cost of things that people actually need to survive like housing, energy, and food continues to spiral and the gap between the 1% and the 99% continues to grow, ya gotta think at some point, in the not so distant future, this business model implodes.

I could write all day about this one.

But I’ve got to drag my sorry ass out on the trails before the temps hit 90.
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Spent yesterday reading Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain cover to cover. An obsessively readable book all about the symbiotic relationship between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.

Bannon was the mutagen who spun the conservative RNA, and Trump was the pointy-headed virus who penetrated the body politic. The disease was the narrative, Crooked Hillary.

The most interesting part of the book for me - since I am what the Trump team dubbed a “double hater” and it’s all about me-e-e-e, right? – was this:

[B]oth campaigns battled for a group of voters who would ultimately decide the race. ... Trump's data analysts gave them a nickname: 'double haters.' These were people who disliked both candidates but traditionally showed up at the polls to vote. They were a sizable bloc: 3 to 5 percent of the 15 million voters across seventeen battleground states that Trump's staff believed were persuadable.

Early on, many indicated support for third‐party candidate Gary Johnson. But after a series of televised flubs, ... they largely abandoned him. ... Many refused to answer pollsters' questions ... These were the voters Clinton had hoped to shear off from Trump with her 'alt-right' speech in August. ... Comey's letter had the effect of convincing the double haters to finally choose.


Double haters ended up going 47% for Trump, 30% for Clinton.

I stuck with the original game plan and voted for Gary Johnson.

As I see it, Comey's letter was not a precipitating event, but a cumulative event that was like the denouncement of a story that Bannon et al had been telling - but more importantly, circulating - about the Clintons for a very long time. The massive Hillary hatred was the result of a very conscious campaign.

Of course, Trump’s story is filled with as many if not more unpalatable facts than the Clintons, but since Trump was not a public servant until very recently, it’s difficult to work up a sense of moral outrage however easy it may be to feel personal disgust.

Also Trump was a celebrity, and the purpose of celebrities is to function as collective ids, no?

One of the most fascinating parts of Devil's Bargain, by the way, is how Trump managed to carry over the narrative from The Apprentice into his campaign. Trump benefited from advertisers' determination to make The Apprentice an ethnically inclusive show so it could sell more McDonald's hamburgers! Black and Hispanic voters LUVVED The Apprentice!
And this is one of the reasons why Trump didn't tank as badly among black and Hispanic voters as Democratic pollsters predicted he would.

Anyway, it’s very clear to me that unless the Left becomes more comfortable creating narratives, they’re cooked.
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The ice skating scene.

If I wanted to turn this into an exciting, experimental piece of po-mo fiction, I’d write something like, Then they all went ice skating. Gentle reader, do you really give a shit about what their little ice skating party looked like, what its members did, what they wore? ‘Cause I know I don’t. What’s important is what came afterwards.

But alas! This is not a piece of exciting, experimental po-mo fiction. It’s a ghost story in the classic Edith Wharton style.

Although it might be fun to give it a final po-mo sumdge-over once the realistic scaffolding is in place.

We shall see.

###

Else?

Spent a solitary day hanging out with the cats. It’s odd how when I’m in a baaaad mood hanging out with the cats is prima facie evidence of the complete worthlessness of my existence but when I’m feeling la-la-la, it’s entirely enjoyable.

I’m tellin’ ya: It’s all just brain chemistry.

###

Chatted a bit with L about the Former Democratic Candidate’s memorial, the hour-long stream of eulogies: She was the saintliest person evah!

“But Doris was kind of a bitch!” L said, puzzled.

“Well, exactly,” I said. “And that’s why I liked her. She was incredibly generous, but you know, judgmental, and she didn’t suffer fools gladly. But memorials are for the living, I suppose, and that’s how her daughters want to remember her.”

###

Texted with a bunch of people, thereby adding a satisfying The Machine Stops ambiance to my solitude. BB’s entertainingly nutty friend Malika livestreamed a thunderstorm for me: The thunderstorm was doing its best to take out Ulster County but obligingly missed Dutchess.

Got over my crush on the last male human I was kinda, sorta, maybe on alternate Thursdays attracted to: Alpha Male made him a moderator in the Sooper Sekrit Political Group, and he has been pounding me with avalanches of bureaucratic verbiage about governance and leadership traits and fuckin’ Meyer-Briggs profiles.

What is it with these people and their stupid Meyer-Briggs profiles? How is saying smugly, I’m an INTJ! any different, say, than saying, I’m an Aries with Libra rising?

I suppose the truth is that I’m never going to be attracted to another male human ever again. Male humans are fine as friends. But as limerence objects? I dunno. As a class, they show a remarkable lack of appreciation for the subtle.
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B and I were texting about the latest (awful) season of Orphan Black.

What IS it about television writers and islands? I texted.

B texted back: Well, you know, as a very good writer once wrote: “The thing about an island is that it’s a long way from home, and you have to cross water to get there.”

Good line, I thought automatically.

Then two seconds later, it hit me: OhmiGAWD – that’s my line! From a story I wrote in 1993 called The Hidden Ecology of Islands about vampires who take over an Indian casino .

I didn’t even remember writing it.

###

On the current writing project – I got sidelined after I wrote a close flashback into another close flashback that had nothing whatsoever to do with my outline. Thus wrote 700 words that were completely useless though not inherently bad or anything. But they had to come out, which left me with a sinking, despairing feeling: You are wasting what little life remains on a story that nobody will read when you could be watching The Real Housewives of New York!

Short stories are much, much harder to write than novels.

Anything goes in a novel. You can dump in the kitchen sink! But with a short story, you aren’t describing or even conjuring so much as you’re sculpting empty space (if that makes any sense at all.) It’s not what you write that’s important in a short story, it’s what you choose not to write.

I excised the offending 700 words and put them in the prose burble-over file.

Umbrella phrases, I thought: Expeditions were organized on the days following… The next day, Papa took the children to the pond… Etc.

Stick to the outline.

Snowball fight; Nell gets beaned. Skating party; Nell falls and twists her ankle. We need one more example of Winter Sports Gone Wrong.

###

Then it was time to scuttle off to the Former Democratic Candidate for Congress’s memorial service.

Huge turnout. There must have been 400 people.

And it was a very nice memorial. The fantasy her daughters concocted for public consumption was that the Candidate had died with a smile on her lips while they gathered round her bedside singing If I Had a Hammer (Pete Seeger version not Peter, Paul, and Mary version.)

But. Having been the instigator of one such Death Myth myself – when I told reporters Tom died listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony instead of the hiss and sigh of his morphine pump, a fantasy that made it all the way into his Wikipedia entry – I have my doubts about the truth of that bedside performance.

