Chimera Song Mosaic
Thursday, July 10, 2003
I had a glorious stream of thought occurring yesterday afternoon as I gazed at my purple water lilies in my newly nuded and brightened backyard (the landlord came and cut the low and wobbly branches off the trees because he fears we might have a "hurricane"). But I could not document this because my computer froze--or maybe the mouse had lost his batteries. Who knows?

It's fixed now (that'll be Lance), but I don't have time to chat now because we are waking up at midnight to drive to Mexico City by way of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. We'll be gone about a week. No more typing for me, but I have a lot to say when I get back--plus reports from the Sierra Madres and D.F. (I will attempt to sort out the occident and the orient).

But now I am so pleased that Stephanie's cat has been recovered! I have also enjoyed Eileen's story of her roadside assistance angel. Finally, I am glad that someone else--Catherine Meng--has seen Capturing the Friedmans and was both repelled by its grittiness and fascinated by its heartbreaking fumbling for truth. (Freakily enough, Catherine and I saw Happiness together in Missoula. Go figure.)

Okay, I have to go take a big nap--

Wednesday, July 09, 2003
I defend Josh’s right to talk about things he hasn’t yet read. If the weblog is a sort of journal, why can’t he catalogue his intentions? Besides, what makes one an authority on a subject? Reading a dust jacket—the novel entire—extensive criticism on it; intimacy with the author? Don’t we already discuss films and award ceremonies and politics in sound bites? Why can’t we do the same with writing? Perhaps writers are also readers, and they will find what you say and retaliate. But people offer commentary & criticism on the meanest of details, such as a book cover on which, I’m told, we aren’t supposed to hang a judgment.
I was listening to a radio station yesterday (I think it was Rice University radio in Houston)and heard a really funny piece of satire:

Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Dick Cheney were sitting in the oval office. Bush said, "I'm going to be homosexual on weekends when I go to Texas!"
Rice and Cheney were shocked, but agreed that it was a good strategy.
Then Bush said, "I've changed my mind! I don't want to be gay anymore! I'm going to be African-American!"
Condeelza Rice said, "What did you say, Mr. President?"
Bush said, "I'm going to be African-American, and when I visit Africa, I'm going to tell everyone that I am an African-American."
Cheney thought this was a good strategy.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

I tried several permutations in effort to get an alternate identity (of course I had several possible responses to some of those questions), and I am still the Beast. After six tries and being the Beast every time, I got one hit on Professor X. Didn't like that because I am trying to stay well away from my students.

I guess I really am the Beast. I think it's because there were a couple of responses that I simply could not change, no matter how I looked at myself (which is possibly part and parcel of being the Beast).

It's not that I don't like being the Beast. Apparently, I am in good company, but I wanted to see what else was out there. I was not surprised.

Anthropologically Speaking, I am Such a Lumper and not a Splitter

Some more freaky things happened when I cleaned out my desk: I looked through that old notebook from the Napa Valley Writers' Conference in 2000, and I found Eileen Tabios's name on the contact list--on the same page as Caeli and Richard! (I was on the back of the page.)

I must be the most innocent person in the world because minor coincidences like that still shock me. Why wouldn’t Eileen be at the conference? That’s her neck-of-the-woods, so to speak (a beautiful, yet trite expression).

So I'm wondering, do Eileen and I know each other? I don't think so; I don't remember meeting her. I bet she wasn't in Claudia Rankine's workshop with me and Caeli (Richard was in Brenda Hillman's). But if she were, and I met her before, that would be freaky! (Eileen, if you are reading this, Hi! Again?)

Then I realized that although I love all the blogs and everyone’s blog-persona seems extra-nice, the real-life stuff intimidates me. I think the only person I would be comfortable meeting in person is Jim Berhle (exception of course of Catherine, Josh, and possibly Eileen, since we may have already met). He makes me want to pretend I am in NYC. But I guess Blog/Con is way out for me. Sorry to be such a freak.

