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Dreamed that I was deeply, passionately in love with a brilliant architect, but he would never love me back because he was a dwarf, and at 5’10”, I was simply too tall.

I suppose the dream’s status detail is borrowed from the Celeste project, but it’s interesting the way it took something that many people, myself included, would view as an advantage, my height. And turned it into a disability.

###

I scraped yesterday’s English lesson with Samir in favor of helping him hammer out a business plan.

He seems bound and determined to transfer operations to New York City.

I think that plan is beyond awful, but I don’t get to make his decisions; I am but a tool for actualizing his goals, etcetera, ad nauseam.

“You know, there are an awful lot of people repairing phones in New York City,” I told him.

“Yes, but there are an awful lot of broken phones,” he said.

I suppose.

We sat in the library making up numbers:

Rent, New York City: $1500 for office; $1200 for living = $2700

Versus

Rent, Poughkeepsie: $1200 for office, $500 for living = $1700

Etcetera.

Samir, for whatever reason, is just bound and determined to have a physical address from which to run his smartphone repair empire.

I think that’s cray-zeee.

True, I know nothing about the commercial real estate market in New York City, but it seems to me that even if his rent guesstimate is correct – and I suspect it’s way low – it sticks him with a 12-month operational expense that would be a cement block around his neck if the business didn’t take off.

And he wants it to take off in three months.

Six months, Samir,” I said. “You want to have enough cash in reserve to tide you over for six months.”

“No, no, three months,” he said adamantly.

I think the ideal business model for him would be a mobile phone repair operation, which he could do in conjunction with his current admittedly awful job. (Not only is his current employer exploiting him, now his current employer is refusing to provide him with a reference! Because he doesn’t want to lose Samir!)

As the mobile repair biz gained traction, he could cut down on hours at the bad job.

He could do the repairs out of the back of his van. He could start off by parking the van three days a week alongside the Vassar campus.

(“But students,” said Samir. “They have no money.”

“Oh, trust me,” I said. “Vassar students have money.”)

He could paper the campus with fliers: Phone fixed while you wait! He could do the car wrap thing! Maybe his van could play a little jingle like an ice cream truck!

I sang the little jingle for him: “Oh, don’t you weep and don’t you moan, for Samir is here to fix your phone. La-la-la!”

Samir laughed.

“Really, you have to think in terms of your long-range plans, Samir,” I said.

Samir looked at his hands. “I want to marry my girlfriend. I want to bring her to the U.S. But, you know, in our culture, wives do not work. I do not want my wife to work. I want to make the house for her, and she will make me the home.”

Start-up costs for a mobile phone repair business should be considerably less than for a stationary phone repair business since he already has the tools he tells me, and presumably, word of mouth would be his chief marketing channel. So let’s say $5,000 for a van and another $1500 for a generator so he can sauter motherboards when necessary. If the business goes kaput, hey! he still has capital in the form of equipment that has some resale value.

I’m looking into crowd-sourcing platforms.

But how do I make Samir stand out from all those other worthy candidates vying for your Beneficent Bwana dollars?

###

First day of autumn. Wow! This summer went fast.

Hoping to drive to Barrytown and Annandale-on-Hudson this afternoon for a kind of Steely Dan nostalgia tour. But that will depend upon what my masters at the Scut Factory have in store for me.
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Dreamed that I saw Robin Hobart.

Omygawd, Robin Hobart.

This was on the grounds of some kind of vast, beautiful university complex – Oxford or maybe even my old alma mater, Berkeley.

Robin Hobart was about 100 feet in front of me. I lost her in the crowd. I thought she went into a house, so – ever heedless of propriety, particularly in my dreams – I went into that house, too.

Inside the house, they were preparing for some sort of celebration. A wedding celebration. There was a kitchen that was stuffed with flowers – spring flowers like daffodils, narcissi, anemones, freesias. And a sleek cake.

Further inside the house was a mass of people.

I didn’t see Robin Hobart anywhere, so I bolted into a side room.

This side room was a bedroom of some sort with two beds. Two men were lying side by side in one of the beds. They had a conviviality with one another that did not come from having just had hot sex but rather from having lukewarm sex every other Friday – and today wasn’t Friday. But they obviously liked each other.

They were mildly put out by my presence in their room. But not too terribly.

I tried to explain to them what I was doing in their bedroom. But they weren’t particularly interested in anything I had to say. They talked over me – an easy conversation that had been going on their entire time together. From time to time, one or the other would look at me, raise his eyebrows mockingly, shake his head.

There was another male couple in the other bed.

They must be professors, I thought. Only professors could entertain such outré living arrangements.

But towards the end of the dream, I found out that they were auto mechanics.

And I never did catch up with Robin Hobart!

###

I went with Summer and Chris to Olana. The official Farewell Tour! Yes, I’d said goodbye to them in NYC but for some reason, it really hit home that Summer was leaving when I saw her yesterday. I suppose because most of the associations I have of her are tethered to the Hudson Valley.

I’ve been to Olana several times, but I always enjoy it. I can’t make up my mind whether the house is a wildly self-indulgent celebration of Orientalism at its absolute worst or a whimsical architectural folly. It’s very Victorian. Since the State of New York acquired it from the last living Frederick Church descendent, it’s crammed full with the painter’s own collection of knick-knacks, gewgaws, and tchotchkes. And reams and reams of truly awful paintings. I’m not a big fan of the Hudson Valley School.

(On the drive home, I was trying to figure out why I like John Singer Sargent but detest Frederick Church. Their subject matter was very similar, and their styles were not wildly dissimilar: They both practiced the kind of photorealism that was expected from painters before the use of cameras was widespread. I couldn’t come up with an answer.)



“It is very profitable to be a painter in the 1800s!” said Chris after we left the house.

“Oh, it wasn’t very profitable at all,” I said. “Frederick Church made his money the old-fashioned way! Through dead relatives. His father founded the Aetna Insurance Company.”

It was then that I made the remarkable discovery that Summer and Chris are rich! Between them, they own four houses – two in Szechuan and two in Guangdong -- and four cars.

Maybe visiting China and staying with them for a week is a reasonable goal after all.

###

“You are my family,” Summer said as we embraced one final time.

A banal sentiment, I know. But I feel that way, too. Like somehow, outside of culture, outside of time, we recognized each other.

I cried hysterically when I got home.

I shall miss her.

###

And I know, So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past is widely considered the sweepstakes winner in the contest for Best Line in the History of English Language Fiction.

But I like this line better: But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.
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I dreamed about David Baker. (Not his real name.) David Baker! A middlingly famous record producer I had a thing with back in the Pleistocene whom I mostly remember for bringing me to Marrakech for the first time.

David Baker had come to Marrakech to do a threesome with a middlingly famous rock ‘n’ roll guy – back in those days, men disguised their homoerotic impulses by wanting to do threesomes.

