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Water weathers the page, but cannot say anything. Ink is more delible, durable. Drop one inside the other. Watch them wrestle one another to the bottom.
I look at you against the parched fields and can remember moving towards this. You were the other end of the long reed. Yet, change one piece and all is lost.
Only solid things carry the memory— moving along wires, the fibers of leaves Through the doubt of dreams, the scent of sage recalls this impossible point. Untie the sash and there I stand as if alive. The clouds contain water but cannot speak.
The fire alarm sounded. I slipped out the back parking lot while the kids gathered in the yard. They flocked together for the counting of heads. But this was practice that I didn't need practicing so I drove away. It had something to do with distance, the blue hills, the accumulating clouds that streaked the sky.
The guy at the gas station tried to explain that this wasn't his real life. His life was the other one; the one he wasn't living. Already, I thought. We're already marked this way. To have to say such things. Or think them.
I noticed the documentary film's flaws in the third screening. Its weak points were suddenly glaring. Funny what you don't see the first time around. Or refuse to see. Vagueness, anonymities. From where and when and whom?
A film streaked with the truth of human feeling isn't enough. Life, as seen through the eyes of ten-year-old in Gaza. No, we need specifics, facts. The solid armor of numbers to make things real.
Perhaps a solution begins with questions. But questions lead to more questions, with no end in sight. Stop asking. Look in that boy's eyes. Can you do that?
Couldn't think of anything to write tonight so I flipped on the television for a little inspiration. I watched four people in evening attire attempt to crunch down twelve live wriggling snails. One woman gagged between each crunch. Another woman ate four snails and then gave up altogether. The guys were like machines biting down twelve snails in less than a minute. Then they all put on crash gear and smashed cars through the back of moving semis. Sparks were flying everywhere. The cars were wrecked. Now the show is over and I still don't have anything to write about.
Rushing around all the time does have its advantages. One doesn't have the privilege to become somber or glum with so much to do. There's no time to contemplate, say, a nuclear holocaust or the implosion of the universe. No time to wallow in failures or in things one has failed to do. Yet much is lost in the hurry and scurry. Dappled sunlight. The spectacle of urban life. Those kids playing in the yard. In the rush to get from here to there, one stops seeing altogether. Perhaps even living. The tremendous price of this loss cannot be overestimated.
Fridays are killers. By the day's end, I'm completely worthless. I can conk out after two espressos. Nod off in movie theaters. Lose consciousness at the wheel. No, I'm no good on Fridays.
Last night I fell asleep in my jeans and jacket. All the lights in my house were still on. The door unlocked. Teeth unbrushed. Face unwashed. TV squawking away in the living room. I even had a piece of spearmint gum in my mouth.
Fridays are brutal; there's no way around it. I'm zapped, zonked, zombied-out. But the world will soon be mine again come Saturday morning.
As I made my way down Hollywood Boulevard past Zankou Chicken and the Armenian Bakery, I noticed the moon was enormous in the sky. And I didn't hate this city as much. I told myself to accept it. If only for that unreal moon and the sun instead of rain in March. This is home now.
I have to somehow learn to love the things I have, instead of always running off to the next and next and next. There are two voices dueling inside my head. One says "yes," the other "no." The key is to quiet them both.
If I write nothing else today, I will write these one hundred words. If I write nothing else today, I will write these one hundred words. If I write nothing else today, I will write these one hundred words. If I write nothing else today, I will write these one hundred words. If I write nothing else today, I will write these one hundred words. If I write nothing else today, I will write these one hundred words. If I write nothing else today, I will write these one hundred words. If I write nothing else today, I will write--
Found a place with a lunch counter on Ocean Park. Not far from work. Green plastic place mats. Ceramic knick-knacks displayed on the shelf. Mom and Pop fill your coffee cup to the sound of ornate classical music from the speakers. Nobody else in the city owns that place with the lunch counter. Not Baja Fresh. Not Taco Johns. Not Coffee Bean. Not even Carl Jr. or Denny. That place with the counter lets me to think for a minute. I can think a real thought. And write a real sentence. And feel a piece of peace for a while.
Lately, I've been trying to psyche myself up and be a bit more gung-ho! about life. But it seems easier said than done. I went to art school where we trained our minds to criticize. We learned to make art that criticized and then subjected our work to critiques in which we in turn were criticized. In art school, beauty was not something to strive for. Not in this ugly world. So now, when I set out to write something positive, my first instinct is to ask: "Where did all the trees go?" Or "Who chose this horrible radio station?"
Sometimes I fear that I'm cruel to my students, that I'm crushing their spirits. When I'm tired and perceive the young people before me en masse they transform into needy, greedy harpies before my eyes. And I grow impatient with them.
I want to be kinder, slower, more understanding. I want to be kinder, slower, more understanding. I want to be kinder, slower, more understanding.
