On the Fourth Day of Halloween, My True Love Gave to Me….

Douglas Fairbanks knew about suspended disbelief. (Image from the Douglas Fairbanks Museum.)

…twitches.

Under my left eye.

Actually, my true love did not give them to me: Halloween did.

Wonder Woman is not supposed to have twitches.

But Wonder Woman is not supposed to have varicose veins either.

That’s what happens when you’re a copy of a copy of a copy. Glitches appear.

That’s what happens when fantasy meets reality. Incongruities surface.

I baked my 60-minute red fleece corset for 30 minutes at 150 degrees to dry the gold fabric paint in time for the party. As a chaser, I blew it dry.

I didn’t bother with a gold lasso of truth. Ropes, toddlers, bad combination. And who wants the truth, anyway? (“I hit my brudder cuz he took my Buzz Lightyear.”)

I do.

I crave it.

We all crave it.

And we crave escape from it, too.

There is a lovely place for suspended disbelief. It’s the place we inhabit when we read, watch movies, daydream, pull on a costume and pretend to be a superhero.

I think that’s one reason I like the Richard Scarry books so much. His characters live in a world in which Uncle William the pig can make a ferocious sea monster disguise out of shells and palm fronds, and scare the marauding rat pirates and Auntie Pastry, too. It’s like all the characters are great with costumes and are extremely myopic.

Or, they just have the mentality of a three year-old.

I gotta get me some of that.

But in the  meantime, I gotta get me some sleep. In our world (as Mbot likes to say), Halloween started Friday morning and didn’t end ’til an hour ago. Four days. Four Halloween parties. It’s like some reality show that should have been canceled a long time ago. I’ve had enough of this Halloween on a Monday thing. Let’s start a petition for it always to be on the last Saturday of October.

And then let’s turn out the light.

On second thought, let’s turn out the light first.

Halloween on the last Saturday of October: Yay? Nay?

Twelve Over Forty: The Literary Superhero’s List of Olde Reads

One of the advantages of being a forty-four year old mother of weebots is that I know of a lot of good picture books that are as old as I am. And so, in the spirit of the latest overused literary marketing tool–displaying the talents of the young (Narrative’s “Fifteen below Thirty”, The New Yorker’s “Twenty under Forty”)–I’ve compiled a list of the exceptional old. I call it “Twelve Over Forty.”

I did not consult a panel and no surveys were done. My criteria were simple: either 1. as a child, I loved the book, 2. Mbot and/or Gbot loves the book and asks for it repeatedly, or 3. both of the above.

1. A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Originally a piece written for radio and recorded by Dylan Thomas in 1952, this lyrical tale was first published as a book two years later as part of a collection by New Directions. This edition, published in 1985 by Holiday House, is available online from Barnes and Noble, with unused copies running upwards of $20, which is worth it for the lush watercolor illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. I wasn’t introduced to this ’til my twenties, and fell immediately in love. I’ve been reading it to Mbot since he was born, and although I know he doesn’t understand much of it, he’s as mesmerized as I am by the pictures, the language, and the high adventure:

“Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slide and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared. ”

I am a sucker for the lyrical and the slyly humorous; this snowballs the reader with both.

2. Burt Dow, Deep Water Man

“One morning, the cock crowed ‘cockty-doodly,’ and Leela rattled her stove lids klinkey-klink, shouting, ‘Hit the deck, Burt, time to eat!’ And Burt came downstairs winking and blinking his sleepy eyelids and ate his breakfast.” So begins the day of Burt Dow, an old deep-water man, who goes out cod fishing and catches a bigger adventure than he’d planned on. Published in 1963, this was Robert McCloskey‘s last book, and it’s easily as good as his better known Newbery winners, Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in MaineIt’s unfashionably long, these days, but worth reading in installments.

The way Burt gets himself out of a whale’s tummy looks to me like a playful homage to Jackson Pollack, whose drip paintings became so influential in the decade before Burt Dow chugged on the scene in his sea-worn dory the Tidely Idley, with “a firm hand on the tiller, giggling gull flying along behind.”

3. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry.

