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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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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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I did absolutely nothing of any substance all weekend, I mean ab-zo-loot-leee nada! And felt very guilty about it, too, which detracted considerably from the mindless pleasure of nada.

I watched all 10 episodes of The Good Fight and liked them.

I watched a heartwarming movie about a woman and her bomb-sniffing dog, Megan Leavey. And cried. And thought about Milo.

I played The Sims for hours. I’m currently fleshing out the backstory of an autistic genius, so that’s taking up a lot of time.

I read two (count ‘em) biographies of Jerry Garcia and mused for a long time about what an altogether unpleasant little man he was albeit an extremely fine guitar player.

Really, one of the most fascinating things about Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead is that so many of us started out like that – going for adventures in painted buses, dropping vast quantities of acid, cramming together in rat-infested Victorians in the Haight. While a tiny fraction managed to turn that backstory into iconography, the vast majority turned it into failure.

Of course, “failure” is one of those words with no hard definition. I’m alive and in relatively good health two full decades after Jerry Garcia’s expiration date.

But I don’t have the money to plan a spree trip to Cuba let alone to maintain an aggressive heroin habit.

Isn’t that failure?

Can I mention here how much I loathe Jack Kerouac? And Ken Kesey? How I think On the Road and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are two of the most over-rated books in the 20th century bibliotheca? Badly written and misogynistic.

Meanwhile, it’s summertime in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley. I have to get out of the house by 8am if I want to go running since by 9am, it’s 80 degrees.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon sitting on a grassy bluff high above the river, occasionally looking up from my books to take a sip of water and take in this view:

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After dreaming about it, I was moved to Google-streetview the old apartment on Telegraph Avenue. It’s still there! And it’s still got the adult bookstore on its ground floor. So funny!

Those bay windows on the second floor are the ones Danny jumps out of. The tree, though, was the merest sapling when I lived there.

###

Dreamed that Max (my oldest son) and I were running around on the subway. And I was in an odd, petulant, resentful mood – Max was not paying enough attention to me! So at some point when he was running to catch a train, I deliberately dawdled behind so that I missed the train. And then it occurred to me that I didn’t have the slightest idea where I was. That the subway system had changed dramatically since the last time I’d been on it. I was now quite lost.

In the dream, Max was very excited because he’d just adopted Justin. (Robin’s high school best friend who committed suicide his first year in college.) “It’s a weird thing to do, I know,” he told me. “But I’m absolutely convinced I can save him.”

###

Weather has turned spectacular, so I’ve been spending as much time as I can outside, soaking up that Vitamin D.

The Goddess of Smartphones has got her fountain back:

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She really is the Goddess of Smartphones, as you can see from this highly pixilated close-up:

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Smartphones would not be invented for another 100 years when this statue was created, so credit those Vanderbilts with prescience as well as with obscene amounts of money.

###

RTT is a bit disturbed by the fact that his father hasn’t contacted him since his father has been in Europe.

What if that woman murdered dad? he texted.

This was the first I’d heard that Ben was flying off to Europe to meet a woman.

I found it pretty amusing that he would keep that info from me. Honestly, B – after all this time, do you think I really care?

B’s always had the capacity to get completely caught up in the adventure of the moment to the exclusion of everything else – particularly when the moment has a female costar.

I’ve seen this numerous times, but this is the first time RTT has experienced it.

I debated explaining it to him: This is the way your father reinvents himself when he finds his present reality too constraining. Likely he’s telling the woman – whoever she is – a complicated series of lies. He’s a bestselling novelist in the States! Or maybe a ghostwriter for a bestselling novelist. Or maybe a lion tamer with a traveling circus.

Avowals of grand passion will be exchanged: I never thought I would feel this way again! I don’t see how I can live without you.

At my present remove, I find this behavior almost endearing.

It wasn’t always.

But then I realized it benefits Robin in no way whatsoever to learn these truths about his father. So I texted him back, Trips are really ABSORBING as you know. I’m sure he’s fine. He’s living a life that’s outside his daily routine and reveling in it, you know?

Robin and Ben have a curiously codependent relationship in which Ben nags Robin relentlessly and continuously.

I’m sure it does feel strange to Robin to have that nagging disappear so suddenly.

But Robin is 22 years old now.

He shouldn’t need to be nagged.
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Vivid dream: I was back in my apartment in Oakland on Telegraph Avenue. My very first apartment! The one that sat over a storefront that most of the time was the Independent Driving School but sometimes turned into an adult bookstore and on at least one occasion took up tax preparation.

I’d arrived there through some sort of vaguely Orphan Black-ish cloak-and-dagger activity. I was hiding out from menacing authorities! My trusty backup squad consisted of two LJ friends whom I’ve never met – smokingboot, a Brit, whom I envision as quite ethereal, and Rob H.

Smokingboot was showing me around the apartment, which she’d decorated entirely with mirrors, stained glass, and quaint Tales-of-Hoffman-ish automatons – I remember one automaton, embedded somehow in one of the stained glass windows, was the simulacrum of a famous 1920s tennis star and would recite the tennis star’s entire biography if prompted.

