gall and gumption

Monday, June 28, 2010

Further West, More Mysterious

I don't know if you can read the text. It says

Welcome to the " Happy Girls" world. Lots of fabulous dreams and adventures are in store for you!And the odds are you will survive it!

Odds are that you won't, though, realistically speaking. Sorry.

This is the jewel of my small collection of Korean children's notebooks. I'd probably have more of them if I hadn't moved away from the source, which was a supermarket out near the Tick Ranch. They cost a dollar each, though I did pay $4 for one that had a sort of rodent (guinea pig? capybara?) in overalls standing in a little sailboat, apparently setting out to sea from an Italian fishing village. Every few weekends or so I'd run to this supermarket (it was also where I bought dog food garnish) and go into the kids' and babies' section to look for notebooks because they were so completely awesome. And I'd certainly have more of them if I didn't give them away.

But after all what else can one do with a bunch of wacky Korean notebooks? I have been giving them away as gifts but only to people who appreciate their specialness. Sometimes these recipients appreciate it a little too much: one twelve-year-old, given her choice of several, turned down the one with the mysterious blue fuzzy animal driving his convertible and grinning like a maniac because she said "It was too creepy." It was hard to disagree, to tell the truth.

Anyway I sort of forgot that I had these wonderful things until I found myself describing them to someone at the Big International Organization where I'm working now. And then I thought of someone else there who might like one, so tonight I pulled them off the shelves to admire them again, and to share with you, my small but select readers.

For those who might be frightened by the dark undertones of Happy Girls, I think you'll find you're safe with Chip Chip Star:

Again, the text:

Look at Chip Chip Star. She may be small, but she's very fashionable.

Rock on, Chip Chip Star! And to hell with the odds!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

More Sardinia for You

This is near the very very old church in the seaside town of Porto Torres. The church is behind me but I liked the old columns with the scooter and the laundry. Why can't we have peeling plaster like they do in Italy, is what I want to know. Why does their plaster peel in exactly the right way? How do they do that? For that matter, how do they make unpainted cinderblock look so interesting?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

4:16 a.m.

Dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit Goddamit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

No More Horizontal Blogging

This morning in a joint effort at a full trifecta of stupid my Dad and I had our laptops stolen from the apartment while he was dropping me at the Metro station. I believe that between us we left nothing undone to ensure that it would happen.

The one time when I would rather like having Misha be a big fat belligerent hysterical German shepherd menace she was not on the scene. She was with us, in the car, barking at pedestrians, which is worse than useless.

I was just arriving at work when my Dad called and told me the news. I spent the rest of the day feeling slightly but persistently nauseated, my appetite quite gone. I felt like I'd been punched in the head.

It's strange but towards the end of the day (I was putting off coming home as long as I could) it seemed to me that this little burglary felt worse than after the attack in St. Kitts. I suppose it is possible that I felt as punch-drunk then as I felt most of the day: I remember that I missed a flight to Jamaica and ended up spending two nights in Antigua instead, alone in this kooky old hotel on a beach far out of town, it was the one my therapist used for workshops so she and her husband parked me there when I told them what had happened.

Perhaps because in the various Life Catastrophically Going To Hell Scenarios that I mentally rehearse on a regular basis, the first instruction to self is always "Pack up the dogs and the laptop..." usually in the car, where we are going to live when the bottom falls out of the universe or the sky falls in or whatever is the scary prospect I think up in the middle of the night.

And in the middle of the night was when I and my stolen laptop had our best good times.

I believe the chances of recovering it are negligible, and luckily I had backed up most of what was on it and saved what was irretrievable except for a couple dozen iTunes. Could have been worse. Well, no, the stupidity could hardly have been worse, really.

You won't mind if I don't tell you about the stupidity, do you?

At least not today. It's just so embarrassing.

The new desktop I bought, with the big screen for editing, was too big for the burglar to take away, so I'm writing this post on it and it will be HQ for a while. But until I get a new laptop there will be no editing while watching bad TV and good movies.

I shall miss that. Over the next few weeks I'll think about replacing it. I could take this event as an opportunity to change my habits I guess. I am such a slave to routine!

I never know whether that's because I'm getting older or because I'm still bracing myself against the crazy from a long time ago. I spent six years in one of these crazymaking personal relationships. If you ever hear someone say "I don't know why he/she stays with him/her when he's so abusive," you could read that piece, or you could ask me. I was only dealing with verbal abuse and I can tell you I spent three years just disoriented, simply unable to make any kind of rational sense out of what was happening. That was because only one of the two of us was allowed to make any sense out of anything, and it wasn't me. I believed that I was horribly messed up in my head, dishonest; I had an "agenda" though I could not understand what the agenda was, only he could; I talked bullshit regularly without knowing it and I was too phony to understand why it was bullshit; that was why it didn't matter that I gave up my bullshit career, and why it didn't matter how I felt about it; that was why he had no plan for any kind of future, because we couldn't even think about something like that until I got myself straightened out and stopped being such a mess and he'd tell me when, because (it goes without saying) only he could be trusted to make a plan. But of course he was never going to tell me I was OK. Never.