The whole purpose of teaching is to connect. To be heard and to hear. To find a reason for my students to unfold and want to be more. To aks questions and observe quiet answers.
Spent most of the day writing, blissfully. I live for my weekends when I can write the day away. Days when I can saunter down Hollywood Boulevard to Espresso Mi Cultura and nestle myself into a table amongst a sea of screenwriters tapping away at laptops. When I can dress like a gypsy with enormous earrings or bright headscarf and nobody snickers or thinks twice. I can be strange. Or aloof. I can say whatever I want. Nobody gives a damn. I feel free when I'm writing and living the writing life. I feel awake. Alive. One hundred percent satisfied.
Nothing is as simple as it seems, that's what this piece of film taught me. There are no victors, no barbarians. Everyone is doing the best they can. Most have failed to find peace or happiness. But there always was that glistening lake where all of your friends spent their lazy youth. Today, the heat of your daughter's tears are coming through satellite waves. You gaze into the fire or look up through those tall, tall trees and wonder how you will ever have the strength to say good-bye to everything at once. To your books. The stars. Leaves. Possibilities.
You are recomposing the day, but it never occurred that way. In fact, there's some question whether it happened at all. You are listening in on yourself, like a voice coming through a half-tuned radio, the sound of film fluttering in the projector.
You could think forever on this, but it won't get us anywhere.
There's that story of the man who survived his suicide off the edge of the Golden Gate bridge. As soon as he jumped, he regretted it.
As soon as the memory crossed my mind, a black hummingbird hovered before me--its wings outstretched like an arch angel.
The afternoon light beamed in through the skylights and winnowed across the bottom of the deep end. I dipped in and out of familiar echoes. One, two, three and breathe. The rhythm carried me back to that race at Centennial Park. I was eleven. My father stood at the other end of the long lane. To please him, perhaps, I fought and fought with every stroke until my skull cracked into the cement end. They had to pull me out of that water. But the blue ribbon was mine. There, I learned what it felt like to fight for something.
According to physicists, there are three possible destinies of the universe. It could expand indefinitely becoming colder and colder as planets and stars disperse, eventually rendering the universe a empty void. Conversely, the universe could fold back in on itself, destroying all matter in a catastrophic crunch. Or the universe could cease its expansion and resist contraction, essentially letting our solar system remain pretty much the way it is. I opt for one of the first two scenarios, even if it means the end of existence. The writer in me needs something, anything to happen, to mess everything up for good.
Stick-to-it-iveness. I'm not crazy about that word. Not that I don't have it. It's just that people that would peddle a word like "stick-to-it-iveness" usually rely on something other than "stick-to-it-iveness."
Much advice will be offered. But none of it will truly help.
I prefer to put it like this: It takes an eccentric amount of time to figure out what the hell one is doing. And by that time, you won't really care all that much anymore. You'll probably just want to sit down and have a beer.
Hold your horses, that's what my Aunt Florence used to say.
I'm not worried about the futures of my lazy students. The ones that do nothing, and offer nothing more than a shoulder shrug when asked for details about this or that. The lazy ones are the born manipulators. They're savvy to the crooked ways of the world. They're not stupid, they're just cynical and know how to work the system. The ones I worry for are the earnest ones--the ones that try and try and really care. I fear for them, what might happen to their wholesomeness over time. Being invested in your life is a kind of vulnerability.
One hundred words a day for one month is not as easy as it seems. There are days when you're just too darn busy to write one hundred words about being busy. So you think, "Oh, I'll just do two hundred words tomorrow." And so on and so forth. But then tomorrow comes and you can't really remember what yesterday felt like or the day before yesterday (if you let yourself get that behind.) So then you kind of resent the fact that you have to sort of, well, fake it—pretending today is really yesterday or the day before.
Woody, the hippest cat in Hollywood, hangs out back by the garbage cans under the magnolia tree. By day, he bellies up on the sidewalk and claws at the roots of the rosemary bush. At night, Woody just sits on top the blue plastic recycling bins. Like a tiger, he backs into the vines when he sees me coming with my bag of glass bottles. His glowing eyes trace my slow, even steps.
I'm grateful the coyotes haven't come down from the hills and snatched Woody up. Though, on a clear night I can hear them howling at the moon.
Still raining outside. A show just let out. Brushing raindrops off their shoulders, people drizzled into the bookstore from the movie theater next door. They lined up for cappuccinos and brittle biscottis. A man with a ponytail offered his opinion of the show to no one in particular.
One woman used her umbrella like a cane, its tip digging into the polythane carpeting. "Oh dear, look, calendars!" She leafed through the selection like a tourist determined to be dazzled.
The rain reminded me of the home I left because it rained too much-looks like I took the local train.
Her voice came through the screen in choppy undulations as if her words were being fed through a weed cutter or someone was shaking her. I was lying in bed, wearing that turquoise necklace, flipping the beads back and forth with my thumb and forefinger. I was suffering from the near constant clutter of sound and all I wanted was quiet.
