"cent sense" is a little exercise in writing, and also a bad French/English word pun about word counts, making sense, and coinage. Ongoing since 12 March 2021.
8-9 June 21
I read that ModCloth can no longer verify employment for those employed by the company before 2020. Had we saved the dog shit deposited in our shoes by the startup's four-legged office mascot, surely that would suffice. Alternatively, we could present copies of our cashed paychecks which were trimmed around the edges to pay for the break room tequila. Could the company collect its liquor receipts to calculate how many of us were there in 2008, 2009, 2010? That should make it easier to determine a legitimate number of claims. The owner once took her besties up in a hot air balloon on business. They should've snapped a picture of the rest of us standing in the parking lot, greased with Spak Brothers.
I'll return the favor, being unable to verify much about those times myself. I was living more than working, and I rolled into my wall-less cubicle in an open plan confusion with the night before in my hair. Working hours uneven, confused. I wasn't a very good employee then but I didn't mean to be. I meant to wear lovely things and have a few laughs. I did both, and I'm still doing both, thanks to ModCloth.
3-7 June 21
If you asked her coworkers what Marcy thought about in her off hours, they would've struggled to come up with a few possibilities. She seemed like one of the parrots that came into the veterinary practice, knocking around lines they'd heard in the car on the way.
"Thanks for calling!"
"Laughter's the best medicine!"
As a receptionist, she wasn't expected to have much originality. A receptionist has to somehow connect to anybody and everybody, and so a somewhat general disposition is a preferred qualification. On Monday, Ruth, the part-time accountant, saw Marcy's big lunch salad in the break room and mistook it for a communal treat. After bathing half of it in creamy Italian dressing and scarfing it down over a crossword, Ruth saw the sticky label on the edge of the plastic container: "Marcy." Ruth confessed to Marcy and apologized, but her contrition couldn't break Marcy's loop of laughter-infused sayings.
"I guess I'll have to start a restaurant here!"
"Hey, at least I'm keeping you healthy!"
"You want half my car, too? Just kidding!"
Ruth no longer felt guilty. Instead, it was like cracking open that salad was also cracking open another of the paperback psycho-thrillers on her nightstand. Tuesday through Friday, Ruth ate half of every one of Marcy's lunches and never said a word about it. Everybody in the office would wait until Marcy went to pick up office supplies or mail a package. Then, they would crowd around her desk and ask Ruth about the lunches.
"It's like the woman is totally not there. It's like they were talking about on this serial killers podcast..."
As soon as Ruth said "serial killers podcast," her coworkers began to tune her out. Whatever was up with Marcy had to be more interesting than the podcasts they'd heard so much about.
Now, Friday was ending and everyone was on their way out. Marcy offered a few well-rehearsed, "Are we sure this isn't a three-day weekend?"s and chuckled out the door. She walked a couple blocks south of the office and then turned up a flight of five steps into the tan brick townhouse where she lived with her sister.
Marcy's call of "I'm home!" rang out a little too sitcom for a real-life return, and her hand stuck on the knob of the front door.
"Okay," was the blunted reply from the kitchen. Terri was putting away groceries, still muttering to herself about the stupid store clerk who didn't know where the cheese was.
"'Permission cheese!' 'Permission cheese!' You've got permission to shove that cheese right up your ass."
Marcy re-opened the front door and stretched around the door jam to lift a few envelopes from the mailbox. An electric bill she'd already paid. A postcard for an open house. The unit next door was for sale. Terri and Marcy didn't like the former owners - jazz musicians - and worried they'd sell to even worse people. Underneath the postcard was a half-sized envelope simply addressed "To: Resident."
1-2 June 21
And that's when the light bulb went off: we're all something that can be said in a short Instagram video while holding a CBD chai dairy-free latte in Los Angeles. I don't mean to pick on Los Angeles, but why do all the light bulbs seem to go off there? Anyway, that's when she knew that everyone around the world was united vibrationally, cosmically by the ability to use their credit cards to buy her mantras in EFT form. That is EFT: energetic frequency transfer. "It would change your life, you little piece of god. Your only shortcoming is that you've forgotten who you are. It's so easy to forget."
Every day, there is a new revelation : about vibrations, about destiny, about the stars and the cards, about how to get through or out, about who's a narcissist and whose lights are gas, about why the problems you have could be solved if you remembered to solve them. It's a Wilson Phillips philosophy. "Why do you lock yourself up in these chains, [empath]?"
I want to believe it, but I know it already from the cross and the tongues. I have lost my appetite for messiahs. No salvation for me.
29-31 May 21
Terri had only worked at Safeway a few hours. She didn't know where the French's French fried onions were, but nobody else did either. Now, a customer walked up to her, pointing at a shopping list and shouting, "Can you tell me where this is?" The customer's lacquered nail repeatedly landed on the line: "Permission cheese." Terri quietly said the words to herself: "Permission cheese."
"Ma'am, do you mean 'Parmesan' cheese?"
The customer wasn't thrilled at Terri's redirect.
"Okay, so I can't spell. Where's the freakin' cheese?"
