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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 think Valerie is going to put in a bid for the second house I looked at for her over the weekend.

Pretty remarkable to score a house on three acres for under $100 K in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley!

They are asking $149 K, but the house needs a lot of work. A. LOT. Of. Work. And she’s in a position to make an all cash offer. Since I think it would be very difficult for anyone to secure a loan for the property on account of the vast amount of trash strewn over those three acres – think Ozark shack with dead washing machines and ancient rusting vehicles strewn about – I think she has a good chance of getting it.

1805 farmhouse with deeply hideous siding. Current occupant is a hoarder – it was all but impossible to make out the bones of the house under the stacks and stacks of 1980s National Geographics and assorted detritus.

Once upon a time, somebody loved that place. You can see that in the landscaping, which still holds after a quarter of a century. Beautiful rolling lawns – at least, they’re mowed, I thought; That must count for something – and fruit trees and fairy dells and a horse coral occupied by a couple of ponies plus an incredibly charming Italian palazzo-type garden niche with an aviary in which the house’s current occupants raise peacocks of all things:



There was actually a baby peacock cowering in the kitchen under a lamp when the realtor and I explored the otherwise empty house.



The house was crammed with garbage and half-finished home improvement projects, but it smelled okay, and I don’t think there’s any mold: I have a terrible mold allergy, and generally, my lungs fill right up with fluid when there’s mold in a structure. My lungs stayed clear.

The floor of the basement was wet. That was my one main concern. That could be a leaky sump pump. The inspection will resolve that, I guess.

I think maybe the house was a hippie commune of some sort at one point. And that accounts for all the dead mattresses and abandoned truck bodies and dead wood shacks spilling all over the property.

And then the hippies all ran away. Or died.

“I don’t think anybody could live here,” said the realtor with a shudder. Stylish woman in a Diane von Furstenburg knockoff. “They’d have to get rid of all this stuff. And that’s not cheap. She’s looking at a $50,000 cleanup job. At least.”

I reported this back to Valerie who scoffed. She has a 350 turbo diesel truck that she once used to move her house in Missouri. She’s quite prepared to do the hauling herself.

“But what did your gut tell you about the house?” she asked. “As much as anything, that’s why I asked you to see it. You have quite remarkable instincts for sensing those sorts of things.”

“I loved it,” I said. “I kept seeing what the place looked like 25 years ago. And that vision was superimposed upon what it will look like 25 years hence. If there’s no structural reason why the basement floor is wet, and if the foundation and the roof are okay, I’d go for it.”

###

Other than that, I could feel myself drifting off into Bad Brain Chemistry all weekend. My own insignificance. The various irresolvable messes I’ve made of my life. The carefree lives of others, teeming with happy adventures! The psychic hardscrabble of my own crab-like existence!

You’ve all heard those tapes.

At issue are some phone calls I have to make this morning:

(1) I need to call my mechanic because there’s a fuse or a switch out in my car that’s affecting my headlights.

(2) I need to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist because my eyesight is deteriorating. I suspect it’s cataracts – cataracts run in my family – and if it’s that, it’s a fairly straightforward fix that insurance pays for.

(3) I need to figure out what’s going on with the San Francisco storage facility.

Thing is I am deeply phone-phobic. I can barely bring myself to talk to pals on the phone.

I have no idea why I’m so phone-phobic. I mean, what exactly do I think is gonna happen? That whomever I’m talking to is gonna keeping me chatting until Steven Bannon’s Nazi stormtroopers can locate me and drag me off to the camps? That by talking on the phone I am magically causing the situation to deteriorate? We’re sorry, Mizz DiLucchio, but when the lights go off on your instrument panel that means your car is ruined and you will have to immediately purchase a new one!

Pretty ridiculous, no?

I’m aware of that.

So strange how free-floating anxiety manifests itself.
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Tromping around that house was quite fun. It’s an old farmhouse, built in the 1840s. The original farmsteader was someone called Nathaniel Husted. (This person is probably his son.) Maybe three miles outside the extremely charming hamlet of Pleasant Valley, which was a big Quaker settlement back in the day, famous for its Underground Railroad activity.

The house had good bones. And the price was right! But I advised Valerie against taking it be-cawse….

(1) It sits on the edge of a rather precipitous drop of 30 feet or more that I imagine leads down to a small stream, one of Wappinger Creek’s tributaries. The drop is maybe eight feet in back of the house. So, though the house is being sold as a two and a half acre parcel, since most of the land is on the other side of the drop, it’s unusable. Plus Valerie has two young teenage sons and a limited budget for ER visits. Plus premise liability.

(2) The west-facing property line, again very close to the house, has a couple of abandoned buildings on it just on the other side of the fence. I would be very worried about vagrants and meth labs.

I’m gonna go look at another property for Valerie later this afternoon. This house was built in 1805 and is just three miles away from where I live, literally right down the street from Eleanor Roosevelt’s old digs at Val-Kill.