I was going to have to hide out in this apartment for some unknown reason.

I looked around and thought, That’s not so bad; I kind of like this place

###

The Oakland apartment is a major touchstone in Where You Are When: Ybel lives there, and it’s the apartment where Danny and Megan keep staging colorful suicides in various iterations. That plus special guest appearances by LJ pals made me think: Aha! I’m dreaming about writing.

###

During my absence, western Dutchess County somehow metamorphosed into the Cotswolds. It rains. And rains. And rains. And the gardens bloom!

Mostly it’s been a manageable drizzle, but sometimes it pours. Not something I’ve felt like going out in, so I’ve been under-exercised and generally crochety.

I suppose I’m gonna have to break down and join a gym.

I hate gyms.

###

That Grateful Dead documentary made a strong impression on me. In particular, the Haight/Ashbury footage from the late 1960s.

I was a student at Berkeley at the time – yes, yes, I was only 16, but I’d skipped two years of school – and I hopped the AC transit bus into the City often. Golden Gate Park was one of my very favorite places to drop acid.

In a way, it’s the same thing that appeals to me about small towns – it’s as if remnants of the past are trapped like genies in flat black and white images or in abandoned, dilapidated buildings lining an empty Main Street.

Who knows what powerful magic those genies might be able to perform if released, right?

In particular, I stared at Bob Weir who in my benighted 20s seemed to me the very epitome of male beauty. Today, all I can think is, Damn! What a slack-jawed, country bumpkin-looking moron. Pretty but very obviously dumb as blunt nails.

The editing in the documentary was very weird; it jumped from a scene of Weir on the stage to a shot of Weir as an old man – well: a man my age – climbing into an ecologically friendly motor vehicle and buckling up his seat belt with a trembling hand. The dumbness is a constant. I wonder how come I missed that back in the day?

In retrospect, I can see all sorts of things that were wrong with the Dead scene. It was a complete male chauvinist fantasy. Women existed to be fucked, to prepare food, or to do those weird, whirly hand dances – their straight, carefully-parted-down-the-middle hair flying – while the Dead played Dark Star.

About a year later, I started modeling professionally, which took me frequently to New York where I hung about on the fringes of the Max’s Kansas City/Andy Warhol Factory scene. Incipient punk. A lot more dangerous than the Grateful Dead scene, but – oddly – a lot more egalitarian when it came to gender roles.

Still. There was something about the Dead that spoke to me, and I continued catching the occasional show and doing the occasional tab until Garcia dropped dead.

Whereupon I gave up psychedelics altogether.

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The Former Democratic Congressional Candidate’s brother posted this photograph of her looking elegant and imperious and as though she would snap the head off anyone who made a stupid remark.

This is how I would like to remember her.

Except that I didn’t actually know her when she was this person.
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Came back from my trip and thought about writing and wanted to write – I had adventures! – but did not write.

And I’m not exactly sure why.

Trips are good. Trips reaffirm you as the primary stakeholder in your own life; the center of your own narrative, if not of the universe.

I want to go on more trips.

But I guess I’m so innately lazy and undisciplined that a week is all it takes for me to lose a habit.

###

After a couple of days, the small adventures of everyday life began to take over the brain cells allocated to trip memories.

For example: One afternoon, I was tromping fast or running – whichever one you want to call it – through the Vanderbilt Estate when I was passed by a car. Not a limo, but a black car – Crown Victoria maybe? And inside that car sat the Former Democratic Candidate for Congress. This was really confusing to me because I’d heard through the grapevine that she was desperately ill, too ill to leave her bed, or so, I’d been told.

If the Former Democratic Candidate for Congress saw me, she made no sign.

When I got home three hours later, there was an email: The Former Democratic Candidate for Congress had just died.

And this was just very weird because it strongly suggests that the Vanderbilt Estate is either the hellmouth or the pearly gates, I’m not exactly sure which.

###

And yesterday, which I’d put aside for writing about my trip, I could not wake up. All day long I had that really frustrating feeling of trying to jumpstart my mind as though it was a power mower or a chainsaw, and feeling it sputter and spurt as fuel was fed but remained unsparked.

Finally, I gave up and watched a six-hour documentary on the Grateful Dead.

I would never describe myself as a Deadhead, but I did see the Dead in concert innumerable times. Dead concerts were always a great place to do psychedelics. Plus I really liked the fact that here was this huge underground phenomenon that had received little or no acknowledgement from the mainstream press and PR machines; a whole transient economy and community that came together and then dissipated in the time it might take a handful of itinerant Buddhist monks to make a sand painting. Think Burning Man without the hype.

Still. Jerry Garcia as a Christ figure is stretching it.

###

Before I forget – there are three pieces I’d like to write in the coming week:

(1) The Kathy Griffin saga. Think what you like about the tastelessness of swinging a severed and bloodied head – hey! It worked for Salome! And for Judith! – this was a woman who was prepared to do battle on the enemy’s own turf.

Vulgar?

Sure.

Vulgar to a Trumpian extent, in fact.

Fighting fire with fire is not an inherently bad thing, so I was deeply puzzled when Griffin was castigated by both the Left and the Right.