And I didn’t recognize the person whose virtues were extolled throughout the memorial at all. I liked the Candidate a lot, but she wasn’t particularly saintly. In fact, her Serious Bitch Potential was one of the reasons I liked her.

I suppose this was the fantasy the daughters felt safest with. Offspring rarely want to invest the time in learning what their parents were really like as human beings: It’s too threatening; it’s much easier to view them as some sort of primordial monster hunkering down over those deeply repressed feelings at the bottom of the psychic well.

I toasted the real Candidate in my heart as I listened to various speakers eulogize some saintly milquetoast I did not know.

When I slipped out to reclaim my car, there was a crisp $20 bill lying right next to it.

Huh, I thought. The Candidate knew I was hurting for gas money (‘cause the Asshole still hasn’t paid me!) Thanks, Doris!

###

Then I went out exercising. Mid-80s and so humid, I broke a heavy sweat even on the level pathways.

Staggered home and instantly fell into the deepest, deepest sleep.

Dreamed about my mother.

Never dream about my mother.

But there I was in a house, waiting for her. It was not her house, and I had no idea why I’d decided to wait for her there…

Woke up around 9pm. Decided to go back to sleep.

Maybe I needed 12 hours of sleep.

Because when I woke up again this morning, I felt fine. That awful funk I’ve been in lo these five days past completely gone.
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Spent yesterday morning churning out another 1,000 words on ze Work in Progress and the afternoon tromping around the local forests.

While I hammered out ze Work in Progress, I thought about Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald could hammer out an 3,000-word short story in a single sitting, but he was seldom able to produce more than 100 words a day when he was working on anything he deemed serious literature.

Scott Fitzgerald drank a lot when he was writing.

I can understand the impulse.

When you’re writing, you always have this sense that what you’re writing has already been written, that this manuscript is sitting in some locked portion of your brain and that if you could only unlock that portion of your brain, you’d have the whole damn thing – Voila! – without doing a lick of work!

Hence the urge to get shitfaced when you write.

###

I left Alice and Auntie Bye walking in on the two Nells as the latter conduct a kind of ghoulish tea party in the Sagamore Hills nursery.

I’m not exactly sure how one makes a child’s tea party ghoulish, so I am not looking forward to returning to the manuscript.

###

This has been one of the wettest summers on record since the Weather Service started keeping records way back in the 19th century. Nature has run riot. Looking out the window, some Congolese Airbnb guests of L’s cried out ecstatically, “It looks like home!” Meaning that it looks like a rain forest, I guess.

I think White Oaks Road at one time was part of James Roosevelt’s landholdings. It would have been farmland: rocky, unfertile farmland. There’s one stand of ancient apple trees abutting the 9G highway. Could this entire spot have been orchards at one time? Possible. Once upon a time, the Hudson Valley was known for its apples.

Anyway, it’s all forest now and thick twining underbrush laden with poisonous berries. I don’t know enough about trees to look at these and think, Aha! Second growth. I do know that when FDR inherited the holdings, he commissioned the folk at RTT’s alma mater to plant trees.

When FDR’s children inherited the holdings, they promptly sold them off to developers. The houses that line White Oaks Road are boxy, undistinguished. I did taxes for a guy who remembered White Oaks Road when it was a dirt trail shortcut between Highway 9 and Highway 9G, so it wasn’t all that long ago – 50 years?

###

I suppose one of the reasons that I like to exercise is that in contrast to most of my other goals – Write 350 page novel before lunch. Find billionaire who will die soon and is willing to marry you without a prenup. Achieve world domination – exercise is pretty easy to pull off.
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I think the deal for me is that if I don’t write in my diary every day, I literally forget how to write because I have such a short concentration span. These pointless musings play a very important role in my personal cosmology: They warm up the mental muscles. ‘Cause it’s always very, very easy to write about me-e-e-e-e-e, what I think, what I do -- even if what I do is very, very little.

I don’t like the Dreamwidth interface at all.

Plus I miss my little cadre of LJ palZ. Most of the LJ writers whose lives I’d been following for years and years and years don’t write anymore. I miss them. And there’s no kind of accountability on the Internet. It’s like some kind of Easter Island mystery: One day, they got up and walked away.

The Internet is filled with such Easter Island mysteries.

Whatever happened to that feral LDS girl living in the wilds of Alberta whose husband refused to have sex with her but on the rare occasions when he did have sex with her invariably knocked her up so that she had this gaggle of incredibly photogenic but neurologically disturbed offspring? She wrote and wrote and ranted and ranted, and then one day – bam. She stopped.

The incredibly well read lawyer with the wasting disease who lived in the flyover didn’t stop all of a sudden; she kind of petered out.

And then there was the lovely young theater major in Michigan who could have been a heroine in a YA story so plucky and positive and nice was she. She married a man who was much older than she was, who psychologically abused her and – bam: She stopped writing.

I suppose relationships like these are very much like the relationships one forms with characters on one’s favorite TV shows with one big difference: I can’t leave cautionary comments for my favorite TV characters: You know, Cosima, you really should ditch Delphine! Hello, Theresa – James is much, much hotter than Guerro.

Is it a type of voyeurism?

Possibly.

I luv, luv, luv other people’s stories.

###

Getting back to my own story (which strives to fuse the styles of Edith Wharton, the highly under-rated Walter de la Mare, and T.C. Boyle):

(i) Alice looks out the window of her Washington mansion, sees the black car with the flower vase and the white votive candles in place of headlights gliding silently by. Knows at once that Nell is dead. Somewhat sadistically, decides to tell the story of her feud with Nell to a reporter.

(ii) Begin flashback. Alice’s stepmother informs Alice that she is to be sent to spend the remainder of the summer at Oak Terrace in punishment for her wild ways.

(iii) Info dump: Nell comes to visit the Roosevelts one Christmas to spend some supervised time with her dipsomaniac father who is also named Nell. Yada yada yada – poor little Nell, crazy father.

Alice and her brothers play a cruel trick on Nell. Alice then walks in on the two Nells: Paternal Nell is painting little girl Nell’s toenails with a weird expression on his face.

Somewhere in this section, Auntie Bye tells Bunker Hill Teddy the story of how on the sole visit to Oak Terrace that Mrs. Ludlow Hall allowed, paternal Nell took his long black car to Tivoli with his dogs and little Nell. Paternal Nell then proceeded to go into a tavern and get stinking drunk while little Nell waited shivering outside. Eventually, a kindly coachman fetched Little Nell back to Oak Terrace.