Another minor coincidence that sends me: I saw examples of Caddis Fly domiciles at the Houston Museum of Natural Science yesterday (yes, I know I keep going back there, but the Cockrell Butterfly Center has a wonderful man-made cenote-form spiraling down into the humid thick of butterflies: Julias, Ricepapers, Malachites, Blue Morphos, Great Owls, Postmen, Orange-Bandeds . . .), and they (Caddis Flies) are incredibly fascinating because they build protective cases out of anything sturdy they happen to find and wear them like shells. I imagine if you just saw a Caddis Fly larvae lying around and you tossed a few diamonds and toothpicks on the ground, you’d see it do its thing with the diamonds and toothpicks. The coincidence is that I have a book at home (that I’ve never had a chance to read) called The Postmodern Animal. On the front, there is a shark--or at least a mechanical shark, like JAWS--and on the back are Caddis Fly larvae with their casings, which look like golden jewel encrusted lipstick cases. So clearly I need to read this book.

We didn’t get enough time in the Genome Project display area, but I did learn that calico cats have erratic color patterns because the code for white is stable and the code for black and orange exists in the same gene-plane. So a calico will have its white pattern, and the orange or black pattern expresses randomly—there’s no predicting it. That’s why the calico kitten cloned at Texas A&M University last year did NOT have the same color pattern as his donor’s coat. Presumably, he had the same pattern of white.

I wonder how to explain the colors of Winnie.

I don’t like cloning, but my sister insists that it could be used as a last ditch effort to save species from extinction. This has already been attempted on the Indian Guar, but the poor Guar-baby died two months after birth because of an infection.

We got to see the huge dinosaurs in the hallway, and I cattily pissed my sister off by saying, “Do you think these things really ever existed?” She glared at me, so ready to believe that I am an idiot. It’s interesting to note our varied reactions to things like gigantic dinosaur skeletons: my mom was clever enough to ask the question, “How many of these bones are real and how many are duplications?” It never occurred to me that they weren’t all real, despite my smart-assed question. Then, when we looked at the Giant Sloth, my sister told us that they were alive at the same time humans entered North America: "Imagine primitive man's response to this!"; I said, “Look at its massive and flat femur—it must have incredible weight-bearing properties. Look at the bumpy places of articulation near its joints—those non-smooth places are where the huge ligaments attached to its muscles” (I was such a nerd in anatomy class); my mom said, “I thought it was a bear,” and we said, “Look at its tail! It was practically a tripod!” It really did look like a bear, though.

I love homologous structures. The image of the Caddis Fly (which I have perversely not provided) and this stuff about the Giant Sloth and how his bones--clavicles, hip joints, tibia and fibula--look so much like human ones is about the closest this blog has ever come to its own description. I love integument and the integumentary off shoots. Some insects secrete a protein into chosen plant matter that causes it to manifest growths, cankers, galls--tuberesque structures on the plant's leaves, twigs, surfaces--that the insect makes a home in, lays its eggs, nourishes its larvae.

I love that there is morphosis and meta-morphosis. That there is change and extreme change. I love that we can make these distinctions, mitosis and meiosis, which maybe means I am a bit of a splitter after all. I saw dinoflagellates and iridophores. This is what I mean when I talk about poetry.

And you thought there were no more bargains to be had

I guess when I go home again I immediately revert to a goofy teenager who can’t remember the Boy Scout credo: be prepared.

Yesterday I was in the restroom of a Barnes & Noble in Houston and was digging in my tiny purse for some change to feed the machine that dispenses tampons. I was thinking, with the way that pay phones increased in price from 10 cents to 25 to 35 before becoming almost obsolete with the popularity of cell phones, those tampons have got to be at least 35 cents. I only found 25 and decided to give it a try.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that they were only 10 cents apiece! And name brand!

Even if those bastard health insurance carriers want to stop subsidizing our birth control, at least we can save some money somewhere!

