I really want to post the last sentence of Everything Is Illuminated (given that the first sentence doesn’t really do it justice and the last one oh-so-very-much does), but that would be callous of me. Suffice it to say: OH my GOD that BOOK.
Heartbreaking and beautiful, in that order. A must-read. Maybe, maybe - and I don’t say this lightly - my new favorite.
"AN IDEAL FIT IS… An artist who has… 1. A direct, existing relationship with the occupy movement, a community-based organization or non-profit waging a campaign on the front lines of economic justice issues; 2. A track record of creating quality work that has impacted many people; 3. The ability clearly able express what the proposed project is going to be when completed.”
A few months ago, after much more hemming and hawing than I think my great-uncle Leo might have appreciated given the subject matter, my family gathered to scatter his ashes in a small copse behind the Met Museum. Standing in a loose circle, we told a few stories, said whatever more we felt we needed to say, then dipped our cupped hands into the zip-lock bag we’d appropriated for the occasion (don’t worry, Leo, we only bowed to ceremony so much). We spent the next quiet minute listening to the smooth whisper of ash running through our fingers, while a jazz saxophonist busked a few hundred yards away.
I owe Leo so much. In greater or lesser parts, I credit him with my interest in art history, my love of Shakespeare and Joyce, and my fascination with language and languages. The dinners we shared over the past six years allow me to appreciate, among so many other things, the guiding principles behind articles like this one.
But I don’t best remember Leo for his fiery genius, or for his yellowed and museum-like apartment, but rather for the cadence of his speech. Few ums, never a mislaid word, only the occasional pause - for effect, or to choose the next tack, or (in less recent years) to draw at his cigarette. And always, after a phrase or three, the rhetorical “you see?” And there, in a single phrase, Leo. Always teaching, always urging on. Always focusing on the visual, you see.
So thanks for all of it, Leo. I’ll have you know I took special care while writing this post to refrain, whenever possible, from using forms of “to be”. Thanks for that, too.
“Over the teeth, and through the gums, look out, tummy: here it comes!”—The little rhyme I’ve been saying for nearing on two decades - and, especially, every night this past week - before taking cough syrup.
WHO MURDERED THE QUEEN?, or, my Spelling homework from 2nd grade
Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! There was a scream in the next room, I rushed there, but it was too late, There was the queen, lying dead on the floor, with a knife through her neck. She has been murdered. I knew. Here’s how: she couldn’t speak, and there was a soft creak as the window was closed by the murderer. There were only two suspects. The butler and the maid/. They were the only two people not called to the meeting by the kind. They each had a separate room, so it would be hard. I went to greet the butler first. He opened the door usually, but was a bit frightened of me. He went to lean on a chair but there wasn’t a chair there to lean on, so he fell on his face. He recovered quickly and we started talking. I saw he was trying to keep me there. He offered me some cheese, but it might have been drugged. The only good information was that there was a murdering gang, that all wore a seal chain around their necks. He was always changing the subject, and kept on saying “Did you know that vampires have no reflection?” Then I went to the maid’s room. Once there, I took a seat. There was a nice weave carpet on the floor and a tape-recorder was singing “I believe I can fly.” I went outside. I happened to notice the butler outside. And there was a seal chain around his neck! I had proof! The butler did it! I told the king and he put the butler in the dungeon. The I went back to the queen. She was still in a deep freeze. All the experiments that we had tried to revive her had done the opposite of what we had hoped to happen. The first thing we tried was splashing water from the creek on her face. An hour and a half later, a beam of light fell on her, and she rose to heaven. It was a big challenge, but I found out who murdered the queen!
One of the most “complete” albums I’ve heard in a long time - in as much as Gambino has a very clear purpose here, a few core themes that get repeated and developed and toyed with, across nearly every track. Oh, and the rapping is really good too. Highly recommended.
Driving up Riverside Drive towards the storage place, bickering about this and that, having stopped off at a place in the neighborhood to buy 14 record boxes (to be filled at a later date);
Passing by the infamous “No Eating On The Floor” sign by the elevators;
Not finding the boxes of Beanie Babies and other toys we’d hoped to find in the storage unit and subsequently sell online, having discovered that the commemorative Princess Diana purple bear fetches an easy $500, and after a great deal of searching and label-reading finally concluding that the boxes must have already been moved to our (other) storage space in New Jersey;
And then, just before we leave, finding a framed picture of my mother, 18, straightened hair and horizontal-striped dress, smiling in front of a Noguchi sculpture at “the old MoMA”.
These days, I have a disproportionately large amount of free time. I’m working on it - but in the meantime, I try to do what I can to fill the days. There’s work sometimes, obviously. There’s a lot of internet usage, for sure. There’s reading and playing video games, and exercising and singing and writing. There’s meeting with friends, usually for a meal. Every now and then, there’s some theater-going.
Happily enough, today was the first day in more than a week that I didn’t have a single to-do colorfully blocked into my iCal. And, for the first time in a long time, having nothing to do was really nice.
So when I went to the post office to return a pair of shoes I bought online (because getting store credit is basically just investing in the next thing I’ll eventually buy, right?), it was a real pleasure to stand on line for a while, entirely superfluously - you see, I’d already printed out the return label and taped it onto the box.
“It was a pleasure to burn.”—Enigmatic, direct, grim. Another quality first sentence. (Though I have to say, between the manic pixie dream girl thing Clarisse has going for her, and the generally overwrought and cluttered sentence style Bradbury seems intent on using, I haven’t much enjoyed the first 30 pages.)
I just spent a frustrating half hour trying to write one of those interesting and clever and introspective posts we all try to write sometimes. It was about going to Homecoming, disregarding the internet for a few days, having a great time doing it, and wanting to do more creative and people-oriented things in my life. But (surprise!) it sounded shallow and tired. So instead I’ll just take the advice of a few good friends of mine and just say exactly what I mean to say, simply and without much (more) preamble:
1. I’m very happy to have spent my weekend with people I love; thank you to everyone.
2. The internet can be a boring and useless place sometimes, but it’s really good at trying to get you to think otherwise. Fuck that.
3. I want to do more creative and people-oriented things in my day-to-day.
4. “Galvanized” is a pretty cool word. Here’s to feeling it.
Today, I left the city with some friends and went to Princeton, which is a totally beautiful town that desperately tries to pretend it’s not in New Jersey. And you know what? Today, it succeeded.
Shout-outs to: the delicious ice-cream parlor (amaretto ice cream WHAT); the horses, and goats, and wine-tasting, at the orchard; baking an apple pie; deer and red-tailed hawks in the backyard; Birdy, Dennis, Liz.
And above all else: yellow and red leaves on the trees, and the *scrush shrush* sound they make when you walk through them on the ground.
In related news (literally), it’s almost impossible to find more information about this facet of the movement. Which is a shame, because it’s very very clever. There’s another glimpse of it in this video (1:41-1:49).
So there’s this really cool thing called neoteny. It’s “the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles”. Some good examples are axolotls, a species of salamander that never make it out of the water, or flightless birds, which often resemble the chicks of other birds more serious about being birds.
When I discovered this biological phenomenon, I started thinking about its social and/or psychological and/or poetic ramifications. Was there a way to relate this marvel of zoological science to My Everyday Life?
And then I reexamined just how, exactly, I had come across neoteny. It was when I clicked on a link I found in a thread on WSO, the site I still navigate to sometimes because, you know, I’m a twenty-something with a lot of time on my hands who’s living back at home with his mommy and daddy.