Monday, January 31, 2005

Notes From the Resistance

Today tastes like limes, cola, and perfume. This perfume that I had when I was just a girl, some Avon stuff based on baby powder and sweetness, but then it was oh so sophisticated, beyond what even Paris could manage.

I would like to set down a list of excuses. Excuses why I wasn’t at the computer Friday, or even this weekend, and why I didn’t get to this piece until just now, flicking through Writing Down the Bones.

I managed a piece on all my writing days the week before last. This past Wednesday’s piece about resistance was pretty good (and how’s this for resistance—I got up from my desk and walked all the way through the house to the kitchen to double check the date. Sneaky, sneaky monkey mind.) But last week just fell apart.

I’d like to blame it on work, but that’s not really real. One person left us, having given two weeks notice (and why do companies insist on getting two weeks’ notice if they aren’t going to USE those two weeks to replace the person who’s going??? If all they’re going to do is sit until the next weekend when they can run an ad in the paper and begin looking for a replacement) so yes, we’re short handed—but it doesn’t make that much difference in my life. I think I miss her more when we have to double up on the quick but scutty housekeeping work than I do when it comes to covering the parts of the actual workload. As the cats would say—I have to cut my midmorning nap short, but it’s doable.

I could blame it on the hormonal flux of womanhood, but that’s such a cop-out. Unless something is really truly wrong, that’s just a convenient excuse for the I don’wanna’s. I don’ wanna run the 440 in gym, I’ll say I’ve got my period and the male gym teacher will let me go to the nurse and lie down. Do you really wanna beg off a quarter of your adult life (hell, three quarters—it’s the week before, it’s the week of, it’s the week after). Nope? Well, your fingers are attached to your internal organs by only the most indirect means, so get some chocolate and a heating pad, and come sit over here and push the keys.

I could blame it on lack of inspiration, but here I’ve blathered on for five paragraphs (six, including this one) without any more idea of what to write about other than kvetching that I don’t want to write, that I’m feeling stale (verbally, that is—I’ve been knitting and painting up a storm this weekend, and have paint all over my hands right here and now. I hope this washes off before work tomorrow. At least it’s not in my hair, or on my glasses.)

So I’m hunting through Writing Down the Bones, the way I do when I’m stumped for an edge to pry up some thoughts (somehow avoiding the thought that I could just sit down and pour out this stream of consciousness stuff) and of course, what really appeals has to do with getting even further away from streams of thought, from paragraphs that pull together and do something. The exercise that looks like big fun now gives you wonderful clever sentences with unexpected nouns and verbs, but it’s like making a meal of nothing but herbs—no meat, no potatoes, but we have borage. And lavender. And mint.

And all that is is another way to get away from the business of writing to practice to remember to write. (Sigghhhhh—oregano, oregano, oregano. Try that again.) The business of practicing writing, the business of remembering to practice writing, to write even the blah mundane filler bits among the flips and the spins and the quadruple lutzes. You will have to take off the skates and walk, just like any other mortal man, back to the dressing room to change back into mufti.

Although her idea of the nouns and verbs sounds like great fun for the titles of the journals I bind. And heaven knows I have enough paper to keep me going on those for a long long time. Hmmmmm . . . .

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Desire Satisfied (flash fiction)

She always wanted to have her ashes scattered on the moon. She liked the idea of being able to look down on the cities and thier people dancing, crinking, and making love in the glitter and whirl of the nightime. It almost bankrupted the family in those early days of space travel, but we managed somehow.

Then science discovered the Egyptians had been on to something. The soul lives on, tied to the body and its surroundings after death.

Eternity under the blinding inferno sun, in the airless void. Without even a voice to howl with, and no one to hear.

