Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bubbles

I watched Waffles--our Dachshund--snapping at bubbles floating around him like they were fairies. Like they were dandelions.

Waffles bared his teeth. He jerked forward, planted his forepaws onto the hardwood floor, and snapped down so hard the click of his teeth could be heard a room away. Then he jerked his body up, stretched out his neck, stretched open his mouth, and snapped down again.

Greg, operating the bubble-blow gun, giggled. "He's so determined to catch one," he said.

"What we're watching," I replied, "is a dog having the canine version of an existential crisis."

As if to confirm this, Waf snapped out at the cloud of bubbles--the fairies, the dandelions--coming at him, and realized all he'd gotten was air. His teeth clicked together. His forepaws bounced up and down on the floor. He whined, as one would weep for something lost.

"No matter how hard he tries, all he's doing is fighting the invisible, the empty," I added.

"Well, he is getting some flavor. I mean, liquid soap has a taste."

"Right, yes, but it tastes awful. The joy he is getting from attacking those bubbles isn't because of taste. It's because he feels he's having some influence on his surroundings. And he is realizing that influence isn't very much."

Greg pressed the trigger to the bubble-gun, aiming it just above Waf's head. Waf went into a fresh frenzy of bubble attacks. "Jesus, Marc, it's just funny. Dog with bubbles. It's not a Swedish film."

+++

Bubbles, it turns out, are very pretty. I'd forgotten how nice they look--fragile orbs floating on the weakest of air currents, hovering, dancing, refracting and ultimately blinking out of existence, leaving nothing more than a razor-thin puddle. Since Greg bought the bubble-gun a few days ago, I've rediscovered my appreciation for bubbles.



The bubble-gun, by the way, is this: It's a cartoon head, a squirrel with it's cartoonish mouth wide open. The bubbles shoot out of its mouth when a trigger is pressed. A mechanical motor presses air out of the mouth while simultaneously sucking up soapy liquid from a reservoir. Out come the bubbles. Out, also, comes a bright blue light--the trigger triggers both the bubbles and the light.

The bubble-gun makes this noise when the trigger is pressed: RRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr.

It also encourages this noise from Waffles: Click. Click. Ca-lick. Clatterclatterclatter.

+++

Just after Hurricane Irene, Greg and I took Waf to the nearest park, which is just across the street and up a lot of stairs. We went with a friend and neighbor named [Name]. [Name] is a great deal older and a good deal wiser than either G or I (or Waf, but that's not a fair comparison). The stairs leading up to the park were covered with the debris from the previous storm.

There was persistent wind. A lot of it. A lot of invisible, rushing pressure streaming across the park like water and moving nature as it saw fit. Rearranging things. Dislocating tree branches. Mussing hair like a drunk uncle. Stealing hats from heads and sending those hats across walkways, over benches, into the street.

Above us was the sky, which was the color of sterling silver mixed with a bit of mud. [Name] said he'd seen the color of the sky before, and told us a story about a French pirate, and the pirate's treasure recovered from the Seine. The French pirate had been exceptionally dim-witted, and the treasure--mostly silver forks and spoons-- had been exceptionally dull, and the sky above us on the day after Hurricane Irene had the same mixture of silver and mud as the French pirate's treasure.

Which is to say that the sky was grey, and seemed like contraband.

+++

Here's the thing about [Name]: He has a great history. He is now contraband. Before he came into our possession--which is the wrong word, since contraband cannot be possessed--he had another life. He is our unpolished silver.

+++

The wind, that invisible force, rearranged tree branches in the park, placed leaves down in places more suitable to its taste, and tried to rip my hair from my head. It pressed my shirt into my chest. It pulled at my pants like a tailor.

It made this sound: Fiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

FiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiFu.

And here's what Greg said about the wind: "We should strap a kite to Waffles and let him fly."

And here's what [Name] said: "Just make sure he's leashed."

