Chimera Song Mosaic
Sunday, August 24, 2003
This day was anxiety-ridden; I’ve been trying to tie up all the little incidentals, like health, hygiene, and bills, that won’t get touched during the hectic semester, which begins tomorrow. I was excited, but now I’m not. I’m spoiled. I had a fabulous life for too long, and now I’m afraid I can’t go back to teaching.

It sounds so dramatic, but it honestly feels this way. Where will I fit in time to read, write, exercise, organize? I have almost everything lined out now. I won’t have to touch my real life during the semester. Today I got a haircut. I walked through my backyard into the alley behind and up into the small strip mall buffering our subdivision. The two $8.00 haircut places on the strip were closed Sunday, so I walked across the street, crunching some carrots and barely aware of the soft whiz of cars gliding along behind me.

There is a certain intimacy that comes with pedestrian life—real, on-foot pedestrian life. There’s a certain feeling of territory that comes with noticing much more than pavement cracks—real, live weeds and their ant mounds. Paint peeling from the underside of roof overhangs. People who drive by in cars don’t get the same kind of perspective—maybe that’s why kids who roam the neighborhood feel such an acute sense of belonging—cementing them to their surroundings, inspiring them to tag smooth surfaces, and tugging them from their origins at the same time it tethers them—centrifugal relationship with the known and the pedestrian.

People don’t get this kind of perspective much in Texas because most parts are too spread out, too exposed to the elements (heat, mostly), almost unnavigable on foot. I settled for the $11.95 haircut plus shampoo across the street at a name-brand place, but I’m going to work on figuring out the schedule of these cheaper places so close to my house. One thing I want to know: how come there are two haircut places almost right next to each other, advertising the same price? They are almost identical to each other, except one place advertises waxing in addition to cutting. Then the Cuts Plus or whatever across the street where I went today. You wouldn’t think we needed this many places. We also have a Subway sandwich shop, a dollar store, a Hallmark gifts, an adult day care, a do-it-yourself carwash, a gas station/Circle K, The Bean Cuisine (coffee and lunches and great homemade deserts), my dentist (so convenient!), a travel agent, a couple of strange offices that might be insurance sales places, and a liquor store that just expanded its wine selection. We used to have a post office satellite with a grumpy clerk, but now they’ve moved across the street.

Meanwhile, my water lily continues to be sublime, but all my fish have died. Maybe I’ll get some cheap bright orange feeders to color the water and bite the mosquitoes.

Sunday, August 17, 2003
This weekend we split our listening between news of the east coast blackouts and the would-be hurricane, Tropical Storm Erika, who didn’t eventually come through with her promises of rain for primarily parched South Texas. We were at South Padre Island, playing on the beach as many people left and headed west. Eventually, we packed up and left too, but then Erika didn’t come to Brownsville as suspected; she “put in” about 50 miles south of there on the Mexican coast, slowing and powering down and dumping some lucky rain there and into the mountains and fortunately causing little damage and no loss of life.

I finished One Hundred Years of Solitude (I keep absentmindedly calling it 120 Days of Solitude, but that’s another story), and was quiet moved by it. There is so much of it that mirrors human nature expertly and with tenderness and rue—too much to document. Better to read it. In a hammock, if possible. The treatment of nostalgia as both celebration and disease is wonderful and resonant. (Perhaps it is fairer to say that nostalgia can offer the means of both inspiring us to live and fertilizing our downfall.) The novel spans several generations of one family (and its branches) and covers human practices such as war, industry, invention, amour, and melancholy, yet manages to do so without leaving a small, ultimately insignificant and personally substitutable geographic location (undisclosed, but somewhere on Columbia’s or Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, by my estimate). Also, there are numerous, highly memorable, mini-philosophies that strike me as quite helpful in day to day life, such as Garcia Marquez’s methods for finding lost objects (but perhaps he does not solely limit this to the recovery of tangibles): when you lose something, it is because you have stepped out of your day-to-day trajectory for a moment. (Or maybe you have gone along your normal path, but you have brought along something—the object—which does not belong in that new place where it is eventually lost.) To find it again, you must not retrace your steps, because if the object were located in your daily routine, you would never have lost it in the first place. So, in order to find what you are looking for, you have to look in random, shocking places. In practice, this works for me. When I lose something, I never spend longer than 10 minutes looking for it. I just wait until I stumble upon it, always in the most unlikely of places. Of course, this is stated more elegantly in Garcia Marquez’s words (well, I wouldn’t know because I read it in translation by Gregory Rabassa), but re-writing it helps me to remember it. Lots of bits of wisdom like that, and also some startling images, such as that of a chamber pot full of shit and diamonds. Fabulous.

I’m not happy about this being my last week before school starts. Next week we have meetings, etc. Plus I have to plan my classes. I spent one of my brilliant summer days planning a delicious British Lit class, but now I find that I won’t be able to teach it because no one signed up for it. I’ll probably have a bunch of Rhetoric classes and an Intro to Lit. That’s fine. I’ve been on my own too long to resent working just yet.

I absolutely have to go watch Sex in the City now. I have so few pleasures in life. Well, that and I have started reading Anna Karenina, which is thoroughly charming. I know bad things are going to happen, but right now it’s charming.