###

In the afternoon (Stephen King completist that I am), I went to see It. Not a bad movie! I liked what they did with Pennywise. The actor who played the clown is deeply creepy, and the special effects were good.

But what keeps me interested in Stephen King’s stories – and why I was a fan even before he learned how to write well (and he does write well now, haters!) – is how deeply textured his characterizations are.

All of that was lost in this movie.

King writes about a world in which children are actively unkind to one another. This correlates pretty well with the reality I remember from being a child. Children are cruel little beasts, if you think about it. I know I was a cruel little beast! Empathy is a learned trait for most of us. (Yeah, yeah. There are exceptions! Max, for example, was highly empathetic from Day One. Robin, on the other hand, is just learning what “empathy” means now in his early 20s.)

But in today’s renditions of childhood, children are not allowed to be casually cruel. It’s politically incorrect. Bullies are bullies not because they enjoy pushing around kids who are weaker than they are but because they have psychotic parents or because they are psychotic themselves.

There’s a whole level of subtext that’s just lost in contemporary cinematic renditions of childhood, and this It remake suffers from that.

Else?

I dillydallied. Did not do enough revenue-generating. Kept finding myself being sucked into the minds of people who’d elected not to evacuate Florida and are now waiting for certain doom to strike. Saw the sunny and completely empty streets through their eyes, the white-washed houses, most of which – in my mind at least if not in the photographs screaming at us from every media outlet – did not have storm boards.

What a strange and eerie feeling it is to be preparing for a doom that you cannot yet see.

I remember it so, so it vividly from the two or so days before Sandy hit.
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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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If you ran into C in a bar, you’d think, Redneck.

Except C doesn’t hang out in bars.

Plus C is the scion of a famously Democratic family with deep roots in these parts. He’s a rabid left-winger.

You never really know people unless you know their families, too.

Which means that most of the people you think you know, you don’t know at all.

###

I spent Labor Day at the home of C’s youngest daughter Elizabeth, watching the complicated and yet, at the same time, mundane and ordinary dynamics of the Zeigenhirt family (not their real name!) play out over three generations.

Elizabeth is a lovely person. The loveliness of Elizabeth is enough to renew your faith in mankind since, by any standards, Elizabeth’s childhood had to have been difficult: Her mother had a complete schizophrenic break when Elizabeth was six, and while I like C a great deal, I can’t imagine that being fathered by him was any walk in the park. And yet, Elizabeth is this warm, generous, practical human beneath whose placid surface lurk no subterranean monsters of any kind.

She’s a potter and a graphic artist, married to a friendly, kindhearted, engaging man who emigrated from Turkey and makes beaucoup $$$$$ working as an engineer. The party was a housewarming party for the new spread they’d bought in the outer reaches of Milbrook, and it’s just this insanely beautiful place with acres of gardens and a pool and a pool house that Elizabeth is going to convert into a studio. She is very practical about her pottery. It is not a hobby. She plans to make $$$$ doing it. Having seen her product line plans and reviewed her marketing strategy, I think she may have a real shot at that.

###

“How did Elizabeth manage to survive so unscathed?” I asked L as we drove home.

“She had a very close relationship with her grandmother,” L said. “Poor Cassie never had a close relationship with anyone. Cassie was a difficult child, resentful and rebellious. ‘Can I call you Mother?’ Cassie once asked me, and I told her, No. ‘I’m not your mother,’ I said. ‘I’m your friend.’”

L is an easy-going person, but she’s a stickler about personal boundaries. You can never force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She’s immune to guilt, and she never feels sorry for anyone.

###

Cassie inherited the full brunt of her mother’s madness.

And it came on at exactly the same moment in her life that her mother’s madness came on, in her mid-20s.

After a few abortive experiments with not taking her meds, Cassie realized that she had to take her meds if she didn’t want to end up homeless or dead.

The meds blimped her up to 300-plus and while they make the voices in her head manageable, they don’t make the voices go away.

The big deal at extended Zeigenhirt family get-togethers is the food, so I volunteered to help Cassie make her splash. Baked Camembert with sautéed mushrooms. Easy, right? How can you go wrong? I bought the ingredients and oversaw Cassie in the kitchen while she did the prep. She had a massive panic attack and begged me help her cook. But I refused. Channeling my own inner L, I suppose.

The Camembert all got eaten. Mostly by Cassie.

###

Bob Zeigenhirt, the patriarch of the family, is 94. He lives alone on the Zeigenhirt compound, which is the remains of the 19h century family farm, but since he build houses for many offspring on the compound, they drop in on him many times a day, and he’s just a stones’ throw away from help at any time. He’s in full possession of his mental faculties. His memory is as sharp as mine. (Of course, I have a terrible memory.) He still drove until two years ago.

I tried to call him “Mr. Zeigenhirt,” but he wasn’t having any part of that.