The Left loves to eat its own.

But this one makes me wonder whether the real reason the Neanderthals lost out to Cro Magnon Man wasn’t because they were too polite.

(2) A deconstruction of the Hillary Body Bag trope. I have a list of all of Hillary's (alleged) bodies, and it’s far more extensive than Seth Rich and Vince Foster. But I'm wondering if there's another episode in American political history where a particular politician was accused of so many back channel murders. I have this sense that it’s a hoary narrative, but I just don’t know enough history to support that contention. So I’m fishing around for 19th century or 20th century examples.

(3) Why Americans don’t care about climate change. And I suspect that Trump called the zeitgeist exactly right here: Most Americans will actually concede that scientists are right and that climate change is happening. But they don’t give a shit. Why? Because climate change, indeed environmental issues in general, are widely perceived to be rich people’s causes. As though one morning, the One Percent woke up and realized, Uh oh! We’re sharing a planet with those dirtbags. We gotta do something.

Naturally, every strategy for reducing greenhouse gases has a disproportionately large effect on the poor.

How many tons of carbon does the Lear Jet that Al Gore uses to travel between climate change conferences generate anyway? But you’re not gonna find Al Gore reserving a seat on Amtrak any time soon.

There’s a huge amount of cognitive dissonance involved with behaviors like this, and mainstream Americans are not blind to it.
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It’s been hot. Very, very hot. Eighty-degrees-Fahrenheit-by-9-o’clock-in- the-morning hot.

This means that by the time I’m coffee’d up and Daily Mail-ed up enough to want to go out and exercise, it’s too hot to go out and exercise.

Consequently, I haven’t exercised for the past couple of days. At the same time, I haven’t slept well for the past couple of days. Are these two things connected? Seems likely.

I felt the urge to become politically involved in the orchestrated momentum leading up to the last Presidential election and the hysterical churn of the first few months after Trump won.

But it’s obvious the Sooper Sekrit Political Group is just another dead-end time sink at this point.

Before I got involved with the Sooper Sekrit Political Group, I was very involved with the Dutchess County Political Action Alliance – but it soon became very clear to me that the only “action” the DCPAA is committed to doing is allying with larger state progressive groups that want to use ground members as background extras in various useless rallies and protests. That’s an insult to my intelligence.

At this point, I’m thinking that all the high drama on the American political stage is just a battle for advertising dollars being waged between MSNBC and Fox News.

The words of the ZMan echo: I slowly came to the conclusion that the whole Right-Left dynamic was just a myth… If the Right-Left construct is just a version of good cop/bad cop where the people in the media hustle the rest of us so they can live above their utility, then what’s really going on in the world?

And the always relevant Bion of Borysthenes quotation. You know the one. The boys throwing stones. The dead frogs.

I care but not in the way I see my agitated Progressive friends caring. I think they’re having trouble separating the Figure from the Ground. And the Ground, she is changing…

###

Also, I have my own Work – which I pretty much have ignored for the past few months.

My own Work may never amount to anything, but it is mine – my own “sensemaking” to borrow Boy Genius’s ridiculously pompous phrase.

Why have I been ignoring it?

Partly a lack of discipline.

Partly the fact that I make my supplemental monies writing and that those writings have to happen on a timeline over which I have no control – so that when those deadlines have been met, I am often all written out and mentally exhausted.

Partly, though, because I’m not allowing myself to be absorbed into my own imagination. I’m allowing myself to be absorbed into other people’s imaginations. It’s more of a social thing, doncha know.

Not really sure what to do about any of this. I’m done being hard on myself in any way, shape, or form. The world is hard enough on me already; I don't see why I should give it any additional help.

But I’d like to figure out a way to get back inside my own imagination.
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Anyone-But-Le-Pen swept to a resounding victory in the French Presidential election. This stays the slouching of What Dark Beast for at least one more decade, I guess.

And if it were up to me, I would never publish anything under my own name. I would always adopt kludgey pennames like Ernest Delving or Frank. B. Leaf.

The whole popularity contest of publishing even in really tiny obscure outlets is just too hard on one’s stomach.

Else?

Boy Genius is having another snit, and this makes me question the wisdom of continuing to work with the Sooper Sekrit enterprise. In general, I don’t like Boy Genius (though I do like Alpha Male.) Dealing with male divas is always a lot harder than dealing with female divas; they’re less easily placated. I enjoy the work with the Sooper Sekrit Political Group, but there’s no denying a lot of opportunity costs are involved: I’m waaaay behind on back episodes of The Real Housewives of New York City, and I haven’t done any of my own scribbling in ages.

I continue in this weird prickly mood. Communicating with human beings other than B and Max feels like walking a runway that’s been placed over a minefield. Human interactions are just fraught with complications. Remaining on the defensive is exhausting.
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I’d forgotten the way that writing something in a single swoop feels exactly like doing cocaine. A cheap high!

Finished the piece around midnight. Texted it to B who turned out to be awake and so was able to spare me the hideous public embarrassment that comes when you confuse the Indy 500 with the Daytona 500.