I’d come to see the Almoravid Koubba.

I was smart enough to retain possession of my return ticket plus I had a few thousand dollars in my running away fund, so I ditched him before the threesome could take place – I didn’t like the rock ‘n’ roll guy’s music – and I never saw David Baker again.

In the dream, David Baker was still a smooth-talking satyr, and we must have had sex because I was marveling that his erection seemed as firm ever even though he was waaaaaay past 40.

I must have sex with men on my mind.

###

In other news, I am churning out dreck for the Scut Factory (just as dreary as it sounds) and looking at Hurricane Irma porn. Houston! How quickly we forgot.

I can remember living on Long Island and waiting for Sandy to hit. It was a very eerie feeling being on a collision course with doom and knowing there wasn’t a goddamn thing I could do about it.

And Sandy, when it finally hit, was worse that my worst presentiments.

I don’t know how you evacuate all of southern Florida.

The photos and videos of the highways in southern Florida are nightmarish. A hundred miles of gridlock.

Worst case scenario: They’re still all on the roads when the hurricane hits, and they all drown in their cars.

(Where is Buenel when you really need him to make a movie?)

And two category hurricanes forming behind Irma, and a huge earthquake in Mexico (that’s getting exactly zero news coverage.)

Gaia is really pissed at mankind.

###

In an hour, I will be trotting off to Pleasant Valley. Valerie wants to buy a house in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley! It is odd which relationships take and which relationships fall by the wayside: I’ve known Valerie since Circus Chimera, but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever felt any special affinity for her. But somehow, because we kept in some kind of contact, that acquaintance has solidified into “friendship.” Like pine tree resin solidifying into amber, I suppose.

Anyway, Valerie doesn’t want to come up here from Missouri to look at houses since her two boys just started school.

So she has commandeered me to the tour with the real estate agent.

I don’t have a clue what kind of info I should be looking at.

This house is waaaay in the country where there’s no municipal sewage system, so I imagine I’ll need to ask questions about the septic tank.

Also, it’s likely the place has its own well.

I guess I need to look for cracks near the foundation and unexplained water leaks.

Flick light switches on an off. Turn faucets on and off. Fire up the AC and the heating system.

What else?
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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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On the same day a police officer in Minnesota was acquitted of murder after pumping five bullets into a man during a routine traffic stop, a girl in Massachusetts was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for sending a text.

The girl’s name is Michelle Carter; her victim was Conrad Roy III. The two met in 2012 when Carter was 15 and Roy was 16, and proceeded to develop a relationship that might at one time have been described as a folie a deux. Though they lived relatively close, they seldom saw one another, preferring to communicate through the heightened intensity of text. And many of their texts were about death. Specifically, his death and what her reaction to it would be.

###

On June 19, 2014, Carter texted, But the mental hospital would help you… I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life.

(Carter had done her own stint in a psychiatric ward, presumably on the basis of documented behaviors that included cutting, anorexia, and severe depressive episodes.)

It doesn’t help, Roy texted back. Trust me.

(Roy had made at least four previous suicide attempts.)

Four days later, Carter was still trying to talk her boyfriend down: What is harming yourself gonna do? Nothing! It will make it worse!

Make the pain go away like you said, Roy replied.

But by July 7, Carter was helping Roy with his Internet research into dependable methods of generating carbon monoxide fumes inside a locked motor vehicle.

Five days later, Roy drove his truck into a Kmart parking lot just outside Boston, turned on the water pump he’d jerry-rigged to produce the deadly gas, and killed himself.

###

Teenage suicide is at least as old as Romeo and Juliet. Okay, okay — the Carter/Roy texts don’t rise to the level of Shakespeare’s poetry. But then Shakespeare’s characters didn’t have access to Google.

In retrospect, many of Carter’s texts to Roy are so ghoulish that given what happened to Roy, they seem positively heinous. One is tempted to use words like “immoral.”

However, it’s not at all clear that Carter and Roy are the only two teenagers in the history of Planet Earth to exchange texts of this nature, given the histrionic nature of adolescence in general and the apparent lack of oversight that both sets of parents in this case seem to have exercised.

If we’re not reading about other dead teenagers in Big Box parking lots, it could well be because the vast majority of teens don’t share Roy and Carter’s complicated psychiatric histories.

And the public may consider itself lucky that Roy’s web search for “suicide by cop” proved less fruitful than his other research.

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In the opinion of Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz, who handed down the decision, the irrefutable evidence of Carter’s culpability was an exchange that took place when Roy appeared to change his mind as he sat breathing fumes. Roy opened the door to the cab of his truck and staggered out. Carter was on the phone with him at the time. She told him to get back in.

“She called no one and finally she did not issue a simple additional instruction — get out of the truck,” noted Judge Moniz.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, reckless or wanton behaviors that create a likelihood of substantial harm are sufficient to justify a finding of involuntary manslaughter.

And to Judge Moniz, Carter’s conduct constituted wanton and reckless behavior.

But did it?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts found Judge Moniz’s verdict so troubling that it immediately issued a statement noting that the verdict “exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions… Ms. Carter has now been convicted of manslaughter, based on the prosecution’s theory that, as a 17-year-old girl, she literally killed Mr. Roy with her words.”

Many might be inclined to dismiss the ACLU’s arguments by noting that the Supreme Court put limits on free speech in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969): Incitements to lawless actions aren’t protected under the First Amendment. But nowhere in the General Laws of Massachusetts do injunctions exist that specifically enjoin against either suicide or the act of persuading someone to commit suicide.

###

No transcript exists of Carter’s last phone call with Roy. We know it took place from cell phone records, and we imagine we know its substance through communications Carter subsequently had with members of her social set.

On the night of Roy’s suicide, Carter texted a friend named Samantha Boardman: He just called me and there was a loud noise like a motor and I heard moaning… I think he just killed himself.

Two months later, Carter sent Boardman a text that was far more incriminating: Sam, [Roy’s] death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the [truck] because it was working and he got scared and I fucking told him to get back in Sam because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldnt [sic] have him live the way he was living anymore I couldnt [sic] do it I wouldnt [sic] let him.

But how reliable are the self-reports of a teenager with severe mental illness? A teenager, moreover, who was struggling to cope with changes to an antidepressant regimen that had left her — according to her expert psychiatrist — “involuntarily intoxicated?” (Okay, he was getting paid. Handsomely.)

One thing that’s clear from the voluminous texts exchanged between Carter and Roy is that Carter had a talent for hyperbole and a tendency to dramatize. It’s possible Carter may have glamorized that last fateful phone call with Roy for the benefit of what she imagined was an appreciative audience.

###

Carter continued texting Roy after his death. No fewer than 80 times.