Paternal Nell, we learn, died soon after this visit: He leaped from an NYC window while high on morphine. Oh, and there has to be something distinctive about the way paternal Nell walks, moves, bounces.

(iv) Alice arrives at Oak Terrace. Afore-mentioned coachman fetches her from the Hyde Park train station.

Daily life at Oak Terrace. The strange Mrs. Ludlow Hall. The spinsterish aunts who float around the sitting room, vaporish, gaunt and silent. Uncle Valentine who sits at his bedroom window with a rifle so he can shoot any strangers who come up the path. (Fortunately, there are none.) Nell sits passively reading all day, but disappears every afternoon around 4pm.

(v) Alice follows Nell one day when she disappears. Nell goes out into the woods and plays a complicated game with sticks and leaves that she gives names to and pretends are families. The coachman appears, but day-em – he moves differently, doesn’t he? Where has Alice seen those movements before? There is something… unwholesome in the true Turn of the Screw sense about the way Nell and the coachman lean their heads towards one another.

(vi) More daily life at Oak Terrace. Alice confronts Nell with what she’s seen. Nell says, It’s just a game, and invites Alice to come and play, too. Disturbing incident in the woods involving Alice, Nell and the coachman, but of course, it must be cloaked in neo-Victorian propriety: No jacking off in the bushes please.

(vii) Alice confronts Mrs. Ludlow Hall. Unpleasant interview during which Mrs. Ludlow’s Livingston ancestry and intense dislike of the Roosevelt upstarts – whom she calls “the van Roosevelts – is referenced. Alice understands that she must save Nell on her own.

(viii) Paternal Nell’s black car is still in the Oak Terrace carriage house. Alice follows Nell and the coachman there. Get into the-e-e-e-e car! the coachman hisses, and Nell does. OhmiGawd, thinks Alice. He looks like paternal Nell! Even though he doesn’t look like paternal Nell! The black car begins to glide down the overgrown pathway. The steering wheel is on the right side; Alice views Nell’s feverishly excited face. It’s the Peter Quint, you devil! moment. Alice hurls herself in front of the car.

(ix) Alice is not hurt. In the confusion that follows, Alice’s stepmother makes a trip to Oak Terrace and demands that Nell be sent off to boarding school in England. She is. The two girls grow up to be very famous: Alice, of course, is the originator of the phrase, If you don’t have anything nice to say, come here and sit next to me! Nell marries Franklin Delano Roosevelt and invents modern progressivism.

(x) The car that Alice sees creeping down Massachusetts Avenue that morning is not the car in the Oak Terrace carriage house, but has the same detailing as the car in the Oak Terrace Carriage House – candles instead of headlights, a flower vase. (Will need some more weird car design features.) And in the passenger seat, Alice had espied not the adult Eleanor Roosevelt but the girl Nell with her eager, hopeful face.

Story still doesn’t have a name. And though I’d been hoping to keep it to 5,000 words in length – ‘cause let’s face it: Nobody wants to read more than 5,000 words – it’s now up to 8,000.
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Woke up in the middle of the night to the loudest peal of thunder you can possibly imagine. I’d been caught in one of those labyrinthine dreams that are so enveloping, so elaborate they’re like alternate lives, but all I can remember from that parallel existence now is that I was holding a baby. The baby had been hideously neglected; I’d actually caught it when it had fallen off of something. It had the most adorable, serious, earnest little face; it wanted so desperately to please.

Mama, I said to the baby, and its little lips pushed together, trying to make an M sound. Dada, I told it, and it struggled to make a D, all the while peering at me anxiously: Do you like me? Please like me!

###

When I woke up at my regular time this morning, I was dreaming of Balinese music. Odd. In my 20s, I really loved Balinese music and listened to it all the time. But I haven’t listened to Balinese music in years.

###

Thunder in the Hudson Valley is like thunder no place else. Something about a valley bisected by a river surrounded by low mountains. A single peal of thunder can go on and on and on for 30 seconds.

###

I’ve been in a funk for the last few days.

That asshole still hasn’t paid me, and though that hasn’t had a ripple effect on finances in general – and probably won’t have a ripple effect since Scut Factory funds kick in tomorrow – it still had the effect of making me feel absolutely worthless on some essential level because (A) It’s a relatively small amount of $$$ and yet, I’m so marginal that the lack of it has a measurable impact; and (B) because I’m absolutely powerless to make this asshole pay up. He’s apologetic, citing cash flow problems of his own. As soon as he gets his $$$, he’ll pay me my money. Etc, etc. But I don’t give a shit about his cash flow problems. He should have figured out his cash flow problems before he hired me to write his oh-so-boring legal research paper. Which I turned into something interesting.

Being in this kind of funk paralyzes me on some basic level. It leaves me absolutely unable to focus, shrinks my already microscopic concentration span to something that approaches Alzheimer’s levels. I crave distraction. I’d love to get drunk or high. (I’m scrupulously avoiding alcohol and consciousness expanders because I don’t think the impulse to get drunk or high when I’m feeling like this is a mentally healthy impulse.)

It’s kind of like being trapped in dead space.

###

I should just pull out one of the current projects and do eeeet.

‘Cause you know. It’s never any more mystical or more complicated than that.

###

Samir talked to me for a long time about djinn this morning. Apparently, everyone who lives in the Atlas Mountains believes in djinn, even if they’re deeply immersed in programming projects that require the use of the VHSIC Hardware Description Language, which is the easiest way to get integrated circuits to communicate with one another.

I like scientists whose thought processes are not constrained by the empirical model.

“Yes, I think you are the type of people djinn talk to,” he said, but when I asked him to elaborate upon that remark, he shook his head and laughed.
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Dreamed I was hosting some sort of party for Max at a VFW hall. Max was sharing his guest-of-honor spot with another guy who was a real soldier and much beloved by the Hare clan – Bill and MaryAnne kept sneaking off to interview him, and when I asked, “Oh, can I watch?”, they said, No! I lacked the proper credentials.

This refusal made me feel edgy and insecure.

###

Of course, yesterday I felt edgy and insecure all day. Mostly because a sizable client payment was missing in action, and I’d spent the entire contents of my Rainy Day fund 10 days before on car repairs.

The money will come, and I won’t do any work for this particular client ever again.

But in the meantime, this kind of grasshopper behavior and financial mismanagement on my part fills me with self-loathing. Why am I always ending up in this position? Why can’t I learn? Yes, yes, I always make clients sign contracts, but in truth, enforcing that kind of contract is problematic: He lives in another state.

Really, I need to vet clients more systematically.

But more really, years and years and years ago, I should have figured out a way to stash six months of living expenses in a bank somewhere just like Suze Ormond – another alumna of the Buttercup Bakery! – recommended.