Monday, January 24, 2005

I Don’t Want to Write (a writing exercise)

The needle is unthreaded and the knot won't tie. The book won't come together, spineless Coptic thing that it is. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

Lunch tastes like sand and dinner is glass and Gareth isn't home and the house wants to eat me. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

The pen is too heavy, the paper is too blank. Everything wants my attention all at once. I spin like a dervish, both hands in the air. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

My fingers are cramping. It's spreading up my forearm. My nails are white. I'm wearing a cast of tension and the cat is winding around my ankles. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

The timer is ticking and I swear it's counting backwards when I'm not looking; I'm hunched over the page. I can't read my own writing. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

Paint is singing softly from the Scylla of the workshop. Play with paper. Play with water. Dance with a brush. It calls. It calls. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

The needles glint and beckon from the walkabout bag, from the pile in the basket, tied by the umbilical cord to massive cones. Come tickle us, they cry, let's wander together through the labyrinth of lace. Let's find the rhythm of basketweave. Swaddle your knees in the blanket, the shawl. Pull out the chenille and let's make the Scarlet Pimpernel (a red Rogue, yes?) together. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

Pushing ink into the page, tattooing moment by moment.

I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

It's all about exercises. What you do you make more of. Say you are blocked and you are. Say you are too depressed to write and you will be. Say you can't, and you won't.

I STILL don't want to write.

I hear the pipes of the dancing gremlin waving its banner high. How dare you seek wings, he asks. (Yes, tonight he's a he. Stay tuned.) How dare you imagine anyone would have any interest whatsoever in anything you have to say? How dare you delineate yourself in ink like this? How dare you waste the paper? You don't think it grows on trees do you?

I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

I am bereft of all ideas. I don't have a single sentence worth keeping. I have no plots, no thoughts. I wish for a little piece, a flash fiction to tuck in a locket close to my heart. But everything takes miles of vapid paragraphs that natter on endlessly to plow through to the point. The dull and weary point. The point like a number 2 pencil at the end of an SAT exam.

And I'm flunking the verbal score.

I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

The peacock green glass mocks me in its plastic form. I am rigid, it boasts. I am eternal. You are an icky blood sack. Youare written upon the water--nay, upon the very air!! (Water ripples after it's been disturbed, even by so little as a falling leaf.) I will be here forever; even the sun cannot destroy me. I may shatter, but will never rot.

I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

The paste reeks of mint, and so does the kitchen. Visions of dental moulding carved into fantastical creations dance through my head. They whirl with the candlesticks, jape with the paisley brocade runner that more than ever looks like flames and evil leering jeering faces. I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

I'm using a lot of orange and blue in my paint recently. I'm put in mind of a short story every time I mix watercolor--about an artist frantically trying to communicate his own personal vision--Orange is for Anguish; Blue is for Insanity. And yet, when I spin the color wheel, that's what comes up; orange and blue, with touches of yellow. Yellow, the color of the medieval Devil.

I don't want to write. I don't want to write.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Paper Arts

Finally took some pictures of the paper work I've been doing at the appropriate time. It's like being a kid on Christmas morning--I can't wait to run out into the workshop and see how everything turned out. To hold it in my hands and examine it from every angle; to fold it up into mock pages, bookcovers, envelopes and imagine the fun we'll have as I fill the pages with deathless prose.

Hey, gotta dream, right?

Below is the last batch of batik style watercolors, still on the board. (I tell you, that board is starting to look like a serious piece of work in its own right.)

Batik Watercolor Posted by Hello
Below this litle blurb is the batch before that. I like these values better--I like about a 3-4 on a scale of 10, with 1 being a blank page and 10 being black. The ones above dried awfully light and beigey. Pfeh. They'll probably become covers.

More batik and some washes Posted by Hello
And finally, some bubble paper. I love this technique--but my asthma is unconvinced. As you can imagine, this involves a lot of deep breathing and slow release. I've heard of one artist with an engineer-minded husband who offered to rig the aquarium bubbler for her . . . I can only imagine the floor after that experiment.

Bubbles! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

My Angel is Moulting

There are feathers falling slowly outside my window on the fifteenth floor downtown, drifting by in iridescent grey clumps. Somewhere, an angel is molting.

Working very diligently on the exchange shawl, and am almost to the point where I will have to rewrite the pattern. I knew this was coming when I changed it from the circular pattern it was written as to the split shape I’m knitting it in.

Zen Shawl as of January 19, 2005 Posted by Hello
In the pattern as writ, you move the marker on a particular round to indicate the “new” start stitch. I, um, can’t exactly do that since I’m working in rows.

Fortunately, the place where everything has to line up is easy-peasy and obvious for two rows, and then is easy to mark with safety pins. I plan to take careful notes about what I do here, ‘cause you never know what you’ll wind up using all over again somewhere else. Or doing again for that matter.