Here’s the piece:

https://medium.com/rally-point-perspectives/three-trump-insurgency-blogs-you-should-know-about-a40a6c860a9f

In the end, I went with three Trump Insurgency blogs simply because I could not force myself to read five. Piece could probably use some cleaning up, but hey! It’s fuckin’ Medium. It’s not like I’m getting paid or anything.

Overall, I’m not entirely displeased with it. My favorite line? He equates homosexuality with the types of developmental challenges that I believe only the March of Dimes is still referring to as “birth defects.”

###

B and I texted for an hour. The crassest, most politically incorrect jokes you can possibly imagine! That’s one of our secret bonds. Macron’s wife was his high school teacher, B noted. In America, that would have led to a multi-state manhunt!

The way God intended! I said.

Didn’t you interview Scott Adams once when you worked for People? he asked.

I did.

Damn, he said. It’s like missing a chance to kill Hitler.

###

But after we finished texting, I still couldn’t sleep, even though I was dead tired. I watched several back-to-back episodes of Medium on Hulu. Medium is one of my favorite old TV shows. Patricia Arquette as Alison Dubois is a dead ringer for my old Monterey pal Heidi, right down to the blonde bowl cut, the flat blue eyes, and the annoying whiney voice. Joe Dubois is the most perfect husband ever (even though Jake Weber, the actor who plays him – a Brit – does the weirdest American accent you can possibly imagine.)

I still couldn’t fall asleep.

Finally I swiped one of L’s airplane-bottle bonsais of booze, downed it in a single gulp. Spiced rum Ugh! The trick is to find something strong enough to knock you off that plateau of wakefulness. Alcohol works, though it always leaves me feeling disoriented the following morning: I’m not much of a drinker.

Woke up at 7:30 because it is impossible for me to sleep once the morning has lightened.

Now, of course, I feel completely out of it. It was almost too much of an effort to make oatmeal. I know, I thought. I’ll eat stale, tasteless chocolate chip cookies for breakfast!

(It takes three minutes to make oatmeal, and I hate chocolate chip cookies.)

But I must gather my wits together ‘cause the Scut Factory is calling my name. (Cue Tennessee Ernie Ford.)
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B called at the crack of dawn to inform me that:

(A) RTT was so hideously depressed that B had been up with him till 4 in the morning trying to text him down

– and that –

(B) he (B) had shingles.

Before I even had coffee!

###

The magic power I want?

The ability to shield the people I love from pain and distress.

Truly, I’d rather be kidnapped by Erik and Sigfried (gratuitous The Last Kingdom reference alert!) than have one drop of misery descend upon those who huddle in the small inner circle of my heart.

But, helas! Such small sorceries as I command are only strong enough to hold the umbrella over me and my cats.

I’m really grateful that I’ve landed where I’ve landed. That somehow after all the vicissitudes of my life, I’ve landed in a pretty little world where I’m more-or-less content. Yeah, yeah – I got troubles. Fixing the car is probably gonna set me back a grand. That pain on the right side of my neck? It’s cancer, right? Plus I gained 20 pounds over the course of the winter so that now, when I try to wiggle into my favorite black dress, I look just like Mama June pre-bariatric surgery.

But these aren’t problems. They’re vexations.

Plus even if they were problems, they’d be first world problems.

No. I’ve lucked out. And I know it.

But you can’t share luck.

###

Else? The proto-Rimbaud blogger wrote back, giving me access to a podcast he’d done recently. “Use any quote you want,” he said.

His blog has no personal identifying info on it whatsoever, which is something I respect. That means he’s not keeping it for personal aggrandizement or self-promotion.

And I suppose I have to do Vox Popoli as one of the Trump Insurgency blogs.

I really loathe Vox Day a/k/a Theodore Robert Beale. Nazis love him ‘cause he uses words of more than one syllable when he writes about white nationalism. Science fiction fans may remember him as one of the driving forces behind the whole Hugo Award hashtag RabidPuppies controversy.
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The piece __ submitted was awful. Which shocked me because, you know, ___ journalist! _________ contributor!

But I really must be the world’s best editor ‘cause damn! if I did not make those words sing.

And the piece we published in Sooper Sekrit Standpoint is very fine indeed.

This makes me think that I have been approaching my own writing in absolutely the wrong way.

I have this compulsion to get it all right on the very first draft, which leads to hours and hours of rearranging commas, searching through weird linguistic appropriations for common adjectives, and other time-wasting activities. When really, I should be blurting it all out in as short a period of time as possible and shoving it in my underwear drawer for three months.

Three months is about the right length of time to lose the muscle memory of writing it.

Then I should take it out of the drawer and edit the hell out of it.

‘Cause as surely as Bruce Springsteen was born to run, baby, I was born to edit!

###

Else?

It’s raining.

I have been in the same general washed-out mood for several weeks now. Unengaged, one might say.

This weekend I’m supposed to write a piece on the Five Trump Insurgency Blogs YOU Should Be Reading!

That Five…You Must… formula is guaranteed clickbait.

Trouble is I have only identified two Trump Insurgency Blogs you must read – and one of them is by an insufferable prick whom I honestly think no one should read.