This is one of those books that is so simple and seemingly unimpressive that you wonder why it pulls on you days and years after reading it, like the chorus of a good song. I loved it as a kid. Mbot loved it as a two year-old. Gbot loves it now. It has under 150 words–I didn’t have a chance to count them before it disappeared from the coffee table. But “I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas,” has the staying power of “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

4. Richard Scarry’s The Great Pie Robbery

I don’t want this post to turn into a promo for Richard Scarry, but although I was weened on the Greatest Storybook Ever and Richard Scarry’s Busytown, both of which Mbot has loved, literally, to tatters, I didn’t discover The Great Pie Robbery until I was over forty. I’d say it’s among Mbot’s favorite five books, right up there with Your Body Battles a Stomachache by Vicky Cobb (see Recycle Robot vs. Sister Mary Villus.)

The key to raising literate children: starting them on books before they can escape?

5. Richard Scarry’s Busytown  is probably the top favorite in this household. According to Mbot this morning: “My best book in the whole wide world.” The pictures often tell a parallel but often more detailed much funnier story than the words–for example, there’s a pig that loses his hat, and although nothing is written about him, he can be found chasing it through several of Richard Scarry’s books.

6. Petunia

By Roger DuVoisin, Petunia enjoyed a fiftieth anniversary edition in 2000. The story about a silly goose who thinks carrying around a book will make her wise, and sets about ruining the barnyard animals’ lives with her false knowledge, has just enough repetition, craziness, and cleverness to captivate. A box firecrackers that almost blows up the animals makes it all the more attractive for the toddler set. Available on Amazon.

7. Mop Top

Don Freeman could put his shoes under my bed anytime. He brought us Corduroy, Dandelion, the excellent and lesser known Norman the Doorman, and the excellent and almost completely unknown Mop Top, published by Scholastic Books in 1955. Not until I’d opened the fifty pounds of books Mom had sent from Idaho and read this to Mbot did I realize that Mr. Freeman wasn’t only a great illustrator and storyteller, but a poet, too. His prose are rich with internal rhythm and rhyme–maybe one reason I remembered after all these years the little boy who didn’t want to get his hair cut. Read this aloud:  “‘I thought maybe you forgot,’ said roly-poly Mister Barberoli. ‘But you’re right on the dot. It’s exactly four!’ Then in one long leap, Moppy was up on the barber-chair seat ready to get his hair cut nice and neat.”

8. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

By  DuBose Heyward, illustrated by Margerie Flack. 1939. Available on Amazon. I only remembered this book from my childhood as if from a dream, and so it was strange to read it to Mbot, because I remembered nothing but the feeling it had given me, a warm, soft, safe feeling. Now that I’m a mother, I appreciate it even more because it’s about a hardworking, kind, and resourceful mommy bunny who wins the coveted position of Easter Bunny and rises to the task–delivering Easter baskets all over the world in a single night, it turns out, is nothing compared to raising baby bunnies to be good citizens. In a magical turn at the end, she flies to the top of a snowy alp in a pair of golden shoes to deliver her last basket to a sick little boy. Since no one I know is familiar with this story, I find it as strange as it is wonderful that it’s available on Amazon and that the author and illustrator are Wikipediable.

9. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod 

“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night sailed off in a wooden shoe/Sailed on a river of crystal light, into a sea of dew….” So begin the nighttime adventures of the fishermen three. First published by Riverside Press in 1915, this poem by Eugene Field appears in countless anthologies and has been set to music. This  edition, illustrated by Johanna Westerman in blue-toned watercolor paintings, is so gorgeous that I want to frame the pages and hang them on my wall. Mbot and Gbot like to find the kitty cat in every picture. North-South books, 1995, available on Amazon.

10. Santa Mouse

This Christmas rodent from 1966 never became as famous as his contemporary, Rudolph, but he’s got lasting appeal. Author Michael Brown wrote a sequel, illustrated, like the original, by Elfieda DeWitt. Predictably, the sequel’s not nearly as good, although it could start a fun family tradition of planting small yellow-wrapped gifts in the Christmas tree.