Terri didn't know where the cheese was. That didn't help things. Terri also didn't know that the customer - Hope - had lived this scene a thousand times. There was the time she texted her doctor to complain of tinnitus. The message the doctor received read: "Hi I think I have tiny Idaho's in my ear." Auto-correct wasn't exactly on her side. And then there was the time she wrote to city council, complaining about the "knockious" smells coming from the sewer drains on her street. Hope rarely wrote in birthday cards. A friend once bought her a dictionary as a gift. It was meant to be a funny gag gift, but Hope cracked the pocket volume open to "B" and spelled aloud: "B-I-T-C-H. That's you, Carol." She could read and speak and hear just fine, and she didn't do much writing as a painting instructor at the community center. She never quite knew why everyone seemed so bothered that she couldn't spell "permanently."
And now this supermarket clerk was barely holding back giggles at "Permission cheese." Terri didn't mean to laugh. It was mostly nervous embarassment: What kind of supermarket clerk didn't know where the cheese was? Hope didn't know Terri was new, nervous. Didn't care.
"Yeah, well, I can spell this: F-U-C-K Y-O-U."
28 May 21
It's a bit late now, now that the leaves are dried and cupping their own shadows, to ask if the Cheese Mallow is invasive or native. An invasive plant makes changes too fast; no respect for history. A native plant forgets where it comes from. When the Cheese Mallow makes waggly bundles across my yard, blooming cream and shading the soil, it's "introduced" - a term for non-native plants who are allowed to stay on good behavior. It's late, but worth asking if these terms do any good. Is botany just up to its old tricks, making people out of plants?
27 May 21
Sir, you are clearly working a carnival booth. It's obvious you've put your floppy-eared dogs in striped costumes. Look - your belt's coming undone! It's lamé hot glued over a Hot Topic adjustable belt made of canvas and steel. You've got paper chef's hats on your forearms. Children's starry night bed sheets are bunched up along the booth's wooden supports. How am I to believe in your authority, in the authority of your drive, when you're coming apart at the seams? Is that MACARONI on your head?
Here, let me get in that booth. I'll show you how it's done.
25-26 May 21
The bird in the back is Toucan Sam or a plastic lawn flamingo. Blue raspberry Kool-Aid pours from jugs bought with points from the packet. Maybe her left foot on the calm surface suggests that the left pitcher is instead full of some kind of insta-set Jello-O? Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip makes a smooth carpet beneath the scene. In the heavens, a hammer, sickle, and star light up in a cosmic "Open 24/7." We're all sharing here, sort of. The glory of Lady Clairol shines, and her hair stays brightly lit and shower wet. What she sees in her puddles are commercials for gizmos that free up time and love, that save money in a way that indebts it to you. Money owes you now, takes care of you now.
Isn't the shopping cart a tool of divination? There's a hodgepodge of what you need and what you think you don't need: those are the things you really need, but you don't yet know why. Gaze out long, eyes unfixed, and wonder what the new hairbrush is all about. What dreams were caught up in the net of ads like so many twitching fish? Must remember: Gordon's Fish Sticks.
23-24 May 21
Isn't it clear he's taking off towards the great sun above him? The hanged man is a test to see if you know which way is up. Guidebooks report him to be hanging by one foot from living wood as a sort of martyr to universal forces: He's stuck but okay with it. But there's the eye and then there's what's behind it: a pulsing nerve set on edge, sensing but never transmitting its own image back out directly. The nerve comes back to us only if we use brute medicine (crush its velvet) or perform a little magic (ruin all the science, be fools again).
He's taking off! His bent arms are the horns of the goat, defiant and proud with its red mouth open to bleat a final goodbye / fuck off. The human head is an evaporating crown of surplus, its value too fleeting to stick around. Shoes like teeth offer to take the earth's minerals along. A tether doesn't hold his foot to a tree, but a stowaway snake coils tight to his ankle. It's an infernal menagerie space program, or an expedition to discover if freedom is really out there somewhere. Don't feel bad for him.
20-22 May 21
What else might they make for Pride? Porcelain jugs in the form of Harvey Milk and filled with the excretions of free range cows and goats. (For you, Marika, and your callous hands.) Patio bricks with carved inscriptions, things Marsha P. Johnson never said. A Compton's Cafeteria pop-up in the Mall of America. "My First Bar Raid" playsets. Lesbian separatist camping gear. The Chelsea Manning Center for Data Extraction and Patriotism. I would buy the milk and wish for the burden of bricks.
Maybe it's the residue of being chastised for a limp wrist and a lingering glance that makes us so adamant about getting it right and punishing those who get it wrong. We're play-acting as the judges before whom we've been led. But are you sure about your being, so firm in your convictions, that you will insist on making others suffer empty suffering, will insist on wasting their finite lives, to put your court in motion? At least be sure and certain. At least be a real judge and insist that you preside over life and death, so that in your immense self-importance we can find a chamber for echoing laughter. Start up your revolutionary tribunal on your front lawn, and let the Mazdas cruise by thinking it's a lemonade sale or car wash to send someone to camp. (A destination you likely do not know.) Give us something to laugh at for once. Your existence is not revolutionary, but it is fleeting. They will always be able to sell your identity because it was manufactured by them, but your laughter will be more troublesome.
For me, the promise of Pride is the promise of a dead god. It's the promise of becoming Lucifer's Narcissus, a bright light consuming itself to be seen. No utility, only excess.
19 May 21
Let's begin against the camera. Against as it was, again emphasized with -st. All the repetitive pressures, again and against the camera. A gain, the camera. (Camera as debt.) A gain, the aperture. (Aperture as obligation.) A gain, the forever length of an aperture against its width. (Length as infinity, terrible infinity.) Close the aperture again but you cannot keep it closed. A door never becomes a wall. The aperture will again be a loophole, an exception.