I figure it’s probably too late for this ancient gadfly to retune its antennae, so I’m doomed to live out my remaining days in this precarious cycle of mini-boom and bust.

I should toddle off and watch reassuring documentaries about outsider art, right? Henry Darger. Vivien Meier. Now they were losers.

###

The other reason I felt edgy and insecure was A’s apology.

Because as hard as it may have been for him to write – and I know it was hard for him to write because most of the apology actually consisted of how hard it was for him to write! – I’m simply not that interested.

And that’s making me feel guilty.

I mean, shouldn’t I be giving him positive reinforcement for these faint, faint stirrings of personal growth on his part? Am I not acting like a complete and total bitch if I don't participate in his karmic IEP?

But the fact is that rekindling any sort of friendship with this person would involve having the type of meta-conversation that would result in intimacy.

And while I would be okay going back to the kind of light-hearted activity partnership we shared for a couple of years, I do not want an intimate friendship with him. That ship has sailed.

Really, he should have just blown me off and stuck with it.

###

And speaking of blowing off, I cannot blow off doing lots and lots and lots of remunerative work today! The way I did yesterday because agita made it impossible for me to focus.

I must get my sorry ass on the trail while it's still cool enough to exercise, and then I must get down to work.
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A apologized.

That was unexpected.

I didn’t actually think he’d notice I’d trimmed him from the cosmic Christmas card list so self-involved is he, so completely caught up in reenacting his miserable high school years from the perspective of a moderately successful older man. Just having a penis makes you a hot property in geriatric circles, doncha know. Plus A drives a BMW, owns a lovely home, and is pretty good company if you can nudge him out of his self-absorption.

What irks me about A is that we have a little bit of that mental telepathy thing going, that deal when you anticipate exactly what someone else is about to say because you’re both on the same wavelength, at least in a present-tense time and space. And yet, he persists on using me as a prop, as background clamor, as an extra in the scene where he gets to do the middle finger at all the K00L KidZ who made his adolescence torture. Note that those K00L KidZ are no longer in the room!

Irksome behavior, but you know. I am not sans irksome behaviors of my own.

Plus it’s not like we spend huge amounts of time together.

So, around the beginning of June, I get a text from him: We need to get together what does your schedule look like?

Need? I thought. Need?

Yes, it would be fun to hang out, I reply. How have you been?

Ok. Still a bit unsteady on my feet, he replies. He’s had Major Upheavals in his life over the past year of the no-longer-having-your-cake-but-still-wanting-to-eat-it variety. I’m not unsympathetic: Who among us would not want to have a magic cake stashed in that cupboard whose scrumptious chocolate morsels never grow stale?

Think about what you'd like to do. A 2-3 day trip might be fun, he continued.

A 2-3 roadtrip with A?

Uh – no.

But hanging out for a day would be pleasant.

Lemme look at my schedule and see what I’ve committed to do in the next couple of weeks, I texted.

Got back to him the next day with some dates, and…

Sorry. June is packed. July some time?

What the fuck?

Inexcusably boorish behavior.

I wonder whatever gave him the impression he could behave like that toward me? Or toward anyone for that matter?

###

Back in the groove after five days of play, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the various money-making activities necessary to keep the cats in toys and Fancy Feast and myself in food and books.

The T-Burg trip had its ups and downs as I love RTT, but I honestly don’t have a clue what to say to him when he’s dejected. But the trip to the City was fun-fun-fun from beginning to end. [profile] lifeinroseland is the world’s most gracious hostess; her apartment is a lovely reflection of her own intriguing personality; and she screened Moonlight, took me to see the awesome NYC 5-barge fireworks and escorted me to Coney Island where I had not been for years.

unnamed


My one swimsuit is so ancient and hideous that I didn’t bring it. I should have, though, or I should have bought a new one. All around me, women of approximately my own age basked unashamed in the sun, and I should have had the arrogance and amour propre to bask unashamed, too. I mean, what the hell. I’m 65 years old, I’ve had two children, I have a mildly disfiguring autoimmune disease, and I don’t have discretionary income to spend on cosmetic surgery. So, no: I’m not gonna look like a Playboy centerfold anymore.

But why the hell should that matter?
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How much do I love T-burg in the summertime?

More explosively than a thousand Roman candles detonating across a sky that arches over a fallow farm field on muddy Covert Road.

Untitled


Teenagers claw at one another, steaming up the windshields of their Daddies’ Dodge Dakotas. Little girls in Disney princess costumes dance in the headlights of their parents’ SUVs. The fireflies dart.

How can anybody not love T-burg?

###

Of course, my own reconnaissance was of a more strictly maternal nature. I hadn’t seen RTT in many months, Syracuse, NY not being a place I ever want to drive to, but particularly not with a wonky suspension system.

If all goes according to my master plan – in other words, if down payments are saved up, if loans are approved – I want to give RTT my car in a couple of months. Purchase a new-to-me-at-least automobile. One with a hatchback into which I can easily load my bike.

That means RTT needs to learn how to drive a stick shift.

My ostensible purpose in coming to T-burg was to teach him to do just that.

My real mission, of course, was to find out what RTT wants to do with the rest of his life.

###

Weather patterns were very strange on the day I arrived. Flash flood warnings were in effect all across the Southern Tier. It would rain heavily in 20-minute spurts. I mean, the skies would open up; Noah would lurch out into his backyard, eye the arc anxiously. But then, the sun would peep out from behind phantasmagoric cloud formations, and it would stop raining for 40 minutes or so.

I found B and RTT in their Bachelor BoyZ pad.

I bummed a cigarette from RTT – I always smoke when I’m in T-burg but never when I’m not – and followed him out on to the porch.

“So,” I said. “How’s it going?

Oh, you know. Good. He was taking that class online – in fact, he was doing the last few problems on the test now. His new girlfriend was getting back from France in five days. He’d applied for a job as a barrista at the Gimme Coffee down the block.

“Just think of it, Mom! I can give you all the free lattes you want! With those foam palm leaves on top!”

He didn’t make eye contact, of course. He barely looked up from his phone.

That night he went out with a couple of his pals. Got very drunk. Didn’t get back till 4am.

###

The next day, I took him out for his first stick driving session. We didn’t get out till mid-afternoon: He had some schoolwork to finish, and the weather was still quixotic.

I’d wanted to teach him stick shift basics in a parking lot where he wouldn’t be able to get into much trouble if he had issues maneuvering the car. I don’t have collision insurance, the car being a 2003 Saturn Ion that with proper maintenance will last forever but that essentially has no Blue Book value.