You probably thought I was okay with it, she wrote in one of those texts, and You talked about being in heaven and being my angel and at the time I went along with it because i knew you weren’t gonna do anything. But you fucking did it and I’m so sorry I didn’t save you.

Once again, considerable ambiguity clings to these postmortem texts. Are they an expression of remorse? Proof that Carter wasn’t really assisting Roy because she never honestly expected him to follow through on it? Or a CYA strategy?

But the trail of breadcrumbs unifying events in this tragic story must lead to some causality. Justice demands it. So do news junkies. Even if the likely culprit may well be the culture of social media, which dominates the lives of teenagers and grownups alike, and which fetishizes the experience of the traumatized individual.

In other news…

Dreamed that I was in Italy and walking up a boulevard with benches and large octagonal paving stones (the Eastern Parkway of my youth? the parkway leading up to the Prado in Madrid?) when I spied Steve R_______ sitting on one of those benches.

He had a large sketchpad; he was drawing with color pencils. He looked quite unchanged from what he’d looked like in his 20s, which I thought quite odd.

When I was about five feet away, he lay down supine upon the bench, drew his sketchpad over his chest and closed his eye.

“Can I talk to you?” I asked.

No,” he said through clenched teeth.

It was quite clear that he recognized me and that he thought I was in the throes of some Story of Adele H-type stalker-y obsession.

And I wanted to tell him how unfair that was. Okay! So sometimes late and night, I did Google him! Read patient reviews of his medical practice. Once or twice (okay, three times! okay, more times than that!) I had checked out FB profiles of his bee-yoo-tee-full children! But that wasn’t stalking! Was it?

But even in a dream, a girl has her pride! A rebuff is a rebuff!

So I kept walking.
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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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Really odd dream… I was acting in a movie. Or was it a play? It was hard to tell them apart. And I’d been given a set of lines to memorize except that I hadn’t memorized them, and the performance was immanent. I wasn’t really sure what to do: Did I smuggle the lines in on a piece of paper and surreptitiously glance at them from time to time to remain letter perfect (which would surely ruin my performance), or did I make up lines that seemed like a logical response to the other actors’ lines (which would almost surely ruin their perfomances)?

Peter O’Toole was attending the performance, and I was introduced to him. Not the beautiful, mad-blue-eyed Lawrence of Arabia Peter O’ Toole but not the alcoholic walking cadaver he became later in his career either. “Ah, yes: You wrote that novel,” he said, politely taking my hand.

And he looked at me – and his gaze was the most provocative, astounding thing ever because I could see in the infinitesimal contractions and dilations of his pupils and the microexpressions that flitted across his face a world of subtle communication that was far, far beyond my limited capacity ever to understand.

I was supposed to essay a British accent in the original script.

I cannot do a British accent while Peter O’Toole is watching, I thought. Even though I’m actually not too bad at British accents.

Then I was being hustled off to the set of a reality TV show – unrelated to the original script I had failed to memorize.

The premise of this reality TV show was that the contestants would be filmed while being asked to identify the subject matter of various photos and pictures. Audience members at home would then vote on the contestants’ reactions via Twitter and other social media platforms unknown outside my dream, and the contestants with the lowest votes would be ejected.

“Should I go to hair and makeup?” I asked the producer.

“Oh, we don’t do hair and makeup,” said the producer. “You should have done that at home.”

But, of course, I hadn’t. I’m going to be the first one voted out, I thought. A very pale, somewhat witchy-looking old woman with practically invisible eyebrows. People at home are gonna hate me.

The first category was Marvel Superheroes That Don’t Exist, and the example given was Chifa Man – who was the offspring of a Chinese railroad worker and an immortal Incan goddess/priestess, born outside Lima in 1884.

Fuckin’ ridiculous, I thought. And then it dawned on me that this reality TV show was a protracted marketing focus group and that everything in this world was either a marketing focus group or an actual sale.

And there was really nothing I could do to escape from it –

-- except to wake up --

-- which I did.
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Dreamed I was in love with this short, dark, brilliant, beetle-browed man. We had lots and lots of inventive sex.

I went to visit him at his apartment and was shocked to find out that he lived in the most expensive apartment building in all of New York City. When you looked out over the building’s courtyard, you saw that the windows were decorated with bas reliefs of huge statues that looked rather like the Ramses rock reliefs at Abu Simbel.

###

I’ve been dreaming some really graphic sex scenes over the past few weeks. I suspect that’s because I’m writing so much from the point of view of a character who’s effectively (1) in her early 20s when sex and yearning/burning/churning play such a huge role in one’s life. That sense of utter oblivion. That sense of being the temple prostitute, abandoning yourself at night on the shores of an ink-dark sea, waiting for a stranger to transform you.

I haven’t felt that for decades.

That feeling doesn’t have much to do with sex and orgasms, which TMI and the prohibitive doctrine of oversharing disincline me to write about here, but yeah, I’m a-o-kay on that front. In case you worry.

But this is sex beyond the mechanics.

I felt the tiniest twinge of it with the Soldier two years ago.

And, of course, B was the person I felt it with most intensely.

Thing is, once you feel that, it makes ordinary sex – Rotate Point A precisely four and a half times. Firmly gripping Protrusion A with your right hand, apply tongue to fluted edge – incredibly boring, more an act of hygiene like brushing your teeth or eating adequate amounts of fiber.

(1) I say “effectively” because the character could be hundreds of years old for all the reader knows. She’s frozen in time.
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Woke up from whatever baroque storyline my dreams had concocted last night thinking, You won’t know what you don’t know. Until you know it.

Really, unconscious mind? I wanted to snort. That’s the best you can do?

It sounded like some old wise hippy-speak platitude. Or a throwaway lyric in a Grateful Dead song.

I continue to be in a Mood.

Still, it’s April. My favorite month. My birthday month.

It didn’t snow yesterday. (It was supposed to.)

The birds are singing.

###

RTT wrote a 40-page story about Justin’s suicide and sent it to me for editorial reviews.

He detailed everything from his playlist the night he didn’t pick up his phone when Justin called to how difficult it would have been to hang yourself – as Justin did – on a closet bar that’s actually shorter than you are. (The instructions are on the Internet, kidZ, but I don’t recommend that you try this one at home.)

Except for the playlist, none of this info was new.

Ben is like a pitbull when it comes to dragging information out of RTT, and any information he drags out of RTT, he immediately passes on to me.

This allows me to retain my cred as a Mother Who’s Always There (If You Need Her) But Who Does Not Pry.

I liked Justin. I didn’t see what RTT saw in him, but I liked him. Ben, on the other hand, hated Justin while Justin was alive, blamed Justin for all RTT’s miscreant behavior. Now that Justin is safely dead, though, he’s taken his rightful spot in Ben’s host of saints.

