Thursday, November 29, 2007
One dream he had when we met, lo! these many years ago, was to be the head football coach at Midland High School, where he played football. Being a head football coach is not about talent and experience, though. Oh, sure--that's important. But it's not as important as winning by any means necessary, and who you know, and politics. And race. There has never, ever been a black head football coach in District 5AAAAA. Never. There's been one black head basketball coach, recently, but that's an anomaly, and basketball is NOT football. The football coach in West Texas sits at the right hand of God, and God asks for advice.
So. No life as Advisor to God. Or head football coach. Two other dreams: he said he'd like to get a travel trailer or a Winnebago or something and travel around the country when he retires, with me set up to write and sew in the vehicle. To me? This sounds like pure hell. I don't like trailers (lived in one for 12 years and hated it) and I don't like constant traveling. I like to go places, and then I like to come home, and then I like to go somewhere else. I traveled too damn much growing up to want to do it constantly now, and because we never had a real home for more than a couple of months, it's REALLY important to have a Home, a place where I spend a lot of time and can come back to. Living in a trailer on the road would drive me insane.
But there's another dream. On our first trip to San Antonio, maybe 25 years ago, we walked along the river out past the usual Riverwalk, and in the shallow water, on a rock, was a pair of blue jeans. (Aren't you surprised I still remember this?) They looked like someone had been sitting on the rock and had slipped off the jeans and swam away. Like someone turning into a mermaid. He took a photograph of them, and he said that it would be cool someday for us to travel (again with the traveling! It's the biggest difference between us: I grew up traveling and like to stay put; he grew up in one place and loves to travel), with him taking photographs and me writing. At the time, the idea was that I'd write poems, as that's what I was doing. Since then, we've talked about travel writing, and then, lately, about traveling around Texas and taking photographs of artists' studios. I almost convinced an editor at Texas Monthly, but not for a regular feature, which is what I wanted to do.
So that's something we're starting to look at: ways to combine his photography and my writing about art and artists. No hurry--I think sometimes you have to think about things and put them out there and see what turns up. And something's turned up already.: Yesterday a really cool thing happened: I get to write a column for Altered Couture, a how-to one, and he gets to take the step-out photographs for it. He'll get Official Magazine Credit, which will be good for building a resume kind of thing. And it'll be really fun and an excuse to play around with taking photographs. And getting the &^%$# light fixture fixed in the sewing studio--I gave in and called, and Richard is supposed to come by when he gets a chance (they're all swamped, of course) and tell me what my options are (repair this one, get a new one, install some other kind of brighter lights)--there's no attic space above this part of the house, and I don't know what can be done to install better lighting. He'll know, though.
So that's the good news here--little baby steps toward making dreams come true. This afternoon we're off to take photos of my friend Julia's office--it's as cool as a studio, with a lot of her photographs in it, and she's a sweetie for letting us come while she's working. Plus she's a fantastic photographer and knows a ton of stuff. Then I'm going to try to get a studio visit to her brand new photography studio in her backyard. The pictures of it are fabulous--
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
So there you have it. My jacket and more than you ever wanted to know about My Day. I can't believe I tell you these things, but it just amuses me so much that I can't resist. What fun is a good story if you keep it to yourself? Duh.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I have no problem with compassion for animals--I was born and raised with that, and I can feel (I'd say "literally feel," but then it'd get all vee-vee-woo-woo and you'd think I was going to come to your house and do psychic readings with your gerbils) what they feel. But people? Oh, honeys--that's a whole nother thang entirely. I try to feel compassion for all living beings, but when you're surrounded by people every day, everywhere (but especially at places like, oh, high schools and The Dreaded Wal-Mart and political gatherings) who are just trying like the dickens to fuck up their lives as quickly and thoroughly as possible? Well.
But I try. Well, when I'm not actively wishing for the abduction by aliens of my next-door neighbors, I am. And I try so very hard not to go there. I try not to wish for their heads to explode, either. Really. OK, most days I try not to wish for that.
This week we had coffee with our friend who's HIV+. I sat and stitched, just listening to him. And, OK, offering just the tiniest bit of unsolicited advice. But mostly listening. Trying to really listen and be present.
I learned to listen at Survivors of Homicide. I mean really listen. Not the stuff we usually do, where we're nodding politely and saying, "Um-hmm," and that hip thing we all say: "Right?" which is what you think the speaker would say, rather than the listener, but noh. I assume it's a line from a TV show or a movie that we've all adopted as habit. I find myself saying things and wondering what sit-com I've co-opted without even knowing it.