I drove us over to the T-Burg high school parking lot, and he actually acquitted himself quite well, getting the rhythm of the foot-off-the-clutch and the foot-on-the-gas down:

rtt


The T-Burg parking lot is very small, though. No real room to get up to a speed that would allow him to practice shifting into 3rd gear let alone 4th or 5th, so eventually we took it out onto one of the back roads.

And he did pretty well! He hasn’t been driving long enough, though, to have a real sense of how cars handle. So his turns were pretty wide, and he stepped waaay too hard on the gas. Between that and his lack of familiarity with a manual clutch, I definitely did not want him on the county road, which we were rapidly approaching as we veered down a very twisty hill.

“Robin, pull over. I’ll turn the car around, and then you can drive us back to the parking lot.”

“Yeah, yeah, Mom. There’s a place to turn just a little farther ahead –“

The county road loomed. There were cars on it.

“Robin, pull over.”

Chill, Mom. I said I would.”

I think I repeated myself twice more before he finally pulled over.

We traded seats.

There was absolutely no room to turn the car around. I had to pull it onto the county road, and we drove back to the Bachelor BoyZ pad in absolute silence.

Oh, no, I thought. Not another one of these episodes.

With Robin silently fuming, She’s over-reacting. She always over-reacts.

And me knowing: I’m right, Robin. There are factors that you’re not considering. It’s not that I know more because I’m smarter. It’s that I know more because I have more experience.

Back at the casa, I decided, This won’t do.

“Robin, let’s talk about what just happened.”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Mom. I’m not mad or anything. It’s just very irritating when you say the same thing over and over again. I mean, I knew what I was doing.”

Did you? I thought.

But, of course, recounting the specific patterns I was observing would have required a longish, boring description of traffic logistics that I was simply not up to having. Plus, he was right. Even had he pulled out onto the county road and driven back to the Bachelor BoyZ pad, it’s more than likely nothing bad would have happened. Even if he stalled out! Because nothing bad ever happens in T-burg.

“Yes,” I said. “I can see how irritating that could be. I apologize. But did you like driving the car? Did you get something out of it?”

“Of course!” he said, thumbs rapidly working his phone’s virtual keyboard. “And thank you very much for spending the time teaching me!”

“Can I say something else?”

“Sure!”

“I mean, don’t take offense at this. I’m not telling you to change your behavior. But when I try to talk to you, and you never look up from your phone, it has a very off-putting effect on me. It makes me feel like you’re not listening.”

“But, I am listening! I can listen to you and pay attention to my phone.”

“I’m not saying you can’t. I’m saying I feel ignored when you do that.”

He looked up at me then. “Poor Mom,” he said affectionately. “Trapped forever in the 1990s.”

See? The therapy has paid off!

###

Afterwards he dressed me up in an embarrassing hat like a little kid costuming a fat pet pug:

me


Then he went off with the same set of pals from the night before to listen to bad country western music and watch fireworks.

And come back drunk at 4 o’clock in the morning.

###

B and I watched the fireworks, too. Drove to the field just outside the winery where RTT was drinking with his friends and sat in a field.

###

As we did for all 17 years of our marriage, and as we’ve done every day we’ve spent time with each other since, B and I woke up the next morning, drank strong coffee and talked about the Meaning of the Universe for two hours.

“He was very maudlin when he staggered home last night,” B said.

“Oh, dear,” I said.

“On and on and on. About how he wasted four years getting the wrong degree, and he’s financially dependent on me, and if he’s lucky, maybe he’ll get a shitty little job in a shitty little coffeehouse. How he’s such a loser.”

Oh, dear,” I said. “Why won’t he ever talk about those things when he’s sober? I tried to broach those topics with him, and he blew me off. Though I do recognize that as his mother, I’m not the ideal candidate.”

“And anyway, “ I added, “I’m sure one of his frat brothers could help him land a high-paying job.”

“They could!” B said. “On Wall Street no less. But he says he doesn’t want to do that. Says it would be boring.”

“Oh, well,” I said. “God forbid that anyone should have to take a job that pays lots and lots of money and is boring. Anyway, he’s feeling what almost every kid feels nowadays when they graduate from college. He needs a couple of months to decompress from the academic grind and then he can start figuring out what exactly it is that he wants to do.”

“But he’s got those loans to pay off.”

“True,” I said. “But the real issue is that there are lots and lots of things he doesn’t want to do but nothing that he does want to do.”

“He says he wants to write.”

“But he doesn’t write,” I said. “He’s a very talented writer when he does write. But if you want to be a writer, you have to spend at least a few hours a day at it, finding your voice, honing your craft. Gratifications must be deferred; distractions must be ignored. It’s not magic. It’s craft.”

I will say that with all my multiple failings, that’s one thing I realized early on. Throughout my many years in the 9-to-5 workforce, I set my alarm for 3 o’clock every morning. To write. And I still get up at 5 o’clock every morning. To write.
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aaawoods


Now that my car is fixed, I can get back to my real passion in life – which is road trips!

Trip to the Southern tier planned for Thursday, and I spent yesterday tromping around through the thick undergrowth of the Norrie state park and the trail along the river to look for arrowheads and the Hoyt House.

Found the latter, not the former.

In fact, tromping from the trailhead to the Hoyt House turns out not to be a very efficient way of getting to the Hoyt House although you do get more exercise, and I saw two foxes – one red and one grey, rather odd in the drowsiest part of the afternoon considering that foxes are crepuscular.

For years and years, I searched in vain for the Hoyt House – considered by architects to be one of the finest examples of Calvin Vaux’s skills. Vaux designed huge swathes of New York City – the more attractive swathes – before dying mysteriously. If only Vaux’s body hadn’t been found, I could imagine him haunting the Hoyt House, a guest at an interminable party whose ghastly attendees also included all dead Livingstons going back to the grim, inexorable Signer of the Declaration of Independence himself.

But Vaux’s body was found, and the Hoyt House is easy to find if your start out at the Mills Mansion and walk a mile around the point:

aaamills_mansion





aaahudson


The Mills Mansion itself is most impressive for its Beaux Arts neoclassical façade. Once upon a time, one imagines, its impressive greensward was dotted with statues but one by one, when the moon was full, they all came alive and wandered away to snag low-paying jobs as prison guards or liquor store clerks in the surrounding hardscabble towns.

Except for this one:

aaastatue

And here is the incomparable Hoyt House itself, a small bit of Ozymandias in the deep forest:

aaahoyt


I just LUV it when I can work that cautionary moral edge into my road trips!

###

Today, I have a shitload of work to do – housecleaning and yard work in addition to the usual sit-in-one-place-and-make-$$$$ work.