Here we have an angel singing the praises of cheese. Which I can understand. “Now through the year, this little mouse/Had saved one special thing:/A piece of cheese!/The kind that makes the angels want to sing.”

That line alone establishes Michael Brown’s inclusion in the Literary Superhero’s library. Published by Sandy Creek and available through Amazon.

11. The Plant Sitter

Here’s another sleeper by the creators of a classic, this time Harry the Dirty Dog, by author/illustrator team Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham. Published by Scholastic Books in 1959, The Plant Sitter is perfect in every way, except that it’s available on Amazon, but not for under $50.

In my favorite illustration, our industrious young protagonist dreams that the plants he’s volunteered to take care of grow so big they twine together and knock down the walls of the house. His clients are calling, “Where are my plants? Where are my plants?” He awakens to his father yelling, “Wear are my pants? Where are my pants?”

12. Just So Stories  by Rudyard Kipling, illustrated by Nicolas. This edition, O Best Beloved, published by Doubleday in 1952, is available on Amazon. This month, Mbot’s favorite of the twelve short tales is “How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin:” “Once upon a time, on an uninhabited island on the shores of the Red Sea, there lived a Parsee from whose hat the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendour. And the Parsee lived by the Red Sea with nothing but ahis hat and his knife and a cooking-stove of the kind that you must particularly never touch….”

Although peppered with words that are no longer socially acceptable, like “oriental,” this is Kipling at, in my opinion, his best. Displaying brevity, strong character sketches, conflict, humor, poetry, irony, and perfect narrative arc, each tale could be used to teach a novel-writing course. Best in short doses, because the word-to-picture ratio is high, and because, too, the language, while beautiful, can twist a forty-four year-old’s tongue and baffle a thirty-nine month-old brain. Maybe someday I will become an editor at a major publishing house and issue a 32-page picture book for each story. I’m not sure who I’d hire to illustrate it, but someone whose pictures were as luscious as the prose. The world would be a richer place.

There you have it: Twelve over forty. There are many notable books I have not included.  And now the obvious question: What are your favorite picture books over forty years old?

For Those About to Face-Paint, I Salute You

A pro bass fisherman carries his own Arbogast Hula Popper.(available for $5.79 from Cabela's)

If assassination happens to be your line of work, you don’t locate your victim and then ask to borrow his 44. Likewise, a chef always carries her own knives, a bartender his wine key and apron, a bass fisherman his lucky lure. So why, when I signed up to work the face-painting table at Mbot’s preschool Halloween party, did I arrive empty-handed, allowing my success–at least partially–to rest in the hands of those who would provide my equipment, and who probably had spent as much time face-painting as I had ( none)?

Beforehand, I’d been worried about remembering what a frog looks like. Other than that, I was pretty confident about my rudimentary drafting skills. A bat, a pumpkin, a ghost, all within my artistic reach. Still, pride had urged me to practice a little beforehand, but I got so involved making Mbot’s Spiderman costume, I didn’t have time. I comforted myself remembering that Mrs. Pursell had stressed the bar would be set very, very low.

It only works if you are on your knees. (www.novel-events.com)

I hadn’t known it would be a limbo bar.

It wasn’t, actually–it just seemed that way when I realized, to my horror, that, as usual, I’d been worried about the wrong thing.

My first client, a four year-old dressed as a princess, asked for a butterfly on her cheek. A butterfly. A butterfly. I visualized Eric Carle’s post-cocoon caterpillar and dug my brush confidently into my makeup palette. It turned out I should have been losing sleep over whether the brushes would be too flimsy to dent the cakey makeup (yes), and if the makeup would uncake if mixed with water (no, not really, even when jabbed repeatedly with the flimsy brushes). The pink makeup went on clumpy, so I tried to add water, and it turned scrubby and translucent. After sixty seconds of intense concentration, the butterfly looked distinctly like a skin disorder, the kind my siblings and I loved to look at as kids in the hospital library while we were waiting for The Guru to finish his rounds. A wipie saved me and the princess and I started over, chirping, “Almost done!” in a voice I hoped registered joy.