Anyway. Listening. It's about compassion. When you really listen, really listen, to someone telling about something they're going through, some grief or misery or pondering or dilemma--when you really listen, it's as if it's happening to you.
You know how, when you read a really good book, and you identify with the protagonist so much that if they commit a murder and feel guilty, you feel guilty, too? Or if they have an affair, you feel all sneaky and excited and guilty about that, too? Because you've paid such close attention--you've listened to them so well--that you've entered into their life and feel what the character is feeling. And you do that with listening, too, in Real Life. If we listen without commenting and without judging and without waiting for our chance to say something witty or funny or quaint, we sink into their words, their emotion, their pain, their life. And we find that we're feeling what they feel. We're not knowing it, mentally--it's not like we're hearing them and processing what they're telling us and coming up with an appropriate response. It's that we've heard them so completely and entered into their reality with them and can feel what they're feeling.
That's compassion. I remember the first time it really happened to me, in a really complete way. I've mentioned it before, about the woman whose daughter was killed. I learned to listen with her. And I felt compassion, completely. Never mind all the differences between us and what I might have thought about anything she had to say. I didn't think anything. I listened, and I learned from her. And I try to remember those lessons because, like all lessons, I have to learn them over and over again.
So I believe we learn compassion by learning to listen--really listen. I believe it's what makes us truly human: to listen to another person and to hear them them so completely that their life becomes our life, if only fleetingly. If you're Buddhist, you're saying, of course, that that's what our life has always been, anyway.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
No. Wait. I have this: on Thanksgiving morning, I called my dad. He's doing OK. He asked if I'd been out playing in the snow.
"Seen it before, huh?"
We commenced (that's a thing you do here, "commence") talking about all the snow we've known in our lives, about Riverton, Wyoming, at 52 below zero. About having to be dug out of our house by other folks, being snowed in in Plentywood, Montana. About the snow in Pinedale and Casper and Burlington and Littleton. Like that. This shit may be fun for people who've only ever seen a couple of inches. But for us? Hell. We've seen snow, been buried in snow, been in snow up over our heads, had to walk through snow because the cars wouldn't start.
We live here for a reason. And that reason ain't so we can see more snow. So while all the natives are yipping and doing donuts in the parking lot, we're hunkered down, trying to ignore the reminders of what Life is Like in the Frozen Tundra of the North. And how cold can make you vulnerable in ways you don't want to think about when you're on the far side of 40.
And that's all I have to say about it.
Friday, November 23, 2007
So I hung up on him, too. He didn't have good grammar, anyway.
And then I followed the instructions, which Keith, who called in the middle of it, likened to spinning around five times, spitting on the floor, and tossing salt over my left shoulder. That was pretty much it--he called while I was counting off the five seconds with my finger on the power button.
But it worked, and now I can once again use the card reader slot. Very, very odd--when it happens, your computer forgets it even HAS those G: and H: and etc. drives. Very vee-vee woo-woo.
So I spent only a little while back in bed under the covers crying and dripping snot. Not too bad, relatively speaking. Not like I wasted the whole day or anything.
I'm hoping that I'll figure out new coping strategies as we head off into the depths of winter and Holiday Hell. I've done what I can so far--booked reservations in New Orleans for Christmas, so there's that to look forward to. Tried to line up lots of work. Stocked up on latte mix. But I'm going to have to work harder, obviously. Another month and a half of this is not going to work.
I know it's grief. We know from experience with lots of grieving folks that, for some reason, about 18 months seems to be a turning point for many people. Why that is, I have no idea. And of course it's different for everyone. But I look forward, in that case, to February, which will be 18 months and will maybe mark a time when I can relax a little and let down my guard without the whole endless tape loop of my mother's last days in the hospital--confined to a net bed, restrained with straps, incontinent, asking me to take her home--starting up again in my head. Showering, riding my bicycle, waking up in the morning and lying in bed--those are the worst times. You have to be on guard just like you were warding off invaders. So I need some stronger weapons.
Crack would probably help. Also heroin.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
So, yeah. I've been all hoping that those dead baby bunnies were killed by, oh, some bunny-hood disease. Rickets, maybe? I don't know. Something quick and painless and natural. Not anything like, well, a predator. A fox, say. Or an owl (we used to have one around here, you know). Or a cat.
But the cats have been living in The Cat Palace. And it's been sad. So very sad. They're miserable. And I'm miserable. And The EGE? Getting it from every direction. The cats are whinging, all like, "Attica! Attica!" rattling the bars with their little paws. And I'm all moping around, thinking about how my mother would be haunting me about the whole Caged Animal Atrocity, if only I believed in the afterlife and ghosts and haunting and stuff. Which I do not. Good for me, as my mother as a ghost would scare the ever-loving pee right out of me.
