Kanye for President!

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After I tromped and gardened yesterday, I whipped out the ancient watercolor set and distracted myself for an hour or so. I do kinda like the way I’ve finally learned to turn white space into objects—kinda like the way you can say more to a reader by what you leave out than by what you include in a paragraph—but I’m never gonna win the Wasserman Award.

###

What else?

I am Not Happy. With a capital Not.

I can’t tell whether the world is more fucked up now than it’s ever been before, or whether I am suffering from the illusion that world is more fucked up etcetera. An illusion perpetuated by a social media echo chamber, and aided and abetted by an aggressive 24/7 media cycle that’s constantly funneling cherry-picked statistics and conjecture my way under screaming headlines: The VIRUS Never Takes a Holiday!!!

From the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, I thought the lockdown was a huge mistake.

People resent being locked up.

So, it’s not just the wholesale destruction of economies. It’s also the personal resentments expressed in myriad destructive ways that are rippling throughout the culture.

Admittedly, both economy and culture were deeply flawed. But is the new economy—the death of small business, the rise of a handful of big tech companies whose influence is like feudal papacies—better? And frankly, if activists find American police oppressive, they should spend some time in Latin America to learn what a real police state looks like.

Oh, and by the way, Hamilton is now baaaaad because the real-life Alexander Hamilton was a slave-trader.

###

Given the highly differential prognoses for this particular virus strain i.e. that more than half those infected will show no symptoms at all but something like 5% will be severely impacted, it’s always seemed most sensible to me that that everyone should take the precautions they thought were most appropriate and let other people live their lives.

If that meant that there would be no room in the ICU inn for those who miscalculated and got sicker than they intended to be, well tant pis.

If that meant those ICUs would fill up with young people so there was no room for elderly moi when I got sick, well, “they” were beginning to make those rationing decisions already.

I’m one of the people who’s gonna have to keep taking precautions regardless. I’m in the high-risk category both because of my age and my autoimmune disease, which makes cytokine storm a high probability. I’m going to have to keep living my life behind a moat until such time a vaccine is discovered.

But honestly?

I don’t see why other people need to.

It’s on me to keep myself safe.

It’s not on them.

I refuse to use mask-wearing as the variable that divides the world into Good People and Bad People.

I’m really sick and tired of the people who do.

I want out of this bizarrely polarized world in the biggest possible way!

Maybe I’ll vote for Kanye West in the upcoming November election.



Crossposted from Dreamwidth

Shtisel, Hannah Karenina, and Geese

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Shtisel is The Sopranos except the background milieu is not America’s Mafia but Jerusalem’s ultra-ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Meaning that it’s a long story arc that unspools over many episodes although each episode is also a standalone piece with its own nuances, motifs and symbolic vocabulary. If you watch closely, the end of each episode is the beginning of the episode transformed! My favorite kind of narrative! Inevitable latency, one might call it.

The overall story arc is neither sensational nor heroic, being merely an account of the ups and downs in the lives of one particular family. Their world is very tightly observed: every drink of water downed with a blessing; every trip into an interior marked by a kiss to the mezuzah. In such an abundance of observance, spiritual life actually becomes quite mundane—in both the literal and pejorative senses of that word.

The acting is superb.

The patriarch of the family, Shulem, is a completely dysfunctional father, husband, teacher and human being, and yet the actor who plays him is so likeable—in something of the same way that James Gandolfino was likeable—that the viewer is seduced into complicity.

The other main protagonist is Shulem’s son, Akiva—played by the almost supernaturally good-looking Israeli actor Michael Aloni—who alone out of the Shtisel family seems to be blessed or cursed with the ability to feel emotion outside the rigid structure imposed by ultra-Orthodox proscriptions. Akiva’s freer—not free!—spirit provides much of the conflict that’s essential to all good narrative: He’s an artist constantly pressured to stop painting and to stop falling in love with inappropriate women.

The little actress who played the lead in Unorthodox makes an appearance, too, as Ruchami, Shulem’s rebellious teenaged granddaughter. Rucham reads forbidden books! One of my favorite scenes is Rucham reading Hannah Karenina to her younger brothers, bowdlerizing ad lib as she gets to the smutty parts where Vronsky kisses Anna’s hand.

