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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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All morning long, I’ve been musing over poor Evelyn Waugh who died of a broken heart because some B level pal told him he was boring.

I suppose I’m boring.

That’s because I’ve always been much more interested in books, and ideas, and the swoop of people’s lives, and those strange, uncategorized floaters of unencapsulated memory that seem to pop up at the oddest times, than I am in sex, celebrity, status detail that’s grounded in marketing trends rather than personal style.

I mean, if – for example – I decided to write about my sexual history over five decades, this could be the most popular blog on the Internet, right? Mick Jagger: Uncircumcised. His dick was maybe five and a half/ six inches. Very lazy! You had to crawl on top of him and grind! Celebrity spoils the mutuality ethic. It was a lot of work getting him off in fact, so much work that very little concentration was left to get myself off. But, hey! Mick Jagger.

Etcetera.

###

Actually, that description of Mick Jagger would bore most readers, too. Celebrity spoils the mutuality ethic, they’d think. Huh? What does “mutuality” mean? What’s an ethic? Why didn't she give him a score between 1 and 10?

Maybe I just can’t write anything that interests anyone other than me-e-e-e!

###

Strange, unsettled day. Tropical Storm Jose safely out to sea, but the winds are high and dense with moisture here in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley so that walking any distance at all, one gets the sense of displacing one’s own weight.

One project, I need to finish; one project, I need to start. But you know me! I’m all about the meh.

I really need to have a long transcendental conversation with someone. That would get me back on track. I’m not isolated, but there’s practically no one in these parts who likes to have long, transcendental conversations. But those are catalysts for me. Plus they ground me in my own non-boringness. [Insert wistful smiley.]
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Despite ample evidence to the contrary, every generation is secretly convinced that they’re the ones who invented sex.

Thus, books like Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead are always slightly shocking. The book chronicles – in the most exhaustive detail – Waugh’s youthful indiscretions both at Oxford and as the self-appointed chronicler of the Bright Young Things, which is what they called Generation X in the UK back in the 1920s.

These blurry buttocks belonged to Alistair Graham who accompanied his early 20th century version of sexting with instructions on the best way to drink fine wine: You must take a peach and peel it, and put it in a finger bowl, and pour the Burgundy over it. The flavour is exquisite.

The note is signed, With love from Alistair, and his poor dead heart.

Alistair came to a bad end.

But then, so did Waugh. He grew old and fat and Catholic, though his trenchant tongue continued to amuse. Upon hearing that doctors had removed a benign tumor from his sometimes friend Randolph Churchill, he confided in his diary, A typical triumph of modern science to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it.

Ann Fleming a/k/a Mrs. Ian was one of the circle of friends in far-flung corners of the world with whom Waugh spent time. After one such Jamaican holiday, Waugh heard third-hand that he had bored Fleming and her guests while there, and that damning word “bored” threw him into a depression from which he never recovered. He lost his teeth, stopped eating, began drinking. Don’t let me in my dotage oppress you, he wrote his favorite daughter.

Waugh died on the toilet – just like Elvis! Damn! That Valsalva maneuver will get you every time.

Of course, this raises the interesting question: Is any end ever good? Except Lord Marchmain’s?



In that other place where it is always summer, the strawberries are always ripe, and Aloysius is always in a good humor, Waugh continues to live on. Because as is the case with most novels, Brideshead Revisited was really artfully rearranged autobiography, and Evelyn Waugh was Charles Ryder.

This is Madresfield Court, the manor house that inspired the Brideshead.

As you can see, it looks very little like Castle Howard, which is the house that posed as Brideshead both in the very fine 1981 miniseries and the mediocre 2008 film.

Unlike the harmonious, baroque mansion in the fiction, Madresfield – Olde English for “mowers’ field” – is an architectural hodgepodge, that has been lived in and added on to by the same family, the Lygons, since the time of the Domesday Book. A thousand years of continuous habitation! Nor was Brideshead the first piece of great fiction to be written about Madresfield: A dispute over the property was immortalized by Charles Dickens as Jarndyce and Jarndyce in one of his driest but most entertaining novels, Bleak House.

The property is surrounded by a moat. The doors opening on to the bridge were carved from oak in the 12th century, but the house’s medieval core has been smothered by Tudor brickwork on the outside, and swallowed by Gothic, neo-Gothic, and Georgian extensions on the inside.

Oh, how I would love to visit it!

###

In other news, I made all the phone calls in my queue, thereby solving many practical problems and moving ever closer to achieving my ambition, which is to become a Real Human Girl.