This week has been lovely here. Like about 82 degrees every day. With no clouds. No wind. It's like a nasty joke being played by Mother Nature, were she a total skanky ho, which she is not. But I'm just saying: if she were, this would be it. Make this week so heartbreakingly lovely that you'll be taken by complete surprise on Friday--that would be the day after Turkey Day--when it's supposed to s-n-o-w. Yes! Y'all, this is a sick joke. It doesn't snow here until at least January, and then it's a little apologetic, half-hearted snow, kind of like, "Oh, yeah. Winter. I forgot. Here. Have some snow. 'K now?"
But yeah. Snow on Friday. That really sucks. But it's been so lovely before then that I've been--shhhhh!--letting the cats out during the day. For the most part--well, for a large part, anyway--they've kind of hung out with us. The EGE's working on a topper for the 8-ft fence, and I sit outside and stitch and lie in the grass with the cats, who really love me this week, since I'm not currently their hated jailer and all. Plus there's the pork: About 5 pm or so, I catch them and force them back into confinement, and their Hero, The EGE, gives them warmed-up ham, which he bought just for them, seeing as how we do not do pork in this house. Although Someone--that someone not being me, as you might surmise--does upon occasion eat pork prepared for him by other people. How he does this I do not know. I'd as soon eat. . . .well, I can't fill in that blank. I can't think of anything as loathsome as pork. Oh, sure, I'd eat it before I'd eat maggots. Or poop. Or barf. But that wasn't the point, was it? What was the point, by the way? Oh! How feeding ham to the cats is a sign of how much Someone spoils them. That was it.
Anyway. So all has gone well. Tomorrow's supposed to be the first sliding-into-cold day, where we're digging in our heels and trying to avoid it, as in Hell, No! We Won't Go! but without any choice in the matter, really. So I let the cats out and am in the house, taking a break, having a cup of coffee after the interview, in the Voodoo Lounge. And I hear this WHUMP and the crackle of leaves outside the window. It's the whump of something heavy coming over the fence and landing in the leaves, and before I even turn my head, I know what it is.
It's really funny, but for the hour or so preceding this loud whump, I'd been feeling more and more unhappy, ill at ease, dissatisfied with life. I'd decided it's the whole Holiday Thang, which is tough these days. I think about my mother a lot, about my dad (doing well but falling a lot). So I'd thought that's what it was, this dis-ease. But when I heard the sound and turned my head and looked out the window and saw my lovely Larry, he of the Elvis Presley eyes, landing in the leaves holding a half-grown, fluffy, struggling bunny by the back of the neck, I knew what it was. The whole time I'd been sitting in the house, trying to work, feeling odd and out of sorts, Larry had been hunting.
My stomach clenched, and I scrambled to my feet and hissed, through the screen, "Larry!" Now, the neighbors' house is right there, like 10 ft away. And all three of them--oh. Wait. Didn't I mention? The son--the father of the baby who "owns" the rabbits--has moved back in. And, for some reason, neither he nor the husband/boyfriend of The Cat Killer (nor the actual Killer herself) seem to have a job any more. They're home all day long. Now, in Midland, Texas, the unemployment rate has just dropped to the next-to-lowest rate ever, below 3%. It's the lowest in the state. And so if you don't have a job, it's because 1) you don't want a job or 2) you're too fucking weird to get hired even at McDonald's or Dairy Queen, which will pretty much hire people who come to fill out the application while wearing a jail uniform and handcuffs or 3) you have Some Secret Job.
I'm voting for #3. I think they're filming porn over there. Yes. Why? you ask. Well, they're all there--mother, son, mother's boyfriend/husband--all day long with all the doors and windows and "curtains" (and we use that term loosely; let's be honest and say "bedsheets hanging over the windows") closed. And here's the clincher: this week they added a folding cot bed to the detritus out in the back yard. Why would you do that, put a folding bed right out there in the yard with the weeds and rabbit poop and abandoned refrigerator? Well, because it's too skanky to keep in the house, but you don't want to throw it away. And why would that be? What circumstances would lead to having a bed too horrid to keep in the house, but one necessary enough not to throw away? Filming porn, of course! You get it dirty today and don't want it in the house but will need it again tomorrow!