Anyway, I could ramble on for pages and pages and pages about how very brilliant this show is, and then all 4.3 of my readers would grow very bored.

Suffice it to say, I highly recommend it, and it’s on Netflix in Hebrew with English subtitles.

###

Other than that? It was very, very hot yesterday: In the four hours between the start and finish of tromping and gardening chores, the thermometer rose from the mid 70s to 95°, and I honestly thought I might pass out by the time I got home.

As I was climbing the hill to the old rose garden, this vast flock of geese and half-grown goslings espied me and began rushing me.

What the hell? I thought. Do they want to attack me?

I was very curious about this behavior, so I stood my ground.

They got up close but they did not attack! Instead, they stopped about five feet away and began this bizarre kind of… dance:



I kinda love that weird up-and-down thing geese do with their necks! I like to imagine Brachiosauruses doing the exact same thing 160 million years ago.

The Thunder From Distant Storms That Never Quite Materialize.

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Dreamed that I’d come from the City to upstate NY to visit a strange little store. Was the store run by Eleanor? Maybe. The store was dark and filthy, dottering strings of dying ivy dangling from every shelf, in the manner of strange little stores everywhere. But it also sold things that were magic.

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, a team led by Amaryllis Pellegrino had arrived to do a makeover on the store, á la that Gordon Ramsay restaurant show. My job was to lure Eleanor out and distract her while they did the makeover.

When we got back, the store had been entirely repainted in pink and blue, and the Amaryllis Pellegrino-led team clustered around Eleanor, saying, “Isn’t this great?” while Eleanor looked around in mounting horror.

Truth be told, I, too, preferred the store in its original state.

But I felt as though I ought to like in better in its new nursery school colors. And it certainly was cleaner!

“Well, you will get more customers!” I told Eleanor.

She looked at me with a look of absolute reproach.

###

I’m thinking this is a writing dream!

Amaryllis Pellegrino is a writer I know, an old Well-ie, who writes stuff for Salon and that awful New York Times feature Modern Love. She’s very talented but at the same time, everything she writes is kind of glib and… predictable. You can see the epiphany she embeds in each of these pieces coming a mile off. It’s the kind of modern writing style that bores the shit out of me, actually.

Amaryllis has like a billion acolytes on FB! She’s constantly posting stuff like, “Covid chronicles would not be complete without me dying my roots to Springsteen!” complete with pix and a million follow-up responses: Bruuuuuuuce! You look so cuuuuuuute!

Still preaches the same edgy values she espoused back when she was the Mitchell Brothers’ only punk rock stripper even though these days she has a McMansion in Beacon and a handsome husband who makes a lot of money so she never has to worry about hustling. She frequently chronicles her battle with Depression, although honestly: What does Amaryllis Pellegrino have to be depressed about?

Meow, meow!

###

RTT got his unemployment. They back-paid him from March so that he now has close to $10,000 in his bank account. Plus he’s starting a contracting job today, and all on his own, without maternal prodding, he signed up for therapy.

Of course, I would like some explicit acknowledgement: And I owe it all to yew-w-w-w-w, Most Angelic Mother, for explaining the difference between Regular Unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment to me!

But I’m never gonna get that. So, you know: I’m happy for him.

###

Also, I’ve been binge-watching Shtisel, which may be the best television series since The Sopranos in terms not just of its storyline and the vividness of its characters but also in terms of its amazing ability to tie symbolic motifs together. It’s really, really, really an amazing show. I’m completely in love with it.

###

Other than that, life is just work and eating potatoes and listening to the thunder from distant storms that never quite materialize.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth

Potatoes, Tribalism, Clouds & Books

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Keeping the potato bugs off the potato plants was requiring more energy that I cared to invest in that project.

So I decided to harvest them.

Potatoes are tubers, right? The plant actually forms underground stems. Tubers grow on the underground stems, and at a certain point, the plant puts all its energy into them. The tubers hypertrophy, drop off the stem.

So, after you pull up the plants, you have to go rooting around in the dirt for the taters.

It’s like an Easter egg hunt!

###

From the two red potatoes I’d cut up into eyes and stuck in the ground back in April , I got a 10-pound haul.

I gave about half of them to Claude—down payment on all the poblanos that I hope to be receiving from him later in the season.