I flailed away. The paints did not want to be tamed. I had to consciously stop myself from mumbling excuses about my equipment. It would have made me look petty, like I was blaming my materials for my near-misses with failure as I was presented with one smooth trusting upturned cheek after another. I finally figured out how to make large simple shapes by crushing the recalcitrant cakes into submission.

UK-based Chris Kuhn probably doesn't squirm or turn his head while he is painting his face. (www.pinewooddesign.co.uk)

Fortunately, Randy, my partner, was the father of a six year-old daughter, and he was an old hand, having sat at the face painting table last year. That he volunteered for this a second year in a row instead of, say, manning the fishing station, which involves clipping treats to the end of a line dangled behind a reef-painted room divider, suggested he was either very good at face painting or that he just thought he was very good.  It turned out he was okay, although it was hard to tell, given the stubbornness of our materials, and it was a good thing Randy was the one who got asked to do a mermaid. With two boybots, I couldn’t have drawn a  convincing picture of Ariel if I’d been threatened with having to be a cheeseburger.

A better bet for the amateur: Fantasy F-X water-based face paint from http://www.mallets.com

Half way through the party, my performance rose when, in desperation, I opened three little tubes of paint–white, black, and green–that Randy had brought in addition to the palettes of useless grease. At least they went on smooth, leaving me and my eye-hand coordination as the lowest common denominator.

The last kid who sat down in front of me was dressed as I don’t know what–he could have been one of Robin Hood’s merry men in his drab medieval-looking garb, except that his face didn’t look merry. “What do you want on your face?” I asked gaily. “A monster? A ghost?” He shook his head and said in that hushed whisper that all midgets use to express their deepest face painting fantasies, “Spiderman.”

Spiderman.

The night before, I’d Googled “spiderman images.” I’d studied spidey eyes, cut out a pair, and zigzagged stitched around them, twice. I’d propped the netbook on the table, squeezed a red fleece mask over a birthday balloon, balanced it in a kitchen bowl, and squinted at the screen as I squeezed glow-in-the-dark 3D fabric paint webbing on the fuzzy red dome.

On a cheek: a simple red oval. White eyes. Black webs. Spiderman, I could do.

Consulting a mirror, the unmerry man grinned. I’d squeezed under the bar.

"There's a crazy lady making your face look like a bowl of melted rainbow sherbet? I'm on my way."

Have you risen to the occasion, or squeezed under the bar, poorly armed, lately?

So This Bunny Goes into a Phone Booth….

Available in 1969, still on shelves in 2011.

On second thought, maybe it is not a pattern for a bunny suit, but for a puppy suit with a gratuitous ruff. No matter. The relevant point is that no sewing pattern manufacturer has obtained licenses from Marvel Comics. And so, this indistinct pink pawed creature from the sixties can–with scissors, a measuring tape, a short stack of printer paper, Scotch tape,  a yard each of red and blue fleece, a tube of glow-in-the-dark 3D fabric paint, sixteen inches of Velcro, and thirty-four cents worth of white mesh–go into a patio home in West Phoenix and come out…

Is the real reason Peter Parker wears this suit to hide his pull-ups?

…Spiderman!

Red socks over rain boots sold separately.

And, thanks to the miracle that is fleece, you can be a super hero and be fluffy, too. (See I Just Wanted You to be Something Fluffy.)

Have you effected a stunning transformation?

Things I Didn’t Learn in a Tyvek Suit

I did not make this sculpture. It's Peter Kovacsy's "Wood You Like Me To Seduce You," turned and carved in Western Australia from sheoak wood, MDF, brass foil, and lacquer.

Almost twenty years ago I was in Australia, deep in the karri forests south of Perth. Two months earlier, in New Zealand, I had met the man who I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. We’d spent three days together before he returned to the States to finish school while I continued my budget walkabout.

In the tourist office in Perth, I saw a brochure for a three-day wood turning class in a tiny town called Pemberton, and used the last of my funds to pay for a ticket on a bus whose springs had given in during the Carter administration. It wound down dirt roads until I disembarked, many hours later, where the sidewalk ended, in one hundred and ten degree heat. I consulted the map on the back of the brochure, headed down a dusty road in a forest, and found Peter Kovacsy.