I toiled for the Scut Factory.

I remonstrated with Samir: “I know it’s not my job to give you advice, but moving to New York City would be such a terrible thing for you.”

It dawned on me that we might be able to raise capital for his mobile phone fixing enterprise by crowdsourcing. We shall see.

I bickered with Celeste about the contract and about the upcoming house party dates.

Max wants me to write an op ed about my experiences as an ESL teacher.

###

Somewhere, I heard that Greta Garbo walked eleven miles a day right up to the day she died! (She died at 85.) A scarecrow in white with enormous dark glasses wandering Third Avenue.

This really shamed me since I often find it difficult to walk four miles.

Especially in humid weather when my hip joints actually ache. I think the humidity must make the synovial fluid reservoir shrink though I’m unclear about the actual physiology.

Yesterday was not particularly humid, so I was able to walk a fairly long distance.

It’s definitely autumn, though a strange autumn: The leaves aren’t turning so much as drying up. Here’s a maple that’s bucking the trend, though:

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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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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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Oh, m’Gawd. That storm. Unbelievable.

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

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

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

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

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

But the funnel-shaped cloud never touched down.

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

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

But the humidity is back down.

Which is good.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

PTSD?

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

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

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###

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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“Why is Easter?” asked one of my Asian ESL students.

“Uh – it’s the day Christ rose from the dead,” I explained. Thinking: I’m really not the right person to explain Easter to you.

“Christ?” asked my Asian ESL student.

“Jesus,” I said.

“He has two names?”

“Uh. Not exactly.”

“So why are there rabbits and eggs? And candy?”

Because at a time when more and more Americans are trying to implement healthier lifestyles, the sugar industry must reassert its hegemony over human appetites somehow, I thought. But did not say. Instead I said, “Easter is also a celebration of spring!”

“And eating candy is a spring-time activity? Then why is Halloween?”

“So!” I said brightly. “Do you understand that gerund homework I gave you last class? Did you have any questions about it?”

###

Easter is by far my least favorite Christian holiday. I’m down with the symbolism – the Hanged Man, birth (hence eggs), rebirth. And bunnies are one of my totem animals.

Timing-wise, though, it’s just such an obvious attempt to co-opt Passover.

###

There was a point in my life when I was paid an enormous amount of money to do something I’m very good at doing.

That gig lasted a few years but eventually fell apart because the media conglomerate for which I was working had an internal culture that might best be described as England during the War of the Roses. Alas! I was Jane Shore.

Most of my adult life, though, money has been problematic. I spent a good chunk of it married to someone who refused to get a job – which added to the financial burden.

These days, I’m mostly o-kay in the $$$ department. My pensions from the media conglomerate and social security are small, but then my needs are small. Really, the only expensive thing I like to do is travel.

Every once in a while, I face a situation, though, where more money would be a good thing. These generally have to do with the car. I suspect I’m facing one of those presently – and I’m thinking, Ugh, and I’m thinking, Do not use the credit card – pay cash! Which means now that tax season is over, I must buckle down and put in a week’s solid labor at the Scut Factory. Maybe even two weeks' solid labor.

Life is about to get incredibly dull for the next fortnight.

There’s really no sense in complaining. It is what it is, and in general life is good: I get to think my own thoughts (which is more than most people do), and in my day-to-day life, I’m surrounded by people who are affectionately inclined toward me – even if they wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about if I put those own thoughts into words.

I managed to scramble back into the middle class – which considering how far off that track I found myself nine years ago is actually a pretty major accomplishment.

To advance any further than this would have to involve some kind of coup – like winning Lotto (but then I’d have to buy a Lotto ticket!) or writing a mega-best-selling book (but then people would have to want to read it.)

###

I will reward myself by spending as much time outside as possible as this spring grows daily more fabulous. The light! I could drink the light! And I’m so enchanted by the parade of flowers on the East Coast. In California, you know, everything grows all the time. But the plants always look – I dunno. Dingy. Scraggley.

The trees are showing a crayon-y blur of green at the tips of their branches. Not leaves but those peculiar little tree flowers. (No close-up focus on my camera phone, alas!)

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Spring is on a fast track. We’re deep into forsythia, daffodils, flowering dogwood.

I’ve spent the week dreaming about the Middle Ages, musing about the rise of religion and governance. Wondering whether such cultural artifacts might not be the equivalents of intellectual technologies: the one a distribution system for the distilled wisdom of the collective unconscious; the other, a practical tool for the suppression of violence.

Of course, religion and governance did not arise in the Middle Ages. Those technologies had been invented at least three times before, and possibly more often than that.
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Do you know what this means?