So. They're all home filming porn. Silent porn. And the house is Right There. And Larry is right outside the window, with a baby bunny, and I'm trying to get his attention without alerting the neighbors. And I'm hissing at him, and he turns and looks at me, all like, "Oh, hai, Officer!" And I want to reach out through the screen and and grab him around his neck and shake him, and I simultaneously want to grab him and hide him and protect him.
"Get out of there!" Whispering. He bats his eyes at me and licks his lips.
I run and get shoes and go out the front and around the side, but that's right past their house. I go around the back and hiss through the fence, "Larry! Get in here now!" I hear ominous crackling, but no Larry. I race back into the house and look out through the window. He's crouched over, chewing. Shit. Back out into the back yard, more hissing. More chewing.
Finally I give up all pretense at being unseen and race around the front of the house and grab the hose and turn on the water and squirt towards Larry to drive him into our backyard. The problem with this is that, the last time I used the hose, I didn't seat the nozzle very well. So when I turn on the water, a huge gush shoots out the connection, into my face and up my nose and down the front of my t-shirt, so instead of being stealthy in shooing Larry away from the now-dead bunny and into the backyard, I'm shooting water all over the side of the neighbors' house and squealing with the icy water up my nose and down my chest and hissing, "Shit! Shit! Shit!"
I turn off the hose and run, crouching, dripping, back around to the back yard, where Larry, my little murderer, is lying on the patio, giving me the irresistible Elvis Eyes (the ones that mean, "I love you so dearly, you're my very favorite human ever, give me some ham") and luxuriously licking his lips. I drip over and grab him up, just knowing that, at any moment, the Male Porn Star (AKA, the boyfriend/husband, someone I do NOT want to even IMAGINE naked, much less SEE running out of the house wearing nothing but a Speedo and false eyelashes) will dash out with a shotgun and try to kill Larry. Or me. Or both of us. I grab him up and hustle him back to The Cat Palace, and damn him if he doesn't start purring, telling me how much he loves me and how grateful he is that I freed him from captivity long enough for him to keep his oh-so-necessary-for-survival hunting skills from completely abandoning him--because you KNOW that's how they think. And I'm hissing at him about how this is So Not Good and how he's ripped it for everyone else, and I lock him in The Cat Palace and set about rounding up the other three cats, all of whom trust me enough to come to me, tails up, and then are shocked to find themselves snatched up and shoved into the Prison of Despair, despite having done nothing wrong, personally, and it not being anywhere NEAR 5 pm (if it had been, they wouldn't have come near me. They can tell time, of course.)
So my little plan to give them some degree of freedom, to end their agony at being caged and my misery at depriving them of the only thing they have, really, went awry. An innocent bunny is dead, lying at the side of the house. I now know that Larry, my sweet, fluffy, lovable Larry, is a true hunter: he hunts because he can't not hunt, never mind that he's getting tons of extra food plus ham and is, like all the rest of the caged cats, beginning to put on weight. Never mind that--he's a hunter. And so, as long as there are baby rabbits next door, loose among the weeds and household furniture and film props, he can't be free, even for a little while.
And now I have to wonder: how long will this go on? How many litters of rabbits will these people have in that yard before they smack themselves in the forehead and go, "Duh. Guess all those jokes about rabbits screwing were really true. Huh. Who'd a' thunk?" Sure, it's against the law for them to have loose rabbits in their yard (City Ordinance 6-2-12.5 says they have to be inside an enclosed building with a solid door), but The EGE doesn't want me to call and turn them in and escalate things.
Well. I've begun having Bunny Dreams. And Maxwell dreams--Larry reminds me, more than any cat, of Maxwell, who, in my dreams, comes and sits off to the side and watches me to see how I'm going to deal with the bunnies. Maxwell Did Not Hunt. It wasn't his job. He had no interest. Too messy, too boring, too predictable. Plus he lived inside and had better things to do: be with me 24 hours a day and play Lions & Tigers & Bears, which involved both of us crawling on all fours and growling and leaping out at each other from behind furniture.
Lord, I miss that cat.
Well, anyway. Such was the adventure of today. All the cats are locked away now, eating dinner. I plan to put the whole day out of my mind and pretend that it never happened. The snow will come. The cats will be snug in their Palace, under the heat lamps that The EGE has set up for them. And the bunnies will be busy screwing and taking over the planet. Revenge of the Rabbits. Where's Mothra when you need her?