Took the rest home:

potatoes2


It was also a harvest-more-lettuce and harvest-more-snow-peas kinda day—the snow peas, planted in April, are on their way out, too—so, I naturally had to figure out a way to get rid of those and began texting my various neighbors: Hi! It’s Patrizia! You know! The lady who pretends she’s forgotten how to speak English every time you start ranting about your love for President Trump? Say! Would you like some lettuce?

Neighbor Ed bit.

So, I boiled up a few of the potatoes, threw together a salad, browned the remains of a pork roast, and L, Neighbor Ed and I had a pleasant, impromptu dinner party.

New potatoes do taste different!

A distinctly more vegetable-like taste!

But is that taste motivation sufficient to go through the potato bug ordeal again next year?

###

Ed and I began chatting about Literacy Connections. I do ESL there; Ed does Book Buddies. Literacy Connections is a nonprofit that depends heavily on largesse from the State of New York.

“Are they going to get their funding for the coming year?” Ed wondered.

“Oh, absolutely not,” I said. “No nonprofit is going to be getting any money from the New York State government for the next decade or so. The state is absolutely broke.”

“So, what happens to all those illegals you teach English to?” L asked.

“Undocumented immigrants,” I murmured softly.

Ed laughed. “So unlike you to be politically correct.”

“It is, isn’t it?” I agreed. “But you know, I have very strong feelings about asylum seekers. And the concentration camps Trump’s set up along the borders. I can’t help feeling it’s analogous to the 1930s. And if Roosevelt had been more welcoming toward asylum seekers, maybe six million people wouldn’t have died in the camps. I suppose that’s tribalism on my part.”

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After I harvested, I did a bunch of tromping. It rained on and off, but I had a lot of excess energy to burn off.

The world is a fucked up place. I have to continually reassess my motivations for remaining in it.

I’ve never been particularly attached to being alive, so that reassessment is always kind of a debate:

Well, you are alive, so there must be a reason for it..

Oh, puleeze. There is no God, and there are no reasons...


Etc.

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I also finished rereading Endless Love. I didn’t like it very much this time around: Dreadfully overwritten; I could clearly see the debt to Nabokov except Nabokov is funny.

When I last read Endless Love—how many years ago? Forty?—I was not yet a mother. But now, of course, I am, so my sympathy this time round was not with the bratty, self-involved, 20-something protagonist but with his long-suffering parents.

Maybe you never can reread a book.

Maybe every time you reread a book, it’s a different book because you are different.

cat
Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

I'm Writing About Politics Because My Life is Bor-r-r-ring!!!

In the past 36 hours, there’s been a HUGE phase change in the social media ecology. Reddit bounced The_Donald and hundreds of other Red Church-leaning subreddits. YouTube bounced Molyneux. Advertisers are boycotting Facebook around the dangerously amorphous concept of “hate speech.”

This is not going to eliminate the Red Church. Any more than the various “defund the police” movements are going to do anything other than shift policing functions from the public to the private sector. On that one, please note that after the members of the Minneapolis City Council voted to end its police department, they paid a private security firm $63,000 for “protection.”

Purging the Red Church from existing social media platforms is only going to inspire the creation of new Red-Church-only social media platforms. We’ve already seen several: Parler and Gab, rightwing Twitter substitutes; Minds and MeWe, rightwing Facebook substitutes; BitChute, the rightwing YouTube. Etcetera.

It will be a very different world when contentious points of view no longer have to find a way to coexist on a few common platforms. I mean, it’s only social media, true! But social media is kind of a petri dish for real life, no? Polarization into the equivalent of socially separate tribes is not a good thing. It lessens the increasingly fewer avenues for rapprochement, and rapprochement is a condition for species survival.

I do not approve.

###

And I am increasingly intrigued by little bubbles like this one that suggest that the Powers That Be no longer have confidence in Trump as a Trojan Horse for their agenda.

Who would the Republicans run in Trump’s place? Pence? Cruz? Rubio? Romney? Romney would be their strongest candidate, but Romney’s probably unacceptable to the religious foamers on account of he’s a Mormon (read: heretic) plus an apostate for voting the way he did in the great Trump impeachment debacle.

If Trump did drop out—big if still at this point—he would probably do it right before the convention so he could harvest the multiple perks associated with throwing himself on his sword for the good of the party. These would undoubtedly include a Red Church media operation (including, I suspect, a new social media platform) powered by the good will engendered by saving the GOP.