The crux is round the challenge of forming a collective intelligence in a context of exponential technology - when there will be no more paradigms. Paradigms are largely the result of forming coherent collective intelligence (a) using broadcast media (including books, journals, etc.) and (b) in an adaptive landscape that requires a "paradigm change" no more than once or twice every century. The post-paradigmatic mind requires a different form of networking.

Because I sure as hell don’t.

And when I pointed out to the writer – the alpha male in the Sooper Sekrit Political Action Group – that this might as well be written in TRAPPIST-1e-ese, he proceeded to go all huffy and imperious on me.

“Well, let’s take another tactic, shall we?” I said. “What do you mean exactly by ‘collective intelligence.’ This group? A larger group? All mankind connected by technology-mediated telepathy? Because I’m telling you that language like this is exclusionary. There’s a reason why I’m practically the only woman in this group, you know.”

Right.

And that reason isn’t because middle-aged eggheads give me a woody.

###

But never mind the Sooper Sekrit Political Action Group. It’s Spring! Officially. And though the snow banks are still six feet deep on the ground, the sun is bright and the birds are singing.

Some day – possibly within the next century – I will have saved enough to get my balding tires replaced, and then I can start going on roadtrips again! I want to go here:

wharton


In fact, I want somebody to propose to me so that I can get married here.

That’s Edith Wharton’s house. She designed it.

###

Satisfying phone chat with the Numbah One son yesterday. “I’ve found something that actually juices me about law school,” he told me excitedly.

That thing?

Mock trials!

He’s really, really good at them.

Which should come as no surprise: Max is incredibly articulate, and he’s always been able to out-argue practically anyone on the planet – even me, and I’m no slouch at arguing. Also, he has an amazing voice, a deep, mellifluous baritone.

“Well, that’s a specialty,” I said. “Because I daresay at least 50% of your classmates hate and fear mock trials –“

“Oh, that percentage is a lot higher than 50%,” he said. “But the thing is that it’s difficult for me to bond with the other people who are good at mock trials. They were the debate kids in high school! They’re all so hetero-normative!”

“You say ‘hetero-normative’ with the same distain that a Trump supporter might say ‘Moslem,’” I pointed out gently, and to his credit, he was suitably abashed.

Snow

Mar. 15th, 2017 08:33 am
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Blizzard lived up to its hype in these parts at least: I’d estimate we got somewhere between 24 and 30 inches. Difficult to calculate exactly; it was drifting so hard. Around 6, the wind finally stopped, and we scurried out to dig out the cars before the snow got crusty and heavy. (Can’t really use a snowblower on the cars; they’re too close together.)

We dug till 9, then sat around the kitchen till midnight or so, drinking wine, nibbling cheese, discussing recipes.

Fun!

Plow guys haven’t shown up yet, but I imagine they will shortly.

Originally, I’d wanted to keep a path open to the road, but that proved impossible: At the peak of the storm, the snow must have been coming down at four inches an hour, and it was gusting wildly. Anything you shoveled immediately blew back in your face.

The roads are still mostly empty except for those enormous trucks with plows stuck to their fronts. Those trucks look like some species of robot dinosaur.

And people hereabouts should be skiing until June.

###

Snow shoveling is satisfying physical work. It’s repetitive, so you fall into a rhythm that’s almost meditative, that quiets the mind. And you can immediately see the results of your labor.

There’s also a certain amount of logistics involved in disposing of large amounts of snow: You have to figure out a place to put that snow, and that place is often many feet away from the place you’re shoveling.

Still. I'm ready to be done with snow shoveling for this year.
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They upped the snowcast to 30 inches, which is – ulp – a lot of snow.

Here’s what it looked like when I woke up this morning.

unnamed


I like the way my iPhone camera turns the obfuscated light of the early dawn into an eerie turquoise.

Shortly, I will hit my Bingo! caffeine level, go outside, and start digging.

Sigh…

###

What is it with people and toilet paper when states of emergency are declared?

I swear!

I ventured out to the supermarket yesterday afternoon. It was a complete riot! And everyone’s cart seemed to be piled sky high with 12-packs of toilet paper!

Toilet paper seems to be the one modern convenience that nobody wants to forgo when civilization collapses.

Of course, in a way, I was there to purchase toilet amenities myself. Kitty litter for the cats. I was running low. I had tried explaining to Rutger and the Meezer that the best thing would be if they just didn’t use kitty litter for the next 48 hours, if they just didn't pee or shit! That way we could conserve the little we had. But they stared at me with their little beady eyes as if uncomprehending. So, finally, I had to break down and buy them some.
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unnamed


I ran a few errands yesterday after six hours of performing Selfless Public Service. And then I went straight to bed.

