02.03.16

IN DYLAN THOMAS'S COLLECTED POEMS, 1934-1952 (1971) (2016)*

These boys of light are curdlers in their folly,
Sour the boiling honey; Spoilers / ruined by time-ruining

And boys are full and foreign in the pouch. Sex

Shut, too, in a tower [removed imprisoned] of words, I mark
On the horizon walking like the trees Organic erect phallus

Left by the dead who, in their moonless acre,
Need no word's warmth. "Stench of mortality" Conrad

Sexual A candle in the thighs

These five kings [fingers] did a king to death.

Then, penny-eyed, that gentleman of wounds, Christ baby

On this high hill in a year's turning. May he live another year.

On to the ground when a man died Can not react to life

Now break a giant tear for the little known fall, heaven / Death of Everyman
Death of enemies For the drooping of homes

The sundering ultimate kingdom of genesis' thunder.
Out of desolation comes birth

Youth gives feeling of immortality Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


*(notes in small, careful script, pencil and pen)

01.31.16

end notes: january

01 on kidney transplants for cats. previously-unknown-to-me factoid: as in most human renal transplant operations, the native kidneys stay put, so the donor kidney makes three. we lost a cat to kidney disease several years ago; i have no idea what we would do if one of our cats developed CRF now.

02 when WFUV's the alternate side stream dried up and we had to dig around for new internet radio, joe discovered FIP, née france inter paris, a 45-year-old advert-free french station (if you're in france, it broadcasts terrestrially at 105.1). we listen to it for a couple of hours every night.

03 in march we'll visit our friends sarah and judd at their winter superhero headquarters in the dominican republic. like them, i have started referring to it as the DR, which makes me feel vaguely like a junot díaz character. this—the visit, not the junot díaz thing—will score me cool points with the young staffers at ye olde charity bookstore cafe, where sarah's tale of learning to budget her fucks so she could do things like move to the caribbean is holy writ. i will make an effort to dress like ernest hemingway. it feels right.

04 we aimed our old red car at philadelphia for a spur-of-the-moment road trip over MLK weekend and acquired a variety of cheeses from amish people, delectable smoked-coconut sandwiches from a taproom, and a huge bag of hand-cut soap from a man in a striking sweater (i am particularly fond of the black pepper bar). in other soap news, i have switched from lush's charcoal-based dark angels cleanser back to their ocean salt, as the former was clinging to my face and i am not fly enough to make that work.

05 speaking of vegan food and smells, i am quite enjoying moby's memoir, which teems with both. moby's voice is appealingly self-effacing, his run-ins with fellow '90s a-listers are frequent and entertaining (i attended a handful of the southern california concerts he describes, which weirds me out a bit), and he knows when to back away from industry details that would bore non-musicians (looking at you, keith richards). i have a hundred pages to go, but i'm already willing to forgive him for his terrible, ricci-forward "natural blues" video.

06 the final-ish draft of an essay i've been writing since june of last year goes back to my editor this coming thursday. for about a month or so in the fall i was so nervous about said essay that i'd sneak out of bed at one or two in the morning and run a few miles to wheedle the adrenaline out of my legs. it will be the first personal piece i've published in a national magazine, and it's the sort of work i'd like to do in the future (not exclusively, christ, the idea of trying to make a living by writing about myself all the time makes me want to chug tile cleaner); i have psychic skin in this game. i really, really hope it's good.

01.22.16

on recumbent bikes at our soviet-era gym, my septuagenarian neighbors discuss winter storm jonas and storms of yore

1: on that snow day—it must have been when i was working, i never got snow days when i was going to college—i went to central park and i saw leonard bernstein, wearing a fur coat, it was the first time i ever saw that, a man wearing a fur coat.


previous discussion here.

01.14.16

you spread a towel across the floor; you fill two plastic litter pans with warm water and epsom salt and set them a foot apart on the towel. you test the water temperature with your elbow, you can't get a good feel for the heat through surgical gloves. you fold and roll a second towel and place it between the pans. D throws a towel over the swan's head and brings her, swaddled and thrashing, to the roll. when she's seated, you grab the swan's right ankle and force her foot into an epsom bath; a friend mirrors you on D's left. D sets her phone's timer for ten minutes and kicks it across the lobby, out of the splash zone. D is wearing jewelry, and you trade stories of songbirds unraveling friendship bracelets, of beads lost to canada geese, of the time a pigeon's cage ripped a favorite earring right out of your head. when D's phone chimes, you and the friend lift the swan's feet out of their baths. they're flat and black, huge, like moldering leaves; pink patches of new skin bloom in the spots where the swan's bumblefoot scabs have fallen off. you swipe up a tablespoon of udder balm from a pot on the floor and massage it into the swan's right foot, you swipe up a tablespoon of udder balm from a pot on the floor and massage it into the swan's left foot. the smell is the cloves, D says. you release the swan's left foot and remove the towel from her bowed head; she erupts from D's lap and the little girls in the lobby window are vowels.