###

Meanwhile, I broke down and subscribed to Matt Taibbi’s website because articles like this one so perfectly describe why you would have to hold a gun to my head or bribe me with vast sums of money before I would read a book like White Fragility or How Be an Antiracist.

Some quotes:

DiAngelo’s writing style is pure pain. The lexicon favored by intersectional theorists of this type is built around the same principles as Orwell’s Newspeak: it banishes ambiguity, nuance, and feeling and structures itself around sterile word pairs, like racist and antiracist, platform and deplatform, center and silence, that reduce all thinking to a series of binary choices. Ironically, Donald Trump does something similar, only with words like “AMAZING!” and “SAD!” that are simultaneously more childish and livelier.

And:

The movement that calls itself “antiracism” – I think it deserves that name a lot less than “pro-lifers” deserve theirs and am amazed journalists parrot it without question – is complete in its pessimism about race relations. It sees the human being as locked into one of three categories: members of oppressed groups, allies, and white oppressors.

Where we reside on the spectrum of righteousness is, they say, almost entirely determined by birth, a view probably shared by a lot of 4chan readers. With a full commitment to the program of psychological ablutions outlined in the book, one may strive for a “less white identity,” but again, DiAngelo explicitly rejects the Kingian goal of just trying to love one another as impossible, for two people born with different skin colors.


I love Matt Taibbi so much!!! Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Never Enuff Hasids!

I get that most prospective readers who may stumble across the Work in Progress (assuming it is ever finished) will be lured solely by the prospect of hot three-way sex scenes between June, Henry, and Anaïs Nin in pre-War Paris (Chapter 6!)

Still.

After Henry Miller divorces June, there’s some 40-odd years of June’s life to get through.

Tempting though it is, I can’t really use the old National Lampoon standby: And then she was run over by a bus.

The actual biographical details are scarce.

June remarried a bounder. Was abandoned by bounder. Spent 15 years wandering Upper Broadway, which back in the day was one long stretch of dairy bars, cafeterias, coffee shops and seedy residence hotels.

Eventually, ends up in the Bellevue psych ward. Has electric shock therapy. Is crippled by electric shock treatment.

And then, strangely enough—she becomes a social worker.

It was this trajectory that attracted me to her story: How do you go from being Kali, the sexual devourer, immortalized in 20,000 pages of dense Henry Miller prose, to being a social worker?

Since nothing much is known about June’s post-Henry Miller life, I started making stuff up.

And one of the things I made up was a man called Moishe Starer with whom June has a Tragic Love Affair.

Moishe Starer is a secular Jewish intellectual in Budapest before the War. A journalist! Clever! Dashingly handsome! Think Leslie Howard (who, by the way, was born Leslie Steiner and is one of us!)

Moishe Starer is dispatched to Auschwitz, which he somehow survives. Then he is sent to the United States where he becomes a member of the Hasidic Satmar sect. There’s nothing like a stint in a concentration camp to reawaken an interest in one’s ethnic and religious roots!

###

What little I knew about the Hasidic Satmar sect came from having a grandfather who lived on the outskirts of Crown Heights.

One day, my grandfather and I were strolling down Eastern Parkway on our way to the entrance to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens when we noticed an old woman stumble on a buckle in the pavement and fall. I think I was maybe 10.

A group of men with beards and dangling forelocks and strange mink hats were walking in the opposite direction, and when they got to the recumbent figure of the old woman lying dazed on the sidewalk, they stepped right over her. As if she wasn’t there.

My grandfather, who was an incredibly kind man, ran up to her. He helped her up. Her stockings were torn at the knees and had somehow come loose from her garter belt—which was what women wore in those days—and she was dreadfully embarrassed about that but otherwise unhurt. Mostly, she was really angry. She spat something in furious Yiddish at the backs of the retreating men; my grandfather replied to her in Yiddish.

I think this is why I remember the incident: It was perhaps the only time I’d ever heard him speak in Yiddish outside his house. And the only reason he spoke Yiddish inside his house was because my great grandmother, his mother, who lived with him had lost all her English as she grew increasingly senile. My grandfather was the very model of a modern secular Jew.