Monday, November 19, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Then I'll read this one, which I read years ago and liked and couldn't find in the library again. So I finally bought a used copy from amazon.com for a penny. And this one. It's a collection of columns by a columnist for the Times-Picayune. I'm interested in seeing how he handled this and how he writes. I've always wanted to write a column. Duh. Blogging is about as close to it as you can get. Without the paycheck, of course.This is one that's a compilation of pieces from NPR. My friend Wendy was listening to them and recommended them, but I don't listen to the radio and so just bought the book. I read a couple of pieces standing in the bookstore--just enough to know I wanted the book. If I buy a book new, in hardback, it means either 1) I've read enough to know I have to have it NOW or 2) I know the author and want to support them.
This one was interesting but could have been ever-so-much better with more photos and more information about what inspired the people who kept the sketchbooks. There was one sketchbook that was about OCD, about having to turn lights off, compulsively, for fear of fire. That could have been so fascinating, but it was all treated dryly, with no spark and no humor and not enough photos. I often wonder why some people bother to write books at all. If it's not going to live up to its potential, why do it? There's nothing worse than getting a book that you're so excited about and then reading it, hoping with each chapter that it's going to get better and then, with each chapter, becoming more and more disappointed, knowing what it could have been and seeing how far short of that it falls.
This one I found in a bookstore near the flagship Whole Foods in Austin--was it Book People? I think it must have been. We went with Wendy, and I found this book and was just entranced. It interviews people about their tattoos and why they get them. The book was too expensive, so I came home and ordered it on-line. It's amazing, although I wish there were photos in color. Because the black and white photos were taken in the people's houses, it's kind of odd--like you're seeing these unsmiling people in unflattering settings. So normal (ie, untattooed) people have to get past that to see the work, some of which is really good. What I like is hearing what people think about their tattoos--why they get them, what they mean to them, how they make them feel. A lot of tattoos seem to be about rebellion, feeling disenfranchised, wanting to speak out. (I'm sure you can guess what mine are about: a way to put color on my skin! Of course.)Then I got a couple of drawing books by this guy--this one and one other. You know I'm trying to learn how to draw, and I thought this would be good. I love this book--it's more for someone who already draws, but it's terrific for ideas of what you can do.
Then a couple of really inspiring books. I love these.
And Keely Barham's new zine, Stray Stitches. I love Keely's work, and I couldn't wait to get this. I have to say I was disappointed, though, because it has hardly any text at all except for her felting instructions. When I get something like this, I want to read about inspiration--show me a photo of what you did, and then tell me where you got the idea for it, and how you started, and what the hard parts were and what you used. Show me works in progress. For $10 ($8 plus shipping), you get 20 pages of color copies. If you like just photos, that's a good deal. And I do love seeing what Keely's doing, so I'll probably order the next issue. But, again, it's a case of It Could Have Been So Much Better. Maybe that's just me--maybe everyone else likes just photos.
Then this one, which was way fun. It was NOT a case of Could Have Been So Much Better. It's pretty damn good just the way it is. Lots of stuff to get your brain going with ideas.Then there's this, a compilation issue of Somerset Studio. Now, I have no problems with compilations as long as you KNOW that's what they are and aren't expecting a whole new bunch of cool stuff. In this case, it looks like (I haven't really looked at it yet) there's stuff from years ago--some pieces written by one of my past editors, for example--that I, of course, do not remember. In glancing through it, I was like, "Oh, that looks cool!" and not remembering having seen it before. So it'll be lots of fun to look at. For people like me, old stuff re-issued is almost as good as new stuff. There are good things about having a bag memory. Oh, sure, I could go in there and pull out all my back issues (and you know I have every single one), but this is soooo much less trouble.
And then this book, just out, that I can't wait to look at. I'd forgotten all about it, and when Jamie Fingal said she was sending me my copy (I have a piece in it), I thought it was about purses. Duh. It's wall pieces, small quilts, fabric hangings. I can't wait to get into this one--so of course I'm saving it, teasing myself by having it out on the bed but not looking at it.
I forgot to photograph the current issue of Craft, one of my favorites. It's always good for tons of ideas and links to artists' websites. If you haven't already, check it out. It's expensive, and at first, I refused to buy it. But then my friend Karen sent me a copy, and boy, I was hooked. I love this magazine.
And that's it, my little chickadees! Now you see why I never, ever get bored. In addtion to work, and the fabric projects, and things I want to try--I also have all these books and magazines. I'd love to go out and lie in the hammock and read all afternoon, but then I wouldn't get to go look for a tripod for my video camera (The EGE's using the one we have) or hunt for wool sweaters at Goodwill so I can try felting them (and telling you about it if I do) or run or go to Michael's, since I have a couple of 50% off coupons good for today only. Oh, my. I need more time. . . .Bet you do, too.
Then go get some thread and play!