July 30, 2009

dirt search, physical abuse, Austin in a glance

1. Within the space of two blocks I see two grizzled, raggedly dressed men searching the ground with pincer-tipped metal canes. I think they’re looking for aluminum tabs from beverage cans: you can recycle them for a lot of money; my kids are collecting a milk jug full of them. Are the two guys working coincidentally, or are they roommates, underpass-mates?

2. “It was one of those things where they put you up against the wall and hold you down by your elbows.” I assume she’s talking about being manhandled by the cops, but no –- chiropractic.

3. Patriot Engine Repair next door to Salvage Vanguard Theater. Are the employees of the two friendly with each other? In this town I’d bet yes.

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July 29, 2009

prostate gait, drowned in vinegar, the stamp of authenticity

1. Every five minutes another old guy leaves the urologist’s office, sometimes joining a gray-haired wife, sometimes exiting alone, a cotton ball bandage in the crook of his elbow, walking stiffly and a little bent forward.

2. Three gnats have drowned in the vinegar cruet -- sweet seductive vinegar. I empty it into the sink and fold a small square of aluminum foil over the conical metal cap to block the hole. No one will know.

3. Philip K. Dick says, “Any seeming reality that is obliging…is something to suspect. The hallmark of the fraudulent is that it becomes what you would like it to be.” Disappointment, he says, is “the stamp of authenticity.” As I type the quotations, my shoulders convulse with a chill: though I am alone tonight, I imagined there was a child in the room and I was reading him those words.

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July 27, 2009

heavy bag, big word, O incomparable Shade

1. I bring the whole equipage to the café: laptop with power cord and mouse, notebook for observations, notebook for The Work of Byron Katie, two pens, three books to read during computer breaks (The Divine Invasion, by Philip K. Dick; You Are the One You’ve Been Waiting For: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships, by Richard C. Schwartz; The Commerce of Everyday Life: Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator, by Addison and Steele. Oh, and the alternative weekly, for the movie schedules. Now which the hell do I open first?

2. I want to say that my carrying bag is edematous, but I won’t. Leave that to the literary types.

3. I got the last shady parking space in the lot!

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July 26, 2009

simple, small, maybe

1. I like simple things. Japanese brush painting. Early Hemingway. Three-chord songs. Art turned down so much it explodes. I suspect that not only will I never achieve it, but that given my personality, my history, my aptitudes and limitations and environment, my neural wiring, it’s exactly the wrong goal.

2. Or maybe I’m a born miniaturist.

3. Maybe.

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July 24, 2009

I’ll notice, about the author, curse the door

1. Cleaning and trimming an old post, not because anyone will notice, but because I will.

2. I’ll never have one of those About the Authors that says I was a cab driver, a stevedore, a dog walker, a bond trader, and a numbers runner before I hit it big. Every dollar I’ve earned as an adult, I’ve earned with my pen.

3. Glancing at a book on Shakespeare, I read that when we today stub our toe on a door, we say, “Shit!”, but when the Elizabethans stubbed their toes on a door, they cursed the door, the wood it was made from, the sawyer who sawed the wood, the tree the wood came from, and the acorn that grew into the tree. That’s why they were them, and we’re us.

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July 23, 2009

Well if Ann can say in a recent post, "Sorry, I'm too tired to provide any commentary," I feel let off the hook from not blogging in a while. I'd rather give you a blank page for a half-week or so than something I don't care about. See you soon!


July 19, 2009

Asheville Joy

Hi, I'm in Asheville, NC, having, as I often do, the time of my life. Everybody's here: Steve, Lynne, Andy, Chris, Chris, John, Danielle, Ann, Meade, Mike, James -- and Ken, who had to leave early -- and Agents 95 and 97. Almost everybody...there's always someone I'd want to add, to make what's complete more complete.

This is the first time I've looked at a computer in three days, and the reason I opened it up this morning was to see the photos Ann posted of some of our group. (And this one of herself.) Ann and John are excellent nonprofessional photographers and Lynne's an excellent professional one, so we've got people snapping away like mad, taking pictures of each other taking pictures, and memorializing how lucky I am to belong to this loving, welcoming, sparkling, comical, brilliant family who are helping create the new life of the world.

If more photos show up I'll direct you to their locations. Right now I've got to go have more fun!