"X"-Files Revisited

This is too good—a new take on the “Ex-Files”

I have to go have fun now. Lars is bouncing his little brachiocephalic face on me (well, he is at least midway between brachiocephalic (Boxer) and mesocephalic (Labrador)), and that means he is sick of my writing and wanting me to pay attention to him. The ferret must be on speed--she just lapped the house and ran up and down the stairs in two seconds. Then she stared at me as if she forgot who I was. Life through the myopic eyes of a ferret.

Friday, July 04, 2003
Jak ce mas?

There is some GREAT 4th (& pre-4th) reading out there (don't miss Catfutti @ porthole redux & Chris Murry @ tex files) that I don't have the time to fully savor right now 'cause my mom and sister are yanking me away from the computer to get out and enjoy the day.

(Meanwhile, my mom is teaching me Czech: "Starie pez ya tadi." It's Lars, of course.)

Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out how to enjoy this holiday when I am so pissed off at Bush and now the lovely French are welcoming us back again (yes, yes, please, please--Sisters of the Revolution), and then, out of the Blue, my friend in London emails me and says:

"Just a Quick note to say Hi and wish you all a Lovely 4th . . . they mentioned it was the 4th o July on the radio this morning and i had a Pangs o guilt that i'd been a wanker and not kept in touch . . ."

Dan! I love you! And then I realized that if you have an Englishman wish you a happy 4th, your day could not really get better, could it?

Everybody, share Dan's love . . .

Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Cleaning off my desk, part 2.

I started yesterday evening. This is a project long in the making. Or rather, the unmaking the bed of papers that is my desk. During the school year, I simply throw writing-related things onto its surfaces: rejection letters; acceptance letters; manuscript contest notifications of winners; inspirational pamphlets (inspiring one to do a number of things—find God, unchain one’s self from the refrigerator, collect art, go to museums—but I find them to simply inspire writing); colored paper clips; photo packets; magazines on disc; printed copies of online articles I have time to search for but not to read. The pile was over a foot tall until I got into it.

But first, I got under it; underneath my desk was a stack of papers from when I first started teaching college 3 1/2 years ago. I didn’t know what to do with the stuff and, as an adjunct, didn’t have an office yet, so I kept it under my “writing” desk at home—the essays, the final exams, everything. Underneath that, I found two briefcases/backpacks that, ultimately, did not do. They were too small or too abrasive. I finally found the right tote bag and have used it ever since. Inside the old leather backpack, I found many pens, red felt-tips, and dry erase markers. What was I saving them for? This has all been purged.

The student things are the next things to go (sorry, students—there’s only so much intrusion into my private life I can take). I spent a little time flipping through them, remembering names, faces I had forgotten, reading a few intros here and there of papers I gave A’s to but now realize must have been plagiarized, smiling at a few funny, charming student errors (“Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton are both considered to be ‘congressional’ poets . . .”). But this all has to go. We are required to keep student work for a minimum of one year after the class is over. I plan to recycle all this, white paper only, which means I will have to go through the process of ripping names off the essays (for confidentiality), removing staples, and separating the colored from the non. It is a huge ordeal to process this. Rather than go through this effort, I am tempted to dump it all into my dumpster outside. Sure, someone could find the stuff later, and this might hurt someone’s feelings, but if I shift in one of the old versions of my manuscript, I am just as vulnerable as they are, possibly more.

I don’t remember for the life of me ever having a student named Estefany. But there she is.