###

Anyway. Knowing nothing really about Hasidic Jews, I had to do a fair amount of research into the culture in order to write Moishe Starer convincingly. One of the books I read was a memoir called Unorthodox by a woman named Deborah Feldman who’d grown up in the Satmar sect and somehow managed to escape.

They’ve made a miniseries out of it!

It’s on Netflix.

I stayed up wayyyyy too late last night watching it.

The miniseries is very different from the memoir on account of the producers grafted one of those creepy Disney Save the Last Dance-style plots on to it: Deborah, for some reason renamed Esther, has to go to Berlin (say what?) and audition for a Famous Music Academy, which of course she gets into, even though she has no formal musical training whatsoever. Because she’s plucky!

This plot embellishment was just so totally weird, I could not tear my eyes away from it.

WTF?

The parts of the miniseries that had to do with actual Life on the Hasid Ranch were pretty good, though. Particularly the wedding scenes. Little known Fun Fact about Hasids: They’re an ecstatic sect, so they do a lot of singing and dancing. At least, the men do.

The girl they cast as Esther has a strange compelling screen presence—think Natalie Portman after they’ve told her the chemotherapy didn’t work—and they’ve also invented a sinister Hasid bounty hunter who accompanies the childlike husband to Berlin and does all sorts of baaaad things like play Full House Casino on his smartphone and eat cherries without washing them. He was kind of fun.

All this filled me with an overwhelming desire to take a daytrip to Kiryas Joel so I could snap Art Photos™ of the feral Hasids. Did you know that Kiryas Joel has the highest poverty rate in the entire US of A? And the lowest rate of English speakers!

Populism

Untitled


They’ve set up a kind of CHOP/#Occupy zone in front of NYC City Hall, which—surprise, surprise!—has received very little attention from the Mainstream Media even though it’s five days strong and involves hundreds of people.

So-o, naturally, I am fantasizing about making another NYC trip, so I can take Art Photos™!

Although I just emerged from the semi-quarantine I self-imposed after my last NYC trip (‘cause who knows what viruses lurk in the heart of Grand Central Station, right?), and the new trip would involve fresh contagion risks plus either a subway ride (certain death!) or a seven mile round-trip tromp through an overheated, over-humid city.

Neither option sounds particularly palatable.

But still.

History in the making and all of that… Never pass up an opportunity to witness!

protest4


protest3


protest2


I’ve been trying to figure out why none of this shit moves me to the extent that it moves practically everyone else I know.

Am I a horrible human being? (Well, yes, of course, but…)

Am I apolitical? (No.)

Am I insensitive to the sufferings and massive injustices visited upon the designated underclass in a particular time or space? (No.)

So, what is it then?

Best as I can describe it… It feels like I’ve been through this before. Which in a literal sense, of course, I have since I was an enthusiastic participant in the mass protests of the late 60s and early 70s.

But more than that. It feels as though I’ve been here before throughout every twist and turn and juncture of history, and what that history has taught me is that populism is always bad. Populism is mob rule. Make no mistake: These protests are mob rule in the same sense that Donald Trump’s campaign rallies are mob rule. The value proposition may be different, but the underlying dynamic is exactly the same.

The realization that radicals have no natural limit on their program is what turns moderates toward fascism.

###

There’s another thought, too, and that’s a memory of sitting with Huey at the Café Strada one afternoon, and realizing, Why, he’s exactly like Winston Smith at the end of 1984.

I’m not exactly sure what that memory brings to my perception of things.

But it’s a strong sense memory. I can see oleanders growing in their cement containers, smell the scent of Huey’s aftershave, watch the covert glances as coffee-drinkers at adjacent tables wonder, Is that…? Could it be…?

I notice how bloodshot and sad Huey’s eyes seem to be...

###

In other news: I finally 86’d the increasingly agitated Zach V from the Sooper Sekrit Political Group, thereby attracting a tirade of abuse from his ideological comrades in arms: Hairsplitting fuckery about why the big mean conspiracy theory people need to be removed for being big meanies. Everything that you don't like is bullying.

To which I replied, Well, you’re just wrong! Quite a few things I don’t like are demonstrably NOT bullying! Like inverted yield curves, covid-19, and kale!

Oh, the cleverness of moi!