And no interest in doing any of it.

Though that’s not so unusual.
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Lotto loves Mathilde.

Or maybe he doesn’t: Lotto is a supreme narcissist, and he’s probably incapable of loving anyone but himself.

Mathilde loves Lotto.

Or maybe she doesn’t: Mathilde is so compartmentalized and damaged, she’s probably incapable of loving anyone. And she definitely does not love herself.

Fates and Furies is the story of Lotto and Mathilde’s marriage.

And guess what? The marriage works.

But that’s not why Fates and Furies works.

Readers seem either to love Fates and Furies, or to want to smash it against a wall, hurl invective at it (pretentious, purple prose, meaningless phrases), almost as if these readers were disappointed lovers. It’s seldom one comes across a novel that elicits reactions that are this strong or this polarized. To me, this is proof of the magnitude of Lauren Groff’s accomplishment: She’s written something that’s so original, it’s controversial.

Yeah, yeah, the Roshomon twist is kind of the standard post-modern yawner. And how many novels are there about complicated marriages? Too many.

It’s not the plot of this novel that makes it so thrillingly good although certainly there is a mystery in the relationship between its two central characters that’s intriguing. Every self-help book you’ve ever snuck a peek at says these types of relationships are just wrong.

Groff’s singular writing is what makes this novel such a unique reading experience. I’d describe it as a kind of prose pointillism, a style that translates thoughts and actions into metaphors that serve as the literary equivalent of flashes of light, glancing and dancing from their original focus (Lotto, Mathilde) to illuminate everything in Groff’s frame of reference: landscape details, minor characters’ inner dialogues, minor characters’ ultimate fates, historical discursions. It’s a really original take on the omniscient narrator.

Groff’s style more than anything is what infuriates readers who don’t like the book. Hey! When they picked it up at Barnes & Noble, they thought they were picking up a big juicy roman á clef about modern marriage! And this novel has it all from graphic sex scenes (some of them kinky) to upward social trajectories to a big heart attack. Except that you can’t understand any of it without deliberate thought! Groff refuses to use the Subject*Verb*Object formula! (If I were a better writer myself, there’s a pun I could make here juxtaposing pointillism with pointless.)

Groff’s pointilist style is dazzling but also utilitarian. Fates and Furies spans a chronology of approximately 70 years, so Groff is writing about a retrospective future that must parallel the past without being too obvious. In that sense, Fates and Furies reminded me a bit of One Hundred Years of Solitude (full disclosure: I haven’t opened that novel for 30 years): There really is no story here until we read it.

A more obvious comparison is with Nabokov who had the same fascination with netting bright metaphors, with making puns, with using classical literature less as a template and more as an alternate timeline. Plot is as incidental to Groff as it was to Nabokov, so that while the theme of Fates and Furies – Marriage! Ain’t It Complicated? – is fairly simplistic, it can be difficult to determine what exactly is happening on any given page. The escapist pleasures of Fates and Furies are not the escapist pleasures of, say, a beach novel; they’re more about solving a puzzle whose clues are in those thousands of short, imagistic sentences. There’s an ostensibly random quality to those shimmering sentences, but really, they only make sense if you add them up in a certain way. The author’s way.

I loved Fates and Furies. But I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone. It requires commitment. It requires an appreciation of the ways that the written word differs from movies and TV shows. Sadly, in the time of Netflix and Hulu, that appreciation is mostly lost.
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Yesterday, I had to spend a huge amount of money.

Not on cat toys or wonderful little treats or trips to exotic places, which, to my mind, are the only legitimate ways to spend discretionary income.

No.

I had to spend money on boring, grownup things. Car repairs. Tax payments.

As you may imagine, it felt a bit like being flayed alive.

I comforted myself by noting that as recently as three years ago, spending this money would not have been an option because I did not have this money to spend!

I would have continued driving a car whose steering wheel was primed to snap in half at any second!

I would have continued driving it because you can’t not have a car and live where I live – well, you can and I have, but your quality of life suffers. When my steering wheel finally snapped in half, I would have taken out an entire school bus. A church school bus. Filled with kids with cerebral palsy.

Anyway, though, as I was leaving the mechanic, I noticed that my ABS light was on. That’s the light that signals something’s amiss with your anti-lock breaking system.

I told the guy behind the counter – this was an auto repair chain – who summoned one of the mechanics. Who walked me out to the car. Who determined that the light was on because something was wrong with one of the ABS censors.

“But plenty of people drive with their ABS lights on!” he reassured me. “So just drive it around for a while. If the light’s still on in a couple of weeks, bring it back! Besides, I’m certain that the ABS light was on when you brought it in!”

Uh – no. Just no. Plus you inspected the car, right? And it would not have passed New York State inspection had the ABS light been on.

I’d picked the car up just as the mechanic was closing. So today I have to call the mechanic and explain to them that clearly, they fucked the existing ABS censor up in some way as they were putting on the new struts, and it is their responsibility to make that right.

Yuck.

I cannot believe that mechanic told me to “drive it around” for a few weeks. I mean, that’s almost unethical! If I did that, there would be no way I could argue it was their fuckup. I’d be out another $600.

Dealing with even more car repairs – even if they won’t put me out of pocket – is not the way I wanted to spend my day.

Plus I feel so defenseless so much of the time.

Just a sitting duck for various unscrupulous humans who want to take advantage of me. An old woman, plucky, sure. Mouthy, sure. But with very little in the way of real influence or power.
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On my way back home from eating hand-picked strawberries at Pat and Ed’s last night, I finally saw fireflies – and that was a huge relief. I love fireflies! The lack of fireflies was getting me down ‘cause I’m a magical thinker, and we live in – uh – interesting times, and it’s hard not to see portents everywhere you look.

If I have a single cent left over after muy expensive car repairs today, I am definitely gonna go to a U-Pick-Em strawberry place this weekend. Maybe make some strawberry jam.

Also, I must practice chanting my new mantra: It's okay if your draft is a piece of shit. It's OKAY if your draft is a piece of shit...
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IMG_7593


This (may I say) hideous portrait of me commemorates my first meeting with Samir.

Who knew that applying eye makeup was one of the unique challenges of old age?

Samir is very bright, very focused, very… fierce in the sweetest way imaginable.

Lois Lane had described him as struggling with conversational English, but he’s actually pretty fluent. Vocabulary words are missing here and there: Exploit, prejudice, secular, profit.

Lois Lane had also told me he speaks Urdu, which had me expecting someone of Indian descent. (A bit bizarre in Algeria, I had been thinking, but hey! Indians are the shopkeepers of Africa, and they are everywhere.)