He had only just opened a wood shop big enough to accompany four or five students, adjacent to a mudbrick home he and his wife had built by hand. Teaching would bring in some income, he’d thought.

Not much, that week, it turned out: I was his only student. Just as well, because I think I was full-time work. For three days I stood over a wood lathe wearing a white Tyvek jumpsuit and goggles that made me look like I should be removing asbestos from something or singing Whip It.  Before that, I’d been a stranger to power tools any larger than a blowdryer.

Peter was smaller and at least ten years older than I was. For hours broken only by his wife bringing us plums plucked from a backyard vine or calling us to lunch, he patiently instructed me as I held the tip of a steel chisel to a block of jarrah spinning at five hundred revolutions per minute, trying to absorb everything he’d told me. Trying to use a gentle hand. It was easy to push too hard and cut away too much. It was easy to not push hard enough, which produced a shallow curve that echoed my temerity.

I told Peter about the boy I’d met. The one I’d begun planning my life around.

Peter told me to forget about him. Or not forget, exactly–just to let him go.

I did that once, he said. Met a girl. Three days. He shook his head and looked over his lathe through memory. Best three days of my life.

But why? I asked. If it was so good, why didn’t you want it to be more?

Some things, he replied, are best left as they are.

On the morning of the fourth day, I boarded the antique bus back to Perth with a surprisingly beautiful paperknife and a graceless bowl of my own making in my knapsack, leaving Peter, with his tiny front room gallery filled with exquisite paperknives and bowls that held the sun beneath their polished skins. Before I went, Peter turned me a goblet less than an inch tall. It was the work of perhaps five minutes, the minutes a work of years. The stem was so fine–a thirty-second of an inch?–that I was almost afraid to hold it. Peter, who knew when a thing was done.

Peter’s gallery is no longer tiny. He still teaches. He exhibits internationally.

When I returned to the States, the boy asked me to marry him. I said yes. I broke the engagement three months before the wedding. But it took another year to leave him.

Are you good at knowing when a thing is done?

White Clouds - Blue Sky by Peter Kovacsy, cast glass

The Secret Lives of Editors

A year ago I was in New York for two days with a group of students to meet with agents and editors. The first day we met a high-powered agent downtown, a woman who looked like she was returning from a day at the beach except for the black hip-hugging dress and heels. I’ll call her XXbot. The next day we were uptown in a conference room with a high-powered editor. I’ll call him XYbot. We had been given explicit instructions from our program director not to mention either of them to the other. They were exes.

The second day, we assembled ourselves around a mammoth conference table with the editor, Central Park glowing, all amber and green, several blocks north and three hundred feet below, bestsellers and the movie posters of screen versions of bestsellers lining the walls. XYbot told us about how he spends a lot of time reading book proposals in order to discover new projects.

“The things that I really love, I always know it, in the first five pages,” he said.

It sounded so much like he was talking about a first date that I’d actually expected him to say minutes. “There’s this chemistry,” he added. “We spend a lot of time hoping to be excited. If you don’t see something you really like for a while, you begin to doubt yourself, try to convince yourself that something, you know, is better than it is.”

How familiar this sounded from my many years of dating. I wondered if he realized he was speaking in the language of romance. He continued, describing the moment of discovery. “When the proposal is out there, it just seems—” and he arced his open hand in the air above his head—“like anything is possible.”

Of course. The proposal. That sets the long, hard work of marriage in motion. The beginning, at which point the two of you could fly.

At one point, XYbot looked around the table at us and asked, “Who else have you seen here in New York?”

The only name I could think of was XXbot. The air in the room hung with our hesitation. “A-bot over at the Times Magazine,” someone said at last.

“B-bot from downstairs,” said someone else.

“C-bot at Foundry.”

“D-bot at The New  Yorker.