Current lust—I want some sweaters for me me me, as I’ve mentioned before. Not just startitis, but the meemees as well. I’m toying with the idea of the magnificent Ms. Burns’ Ribby but with a V neck. I picked up some wool for this late last year (wicked tricksy Smiley’s. We hates them! We hates them! Ooooooh, Paton’s Classic—nice Smiley’s! Nice Internet Yarn Riot.) but am having second thoughts about the colorway I have. I saw burgundy and forest green, and on my monitor they were a nice pinky-blue red and teal. Same shade of blue in each, so they’d be good in one garment. The yarn arrived.

Only Santa or the Subordinate Clause could love these colors. Hooo-ha. They are crayon bright red and green. Ewwwwww.

So now I’m considering getting some pale grey to go with the green, and some black to go with the red . . . and this way lies madness. Ah well.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Shall We Blather at the Riiiiiver . . .

Ahem. Sorry about that. I'll have to plead blood sugar imbalances from this weekend.

We just celebrated Adverb, with the traditional Adverb feast and opening of presents . . . lots and lots of presents. So today tastes like chocolate and hot sauce, chiles, and ginger. Very much excitement, and luxurious. Yum.

On one of the lists I'm on, someone asked after paper arts, and I've been promising to drop some info on that here. I've also been promising to be longer. Isn't it nice when you can keep multiple promises all in one blogpost?

So, without further adieu, here's the paper arts post--and then some!!

I don’t make paper as in “get hold of pulp and dry it” papermaking—that’s a bit too labor intensive for my tastes. I find I enjoy decorating existing paper using various methods, then binding the sheets into notebooks.

See, it all started when I’d collected about 20 Post-Its of various sizes with cool ideas that I just couldn’t get to right that minute (I was at work, and the muse was busy tapping me on the shoulder that day). When I went to lunch, I took one look at the rattlesnakes’ nest of ink and paper, and knew that they would inevitably get into the life cycle of a Post-It—beginning in their sessile form as pads, then separated and stuck to an object, then drifting away to end up in the garbage can where they find a mate and create new pads. Unfortunately, nowhere in that cycle is there a spot for “Human looks at the Post-It and retrieves the information she noted on it.”

I started carrying a notepad with me, and that helped some, but I always ended up ripping out the pages and then they sort of drifted off into the nowhere. Ditto spiral notebooks, ‘cause they’re just big enough to make it hard to find the bit you want. Plus, they’re so impersonal. One notebook is just like the next unless you do stuff to it. I wanted something that was cool and me from the git-go; as a cat might say, something that smelled like me.

I also started traveling and keeping a traveling journal about this time. While looking through a book on travel wardrobes (my preferred suitcase is a backpack) I found a project involving a stab-bound book with a crazy quilt cover used as a travel journal. Zing!!!! Stab-bound books looked much much easier than anything I’d seen regarding bookbinding (no frames, tapes, minimal sewing, blah blah blah.)
But I didn’t wannado a crazy quilt cover. So I hunted up stab-bound books, which led me to Japanese bound books, and the comment that the Japanese used paper that had been folded to double thickness so the ink wouldn’t soak through the fine rice paper . . .

Hmmm, sez I. I work in an office where we dump craptons of paper with one perfectly good side. If I glued the pages together somewise, I could have a book of notepapers (I was already recycling by cutting pages in half every so often and using the half-sheets for grocery lists).

So I found out about paste . . . and that led to paste papers, and the wonderful effects you can get there. (Curse you, Internet! Curse you in all your linky goodness!) Many of the patterns are combed paste (too fiddly for me) but I found out about pulled paste, and that’s a lot of abstract fun. -- Paste is easy. You make library paste on the stove, color it with acrylic paint, then brush it on and pattern the paste. Places where the colored paste is thick come up darker than where the paste is thin. So you can comb patterns through the paste with various implements, you can use it like fingerpaints, or you can do pulled paste, where you brush it onto a flat surface (such as another piece of paper, or a cookie sheet, or a sheet of plexiglass) and then press another sheet of paper down, then pull the two apart. This forms a feathery design.-- Paste is one of those techniques I think I’ll have fun exploring for some time.