“Frankly, I see RTT more as the instigator than Justin,” I told Ben on more than one occasion back in the day. This always enraged Ben.

But from my perspective, Justin’s defining characteristic was his passivity. Which he tooled into a kind of resistance.

Not surprising given his history. His mother who rebelled against her own overachieving parent – first black woman to graduate from Sarah Lawrence! – by sinking back down into Richmond’s crack cocaine culture. Seven kids by many different fathers. All of them boys. All of them J-something.

The grandmother who swooped down on Justin and Jason when they’d just passed into their teens and transported them a continent away to the white liberal republic of Ithaca.

There’s a novel there somewhere.

###

Well, I can help you edit this, I wrote RTT. But it’s so intensely personal that I want to make sure that’s what you want. Editing involves objectifying and letting go of your attachment to the actual words you wrote. Is that really what you want to do?

RTT assured me yes, yes: It was.

Well, then, first of all, you’re not writing a story, you’re writing an essay, I said. An essay in which you’re using personal experiences to explore some larger frame of reference. You hint at that frame of reference, but I don’t think you actually know what it is yet. Think about this: Suicide is actually much, much rarer in black males than it is in the population at large. Black males are far more likely to put themselves in situations where they know they’ll be killed than they are to kill themselves. Do some reading on the subject. And read these – a bunch of links to David Foster Wallace essays.

We shall see what if anything comes out this as a writing project.

However the writing project turns out, it does represent a personal catharsis for him, and for that I was happy and grateful. It means RTT is finally able to process the tragic events of five years ago so that they no longer throw a shadow over his life that’s psychically paralyzing.

For example: He finally got his learner’s permit and has started driving.
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Very long labyrinthine dream, which I mostly can’t remember, except that I had a friend, otherworldly and innocent – like Bibbit only much, much prettier – and this friend had a lover to whom I, too, was passionately attached. The lover was an artist, Danish or Dutch, very handsome, and equally unworldly, and he and my friend were very happy together: two dormice living in a cupboard, dining on cheese rinds. I wasn’t jealous exactly; more regretful: Nobody would ever love me the way the artist loved my friend! Although, of course, I couldn’t help noticing he wasn’t a very good artist.

###

I’ve been in a mood… I hate the 21st century.

###

Lots has been happening but mostly, I haven’t been noticing it. I did notice the landscape when the sun finally came out yesterday after 10 straight days of rain and gloom. A sere beauty; the underlying architecture of trunks and stones and water. I hiked five miles. After three months of inactivity, that’s the most I’m capable of.


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Dreamed I was in a subway station, a horribly filthy and antiquated subway station, trash all over the place – some of it intriguing trash except it was all so filthy. I began picking through it anyway because garbage and treasures… You never know.

I was using that old blue bike pannier as a purse. It was the one with the clear top for maps that I used on my many biking expeditions through Europe in the 70s and 80s.

Ben was my companion, and when I noticed he hadn’t lit a cigarette in the entire time we’d been together, I congratulated him.

“Were you going to tell me you had stopped smoking?” I asked.

“I was going to let you notice for yourself,” he said.

I’d put down the blue bike pannier when I started treasure hunting. But now I couldn’t find it. Ben was impatient – we were supposed to be somewhere; we were already late.

“I’ll see you when you find it,” he said and ran up the stairs from the station.

I knew that once you left the station, it was almost impossible to come back. Most of the exits were permanently closed; the ones that were open were up very steep, wet flights of stairs that teetered over views of a stormy ocean – the station served a part of Brooklyn I had never heard of that was a maritime village on a peninsula thrust into the deepest part of the Atlantic ocean.

I searched and searched for the blue pannier, but I could not find it. No one had entered the station while Ben and I were there; still, I couldn’t rule out theft. I thought it was more likely a willful pattern blindness, though: Since the time I was very young, I’ve always had a problem with not seeing things I’m specifically looking for, even when they’re right in front of me.

I found a lot of other purses and baggage, abandoned and dank, in the underground station, and considered stealing one of those. But they didn’t have my specific ID. I needed to be me, right?

Finally, I gave up looking. It was going to be a complete and utter drag dealing with the missing things in the pannier, but I was going to have to man up and deal with it.

Outside the station, I found myself on a busy intersection that was crowded with men dressed as women. They were not cross-dressers; they were not trans-gender. They were very handsome men – one of them looked just like Pierre Clémenti, the actor who played the debauched chauffer in the brilliant Bertolucci film, Il conformista. I knew somehow that this station was their meeting place. They met regularly there but at lengthy intervals to elect their king.

I wanted to go back down into the station so I could catch a train, get back home. I didn’t have the money for train fare, but I figured I’d beg for it, give blowjobs for it if necessary – I wanted to get home.

But the stairs leading back down into the station were the most frightening things I had ever seen, practically vertical, covered with green slime. Monstrous waves from the turbulent ocean kept washing over them. I knew I’d never get back into that station.

I began walking down the street. I saw a café – this was the place where Ben and I had been traveling in the first place! It had a very peculiar name (I forget the name now.)

The café was kind of like that H.G. Wells story The Door in the Wall – once you were inside, you had entered this huge beautiful garden filled with magical animals and plants.

So I walked inside…

And promptly woke up.
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A perfect Phil K. Dick dream: The bad people were after my phone! In fact, I had two phones in the dream – one in a pink case (that I don’t own in real life); my trusty iPhone 5 in the silver case. They were after the iPhone 5.

I outfoxed the bad people through a series of James Bond maneuvers, but eventually I realized that two buttons I needed to access the phone – buttons that don’t exist in real life – were gone from the phone, and that I’d never be able to use it again.

The game was up.

One by one, the people in my dream began to reveal themselves – friends and foes.

They were aliens. I was the last human. The information on my phone was important but purely from an anthropological point of view.

“What’s going to happen to me?” I asked.

Well. I was going to be put in a kind of zoo.

Not to worry, though! I’d have every comfort.

But… they’d be coming to look at me.

In their undisguised form.

“So, this isn’t really what you look like?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” said the one man who’d posed as my friend and ally. “This isn’t what we really look like at all.”
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Dreamed I was in this super luxe-luxe-luxe hotel. The bathrooms were like heaven on earth! I was with Lucius, and I was a much younger version of myself.

Some of the guest rooms had terraced gardens leading out from their doorways into the hall, and these gardens were mini-jungles of bright orange bromeliads and other exotic plants. Somehow I knew that the guests in the rooms with the terraced gardens were very, very old people who were close to death. And I thought how much better off these people were to be living in a super luxe-luxe-luxe hotel than living, say, in a condo, isolated and alone. (Quick shot of those condos: similarly terraced gardens but in this big sinister-looking building with huge plate-glass windows that had been built on the site of the old Ebbetts Field stadium in Brooklyn.)