Because with that wind and a kite, poor Waffles could end up in Connecticut in no time. Surprising for him, surprising for us, surprising for the person in Connecticut who discovered him.

+++

So I'd brought the bubble-gun to the park. I'd hidden it away in my bag, which I take everywhere as if it's my own treasure-chest. And I reached into my treasure-chest of a bag (which had doggie-toys and doggie treats, a Kindle and an umbrella) and pulled out the bubble-gun.

RRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Click. Ca-lick.

+++

"It's like watching humanity attempt to find God," I told Greg, later, in the apartment away from the wind.

Waffles jumped into the air, mouth wide. He sank his snapping teeth into dead air enclosed in soapy spheres. He was rewarded with the dull taste of soap-suds.

"We're ruining the floor," I told Greg. "Those bubbles can't be good for the finish."

Clatterclatterclatter.

Ca-click.

+++

[Name] sat down on a rock in the park. True: the rock is often used by a neighborhood witch to make incantations, and those incantations are meant to keep the neighborhood safe. No one bothers her about witchery. We all secretly hope she's as successful as the wind in rearranging the neighborhood to her taste.

[Name] sat on the rock because of a medical condition, which he's had for two decades. He sat because standing is a burden. He watched Greg and I chase Waf around the park, and then he watched us do this: RRRRRrrrrrrr. Click. Clickclickclick. Ca-lick.

Bubbles.

I pulled the trigger of the bubble-gun, and a stream of bubbles flew from the cartoon mouth of the plastic squirrel, and the light came on, and iridescent, hollow orbs of soapy liquid flew into the disagreeable wind and danced about in the dull post-hurricane world, and the wind tried to discover the best place for them to be. They danced along the grass. They danced into trees. They met suddenly-treeless leaves and performed gavottes in mid-air.

Click. Clickclickclick. Ca-lick.

Waffles snapped at the bubbles. He attacked them. He tore into them.

And the bubbles snapped apart, and his teeth slammed together, and all that remained was a taste of soap, and the air. And neither Waffles nor the wind could decide if the bubbles should be in one place or the other.

While Waffles and the wind negotiated the bubbles' proper location location, each bubble snuffed itself out.

+++

In the apartment, later, Greg said this as Waf jumped around trying to catch more bubbles in his mouth: "It's so cute!"

Waffles planted his feet on the hardwood floor, listened to the RRRrrrr of the gun, and waited to attack, again, the hollow orbs issuing from the mouth of a plastic cartoonish squirrel.

"It's the human condition," I said.

"Stop being so..." Greg shrugged. Pressed the trigger.

Click clickclickclick. Clatterclatterclatter.

"So what?"

"It's just bubbles. They're really barely there. No need to make a metaphor about them."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vonnegut.4

Harmonium.


I have not one profound thing to say about Kurt Vonnegut.

True. I adore him, and I am as unashamed of my love for Vonnegut as Eva Braun was of her love for Adolf Hitler, as Vili Fualaau is for his love of Mary Kay Letourneau. There's no need for profundity. There's no need for justification.

+++

Two weeks ago, Greg and I did a quick turn around town for our anniversary. Ten years. A decade spent with Greg, a decade Greg has spent with me. We saw a movie, then went to a restaurant. The restaurant was as wide as a library aisle, and as long. There was a bar in the front, and doors to the kitchen at the back.

In the middle, there was space for six tables in a row.

The restaurant was a combination of Das Boot and 'Picnic'. Very inviting, kind of sexy, but impossible to move through without bumping into others and begging pardons.

Greg said this after we'd hustled our way past the bar and negotiated our way to a table: "Is Vonnegut always so depressing?" He'd just finished Cat's Cradle.

+++

More about the restaurant: It's a great space, if space is the right word, since space is the one thing the restaurant lacked.

Imagine this: Stretch yourself out on the nearest couch. Really stretch yourself out--let your feet hang over the arm if you need to, and by all means push your arms above your head so that they go out and over the end table (avoid the lamp and any framed pictures or candy dishes you may have resting on the table). Really get a feel for the couch, and get a feel for your own length.