The other is by a sinister genius who espouses the darkest, most inflammatory thoughts ever but does so in a rich, delicious style that makes me shiver so that every time I set my browser to his site, I feel as though I've just been presented with a plate of chocolate-covered, absinthe-filled cherries. He is Rimbaud – after the teenage rockstar poet years, when Rimbaud was a weary smuggler working the Abyssinian coast.

But now I have to come up with three other pro-Trump blogs!

Plus – as always – I must toil in the Scut Factory mines.

For I have CV axles to fix and trips over Memorial Day to take.

B-day!

Apr. 12th, 2017 07:23 am
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My ESL students gave me roses and also an extremely beautiful bracelet made of Mexican silver.

I was beyond touched.

I run into Tony sometimes at the Hyde Park McDonald’s where he does second shifts after putting in a full day of manual labor as one of the groundskeepers at the Big Old House that’s right across the road from the Wyndcliff ruins. (What can I say? I like McDonald’s French fries!)

Romulo’s been out of a job since last October.

Ines cleans houses.

Adaline works retail at the Dollar Store.

Etcetera.

Long-stemmed roses represent serious bank for my ESL students.

I felt honored. And humbled.

###

Else? I had an extremely pleasant, low-key b-day that included another elaborate floral tribute from der kinder and celebratory cupcakes from the Hyde Park tax squad.

I spent hours sitting in on a bench overlooking the Hudson River reading The Best American Short Stories 2015, soaking up the resonance of the beyond gorgeous afternoon. (“Beyond” is the adjective of the day, I guess.) Say what you will about T.C. Boyle as a Pynchon Lite novelist, he’s got a crack eye for good short fiction: This is the best collection of Best American Short Stories I’ve read in many years, and there’s one story in particular – Fingerprints by someone named Justin Bigos – that was like nothing I’ve ever read before and stunningly brilliant.

Speaking of stunningly brilliant fiction, tax season is over on Friday, so I will have run out of excuses for not buckling down and creating some myself.
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Personally? I like that nobody reads my LJ anymore. It means I no longer have to worry about anything I write here making any sense whatsoever. My thoughts are the patter of rain. Intelligible only to me.

I have to figure out a way that my imagination is not enslaved by all those ridiculous articles I’m compelled to write for feelthy lucre about transvaginal mesh mass torts and similar faux arbitrage lunacy.

I also have to stop logging on to FB so much as I'm trying to write. A little more difficult that it should be because Jim made me an administrator of the Sooper Sekrit group, and much as I may grumble from time to time, I actually think the Sooper Sekrit group is on to something. So I want to take my administrative role seriously.

###


Coda 1: Ybel and Danny stoned on acid. Danny leaps from the window. Ybel jumps.

###

Coda 2: Ybel jumps to some point in her life she’s never jumped to before. Significant in some way. (Significance may need to be dumped into Draft 2 through foreshadowing.) Before the scene at the Russian Tea Room.

The scene at the Russian Tea Room

Ybel grows up; the memories of past lives grow dimmer until she comes to believe they’re some kind of complex delusion. She goes into therapy about the delusions. Her therapist is called DeTomasso; the two have an odd conversation in which it seems to Ybel that DeTomasso seems to know about the delusions.

She is wary about three things: the Buttercup Bakery, people called Danny and Anna, the song Que Sera Sera.

Reader loses him/herself in what appears to be a conventional novel about Millennial angst. (Reader is supposed to forget he/she read Coda 1!)

Until, by an unexpected sequence of events, Ybel takes a job at the Buttercup Bakery and a coworker named Anna jumps out a window at the same time that Pink Martini’s cover of Que Sera Sera comes on the radio.

Ybel jumps.

End of Chapter One.

###

Coda 3: This is the backstory::

A body in motion stays in motion. Until it hits the ground.

So much was true in every iteration. In every when.

But the other details?

Those fluctuated so much that sometimes Ybel found herself hoping – no, believing – that this time things would be different.

But they never are.


(This is a slightly rewritten version of the opening lines of the novel -- which the reader is now reading for the second time.)

###

In most iterations, the commercial establishment on the ground floor of the building where Ybel lived was the Independent Driving School. Sometimes, though, it was a combination adult book store/peep show venue. Twice it had billed itself as a tax preparation service.

Sometimes it was Danny who jumped; sometimes it was Anna. Most of the time, Danny was an elfin young man, short and slim, with swoonishly long eyelashes; Anna was solid and blockish, dyed her hair blonde, liked edgy makeup and earrings recycled from industrial machinery.

But sometimes the phenotypes reversed themselves.

###

In every iteration, Ybel met Danny and Anna at the Buttercup Bakery, which was always famous for its carrot cake.

Sometimes, the Buttercup was a jazz club. Twice, it had been a nationwide franchise with the slogan, “Enjoy Your Vegetables!”

In one and only one iteration, the Buttercup had been a shack on the shores of an immense blue Pacific Ocean. There’d been an earthquake – the Big One survivalists and geologists were always nattering about – and it had taken out all of San Francisco. That was the one and only time Ybel had gone back and found things… different. The beginning point was still the Russian Tearoom on W. 57th Street, right down the street from Carnegie Hall, but the weather even in New York was muggier and George Miles had been wearing seersucker. That scared her; she spent the subsequent 12 years in a kind of psychic karate crouch, more easily spooked than ever.