But Samir’s native dialect is Amazigh.

He’s a Berber. He comes from Batna.

As an icebreaker, I had Samir show me the photos on his phone and tell me the stories behind them.

His father. His brothers. His mother, his sisters, his aunts – they wore hajib.

“Here, we are building a house,” he narrated. “In Algeria, we build from stone. Not like here where you build from wood –“

“Right,” I said. “You live in a desert. No trees!”

He looked at me a bit oddly. “I do not live in a desert. There were forests in Batna. But they were all destroyed in the war.”

Oh. Right-t-t-t-t! Batna was the center of the Algerian resistance in the war against French colonialism.

Duh.

Samir speaks French, but he hates the language. He hates France!

He also speaks Arabic.

His tutoring objectives are laudably specific: He wants to get high marks on the TOEFL exam so that he can enroll in a top PhD program. His field is electronic engineering, and he already has a masters degree from the university in Batna.

Forgive me for preening here, but he’s so-o-o lucky to have me as his tutor since reading comprehension is a huge part of the TOEFL exam, and I am like a whiz at teaching reading comprehension. Honestly. They should bottle me.

###

I got home and thought about poor Imaan. Who hasn’t posted a selfie on FB in weeks but who has effected a rather drastic name change: Now, she’s posing as “Angelina.”

Angelina?

I wrote her a little note: Are you okay? I’m worried about you.

And got this note back replete with typical Imy effusion and hyperbole: Ohhh I'm so glad to ask about me I lost ur number and I told Lois to say to you text me you can't imagine how much I miss u and I wanna see you I love u

###

“Maybe she had to use her money for an – ahem! – procedure,” said Lois Lane when I filled her in on this exchange.

“I know what ‘procedure’ you’re talking about, girlfriend, and I’m pretty sure it’s against the Moslem religion,” I said.

“I think so, too, however given her situation…”

Lois Lane is just convinced that Imaan has gotten knocked up.

But I had that conversation about sex with Imaan. Imaan is not one to go in for casual sex. The only way Imaan would have gotten pregnant is if she’d been seduced by the patriarch of that dreadful host family she lives with or by someone at Island Empress. Or gotten raped.

I think it’s far more likely that she mouthed off to her manager at Island Empress once too often and got fired.

Anyway, I’m gonna do coffee with her next week. See what’s up.

###

I spoke with Samir a little bit about Imaan, too. Talked about how bright she is but how few resources she has, how anchorless that leaves her. Mentioned that I had been trying to get her to go to the Peekskill mosque.

“It’s just a train ride away –“

“But there is a masjid here in Poughkeepsie. On Main Street.”

Right, I thought. That place that looks like a crackhouse. Always hood rats hanging out in front. It’s right next door to a low-rent tattoo parlor.

“Is that the mosque you attend?”

“Yes,” Samir said. “It is a very good place. Many Moroccans. Their wives, their children, too.”

Samir is religious. Like Imy, he won the green card lottery. His patron here in the States is an Algerian who came over in the early 80s and worked his way up from day-laborer to owner of the seediest gas station on Main Street, the fuel ‘n’ go attached to the convenience store where the Twinkie packages all expired in 2016, but there are 10 different brands of 40-ouncers in the broken cooler.

“I respect him, but he sells beer,” said Samir, shaking his head.

“Well, he kind of has to,” I said. “He doesn’t make any profit selling gas – do you know that word, ‘profit’?”

“Muhammad is a prophet,” Samir said, frowning.

“Different word!” I said. And wrote the word down on one of my omnipresent Post-its. “Look it up!”

Samir consulted the e-dictionary on his phone. “Ohhhhh!” he said.

“No money to be made in selling fuel after you pay purchasing costs and taxes,” I said. “Gas station owners make their profits off what they sell in their convenience stores. And no convenience store is going to stay in business in New York if it doesn’t sell alcohol.”

“Ah!” said Samir. He frowned and shook his head.

Anyway, I got Samir interested in meeting Imy.

No, not a LUV connection.

But as someone of approximately his own background and from approximately his part of the world who desperately, desperately needs some kind of help. Imaan is a flighty girl, she lacks Samir’s focus, and she’s not gonna survive this Amerika thing without some kind of assistance.
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636196473818069038-Linwood


Whoa! Such a dream:

I was playing an odd kind of augmented reality game on the grounds of the Vanderbilt estate. The point of the game was to capture and then release the souls that the Vanderbilts had enslaved in order to come by their millions (or corrected for inflation, I guess, billions.)

Turns out that the Vanderbilts didn’t make their millions through shipping and railroads, no.
When Cornelius was a boy, he came across a witch in a forest, and that witch gave him the secret of sucking… I guess you could call it either “luck” or “karma” from people.

Anyhoo, once that luck or karma was sucked, its former owners were doomed to lives of hideous poverty, humiliation, and pain while the Vanderbilts leveraged all the good things that should have happened to those people to the Vanderbilts’ own advantage.

The souls of these people were still ensnared on the grounds of the Vanderbilts’ various real estate holdings, and if you had the right kind of equipment – something that looked like a combination of a smartphone and a metal detector – you could capture those souls. And then you had the option of either keeping them in some sort of cloud captivity or releasing them. Except if you wanted to release them – and, of course, in the dream, I did – you had to debrief them, listen to their tragic stories. Which was kind of a downer.

And I kept thinking, I’ve listened to as many of these downer narratives as I am gonna listen to, thank you very much! Except that then, I’d find another lost soul, and I’d think, But you can’t abandon him/her to an eternity of floating in Vanderbilt purgatory!

But I was getting very tired…

And then I woke up!

###

Tony told me a story that I visualized so vividly while he was telling it that it actually brought tears to my eyes.

The members of my intermediate English class were talking about their experiences when they first arrived in the United States.

“I come here in winter, and it snow,” Tony said. “I was 21. I never seen snow. I never feel cold like that. And they take me to –“ He consulted briefly with Romulo in Spanish.

“House cleaning,” said Romulo. “House cleaning job.”

“Yes, house cleaning job. Somewhere. I don’t know where. And they say, ‘We come back,’ and they leave me. I am alone, and it snow. And I cry.” He laughed. “I cry. But they leave me there, so I clean house. They don’t come back, so I cry some more.” He laughed again.

“But they did come back,” I said. “Eventually. Right?”

“I don’t know!” Tony said. “I don’t remember. But I am here now, so…” He shrugged wryly.

Tony is definitely my favorite among the students in that class. He’s the handyman at Linwood.