And then I began exploring other ways to decorate paper. I wanted abstract shapes with movement and color, not recognizable figures. I’m going to be writing on this, after all. I found bubbling, which is really cool in metallic paints—really, you just combine water, liquid dish soap, and color in a shallowish dish, then using a straw, you blow bubbles (remember being a kid and doing this in your milk, until you were forcibly stopped?) Catch the bubbles on paper, and they make fun random designs.

Then there's salt painting, where you lay down a wash and then sprinkle salt for the little stars; batik where you brush or stamp white on white, then wash over that, and plastic wrap where you lay down a wash, cover it with Saran Wrap and manipulate the color into forms. Also big fun. I'm looking forward to summer when I can get these things to dry in a reasonable length of time instead of 48 hours.

The other weekend, I checked out a boatload of books on watercolor . . . if you don’t hear from me for a while, send someone over to check the garage. One of the books talked about creating underpaintings, with drippy bits and runnels where the paints mixed themselves on the page for goodies you couldn't get with a brush. OmiGhod, those were some pretty photos in the book, even without a painting on top of the underpainting. Layer on layer of color and motion. Yum.

So I figured out that I could just do the underpainting and leave it be for to write upon--not that THAT took a whole lot of thought. When I started with the Saran and salt, I had picked up a sheet of styrofoam so as to have a big flat surface to fasten the paper to so it could be stretched and dried flat. Well . . . this works well with watercolor as well. When I had to leave and get cleaned up I had laid in some batik work and overpainted with watercolor . . . this looks really promising.

Pictures later, if there's anything worth showing.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Be Longer, but Without Spam

Today tastes like . . . toad. And moldy leaves. And kaolin clay. And rock salt. Going to the doc's this afternoon to get sorted back out. I can't go on like this.

“A short letter to a distant friend is, in my opinion, an insult like that of a slight bow or cursory salutation – a proof of unwillingness to do much, even where there is a necessity of doing something.” Samuel Johnson

Just thinking plus ca change when I ran across this quotation. My friends and I stay in touch via e-mail, ditto family, and then there’s all the lists I’m on. And the new way of things is that we cut to the chase, get to the point, make if brief. The new e-mail etiquette says to trim posts you’re responding to, and make your own point brief to the vanishing point. Don’t drop “me, too’s”—sit there in silent agreement, or add a little bead of your own to the discussion, but don’t write a long multi-paragraph post. Save that for your blog.

But at the same time, Blogger and some of the “How to Blog” books and articles warn about writing lengthy posts that alienate your viewers/readers/audience. Just a paragraph—maybe two. And make them pithy.

But if the writing is good, like Tequila Mockingbird or Gaping Void, I want to see more—I want to see not only what inspired the author to write the post, but to see around the edges and how the person is thinking. I’ve been known to go all the way back to the beginning of a particularly good read, and then write notes on a post-it bookmarking my stops so I don’t miss a thing. Hopefully I’ve provided some of the same quality of entertainment to you as I’ve opened up Pandora’s box and let the words come tumbling out.

I feel like I should close this post by taking off my wig and mask to reveal the simple actor on the stage, and turn, and recite some eloquent Shakespearean apology to you, the audience. “No, we’re not a bunch of mystical beings, we’re just poor slobs doing a job, and if you liked it, please give us some applause. Or better yet, money.”

I’ll try to be longer next week.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Another Installment

Today tastes like green apples, potstickers from my favorite Chinese restaurant, and ivory dust. I am so far behind the 8 ball that I am in danger of being crushed, a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Posting the third installment of the things I would not have if I did not craft (part one is here and part two is over here).

51. An excuse to sign up for Netflix
52. A reason to collect all the extended DVD’s of movies I love
53. A chance to use the phrase “Muppet merkin”
54. An opportunity to be a Google whack
55. Knowing what the phrase “Google whack” refers to
56. Reasons to travel around the world
57. A heightened tolerance for learning curves
58. That thrilling plunge into a new technique
59. The satisfaction when the light goes on and the directions actually make sense
60. A fascination with minutiae
61. Hagatha, Hagatha, Hagatha!!!
62. The ability to translate anatomy to geometry
63. A use for high school algebra
64. The knowledge that yellow and blue DO NOT make green
65. The glee of “contact acquisition”
66. The high of finishing a technically complex project
67. Having folks to brag to who really, really understand the blood sweat and tears that went into #66
68. Meeting other cross cultural geeks who get jokes about “+2 needles of textile creation” and the role of polyhedral dice in the creation of stochastic cables
69. And what else would I do while I curse this dial-up connection?
70. “Bored” would be a state of mind, not just a word.
71. Knowing where to find obscure information
72. Knowing how to find obscure information—these aren’t at all the same
73. The thrill of pursuing books long out of print
74. The pleasure of possessing a book long before it goes out of print—and then becomes a priceless reference
75. The whipsaw ride of schadenfreude