In that iteration, the Buttercup sold tropical rum drinks with paper umbrellas. And carrot cake.

Most of the time, the Buttercup Bakery was an upscale eatery in the rapidly gentrifying Rockridge district in North Oakland. But a handful of times, the district had not been gentrified, was still the rough neighborhood that had grown up around the traprock quarry where basalt was mined, crushed, and shipped to form cement foundations upon which the shimmering cities of San Francisco and Santa Rosa towered, and the Buttercup was a diner where working men came for coffee and doughnuts.

So far as Ybel knew, the Buttercup, in all these iterations, only sold a single piece of carrot cake. To one of the quarrymen. Still half-drunk from the night before.

“What the fuck is this?” said the quarryman, stabbing at the vegetable strands in the brown cake with his fork.


Segue into the usual events – Danny insists on accompanying Ybel home from work. He leaps out the window. This time, though, a police detective shows up right away. His name is DeTomasso. Before she can summon Que Sera Sera, he shoves an oversized hypodermic syringe into her arm.

End of Chapter 2.

###

After that, the plotting gets hazy.

DeTomasso, of course, is a government agent of some sort who has identified a group of people who have the ability to travel in time – though in a limited capacity. They can only ever travel back into the past. And they do this by leveraging a particular sense – for most jumpers, it’s a smell, but for Ybel, it’s a particular sequence of musical notes – that evokes memory so strongly that the memory literally carries them back into the brain of a younger version of themselves – but with all the memories of the other lives they’ve lived. And every iteration involves different scenarios though certain basic elements remain the same.

So obviously we need some kind of boot camp where Ybel learns to harness her abilities.

We need to figure out what the significance is of the elements that remain the same from iteration to iteration.

We need a logical way for jumpers to identify one another.

And we need a Big Bad that casts a very long shadow.
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Oddest experience yesterday. I was out and about buying plants when Neil Young’s wavery, eerie, slightly out-of-tune tenor and a familiar piano arpeggio suddenly spilled from the store’s sound system.

After the Goldrush:

Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s…

For a split moment, there was someone else in my brain.

And I knew instantly who this person was: It was me. Age 20 or so. I must have listened to this album 1,000 times or so when it first came out.

The odd thing, though, was that this me was an alien presence. Not the same me that now lives in this body at all. The coloration of consciousness was completely different.

Then wham! the alien presence was gone.

I have completely forgotten who that girl was.

###

This is actually a plot device I’m using in one of the perennially-being-written novels. In Where You Were When, there’s a group of people who are able to travel back in time because they’re able to seize moments like the one I've described above to go back into the brains of their younger selves. The kicker being that they can only travel one way – backwards – and that the pasts they find themselves in are always mutating though certain motifs appear to be inflexible. My heroine, Ybel, for instance always ends up working as a waitress in a place called The Buttercup Bakery and always witnesses a boy named Danny jumping from a window while stoned on acid. But the other details of her past are always changing.

Danny’s leap from the window has created a kind of temporal do-loop for Ybel, and the first novel – yes, yes, all unwritten novels must be trilogies or tetrologies! – is an account of how she is broken out of that do-loop so that she can be conscripted by the Forces of Good to fight unspeakable e-e-e-evil!

The catalyst for traveling backwards in time varies from time traveler to time traveler. Kind of like epilepsy triggers. For some, it’s a smell; for others, it’s a particular way that light flashes or glimmers. For Ybel, it’s sonic – that inverted 18th from Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

By the time the novel opens, we’re given to understand that Danny has made his leap an uncountable number of times, and that Ybel has developed some measure of control over her backwards time traveling. She only has to imagine the inverted 18th in order to go backwards in time. In terms of the actual words on the page, this, too, is problematic since in Chapter One, Danny and Ybel are actually listening to The Doors’ Light My Fire – from which it’s really, really hard to segue into Rachmaninoff!

Anyway, the odd experience yesterday was very illuminating in terms of my little literary experiment.

###

In other news, it’s very cold here. Like 8 degrees. I’m afraid those daffodils by the post office are popsicles.
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It isn’t as though more celebrities died in 2016.

It’s that there are more celebrities. And hey! they gotta die sometime.

###

In 2013, Wired Magazine actually attempted to quantify the number of famous people on the planet. They somehow came up with the figure 0.000086, but of course, that’s 0.000086 of seven billion, which works out to approximately 600,000.

Six hundred thousand celebrities!

That number is probably higher today.

###

What is a celebrity?

The word was originally a synonym for fame

And then it became an anthropomorphization for someone who possesses fame.

Thus a “celebrity,” in the most essential sense, is someone who exerts influence by being famous. He or she may have become famous through various accomplishments – movie roles, political offices, polio cures – but that accomplishment is not what determines celebrity status and increasingly, is actually irrelevant to celebrity status.

So what does determine celebrity status?