I found some interesting things in my desk layers: “cosmic reckoning”; 5-6 largely finished poems that have been hastily scribbled and never reread or typed, which is in violation of my ritual; “bride fabric”; “secret balls”; “‘Chainsaw’ Director Discusses Filmmaking”; “To our many customers ordering Novartis Animal Products”; a final exam from one Valerie Garcia (one of my very first students, who I saw last month in the mall and whose brother, Ruben, was my student for two years, and who now [Valerie] has a masters degree in physical therapy or speech communication or something, and I never knew Valerie and Ruben were siblings. We met in footlocker. She got a 101 on her final); a fortune that is very sinister: “Watch your relations with people carefully, be reserved”(my favorite one ever was: “You are full of ideas and feel that you must express them”); my I.D. tag from AWP, New Orleans, 2002; emails from friends who are almost out of touch, including phone numbers and mailing addresses; “‘Viciousness in the Kitchen’: Sylvia Plath’s Domestic Poetry”; a personal writing exercise beginning: “I used to think that kids who made up stories were freaks”; an envelope full of the last bits of the high-quality paper I printed my thesis on—the envelope has the uncanny label of “Greg Pape”; my complimentary folder from the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, 2000 (an approximation of the very one that Brenda Hillman claimed she had written her entire manuscript in from the previous year. Didn’t work for me; I abandoned it); Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision, from the Menil Collection, Houston; a postcard for a free trial issue of Tin House magazine, Escondido, CA; a spiral notebook of uncertain origins I have been writing in for the past 4 years but that has very little “good” poetry in it. Thus, I have finally abandoned it as unlucky with only one last page left; A stapled packet of the clean side of botched printouts, my recycled version of a new notebook titled “My New Book” (scraped this year as unlucky. Last page entry: “contrails, telemetry” and a note on the next page: “deliquescent”); “I can afford the angels; do not quiet them.”

Hence the new move to write on postcards, however small and cramped. I can’t write in a notebook that is filled with trash and deemed unlucky. I can’t force my good poems to kiss my bad ones on the cheek, to acknowledge their relation to those bastards.

I’m going to get back in it. You’ll see. That desk is going to be clean by 6:00 tonight. All my senoritas will be back where I can see them, in the kitchen, with the millions of stars.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
The Sublime Synesthesia of the Juan Carlos Melon

Go get yourself a Juan Carlos Melon. They should be at the grocery store, right next to the muskmelons (those are good, too, but who hasn’t had a cantaloupe? Muskmelon is clearly a better name; the only good thing about cantaloupe is that it rhymes with antelope).

I just finished eating part of a Juan Carlos Melon. I opened it up last night, scooped out its slippery innards, and sliced it up into boomerang shapes. I love skinning a melon, carving off the rind in long, fragrant strips. I love cutting it in half next and gorging my fist on its seeds. It is so pleasant to eviscerate a melon. Try it if you haven’t yet. It is highly pleasurable. One of the best things about preparing your own food is that you get to feel it.

You also get to look at it. The Juan Carlos melon is not like the muskmelon, which is more or less perfectly round. The Juan Carlos is an ellipses, banana yellow--no, brighter—yellow as Gatorade piss. This might be the only season the Juan Carlos is available, so hurry up!

I did not discover the Juan Carlos. Lance did. He was attracted to its bright yellow exterior, mentioned above. He did not discover it originally. I imagine it was named after someone’s infant son, Juan Carlos. Infant Juan Carlos was born prematurely. He was the size of a medium melon, not a big one, not a watermelon. Now he is the size of an old man.

I opened the Juan Carlos melon up. You won’t believe what’s inside. The guts look mostly like pumpkin in color and sliminess, but the flesh is glowing alabaster. That’s not accurate. It might be more like the moon when the sun is reflected on it and it is visible to our eyes. But something tells me it is also green, though I do not see anything green. The white part has a green taste. The inside, the interior part that was exposed to the seeds and the vegetable mesenteries, is a pale, kissable peach. It’s almost pink. It’s so light you can’t taste the difference. That’s the sweet part. It’s almost like a honeydew, but of course that’s a different color. It is totally distinct. You can only taste the sweet part in the middle. It is excessive and luminous. It offsets the bland neutrality of the white part. Don’t cut too close to the rind, or the outside part will be too hard. Eat it anyway.