These are promises, not reasons to begin against the camera. So why melt the aperture shut? To kill the science in the eye.
17-18 May 21
Her fingers were ten little cranes stuck mid-lift over the keyboard. Terry was on her second day as a live transcriptionist. Yesterday she'd done captions for a small meeting of accountants. The person who had requested captioning couldn't make to the meeting and Terry felt cheated, like there was no test to pass and no standard to achieve. The other people in the meeting were only distracted by the white-on-black text with minor errors like: "Jane won't be available to go to Ten Pea... Pen ... Tempe..."
But as her fingers turned leaden, Terry wished she'd gone in Jane's stead. She was assigned to caption a graduation ceremony at the local university. After all the sickness, the death, and the emptiness, few graduates came to the ceremony but those who did come needed it for one reason or another. In their diligently wrinkled polyester garb, the graduates lined up to be called across the stage. Terry heard the first name:
Terry thought to herself, "So far, so good." The announcer then began attempting the third name. Three or four attempts took place before a nervous chuckle and the announcer gave up.
Terry's hands froze.
15-16 May 21
A good documentary is a hope or a wish. Nothing opens to the world without prying and extraction, and getting to the center of things always mangles them at least a little bit. Historians try, bless them, but rigorous historiography is nothing to fantasize about. We can't live inside methods. In a good documentary, we watch our wish for the marks of time to unfold themselves and form legible letters and statements. "This happened here, signed..." Here, the historians are never wrong and trails never go cold. There's always more archival footage, more heads for the talking.
A good documentary is a fictional text and better at revealing our own fictions. What I mean by 'good documentary' isn't a documentary that is always admitting its own faults and errors, a documentary with many voices and perspectives. Instead, it's something so airtight that it provokes our anxiety. How could the past be so clear when the present is a flurry? Too much truth can deceive you, make you think you know what's going on and how to be good. But a good documentary, a filmy lie, eats away at you and makes you doubt your ability to know, to be good.
14 May 21
"I'm a wader," Katherine tells you when you meet her poolside. She doesn't really like to swim. Under the water, her shoulders tense and it feels like there was never any air at all. A raspberry one-piece and broad straw hat coordinate with the lime goggles she wears. The chlorine irritates the dry eyes which her doctor calls "normal for her age." Small comforts.
Today, she finished her shallow water walk and, as she was leaving the pool enclosure, the goggles slipped from her light grasp. They fell into the deep end, eight feet down. That's where I found them.
12-13 May 21
I could put pronouns up there, but isn't the problem that I put them at all? I stick them like a lousy game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey played at bachelorette parties. (My browser tells me 'bachelorette' is not a word.) Paper bits go up and I'm wrong again. We all laugh. It's a good time until it's not.
I worry about being a professional 'person,' someone called upon to answer the question 'What are you?' again and again. I sense it's a trap to keep me from wondering about all the other things in life. It's a payday loan, a debt you take on and can't take off. You want me to hold the paper so we can all laugh but it's your paper. The joke's on you, really. If I stopped playing the game, why would we be here? I already know there's no reasoning it.
I'm asked to write more clearly about this, which is only another distraction. I've been sent out to look and ponder, then report back. I'm asked to report as though I've seen nothing. I am encrypted against myself, so I could not force myself to do this if I tried.
11 May 21
A rounded sunshade in the passenger side window screens out some of the noon sunlight bouncing off the sidewalk. Chelsea's right hand cups her phone screen to reduce the glare further.
"Is he going to go or what?"
Chuck's belly presses into the steering wheel as he looks around Chelsea's curved shoulders. He's trying to turn the corner, but a pedestrian is standing there cluelessly.
Neither Chelsea nor the pedestrian respond to Chuck's incitements.
Chuck keeps his gaze on the pedestrian as he rounds the bend. He's hoping to keep stationary things stationary and moving things moving.
10 May 21
The receptionist "Marcy" is full of lies but they're not her own. She's a magpie of mendacity, collecting tidbits of falsehood as she hears them in the office, on the bus, at the diner down the street. She sits in front of her burrito lunch special, listening for the untruths of fellow diners and storing them in her heart.
When you arrive at her desk, she says she's happy to see you. She heard that one at a family cookout.
She says your shoes look great. That one's from the time two high school rivals crossed paths at a Kohl's.
9 May 21
If we keep raising children, they'll get too high up and we won't be able to reach them. We'll need taller ladders, high altitude oxygen masks, and wooly scarves. To use the ladders, we'll need to cut holes in our ceilings and the rain will get in. We'll get all wet and catch colds. Sneezing and sniffling, but the children will still be in orbit and threatening to come crashing down at points unpredictable. Their bodies will catch flame as they reenter the atmosphere: propagation of the species gone ballistic. Our cities will smolder. No, we must stop raising children.
8 May 21
How could they argue with the philosopher's clear and simple logic?
"If nothing ever, there would be butterflies."
In the summer, the fights began: Is there something? Is there nothing? The schools and universities were teaching something, but Emily knew it was nothing. If nothing ever, there would be butterflies. There are butterflies, ergo there is nothing ever.
Now she'd said it aloud and knew she was right. Paper butterflies grew spontaneously on the bulletin board, and Emily's acolytes signaled their concord with a hearty "AAAAAANNNNNNNNNNN!" Her husband joined in: "JRRRRRRJJJRJJJJRRRRRRR." One teenage girl leaned back, as in a dare.