Got that feel?

That was how the restaurant felt. It was both as comfortable as the couch, and about as narrow. Again: Das Boot. 'Picnic'.

+++

Is Vonnegut always so depressing, Greg asked.

"Not if you're depressed already," I replied, buttering a roll. "If you're depressed, he's delighted to share in the misery."

"I've read two of his books. Both have been about the end of the world, and both are about how wonderful it is that the world ended." Greg.

The couple beside us--a young man and woman--grinned at one another with teeth so white one could ski across them.

"Vonnegut isn't a nihilist." Me.

"Don't you remember how Cat's Cradle ended?" Greg.

I thought about the question. I spread butter on bread.

"No." Me.

+++

I ate the roll, butter and all.

+++

"The harmoniums in the caves of Mercury were crazy about good music, too. They had been feeding on one sustained note in the song of Mercury for centuries. When Boaz gave them their first taste of music, which happened to be Le Sacre du Printemps, some of the creatures actually died in ecstasy." Vonnegut.

+++


+++

Greg told me--reminded me--of how Cat's Cradle ended. In a nutshell, it ends with the narrator killing himself while flipping off the Creator of the Universe. In a nutshell, Cat's Cradle ended with a big 'fuck you' to God, and a big 'up yours' to humanity.

Maybe.

It's been a while since I read the book. All I remember is that the characters press the soles of their feet together to remind one another of love, and that a cat's cradle is neither a cat nor a cradle.

+++

Our server at the narrow restaurant was an enthusiastic young woman with scrubbed cheeks and a whirlwind pony-tail. Her voice was iceberg-sharp with the soft edges of melted ice. "The specials tonight..."

And everything was special. It was my tenth anniversary living with someone who could stand being with me, after all. Even the buttered bread was special.

+++

"Why bother to live?" Greg.

No answer. Me.

"All I'm getting from these books is that we're better off dead. Or might as well be dead." Greg.

"But that's not. I mean. No." Me.

"Lemon poached halibut?" Server.

Greg leaned back from the table to indicate the dish was for him, and the dish was set before him.

"He hates humanity." Greg.

"Szzzzzzz." Halibut.

Our server deduced that the second dish was mine--duck breast--and set it before me.

"Uuuuu." Duck breast.

"He doesn't hate humanity." Me.

+++

Here's the thing: It's very hard to explain Vonnegut to those who do not 'get' Vonnegut. Canadians must feel the same way when they try to explain hockey to Americans. Either you get it or you don't. Either you're a harmonium or you're not.

+++

The couple with teeth as white as freshly-skied snow exchanged forks-full of mismatched food. She wiped the dribbled salmon-juice from his chin. He wiped the dribbled chicken-juice from her chin. They giggled. They flashed smiles. They asked for a dessert menu. And some time later, a dessert appeared before them--a slice of dense cheesecake equipped with two spoons.

The great thing is this: The white-teethed couple only used one spoon. They set the extra spoon aside, and that extra spoon, ignored, reflected the candlelight up at the couple, reflected candlelight into their eyes, into their obnoxiously white teeth.The extra spoon made the couple glow with happiness.

+++

Greg. "I didn't say he hates humanity. But he's so bleak, and he's got a point. He's got a point--life is awful."

Me. "He's a writer. Do you think he'd take the time to write about how awful life was if he didn't hope to make a difference?"

Greg. "What?"

Me. "I don't know, I was just trying to be positive."

Both Greg and Me: "You suck at being positive."

Hi-ho.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vonnegut.3

I'm not gonna ape Vonnegut's style for this entry. Really I haven't tried to ape Vonnegut's style for the previous two entries--it's just a sad fact that I write like this now.

I write as if I'm trying to ape Vonnegut's style.

Even worse, I talk like this. I don't just write this way. I don't just write as if I'm trying to be Vonnegut--I speak in very terse, sometimes long and winding, sometimes descriptive and sometimes blank sentences, and there's nothing I can really do about it. This is how I write. This is how I speak.

It could be worse. I could communicate using INTERCO.

+++

Interesting thing about INTERCO: Juliet (for the letter J) means that a ship is on fire, and the ship has dangerous cargo aboard. Think, I guess, the Lusitania. And Romeo (for the letter R) means, simply, that the way is off my ship. Which I guess means one need only to list starboard or leeward to get home.

Interesting because, as usual, poor Juliet needs to shove volatile material into herself in order to make herself relevant. All Romeo has to do is declare himself a beacon, and point to the left or the right.

+++

So I talk like this. It causes a lot of problems with Greg, who thinks--rightly!--that I'm too flat.

Sometimes I wish I communicated with colorful flags indicating an approaching storm, or calm seas.

Greg and I have had two fights in one week. Both fights, arguments really, were mostly because I buried the lede rather than communicated, clearly, that my vessel had stopped or that I was altering my way to port.

I'd be a terrible seaman.

No jokes please.

+++

Greg isn't the only person I recently had a fight with. I recently fought the Allies and the Axis of WWII.

True.

Coming off of two fights with Greg, I got to fight every soldier of every nation of WWII. Here's how my battle began: Well, technically, we Americans didn't. We just happened to be in Dresden when the Brits bombed the hell out of Dresden.

Here's how it ended:
David. You're right. Students should read all views. But what you seem to be advocating is a strict balance of those views--you seem, and I may be wrong, to be saying that you're willing to tolerate, say, the things I personally like. But you don't agree with those things. And if so: fine, homeschool your kids, live on a compound, and declare everything post-FDR illegitimate.

What happened in between was mostly bullshit.

The impetus for the David argument was Vonnegut, and the usual banning of his book Slaughterhouse 5 from a high school library, this time in Missouri (the book has been banned in most other states, which is hilarious to me since most of Vonnegut's other books are far more offensive. The reason Slaughterhouse 5 gets all the banning honors is because it is about war, and how awful war is, and how war should be banned. Most of the other books he wrote are about how society should be banned--so who cares about that?).

+++

I am tired of typing +++ when I feel I've made a good point.

!!!

So Slaughterhouse 5 was yet again banned, and a friend on Facebook posted about the banning, and I commented, and a flame-war happened.

If I spoke INTERCO, I'd've raised a B (Bravo), meaning, "I am taking in, or carrying, or discharging dangerous goods."

!!!

I'd've told David that I'd already had a fight, had already been told a bit about how much I identify with Vonnegut, and would've warned David I was in no mood to take slams against Vonnegut's work or justifications for Vonnegut's banishment from America's high school libraries.

David, by the way, was the person playing Devil's advocate on a friend's facebook posting about the Vonnegut ban. David was an innocent bystander.

David was also, it must be said, wrong.

Everyone is wrong on the internet. It is what keeps the internet flowing.

!!!

"!!!" doesn't quite work, does it. It seems too angry. I should use letters. 'KKK' doesn't work. 'OOO'? No. 'XXX'? Fuck it. Back to triple-plus.

+++

David said this about Slaughterhouse 5, and about the firebombing of Dresden:
So you'd rather be speaking German, incinerating Jews & other 'undesirables' today? Sometimes to stop a madman's regime you have to take drastic action.

A reply--not mine--was this:
Yeah, that's clearly the direction the war was headed at that point. Only the massive firebombing of Dresden prevented an Allied collapse on all fronts.

Sarcasm! America was in very little danger during WWII of collapsing, and in fact used WWII to rebuild from the Great Depression.

Which is depressing.

But true, at least from some points of view. Others might have this point of view, shared by David: I was commenting on the mindset in our liberal NEA & university system that skews & rewrites history to make us the evil tyrant of the globe. A mindset that disdains the allied forces for trying to keep a mass-murdering maniac from conquering Europe, yet pities the Germans who initiated the world war.

