Monday, September 29, 2003

Mad Girl's Love Song

by Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forgot your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Friday, September 26, 2003

On Solitude

It is not easy to obtain solitude in an urban environment. One might think poverty would be isolating enough to guarantee an evening without visitors, but just tonight as I retired to my private chamber an individual from the order Coleoptera announced himself from behind my bureau. I've been preoccupied with him ever since. And to think I had my evening so carefully planned! What he was doing around these parts is anybody's guess, although eating seemed to be a substantial part of it, as I originally had him mistaken for some kind of cricket. Then I was reminded of similar visit some weeks ago, only from a much smaller sojourner, maybe half his size. "I thought for certain you had gone for good!" I exclaimed, marveling at the resemblance. My companion whirled his antennae. "But how have you managed this long," I inquired, "for clearly there is no sustenance to be found in this house--indeed, so rarely even for myself--and nary are the crumbs that should fall within your many legged reach!"

This is what I tell all my houseguests, because while I don't mind a bit of the old ecosystem around the home, I prefer a fine-tuned one. Somebody died on the first floor this week and I didn't even know they had been staying here, nobody bothered to tell me about it. I still don't know who it was because they managed to conceal their presence in death with the same craft--and probably the same furniture--as they had in life. Of course, death in the late summer is scarcely concealed at all, as I'm sure you can well appreciate. But producing a body has proved a vexing occupation at best. I've only uncovered a gnawed Kool-Aid packet and some colorful fecal deposits where I thought for certain I would discern a shallow grave. I'm sure the old sport was only extending the courtesy of expiring in some out of the way place, but really death can be such an inconvenience when it begs the temporary repositioning of a refrigerator.

How, then, can one maintain a life of complete solitude? Murder comes immediately to mind, as it is much easier to work someone's death into your schedule when you are able to consult your calendar first. Of course, this brings with it certain moral considerations which are best suppressed--unless you enjoy moving heavy appliances on the weekend. A vow of solitude does not give us license to begin killing everyone willy-nilly, however. This is particularly true as we climb the evolutionary ladder, for instance, beginning with the arthropods and extending laterally to certain members of the Nematodes, commonly known as "the Bush cabinet." Also, anyone cute, who wears their hair in any sort of bob, should be invited in for dinner--and in this case I am not speaking of mice. Solitude is a permeable condition, not bound by trifles over right and wrong, and in this way mirrors the religious morality of our president, who more than anyone exemplifies what it means to be alone in the world.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Love Vs. Infatuation

What then is the difference between love and infatuation, and will one's bank statement reflect it? Is it better to admire someone from afar--say, across the street with binoculars--or would it be better to invite them over for showering? This depends on whether you have to work the next morning. For it is said that to admire someone, one need only know them in passing, whereas in love, one must share something longstanding, like bronchitis. But how can one ever know for sure? If you feel yourself light-headed with excitement and unable to be productive, it is infatuation; if your doctor prescribes antibiotics, it is love.

The Economy of Love

The economics of love are less exact. We all pay a price for love, although I understand the rates are lower at Broad and Spring Garden streets. But don't think you can buy love like any other commodity, unless of course it is Valentine's Day. Let's face it: love requires some level of discretionary income. If you are poor, date someone with money who will see you for who really are--earthy and uncomplicated--and avoid dating your peers, who will also see you for who you really are: a bum. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if the beholder earns under 30k you will probably hear about it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The Advantage to Dying

Two days ago Maureen's father died of terminal cancer. (Our second date took place in Philadelphia after she had relocated here to be with him during this period.) I called the house yesterday but she had just stepped out. I spoke with her youngest sister on the phone. She's engaged to be married in November; there was a hope on the part of the whole family that her father would be able to see it. Maureen's told me a lot about her--about her job which routinely flies her to Paris and her fiancé who's sold B-movie screenplays to Hollywood. She's closer in age to myself than Maureen. She's also very sweet natured and less prone to butt heads with Maureen than some of the other sisters in the family (it is a big family dominated by women).

I was caught off guard when she introduced herself over the phone, and when I realized there was no Maureen available to speak with. Awkwardly I blurted out my condolences. I wish I had spoken in a more familiar tone.

While Maureen's father was dying he spoke with the dead. He didn't speak with the living--for instance, someone who simply wasn't there. He specifically had conversations with people who had already died, or other people who could not be identified. Some of his episodes were rife with metaphors involving trains and gates and times and unseen people, a little boy in particular, who would be helping or showing or opening or somehow involving themselves in a process which her father was preparing himself for.

Maureen's father was an phenomenal reader, a history buff who spent any free time in his study, surfacing occasionally for meals. He lost all interest in these things--books, newspapers, headlines--while he was dying. In a similar way his body stopped consuming calories--his weight dropped to 123lbs. Gradually he let go of the things which had comprised his life to that point. On Sunday Maureen sent out an email; hospice said that her dad probably had two weeks to live. He died the following afternoon.

Maureen is lucky because she was able to be with her dad while he was dying. They talked extensively; he talked a lot about his feelings about his life, perhaps because he was a good communicator to begin with, but also because hospice-care facilitates these types of activities. Someone once told me that, if we're lucky, we are born, we grow old, we get sick, and we die. That's if we are lucky, because that is what we are designed to do: part of our purpose in life is to die.

