I saw “Here I Am” on a recent visit to San Francisco. It’s a mural located in The Mission, part of CAMP (Clarion Alley Mural Project) to be exact. This week I had the random urge to reproduce the mural in my notebook and sloppily drew the wings from memory. The colors immediately and effortlessly draw attention, but it’s the unique patterning that sticks long after first sight. I was surprised to remember it in detail and decided to find out more. A few searches on Google images later, I found the work’s title and a contact info for the artist. Here is what Michael Kershnar had to say:
“Here I am” is about learning to work with chaos. It is based on some old masonic imagery but I gave it a coyote head and my patterning. The serpent is chaos, the sword is our spiritual knowledge, and the stars are celestial influence.”
This week’s Best Thing Ever.
Five buildings and a garage structure make up the apt complex I moved into last month, but the “buildings” are separate only by color (for reference, I guess) as in reality they’re all connected to make up one expansive multi-story building. Describing it makes me miss living a house just tenfolds more. When the fire alarm went off shortly after 4:30 this morning, we all had to evacuate—all five buildings of mostly twenty-somethings, some drunk, some sober, some fully dressed, some not so much, and none quite awake.
I was up late reading short stories and whatnot when more out of habit than want, my stomach begged for a snack around 1 AM. I obliged and consequently managed to set off the fire alarm, the one within my apartment not the building one, when remnant crumbs in the toaster oven burned and smoked a kitchen corner. I flung open the balcony door, grabbed the lone piece of mail on the counter, and waved frantically at the smoke detector, silently begging the alarm to stop. How embarrassing. As if the neighbors weren’t too drunk to notice.
The air cleared. I went back to reading and fall asleep within 90 minutes. And guess what? 90 minutes later the fire alarm went off again.
Did I leave the oven on?
Did I leave a candle burning?
Oh no, I definitely left those candles burning.
I ran to the kitchen to snatch that same piece of mail. This time I waved it at each smoke detector in the apartment, each of three in turn. I didn’t feel awake yet I ran figure-eights around the apartment like a warmed-up athlete. More than five minutes passed before I realize the alarm, or I should say alarms, plural, going off weren’t within my apartment but all over the building.
Oh that means I have to go outside, right?
Of course you should evacuate, dumb ass, the volume of the shrieking alone would eventually kill you even if it turns out a false alarm.
Apparently I talk to myself when half asleep.
Dash to the door. Wait, I should probably wear more than underwear.
Dash to the door. Wait, should I turn off the lights?
Dash to the door. Wait, good god, I’m going to pee my pants before I even make it to the stairs, and even if I don’t, I’m not about to get busy on the street.
Dash to the bathroom.
Back to the door. Wait, should I bring anything? What if we’re stuck out there for awhile and I get hungry and want coffee or a muffin or something?
Bedroom. Located the Moleskine that doubles as my wallet. Dashed to the door one last time. Slowly locked it behind me as I absorbed the shock of just how deafening the alarm was out in the hall.
I was reminded of The Burning House as I dragged oversized sweatpants’ hem down three flights. The site collects photos in response to one question: if your house were burning, what would you take with you? Popular answers: pets, Macbook and external drive, passports, family jewelry, a favorite book. Vintage cameras also appear with (un)surprising frequency. I thought it to be an all-around neat project at first stumble, but the more entries I saw, the more annoyed I got with how unrealistic the piles of valuables are. I mean, all the entries are telling—“the conflict between what’s practical, valuable, and sentimental”—and some are touching. But let’s face it, if you were scrambling to evacuate a burning house, would you really assemble a stack of seven specific CDs and seek out the vintage sunglasses, the heart-shaped rock, the coffee mug, or fucking nail polish? Realistic isn’t the point, you might argue. I’m being judgmental and insensitive, yes.
David Ding’s entry makes me feel a tad better about being so:
Without trying to sound like an obnoxiously idealistic hippie, I don’t think I’d take anything. Or at least not anything specific – I might just grab whatever is closest to me at the time. Next month, I will move house for the sixth time in five years. With each and every move, I become more and more detached from and unconcerned with my physical possessions. They inevitably become just extra weight to lug around…
Yes, some would say he comes off as a dick, period, but I find his response the most sensible. I, too, feel increasingly weighed down by my (still growing) possessions, yet I am also the most sentimental of Sentimentals. Heart-heavy when donating books I don’t even read anymore. Saver of scraps I barely remember I saved. Compulsive packer of just-in-case items. I’ll take this scarf just in case, these books just in case, all of China just in case.