I get that we all have too much time on our hands now that the plague has upended our comforting routines, but why anyone would want to devote that excess time to devising theories about how Black Lives Matter is just a front for globalists to vaccinate us all with nano-organisms that will force us to vote for Joe Biden—okay, I am exaggerating—is beyond me.

On the other side, though, we have things like this public breakup letter that begins, I’d also like to acknowledge the power dynamic that is at play as the result of the identities I embody. As a cishet man, it’s important that I name the power and privilege I have in contrast to my former partner, a Black woman, before I go any further.

Jesus, asshole.

Whatever happened to, “I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings”?

The Mass Extinction Event can not come soon enough for me

Petulance and Social Media

water


I remain in a petulant mood.

Of course, you might say petulance is my default. Chronic, low-level discontent with the world around me and a sense that brilliant, fabulous, multidimensional moi deserves something better, is entitled to something better.

In fact, no one deserves anything. Nature red in tooth and claw. Humankind even more cutthroat and with an arsenal of subtle psychological manipulations besides.

Historically, whenever I fell into one of these states of prolonged petulance, I could hit “reset” by going to the movies.

It’s a weird strategy. But it always worked! Something about sitting in a large dark space with strangers, communing over the same collective fantasy, purged the mental do-loops, the incessant skittering and raging of the monkeys in my mind.

Unfortunately, that avenue is no longer available.

So, I sit and sulk.

###

Mia tells me one of your FB posts went mini-viral! Max texted me.

Yes, that’s true, I said.

Max was impressed.

But I don’t know why he should be so surprised! I’m very, very good at marketing in general and jet-propelling social media in particular. I got paid enormous sums of money to do just that for years and years and years. What did he think was paying for his expensive prep school education?

(And I’m kinda thinking that if I can finish the Work in Progress—big if ‘cause the pandemic and its associated political/social discontents have shrunk my concentration span to the size of a rice grain—that I will self-publish under a pseudonym and then mount an aggressive social media marketing campaign to hustle the new writerly persona and the book.

There is no fuckin’ way I would publish anything under my own name.

My own name is too associated with unorthodox opinions of one kind or another.)

Since he’s become one of the faces of Berkeley’s police reform movement, Max has gotten very interested in social media as a marketing platform.

I set up a website—justice4some—two years ago for him, and he’s done absolutely nothing with it—which has been a source of mild irritation for me.

Maybe now he’ll start moving with it.

###

Else?

An acquaintance of mine who is politically liberal but also a Civil War buff with considerable affection for many of those Confederate army guys took this photograph:

Untitled


Striking. Sad.

The sky is pewter-colored; it just started to rain.

God knows we need the rain.

I have a shitload of work to do today. And no real interest in doing any of it.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth

Newburgh and Invisibility

newburgh


Dreamed I was a game-maker in some remote future moment. The best way I can describe the games I made is that they were the aural equivalent of jigsaw puzzles, this bewildering set of sounds and notes that the person who played the game had to assemble into a cohesive melody.

I’d traveled to the 21st century to capture the sounds of a rare bird called the Shrewksbury Tewk.

(After I woke up, I immediately looked up “Shrewksbury” and “Tewk.” There are Shrewsburys in Massachusetts and New Jersey, but no Shrewksburys. And what the hell is a Tewk?)

newburgh3


I ventured forth to deepest, darkest Newburgh to get my fingers printed and my identifying documentation checked.

Newburgh is the epitome of urban blight! Not so very long ago, it was the murder capital of the U.S.

So, naturally, I ❤️ doing my little economic geography walking tours there!

Yesterday’s tour got cut short, though, on account of I was feeling kinda shaky: To catch the right exit to the fingerprinting place, I’d had to cut across four lanes of 70 mph cars in about 100 yards, which terrified me. Plus getting fingerprinted always terrifies me. What if I’d gone on some kind of murder and mayhem spree in a fugue state??? Would the police appear to drag me away by my hair?

Newburgh is actually one of the most architecturally and historically significant cities in the U.S. although you would not necessarily see that if you weren't specifically looking for it.

general_george_rocking_in_newburgh_on_the_corner_of_washing


It was here that Washington and the Continental Army camped out for a year and a half, while England took its time signing the armistice. And in the 19th century, Newburgh was a boomtown, a manufacturing and transportation hub. The gambrel-roofed mansions of its robber barons were all designed by Calvin Vaux and homeboy Andrew Jackson Downing.