“Please! Bob. Mr. Zeigenhirt was my grandfather. He hasn’t been around since before World War II.”

Bob doesn’t like being old at all. It's very boring, he says. “Mostly, you sleep. And think about things that don’t exist anymore.”

I ended up talking to him for close to an hour about Dutchess County in the 1920s and 1930s. The Zeigenhirt compound is very close to the underground distillery where Dutch Schultz produced the rotgut that fueled Scott and Zelda’s NYC debauches. (Those underground bunkers and tunnels are now open to the public; they would be fun to visit.)

Bob is a national treasure, and really, someone needs to get him on tape. This is stuff you won’t find in any history book.

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New intermediate English student at my class last night: Bilal.

Bilal is a Jordanian with that same innate, cat-like arrogance shared by practically every Israeli man I’ve ever met.

That has to make you wonder what the point of national boundaries and religious affiliations are. Okay! So Bilal’s passport is brown, not blue. And he prefers keeping halal to keeping kosher.

But what the hell are the real differences here?

Bilal is very smart, and he’s the first student I’ve had who was not immediately charmed by me, which naturally made me dislike him.

He was trying out the class.

“So! Do you think you want to continue with this class?” I asked him chirpily at 8 o’clock.

He regarded me blandly and made a mezzo-mezzo gesture with his hand.

So I trotted him over to the advanced class, which is taught by a kindly white-haired lesbian who frequently goes on rants denouncing the American patriarchy. Her students are all industrious Asians who don’t have the slightest interest in standing up to the American patriarchy. I can’t imagine how they’re going to work vocabulary words like neoliberalism into their everyday lives.

He’ll be back, I thought.

Or he won’t.

Actually, if he weren’t so arrogant, he’d realized I’m the perfect teacher for him because for two hours I kept telling him, Put away your smartphone!

He was doing that thing that all really smart people do when they’re learning languages, which is to look up unfamiliar words on their smartphone dictionaries.

I think that may work for reading assignments, but it doesn’t work for conversation.

The only way you’re going to get fluent conversationally is to understand, Yes, yes, I’m going to look very stupid for a while here. And then forge ahead trying to get meaning from context, making hideous gaffes in the process.

Yeah, yeah, children’s brain centers are better wired for the acquisition of languages. But the other reason children are better at learning languages is that they don’t really care if they make mistakes. The First Commandment of Adulthood – Thou shalt save face at all costs – has not yet become the Prime Directive.

Bilal really needs a teacher who can help him be okay with feeling stupid.

###

Sad news, too: Summer is going back to China at the end of September. I have not seen her a great deal since she and Chris relocated to the Big City, but even so: I’ll miss her a lot.

On the plus side, should I decide to travel to China, I will have a free deluxe vacation all lined up! Summer is eager to start planning my trip!

###

Also, when I woke up this morning, I felt perfectly fine.

The psychological equivalent to popping my ears. Or something.

Nothing has changed. I mean, yes – I had a longish conversation with B plus several other pleasant social interactions.

But I was always going to have a longish conversation with B, and I’m always going to have pleasant social interactions.

On a superficial level, at least, I’m pretty charming. People like interacting with me. I add value.

It’s those abandonment issues.

I’ve examined every subterranean fissure in my psychological foundations; I know exactly where the cracks are and why they’re there. But I don’t have a clue how to make those foundations stronger. And part of it is this almost humorous narcissim: I am the most singularly repulsive human being on the planet. Of course I’m abandonable!

Brain chemistry, I tell myself whenever I’m feeling down. It’s just brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are like any other psychoactive drug.

And then I make my bed. And exercise.
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Desert-FLW-Olgivanna


The other book I’m reading right now for background on the Celeste memoir project is called The Fellowship. It delves deeply into the cultlike aspects of Tailiesens East and West.

Of course, I’m not gonna start any actual work on the project until there’s a contract in place.

Celeste is in the index. Her father was one of Lloyd Wright’s many “apprentices.” Her mother was Olgivanna Lloyd Wright’s chief handmaiden. Their last name is misspelled throughout the book (though they get Celeste’s last name right in the acknowledgements) as is the index spelling of the first name of the brother who committed suicide. This leads me to believe that The Fellowship must be riddled with other inaccuracies.

But even if only half of what’s in the book is true, what a wild ride, man.

Olgivanna was a Gurdjieff acolyte. You can think of her as the Yoko Ono of architecture. Plus there’s a straight line of descent there that leads back to minor members of the Bloomsbury and D.H. Lawrence circles – Katherine Mansfield, Mabel Dodge Luhan.

My own early immersion in a cult – Synanon – inoculated me and left me quite immune to all that cult stuff. Come to think of it, my Synanon experiences are probably what led me to develop my sense of humor as a tactical weapon. Cults do not like humor!