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

When You Ignore Them (a writing exercise)

When you ignore them, words will come begging; participles dangling, clauses tucked in velvet pauses.

When you ignore them, words will perch on your shoulder, singing songs of black sand beaches and diamond blue skies.

When you ignore them, words will drop onto your head, chucking paragraphs like pinecones to drive you away to paper and pen.

When you ignore them, words coil and hiss in the dust of unwritten pages.

When you ignore them, words will flash their headlights just before they barrel through the intersection, knocking you out of the crosswalk, leaving you bleeding under the streetlight.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Knitting Feeds Bookbinding

Today tastes like chai, lamb, and hummus. Spiced, yet earthy and soothing.

Terpsichore dropped me a line today—Knit ‘N’ Style has agreed to publish the blue tank with the fun fur collar! Wooo-hoooo! I’m going to have to bind a portfolio to mount the pattern pages on, along with swatches of the pattern in the actual yarn. Wouldn’t that be fun?

I’m thinking mondo heavy watercolor paper so it can survive the paste (cause I’ll want this to be archival, more or less). And big enough to put the 8 ½” by 11” sheets on, with a border of at least ½”. Color me excited.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Another Day, Another Pattern

Today tastes like cucumbers, rice vinegar, and honey. Bitter and sweet and sour all carefully balanced together. Have fixated on hot and sour soup--may make that for lunches next week.

Met with Terpsichore this evening. She went gaga for the black and blue scarf and has plans to use it in a new promotion/kit. She also loved the blue off the shoulder tank and wants to send it off to a national magazine NOW NOW NOW to go in the summer issue. Yah, summer in January--and the deadline is Tuesday!

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy meeting with her? (Only about a billion times, Spike.) I'll mention it again--I had to pull off into a parking lot on the drive home to note down some of the ideas that were flying around in my head before they could take wing.

One of the hardest projects I ever did was when I was graduating with honors from college. You had to take a series of seminars and jump through another set of hoops, and the final hoop was to create a thesis. In the classes before mine, they did assigned topics and presentations (you know the stuff, "End world hunger," "We can all get along," other highly idealistic plans and solutions that work just fine as long as people adhere to Rousseau's theory of the noble savage and remain innately good.) However, in my class they simply said, "So. Tell us what you've learned."

Being good little spoon fed drones, we asked, "How?"

And the answer came back, "Any way you can. What have you learned over the past four years?"

So there were acts of plays written for this, there were speeches, there was music composed, etc. etc. etc. And that was probably the most useful lesson I received, in that I found out that I am bound and determined to make EVERYTHING harder than it has to be.

I asked Terpsichore what she would like to see, and she whips out an idea or three, then asks what I like to do. Well . . . I like lace, I enjoy stranded colorwork, I like mosaics and some modular knitting--if it's well-fitted. "Here," she says, bundling some oddballs into my hands. "Go play, and see what you come up with." And here I am, worried about making it fashionable enough, where her concerns really are having patterns that look awesome and showcase her yarns and what makes them special.

So--off to write up the patterns (truth be told, it's more like decode the patterns from scribbly bits with strikeouts and asterisks to indicate insertions [often on completely separate pages, mind] and long rambly parts like this)and email them off to their new home. I know I promised pics of the just finished work in situ, and really, they'll be up soon.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

New Year's Traditions

For the past four years or so, I’ve finished a project on New Year’s Eve. Admittedly, more than one year has found me clicking away frantically as Dick begins the countdown and the ball drops, but it seems to start the year off on a good note. One fewer WIP in the basket and a smidge more order in the world.

However, this year I’ve not only finished one project on New Year’s Eve, but finished a second during the first week of the new year. If’n I pat myself on the back much longer, I’ll sprain my elbow.