A friend’s words come back to me now: Fuck stuff. We repeated that again and again from July into August as we lamented our attachments and the process of packing them and the mess of goodbyes that come with that packing and the inevitable divergence after those goodbyes. Fuck stuff, fuck stuff, fuck stuff. We exchanged that back and forth and found comfort in solidarity, all the while knowing we can’t fuck it at all. Still conflicted, eventually we packed away that shackles-less ideal and along with it whatever remained after the picking and choosing. And that’s all we can do—to pick and to choose as best as we can.
As I exited the building, I clutched that notebook-wallet hybrid thinking, What if this were for real? I should have grabbed my laptop or my backpack or a shirt for when it gets too warm to have this sweatshirt on. And I wanted to laugh at how telling that in the haze of shrieking alarm and sleep, the first thing—nay the only thing—I thought to grab was money for food. I do indeed always think of my stomach first.
Outside, most people near me came empty-handed. One girl cradled a cat in her arms and another had a wiener pup on a leash. A blond in a Rolling Stones shirt settled in the middle of the sidewalk to pet the pup. “What is it about fire alarms that make me fucking love animals?” he asked no one in particular.
A drunk strolled out nonchalantly with the rest of what was once a sixteen-pack, and others half-jokingly said things like,
“Dude definitely knows his priorities”
and “Hey man, let’s be friends and share the booze.”
“Ladies first,” I throw in and three to my right chuckled away. The drunk looked around, shrugged.
“People just left and scrambled for the stairs,” he said, “And I was like, fuck that, Imma go back to save the beer.”
Anyone else find it awkward to have a stranger hold the door when you’re at least five yards away?
I wore heels for the first time in two months. They don’t fit quite right, the heel too big and toebox too small. Fading summer tan but far from faded.
“Heard you coming up behind me,” he explained with a half-smile.
A quick thanks in reply. He glanced at my feet as I walked past and likely laughed inside (I did).
I stayed in a house on Alcatraz Avenue in East Bay. From what I gathered the street is at once in Oakland and in Berkeley, flirting the irregular line that divides one from the other. On a clear day the view westward would take the eyes as far as infamous Alcatraz, I was told, hence the name. The first thing I noticed about the house was a miniature red chair on a windowsill. It’s a speck of red visible from the sidewalk and takes up tiny space at the large window that overlooks the humble street. The landlord’s father occupies the ground floor with his television and smoke clouds. Upstairs: three poets.
Hard to believe The Royal Tenenbaums has been around for (several months short of) a decade. No telling how many times I’ve seen it.
Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:
I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there?
I finished Sex at Dawn last night and Murakami’s memoir-of-sorts is up next. Also the three collections of short stories that linger bedside, on the bathroom counter, in my bag. Also the numerous journal articles bookmarked and those yet to be so—you know, that school thing.
A month ago a friend asked how it is that after all these years I still remember his birthday, the 1st. “Because I’m always saying goodbye,” I replied. My summers are markedly detached from the rest of the year—different towns, different people, different routines. It’s a bubble well removed from “real” life, each one refreshing but each one concluding come August, a premature end.
August then becomes a month pregnant with the frenzy of simultaneously looking for closure and start. Before the season shows sign of shifting, backs still sticky, clumsy bodies begin the annual mass migration in pursuit of (or back to) obligations. School, new jobs, old lovers. Or moving for the sake of moving, for the promise of a new home elsewhere. I love you. I will miss you. Can’t wait to see you. Come visit (!). Words offered with feeling at first but offered too quickly, too easily, and traded too many times until that feeling blurs into little else than “Goodbye, I guess.”
The next morning, you wake up alone. You reheat coffee from the previous night but don’t finish it. Unpack half a box, get back in bed, write a to-do list that warrants a filing system.
When we parted I said to my friend, “August is the most bittersweet of months.” It is true every year, but this time around I was surprised to find it bearable. I expected to tear up at the last glimpse of tarmac from the window seat or preparing dinner for one for the first time in months. But I didn’t. I guess that’s what happens with practice.
“It must be awful,” she said to the dog locked in it
as she left the kitchen that wasn’t hers, closing its door,
to head up the stairs with every good thing she could find
to eat in her arms
(to eat in her arms—O Katherine!)
“not to have any arms.”
— by Liz Waldner
Grading exams on a Saturday afternoon. In a cave.
has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind. Each
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much… The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.
— by C.D. Wright
I’ve read this a dozen times the past week, and it just sticks and sticks and sticks especially this: “The first few tongues are clearly / preparatory. The impression made by yours I carry to my grave. It is / just so sad so creepy so beautiful.”
