Monday, May 04, 2015 3:08 PM
Such A Beauty (2015May04)
I know a woman who is a broth-witch. She takes a mess of crab-claw shells and boils them all day, filling the house with a seaside perfume—and by evening there’s a bowl of sinfully rich shrimp chowder like you’ve never imagined. Or take today, when what looked like the ejecta from my lawnmower catcher, and a handful of various spices, again filled the living room with a multi-layered scent, the subtlety of which hinted at the many ways such a potful could have gone wrong. But when the steam left the pressure cooker, there was a bowl of clear vegetable broth on the kitchen table. I lowered my nose to inhale the steam—paradise. And I’m a meat-broth kind of guy.
I use to wonder what that woman saw in all those cooking shows—turned out it was a professional interest—she could kill on one of those shows, if she had a mind to.
It’s eighty-two degrees! I have photos from about a month ago—three feet of snow. It may not be climate change, but it’s sure-as-hell hot out there. The bleeding hearts are blooming—the neighbors’ cherry-blossom tree is a pink, humming mob of bumble-bees. The breeze is blowing. This beats snow any day.
It’s a beautiful day. What more can I say? May the fourth be with you.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015 4:07 PM
In Which I Disappear Up My Own Egress (2015Mar05)
When I type phrases using words like ‘erudite’ or ‘pomposity’ I risk sounding pompous and over-educated. When I employ what I think of as bitter satire I risk sounding childish and flippant. And certainly if I don’t write well, those points become confused with a host of unconnected difficulties. I’m one of those idiots who think that I should bring all my education and emotion to my writing—you’d think I’d never heard of style, much less manipulation.
I blame it on honesty—a concept with which I have much concern. Honesty doesn’t go well with good manners—another concern of mine. Thus I feel constrained in writing what I know—I don’t know anything that doesn’t involve everyone else. Plus fiction (my favorite thing) was, I thought, the ultimate goal—but good creative writing is a process of manipulating the reader and of imagining, well, fictions, i.e. lies. Good fiction writers are good storytellers—they have no compunction about telling tall tales—whereas I’m too hung up on the ethics of both the inventing of entertaining fictions and the recycling of my personal history as fodder for the writing factory.
I write quite comfortably in this blog. You can’t see the sausage being made—I have to back up and correct every other word because of tremors and generally poor motor control, but the result doesn’t show that. I don’t know—maybe I’m afraid to let myself go as a creative writer—it reveals a great deal about a person. Where I have the courage of my convictions when it comes to sharing my thoughts, as I do in this blog, sharing my feelings is quite another story. A great deal of social posturing is concerned with maintaining a strong front, a poker face, the eye of the tiger, even. Exposing oneself in the writing of fiction feels, for a close reader like myself, very naked-ish—I don’t know if I have the balls.
What is a story? A young person leaves home and enters the woods, as Joseph Campbell might begin. More modern stories might begin with the humdrum lives of two young people who have no idea they’re about to fall in love. Beyond the adventure/journey story and the love story, there’s the family drama, the saga, the epic, and the mythos—all in various flavors of time period, interlocutor, class, culture, setting, fantasy, psychology, etc. However, there’s been a whole lot of fiction written—and more being published every day. The best modern fiction either lasers in on one aspect of the human condition or else ‘goes big’, interlocking and intertwining several of the above scenarios.
It’s all become quite huge in concept. Plot-outlined whiteboards end up looking like dense electronic blueprints. Big-money fiction writers use many hands—researchers, writing assistants, an editor or two—and, nowadays, in many cases, aspiring writers try to keep up through involvement in a writing class, a writing workshop, or a writing commune—either geographical or digital in location. While writing still consumes the lion’s share of a writer’s working hours, the idea of a writer working in solitude and sending the finished work off to a publisher is as antique as Jane Austen, who died in 1817. And she was pretty good, too. The rest of us need help—or so it would seem. I’m not sure I have the energy to find out.
I can virtually hear all you he-men out there: “You don’t know if you have the balls? You don’t know if you have the energy? Quit with all the negative vibes and make it happen, sissy-boy.” Yeah, yeah—I get it. But everybody has a different context. In my context, exercise produces negative results—added effort only brings extreme fatigue. Ordinary human bodies recharge after exertion—mine, not so much, or so quick. Do you remember how, in the Bourne Identity, Matt Damon’s character wonders why he can’t remember his name, but he knows he can run so many miles before his hands start shaking too much to aim a gun? Well, think about that stat—fatigue doesn’t just reduce strength, it reduces nervous control and mental concentration as well.
The virus is no longer preventing my liver from detoxifying my blood. I can exercise now without flooding my bloodstream with the toxins of exertion. Well, no, that’s wrong. Everyone gets a flood of toxins from exertion but the body, especially the liver, cleans that stuff all up. In my present case the central nervous system got its feelings hurt, back when things were really bad and now it goes off on a tantrum every time it gets a whiff of muscular activity, like talking a short walk—you’d think I’d asked it to scale K-2. So maybe the he-men are right—maybe if I powered through all the pain and tremors and spasms and restless leg for ten or twenty months I could get myself back in the fight. Trouble is, I’ve never been a big ‘self-control’ nut—I have trouble getting myself to drink coffee in the morning—even remembering to.
Plus, I’ve spent many years with the perspective of one who ruthlessly simplifies life to the least possible motion, conserving a tiny bit of energy for the most essential activities. In my not-so-long-ago world, pushing myself was not only unproductive, it was dangerous. And there is an accretion of coping mechanisms encrusting my life-style: nicotine, caffeine, junk food—all of which would have to go if I attempted to torture myself back into being able to jog around the block. It would mean Olympic-level training just to get me in semi-average shape—at my age, with my stress levels, I could blow a gasket trying to get into the kind of shape I may never see again.
As you can see, I am beset by doubts and weakness. I’d be embarrassed to admit it if I thought I was the only one—or if I thought it was possible to be a thinking person without such baggage.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Someone on Facebook remarked, “I hope you know we don’t make as big a deal about it down here in Mexico.”—which makes a strange sort of sense—since Napoleon would have gone on to invade North America, if he hadn’t been stopped in Mexico.
The video is more to show you my garden pics than for the music—not my day, musically.