I’ll get pix up this weekend, but for those who are willing to scroll down to October 18, the two that are gone are the alpaca lace hood and the Sunshine and Shadow Linus blanket.

Of course, now I have to decide which two projects I’m going to move from the wannado list. Rogue and Ribby? I want me some sweaters, by gum. Yeah, yeah, technically I have five on the needles already—the castle blanket, the Candlelight moebius for SW Trading, the neverending sock project, and the shawl—but who lets technicalities stand in the way?

Perhaps this year I’ll change my focus and count projects by utility—one for SW Trading, a sock project, an at home only project (large or complex), one for me, and one for Linus. That way, when an exchange that’s just too, too tempting pops up, it won’t feel overwhelming to pick up just one more and do it. (Did I mention that the shawl is now behaving itself? It’s current incarnation has consumed all the bad small part, and I’m actually making progress, having passed the point where I had to rip before.)

Or perhaps I’ll let the sweater stash marinate for a little longer, while I finish the shawl (which has a deadline) and the castle blan (which has been a UFO for way too long).

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Life is as Strange as Fiction

Today tastes like dry champagne, day old caviar, and melba toast.

The year has come round again, I see . . . how many times does that make since I came here? I don’t recall; one looks very much like the next from where I sit.

It was a February, I remember that much. February, the armpit of the year, when Christmas is a gaudily lit memory, the new of New Year’s has worn off, and spring is just a daydream of longer days and balmy temperatures. It’s grey and cold and wet. You get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, and come home in the dark, especially at my job.

I’d gotten locked down again, stuck on doing one more thing, and then just one more thing, and then one more little task. The good part of being obsessive-compulsive is you get a lot done. The bad part of being obsessive-compulsive is, well, you get a lot done. Often at the expense of any number of other things.

The janitor startled me as he came in—was it already eight o’clock? Good thing no one was home to miss me but the cats. I backed up to the laptop (might as well crank out an hour at home), turned off the coffeepot, and gathered my stuff to leave. I got in the car, and checked the gas gauge out of habit. Habit, because it’s been on the fritz for the last several weeks. I have a sticky note to have that checked the next time I take it to the garage for its oil change taped to the steering wheel. Enough gas to get home? I thought so. I’d chance it.

I might have made it, but traffic was ghastly bad—drive thirty feet, stop. Wait. Drive thirty feet, stop. Wait longer. I decided to turn off the main street and cut through a residential neighborhood; not as risky as it sounds. This city is laid out on a big grid, so you can get just about everywhere from anywhere. It may take you a while, and a side trip or two, but you’ll get there.

So there I was, in dark enough to be midnight, driving through a series of blocks that the historic society hadn’t yet adopted. Ranch homes from the twenties and thirties, not yet restored, gently decaying with wide deep porches and Arizona rooms from back in the day before air conditioners. Handyman’s specials now, for sure, but in a handful of years they’d sell for as much as a McMansion in the trendy parts of town. Once they get discovered, that is. Right now, the inhabitants are the ghosts in straw boaters and white suits with carnations in their lapels, and shambling ogres with dreadlocked beards and broken fingernails pushing shopping carts.

If I read this in a book, or saw it in a movie, my suspension of disbelief would hit the floor and leave a mark, but sometimes life imitates art. Yup. The car sputtered, stalled, and then shut down, and I watched as the gas gauge needle slowly trickled to “E” and then a hair beyond. I said some words my mother doesn’t know I know.

I got out of the car, slamming the door behind me. Fortunately, I have AAA for events just like this. It would only be a block or three to the next intersection, and then a couple more to a convenience store with a pay phone. That’s what I told myself, trying not to think of the old jokes about why there are no crocodiles in this river (the piranhas scared them all off, ho-ho.) No junkies in this neighborhood, the gangs are fiercely territorial. I took a deep breath, and started walking down the sidewalk, where one light in three still worked, and the shadows lay in pools.

That’s probably why I didn’t see where the pavement humped up, thrust into the air by a tree root, or even just buckled from age. I caught it squarely with my toe, and for a gut-dropping moment, I flew.

I buttered the sidewalk with skin from my palms, and utterly destroyed the hose I was wearing (a new pair, too!) And just as the physics of bread demand that it fall jelly side down, the aerodynamics of purses command that they fall open side out, launching your whole life in a splendid arc. Can’t get anything to fall out when you’re hunting so you can spread the mass thin and paw through it for your lipstick, but drop a purse and generate fallout for square yards.