There was a silence. “XXbot! XXbot! XXbot!” I wanted to blurt, noting that there was not even the ghost of a tan line on the fourth finger of XYbot’s left hand, and wanting to know when and why and how. I imagined the New York style wedding gifts–crystal and crisp linens, perhaps–divided, wondering how the hurt and recriminations and weariness had been divided, wondering if he was an asshole and if she was a bitch, wondering who of two obviously passionate  workaholics was fatally inattentive,  who changed, who didn’t. Wondering if it was simply a case of optimistic youth taking a leap of faith and finding that gravity was just too strong.

I loved them both in that moment, more than I had reason to.

What have you loved unreasonably lately?

Good Morning, It’s the Sister That You Don’t Have, Calling

Set of seven available at japtou.com for USD $31.45 + $12.00 shipping.

My voice mailbox is my ten shelf-feet of National Geographic (see Saving the World, One Stick of Secret at a Time),  and it’s my sister’s  fault. There are only four minutes out of thirty available to future message-leavers because I save her messages, meaning to transcribe them. Obviously, I do not do this in a timely manner, but I managed to do one this morning. I have included it below:

“Hi. I am just calling to fill you in on my new beauty tactic for my makeup regime. I got the idea after assembling all the photos and getting so tired of seeing myself so wrinkly….Here’s my idea. Usually what I’ve done in the past is I apply makeup and then I smile.

custom application available at http://www.refina.co.uk

“I don’t really, I don’t smile at myself in the mirror. But I smile afterward at people. What I think I would be better off doing is, I’m going to smile into the mirror and then I’m going to take a trowel and I’m going to apply makeup  and fill in the cracks and I’m just going to keep that smile on my face–all day. And then no one will know that I have any wrinkles and I’ll be perpetually smiling. And that’s what I’m doing on the phone as I talk. And I’m not sure if you can tell the difference in my tone of voice. It sounds slightly different to me. So anyway, I’m  just introducing you to the new me.”

I think she’s on to something. Not necessarily with the makeup tip, although it sounds cheaper than Botox without the residual numbness for six to eight weeks.

Not even the Titan 1 electron microscope could reveal the wrinkles. (www.fei.com)

And not necessarily with the perpetual smile, although they say phone salesmen should smile while they talk because you really can tell. I know I can, and I can hear it in my own voice. A smile goes a long way, even via fiber optic cable.

But I think the visionary concept here is the message itself. I envision an earning potential in such phone messages.  Customers could choose from any of a variety of prerecorded messages available for preview on a website and have them delivered to the voice mailbox of their choice. The service would be free, like e-cards, because a revenue stream would be generated by advertisers. There would of course be a disclaimer regarding automobile accidents caused as a result of listening to the messages while driving. There could be messages for special occasions, too–sappy ones for the morning after, say, or snarky ones for the bad breakup. But I think my sister would be in charge only of those that were gorgeously ludicrous.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a good idea? Or is it destined to go the way of the Swim Jammie? (See Building the Future, One Accident at a Time.)

Show-and-Tell, with Meat Thermometer

Is it done yet? (www.mostphotos.com)

Today is show-and-tell again. This time, Mbot wanted to bring a cardboard alligator. I was suspicious. “Is that what someone else brought?”

“Yes!” he said.

“Then let’s bring something that’s all your own,” I suggested. “How about leaves and pictures from our trip up to the cabin?”

Joy of joys: enthusiasm. That was Friday. We had all weekend to work on it. And so this morning I found his baggie of brittle mustard-colored leaves, a stick, and a pine cone. I found acid-free paper in an autumn tone. And a piece of cardboard to attach it to. I found the printer. (It’s portable, and easily hidden beneath paintings of butterflies that channel Jackson Pollack and the water bill.) I found two-sided tape, and two pipe cleaners. I found photos on Kodakgallery, and I found the photo paper. I found the meat thermometer. While I was doing this, Mbot found the Swiffer. Gbot found how fun it was to chuck orange wedges on the floor. Mbot took Gbot’s pipe cleaner. I took it back. I got everyone extra pipe cleaners. I picked up orange wedges.