So yes, I suppose one could argue that encouraging both a workforce and a university system to be better than the messy facts of war is a bad thing. One could argue that liberals do, indeed, want to bring down the very forces that made them a viable power and also, hey!, brought food to the table of millions. But the odd thing is, that wasn't what we were arguing about.

We were arguing about Vonnegut. We were arguing about how banning Slaughterhouse 5 was a bad (or good!) thing.

+++

Greg said this, earlier in the evening: "You should say the last thing you want to say first. Because when you start out with what ends up being the end, you sound like an asshole."

He meant I bury the lede.

+++/!!!

Here's David again:
Forgive my impertinence. I forgot I was an unenlightened rube who can't begin comprehend the anti American, anti God brilliance of your favorite Sci fi authors.

And my lede:
You needn't worry about your impertinence. I think you should be impertinent more often, and in more public places--like libraries, which I'm sure would welcome your impertinence.

Here's really what I should've said: David, I'm sorry you feel that way but I've had a bad night, and I've been really into Vonnegut for a while, and... you know. !!!.

Also: Jesus christ, David. You're proving the libs right by saying things like 'I HATE banning books. They should be age appropriate. We don't need the Kinsey Report in K-8th grade school libraries I'd say. But if Vonnegut is cool, so should the Ku'Ran, the Bible & books from all points of view.'

Kinsey? That's more dated than the Bible.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vonnegut.2

Listen: Marc Mitchell has come unstuck in time.

He once had lunch with someone--this was years ago--who wrote reviews and articles and assorted miscellanea for The New Yorker. The someone, a man twice Marc's age, said this to him: You're a good writer. If you ever want to go to Bread Loaf, I'll write your rec.

Bread Loaf is a writer's colony. Bread Loaf works like this, according to their website: "For the past 86 years, the workshops, lectures, and classes, held in the shadow of the Green Mountains, have introduced generations of participants to rigorous practical and theoretical approaches to the craft of writing, and given America itself proven models of literary instruction. Bread Loaf is not a retreat—not a place to work in solitude. Instead it provides a stimulating community of diverse voices in which we test our own assumptions regarding literature and seek advice about our progress as writers."

Sounds great, right?

The someone who offered to write a rec for Marc to go to Bread Loaf had a lot of stories about other writers he'd met, and a lot of stories about himself, and a lot of stories about his time at Bread Loaf. And about his life in Connecticut, about his life with his partner of fifteen years, etc. We all have a lot of stories. We should share them as freely as this someone did.

Marc met this someone by accident. He'd been fooling around online, which is what one does online: fool around. He was fooling around in a gay chat room, and mentioned an article he'd just read.

Quite unexpectedly, the person he mentioned the article to identified himself as the author of the article. Small world.

More chats followed. A meeting at an Upper East Side restaurant. A discussion about writing. A light chiding from the someone that Marc's online age did not match his real-world age. Other things.

Someone revealed that he worked for the Bush administration.

Marc swallowed a thick shot of whiskey. "But." Marc weighed his words then tossed out the scale. "How can you work for the Bush administration when you're gay and an academic? That's like working for Genghis Khan while being a humanitarian vegetarian celibate."

"I was hired by the administration," someone said, "to assess the damage done to the library in Baghdad."

"So you're a librarian, or are you a Republican?"

"Republican," someone said. "I voted for him, and I'll be watching the inauguration parade from a corner office in D.C."

Second inauguration, by the way. Someone and I had our lunch together just before the second inauguration of GWB. I'd spent all summer and fall campaigning against GWB. Someone had spent all summer campaigning for him. Both someone and I spent the same period coming home to men we loved, and having copious amounts of unsanctioned gay sex.

Turns out both conservatives and liberals can have copious amounts of unsanctioned gay sex.

Surprise!

+++

Someone sent me an email not long after our lunch. Late at night. Mostly the email was about his dog and his partner and his house in Connecticut. There was, though, one little tidbit at the end.

GWB had just been sworn in. I was bitter. I was still confused about how a gay man with a life I'd love to have--nice house, cute dog, reliable life-partner, great career--could work for a man, a president, I found reprehensible.

"Looking forward," someone said, via email, "to getting to work assessing the library in Baghdad."

"Your work wouldn't be necessary," I shot back, "if your boss hadn't invaded the country for no reason. Be careful," I continued, ripping a line off from Vonnegut, "what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be."

And that was the last I ever heard from the somebody who wrote for The New Yorker, worked for GWB, and offered to write me a rec should I ever decide to go to Bread Loaf.

Alas.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vonnegut.1

Here's the thing: Greg, the love of my life, the fire of my loins, etc., is reading a Vonnegut book. I didn't ask him to read Vonnegut. There are a lot of things I've asked him to do over the years, but I've never done that.

I asked him to watch a Woody Allen movie. He did.

I asked him to open up our relationship. He did. We both got crabs from a guy from Mobile.

I asked him to move to New York. He did. And then he cried the first night we arrived. "I want to go home," he wept, over and over. We didn't go home. We made a new home.

Vonnegut.

Here's the thing: Asking someone to read Vonnegut, for me, is like asking someone to breathe. "And so it goes" is, to me, like an inhale, and "hi ho" is an exhale, and it seems rude to tell someone--Greg, for instance--to take a breath. Certainly, I don't mind dragging a person several states away from where they were born, or helping someone gather pubic lice, or foisting Woody Allen upon them. But telling someone to breathe?

Presumptuous.
+++

The first Vonnegut book Greg decided--on his own!--to read was Slapstick.

"It's not his best," I told Greg.

"Then I'll try something else," Greg replied.

"The intro changed my life."

"But you said it wasn't his best book. You just said it."

"The introduction changed my life. I don't remember much about the rest of the book."

"Should I," Greg asked, "read it or not?"

"Here's the thing. That book is considered the worst book Vonnegut wrote. People shit on it."

"So.....?"

"It changed my life. I'm just saying. I am not the person to ask. There's a part where he talks about having a dog, and how that dog gives him unconditional love, and then he adopts his sister's children because both she and her husband got killed."

"So you're saying I should read it."

"I'm saying it changed my life. Unconditional love. It's hard to come by. So many conditions."
+++

Vonnegut.

Listen. I get that he's not everyone's favorite author. I get that everyone, really, has an author of some kind, and that author hits a nerve, and the nerve reverberates, and when the reader comes to die, that author is still there, twanging away on the nerves.

Good. There are worse things to twang away on the nerves. Guilt, for instance. Rather than thinking "And so it goes," or "Frankly I don't give a damn" or "Call me Ishmael" or "The rest is silence," a person's nerves could twang this at the dying brain: "I should've said I love you to that one person," or, "I should've been more understanding."

When I die, I hope I'll think this: "The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be not to be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn't want to be used by anybody."

I also hope I'll think this: "Fuck I'm not ready yet."
+++

Greg, after he finished Vonnegut's most awful novel with his most greatest intro, said this to me: Hi ho.

He also said this to me: I think I finally understand you.

Here's the thing: Telling someone you've lived with for 10 years that you 'finally understand him' is both a good and bad thing. It's like telling a molecule on your big toe that you finally understand it. It's been there quite a while, this molecule, and it's clearly there no matter your understanding.

Not gonna fuck off, this molecular big toe-manship. Understanding or not, that molecule is firmly planted into the big toe Greg looks at each morning when he second-guesses his need to get out of bed. That molecule is happy to be with Greg's big toe even when the toe is plunged into black socks, shoved into a leather shoe, and forced to bounce toward a train station.

I think I finally understand you, Greg said.

Busy busy busy. Understanding one another is what we all do. Realizing we understand: there's the thing.

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