###

In 1994, I wrote an article titled "Elvis sighted in ancient Rome!" This piece, published in the relatively obscure Whole Earth Review, generated a fair amount of traction. For several weeks after its publication, national radio shows clamored to get interviews with me. This was considerably post-Liz-and-Dick – which we enlightened anthropologists from the planet Mars now recognize as the first manifestation of unadulterated “celebrity” in modern times – but before the Internet had become a state-of-the-art celebrity stamping machine. The National Enquirer was still held in contempt by most intellectuals, and my cheerful admission that not only did I study it scrupulously every week but that I also studied The Globe and Star immediately made me a suspicious character to the eggheads who were interviewing me.

“Do you read People?” one interviewer asked me.

“Never!” I said. “They just take National Enquirer stories and spruce up the adjectives. They don’t even pay for their stories!”

Of course, a couple of months later, I was working for People.

My thesis was very simple: Celebrities have psychological power because they key into collective archetypes. These archetypes represent niches that are embedded into some deep substrate of ontological thought. Liz Taylor is only the most recent embodiment of Helen of Troy. Elvis is a just another reboot of those beautiful Greek boys who died staring at themselves in reflecting surfaces and who, oddly, inevitably, were transformed into flowers.

You wanna template for contemporary culture? Read Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Of course, this thesis wasn’t necessarily original to me: Sexual Personae had already been published. I was and remain a big Camille Paglia fan: Even when she’s pigheaded, which she is a significant portion of the time, Paglia is always interesting. Even enlightening.

But it was something I’d been musing on my entire life, long before I encountered Paglia.

Four things got me through my exceedingly painful childhood and adolescence: LSD, Victorian and neo-Victorian British literature, movie magazines, and my obsession with and encyclopedic knowledge of Egyptian, Greek, and Norse mythology.

###

Browsing the Internet feels intimate. There you sit in some kind of reverie, engaging in one-on-one communion with your computer/iPad/smartphone/whatever. It’s hard to shake the subconscious belief that what you’re reading, watching, hearing on that little LED screen isn’t your own mind talking back to you. Your own weird little accretion of interests and obsessions made manifest.

When all is said and done, the Internet isn’t a channel for the dissemination of information or a facilitator of human communication. No. It’s a tremendously efficient niche-marketing engine.

And celebrity, is the ultimate niche market.

So, of course, celebrity is gonna multiply in the age of the Internet.

###

All of which is a very longwinded way of saying that while George Michael’s demise left me completely unmoved, Carrie Fisher’s death made me sad.

The George Michael niche: Male, British, gay, cheesy, drugs, 1980s, hips, thrust, lewd encounters in public lavatories, confusion with Boy George –

The Carrie Fisher niche: Liz and Eddie, Liz and Dick, female, Star Wars, writer, wit, drugs, When Harry Met Sally, romantic disappointments, gallantry, service animal –

Well. I think you can see which side of the fence I'd come down on.

###

In other news, snowcapalypse forecast for tomorrow, starting perhaps as early as this very afternoon.

Yesterday, it was 60 degrees out! I went for a longish hike since I’m still feeling too bloated from Christmas sweets to actively participate in raising my heart rate much over 100 beats per minute.

It was very pretty out. Springlike, you might say. I felt like a little battery, storing up as much radiant solar energy as possible. This time of year is very hard for me, so-o-o dark.

I was supposed to meet up with ____ tomorrow, so he could tell me all about his latest romantic misadventures, but snowstorm? I ain’t leaving the casa! Not even to be taken out to dinner at the incredibly expensive Bistro restaurant in Rhinebeck.
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Very jolly few days culminating in a terrific yesterday traipsing about the Big City.

One of the things I like best about Alan is that he really, really, really likes plants. Thus, trips with him to the enormous and wonderful New York Botanical Garden are a treat. I can trail in his wake listening to him talk about the various botanical species we encounter and his own adventures taming them, or I can just tune him out and loose myself in the astonishing beauty of the flowers.

We caught the tail end of the tulips:

tulips


And as you can see from the picture above, we caught the azaleas at their peak. The lilacs were also in bloom:

lilac

And the beautiful exotic grasses, columbines, and pygmy daffodils in the rock garden:

grasses

I have to say, though, that my biggest thrill was finally seeing the one stretch of virgin forest along the Bronx River (more of a stream actually), which is all that remains of the way things used to be. A mere 400 years ago. Before there was an Empire State Building.

before

Afterwards, Alan and I repaired to a fancy, fancy bar, sipped bourbon, and discussed the mysteries of the universe while I eavesdropped on two nattily dressed Chinese billionaires drinking white wine at the table next to me. They spoke in Chinese, but their conversation was peppered with terms like “Amazon” and “intellectual property.” I figured they were speculating about expanding Ali Baba into the American marketplace. Chinese billionaires love white wine. I can’t imagine why.

###

When I got off the subway at Canal Street an hour later, I felt disoriented. And then I heard a voice: “Patrizia?”

It was Summer! Whom I’d subwayed down to meet. Pretty propitious running into her on the crowded street when we were each independently wending our respective way to our rendezvous at a Kosher vegetarian restaurant called Buddha Bodai.