I was very sick in the dream, and wandering around the halls to find a heavenly bathroom that was unoccupied so I could cool off in a heavenly shower.

Lucius felt my forehead: “You’re so hot!” he said, feigning concern.

And then he began to kiss me, and I knew I had to let him kiss me. He was the most horrible kisser in the world: His idea of kissing was to open his mouth for a passive exchange of saliva. But in the dream, I had to put up with it. There was something I wanted out of him, and this was the only thing I had to barter with.

As is so often the case in my dreams, I was simultaneously acting in it and narrating it from a kind of third-person omniscient perspective…

###

I was busy, busy, busy, busy this week.

And I will be busy, busy, busy, busy today though in the social sphere: My kinda, sorta cousins Pearl and Sybil have invited themselves up for the day, and I will have to entertain them.

Pearl is visiting from Albuquerque. The original plan was for me to trek into NYC and hang out with them there. But Sybil decided she wanted to do a road trip. And I get it! I mean, I do: When you live in the city, you seize every opportunity to get out of the city.

And I’m excited to see them.

It’s just that I’m not feeling terribly entertaining.

###

Busy, busy, busy, busy is in some ways a pleasantly nostalgic feeling for me. It’s how I felt throughout most of my productive years as a member of the workforce.

These days, though, I seem to need a lot more time to sit around with my eyes unfocused. I’m perfectly content doing nothing. And if I don’t do nothing for at least a few hours every day, then I begin to develop almost Captain Queeg-like levels of paranoia: Everybody hates me. I can’t do anything right. Every little minor disagreement or jockeying for power in the social minute becomes a Puccini opera: Nobody’s gonna sleep. Not ever! And especially not you, Princess!

###

I did the former social worker’s taxes yesterday for the third year in a row.

The first year, I remember, she was very lucid. We had a long discussion about how awful it is to be poor and aging in the United States.

Last year, she was a bit... off. And poor financial planning had resulted in a big tax debt.

We’re not supposed to offer “financial advice”, but I choose to interpret this as meaning we’re not supposed to say, “Psst! Buy high! Sell low!”

I’ve gotten pur-ty good at looking at someone’s tax situation, figuring out what they might want to do to minimize liability and avoid penalties. The “minimize liability” stuff I generally do keep to myself. But I figure I’m performing a public service to talk about the “avoid penalties” stuff because nobody else is doing it apparently, not even the financial advisors for whose services some of these people are paying thousands of dollars a year.

I mean, c’mon! It’s not rocket science to deduce that if you take a $50 k disbursement for a 1099-R type fund, you need to allocate 15% or so for federal income tax because not only is that extra amount pouring into your coffers but some portion of your Social Security will also become taxable income.

Anyway, last year I had a long conversation with the social worker during which I outlined in specific detail (which was exactly as boring as anyone reading this might suspect) what she would have to do to avoid getting hit with a huge tax bill same time next year.

She actually had a fairly big income, so paying taxes shouldn’t have been a problem.

She was so upset at the end of my talk, she was crying. I walked her out to her car. Somewhat inappropriately hugged her.

This year when she showed up, she seemed completely demented. Like a homeless person or something. I was seriously alarmed. Something was going on with her, but whatever that something was, of course it was none of my business.

And she hadn’t taken a bit of my advice. She found herself in exactly the same situation with regards to her taxes this year that she’d been last year.

I didn’t give her any more advice. What would have been the point of that?

I did tell her, “Don’t be surprised if you get a notice from the IRS informing you that they’re imposing a penalty.”

She gave a little screech. “A penalty?”

I sighed. “The IRS has the right to impose a penalty if you owe more than a thousand dollars in taxes. In my experience, they generally don’t if it’s a one-time slip. But this is two years in a row for you, so…” I shrugged.

I tried to have a melodramatic conversation with Chas about the social worker after we were done for the day, but Chas wasn’t buying.

“It’s gonna happen to all of us eventually,” Chas said cheerfully, meaning feebleness; inattention to buttons, zippers and hygiene; general loosening of associative skills.

Ain’t gonna happen to me, I wanted to say. My long-term care insurance policy is a gun.

But since I don’t actually own a gun, nor do I know how to shoot one – although one of the Sooper Sekrit alphas has kindly offered to teach me – I just shut up.

###

My other memorable client this was a retired cop.

Very hard-boiled.

Determined to trip me up.

After hectoring me for 20 minutes, he finally seemed convinced that despite the purple hair and dangly earrings, I actually knew what I was doing, and he let up for the rest of the hour.

Towards the end of the tax preparation session, he said, “I know I’ve been giving you a hard time. I want to tell you what’s going on. When I go home today, I’m going to have to put my cat to sleep –“

And he began to cry. This hardboiled guy!

So I reached over and grabbed his hand and patted it for 20 seconds or so.

Which was my Inappropriate Behavior With Clients for the 2017 tax season.
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Dreamed I had a lover, a gentle, dark-haired man, an artist, 31 years old. He was utterly besotted with me, and I kept trying to explain to him how utterly inappropriate his passion for me was, but at the same time, I was very, very flattered. I’m 65 years old! I told him. I kept trying to find something wrong with the guy – he loved me, right? There had to be something wrong with him. He’s not all that articulate, I thought. Maybe he’s stupid

And then I woke up.

###

This article is frightening.

The Robert Mercer/Cambridge Analytics connection, I knew; the psyops stuff I didn’t know.

Cambridge Analytics maintains it’s only been employed to work on American elections. I suppose the key word in that sentence is “employed” since there’s ample evidence that Cambridge Analytics has been hard at work in the UK though no evidence that money changed hands for the company’s services.

The key to Cambridge Analytics’ success at targeting people’s emotions to political advantage is its Facebook profiles harvesting operations, which employ artificial intelligence. (Mercer got his start making breakthroughs in language processing that provided the foundations for the development of artificial intelligence.) The original research began when a Facebook quiz went viral. More than six million people ended up doing that quiz, and every one of those profiles was analyzed for psychometric data. Facebook “likes” are the key to that data. The end result is a psychological model with uncanny behavioral predictive abilities.

Cambridge Analytics’ parent organization is something called the SCL Group. Cambridge Analytics provides the technological tools; SCL provides the strategic intelligence. SCL is competing for contracts within the Trump Administration’s well-funded War on Terror. Social media sites are the battleground for that war. Case in point: Approximately one-third of all Twitter accounts are bots, an invisible army programmed to make topics trend. These bots are programmed to appear human, to react as if human. Before Brexit, they were all programmed to support Leave. Before the American elections, they were all programmed to support Trump.

Andy Wigmore, the main guy interviewed for this article, postulates that all Trump’s tweets and public displays are not erratic displays of behavior at all but are deliberate performances that hinge on showcasing carefully chosen keywords.