Alas! In the 1960s, Newburgh tried to deal with the decline of its manufacturing base with massive urban renewal projects that knocked down a lot of the beautiful, historic buildings. That and proximity to the great crack cocaine superhighway, Interstate 87, sealed the city’s doom.

Downing Park is still very pretty. And, of course, there’s Washington’s headquarters, completely deserted now that schools are closed so reluctant schoolchildren can’t be dragged there.

newburgh4


Came home. Finished rereading River Under the Road—which is a good book that suffered from covering much the same territory as Fates and Furies, a better book, published in the same year.

River is structured as a series of parties, given and attended over a span of maybe 25 years. For the most part, Scott Spencer pulls it off—no mean feat ‘cause lemme tell you: Parties are very hard to write; you have to capture the buzz but, at the same time, advance the storyline, so the weird little incidents that capture your authorial imagination must be tailored to supply fresh info about the protagonists. You’re writing on two levels at the same time, in other words.

Started reading Christopher Priest’s The Separation. Christopher Priest is one of my favorite writers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, The Prestige, which has the best unreliable narrator ev-ah! and is so, so brilliant! But also The Glamour, an early novel that’s deeply strange and perturbing, and that hardly anyone has ever heard of.

The Glamour deals with invisibility. In something of the same way that The City and the City deals with invisibility, though in The Glamour, that invisibility is far more… nightmarish.

Anyway, I stayed up reading far too late, so must devote today to revenue generation ‘cause those cat toys and turmeric supplements? They don't pay for themselves!

Crossposted from Dreamwidth

The Story Kurt Vonnegut Should Have Written

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I have this feeling that if I could only bring myself to vacuum, all my problems would disappear. I would instantly be transformed into a content, well-adjusted and fully productive member of society! A productive member of society with clean floors!

Alas! I have no desire to vacuum.

I would rather lounge on my bed, sipping limoncello and watching old episodes of Time Team.

Did you know that the Romans invented radiant floor heating and that the secret was then lost for thousands of years?

Now you do!

The limoncello was a present from Katy Day who I’ve been overwhelming with lettuce. What can I say? My garden has been producing reams of the stuff, and I hate to see God’s own bounty go to waste. I donate a lot of it to the Food Bank, but there’s still pounds, and pounds, and pounds. Anyway, Katy Day is a quid pro quid kinda gal, hence the limoncello. It tastes kinda like lemon drops dissolved in Everclear—which is to say, nauseating but at the same time, irresistible.

###

I kept thinking of Summer yesterday. She flunked the qualifying exam to become an MD here in the States, lost her visa, had to go back to China. I know she didn’t want to, but of course, by that time, her husband did, his MBA from Suny New Paltz having proven no more valuable in securing him a high-paying job with an American corporation than the paper it was printed on.

It’s odd to think of someone I care about lost in China.

We did Facetime a couple of times after she went back, but of course, that wasn’t going to last.

Summer and I really cinched. Despite the numerous differences in our upbringings, we thought about things in exactly the same way. It was a deep connection. I miss her.

That’s Summer and me in the photo above.

###

Else?

I gardened.

I discussed Hatch green chile with Claude. He’s never had any and is wild to try it. I have six different varieties of peppers growing in my garden but no Hatch green chiles. I wouldn’t even know where to buy the seeds.

I tromped.

The park grounds and rose gardens are all drying up with the draught:

IMG_0565 copy


I keep thinking of a conversation I once had with Max. We were talking about the fact that most humor springs from a sense of inequity or personal oppression. (Just think about it! Dissect the last funny thing you said, or somebody said to you.)

“So, if all inequity and oppression disappears,” I said, “the world will be a humorless place.”

“Yes,” Max said eagerly, “but won’t that be a small price to pay if we can live in a world without racism and sexism?”

No, Max. It’s a very, very high price, and I personally don’t want to pay it.

But then, of course, I am the queen of inappropriate humor.

Take that diversion away from me, and the world is some place I don’t want to be.

Idea for a dystopian fantasy story: A world where people practice being funny in secret hideaways far away from the thought police. Kurt Vonnegut should have written it already.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth