Sunday, November 22, 2009

oh, that's right. this is here.

What I am doing is lamenting the cold. North Carolina has spoiled me. This weather would be practically balmy by the standards of central Pennsylvania, but I am grouchy because I can no longer walk around barefoot all the time without fear of losing my toes.

What I am doing is writing an essay about synesthesia. (Or synaesthesia. Why do I like it so much more with the a?) To get myself in the mood, and to postpone cracking open the serious neurological research, I reread Jeffery Ford's short story, The Empire of Ice Cream. It is this wonderful, muted piece of magical realism about loneliness, and art, and friendship, and betrayal, and gifts that isolate, and sacrificing crucial parts of one's identity for the sake of acceptance and understanding, and whether that kind of sacrifice ought to be seen as tragic or as necessary or as something of both-- as seen through the lives of its synaesthetic main characters. Beautifully written, and a lot more complicated than it initially seems. Unfortunately, it hits very, very close to home for me, touches on a lot of my secret fears and anxieties (even ones that are connected to deeper things than the fact that I unfailingly taste something like sweet milk in my mouth when I walk barefoot across a cool, smooth surface), and I've learned that it's an absolutely terrible idea to read it if I'm already somewhat angsty on a particular day. To do so is only a recipe for tears, inertia, overwrought guilt, and bad haiku.

What I am doing is waiting to be brave.

What I am doing is thinking about how player pianos are never as good, how everything looks different on the other side of the camera, how I love bright colors but black and white makes the world seem so much sadder, so much more mysterious, so much more like it is crumbling away, but that the apocalypse will, at least, be a stately and elegant one.

What I am doing is breathing November, and letting it infiltrate my blood. I don't know. This is how I feel when everything begins to turn gray and brown and it gets dark early. Though, if there aren't too many clouds, the early darkness means that I can see the stars for longer, and they are very clear here. I watched part of the Leonid shower, and I wished on what I saw even though I don't really believe that wishing does anything but make your chest feel full of birds, but it would have been as good to simply stare up at the constellations, how they've shifted since June.

I should talk more. I should type more. I should say things. I should think about them first so they'll come out the way they should, the way I imagine having them enter the world, perfect and pointed as arrows. I should climb more trees. I shouldn't stop singing just because someone else walked into the room. Next time some blue-haired, steel-toed-booted, nineteen-year-old hardass starts in about how humans should all just fuckin' kill ourselves, how we're everything that's wrong with the planet, how pretty soon there's bound to be a big die-off because our current population is not sustainable in the long term, Malthusian catastrophe blah blah blah, but it'll be exicting and cleansing and tasteless joke about offering free razor blades to depressed students, I should stand up and take him to task for being a callow idiot with no sense of his own privilege, and also maybe throw in something about how I think misanthropy of that caliber is generally cowardly and small-minded. I should do that instead of just looking away and shutting my eyes and shaking my head very slowly and slightly.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy November!

It's a full moon tonight.

Did you know that in certain Balkans folkloric traditions, inanimate objects left outside beneath a full moon will turn into vampires?

(Vampire boots. Vampire bikes. Vampire umbrellas.)

My Halloween was dreary and damp, but I did get invited to the library staff's party. (I spend so much time in there, I think a lot of people assume I am an employee, or else extremely studious.)

We ate owls:

They were by far the best owls I have ever eaten.

Costumes I saw:

Captain Kirk, Malibu Barbie, Eddie Munster, zombie, zombie cheerleader, zombie Catholic schoolgirl, zombie park ranger, Pippi Longstocking, medieval Batman (actually just a knight costume with a bat motif, according to its wearer, but I prefer to think of it as medieval Batman), zombie with a classic "bedsheet ghost" costume draped over top to create a terrifying zombie trick-or-treater, the Queen of Night, dragon, Artemis, fairy, zombie fairy, Mary Poppins, zombie Celtic warrior, zombie housewife, Tank Girl, Gogo Yubari, "lipstick librarian," spider, gypsy fortune teller, werewolf, candy corn, zombie UPS guy, princess, zombie princess, Link, Max in his/her wolf suit and crown (the character is a boy, the person in the costume was not), zombie waitress, and, of course, two-bit floozy with animal ears.

I was lost things. Mainly, this involved wearing the sort of clothing I normally wear, but sticking all the lost things I found over the course of the day in my pockets, or safety-pinning them to my jacket.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

will i question every answer?

I cannot write a manifesto
Nor type a holy book.
All my thoughts are doubt. I don’t even trust the sky
Or the soft engine of my heart, or these words,
Or that written somewhere in the Milky Way is even one
Objective truth. Sometimes certainty slips through my pores
For a moment, and fills my skin with its tangerine presence,
But that bright whisper never comes when my fickle heart
Feels full of rain and I ask with my eyes and the line that runs
Between my nose and the corner of my mouth how I should live,
What good a person like me could ever do. What good?
No, my absolutes are less useful by far:

Silver is always beautiful.
The tide is important.
The sea can swallow me like a little yellow pill.
It is sad when birds fly into windows.
I like eggs, unless they’re philosophical
Or fertilized. It’s that simple.
My constituent atoms will go on to better things
One day. All things, in fact. Someday
We’re all going to die. I think. Perhaps.
Maybe. You see? I’m no authority. But I do know
That limes prevent scurvy, that they are sour
And green, small and solid in the hand.
I love the smell of fresh, unscented soap.
It is better to sing than not to sing.
Hair can be cut off painlessly,
Unlike most other attachments.
The wind against my scalp, I know,
Is soft and cold, like a drowned girl’s kiss.
True things are slippery in my arms, reluctant
To be cradled.

And my fingers refuse to cling.
They slide from my grasp more easily than split seconds.
I don’t know where they go, and I suppose it doesn’t matter
How they spend their days away,
Whether they ever slink back in to return the keys,
Put their feet up between my memory and my suspicions,
Watch confused dreams whirr behind my eyes and teeth.
I can’t stand up on an overturned wooden crate and shout
To all creation that humans are very small compared to the cosmos,
That to look at the wings of fruit bats or to imagine the wild orchards
In Kazakhstan, with apples in every shape and size you can imagine
Makes me feel as though my very marrow
Is blossoming. Bone petals. Bone flowers. I can’t write
On a sandwich board that complimentary socks are as good as
Or better than a perfect match. I cannot write a manifesto
When I have no passion but everything I see, unless, of course,
I deny that, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

spamming you with notsogreat photographs

State College, Pennsylvania.

The leaves were really this red. I did not photoshop these pictures at all, apart from some minor cropping. Aren't they beautiful? Nothing else is quite that color, except maybe sometimes Jell-O, or crayons, or this skein of yarn I saw once that was dyed using some special method I forget the details about, or certain NASA pictures of certain nebulae. And, well, probably some other stuff, too. I still like it.

Some of the light fixtures at my friend Spackle's house. Everybody should have a disco ball in their kitchen.

There's a guy at my college who always, and I do mean always, wears a homemade deerskin tunic and a big deerskin rucksack on his back, with bluejay and hawk feathers stuck in one of its fasteners for decoration. It's strange to see him wearing this with jeans and sneakers, while using one of the computers in the library.

I don't have anything made of deerskin or feathers, but I do have the best purple and silver dress ever to come out of the half-off bin at a used clothing store:

I also have a hideous linoleum floor in my dorm room!

(The weird bunches in the top picture come from the sweater I've got on under the dress, which isn't really a mid-autumn in the mountains sort of dress.)

...Oh! And! I saw Where the Wild Things Are a couple of days ago, right before I came back from my break week. It was gorgeous, gorgeous eye candy, which I expected, and the story was poignant and actually fairly interesting, though a little aimless and slow-moving. I'm not sure whether the average seven-year-old would enjoy the movie (I suspect I might have, but my favorite movie at age seven was an Icelandic retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon that was over two and a half hours long and featured one of the least convincing animatronic polar bears ever committed to film as a main character, so clearly I was slightly peculiar), but I think a lot of teenagers and adults who can still remember what it was like to be seven will appreciate it. And the monsters are all actors in suits! Only their faces are computer animated. That's fantastic.

Monday, October 26, 2009

at least it wasn't robo-gonorrhea

Actual sentence from self-published space opera/erotica, apparently not meant as parody:

" I should probably tell you I have space herpes."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

part the second, still beginning

Part One

On the fourth day of the week, Selina helped her mother fill baskets with spare parts, tether mechanical birds to metal perches where they creaked and chirped, and load everything into a rickety truck, which broke down halfway to the heart of the City as often as not. After a half-hour of swinging her legs on the torn, dusty passenger-side seat and watching her mother run greasy fingers through her hair and tool around the vehicle’s guts until the engine began its phlegmy purr once more, Selina would be all the more excited when they finally reached the City market. She loved to look up at the buildings, crammed together close, full of windows and almost as tall as the walls at the edge of the world (when the edge of the world had walls). The City smelled bad, like oil and smoke and outhouses, Selina thought, but it was full of paper lanterns, men and women wearing bright colors or fine dark suits like the man in Selina’s photograph, their fingernails short and clean, or painted purple. The market was cluttered with such people, from children younger than Selina to those bent nearly in half from age, their faces like rumpled laundry. They moved among the many stalls like a long, winding snake of limbs and eyes and grasping hands, whispering and shouting in a dozen languages. Selina looked from a boy with metal hoops and hooks stuck through his nose and lips and eyebrows to a huge, fierce-eyed woman with bare feet and a tiny, delicate deer-like creature on a leash. It had pearly cloven hooves, gold eyes, a tail with a tuft like a lion’s, sharp teeth. The unpleasant odors that permeated the rest of the City were overlaid with the singed, fatty scent of things being fried, the tang of citrus juice, the smell of sugar and salt and rising dough in portable ovens. From kiosks, stalls, trucks, carts, and blankets on the ground, merchants sold their wares with varying degrees of aggression. Selina observed a man selling real, living parrots and finches and nightingales with interest. His birds seemed rather drab and droopy in comparison to her mother’s, though one parrot had tail feathers the shade of a twilight sky and swore vociferously as they passed, slowly, in the sputtering truck. Selina laughed and shouted the words back to it. Her mother’s mouth turned up slightly at the corners, though the bird-seller glared disapprovingly beneath his imposing wig, which had a tiny model of a sailing ship stuck in it near the top.

After the truck had been maneuvered into the spot reserved for it, the birds and baskets unpacked and artfully placed on a tarp-covered metal folding table, and the big plywood sign stood up (JANE JOSLIN, SMALL APPLIANCE REPAIRS, SPARE PARTS, MECHANICAL CURIOSITIES & SUNDRY), Selina was allowed to wander off to explore the market while her mother plyed her trade. She was supposed to stay within her mother’s line of sight at all times, though, and suspected that she was allowed to wear as many brightly-colored ribbons in her hair as she did mainly to make her easier to spot. Usually, Selina walked slowly and aimlessly between the nearby stalls, watching, listening, and perhaps buying spun-sugar candy or a sweet, fizzy drink if last week’s take had been good enough for her mother to allow her a dollar coin as pocket money. Sometimes she saw other children talking together, chasing one another through the crowds, lining up for spun-sugar candy, throwing spinning discs, riding the shoulders of their fathers or older brothers, but she never tried to speak to them, or introduce herself, or make friends. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to run and shout and stomp up clouds of dirt with them; it simply never occurred to her that she could. She had never known anyone well apart from her mother and herself and the mechanical birds. She felt as though everyone in the City had known one another since the world began, that the City was its own entity, whole and running as smoothly as a tin turtledove with clocks in its belly. There was no room for outsiders from the edge of the world, not really, not to talk or stay or race or go inside one of the tall buildings. It would have been as ludicrous as trying to put the whole market in a sack to bring back to the piebald beetle-house.

Only today, someone was grabbing hold of the orange ribbon that wound its way through Selina’s left braid, tilting her head involuntarily backwards, and asking her questions all in a breathless rush. “Wow, what is that, is that real silk, where did you get silk, aren’t you just the junk lady’s kid, I mean, the mechanic’s kid? I thought you were poor and that’s why you live out at the end of everything. Do you like orange? Orange is my favorite color, I like to eat oranges too, only I don’t get to all that much because they’re so expensive on account of coming from way far in the south, you know, where there are tigers and things. Tigers are my favorite animal, probably. They’re kind of orange, too. Hi! What’s your name? I’m Cecy because Ceciline takes too long to say.”

After a few moments of stunned silence during which Selina struggled to make sense of what had just happened, she managed to answer, slowly and carefully, without moving her head or turning around. “Hello, um, Cecy. I’m Selina, but it isn’t short for anything. Sometimes my ma calls me Lina, but I don’t like that. I don’t know if the ribbon is silk. I think maybe it is. I don’t know where it came from. It just turned up. I don’t think we’re poor. I like orange, but my favorite color is…maybe green. Or blue. Or white.” She thought of the shifting sea that sometimes rolled outside her window and sometimes did not. She felt a lightness as her hair was released. “What’s a tiger?” she thought to ask, before Cecy bounced up directly in front of her and she got her first look at her new acquaintance.

Cecy was either a little younger than Selina, or very small for her age. Her hair, dress, eyes, and skin were almost exactly the same shade of light brown. It was odd looking, especially when contrasted with her pale orange boots, and her red-and-white striped tights, which sported conspicuous holes in both knees. She had an extremely pretty face, though, when she wasn’t contorting it into exaggerated expressions to accompany her rambling chatter. “Oh! You don’t know what a tiger is? How do you not know what a tiger is? Don’t you ever read books?”

“Yes,” said Selina, who had a book of illustrated fairy tales that she had pored over so often that the binding was beginning to fall apart, and who often snuck into her mother’s room to look at the books her mother kept in a cardboard box behind her tool shelf: musty-smelling paperbacks with yellowed pages and cover paintings of women with large breasts swooning in the arms of men with chiseled jaws. She didn’t understand everything that went on in these novels, but they were improving her vocabulary greatly.

“Okay, well, a tiger is a kind of big cat. Big as a bear. They have orange and black stripes and really long fangs and they live in the jungle, way far away in the south, and they can sneak up on their prey without a sound and then they pounce and eat it before it ever knows it’s dead. Sometimes they even eat people, but if you wear a mask that looks like your face on the back of your head, tigers won’t be able to tell which way you’re looking, so they won’t know which way is behind you to sneak up, and you’ll be safe. Tigers are good swimmers, though, and they have beautiful eyes, like gold. Would you like to come with me? I’m going in back of the puppet theatre to play with these other kids I know. You’ll like them. Kieran’s da is the puppetmaster, and he does fire-eating at night, and his ma is a seamstress and sometimes she gives us bits of cloth to make stuff out of, or ribbons like your ribbon, and sometimes we get to try and make the puppets dance on their strings.”

Selina hesitated. The puppet theatre was well away from where she’d helped her mother set up. When she looked back, though, her mother was engaged in intense haggling with a thin, bald woman and a beefy man with an enormous mustache. A copper and brass macaw sat on the table between them, alongside a small record player. Selina decided it couldn’t hurt to go with Cecy for a few minutes. Besides, she’d never played with kids her age before! Her heart was already beating faster, and she felt slightly giddy. “All right,” she said. Cecy shouted with joy, grabbed her hand, and pulled her deeper into the market with surprising strength for such a tiny girl, out of her mother’s sight.

(This installment of my story has absolutely nothing to do with Sunday Scribblings.)

(If you can help me think of a title for this thing, I'll be quite grateful.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

random jottings

My little brother is eighteen. That's kind of weird. In my head, I'm not even eighteen yet, really. (The rest of my body arguably agrees with my brain on that count.) When I picture Charlie, I still think of a twelve-year-old kid, several inches shorter than me, who gets the punchlines to dirty jokes wrong because he doesn't understand them. And now he is a good head and a half taller than I am, and all kinds of impressively good colleges want him in their biology programs, and he sees sexual innuendo even where it probably isn't (like most teenage boys), and he's on the cross-country team, and ain't it strange how people just keep growing up?

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

It bugs me how often I need new socks. They get full of holes so fast. Or they disappear in the dryer, and as much as I search in and above and below and behind the machine-- they have to have gone somewhere-- my socks are lost forever. Except part of me really likes sock shopping, if I can find someplace that sells the fun kind of socks instead of plain, utilitarian, white or black or gray or beige 5-packs. Part of me takes great satisfaction in being able to put pink cotton ice-cream cones on one foot and red & orange stripes on the other, and have my heels and all my toes covered instead of poking out through gaps.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm not that interested in seeing this movie Adam, partly because I'm not that big a fan of romantic comedies in general, but mainly because the director has been quoted as saying that he views Asperger's/autism as "a metaphor for the human condition." Maybe I'm overreacting to that statement (my mother certainly thought so, when I tried to explain this to her), but it bothers me-- I'm a little tired of how autistic people, and disabled people in general, in fiction almost always seem to serve principally to teach "normal" people (whether other characters in the story, or the story's intended audience, or both) important lessons about What It Means To Be Truly Human, or How To Live Life To The Fullest, or something similarly glurgey. Either that, or we're freaky, inhuman monsters or enigmatic, oracular waifs. One reason I liked Mozart & the Whale, despite its many flaws as a film, was that almost all its major characters were autistic, and it presented them as very real, whole, human, three-dimensional individuals who had their own interests, skills, goals and problems, not all of which were related to their autism or cast in diagnostic terms. There were a few scenes that I thought slipped into a "look how bizarre and quirky these people are! It's hilarious, because they're highly intelligent adults with the emotional maturity of six-year-old children! Wacky!!" kind of gawking, which really put me off, but for the most part I appreciated the nuanced portrayals and the recognition that autism spectrum disorders are more than a series of DSM entries and tick-boxes of symptoms, or a metaphor for the condition of "normal" humans. I mean, this is my human condition, or a large part of it. I hear electricity in the walls and I don't like to look at people's faces much when I talk to them because the skin and small muscles move around too much and I can't screen it out, and I ascribe personalities to inanimate objects, and I would rather write than talk most of the time, and I have an unusual, haphazard body of general world knowledge even now, because I was mainly in special education classes from about the third to the seventh grade. I can tell you what color a song is. If you turn on a vacuum cleaner or a hair dryer without telling me first, be prepared for a high-pitched scream and a small green and gray blur as I rush from the room with my hands jammed over my ears. Standing on tiptoe feels normal and natural to me, but sitting up straight in a chair, with my legs hanging down, does not. I can't do it for more than a few minutes before it becomes intolerably uncomfortable and I start shifting around. I'd honestly rather stand, or lean against a wall, or lie bellydown on the ground. I would honestly rather discuss philosophy than have sex. I would rather walk alone in the rain than get drunk and grind against complete strangers to the strains of bad hip-hop. (I like the rain.) Sometimes I forget exactly where my body is located in space and run into doors because of it. That is not a metaphor. It's how I actually am in real life. I guess trying to make it otherwise feels like a sort of appropriation to me, a theft, almost. But perhaps I ought to watch the movie anyway, and see if my worries about it are validated.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Current movies I do want to see: Ponyo and Where the Wild Things Are.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was gray today, except for the phoenix colors of the dying leaves. Rained a little, stopped, rained a little more. Quintessentially October, I think. It smelled smoky and musty and a bit like new pennies. I went to aimlessly loiter around my friend's house, which is a collective living place with great old sofas and an organ in the basement. (The keyboard instrument, I mean, not, like, someone's heart in a jar.) It matches the season, and the day.