The Linwood estate was originally owned by the surgeon general who took care of the Continental Army’s wounded during the Revolutionary War. He was married to a Livingston, of course.

By the turn of the 20th century, the house had fallen into hideous disrepair. Eventually, it was purchased by a prominent brewer. (Beer would really seem to have been the way to get rich in the 19th century! Many of the prominent fortunes hereabouts – including the Vassar fortune – were made by brewers.) The brewer’s name was Jacob Ruppert, and he is probably most famous for having owned the Yankees during Babe Ruth’s run with the team.

Ruppert tore the old mansion down and constructed a rather hideous Queen Anne monstrosity in its place.

One of Ruppert’s descendents left that monstrosity to a very small order of Roman Catholic nuns – the Society of St. Ursula of the Blessed Virgin Order – who are based in (of all places!) Kingston across the river.

The nuns razed the mansion and built a modern spiritualist retreat.

If you wanna retreat there, you will have to pay the Big Buck$.

In my younger days, I might have characterized my feelings toward Tony as a mild crush. But now that the tyranny of hormones no longer cloud my perceptions, I’m able to see the connection for what it really is: We are not strangers. I know him from somewhere. Possibly from some early incarnative sojourn on Planet Earth. Or Planet Trappist-D.
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Oh, m’Gawd. That storm. Unbelievable.

I’ve seen that erie grey-green before, most notably one afternoon when I was traveling through Tornado Alley with the circus, and the sirens went off while I was inside a Barnes & Noble in a tacky mall just outside Iowa City.

I scampered to the front plate glass windows to get a better look.

“Are you nuts?” hissed one of the store attendants.

(Well, yeah, I thought. Isn’t that the point?)

They herded us into some kind of dark back room for safety.

But the funnel-shaped cloud never touched down.

Yesterday, there were no funnel-shaped clouds, but the entire sky roiled and turned that grey-green, and we were hammered for four hours straight by high winds, sky-to-earth lightening bolts, and torrential rains.

Flash floods all over town. Power outages (though not at my house.) Trees down.

But the humidity is back down.

Which is good.

It hasn’t been all that hot here, but the humidity has made it difficult to move. Like yesterday morning before the storm hit, I went exercising on the Walkway because I figured breeze, marginally more comfortable.



You can practically see the humidity in the air, can’t you? The river is just one big gloopy mess.

This morning it’s quite beautiful out and not humid.

I continue to be in this distracted, fretful mood, but I did solve one major POV challenge with Where You Are When, which should make the writing go much more smoothly. (Of course, it doesn’t solve the underlying dilemma of Why are you wasting time on creative pursuits when you could be watching Season 4 of The Real Housewives of New York for the fourth time?)

Also, I solved the image upload problem on Dreamwidth, which means I can start using DW as my image repository. I'll have to keep the LJ account because there's no EZ way to transfer those old images to DW, and I like them. Also, like I say, I'm fond of my wacky little band of self-selected LJ pals, and most of them have no interest in migrating away from that platform.

But certainly my goal is to use LJ less and less.

I'm feeling this underlying baseline of mild panic all the time. Why? Who knows? As I say, my life is quite cozy these days.

PTSD?

Perhaps. The political situation here, there, everywhere continues to be appalling.

And I’m finding it increasingly difficult to care. Though I know I should
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goats


Once again, the goats are back at the Vanderbilt Mansion.

And once again, I did absolutely nothing of any substance all weekend long.

Oh, to live in a world inhabited solely by sentient goats, cats, dogs, bunnies and elephants!

(My father was an alcoholic child molester, which kinda puts a damper on Father’s Day celebrations, no?)

BB, stumbling across Internet access from somewhere along the Appalachian Trail, posted that he had hiked 15.5 miles that day in 95-degree heat, which fuckin’ shamed me (‘cause I have a hard time stumbling out of the house when the temp is much above 82.)

The last man I was kinda, sorta, maybe attracted to (at least on alternate Thursdays) apparently quoted me at length somewhere and then sent me a long flattering email apologizing. A quote from his email: It's a completely unrelated sentiment by you that just happens to support everything I am doing professionally. I am too lazy to track down the actual quote.

Jeanna called to say that she was getting married and that she was buying another house so that I could come live with her. I gathered all this from her phone message. I haven’t yet called her back. I don't actually want to call her back. Although, naturally, I must.

If she gives me a month lead-in time, of course I’ll come to her wedding. Even though it sounds like a hideous ordeal.

###

Max is second chairing his first trial.

“Wait!” I said. “You’re only a second year law student.”

“Uh-huh-h-h-h-h-h…”

“And they let you…?”

“In Alaska and Colorado, yes.”

“Oh, is that why you wanted to do an internship in Alaska?””

“Right!”

Max likes trials.

Max is very good at trials.

Max has always been a very compelling speaker and a relentless arguer.

I’m inclined to think this is a rare talent even among those who are attracted to practicing law. He is winning awards at UCB Law School for his oracular proficiency, too, which makes me think he doesn’t need to be in the top 10% of his class to snag a career that will be fulfilling for him.

We spent half an hour or so on the phone batting around the particulars of the Michelle Carter case.

“Is it likely to set precedent?” I asked.

“In a juvenile court? Do you mean a precedent that could apply to principals who are over the age of 21?”

“Right.”

“Doubtful that it could be an authoritative precedent. Maybe if it goes to appeal.”

We talked for a while about the case’s implications for assisted suicide.

I doubt very much that the authors of any of the assisted suicide measures currently working their ways through state legislatures ever envisioned the facts of a case like Carter/Roy when they were formulating their statutes, but in a very literal sense, this is an assisted suicide case.

And one of the reasons why I personally have never been a fan of assisted suicide legislation.

Assisted suicide is a very slippery slope to my way of thinking.

kristen


Else? I watched a very strange film called Personal Shopper from the same director who made Clouds of Sils Maria.

I regretted I did not have the opportunity to watch it in a theater – Personal Shopper is filled with caesuras, prolonged intervals during which absolutely nothing happens except that Kristen Stewart progressively grows more freaked. These types of scenes often work in theaters where audiences understand that their job is to channel the protagonist, but they seldom if ever work on a home screen where the tendency – when nothing is happening on the screen – is to check your phone and think, Huh! Maybe I should fast-forward to the scene where Kristen Steward masturbates –

Stewart is an intriguing screen presence. Absolutely beautiful and, at the same time, a complete and total physical mess. The film, which is ostensibly about her character’s search for the ghost of a dead twin brother, seems more to me to be about the character’s obsession with social media. The character is completely oblivious to the physical world she inhabits.

It’s one of those films that would benefit from being seen twice.

But I have no intention of watching it again.

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