The main weapon in such cognitive warfare is “moral shock,” which has a disabling effect on empathy and critical thinking. Hence the emphasis on propaganda sites peddling “fake news” designed to deliver that moral shock.

Twitter now has literally hundreds of thousands of accounts that lie inactive as if waiting for some kind of trigger that will cause them to rise up and drown out every other source of information.

Scary stuff.

Good reason to drop out of all social media.
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Dreamed I was back in a Himalayan country that I hadn’t visited in many years and that I deeply loved. But I couldn’t remember its name! In that strange dream camerawork where you simultaneously inhabit yourself and see yourself, a great deal of the dream, was wide shots of me marching around stupas, muttering aloud: “Nepal? Bhutan? Sikkim? Tibet? Laos?” (I don’t know how Laos got in there; I know where Laos is.)

The country had changed. There was an enormous gold market now where there had once been a sanctuary. The outside of the gold market looked exactly like a Target store. I refused to go inside.

My mother was living in this country, too, somehow, and the action of the dream (which I mostly don’t remember) consisted of me trying to get back some jewelry that belonged to me but that she had pawned. In the end, I got the pieces back – a nondescript broach set with four lusterless stones, a single earring, two rings. I thought, Wait! Someone was actually willing to give her money for those? But they’re worthless.

###

Maybe there’s some sort of cosmic law about social events: The more you dread them beforehand, the more entertaining they will be.

Conversely, of course, something you’re really looking forward to will always turn out to be a drag.

The birthday party yesterday was a blast. Clark showed up!

I didn’t recognize him at first.

“Wow,” he said after I finally screeched and embraced him. “I thought you were giving me the cold shoulder.”

“No!” I said. “You look different. Have you lost weight?”

Clark snorted.

“But you look different!” I insisted.

He did look different. Healthier. Taller. Last time I’d seen him, he’d been waxen and pale. This time he had color in his cheeks.

We chattered like a pair of monkeys. It was so good to see him! I’d forgotten how much fun he is! The deal with Clark has always been that if he’s not having sex with you, he’s not particularly interested in you. We tried sex once or twice, and it didn’t really work out. But I always loved just hanging out with him – he is so funny and so upbeat – sanguine even – and so unapologetically himself!

DeeDee has gotten the cruise bug. She and Nadia went on a cruise, and had a fabulous time. They want Clark to come next time.

“But, of course, you won’t,” I said.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Clark said. “Third person in the cabin sails for free!”

“But – but – but – you’d have to tour foreign countries!”

“Says who?” said Clark. “They have volleyball on cruise ships. And ping pong. I like volleyball and ping pong. Also poker! And I’m a good poker player. The rest of them can go off and tour. I’ll just stay onboard playing volleyball, ping pong and poker!”

Next time I’m in NYC, I’m definitely gonna go by the Home for Wayward Wimmen for some extended hangout time. I’ve missed all three of them, Clark, DeeDee and Nadia.

“DeeDee’s been very depressed about the election results,” Clark told me. "Really depressed. She won’t even leave the house.”

“Is she still doing her music?” I asked.

“No!” Clark said. “She’s been too depressed.”

That's serious. DeeDee belonged to a rather famous vocal ensemble. They sang frequently at Carnegie Hall and toured the Swiss music festival circuit every summer.

I had this thought then that I’d lure DeeDee up to the Hudson Valley and spend three days spoiling her. DeeDee is a mover and shaker. She has great administrative talents. The revolution needs her! We can’t afford to have her on the wounded list.

###

A’s daughter Emilie was there, too. Emilie looks just like Jane Austen! Or at least the extant portraits of Jane Austen. Really a remarkable resemblance.

Emilie does social activist work in Burlington and was speaking about putting together a workshop that would teach people how to do social activist work.

I would actually drive to Burlington to attend something like that.

I am still very interested in doing something that would, that could, that might make a difference. But I’ve all but given up on the DCPAA. All the DCPAA seems to want to do is to recruit people as extras for an ongoing series of rallies and protest marches.

Rallies and protest marches may be all very well in their place.

But, you know: Enough.

I’m into really specific, quantifiable, actionable agendas. (Hey! I used to be a nurse.)

I want to start some sort of organization that focuses on voter registrations.

Yes, yes – it would register voters. But it would do more than register voters. It would act as a resource for voters. It would lobby to change repressive registration laws. It would try and motivate people to get out and vote.

And it would be nonpartisan. I don’t care if you want to vote for Trump. I don’t care if you want to vote the straight Democratic line. Just vote. It galls me when the majority of Americans don’t exercise a right that most people in the world don't have.

I am meeting with district assemblywoman Sue Serrino on April 10 to lobby on behalf of Schneiderman’s voting rights bill.

###

In other news… Killer blizzard forecast for Tuesday. End of civilization as we know it. I will have to eat the cats.

And I really must buckle down to make some money today.
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I dreamed about a magic groundcover plant! It came in three varieties: a kind of silver green, a bruised purple, and a sky blue, and each variety had one good agricultural property and one bad agricultural property. I was at some kind of serf town hall meeting where we peasants were furiously debating which one we should plant.

As is my wont in dreams, at the same time that I was a character in the dream, I was also the omniscient narrator, furiously writing it up as a kind of economic parable with much attention to semicolons and virtuoso style.

###

It’s good that I’m writing fiction in dreams because in real life (ha, ha, ha), I spent yesterday writing a white paper on – eek – online lead generation and its legal pitfalls (FTC, CPFB), which was every bit as ghastly and tedious as it sounds, and which, furthermore, the client fuckin’ loved, which means there will be more white papers on online lead generation in my future because who can say, No! to ready cash? Not me!

Max is doing an internship in Alaska this summer and is proposing to drive Annie’s ancient Volvo all the way from Berkeley to Anchorage – a prospect that fills me with sheer terror. I want desperately to give him a couple of grand and say, Take the fuckin’ ferry from Bainbridge.

Robin turns out to have strep throat, but he got a referral to an ENT because there’s definitely an anatomical irregularity in his sinuses that is causing him to contract multiple sinus infections. I am assuming he will need to have that surgically corrected. If the referral is through a regular doctor, it wouldn’t count as cosmetic surgery, which means – theoretically at least – it would be covered by his insurance. But I don’t know how high his deductible is.

So! Many, many incentives to turn myself into a cash-burping machine.

iman


I finished the white paper just in time to scurry off and tutor Imane.

Who greeted me looking as though a bomb had just fallen on her.

Her Sara Crewe living situation has gotten a whole lot worse. Indeed, I don’t see how she can continue living there.

But where can she live?

Even if I were in a position to offer her a place to sleep, I’m not so sure I would. Taking in errant teenagers didn’t work out so well for Doris Lessing (I’m not a Jenny Diski fan!) And fond as I am of Imane, I’m not crazy about self-involved young people in general. The one I gave birth to is enough for me.