There is not a lot of time to our lives, and death reminds us. This makes choosing our life immediately important. It also lends perspective to life, when we consider our preoccupation with things like conflict and war and money and reputation. Large institutions--governments, corporations--don't experience mortality in the same way, so their cultures don't acknowledge it. It is easy for governments to justify war, for example, justified or not. That's because governments never die of cancer. They lose the advantage of having that perspective; they never gain that wisdom. So they persist, being consistently foolish, serving the needs of power, as all institutions naturally do. Even a fool can come close enough to death to have it touch them, and force a change in perspective. That's the advantage to dying.
The End of an Affair

We were riding the subway to Maureen's apartment in Brooklyn. Maureen was wearing a crazy nylon jumpsuit and a red hat, and her shoes were strangely angular, reminding me of a carpentry tool. I'm not stylish but I didn't feel too intimidated being with her. A lot of people couldn't tell we were together. I was standing up most of the time, trying to keep a particular expression. Maureen would begin speaking to me and excite the attention of everyone around us. Or I would start to say something and then distract myself thinking about all the leering men and what they thought about it. I can distract myself quite easily this way. I didn't want them to think I'd just had sex all over town with this girl and that they didn't have a chance. Everyone should have a *chance*, at least--even a jerk. But the worst jerks are the kind that have to smother all over their girlfriends to make everyone else feel like they don't even have a chance. I get very tired thinking about it.

We did quite a bit of walking that day, even though we weren't feeling too hot. I got to see Maureen's apartment and her view of the city. We bought some vegetables and ate lunch and Maureen changed into these bright pink Chinese slippers that looked like they had the arch-support of a wheat thin. All the kids in the neighborhood couldn't shut up about them. But they were nice about it, and it made Maureen laugh. We finally sat down in this park that didn't have any grass but had a lot of dogs and joggers. There was also a utility truck that kept passing by, throwing dirt on us at every opportunity. Still, it was nice to sit and talk with Maureen in the waning hours of our date. When we departed Brooklyn we rode over the Williamsburg bridge and Maureen told me about her rides to work, crossing that bridge at dawn. We both returned home that evening, and were sick for the rest of the week. Maureen had bronchitis and I had sinusitis. At first we thought it was SARS.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

We were both sick when we woke the next day; Maureen had chest pains and my throat felt funny.

"I wonder if we're allergic to each other, Salvador."

I went to take a shower. You might think it's very romantic to take a shower with your date, but my plan was to expectorate all over the floor. Actually, I'm not crazy about showering with people even when they are my date. There's a lot of standing around for one thing. I'm not saying it's the worst thing that could happen; I guess it depends on your mood. But I don't think I feel too strongly about it. They say when you reach a certain age you get set in your ways, and this is probably a good example of that. Maybe if I showered with people everyday I would feel differently. But that hardly ever happens unless I go to a pool--and how often does anyone go to a pool?

I was showering for a while. I showered the hell out of that hotel, trying to get the water to run into the middle of the room. It was constantly running down the drain. I showered all over the place but whenever the water went outside the curtain it would just sit in the middle of the floor, not trying anything funny. It was the goddamndest thing. I investigated until I could see where the floor was just slightly angled at the border of the stall. It was a clever design, I can tell you that.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?

by Donald Rumsfeld

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic'ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Well, why can't a woman be like that?
Why does ev'ryone do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do ev'rything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up--well, like their father instead?
Why can't a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please;
Whenever you are with them, you're always at ease.

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so decent, such regular chaps.
Ready to help you through any mishaps.
Ready to buck you up whenever you are glum.
Why can't a woman be a chum?

Why can't a woman behave like a man?
If I was a woman who'd been to a ball,
Been hailed as a princess by one and by all;
Would I start weeping like a bathtub overflowing?
And carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and never tell me where I'm going?
Why can't a woman be like me?

Saturday, September 06, 2003

On Maintaining a Good Humor in Combat

There comes a time for every citizen when our nation calls on us to go to war. Most of us eagerly await this call, unless of course we have just sat down to dinner. If your nation shows up at your door, tell them it is not a good time, as you are in the middle of a bath. If your nation persists, say that you have a hard time remembering basic details--like how to launder your shorts in the rain--particularly when exploding in a fiery ambush. If your nation says it is your civic duty, do your best imitation of a South Philadelphian and accuse them of being soft on "the enemy," then chase them out of your neighborhood with an American flag cudgel.

If you do go into the military, for God's sake please pick a job that keeps you from getting shot at. This is never any kind of fun--and it's a very good way to spoil an evening. If your hope is to be killed instantaneously, certainly there are better ways to lower your monthly electric bill. Not that killing other people is any fun either. Remember Ezra Pound's lasting impression: "The real trouble with war is that it gives no one a chance to kill the right people." More often than not, the "right" people are watching you expire in droves on CNN from a yacht serving cocktails in Lake Michigan, with a hand-written sign that reads, "We Support Our Troops." But this is no reason to despair. The right people will always die of their own accord, and sometimes in embarrassing positions.

It is particularly important for combat troops to "be of good cheer," and certainly not to "ask for the resignation of the Defense Secretary." This only serves to hurt the Defense Secretary's feelings--and doesn't he already have enough thrust upon him without the weight of hurt feelings? Bear in mind also that questioning the policies of one's government only helps the enemy, who also questions our government, but in a multiple-choice format. This allows the enemy to grade the results much faster, whereas most Americans receive their responses in essay form. This leaves Americans getting most of their information from the National Football League, which speaks volumes about our society, if only they weren't measured by the pint.

Monday, September 01, 2003

The Big Sad

Overlord played a live set at WMUC yesterday (and I played with them); here are three songs from that performance.

The Big Sad

The Brand New Panic

A Boy In Name Only