I thought, even if my teeth turned yellow or even brown for all the coffee I'd been sipping, I didn't care. I wanted to finish writing. Saying what I had to say. Well, that was one thing I'd accomplish.
Listless and attenuated impulses collapse lengthwise along permeable boundary lines—a cautionary tale unmoored by the cultural moment. Crude, over-reaching tramplings. The lure of an unnecessary teasing. Provocation as a sorry excuse for lack of imagination or creative direction.
The tentative and big-hearted; the vaguely lost, the slightly marginal—all unlikely icons in our tangled collective memory. The vibrancy and intensity of a fresh idea, this stepwise evolution of our wildest imaginings will save us from this graceless melodrama. The recipe is a mess of unlikelihoods guaranteed to ravish, enrapture. A succession of charged brainstorms marked by shafts of light.
This is the broadband of consensual hallucination. Everywhere and nowhere, there we are. Wrought with nettlesome caches whose scope is necessary, unreliable, and deeply fucked up. The recurring ideology of transparency balms linguistic indiscretions that are painstakingly shredded. The very existence of a record is itself a secret.
It's pointless to luxuriate in the creases of this text without incident, this labyrinth of a mildly deviant mind. Submerged in this musty effluvia is the lure of dangerously nuanced reshuffling. The camera, the unflinching connoisseur of images, roves the ravaged landscape. Glazed functionaries of happenstance sarong the hasty work with praise.
Suitably roughed up by life's betrayals, we plunged into this cave pool with the ambivalence of someone who has given up smoking again. I remember feeling your hands forcing me this way and that until invisible perils had passed.
What was remarkable, even breath-catchingly beautiful, was the way light bundled in warm swathes around you. It released me from that ravishing bauble of attachment and loneliness, vacant freedom, surface fizz.
We've arrived, so it seems, in a place where external truths are reconciled with the image of our own perfection. Now my life feels so earthen I could plant it.
She was hush-voiced and glassy-eyed as if lost in her own private dream. She walked carefully, tiny cautious step by tiny cautious step, so as not to drip the sticky cosmopolitan onto the Polythane carpeting.
She hoped the house music beating away in the background drowned the sound of her fluttering heart.
"Where you from?" she asked with forced casualness.
"Winnepeg," he said.
She placed her elbow on the damp cocktail napkin on wobbly round table.
"You want me to put a matchbook underneath the legs of this thing?"
She smiled. He was several notches above her own personal best.
When you read his words, what was it that moved you? What piece of that writer's life was transmitted, transported, transfigured? What urgent fires? What furies made your mission so intent, so bent? What called out across the ether? What stood the test of time? Where was it in the words that you recognized yourself? Or found yourself? Or abandoned what you thought was you for the sake of something better? Tell us about the ravishing waterfalls of the words, their boldness, their cutting insights, their grim hilarity. What secret dreams did these words regain and ignite your life again?
Some jazz piece or other winnows its way out of the speakers. A woman with a flower tucked behind her ear pulls on the charm on her gold necklace. Beside her, a stack of dog-eared books, a ring of keys. The waitress switches on the tiny lamps at the linoleum tables as dusk settles in. Her red bra straps peek through her army green tank. The faint scent of tuber roses mixed with banana bread and the clink of dishes. Outside the window, the signs in Spanish and then English. A boy with messy hair tries to make himself heard.
The woman at the photocopy machine always looks nice with her fresh lipstick and pointy heels.
You always look nice, I say as I rush to make last-minute copies.
Well, thank you. Clothes are my weakness, she explains. My one indulgence.
You look happy, I say.
She says she's thirty-eight and sinfully happy. Really and truly. I believe her. I don't always believe people who say they're happy.
You don't want kids? I ask.
No, never did, the happy lady tells me.
I don't either.
You live alone, you die alone, she says with a self-possessed smile.
"Did you move here for the business?" the grocery checker asked as he handed me my out-of-state license. I glanced back at the woman behind me. She was staring absently at the chipped polish on her nail.
"Actress?" he asked, pushing it a bit.
"No," I replied, lifting the two bottles wrapped in brown paper from the conveyer belt. Somewhere in the store two men were talking in loud voices, taking up space.
"Well, what do you do?" he asked--as if it was his god-given right to know.
"I'm figuring out how to do something interesting in the world."
My life, though ordinary, seems to come to me from somewhere else. No set of rational principles will allow me to discard this feeling. And as a result there is this crazy compulsion to get it all down on clean paper, capture it on a roll of celluloid, archive it away for eternity with electronic ON and OFF signals. I suppose I believe that if I can externalize this life, that is mine, then maybe I can see it. And understand from where the signals are streaming and begin to know just who that person is that is receiving them.
The Tip Jar