To try and cheer Imane up, I took her out to a café frequented by hip Vassar students. I bought her an expensive caffeine concoction and waved an expansive hand around the room: Work hard, little girl, and some day all this could be yours!

Imane was impressed by the Vassar students. They dress in expensive clothes, have expensive computers and waft that expensive parfum – Eau de American Privilege.

“It is my dream to go to Vassar,” Imane told me fervently.

“Well, I think it’s possible,” I said. “My plan was always to get your English up to a certain level and then make appointments with the Admissions Deans at Vassar and Bard to see what resources might be available.”

“But Vassar is private school, yes?” said Imane. “Very expensive.”

“Vassar is a private school,” I said. “But paradoxically enough, private schools often have access to more resources than public schools. They have endowments.”

“What is ‘paradoxically’? What is ‘endowment’?”

“’Endowment’ is when somebody dies and thinks, ‘Vassar! That was the only place I was ever happy!’ So they leave all their money to Vassar,” I said. (I decided to take a pass on explaining “paradoxically.”)

“You think that will work?” Imane asked incredulously.

“I think it might work” I said. “You’re Moslem. In the current political climate, I think we may be able to leverage that with rich white liberal arts colleges.”

Imane seemed to have an intuitive understanding of the meaning of the word “leverage.” Or at least she didn’t ask me to define it.
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Dreamed that I was the head of a Silicon Valley company, but my employees were not invested in “our” success (as we used to say back in my corporate days.) In fact, I could not figure out what any of their job descriptions were, and they were quite condescending when I asked about the job descriptions. I kept trotting around trying to extract information, and my employees kept eluding my attempts, so finally, I thought, Well, I’m going to have to do everything myself. Which didn’t particularly bother me, you understand – I prefer doing everything myself. But I kind of know that the mark of a good executive is successful delegation.

I was trying to set up a group meeting. I wanted to set it up for 6pm, but my employees told me they only worked five-hour days, and they’d all come in at noon. Fine, I said. We’ll meet at 4pm. Then I was trying to find a writer who could craft the meeting announcement, and one such was actually on staff except she burst into tears when I tried to give her the assignment and accused me of bullying her.

Then I awoke.

###

Robin texted me a photo last night.

Great, I thought. He’s taken up abstract painting.

I was wondering whether he actually knew who Jackson Pollock was so I could blandish him by dropping that painter’s name.

Then he texted me again: That’s my vomit.

Right, thought I to myself. You should know better than to expect Robin to reach out to you without an agenda.

Been pretty sick all day, Robin continued. Figured it was a hangover. But my puke looks like it has blood in it. And I dunno how to describe this well but like if I snort for instance to try to spit out a loogie, I feel this weird thing, like, maybe my tonsils? Not sure what else it is. At first I tried to like "snort" it out assuming it was a big piece of phlegm but I think it's just a part of my throat that's super enflamed.

Reader, I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV!

What does the blood look like? I asked. Is it bright red?

Yeah, he said.

I suspect your tonsils are inflamed, I said.

###

No thermometer in the house to check his temp. (Natch.) He doesn’t know what lymph nodes are – which struck me as a bit odd given how much animal biology he’s studied – so he doesn’t know whether they’re inflamed.

Well, you should see a doctor, I said. You may need antibiotics.

What I did not tell him is that inflamed tonsils have the potential to morph into a medical emergency. If they get too inflamed, they can occlude the airway. A tracheotomy would really ruin Robin’s looks.

We stayed in contact for an hour or so during which time I ascertained that he was in no immediate danger of dying, that the student health clinic opens at 8 this morning, and that there was absolutely no food in the house since he’d spent his last $100 on tickets to a basketball game and a ceremonial frat dinner.

(Robin belongs to the same fraternity as Donald Trump’s two sons.

I imagine that means if McDonald’s refuses to hire him after he graduates, he can get a job in the Trump White House.)

I’m gonna Internet-order him some food this morning.

My furious volley of morning texts has gone unanswered. I figure he’s either dead or sleeping. I don’t figure he’s on his way to the clinic – though he really should be on his way to the clinic: B tells me Robin has a Big Test today at 10:30 and he probably should get his medical needs tended to before that.

###

I’ve been pretty angry at Robin for the past few weeks. Not that this impacts my relationship with Robin in any way since we never communicate. I’m not big on initiating contact with anyone since I have this innate thought, mired like stable muck on the floorboards of my mind, that nobody really wants to hear from me. That’s what an abusive childhood will do to you.

I was willing to try and overcome those innate tendencies on Robin’s behalf since he is, after all, my son, but he almost never picked up the phone when I called, never answered my voice messages, never responded to my attempts at friviolity via text.

So after a while, I just stopped trying.

###

I was pissed at Robin over some irresponsible behavior that involved my other son, his brother Max. In fact, Max actually called me to ask if Robin was avoiding him. Many years ago after I made some awkward attempt to get the two boys to play more nicely with each other, Max told me in no uncertain language to butt out of his relationship with Robin. So the fact that Max was actually asking me about his relationship with Robin was pretty significant.

Robin is completely irresponsible.

Of course, so was I at his age.

In fact, I was worse than irresponsible. I was a pretty adept little hustler. Small hustles. But hustles nonetheless.

So in some cosmic sense, I understand exactly where Robin is coming from. Temperamentally, we are very much alike, and many people think we look alike. Gazing once at a photograph of me taken around age 20, B remarked, “You know, you and Robin could be fraternal twins. Separated by 40 years.”

I’m inclined to cut Robin a lot of slack, but at the same time, I do worry that he will never be able to turn himself around.

As a parent, it tears me apart to see my children in pain. I’d throw myself in front of a speeding bus rather than to have it hit my children.

I’d rather Robin had been born empathetic and honest like Max rather than duplicitous and conniving like me because that particular transformation process involves a lot of pain, a lot of personal humiliation. It’s gonna cost him, and I can’t bear the thought of him suffering.

But suffer, he will.

Otherwise, he’ll turn into a man like my father or my half-brothers.

Or a man like the man his own father was before B’s near-death experience turned him into a Real Human Boy.

###

Robin just texted. He's on his way to the clinic.

Great, I texted back. Responsible decision.

This is my attempt at positive reinforcement: I use the word "responsible" a lot when I talk to Robin about the decisions he makes.

Somehow, Robin thinks of me as more of a dragon than he thinks of his father. Possibly the residue of those screaming, knockdown fights we used to have when he was a teenager, and I made him go to school.

("Robin says that the only reason he graduated from high school is because you forced him to," Max told me once.

“Right,” I said. “He blames me for keeping him from the personal fulfillment he would have found working at McDonald’s!”