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July 15, 2009

A Brief Vacation

Hi folks, I'm hitting the road from Thursday morning through next Monday night and may not be blogging during that time. Talk to you later!


July 14, 2009

heat indicator, taco vans, patient hunchback

1. A tough-looking young black man in a white T-shirt carries a parasol as he walks through a mile of heat shimmer alongside the new mall and over the highway bridge.

2. There are so many taco vans in Austin that there’s a repair shop dedicated to them.

3. I often see him sitting at the bus stop near the supermarket with a couple of plastic grocery bags on the ground beside him. He’s about three and a half feet tall, spindly arms and legs, one shoulder much lower than the other. He half-sits against the telephone pole, fitting into its skinny shadow. He doesn’t pop up and crane his head to see if the bus is coming, as I would. He seems comfortable and extremely patient. But then he’d have to be, wouldn’t he?

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July 12, 2009

Ender, What Do You Present As?, Bargain

1. An Asian-American guy in his twenties, lime-green preppie shirt, shorts, black-rimmed glasses, is at the last twenty pages or so of Ender's Game*, avidly turning pages while his girlfriend, across the table, works at her laptop. He's shaking his head to himself as he nears the last page. He's at the part where the generals are cheering and weeping and Ender doesn't understand why. I'm waiting for him to get up and go to the bathroom after he finishes, so I can say as he passes, "That's a hell of a book."

*Plot summary at this link contains spoiler.

2. I'm thinking of using the medical "presents as..." locution when I talk about people I encounter. "She presents as cropped blond hair, a pink thrift-shop blouse with a white lace collar, and the beginning of a pot belly." "He presents as three-day whiskers, microbrewed beer, and flipflops."

3. The guy standing at the highway intersection presents as a cardboard sign saying, "ON THE ROAD -- HUNGRY." He's about sixty, collarbone-length gray beard, dusty broken-in backpack, black baseball cap that, when he takes it off to thank me for for my dollar, reveals a bald head. "How long do you stand out here on a day like this?" I ask. It's ten-thirty in the morning and well into the 90s. He says, "I can only take it for about thirty minutes, then I go inside somewhere, get some water and something to eat. I try to get three meals a day. I go to Wendy's and get one of those dollar burgers." "A double stack! That's the best!" I say from considerable experience. Two dollars for a satisfying lunch if you're on the go and starting to shake from low blood sugar.

In writerly fashion, I imagine inviting him for a meal and paying him for his life story. My stream of consciousness rolls on as I drive away: I'm asking him how well he does in his line of work, and a bystander is asking, "What do you mean line of work?" "He works as hard as me," I say. Bystander: "But he doesn't make anything. He doesn't create wealth, he just takes." As so often happens in my fantasies, I correct an ignoramus' misconception: "He makes you feel good when you give him something. You'll go about your day in a better mood and treat people kinder. It's a bargain at one dollar. He's a teacher."

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July 10, 2009

great deleted scenes, oracular arts and crafts, anniversary price tag

1. Finally watching a movie you’ve been putting off mistrustfully, and loving it so much you watch all the special features and deleted scenes.

2. Attending a show of crafts the kids made in summer camp: seeing the life they live when you’re not there, the aptitudes they didn’t know they had last month, the memories they’ll have fifty years from now, the roads they’ll go on their own.

3. Unplanned anniversary celebration with a former love: no gifts, no flowers, much laughter and free-hearted talk.

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July 09, 2009

your friend the brain, it’s the arts, it’s all a conspiracy

1. The human brain has no delete function, yet there has never been a case of one running out of storage capacity.

2. Stories are an attempt to see the future. Music is an attempt to undo time. Painting is an attempt to unfold space.

3. Society is a vast conspiracy to miss the point. But that may be the only way we can get where we’re going.

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July 07, 2009


When a marital therapy book looks promising, Mr. and Mrs. Dash buy two copies, one for each of them. When they’re both finished, they exchange copies to see what their partner has underlined.

They never underline the same passages. It’s like a pair of photos by two different photographers, where you can’t tell that they’re of the same landscape. Two soothsayers reading the same entrails and foreseeing two entirely different fates.

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July 06, 2009

the last inexplicable fact in the universe, recipe for iced coffee concentrate, the ultimate secret revealed

1. Sales of cake are steady year-round, but sales of pie spike around Thanksgiving and again in late February. Why late February? No one knows.