At the time, I thought I was being incredibly lazy. Or that I was depressed.

This morning, my nose is running, and my ears are doing that phantom tinnitus thing. I’ve been sneezing nonstop. Even though I slept 12 hours and drank espresso, I’m still exhausted. And achy. And peevish. So, I think I’m fighting off some kind of infection, and my body understood that yesterday even before I began developing symptoms.

Clever body!

The day is shaping up to be an ordeal: I’m supposed to go to a birthday party this afternoon, and I can’t cancel without creating all sorts of Bad Feelings.

###

It snowed yesterday morning. In the afternoon, the sun came out, but the temperatures dropped. The snow formed crystals on the trees that looked exactly like some kind of fruit blossom. Eerie. Beautiful.

###

I’m feeling disgusted by the political narratives on both sides. L actually got really mad at me for suggesting that Obama might not be entirely innocent of the spying charges Trump dropped on him.

“They’re not true!” she told me indignantly. “Obama is a decent man! He would never do something like that!”

“Oh, c’mon, Linda,” I said. “Obama was the least transparent President since Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong – he’s someone I’d love to sit next to at a dinner party. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some scintilla of veracity behind Trump’s Captain Queeg-like levels of paranoia.”

L got so mad that she actually stormed out of the room in a huff.

I keep going back to Bion of Borysthenes:

The boys throw stones at the frogs for sport.
But the frogs die in earnest.


Bion knew of what he wrote: He was born into a low class family and for some offense the father or the mother committed (probably equivalent to the modern crime of jaywalking), the entire family was sold into slavery. Somehow he managed to become a Famous Philosopher, working his way through every ideological sect in turn – Academics, Cynics, Hedonists – until finally he became an Aristotealian. I figure he figured Aristotle where the big bucks lay in ancient Greece.

But the quote I reference above isn’t particularly Aristotelian.

It’s just true.
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C0s8qdtXcAEx9sB


It isn’t as though more celebrities died in 2016.

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

###

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

Six hundred thousand celebrities!

That number is probably higher today.

###

What is a celebrity?

The word was originally a synonym for fame

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

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

So what does determine celebrity status?

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

And celebrity, is the ultimate niche market.

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

###

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

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

I was supposed to meet up with ____ tomorrow, so he could tell me all about his latest romantic misadventures, but snowstorm? I ain’t leaving the casa! Not even to be taken out to dinner at the incredibly expensive Bistro restaurant in Rhinebeck.
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trees-lu



Eight straight day of rain here in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley.

I feel like a character in a bad Scandinavian crime novel.

A bad Scandinavian crime novel involving incest, cannibalism, and expensive brake jobs because it turns out the little rubber hoods on the beautiful heroine’s calipers had melted.

But, hey, it’s done! And the beautiful heroine has a working vehicle again.

There’s some more expensive automotive repair work in the beautiful heroine’s future involving the ignition system, which she’s scheduled for mid-June.

But after that, the car should be good to go for five years with only routine maintenance.

Saturns were really build to last forever.

Figure you own a car, you’re gonna end up spending $2K a year on it one way or another.

And there’s no point in complaining about that.

###

“You should have called me,” B told me on our That Was the Week That Was catchup call. “I would have come down and fixed it for you, and you’d only be out the cost of the parts.”

B’s actually a pretty good auto mechanic.

But, you know, warranties.

Plus the inadvisability of relying upon one’s X for important maintenance and upkeep types of shit.

###

My plan now after activities attendant upon the upcoming RTT college graduation and exciting roadtrip with BB and Carol is to focus on financial health. Get the secured credit card. After one year of responsible use, they will upgrade me to a normal credit card and then! I’ll apply for a car loan! And buy a little Subaru Forrester! And give the Saturn either to RTT or to B.

I’d offered to pay for driving lessons for RTT when it finally occurred to me that maybe the reason he’d never taken me up on my offer to teach him to drive was his horror over the prospect of sitting in an enclosed space with me while I ordered him around.

But he never followed through on that either.

I think he has to learn to drive. Unless he moves to New York City. Which is the only city in the United States with an adequate public transportation system.

Not knowing how to drive has actually impacted his ability to snag meaningful employment post college graduation.

So I think he's actually motivated now. And that's gonna be my graduation present to him. Driving lessons.
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RTT, who took the frat party bus to Houston to watch Syracuse play in the Final Four, photobombs Vice President Biden:

IMG_2894


(Biden is another proud Syracuse University graduate.)