“No,” Max laughed. “He’s grateful.”

Does that mean my attempts to invoke a sense of duty and obligation in him fall on fertile soil?

One can but hope.)
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In my dream, I was writing a story at the same time that I was watching the events of the story – a wonderful trick of narrative that one can only achieve in dreams. It was an epic, sweeping story. Think Legends of the Fall in the Hudson Valley. The final line read: He had not been, but he would be, for only travelers see cluster lights. To the habitational, all paths are dark, all paths are familiar, all paths lead in only one direction.

That “habitational”, thought I in my dream. Very problematic.

But you know how words get stuck in your brain? Once they take up lodging there, it’s almost impossible to evict them.

So it was with “habitational.”

Don’t ask me what it means. I have no idea.

Is it even a word?

###

The high winds that have been sweeping over the countryside lo these three days past have finally subsided; the air is wonderfully clear. Sunny and bright but back down to seasonal temperature norms. I worry about those sprouting daffodils.

###

Last night, I started thinking about Michael Garrett and Synanon.

Synanon was a cult I spent a couple of years associated with when I was in my very early teens.

I had a drug problem (big surprise, right?) and Synanon was ostensibly a drug rehabilitation program. But actually it was a vanity project set up by an early Jim Jones/David Koresh prototype named Chuck Dederich.

One reason I’d luv to believe in the Christian afterlife is because it would give me great joy to imagine Chuck Dederich with a barbecue shaft up his ass while Lucifer’s most sadistic angels worked on his pedicure.

But, helas! I believe in reincarnation. The wisps and vapors that were once Chuck Dederich probably coalesced into a fetus somewhere in south Kentucky in June 1997. In the last election, they voted for Donald Trump.

What a loathsome, loathsome man.

###

Michael Garrett was Synanon royalty. His father, Dan Garrett, was the cult’s attorney. Dan Garrett had been an alcoholic, one of those stumbling, knock-down shit-facers who destroyed everything he touched. Once he joined Synanon, he focused that tremendous, braying zeal into a more collective channel.

Michael’s mother got out of the marriage relatively early, dragging the kids – Glenda Garrett, Michael Garrett – all around the country from marriage to marriage. I think there was money there. Banking money. Oil money. Mike’s mother had that Oklahoma vibe.

Eventually, though, she wandered back to California where her fatherless adolescent children were easily suborned.

Mike was my first boyfriend. It was a sweet relationship. We lost our virginity together on a bed covered with an American flag (no, really) while The Doors’ Crystal Ship played.

Before you slip into unconsciousness
I'd like to have another kiss…


###

I wish I had more time this morning to write about the tragedy of Mike’s life at length. But shortly I must be slipping out the door to perform selfless public service.

I did mine Synanon at length for the description of the death cult my heroine Ybel is forced to join in one of the novels (Where You Were When) I’m perennially writing.

The odd thing is that while I was writing about the death cult, I couldn’t figure out whether I was making stuff up or remembering events that had happened to me.

Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life. Synanon has that level of unreality for me. I don’t know what happened and what didn’t happen.

And I have some survivors’ guilt. Not only about Mike. About all the people I’ve known throughout my long life who for one reason or another didn’t make it. It seems to me that I flew much closer to the sun than they did. So, I was the one who should have gotten burned.

And yet, I didn’t.

Where's the justice in that?

Calvary

Sep. 13th, 2014 10:06 am
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Calvary may be the most perfect movie I’ve ever seen.

I’ll have to see it again to be sure.

Somehow I’d thought it was going to be the liturgical equivalent of High Noon: Woo-woo! Priests with guns!

And, in a way, it was.

The film is about seven days in the life of an Irish priest. It opens with a quote, St. Augustine’s exegesis on the two thieves who were crucified alongside of Christ: Despair not, one of the thieves was spared; presume not, one of the thieves was not.

A man comes into Father James’ confessional booth and describes – in graphic detail – his many years of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a pedophile priest: I first tasted semen when I was seven years old…

In retribution, the man tells Father James, he’s decided to kill a priest. The priest who sodomized him is long since dead, so he’s decided to kill Father James. The fact that Father James is an entirely good priest will only make Father James’ death more affecting.

The man will give Father James a week to tidy up his affairs.

Despite this opening, the film is a comedy. A very black comedy, to be sure. But utterly, corrosively, hilarious.

Father James recognizes the voice of the parishioner but decides nonetheless to go about his weekly routine, tending to his flock as it were, a motley ensemble of strange, defective humans all of whom hold him in absolute contempt. There is the billionaire who urinates on a priceless Holbein canvas; the chief of police and his rent boy; the butcher and his unfaithful wife who’s having an affair with the African auto mechanic; the atheist MD who puts out his cigarette in a pile of autopsied brains (Littlefinger from Game of Thrones); the dying expatriate American writer. Also Father James’s own daughter – since he came to the priesthood late in life after becoming a widower – who has recently tried to commit suicide.

I know, I know. It doesn’t sound funny. But trust me, it is.

Also, really profound. An immensely layered film that works on at least three levels – as a narrative of the characters in the film, as an allegory of the Fall of the Catholic Church, and as a parable about Christ himself who did, in fact, lose his faith (although not during his Calvary stroll, I suppose, if you want to be absolutely true to the Biblical source.) Probably other levels of meaning and symbolism as well that I didn’t catch on first viewing.

The film’s visual tone was somewhere between Bergman and Fellini – I know, I know, two filmmakers who could hardly be more dissimilar.

Cinematography is superb – beautiful doomed Ireland! Those flat-topped mountains! Those black basalt cliffs!

I walked out of the film dazed, utterly dazed.

Twelve hours later, I’m still dazed.

###

In the middle of the night, I had a bizarre, intense dream, but then I fell back asleep and lost most of the details.

What I remember:

Suzanne and I had found each other again. We were rapturously In Luv; I was in a kind of sexual frenzy, could hardly wait to get her alone and naked. We were driving in a car, and its brakes gave out, so I had to maneuver the car into a huge mound of sand, lesser of the many accidents that would make it stop. I fractured my right leg. Horrible, horrible pain.

A tan 1950s-style Mercedes drove up to us and did a complicated maneuver, kind of like the automotive equivalent of a wheelie. Inside sat Erica… and her… minions... I knew instantly looking at Erica that something was horribly wrong. Her pupils were… longitudinal… She confirmed: She’d been toying with black magic, she’d become a sorceress, and as I limped painfully around the bleak, grey city where we all lived now, I kept running across people who were in thrall to Erica, who treated me with superstitious reverence because I was Erica’s friend…

Fox and Stone…

Diana Ruston was the woman I most loved, but my love for her was the ardent love of a very young seneschal for Queen Guinevere. Suzanne and Erica were the two women I was most involved with.

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