7 May 21
Water fresh from the garden hose is perfectly fine to drink, but patience pays dividends. Slosh several basinfuls of hose water together in a five gallon bucket. Add yellow flower petals, or a small amount of fabric dye, and brew in the sun. How long is up to you. Aim for a color between chamomile tea and amber. Now, this is water worth drinking. Stand on your back legs and rest your front paws on the edges of the bucket. Take a deep breath, then plunge your muzzle right in. This is how you enjoy spring when you're a cat.
6 May 21
A mephitic cough and a leg cracking out straight : you've jolted yourself awake. Fields of colorized static are visible and, briefly, a face forms along the ceiling. You feel the shimmer along your own face. There is no clear sense of where you are but you are alert, at the ready. For those few moments, the orderly grid of meanings along which you find yourself breaks apart into floating points. The syntax of time is anxious to be filled, but meaning is uncooperative. It's a Jupiter year of Thursdays. It's an escape from escaping the body. A life worth losing.
5 May 21
I hear many of your voices as I write, and I try to guess your next words. I'm always in a situation of writing in response in advance. It's all that academic training: imagine all counter-arguments and counter them before they're argued. No wonder nobody publishes anything worth reading. That's not strictly true and possibly harmful, which are the two primary conditions of life - so I'm in good company.
I should approach writing in general as I approach punctuation. I don't understand it, but I don't believe you do either. And if you hold a comma against me, oh well.
3-4 May 21
Blanca picks up the phone.
It's Ed McMahon, or Julian McMahon, or the Hamburgler. The House of Evangelista has served more than 10 million 'Charmed' extras with oversized checks, and now they're legendary. But the evil clones which budded from Blanca's body are challenging the family to walk in one final ball: The Cheese Ball.
Blanca puts down the phone, but it rings again.
It's Candy. Well, her ghost. Well, her ghost in an afterlife where she's still walking in the balls. She says Pray Tell is storming out of a funeral again. Ricky's an alcoholic again, or maybe it's Damon. No, Damon is sober. It's not even Candy on the phone, it's the other girl.
"The category is closed," Blanca whispers as she hangs up the receiver, looking at the answering machine with maternal solemnity.
A doctor very reminiscent of Sandra Bernhard opens the front door and walks towards Blanca.
"You're a nurse now, Blanca." The doctor's diagnosis surprises no one except perhaps O.J. Simpson who hears the news on his car radio.
"Drive your car to the ball. That's what Cubby would want!" Elektra intones.
There's crack in the joint, but we'll get to that later.
2 May 21
Nobody is wearing a 'mask.' A mask is occult, lined at the edges with a delicious question. Masks are for parties and today's masked are not attending many parties. It's more of a mouth habit, a sort of biological modesty that doesn't show the body of the wearer to others' viral eyes. Perhaps it can be called a respiratory blinder, keeping the lungs on the task of living and ignorant of other options. There's no real mystery to these masks. They're meant to filter out chance. We're all deciding in fabric oblongs how much living or not-living we can bear.
1 May 21
Let's only write faggot things, like tomes of appreciation to the film "Mommie Dearest." It's possible there's nothing new left to be said about the socks, the plant, the beach rants, booze, and boys, but devotion is not bound to progress. Good is good and we are cheap.
Dunaway's boardroom pendulations are a site for pilgrimage because that sort of sovereign movement is rarely seen in real life, drek that real life is. As people get older, they dissimulate more. It's possible that "coming into your power" as you age is just a feeling you're gifted for becoming more pliant.
29-30 April 21
I am only writing this to have written it, since I said I would write 100 words each day. In practice, it's become 100 words to represent each day, with some days - like yesterday and today - lumped together. Maybe you really shouldn't think you have something to say every day. You probably do not.
I would rather be watching Eartha Kitt sing "I Want to be Evil" while downing an afternoon sum of vodka. Or, I could be shopping for more light, summery suggestions of shirt on eBay! I simply don't want to be good or get something done today. No, just waste life.
Someone named "Beth" texted me, begging me to vote for the environment. Only if it's on American Idol, dear. Beth, do you know what would happen if everyone went right now to vote for the environment? No? Well, then why should we risk it! I don't think we should take the chance. Have a another glass of wine. It's on me.
Still not at 200 words. They say a picture is worth 1000 words, but I'm not only friendly terms with the camera today. You wouldn't believe what it said when it saw me. Well, bye.
28 April 21
A cop with a megaphone keeps repeating, "Occupants of Unit 75, we know you're in there. Come out with your hands up." Then she changes the address to Unit 74. Then back to 75. We hear about the big, deadly transgressions cops make. They must be accompanied by all these little confusions, too. She's shouting 74 again. I wonder if she really does know they're in there and how bungled the operation might be. They're probably shouting at a powered-off TV and some old Safeway bananas. I peek out the blinds, but I figure that looks suspicious and I stop.
26-27 April 21
In Kandy Muse, I see a future Alyssa Edwards or Tammy Browne. Her gift is that she's still playful and willing to share a little too much of her exuberance with the world. It's an openness that is hard to keep, harder to cultivate, harder still to recover. She's not acting the way so many of the theatre queens act, for whom acting is an outcome of discipline. I think there's a fine distinction to be made here between someone whose performance seems to come from training, and someone for whom training simply carves a path for a flow of energy. Alyssa and Tammy are good proofs of what Kandy might be as she channels that openness through a discipline. She's funny, queer (in the old sense), a bit quixotic.