Anyway right about the time when I discovered, years later, freedom as something to look forward to even more than looking forward to "not being hegged and harrassed right out of my goddam mind," but as something for me to make something with, that's when I got that laptop. And what I wanted to make was writing. Now there was nothing between me and writing.

Do you remember the Horrible Job that was the reason why I moved to the Tick Ranch? OK that job behaved like that ex. Everybody was working way more than 40 hours. Management were going to fix it but first everybody had to give 150 percent and if they weren't giving 150 percent then they wouldn't deserve all the good things that would come eventually when management fixed it and we were all going to be shitting gold doubloons and it was our fault if we weren't there yet. We weren't trying hard enough...

I have never hated a job so much as I hated that one. I knew what was happening. At night, out at the Tick Ranch, I was really alone, which I needed and wanted. When I quit the job and had to commute nearly two hours each way to work in DC again I was happy, it was like this actual happiness that I had made by my choice and not expected from anybody else (see? maybe that was me not them). I am a slow learner at choosing for myself. But I felt myself to be coming along, and I know that one reason was because of that laptop. I was alone but I wasn't lonely. It was a lifeline to the people that I care about.

Now, this is sort of silly. I mean, I should have known better than to get attached to a piece of office equipment. Moreover I have all the work, sitting here on my desk in the little hard drive. And eventually that dependable little machine was going to give out anyway. Have I really lost anything valuable? I have lost a bit of history, I guess--as if there isn't enough history choking up this apartment. I don't know, maybe I have been liberated from something.

Well, I suppose over the next few weeks I'll see.

Update: I should clarify: when I said "Now there was nothing between me and writing," I don't mean to suggest that this person tried to keep me from writing. He actually encouraged me to write, but without understanding any better than I did why I was so demoralized. And I probably would never have allowed myself to try drawing and painting without his encouragement. That was one of many things I'm grateful to him for. I know that people who act like that are not necessarily evil, even though what they do can really hurt other people. I say this, and I still occasionally get mad sometimes, mostly at myself, for not understanding sooner just how screwed up the whole relationship was. But I was afraid to. So when I say that nothing got between me and writing I mean that I finally got desperate enough, I finally got to the point where I could believe that I, unassisted, might manage my life better, including writing. I gave up the belief that a whole bunch of other stuff had to be in place before I could write or live as me: that I needed to be securely attached to some guy I was in love with, that I needed to live somewhere else, I needed different space, more time, more money, before writing could happen. I mean, it would be nice to have more money, more time, a bigger apartment, less goofiness of dogs, etc. In my past belief that all these things had to be in place first, you can maybe see how I was running a "sick system" all by myself and the relationship disasters were just sort of supplementary assistance.

My feeling about time changed. The big change was beginning to believe that I had everything I needed (dog, laptop, books, art supplies). What I mean is that if these things (plus of course friends and you, my small and select readers) were all I had, then what I had was what I wouldneed to begin with. I sort of gave up the past, the expectations I had brought forward out of the past--well, it would be more accurate to say I forgot them. The future was easier to forget, as I am temperamentally disposed to the darkest pessimism. Anyway I hope I've made the difference clear.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Thiesi, Sardinia, is where Pecorino Romano cheese comes from. On a visit there we had lunch with Jeff's friend Cecilia who teaches at the elementary school where Jeff teaches his book-making class. For dessert she served us fresh Ricotta cheese (from sheep, not cows), made just the day before, with honey poured over it. If someone ever offers you this dessert, just don't ask any questions, forget about your weight or your other issues. You don't want to miss it.

I'm actually back, but I was having problems uploading photos while I was there, so I couldn't post any pictures and I was peeved. Also totally knackered at the end of every day. I don't know how to account for the font change but if it doesn't bother you we'll just live with it for now.

(Photo by Kia)

Update: Corrected spelling of Thiesi, Thankyewveddymuch buckner.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Oh, Death!

This is a one of several impressive family crypts and tombs in the city cemetery of Sassari, Sardinia, where I'm spending a long week. Death is hauling these people toward the tomb entrance like a fisherman hauling in a net of fish. There's something about that meeting of the fictive and the real in this that just gets me. The tomb confers some of its actuality on the sculpture, and the sculpture invests the tomb with its meaning and emotional power--reality and imagination supporting each other. I have never seen anything quite like it. And yet it is after all just the tomb of some Sardinian solid citizen.

(Photo by Kia)