Anyway, the right voice for this project – assuming it ever gets off the ground, which it may or may not do: I don’t actually like Celeste all that much although as I read The Fellowship, I can see that a lot of the stuff that irritates me about her – a certain cheerful, deterministic obliviousness – are actually survival mechanisms – would be the deadpan voice that Jeannette Walls uses in The Glass Castle. In the opening chapters of The Glass Castle, this voice is used to humorous effect: the outrageous behavior of the adults seen through the uncomprehending eyes of the child. As the narrator grows older, this voice perfectly captures that trapped, exhausted feeling behind the constant vigilance necessary to maintain one’s own safety…

Anyway, we shall see if this project gets off the ground.

###

In other news – speaking of constant vigilance – I, too, am feeling exhausted, physically exhausted, like the way you feel after a coast-to-coast plane trip that you’ve spent staring out the window, willing the plane to stay in the sky.

Charlottesville seems to be an exception to the Five-Day Media Cycle Dictum, which states: Every five days, there will be some new incident the media will focus in an effort to distract people from digging more deeply into systemic, long-term issues.

But even Barcelona terrorists can’t chase Charlottesville from America's front pages.

I am thinking Charlottesville may be an honest-to-God tipping point.

But I am very, very tired of it all.

It is important. Really, really, really important.

But I'm ready to stop thinking about it.

I suppose this is the downside to not having a routine that can co-opt my thoughts and make me think about other things: I don’t have the discipline not to think about it.

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This is the time of year when I would expect to see the first reddening an oranging of the leaves, but everything remains this intense, almost blinding green.

In fact, I read somewhere that this has been one of the greenest summers ever in these parts, though God knows how they measure that one.
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unnamed Celeste has asked me to collaborate on her Tailisen memoir.

Project has lots and lots of commercial potential: Celeste’s father was Frank Lloyd Wright’s second-in-command; Tailisen was a cult without the Koolaide; there were all sorts of kinky 1950s weirdnesses going on there, plus Celeste got polio – and they sent her away (baaaaaad Frank Lloyd Wright) ‘cause you know, disabled children, such a downer. Not good design.

Problem is I’m not at all sure I can collaborate with Celeste. She’s kind of a flake, and her X-Husband with whom she is presently living (though I don’t know whether they’re inhabiting or cohabiting) kind of has a crush on me.

“I’d rather ghostwrite it than collaborate,” I told Celeste. You know me: I like to keep things strictly invisible at all times! “Plus, Celeste, I’m a real snob about writing. I don’t work and play well with others at all. You’d have to give me final cut over the first draft."

Anyway, we’re gonna Skype about it tomorrow.

There’s $$$ involved up front – although not a huge amount of $$$, and since our kids are besties, I’d be reluctant to wring too much out of her. I’m 100% positive such a memoir would capture a commercial publisher’s interest, though, so I could put in for some percentage of the advance and subsequent earnings.

Photo above is the lovely little Celeste aged four or so sitting at Frank Lloyd Wright’s side.

I like the way that Frank Lloyd Wright was carefully costumed – white suit, dark tie, and is that a pocket handkerchief or a boutonnière? – and yet his pants legs are too short!

I’m giving Celeste reading assignments: The Glass Castle (example of a superb memoir); The Astor Orphan (example of a terrible memoir.)

And we’ll tawk.

###

In other news, as a loving parent and a concerned cat owner, you’d think I’d care more about the stories of imminent nuclear showdown with N. Korea being trumpeted throughout the 24/7 news cycle these last few days.

But I don’t.

We have always been at war with Eurasia. Or is it Eastasia? Or is it Oceania? Wait! Aren’t we Oceania?

International politics can be so confusing.

###

Plus – Chris and Summer posted FB pix of a recent trip to Newport, RI, and now I am obsessed with going to Newport, RI, because I want to see the mansions! Big Houses ‘R’ Us!

And it’s only like 200 miles away from where I live so the trip is completely doable except that I’m so phobic about driving these days that I literally spent half an hour last night tracing and retracing the Google maps, thinking, I could do this! (No, you couldn’t.) Yes, I could! (No, you couldn’t.) until I finally burst into tears.

I have felt really out of it the last few days if it comes to that.

Not sad exactly.

But useless.

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

Exciting tour of the Poughkeepsie ‘hood!

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

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

Dragonboat fest!

Local Downton Abbey sighting!

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

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

Barbecue with L’s drunken boyfriend!

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

###

Today’s itinerary:

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

Antiquing in Cold Springs.

Teary farewell!

###

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

He had started slurring his words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a ridiculous movie, and how Hitchcock must have suffered when Selznick and the Hayes Code board forced him to tack on that awful ending.
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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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20108428_10211722500011542_8240498731231104013_n



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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Dreamed I was hosting some sort of party for Max at a VFW hall. Max was sharing his guest-of-honor spot with another guy who was a real soldier and much beloved by the Hare clan – Bill and MaryAnne kept sneaking off to interview him, and when I asked, “Oh, can I watch?”, they said, No! I lacked the proper credentials.