Performance craft never really comes to you, though. Once you've got things nailed down, you're no longer performing. You might as well sell Avon if you're so good with scripts. The Kandys and Alyssas and Tammys (what's an apostrophe if not confusion?) are fortunate because they can't be scripted, so they can't lose performance. Drag Race has never quite admitted to this, even though RuPaul's own career is a warning.
24-25 April 21
The Phoenix airport is a sort of travel misfortune. Wherever you've been to, wherever you're going, it can't improve on matters. Most everyone is dressed in dingy sports memorabilia. Many of the women have processed their hair until it's the consistency of horse feed. The men bumble along with their masks somewhere south of the nose, barking the wrong directions to the destination gate. A man on the SkyTrain - sans mask - tried to tell a young woman why she was wrong to think that the train would not go to Terminal 3. He'd asked her for that information, mind. Part of me was surprised she bothered to answer, but not answering a mask-less, grizzled creature like him can be risky. I know that, but I still entertain fantasies of these men being bopped on the snout like dogs.
My characterization of this place and people isn't very generous or forgiving. It's the (not quite full) reverse of all the attempts I've made to like Arizona. Now I'm burning through the frustration and disappointment. It's good to do that. I don't believe in temperate people or endless 'humanity.' You have to confront the cruelty that remains as a record of pain.
23 April 21
A woman with a stroller shouted into her phone that she's not talking about "it" anymore because it gets her too upset. Now she's at the bottom of the hill, screaming louder than ever. Some people like to say plants can hear, but I'm hoping it's not true - for their sakes. It's not the loudness that jars, but overhearing someone doing what we all do, what we're all embarrassed by : keeping ourselves angry. It feels good and it can clear the field of all creatures, leaving you a wide path to yourself - not that you can stand yourself.
22 April 21
Please stop addressing me with all your little postcards. I do not remember my address even though many people stop by to rehearse it with me: 321 Something-something or Another. By the time I'm finished mouthing the names of streets and cities and countries, everyone's lost faith. And who won this corner in the last war? I am probably a citizen of the nation with which I am at war, but that will not last long. New passports arrive daily. All the coinage looks at each other, not me. You will run out of ink before I get this message.
18-21 April 21
There's not much to be said for the fashions of this town. Why are so many young people dressed like absolute nobodies, in arrays of khaki, white, and grey? Visually, a cloning accident has taken place within a J. Crew. Perhaps they all feel themselves to be famous online, or soon-to-be famous, and so they dress for the anonymity they will one day need. If we can make a prediction from the past, most will die as unknown as they were born. Seems a waste not to be punchy while you're still living.
Speaking of wearables, masks are an absolute disaster in the museum and galleries if you're bespectacled like me. All of the exhaled steam lines the lenses. Suddenly, canvases covered in bold, crunchy shapes become pastel nothings. Laura Hapka's paintings didn't suffer from the fog. I took off my glasses and the bright acrylic rumbles continued to lift off the encaustic below. She seems to have solved a puzzle which I've been fussing over: how to lift and drop a color, make it weigh something in action and not just in theory. Patiently, she works through red, blue, and yellow. Of course, I'm biased towards primary colors and big shapes. That sort of art ties into the bureaucratic designs I saw in public assistance offices as a child. The more unsolvable a memory is, the more fully art can bind to it. The gallerist on duty told us that one three-by-three grid of canvases was a sort of index to all the colors Hapka used in the series. It's unclear what an index does for the paintings in this case. Each canvas seems to stand alone quite well. Knowledge of other reds, blues, and yellows doesn't do much.
The sky is dull this afternoon. A shifting fog or interloping clouds, but I'm not qualified to tell. Wednesday's always a sort of middle-of-course day, nothing going at full speed. A nap is coming to me. On a slow day it seems like a mistake to wake from a nap when you could stay tucked away in slumber until the sun brings something peppy. But staying in bed too long leads to a diagnosis. It's still not acceptable to answer "Why aren't you up yet?" with "Because you're not doing anything very interesting." Personally, I'd be glad to be told that, to know I'm awake but not only technically speaking.
16-17 April 21
Alpha isn't right. The big one? A gold mined foot? In the sky? Let's tell Pete. Yeah, but I'm hoping for a copy. I'll be in Kansas. You want some? I'm in the Poconos. I'll just go up and down.
Will you copy? Okay, I've already called them baggage. Yes. We'll let it slip. Thank you, they are short people. Let's go, buddy. Whatever you said, it's the wrong thing for god. I want to let him down.
Physical exams, yeah, I just take a few that way. Spread out. The bottom of the rocks don't make it clean. What is that? Something... I thought it was a wheelchair. Yeah, I'm scared. A ranch is what they look for, Catherine Deneuve. You're good. So, a plan for San Francisco, you're going to stay there in Texas. This probably your tag. Hello, you could. Tampa has moved, the officers are right here and your fur has problems.
The old green jar used to be right but they moved back and forth, just a little bit. Not quantity wise, just like three days shortly after. Have you ever copied? I'm a whale and I don't have time. I don't want to pay.
15 April 21
If clothing has no gender, then I am out of lives. I am out of teeth and claws, little ways of biting into life. The curtains are drawn, but not Carol Burnett's. She just saw them in the window and couldn't resist them. Everything can be resisted now - even the window which opens for looking, shouting, throwing, jumping.
To skirt the rules is to be crazy, but to need the rules once they are gone is to be pathologically regressive. I could be diagnosed by activists and radical liberation specialists.