a dotty-but-harmless, harry-dean-stanton-fallen-on-hard-times fellow met me at the counter at ye olde charity bookstore cafe yesterday; we chatted about the weather and how every time a big white truck parks on crosby at the front window i assume that we've been snowed in. he reappeared an hour later and told me, slowly, that i reminded him of a girlfriend he'd once had. that my sequined top was, that i was, liza minnelli, he trailed off and i didn't know what to do; he tipped forward and went blank and i didn't know what to do. his coffee cup fell to the floor.

he's a client, D said. (ye olde charity bookstore's D is a man, o shame—when i didn't know what to do i summoned a man from the basement.) D roused the fellow, offered him a gentle shoulder, and guided him outside. he just had his methadone, D said, those are the nods. the worst is when they get the nods right on the stairs.

i walked home through an alley between crosby and lafayette and pretended i hadn't meant to pass the memorial offerings outside david bowie's new york apartment. a girl played the last thirty seconds of "heroes" on her phone, and a tall man whispered the details of angie's divorce settlement to a friend at his side. everyone says hi.

01.02.16

2016: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

i watched five minutes of the rose bowl halftime show.
i finished a crossword puzzle on the subway.
i ate a vegetarian sloppy joe.
i ran into the ocean in a skeleton suit and wool socks.
i ordered a mermaid pilsner while a cover band performed "the final countdown."
i finally saw the shining's man-bear-pig at a midnight screening (other versions i'd seen had edited him out?).
i drank the rest of my sister's holiday kombucha.
i put new sheets on the bed.

12.31.15

my younger sister and her husband left the lower east side for the airport a few hours ago; their carrier decided to push their flight to los angeles forward half an hour, she tells me, so they just made it to the plane before the gate closed. surrounded by little piles of our now-crispy christmas tree's needles, i'm drinking coffee from a skull-shaped mug and planning my last few errands of 2015: a trip to the bank to replace the debit card i had to cancel after some year-end identity theft. a walk up to union square to look for my friend's just-published book. a few miles on the treadmill with my octogenarian neighbors. prep for tomorrow's polar bear plunge out at coney island. years don't mind ending, but my heart always goes out to them, whatever they are, anyway, since loving or hating them is much more straightforward than loving or hating myself. you did your best most of the time, 2015. here's the dreamless sleep.

12.22.15

san francisco, 0630: my old-timey alarm clock brayed at me to get out of the factory just as my sister and brother-in-law's sang them a futuristic awakening song in the next room. we pulled on an assortment of synthetic fabrics, took turns making coffee with their single-cup dripper, and set out across the bay bridge for a trail race down in alameda county. none of us had heard of the race before i found it on a california roundup calendar, and it was my first trail run; i imagined something like the mudder they'd done a year ago. in practice it was more civilized than my last half marathon had been: no more than a hundred runners at our distance, and they spread out over the first couple of miles. it felt a bit like we three were alone. we followed trail flags along a creek to the mouth of a shallow canyon, executing a little curlicue at the end. my hands sweltered in my skeleton gloves, so i passed them to my sister. a vulture hunched on a fence post around mile 4; a snow-white pelican paddled around down in the creek around mile 5. volunteers beneath a pavilion at the finish line covered picnic tables with paper plates of trail mix, torn peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, haphazard piles of pumpkin pie. a little bluetooth speaker played mid-'90s cure singles, and the late-morning sun burned away the fog.

12.18.15

best wishes from somewhere above the midwest, internets, where the air is pressurized, my rowmates are sleeping fitfully (left) and reading an old dutch mystery (right),* and the woman across the aisle a row ahead of us appears to be hand-sewing a heavy damask window treatment in shades of green. i don't know that i can get behind long transmissions from planes - writing on scraps from my purse feels more respectable, and we should all be unreachable every now and again - but i have let my fear of neglecting my new frankencareer guilt me away from my own blog. in truth it's a comparatively healthy frankencareer, with stupendous peoplewatching and bird-kissing and even an occasional check, but i need to build social writing back into my life. i've also been thinking about a short story, and some installation art. team, i might even finish my stag beetle needlepoint, or finally start drawing on the kitchen wall. the social writing comes first, though. wherever it is - minnesota, maybe - seat 20B loves you.


*i introduced joe to the old dutch mysteries - that is, janwillem van de wetering's 'amsterdam cops' books - but he has fixated on them because the younger cop has a siamese cat (oliver kwong). like joe, the cop squeezes purrs from said cat. "oliver sleeps between his feet, too," joe reports.