This refusal made me feel edgy and insecure.

###

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

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

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

Really, I need to vet clients more systematically.

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

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

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

###

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

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

And that’s making me feel guilty.

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

That was unexpected.

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

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

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

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

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

Need? I thought. Need?

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

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

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

A 2-3 roadtrip with A?

Uh – no.

But hanging out for a day would be pleasant.

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

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

Sorry. June is packed. July some time?

What the fuck?

Inexcusably boorish behavior.

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

###

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

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

unnamed


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

But why the hell should that matter?
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goats


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Max is second chairing his first trial.

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

“Uh-huh-h-h-h-h-h…”

“And they let you…?”

“In Alaska and Colorado, yes.”

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

“Right!”

Max likes trials.

Max is very good at trials.

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

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

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

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

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

“Right.”

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

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

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

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

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

kristen


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

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

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

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

But I have no intention of watching it again.
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Third day in a row of sweltering temps.

If I was truly virtuous, I’d be out the door at 7:30am when temps – still in the 70s – are manageable. Since I’m deeply flawed, I don’t manage to get out till 8:30am when the mercury is up over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. And I berate myself throughout the entire course of my run/fast tromp/crawl/whatever you want to call it. I cut the run/fast tromp/crawl/whatever you want to call it short. From three miles to a mile and a half. ‘Cause I don’t want to die of heat stroke.

Of course, if I was mentally healthy, I’d be congratulating myself for getting out the door at all.

‘Cause it’s not as though I like exercise. When I was younger, I liked it. Now? The best I can say is that I don’t mind it. Now, it’s something I do – like brushing my teeth, like drinking lots of water – to stay healthy.

###

On Friday, B sent me an email. LOL read the subject line. Ran into strangers in Catania today, he’d written.

With this snapshot:

unnamed-3


###

On the train ride back from Chicago, I amused myself by looking out the window, by chatting animatedly with a portly but attractive lawyer, and by reading Matthew Desmond’s exceedingly brilliant book, Evicted.

The lawyer was the spitting image of Godwin. No, not Godwin as he’s likely to be now – although truthfully, who the hell knows what Godwin looks like now? If I had to guess I’d say that he’s grizzled and that he has wiry grey hairs sprouting unattractively from his ears.

No the lawyer looks like Godwin looked approximately 35 years ago when he was as pink and plump and creaseless as a newborn baby, and I was flirting with him. This was odd because I reckon the lawyer and Godwin are approximately the same age.

The lawyer was extremely well spoken. Good with puns. Good with banter. At some point after we had wrung all the humor out of our mutual dislike of airports and TSA, and our speculations about how Amish men managed to keep their hats on when they fall asleep on trains, the lawyer tapped my book lightly: “What are you reading?”

Evicted,” I said. “Excellent investigation into one of the leading factors that keeps poor people poor in this country. Did you know that most poor working families are living unassisted in the private rental market and are spending half to three-quarters of their income on housing costs?”

“I did know that, as a matter of fact,” the lawyer said. “I used to be chief counsel for the NYC Housing Authority. At the point in time when housing projects had fallen into massive disfavor so we were shutting them down. And, of course, theoretically, many people who were eligible for public housing in projects should have been eligible for housing vouchers. Except at that particular point in time, we were gutting the welfare system. So…” He shrugged.

“You must read this book!” I screeched. “I should be finished with it by the time I get off in Poughkeepsie –“

“Well, then, we’ll trade books!” cried the lawyer.

Except I wasn’t finished with Evicted by the time I got off the train.

The lawyer insisted on giving me his book anyway – a first edition omnibus of three Flashman novels. It had obviously occupied a place of pride in somebody’s library for many years.

“Oh, you shouldn’t,” I said.

“Oh, I should,” he said.

He also gave me his card.

He kept touching my hand when I said goodbye to him. Our farewell, in fact, had the feel of two old lovers who’d been meeting once a year for a day of hot sex in a hotel for decades and decades.

And now I’m gonna have to read the book. Even though I have absolutely no interest in George MacDonald Fraser. Because when someone gives you a book, it’s like a bookclub selection from God.

###

It wasn’t just my white liberal guilt that made me respond to Evicted so deeply.

Long-time readers may remember that a mere five years ago I was living in absolute squalor in the Cement Bungalow 10 miles outside of Ithaca in a town called Freeville, then as now the capital of Tompkins County’s thriving methamphetamine industry.

I had to maintain a house.

After vanishing completely off the face of the planet for four weeks, Ben had magically reappeared with a new girlfriend who was so in-LUV that she was willing to let him crawl into her life like a hermit crab. She was footing all the bills. And Ben had decided to take me to court for custody of Robin. Now that he had a girlfriend that could afford Robin’s standard of living.