I mistook ambivalence for indifference, but I care terribly, wretchedly.
14 April 21
Things which are an archive: a red brick stained blue, a sheer shopping bag stuck in a tree and too high to reach, a dim tone of ache in the shoulder, the rigid cardboard circle that once held masking tape, a white extension cord resting along the foot of an armchair, a pillow feather that hitched rides from the bedroom to the living room, window streaks, a sneeze, the scorpion I never saw, a oft-used stick without a name, the point at which two poorly-installed doors collide if opened at the same time, dried petals that look like pollen, wishes.
13 April 21
Exciting ideas come from comedy, like when "Diane" says the past doesn't have the right to look at her. She keeps breaking the interview to sing "L'Hymne à la beauté du monde and rant about decomposition. Is it the grave that tries to sneak a peek, or the fecund soil? Against whose eyes does Diane slam the shutters?
The joke works, maybe, because the idea of "rights" is irrelevant here. It's like saying oil and water don't have the right to mix. The more essential the right, the more shaky it seems. The past lives in the eyes, always looking.
11-12 April 21
The ant's mandibles lift the meliferous corpse to the sun then drop it. Then, more lifting and shuffle steps to the edge of a brick. It's an impasse. The bee is relinquished to the red dirt rectangle once again. Some ants eat dead bees, and so it's probably a sort of "can't carry the groceries from the car" situation.
Aren't there too many analogies at work here? First, there's the mechanical colonial agent consuming the victimized, humanized member of a sweetness-giving hive. And then there's the mortality play: the stinger stings no more! Maybe an anthropologist would tell us it's a salvage economy, or a species 'making do' with ecological turmoil. Any reader of Teen Vogue can come up with a few of the well-rehearsed analyses that have stumbled out of university presses.
But I'm looking at the bee and wondering: How can the ever-flitting bee which trundles over stamen and stigma have died? I expect the bee corpse to become a lithe body again and kick back the ant's advances. Some part of me thinks bees are immortal. If there is analogy here, I am the ant: unable to lift the heavy dead bee body. Unable to move on.
10 April 21
She called lumpy zucchini slices and lackluster olives "kebabs." Then she called lemon juice a "sauce."
To the Jazzy Vegetarian, I wish a dictionary and a goat. A cookbook and a spice rack. A stove turned on and a scale turned off. A faucet which only dispenses lard - hot and cold! Salt from fingers which cannot pinch, only scoop. Some concept of the animal cruelty this recipe represents. Fewer riffs, more rémoulades. A wish to taste ten times stronger than a wish to live forever. Time for marinades and slow roasts. The correct size tomato. Food that folds knees.
9 April 21
Weekend: Travel through your house with one hand on the wall at all times. Write a letter one letter at a time, leaving the room after each letter you write. Switch places with a plant. Shout out the wrong hour every hour on the hour. Sleep with your head at the foot of the bed. Link all the doorknobs in your home with string. Mail the string to a friend and see if it works for them. Imagine yourself doing 50 push-ups. Name your breaths. Tell an ant your PIN number. Drop your keys in the road. See what's there.
8 April 21
The what of what you see isn't there at times, and really that's for the best. There's a whale eye and a pomegranate and a vent. The corpulent round of a thigh over a kneecap. There's none of that.
Blue is insufficient, maybe insufficiency itself. It's ideal for finding out what there's too much of. Pressurized excess jets into blue, tries to fill it up. It can't. The excess becomes small and visible in the immensity of blue, but of course what is seen isn't the excess that was unseen. It's something else, something like an encrypted trace of red.
6-7 April 21
Some ways to say no: No. And? Well. That's something to consider. Thank you. You're welcome. Careful. Moving on. You know... Uhh. Great. So. Wait. Let's sleep on it. Sleep on it. Give it some time. Take your time. Do we have time? Not quite. Quite. Upon reflection. With regret. Unfortunately. Regrettably. I wish it were so. I wish. Best of luck. Better luck next time. Next time. Next. Let's go. Go. It's going to... To put it another way. By the way. By the by. We're got to be done by... Done. That's done. Let's be done. Are you done? Are you sure? Are you certain? Are you very sure? Are you quite certain? Certainly. I'm certain of one thing. One thing to think about. Let's think about this. Give it some thought. Something else to consider. Something to think about. Something I wanted to mention. I don't want to contradict. I don't mean to nitpick. I don't want to cause trouble. I don't disagree. I don't have any arguments with that. Let's not argue. Arguing from the other side. The devil's advocate might say... The devil's in the details. Can you be more specific on that? Not really.
4-5 April 21
I like to think of people as junctions for tangling and twisting. Something comes my way, or my encasing mitts pull a thing towards me, and it gets fiddled about, bent or hollowed, chewed on or held up to the light. Then the thing, or its components or its derivatives, course away from me again. Me too, I'm fiddled and hollowed and sent back the way I came. Nobody's just one side of the coin or the other. We're all that little strip that bridges the heads and the tails.
I'm hesitating: I know I need to print something on plastic, and this sort of hands-on making through petroleum seems wrong. If I print it wrong, I've wasted plastic and this waste is an indelible mark of moral failure. I've failed to save the planet, my mother or my child or my neighbor. Never known which metaphor to use, and they all give me the squirms.
Low-tangling, minimally-twisting methods of making are becoming more popular, but is it ourselves we're really afraid of marking up? If there is no blemish-less nature to be imagined, maybe we were never good. The possibility of goodness a lie we tell to hurt ourselves.