I got up from my amazing four-point landing, and then I heard it. Some wiseass in the house in front of me had seen my feat of gymnastic grace, and was applauding.

I called him names under my breath as I gathered my stuff back into my bag. Lipstick, pepper spray, hairbrush, paperback, keys. Keys? No keys. They were shiny, they should have been easy to spot, even in the deep shadows. I looked through the chain link fence, and there they were; on the wrong side of the wires. It figured.

I stood up, and brushed myself off. “Excuse me? Sir?” No reply, just the slow sardonic clapping tapering off now. “My keys are in your yard. Is it ok if I come get them back?” The porch light wasn’t on, nor were the lights in the house. Saving electricity? Or squatting?

Since he didn’t say no, I figured that must be a yes, so I opened the gate, fumbling awkwardly at the latch on the inside, right at shoulder height, and let myself in. But when I reached down, my keys weren’t there. I fumbled at the ground for several seconds, patting and poking the dust, but no dice. Then I heard them jingle from up on the porch.

Enough was enough. I put on my biggest attitude, and swarmed up the steps to deal with this jerk. But as soon as I reached the top, I was struck by how warm it was there.

It was summer. I could smell the green smell after the monsoons wash through, could faintly hear the bells of the ice cream carts that wheel through neighborhoods like these, begging pennies and quarters from sticky fists. I took a step back.

“What’s your hurry?” a voice asked from the depths of an old couch. “Stay a while.” It was thick, phlegmatic, coarse. “Have a Co’Cola.” The porch swing at the end creaked, as if someone had shifted position.

“Yes,” agreed a thin, reedy tone from that direction. “Tell us a story.” I knew this voice, I thought. I knew both of them. I felt smaller when I heard them, smaller and less certain, somehow. Plastic hinges squealed as the lid to the cooler was flipped open.

I looked inside, and for a moment, the shapes inside were large, and round. Bowling ball size . . . but bowling balls don’t have hair. Heads, I though. Heads in the cooler, and familiar voices. Voices that sounded right in the dark, voices that made me feel small.

The one on the couch reached into the cooler, plucked something out, and offered it to me, pushing it into my numbed hand. A coke. In a glass bottle, green and cold, an emerald of winter on a summer’s day.

“They haven’t had these since I was . . .”

“A kid,” he croaked for me. “The last time you heard our voices. Remember that night?”

I did. My knees buckled, and I sank down into the old cane-bottomed rocking chair. I had been seven when the night terrors that plagued me finally ended. They said I grew out of them. I learned to tell stories about them, weave them into webs to be walked through in the light, and shut away between covers. And now they were back.

I dropped my drink and ran down the steps that melted into the Escher painting that had hung over my bed, the last thing I saw every night. I had run from them, Croaker and Reed, every night for months, and every capering horror was just a mask for these two. Down the stairs and down the stairs and down the stairs, winded and blowing, and when I stopped I was still at the top, with the rocker swinging softly behind me, runners cutting bloody gouges in the cement of the porch. I sat back down.

I’m glad I packed the laptop when I left the office. I’m glad I had it with me, and set up this blog. You found your way here; you can find your way to the gate, and open it for me. Because, you see, I am seven again. And the latch is too high for me.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Happy New Year

Today tastes like honey, with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

It's been a good year so far, which isn't saying much at this point. Ask me again in late winter.

Celebrated by going on vacation in our hometown--we let someone else drive us to a paired tasting for dinner, then spent the night with friends in a small intimate party of ten. Ahhhhh.

Saw Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Love the books, wasn't enchanted by the movie. The visuals are great--but the humor in print is veddy British; it's up to you to get the jokes. The movie is very very 'Murrican--I'm going to tell a joke, are you ready? Are you ready? JOOOOOOOOOOOOKEEEEEEEE!!! Did you get it?

The characters are way over the top and played for laughs in the film, in the books, they're quite serious about what they're doing. I'm not sure the filmakers intended this as irony. Oh well. Will simply refuse to see the sequels--or pick them up for the visuals. I really like the sets and costumes and dressings of the film--the fantasy Victorian thing is great eye candy.