I printed pictures, cut them out, and affixed them to the cardboard-backed autumnal paper. I punched holes  with the meat thermometer and used pipe cleaners to attach the stick, the pine cone, and a leaf-bedecked twig. Mbot pushed tape-backed leaves onto strategic places. I put the meat thermometer back in its safe place.

I wrote on the back: “Mbot’s vacation to Flagstaff. October 2011,” just in case he needs prompting from Mrs. Purcell.

It was done.

He is ready for show-and-tell.

No one was hurt, only three tears fell, and just one person’s blood pressure rose slightly. He will  not be late to school.

Is this a sign that I am growing up? Or did I just get lucky?

All Cheese is Equally Flat

It is breakfast time. I am passing out slices from a 2 lb. block of cheddar while the French toast…toasts.

Mbot: “Is this flat?”

Me: “Yes, cheese is usually flat.” (The Midgets don’t yet do roundels of artisanal goat.)

Mbot: “Is it as flat as Gbot’s?”

Me: “Yes. They are equally flat.”

Long before Einstein came along, we knew everything was relative.

I almost named my Master’s thesis “Relativity” because I am fascinated by the effects of the interactions with others on self and sense of self. My mentor discouraged me. “But it’s about relatives,” I said. “Or men who I wanted to make into relatives in spite of the inappropriateness of the match.” And it’s about how I am different with everyone I meet.

This doesn’t mean I change to please them; it means that everyone taps a slightly different me. Kind of like when you pluck your eyebrows, every hair–every single one–feels different from every other hair as it’s yanked into whisker oblivion. After months and years of personal grooming via what Mbot calls “hair tongs,” my neural memory knows each follicle’s particular uniqueness. How many subtle flavors of small pain there are. It puts Baskin Robbins to shame. And I wouldn’t know any of them if I weren’t so vain. How many different versions of ourselves there are. I wouldn’t know any of them if I didn’t know others.

It seems like such an obvious observation that it should be considered a stupid one. I am ill at ease enough with strangers so that every new liaison made is a challenge met. But I like to meet new people, partly because I like to meet the me who meets them.

I ended up titling my thesis something as inscrutable as the first idea: “Something Other Than What I Could Make Myself,” from a Robert Rauschenberg quote about how the artist constructed his collages in the 1960s out of items he found on the street and in each work, the individual components took on new meaning in a new context.

It is about relativity and the influence of outside bodies and manifestations of self.

It is, of course, funny–it has to be, because laughter has a gravitational pull; it is often that force that brings people together and keeps them together.

What’s pulling at you today, shaping your self?

I Love You But Do I Have to LOVE You Every Day?

Due to operator error, yesterday’s post was not published ’til this morning, marking my official Off Blogday debut since September 13. My sister (the one who has ten shelf-feet of National Geographic (as compared to Mom’s forty, see Saving the World, One Stick of Secret at a Time), suggested recently that I post once or twice a week. My friend Solveig suggested that a decade ago. Of course I ignored both of them.

I ignored them because I liked the idea of a daily meditation that results in a completed thing outside of myself, little and whole, like a nut.

I still do.

But I have a paying job (a manuscript to edit), and query letters to send, essays to complete, and Midgets who need me to be present outside my head.

Urging me to cut back on the blog, another friend, who wished to remain anonymous, cited a married couple who’d had sex for a hundred and one days straight. People get around the world on rafts in fewer days than that. Annie and Doug Brown did it, literally, so they could write a book about it, like a naked heterosexual version of Julie and Julia. “Can you imagine?” asked my nameless and knowledgeable friend. “I’m sure it got to, ‘Can’t I just enjoy thinking about it for a few days before I have to mount it?”” 

Apparently the book, Just Do It, published in 2008, has a happy ending. After their project, the couple reported that they touched more and felt more intimate. One could argue that soldiers in a foxhole evading flying mortars feel more intimate toward one another afterward, too.

Not that posting 400 words can be compared to either.

If blogging has made one thing abundantly clear to me, it’s how insulated and safe my middle-class American life is.

But back to the point: This post is my official notice that I may miss a post or two. Not that I don’t love to be with you, WordPress. But can’t I just think about you for a few days before…?

Have you had too much of a good thing lately?