3 April 21
"Yeah, just make the ugliest thing you can think of," must've been what the guy who ordered the first set of vertical blinds said. He was on the line with a military facility, in search of weapons-grade ugly.
Between two ugly vertical slats I see a shrub shaped like an inverted lava lamp, swamped in light. The light is a quotidian tangle of sunset rectangles and triangles. My contact lens slips across my eye and briefly covers the image of the shrub with a milky glare. Then, clear. I roll my eye to the outer corner, then center, to repeat.
2 April 21
It's been two hours now, but I still can't find lucid words with which to tell you that visibility is a scam and not the gay kind. It's the same kind of scam Melanie is running, trying to get me to call up Lululemon's brand ambassador to fitness bisexuals so we can all take part in literally the worst community theater production going. And I'm including revised versions of the Vagina Monologues in this comparison. I'm not fighting Bethany, Melanie, Eve, and Kyrsten for their garbage bags. Let them have it. I don't need to be included in Tupperware parties.
31 March - 1 April 21
She wasn't a Peeping Tom in the trenchcoat sense. When she peered into neighborhood windows, it was to see people sat down to dinner or half-watching an old floor-set television. The light of the television was almost an invitation for her to look in. It slid along the day-worn features of Mr. So-and-So and his daughter, or his cat, or that guy who comes by on Wednesday. They watched the light of the television, and she watched the light of their captive attention.
She stood to the left of the window and looked through at an angle. Dust on the pane mixed with light from a nearby streetlight, forming a significant glare on the right half of the glass. No matter. Just some old magazines on a table over there. Her view of the sofa began right where the glare let up. She moved a little to the right, shortening the angle between her and her intended viewer, but no one was there. The television blared out "20/20 with Barbara Walters and Hugh Downes." Something about a new fish virus.
Moving back to the shadow, the light of the street lamp catches her face and hits the window glass.
30 March 21
The kid next door is screaming again, and she still sounds like someone filled a pig with gym whistles and began stabbing the animal in a back alley mugging. Thin palo verde twigs on the tree outside are making hazy shadows on the closet door, denser in the center and feathering out. The bees are back on the palo verde trees, but they must not be killer bees because killer bees hate noise and that kid is still screaming. Do I resent her because she's loud, or because she's still young enough to scream? It's too loud to think now.
28-29 March 21
Dreaming: A klaxon blared from the upstairs loft where I'd been minutes ago. Somewhere in town a fire was threatening life or living room. In response to the alarm, all movement around me stopped. What had been a cadre of drag queens in the highest of camps was now a corps of firefighters, their beards regrown. I watched, from some imagined balcony, as the last one of them fled the stage mid-ballad to trade gown for axe.
Then, I was in a museum staring into a recessed display. "History of Man" sort of thing. I told the person next to me about the firefighting queens. In response, he told me he knew about the literal dreams I've had of having other bodies. (His circular glasses seemed a bit obvious.) More alarms go off.
The older you get, the more evidence there seems to be of who you are. Evidence only becomes evidence when it answers a question, though.
The purple ink of my teacher's mimeograph machine stained identical copies of quizzes for interchangeable students. I loved the color, like the fuchsia of my first pair of glasses: indeterminate and unstable, but also a problem. But that's also subtractive color thinking.
27 March 21
I have ten minutes while something in the oven heats and something on the stove waits. This kind of cramped writing makes me think of housewife-mother-artist Anne Truitt cramming hefty columns and cubes into the hours when her children were away at school. Her clarity was exceptional in those hours in a way that probably comes from painful necessity. (I'm better off without it.)
Is this my clarity, describing unremarkable short moments? It's a boring question, and I don't want to bore the reader. I'm not bored. I'm rarely bored. Boredom comes from not wanting to find the world fantastic.
26 March 21
Now, Christina Aguilera was flying into the sun. Relations with the sun had been strained ever since people gathered in a baseball field to burn their disco albums. The sun took the whole thing as a mocking effigy. That's why all the baseball players spontaneously combusted on their waterbeds. The water didn't save them, its hydrogen being faithful to the sun. Baseball players and baseball fields went extinct very quickly. Without the burden of baseball, America became a series of glory holes slash book clubs. We couldn't remember to start cowardly wars. We sent Christina to apologize for baseball.
25 March 21
Did a door slam?
They changed the sound for emptying the trash on a Mac. It used to be a clear paper-crumpling rustle but now it's the sound of a metal door hung on a wooden frame closing in a cinder block hallway. That might not be right. It's a chef's knife whacking through five ribs of celery onto a maple cutting block. Maybe a cooking show is being filmed in a television studio.
No, the papers are still there but you're rummaging through them. They're not yours. A hard-heeled boot hits the floorboards a few feet away. You're caught.
24 March 21
I keep looking into the sun to feel better about all the rules that don't make sense. There's a thin layer of sensibility on top of the do's and don't's I'm facing. I dig my fingernails into the layer to scrape it back like a lotto ticket. I know it's a veneer. Underneath is nonsense: a pure gift.
When I stare into the sun, I could refuse the whole game. The sun is full of Freida Claxton, burning down the trees on Richmond Street and firing the crusts of prune danish. The sun is, "I hate you," written in radiation.