This could have been a joke.

Except that it wasn’t.

There was no fucking way I was gonna let Ben have custody of Robin.

Because I was determined that Robin was gonna graduate from high school, and I didn’t trust Ben to see that through.

So, I took Ben to mediation and I won. Lucky me! A surly teenager! All mine except for visitation.

I snagged a horrible minimum wage job that paid $850 a month.

And the rent on the Cement Bungalow was $650 a month.

Yes, yes, yes – I certainly had the qualifications and the resume to snag a better job although at that point in time, I was so broken in mind and spirit that I think any interviewer would have called Security to have me forcibly ejected from his/her office after the first round of questions. (And what do you think you have to contribute to [Corporate Name Goes Here]?)

Everything I owned on the planet was in storage in Monterey.

And storage costs money – which eventually, after I used up my small savings, I could no longer pay.

The role that storage facilities play in homelessness is one of the scenarios discussed at some length in Evicted.

Long story short – my friend Susan (Max’s godmother) who owns a lot of real estate in West Oakland told me she would take my stuff and store it for me in the basement of one of the properties she owned.

Except that she didn’t.

She and her husband Jeff (whom I do not like), and Marybeth and her husband Kim (the perps in the photo above) and Max went through the stuff, loaded up a small part of it. Max put that small part in storage in San Francisco where it remains to this day.

The rest got auctioned off. I assume.

I could just imagine their conversation while they were doing it –

“Poor Patty! Why did she ever start that business in the first place? I could have told her it was doomed to failure –“

“It’s not that she’s stupid. She’s smart. But she’s got no common sense –“

“And what the hell is this? Why did she put this into storage? Why didn’t she just get rid of it?”

"Why didn't she have a rainy day fund?"

Etcetera, ad nauseam.

Oh, I tortured myself pretending to be a fly on that wall.

The utter humiliation of it. The shame.

Sort of as though your closest friends had all of a sudden decided to conduct a colonoscopy on you. For kicks.

There was really nothing I could do. I didn’t have any money.

Money is really the only thing that protects you. Don't have it? Better convince yourself that you like the feeling of free fall.

Susan and Marybeth were actually doing me a favor.

I knew that.

And yet I felt so betrayed.

Reading Evicted was very healing because it made me realize that this horrifying experience that had shamed me to my very marrow wasn’t unique but evidence of a pattern of systemic societal failure. In my case, when a bunch of Wall Street bankers decided to get rich by loaning money to people who didn’t have any and selling that debt – bam! Twenty percent of the American economy had to be surgically amputated. I was part of that 20%.

The families described in Evicted just had the misfortune to be born poor.

Don’t kid yourself: There’s plenty of bank to be made exploiting the poor.

###

Anyway, I have made it up into the middle class again. By dint of a lot of hard work.

But I will never speak to either Susan or Marybeth again.

Never.

Max tells me they are somewhat mystified by this.

Fuck ‘em.

Seeing that photo of Marybeth and Kim did make me cry, though.
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jerry


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.

doris


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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Judith_with_the_Head_of_Holofernes_by_Cristofano_Allori


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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Spent the first part of Mothers Day in a snit because the offspring were pretty late with those adulatory phone calls plus neither of them appears to have the slightest inclination to tattoo “Mom” in a big heart on their Popeye muscles.

###

Went running – and almost literally ran into Donnelly Paulson, himself running for the Dutchess County Legislature. Although, unfortunately, not from my district.

I suspect Donnelly spends so much time walking his dog on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Estate because he sees it as a way to connect with potential voters. He’s not shy about introducing himself: “Hi! I’m Donnelly Paulson, and I’m running for…”

When I encountered him yesterday, though, he was a bit shaken up.

“I’ve just spent 20 minutes talking to a couple of Trump voters,” he told me. “And they don’t seem to care one whit that Trump has broken practically every one of his campaign promises.”

I shrugged. “Even Nixon after his impeachment managed to maintain a 28% approval rating. You figure Trump’s gonna retain about 30% of his base no matter what. They didn’t vote for him because of his campaign promises. They voted for him because he pisses off the right people. They voted with their middle fingers, you might say.”

Donnelly shook his head. “I just don’t understand it.”

“Well,” I said. “You can’t afford to alienate them. Just because they voted for Trump doesn’t mean they won’t vote for you. In local elections, people tend to vote for candidates they know and like personally. Politics is really secondary. Most people know Jack Shit about local issues.”

Indeed.

Donnelly is waaaaaay hunky. Hunky to the point that were I 15 or 20 years younger, I might seriously entertain a crush. Tall, dark-haired. Did I mention tall? Tall! Looks a bit like George Mallory after whom my LJ is named. A social studies teacher at Poughkeepsie High School, which has got to be one of the noblest and hardest jobs ever invented.

In the evening, Pat and Ed invited me over for dinner. And that was nice, too. Excellent food, stimulating conversation.