2. Why did the laws of physics arrange it so that a pound of coffee steeped in a gallon of water for twelve to sixteen hours will produce a perfect iced-coffee concentrate? The units of measurement aren’t even metric.

3. Three o'clock: the grandfather clock's chimes harmonize perfectly with the indie-rock song on the speakers – and by “harmonize perfectly” I mean with a charming slight dissonance. The singer goes:

Last night I had the strangest dream
Where everything was exactly how it seemed.

How rare it is to grasp this truth!

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July 02, 2009

Outdoor Shakespeare, Eavesdropper's Heaven, Walker's Paradise

1. From the Times review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare on the Sound, in Connecticut: “The audience’s enthusiasm is particularly infectious when children are present, excitedly feeding off the bouncy moments of comedy. I overheard one thrilled youngster burbling happily about having run into Puck while going on an ice cream run. Perhaps a lifelong theater lover was born in that moment.” Sweet!

2. John and Danielle are on vacation in New York. Maybe they'll get some good eavesdropping.

3. My current neighborhood in Austin has a walkability score of 45 out of 100 –- “car-dependent.” Alas, I agree. My previous Austin address gets a 77 – “very walkable.” Yeah, by American standards, I guess. The street on which I grew up in the Bronx only gets a 78, probably because of low socio-economic standing, but anyone who thinks it’s a mere one point more than any street is Austin is effing crazy; it was a 98 if you ask me. The street on which I lived in Greenwich Village from 1977 to 1979 (scroll down to Ann’s second comment) gets 100 out of 100 – “walker’s paradise.” Extremely true; from that corner you could walk between the worlds. (h/t JAC)

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African plans, macrobiotics, white bread

1. I look into flights and immunizations for my autumn trip to Africa.

2. After a long workout I take myself to dinner at the all-you-can-eat macrobiotic restaurant, Casa de Luz. Sweet potato soup, aduki beans and brown rice, steamed zucchini with walnut kombu miso sauce, blanched greens, daikon, beet-and-carrot cornmeal pie, urns of twig tea. You can eat an infinite amount of that stuff and not gain weight.

It’s in a little Central American-looking complex of meditation rooms and yoga rooms and a preschool. Tropical trees shield a narrow red-cobbled walk and an assortment of sitting nooks. A pomegranate tree; banana leaves; notice boards; a black stone statuette of an elephant god; an oak draped with tiny antiqued lampshades. A blond-haired little brother and sister –- her name, inevitably, is Zoe –- argue in the most reasonable polite tones about how to break a stalk from the carefully groomed stand of bamboo.

The dining room is like an audition hall for roles requiring tall, lean, healthy, pink people. A few tall gray stoop-shouldered ones lurk around hoping against hope for callbacks. Multigeneration families discuss meaningful issues; strangers venture conversation at communal tables; regulars rush to hug hello. The tall pink waiter with the unchanging minimal smile makes sure not to be accusable of impatience when I ask him to explain the food-ordering system. He has embraced silence but sometimes acknowledges a spiritual duty to interrupt it for a customer.

By the window sit a group of unrelated adults, a class in some meritorious subject. Two of them, a white-haired man and a sexy fortyish brunette, stand and bow repeatedly to the setting sun through the window, clap three times, and thank each other very much. Later everyone in the group sits with their right arm extended in midair.

The studenty foursome at my table wonder aloud about the arm-raisers, and reminisce about a convenience store in Lafayette, Louisiana that serves immense magnificent delicious po’boy sandwiches piled with oysters and dripping with mayonnaise. I could use one myself. The most memorable of the four, short and wiry, Appalachian-looking, visually out of place here, wearing a half-grown beard and a green gimme cap, talks about his travels with a landscape crew digging gardens for the wealthy. The inexplicable competitive lust to outdo one’s neighbor’s plants. He and his friends fantasize about a plot of land they’ve seen for sale, almost seven acres with an unlivable 1920s farmhouse, just outside the city, for $110,000, but who can get that kind of money?

I’m practicing taking surreptitious notes. I’ve got a science fiction novel open and am apparently recording my insights about it. I stare off at the ceiling with intense detachment while hanging onto the voices here beside me. I open and close my notebook at unpredictable intervals as if inspired by shuddering fancies all my own.

The fools! Little do they know I have captured their dreams.

3. Home, I allow myself to eat packaged white bread, which I keep only for my children. The sky doesn’t fall.

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