23 March 21
When I think of guns, I think that sometimes you have to make an imperfect decision and stand by it. There will always be questions left without satisfying answers, minds grumbling for fodder. Without guns, what banks will violent currents overflow? And what of the hunting, the inequity, the importance of keeping some sort of power literally in the hands and arms of the people? People? Guns push me to fast reactions: making a question wait or making an answer shut up. When I think of guns, I find myself trying to think as a society and I am lost.
22 March 21 I see the sheets she's going to buy, the ones I set aside at the back of the shelf. I was just waiting for payday, or maybe if I found $10 on the ground. The sheets look like something painters spread on the ground. It feels stupid to be territorial about discounted thin cotton sheets.
"Are they really $5.99?"
Sometimes, most of the time, I hope the customer won't see the good bargains and they'll be left for me. Retail isn't a religious order. The overhead speakers play "I'm So Excited" for the eighth time today.
"No. The tag's wrong."
21 March 21 A rectangular cut-out in the living room wall extended to the floor, then across the floor for a few feet, forming an L-shaped opening. The portal linked outer space to my home. A single square of walkway connected the floor to an escape hatch on the spacecraft. Beyond were stars and a space bus moving on inertia alone.
Where the walkway met the hatch was a small speckle of Coleus leaves in faded limes and burgundies. Plants had made it to space. The Coleus looked like the lemon balm in my yard which I know is more root than leaf.
20 March 21
It happened again last night. I was listening to a curator talk about Rodchenko and none of it made any sense to me. I'm sure she was very right, that her points were very well-founded, but I could not see what she saw in those tiny graphic blocks. Or let's assume I did see it but I didn't want to. I wanted to see shapes and lines, and the Revolution and all its words were in my way. I wanted an answer to a question which prose is incapable of representing. In 100 words I pass it off to you.
19 March 21
I haven't counted how many tilts of the bucket it takes to fill five minutes. Five minutes is how long I rinse prints, just enough to dissolve the unresolved irons off the page. Prior to the five minutes, the print sat for twenty minutes in the sun. It started chartreuse, then shifted to a dark sea foam, then to a muddy light grey. Grey will mean blue when I get to the bucket. I squat and my feet cramp in the five minutes that I spend lifting and dropping the bucket. I watch the print and I hope for blue.
18 March 21
I've been told that it's wrong to say something is a "guilty pleasure" because no pleasure should be shameful. Feel good about something or bad about something, but never both ways at once. Bittersweet chocolate has been removed from the market for inconsiderate vibes.
Guilty pleasure is the new guilty pleasure. Those of us vibe-ly challenged or willfully low-frequency can now get our kicks from acknowledging a tinge of regret.
My teeth stick to the sugar glaze and I think about the dentist. I eat the whole pastry. I'm a little sorry, a little happy to be a little sorry.
17 March 21
It's Barbara Kruger's second cousin for The Gap. All-American in palette, though the model is more Northern. The light comes in from behind Elliot to give a radiance of revelation. The shadows are stretched unmenacingly thin. In the bottom right corner is a dog looking windswept. Far left is the remainder of some sleek furnishing. Is it a chair? Is he leaning on the wall? The more I look, the less I see. It's an image from far away, or perhaps of a closed door. We will have to live under the rule of this image, so I keep searching.
16 March 21
Anna Atkins and Anne Austin Dixon were printing cyanotypes together, bold blue images of weeds of sea and shore. Close, like sisters, they pressed a pair of chemicals to paper, then leaf to paper, and stem and feather. There is the blue and then there is the white where something was and is no longer, an open correspondence. Between them there are no more letters, and Anne Dixon comes after "and" when speaking of the blue prints floating in vitrines and bindings. Anna may be known for the blue but I keep that for Anne and to Anna the white.
15 March 21 When I saw the little chainsaw on his belt I decided not to be upset. Trees are cut down all the time, and wasn't I saying just yesterday how much palms are like grass? A palm is a baroque grass full of reflections and alcoves, red woodpeckers and onyx berries in mural to the sun.
I watched him climb and trim as he climbed. Rough sheets of bark-like fiber exploded off the trunk. Cut away fronds fell to the ground and mirrored back to the sky. The clouds filled in quickly. The tender center of newest growth came into view.
14 March 21
Aloe is a very polite plant, always giving of itself in a show of tall flowers and endless self-replication. It knows the lessons of home-ec: do it yourself, don't make a fuss, make do, do make babies. A patriotic nation of little green rosettes caching away water.
It started with two simple succulent blades and now pots of aloe line my back patio. Aloe dominates the other plants in both height and width. Any plant which pushes up through African sumac and palo verde, as the aloe does, is undeniably ambitious. Aloe is not humble and its gifts are invoices.
13 March 21
The sound of my feet on the stony path gets caught in my straw hat. It echoes back as the sibilant steps of someone nearby who doesn't exist. The same goes for the wind and the snakes which are nowhere. I still hike like I'm walking through a creek. A creek has a rhythm of slimy and sharp textures to be matched. Keep your feet light. Keep going: not for health or accomplishment, but because the creek is going.
If I knew what nature was, I might call it the rule of the creek or the lies in my hat.
12 March 21
What I would like is to write, "I survived," and to know that the statement has something to do with reality. Nobody has much of a face these days, so I noticed her nails first. She had carted our groceries from the store to our car, and now she was checking my ID. I bought beer. Her nails were hot red like the suggestion of lipstick. I remember them being cut on the diagonal but I don't trust that memory. I think I saw diagonal nails on Instagram. I don't trust that memory either. There are several problems at work.