So all in all, a good day.

Except at one in the morning, I woke up in a complete panic.

I was actually so freaked that I had to drink myself back to sleep, which is always problematic.

The panic seems to be revolving around my planning for my Memorial Day trip. Except there’s no reason for me to be panicking over my Memorial Day trip. I like Carol; I’m certain I will have a good time hanging out with her. I like Chicago; I’m certain I will have a good time hanging out there. Whistler’s Mother is back at the Chicago Art Institute! Plus Toulouse-Lautrec and Sunday on the Isle of Grant Jatte! And the Thorne dollhouses!

There’s some part of me, though, that’s getting more and more and more reclusive. Like really, I’ve got my living space configured precisely the way I like it, so why should I ever leave?

I suppose that’s the part of me that’s raising all that fuss at one in the morning.
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Yesterday it rained. And rained. And rained.

I worked desultorily. Read an Inspector Wexford mystery that I’m absolutely certain did not exist until I scored it a local library book sale for five cents1 . Tried to watch an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables on Netflix: The Benighted Orphan is one of my favorite literary genres though Anne of Green Gables is not a particularly outstanding example of the genre. But the Netflix adaptation is just awful: I would have been much more entertained watching the annoying actress who played Anne get eaten by slobbering zombies.

I began making concrete arrangements for my upcoming trip.

And I spent waaaay too much time on FB arguing with the members of the Sooper Sekrit Political Group. They’re all guys, and you have to figure that if they’re spending their Saturday nights on FB arguing about idpol, they’re loser guys.

But, of course, here I was on a Saturday night, arguing about idpol on FB.

So, I suppose I’m a loser, too.

###

L was particularly chatty yesterday.

She wanted to keep tabs on me because she knew I was feeling weird and freakish.

But she also want to gossip about Katy Day whom I know I have written about in this journal before (though I can’t now remember what pseudonym I gave her.)

Katy Day has a severely retarded 26-year-old son who lives at home; a sardonic, right-wing, Trump-voting husband who’s chronically ill and who spends most of the week harvesting the Big Buck$ in New York City, and a 23-year-old daughter, Misty, who looks like a fairy-tale princess.

This week, Katy Day was hit with a perfect storm when the husband contracted some sort of antibiotic-resistant systemic fungal infection and Misty was hospitalized following a suicide attempt.

“She didn’t actually take enough pills to kill herself,” L sniffed.

“You sound like you’re really angry,” I noted mildly.

“Well, I am. Imagine doing something like that when she knew what her mother was going through!”

Personally, my sympathies are all with the daughter. I actually had a dream about Katy Day once in which some floating, omniscient figure explained to me that the son’s retardation was really Munchausen by proxy.

No, I am not saying my dream was true.

What I am saying is that Katy Day is a control freak at an almost pathological level and also kind of a drama queen. And that caring for the son at home allows her unfettered exercise of both those tendencies.

“Oh, of course!” I said to L. “Still. It can’t have been easy for Misty growing up under those circumstances. She would have learned at an early age that the best way to get attention was to be utterly helpless and dependent.”

“She has mental health issues!” snapped L. “And she loves Greggy very, very much. They all do! Greggy is a sweetheart!”

“Well, of course, he is,” I hastened to soothe L. “And, of course, they do.”

Greg does have a very sweet disposition, and Katy Day takes wonderful care of him so that for that first fraction of a second when you see him, what you see is the very handsome, very tall young man he would have been had some mysterious malady not knocked him down in his third year.

What Greg has is not autism.

Neurologists, biological psychiatrists, and other doctors aren’t exactly sure what it is.

Psychiatrists aren’t exactly sure what Misty has either. Some say bipolar disorder; others say borderline personality syndrome.

Personally, I think it’s the family situation. Growing up in the shadow of a severely disabled older brother who got all the mother’s attention, with whom she could never compete. It cracked Misty in some essential sense.

And maybe if she’d had more innate emotional and psychological resilience, it wouldn’t have cracked her. I dunno. Both Benito and Caro Snowdrop have disabled siblings who lived at home while they were growing up. And they’re fine.

Anyway, it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to articulate my own thoughts on the matter in any way that was going to be palatable to L, so I gave up trying.

Instead, I nodded and sighed and shook my head at appropriate intervals in her dramatic narrative: Katy Day, Living Saint.

It’s not like I have any real connection to the Day family. Who cares what I think of their family dynamics?

But I do have a real connection with L, so if something I say upsets her, I’ll think of ways I can stop saying it.

As a parenthetical note: L is the only person I’ll deign to have half-hour conversations with about that weird cup mark that seemed to be burned into the kitchen counter. The many ways I had tried (and failed!) to scrub it off. How she had used Ajax or Bon Ami (she forgot which) and finally gotten rid of it.

I can’t imagine having conversations with anyone else about subjects like this.