Report from South Padre Island

I got back from the beach on Sunday. I was more or less a wreck from the excessive drinking. Except the healthy and difficult walk through the soft and yielding sand made me feel a little better. I could not get enough to drink (water). We went to the beach on Sunday very early in the morning. We played in the ocean without incident, save the constant brushes with the ubiquitous grape-twig seaweed (I don’t know what it’s called, but it looks exactly like a grape twig). We wondered if people on the beach can tell when others are doing it in the water. I decided yes. The waves were exceptionally calm and died prematurely. After a possible jellyfish pass, we got out.

Lance and I are not beach goers. We can usually only stand a maximum of an hour—I can go much longer, all day, but only if I am snorkeling. We had never been to the beach before with people who were so prepared. Jen and Marty brought two reed mats, towels, a folding chair, a boogie board, and a big orange umbrella. Lance and I brought water and sarongs. The mats and the umbrella made all the difference. I found myself actually enjoying lying on the sand (on a towel on a mat) with my head under an umbrella. The water was hazel and cloudy, which is pretty good for the gulf. The sand was fine and unblemished. I had almost forgotten how good the ocean sounds. We saw pelicans, not seagulls.

I think I could return. It helps if you do not get sand in your swimsuit. Then we went home. First we bought fresh shrimp, tuna, and crabmeat. Then when we got home, Lance boiled a chicken and made seafood gumbo. It was delicious, and I wondered why I have spent most of my life hating it. Gumbo tastes good in a hurricane, but we did not have more than a few heavy rains that day.

The day before was mostly spent at CineSol. We saw a fabulous documentary called Los Ultimos Zapatistas, which featured interviews from centenarians--some of the original Zapatistas, some of who died during the filming--as well as Nuevos Zapatistas (the old men were the best). I might see it again if it comes through Mission or McAllen. We saw a freaky, feature length film called Shattered, which has an excellent script and is very ambitious, but this came off as uneven and hokey in its low-budget medium. For example, sometimes you couldn’t even hear the soundtrack because the music portion was playing too loud. The dialogue sounded muted. Extremely annoying. But Lance and I stuck it out (several people left) and were rewarded by some very good acting and a fairly realistic portrayal of the onset of schizophrenia. It’s amazing how some films could really be enhanced by money, some would be better without it, and some would suck no matter what you throw at them.

We also saw a series of shorts about the Valley that were interesting, myopic, and sincere. One was about the insane high school football scene here, which I’m told has changed over the years (used to be someone would identify their hometown by mascot—“I’m a Rattler” or “I’m an Eagle”). That was pretty cool. We also saw most of a flawless short called, “White Like the Moon,” about a young girl who is forced to endure her mother’s cruel expectations and nightly slatherings of a whitening cream. I’d like to see that one again. We saw a good short about La Llorona which was predictable, but atmospheric. My absolute favorite thing was a short called “In Hot Pursuit.” It’s about a young woman who has dreamed of meeting a male policeman—a “Ponch,” if you remember CHiPs. Who doesn’t? It became very clear how much Erik Estrada’s counterpart is not remembered (he did not have that perfectly combed black hair or those laser-bright teeth) when a white policeman (who is courting the young protagonist) says, “Don’t you remember Jon?” Who remembers Jon? Who would remember Jon when they can remember Ponch?

The comedic timing of the young actress (who looks a bit like a jolly Selma Hayek) and the one who plays her mother is perfect, as are the props in this slick little film set in Los Angeles. See it if you can!

We ate a lot of fresh seafood, including some out-of-sight-ceviche (and I felt mildly guilty because I just read an article on AOL about the disappearing creatures of the ocean), had a high-school-flashback evening of 4-wheeling in the sand at night with a cooler full of Tecate (feeling slightly guilty about that too)—complete with the ritual stop by the cops (“Keep it to 10 MPH”), and found plenty of bars to patronize, including some sandy palapas. The only thing that would make a future trip to the beach more complete is a hammock—there were none to be seen. Oh, I’ve got my own hammock, but I need a couple of those poles with the rings in them. That would be splendid.

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