Only a few days left of this wonderful strolling-and-exploring-and-coffeeshop-lingering routine. Will genuinely miss it when I go. I start teaching in just about one week.
There’s a good chance I’ll wake up to this every morning this summer (sorry, future neighbors). You’re better off if you don’t understand French – otherwise you’d be too busy eye-rolling at the lyrics to appreciate the dance moves and the impeccable editing, e.g. at 1:52.
so many languages have fallen
off the edge of the world
into the dragon’s mouth. some
where there be monsters whose teeth
are sharp and sparkle with lost
people. lost poems. who
among us can imagine ourselves
among us can speak with so fragile
tongue and remain proud?
Jill Andrews writes the saddest songs. The kind of songs you probably shouldn’t listen to late at night alone in an otherwise empty house. And the magic in her shows is precisely in that melancholy and the quietness of an audience hushed by appreciation.
The newest tunes (or what I’ve heard so far) feel a bit lighter, more hopeful. Same Jill Andrews, now served with honey. Guess I’ll find out soon enough what to make of it. The Mirror comes out June 7. A summer tour supporting JD Souther kicks off in Carrboro on June 12.
Not only the world’s largest birds, they also laid the world’s largest (known) eggs—larger than dinosaurs’. The screen cap above is from “Attenborough and The Giant Egg” which aired on BBC Two yesterday as accompaniment to a three-part series on Madagascar.
This episode about Attenborough’s most recent trip to the island. They frame it as his quest to understand why the elephant bird became extinct, but it also ties in bits about other unique species and their habitat. A neat thing is that it incorporates black-and-white footage from his first visit in the 1960s, sometimes contrasting specific locations then and now. I also liked the clips of Tana and most importantly, the footage of people. Yes, there are people there.
Found a bunch of old film last summer and just recently had them developed. Some turned out to be much older than expected. I can’t put names to a few faces. Altogether, they span 1999-2006 and feature MS, GA, NC, and SC.
We had a stash of cameras that move after move always ended up in a closet under the stairs with the deflated basketball and the sort of things a family accumulates but never uses. It was 1999 (or who really knows) when these cameras came in the mail one by one, the neat multi-colored wrappings masking the cheap plastic within. But hey, they were free! Some six years later, I bought film on a whim to see if they functioned, which they did, but sadly once developed, the pictures endured a similar fate as the cameras—even more moves, more miles, and more closets (though no longer under the stairs).
While clearing out a rented storage space last May, I was surprised to find these prints buried between AP English essays and the organelle drawings from 7th grade Life Science. I had forgotten they existed.
As I write this, the stash is back in a closet again, my own. This time we’re in the same city.
Instead of feeling surrounded by information, first-timers (“newbies” in the jargon of the Net) are likely to find themselves adrift in a borderless sea… .But you must learn new languages (like UNIX), new forms of address (like president whitehouse.gov) and new ways of expressing feeling (like those ubiquitous sideways smiley faces), and you must master a whole set of rules for how to behave, called netiquette. Rule No. 1: Don’t ask dumb questions.
“It’s like driving a car with a clutch. Once you figure it out, you can drive all over the place.” (a network designer)
“It’s like an amusement park that’s so successful that there are long waits for the most popular rides.” (a UPenn prof)
“It’s a family place. It’s a place for perverts. It’s everything rolled into one.” (a librarian)
We revealed more than we would ever voice in ‘real’ life, yet at the same time forged personalities increasingly distant from our real selves. How does that even work? And for whatever reason, rarely did peers refer to material shared online in face-to-face interaction, and if they did, you felt violated but couldn’t figure out why. Didn’t you contribute the content willingly and with knowledge of the platform’s public nature? There was a sense in the pseudonymity of those early ventures that there exists a line between online life and ‘real’ life. A false sense, that is.
Do you ever forget that this thing isn’t actually a part of you? Sometimes I mistake its facts and figures and useless trivia as extension of my own knowledge, only to fidget and stammer when I can’t recall information without its help. Just last week while reading tangible paper, I sought a search bar each time I stumbled across an unfamiliar concept or needed to skim for a particular point. My eyes don’t have a command+F function, however!
A similar disappointment occurs when I can’t think of a word in conversation—for instance, all those times I forget the name for the plastic ends of shoelaces (somehow this came up more than once already this month). Mind blank. Eyes shift this and that way and then in circles like the spinning color wheel of death, as if the movement could poke into memory trenches to retrieve the word “aglet.” But alas, all in vain. It starts with “a” for sure! Ahh, ahh, ay, ay, ahhgghh. Still nothing. I feel naked, dismembered, missing the fifth limb I never had.