But with L, I actually enjoy it.

---
1 This was probably one of Ruth Rendell’s first published novels. It appeared in 1969. It’s particularly interesting to read it as a footnote in the evolution of her singular signature style. Here, her clever descriptions are a bit too arch and ramble on for way too long, and Wexford’s internal dialogues are neither illuminating nor particularly entertaining to read but pedantic.
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“There’s a tunnel in the basement of the old building,” Lois Lane told me. “It ran beneath the arterial –“

“Mill Street,” I said.

“—all the way to Conklin Avenue on the other side. It was an underground railroad stop. There was a false wall, but you know. The building was in such awful shape – all the bricks were crumbling, trees growing up through the foundation. So you could see it. Billy –“ her boyfriend “– grew up on Conklin Avenue, so he knew where it came out.”

I’d absolutely hated the Literacy Center’s old building with its rabbit warren of gloomy rooms, its perpetual miasma of mildew and the scent of the dead animals that had crawled into its crumbling walls over the course of a century and a half.

And there was a lot of underground railroad activity in Dutchess County.

But I’m more inclined to think that this tunnel was dug around the turn of the 20th century to serve as a conduit for underground telegraph wires.

I’ve done a lot of research into the history of this locality. No Quakers lived in Poughkeepsie proper in the 1840s and the 1850s. And Quakers were the guiding spirits behind the underground railroad.

“What happened to Poughkeepsie anyway?” I asked Lois Lane. (Long-time readers will recognize this as a question that has obsessed me since I moved to the Hudson Valley four years ago.)

“Crack cocaine,” said Lois. “And prisons – parolees have to live near ‘em. And rehabs. Because wherever you have ostensibly recovering junkies, you will have an equal or greater number of non-recovering junkies. And, of course, the line separating those two groups is very, very permeable.”

“During the 80s and 90s, there were a lot of wild parties in those underground railroad tunnels,” she added. Wistfully.

###

Lois Lane and I were socializing.

For some reason, the Vassar Art Department had decided to book the actor Federico Castellucchio (Furio on The Sopranos) for a lecture.

I was interested because, you know, Furio. (Have you thought about flooring?)

Lois Lane was interested because fr-r-r-eeee!

Lois Lane is someone I’ve wanted to socialize with for a very, very long time. She speaks the language, she’s really fuckin’ smart, and she has a fascinating backstory. Moreover, there is something almost saintly about her – no, no, I’m not exaggerating – a halo of pathos: She’s someone who’s known great pain and has come out the other side without the protective amnesia that most people develop when they’ve had the experience of great pain.

I’d put out tiny feelers from time to time, but I’d understood when I was rebuffed. I can see how much it takes out of her to maintain that façade of normalacy; I sensed that her needs for decompression, down time, isolation were probably much, much greater than mine. No hard feelings.

So, I was shocked and pleased when she suggested this outing.

###

Castellucchio – who mispronounces his last name Casta-looch-ee-yo – turns out to be a fairly talented artist who knows a lot about 16th century Baroque painting, so his lecture turned out to be fairly entertaining even if he’s no longer the steely-eyed stud in the Angel Raphael hairstyle that Carmela Soprano lusted over. I should note here that Carravagio is one of my favorite painters (plus talk about your interesting backstories.)

Lois Lane was too broke to do dinner afterwards, and I didn’t want to embarrass her by suggesting that I would pay for her to eat. So we chatted in the parking lot outside the Literacy Center’s new, rather boring but completely odorless digs.

“What was the moment that turned it all around for you?” I asked softly. “Was it when you were institutionalized?”

“Not the first time,” Lois Lane said. “Not the second time. But the third time… I was really strung out and hooking on the streets. And there was this girl. And I can’t even remember what I did for her, but she remembered what I did for her.

“And, of course, I got busted and was standing in front of the judge in my little orange jumpsuit. ‘You used to be a Marine!’ says the judge all shocked. Because I was ex-military, they gave me a light sentence, right? But part of it was lockup.

“And I get this package. And it was from that girl. It had gummy bears and coffee and all the things you’d need to make coffee in lockup, and a bunch of other stuff you need when you’re in that situation. And she’d written a note: You were very kind to me when I needed it, so I want to return the favor. And I’m going to say what you said to me then: You’re too good to be doing this.

Lois Lane sighed. “That’s really what did it.”

I nodded. “The message in the bottle.”

“I mean, not that it happened overnight. It was a long, long, long struggle. I was homeless for a while there. I was –“ She bit her lip and stopped talking for a couple of moments. “It was the beginning, though.”

“What happened to the girl?”

“Last time I heard, she was strung out. And hooking.”

“You really need to write a memoir, you know,” I told Lois Lane.

She’s a fine writer.

“Also you really need to come with me to the Brooklyn Museum to visit the cat mummies.”

“I would like that,” Lois Lane said. “I would like that a lot.”

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