Plus it was 80 degrees here on Sunday. And here’s what it looks like today:

d6105f0a-70df-40e4-88fe-955e3fb5aabc
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Unmistakable lilt of spring when I left the house at an ungodly hour this morning to score cat food for the pusskers. I think spring is something you can only really appreciate if you live somewhere that has a real winter. Wasn't the temperature, which is still below freezing. Something in the slant of the sunlight.

Anyway, even though I am feeling Distinctly Unwell with killer sore throat that bloomed overnight and a residual creepiness left over from the weekend, my heart did a little skip jump.

###




Don't really have time to write about the weekend, but should at some point.

It was a mixed bag.

Hung out with Phyllis Friday afternoon and had a terrific time. Amazing that despite our very, very different backgrounds, we have such similar thought processes. We're both deductive thinkers – give us a little bit of information and we'll build a world from it. It may not be the world that actually exists, but it will be a logical world, entirely constructed from the premises we observed. Neither of us is big on regurgitating information from other sources.

It's not entirely a scientific technique. It assumes information we observe is valid – which is often not the case.

But it's proactive in a way that the thought processes of most people I encounter are not.

The upside to thinking like this is that I am very seldom bored. Just about everything interests me – from arcane metallurgical discussions to the Kardashians.

The downside is that very few people think the way I do, and thus I am always having to translate what goes on in my head into Other People-ese, the lingua franca of most of the people around me.

Hanging out with Phyllis was like breathing the atmosphere of my own planet – so refreshing. For five hours, I felt… visible.

Switched gears on Saturday to hang out with the Museum of Natural History guy. It wasn't awful – the physical part of it was pleasant enough, the equipment still works the way it should. But Peggy Lee started singing in my corpus callosum: Is that all there is?

He had consciousness altering substances and I partook. Was this a mistake? Clarke's consciousness altering substances were of the sativa variety. Very uplifting and giggle-making. Museum Guy's consciousness altering substances were of the indica variety. My body got very… heavy. I stumbled a little when I had to make my way to the bathroom to pee. He had a fireplace and we watched the fire. It was like yellow ribbons.

Eventually he started recounting his various misadventures on the online dating site – he's dated something like 50 women in three years. The longest "relationship" lasted six weeks.

He was married once too. After 12 years, his wife disappeared one day and resurfaced a few weeks later in Australia.

After sitting in a room with him for two hours, I only wished that I could disappear and resurface in Australia.

"Why do you think all your relationships have been so short?" I asked.

"They haven't been short," he said. "What makes you think they're short?"

"Well. I mean. Six weeks…"

"Women don't want a good guy," he said. "Women want bad boys."

Huh?

"Women want bad boys," he repeated with some relish. "They don't know a good thing when it's looking them in the face."

"Well, I don't think women of my age want bad boys," I said.

"They do," he said. "You get hit on a lot by younger guys, right?"

"Yeah. So what?"

"You know why younger guys hit on older women online?"

"Uh… They're kinky and have a thing for crepe neck?"

"Because it's easy sex. They know they can hit on them and get laid, and they won't have to spend any money on them."

"How do you know that?" I asked.

He frowned. "I read it."

"Where did you read it."

He frowned. "I read things."

I sighed. "______. Trust me. Women my age don't want bad boys. Bad boys all have receding hairlines at 60 and really ugly tattoos. Plus they whine a lot."

"Women want bad boys," he repeated doggedly.

"And that's why they don't want you?"

"I'm a good guy."

"You are a good guy, _____," I said heartily. "But maybe it's not quite that binary. Maybe women want goodness plus other qualities too."

He glared at me. It was rather unpleasant being the poster child for all the mistreatment _____ had suffered at feminine hands throughout his life, and if I hadn't had my consciousness altered, if it hadn't been raining, and if it hadn't been such a helluva long way back to Lawn Guyland I would have left.

Practical creature that I am, I stayed. Oddly enough, the physical part was okay. I managed to summon the temple prostitude.

###


______ is a good guy, actually. But I do feel as though I just got back from a solitary stroll on Matthew Arnold's darkling plain. Will not see him again. His idea of dialogue is monologue; his idea of facts are opinions. I enjoyed talking with gemology with him, but my guided tour through the ______ museum was horribly depressing.

And is it really true that all of us Ladies of a Certain Age are like a line of ducks in a shabby midway booth, our fragile senses of self worth making us easy targets for predatory males of all ages?

ICK.

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