We passed a Haagen-Dazs store that was giving out free ice cream. The line extended for blocks. It was obvious that many people had spent their day getting free ice cream and then standing online for more free ice cream:

group


Chris joined us while we were waiting online. There was lots to talk about so the wait went quickly.

He didn’t get his H1B visa, so it’s looking as though they will not be staying in the States. They are debating the respective merits of settling back into China versus settling back into Japan. (Due to her complicated family history, Summer holds a Japanese passport.)

First time I ever had an extended conversation with Chris. He is quite bright. Summer has always told me that he is extremely atypical for a Chinese male: “He is more interested in happiness than money!”

I will miss Summer a great deal if she leaves. But for the first time, she was talking children. So, yes. They’re through with the free-floating stage.

###

Speaking of children, Max arrives here tomorrow. Saturday, we drive up to watch RTT in 2! two! too! graduation ceremonies.

I’m actually mildly anxious about this. Part of that is due to the thought that I will have to drive with time limits in a city (Syracuse) that’s very congested and filled with insane motorists. Part of that is due to my thought that while I’m positive RTT loves me, he really doesn’t like me very much, and I just cannot go through another episode of acting like myself and having him lash out at me because I am so-o-o-o embarrassing. Enough, Robin! Tolerance is the mantra of your generation, shuffling as you do through the identity politics polka. True, I’m not black, and I’m not transgender. But my life matters, too! Right? Right?

###

I also wanted to write about Scott Fitzgerald since for research purposes, I’ve been reading a book called Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby.’

The first few chapters of my work-in-progress take place in New York in the early 1920s. This calls for a lot of research. Research is time-consuming. So, I figured I’d let someone else do the research for me – in this case, an academic called Sarah Churchwell who wanted to write about The Great Gatsby in the context of the decade (1920s) that created it.

It’s an interesting book. Filled with interesting details. For example: During the 1920s, there was no uniformity among NYC traffic signals. In some neighborhoods, red lights meant stop and green lights meant go, while in others red lights means go and green lights meant stop. Traffic police sat in these oversized cement perches rather like lifeguard stands, directing the local flow.

The book also sheds considerable insight into Fitzgerald’s composition techniques.

Like all writers, I’m fascinated by how other writers write.

In the 1920s, Fitzgerald had not yet embarked upon the ripest period of his lifelong alcoholism, when everything, you might say, was fermented. But he spent the greater portion of his days relatively ripped.

Which meant he had only an hour or two every morning between quaffs of Alka-Seltzer to work on his art.

He wrote maybe 100 words a day.

Possibly this accounts for my own sense that The Great Gatsby is so overwritten as to be barely readable.

Yes, yes, yes. The novel is a stylistic masterpiece. Many of its individual sentences are so beautifully composed that they make me want to weep.

But the book has no connective tissue. It’s like this fossilized collection of beautiful sentences, a subtextual framework that feels more like an engineering accomplishment than a piece of art.

I much prefer Fitzgerald’s short stories to his novels, as breezy, superficial, and banal as they may be. They feel more authentic.

Lots more to be said about that, but helas! No time.
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Today’s mission will be to score a copy of The Camomile Lawn at the Hyde Park Library, an ancient and decrepit coach house built of local fieldstone and erected at the behest of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, back in the days when he was Viscount Trimingham in the Big House hereabouts, and lord of all he could see.

Like all benevolent aristocrats, FDR had a deep interest in preserving local handicrafts. This area, for example, is particularly well-known for its 18th century stone houses:

house-lu


Not to worry! I will spare you the 20 page diatribe on how bizarre it is that FDR went on to become America’s first democratic socialist President.

###

I stumbled on the TV mini-series version of The Camomile Lawn last night after a hard day at the Scut Factory. I watched it into the wee hours of the morning. War-time Britain! Check. Large house perched on the Cornish coast! Check.

But the most interesting thing about The Camomile Lawn to me is that it was published to great critical acclaim and blockbuster sales when its author, Mary Wesley, was 72 years old.

"The young always think that they invented sex and somehow hold full literary rights on the subject", she remarked.

Take note, creepy Millennial prudes with your irritating and bor-r-r-r-ing “trigger warnings.”

Mary Wesley had quite the wild life, but it’s her singular old age that interests me. Her second husband, the love of her life, died when she was 58, leaving her destitute. As she had no job skills whatsoever, she took up writing. Think Jane Austen writing in the contemporary vernacular if Jane Austen had been interested in writing honestly about the brutality, incest, homosexuality, murder, suicide, cruelty and illegitimacy transpiring just outside those drawing rooms where snobbery and conservatism were the accepted norms.

Several years before her death, Wesley ordered a red lacquer casket from a local coffin maker. When the Hearst Corporation magazine Country Living proposed doing a story on her after she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, she suggested they use a photograph of her sitting up in the casket. They passed.

###

On the walls of my writing annex, I’ve taped photographs of Louisa May Alcott and E. Nesbit – both authors who toiled in their own versions of the Scut Factory while carving out precious moments for their own writing.

I think I may add Mary Wesley’s portrait to my gallery:

Wes1USE_3188021b

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