12.13.15

the woman sitting in front of us at the flick had a hairy-eared little dog, a salacious b. crumb, in an airport duffel in the seat beside her. when joe was in the bathroom, i leaned forward: "does he see a lot of theatre with you?" "to the ballet, to all kinds of shows, oh, he comes everywhere with me," she said. was he a papillon? "papillons are the second-smartest dogs; poodles are the smartest. when i heard i was going to get a service dog i expected something big, i had always had huskies, they sent me ace here and i thought, what am i going to do with this little thing?" he had been trained to alert her to the presence of kiwi; she was deathly, anaphylactically allergic, and she'd had a heart attack, so she couldn't handle epinephrine in the event of a kiwi sneak. ace had signaled at a salad of hers in a restaurant, a salad that hadn't had kiwi at all, and she asked the kitchen to look again, to be sure that he wasn't registering false positives. kiwi juice in the dressing! she told me he wanted to say hello—guide dogs for, say, the blind aren't supposed to interact with strangers, but some medical alert dogs can—and i offered him the back of my hand. we call steve salacious b. crumb because he has that high-pitched, mildly malevolent trill; ace was just a gentle licker, his little eyes bright under the house lights, down and up for the end of intermission.

12.07.15

venice is a half-drowned labyrinth, a noble pile of bones, a favorite piece of costume jewelry that turns your wrist green; in late autumn you feel like its only witness and it's the closest you've been to a waking dream, iceland, forgive me. venice is the only part of italy that has ever mattered to me (italy, forgive me); blame henry james for that, maybe, or the dragon asleep at the bottom of the grand canal. i knew for sure that i needed to go when i learned that it is sinking, the acqua alta more fearsome every year. look at that piazza and tell me you don't want to save san marco, or to wave, at least, as the siroccos sweep him under the winter sea.

i decided to give up on not having a tattoo for the black cat i lost and to have one instead. my sister drew him for me, and i sent the drawing to marco, another marco, whose partner spoke enough english to direct me to their gold plaque on an old door around the corner from the old opera house in campo san fantin—la fenice, the phoenix, which burned down in 1774, 1836, and 1996, because of course it did. marco asked if i wanted him to tattoo around a freckle on my back, since if he covered it with ink i wouldn't know if it changed shape and became cancerous one day; he was covering it with a cat who died of cancer, though, and things will happen where they will, now won't they. his english opened up when i complimented the jerry lee lewis he was playing: "he's better than elvis." we're both fans of black metal. "it doesn't matter what language it's in, it's all raaaaugh raaaaugh raaaaugh. i liked that word you used, freckle, it sounds like freak."

venice is a shared secret, dead quiet as you carry your weeping new tattoo over its bridges, down its alleys, like a cartoon character shot through with a cannonball. you always, always drink from the guttering fountains in the twilit squares. you sing old david bowie songs with a leathery regular at the other end of a bar. you visit your sister's handiwork at the biennale, resisting the urge to brag about the original on your back. you don't see a car for five days.

12.02.15

Meeting in the Piazza on the evening of my arrival a young American painter who told me that he had been spending the summer just where I found him, I could have assaulted him for very envy. He was painting forsooth the interior of St. Mark's. To be a young American painter unperplexed by the mocking, elusive soul of things and satisfied with their wholesome light-bathed surface and shape; keen of eye; fond of colour, of sea and sky and anything that may chance between them; of old lace and old brocade and old furniture (even when made to order); of time-mellowed harmonies on nameless canvases and happy contours in cheap old engravings; to spend one's mornings in still, productive analysis of the clustered shadows of the Basilica, one's afternoons anywhere, in church or campo, on canal or lagoon, and one's evenings in star-light gossip at Florian's, feeling the sea-breeze throb languidly between the two great pillars of the Piazzetta and over the low black domes of the church—this, I consider, is to be as happy as is consistent with the preservation of reason.

(henry james, from "from venice to strassburg," 1873)

11.12.15

conversations with doctor omnibus {ghost forest edition}

doc: what's new?
LMO: i'm still freelancing. and i'm going to italy tomorrow.
doc: [halfhearted shrug]
LMO: what's new with you?
doc: at my age? nothing. what would be new with me?
LMO: have you read anything good lately?
doc: i don't read.
LMO: surely you read.
doc: what would i read?
LMO: novels, nonfiction?
doc: isn't what i do here nonfiction?
LMO: you've been to italy, i imagine.
doc: never. i have no interest. look this up: N-E-S-K-O-W-I-N. on your smartphone. look it up now.
LMO: [taps at phone] oregon! that's where your daughter lives, right?
doc: i don't know where my daughter lives.
LMO: it's beautiful, this beach.
doc: it's very hard to get to, and there are no people there. that's where i go. there's a ghost forest, two thousand years old, it's coming out of the ocean now.