Ps. We're about to schedule our foreign film viewings for the fall--please send suggestions to me--especially Chinese or Russian or Indian films.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Somebody else is going to Las Vegas! I don't even know who this blogger is, but I want to know what he or she things of Las Vegas and the Postmodern slant.
I just had some ants-on-a-log, which is easy to confuse with that French Postmodern term that sounds like MaisONaBEEM, but as you can clearly see, I’ve forgotten how to spell it or what it means. That’s how prepared I was for graduate school. Anyway, you can just stick the celery in the peanut butter like it’s a chocolate bar and then pop some raisins in your mouth, but I believe the artistic presentation to be important: 4 celery “logs” smeared in peanut butter, garnished with raisins (“ants”). I use golden raisins.

Yesterday was a full moon, but more importantly, it was Caeli’s birthday. I caught her via cell phone in an elevator (or so she says) with her boyfriend (or so she says). She expressed regret that we had not been able to talk much lately; I can tell when she’s up to something. But she is beautiful and as witty as Wilde, and the funniest thing is that I didn’t even know it was her birthday, so we were both caught.

I wish I could write more, but I am in a voyeuristic mode, which is not such a bad thing since I have so much blog reading to catch up on: NILS Michals: Hey-hey-hey. (On August 10, Catherine is caustic and brilliant! I could listen forever. On the 12th, it’s a good thing she’s not the jealous type. Who are those twerps?)

Plus I am fully disgusted with myself because I didn’t write as much as I wanted to this summer, and now I only have a week left before I have to start work again, and I am in the process of viciously paring down my manuscript. Does anyone know of any good chapbook contests? I am serious about this. I know it must be in bad taste to berate oneself online (or in full view, as it were), but I simply cannot present a healthy front of good cheer or virulent cynicism right now. It goes: if you don’t have anything nice to write, don’t write at all.

Saturday, August 09, 2003
List of what I sent in care package to my friend, Cathy, the Army Girl, in Kuwait:

2 wads of super-soft toilet paper (cores removed) in Ziploc bags
1 dentist-freebee Oral-B toothbrush, bright green, new
1 Satin-Soft dental floss, unopened
1 small green plush frog, off-brand
1 plastic-wrapped, French-milled soap, Acacia scent
1 partially used box of Celluvisc eye-soothing drops in individual plastic vials
1 tub of Dream Cream by LUSH, U.K., rolled in bubble wrap, cures eczema & generally combats havoc wrecked on integument by desert environment
1 copy of Married to the Military in cute pink camo, brand new
1 used copy of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, donated by surly, but generous student
1 copy of All the Pretty Horses in mostly new condition, also donated by student
1 typed letter that falls short of compensating for 6 months of Bush's agenda

*Update* on To Write About List (Online)/ To Do List:

(review of)Ward’s novel [done]
(review of) Richard’s book [done, review post pending]]
creative collaborations [uhh . . . could you be more specific?]
poetic intervention, staged [I’m getting real fed up here . . .]

Writing offline:

poems [smattering]
revise American Filmmaking series [manana]
write/revise/ready for workshop essay: Wishbone [done—novella?]

Offline Life List:

Call: Jenny [will do], Colleen [done], Catherine, Caeli [ladies, call me!]
Art Museum for community writing lab on Thursday [happened, and now they are calling me for more volunteer work]
Clean desk, glean poems from surfaces [in vitro]
*Catherine’s postcard poem series
*Student workshop collection
*Redneck Heaven mix tape [done, needs editing]

To read for rest of summer on vacation (not in this order):

Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection
The Trouble with Testosterone
The Body Artist
Anna Karenina
¡Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity
One Hundred Years of Solitude
[90 pages to go!]

[No progress on the first 7 texts. Okay, I haven’t exactly been rushing this reading this, but I did read the recent issue of Fence *almost* cover to cover and also Boston Review. I have to read Frankenstein before the semester starts if I want to include it in my super cool British Lit class.]

This just in: The Juan Carlos melon is actually called the Juan CANARY melon. My apologies for any confusion. The Quiet American is pretty good. Brendan Fraser’s actual nationality is a bit distracting. I also just saw lots of typos in previous postings. Give me the strength not to correct them obsessively.

Send much LUSH as soon as possible; supplies are getting low.

Doin' a little housekeeping . . .

I just fixed the misspelling of Cheney's name in an earlier post, and it turns out that we did have a hurricane while I was gone after all. It hit near Victoria (North and inland from Corpus Christi) on July 15th, and its name was Claudette.! I just got back from a long nap. I slept 30 days and drove over 2,500 miles, which are measured in arns and kilometers. I never had to open my eyes, and I never drove off the road. I will write more about this later.

What’s more important is that I used to worry that I would die before I visited all the places I wanted to see, and now that I have been to lots of places, I now worry that I will die before I get to read all the books I want to read. I think that this is a phenomenal distinction.

I’m glad to be back.

I need to take a quiz called Which Poetic Jackass are You? because I didn’t even understand this quiz, and my ignorance led me to feel like I was naively ticking the answers that would label me as a hopeless dweeb (maybe we should have a category for Paranoid Poetics?). ‘Cept I don’t know any Poetic Jackasses, so it wouldn’t be a very good quiz.

But, for those who are formally equipped, The Brutal Kittens brings it.

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