Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rewriting the Past

This one's very tangled but not very green. Though I'm furious, what can I write about Bush's attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act before finally FINALLY leaving office that isn't being written by thousands of others?

Here's an animal tale, at least. Remember Solo, the research bear who died after being moved by the DNR? Here's the tale of a fellow research bear; this one survived a 60 mph crash with a Toyota. Personally, I'm afraid the pink ribbons might make these bears more of a target for a lot of hunters (Blogger needs a "dripping with contempt" button). The researcher, by the way, puts radio collars on these bears without shooting or tranquilizing them. Maybe that should be the new standard for wildlife research--if the conscious animals are willing to let you put a collar on them, fine. If not, just leave them the fuck alone.

As I work on thinning accumulated inventories before a move that I currently think won't happen til spring (I can see the rolling eyes of those who've been hearing me talk about leaving town for years), I inevitably spend a lot of time thinking about my past. Considering whether to keep once loved music, books, and movies, as well as some now extinct recorded formats, has led me to listening to many hours of music I haven't heard in years, and this morning I decided to reread my once favorite fiction.

On two recent midweek (emptier buses) mornings I've filled my bags with as many books as I can carry for a sales trip to Saint Paul and twice I haven't forced myself out to the bus on those mornings, primarily because of the changed Greyhound schedule which makes for a very long day. If the trips were going to make me rich I'd be more inspired, but they'll be break-even days at best. At this point I'll wait until the Republicans have come and gone.

Along with nature, writing has been my other great joy in life and contemplating whether to keep a boxful of old journals from 1989 (I wish I had started about 15 years earlier but my more adventurous teens and twenties are represented only by some poems and stray pages) to the present has brought back memories of more creative days, classes and teachers, and the shaved head of a female writing partner. Every day then involved filling a few pages instead of the few lines I write now. An old project involved indexing the journals and I find that I did that for the first three and a half.

I used to spend a lot of time doing the type of writing exercises in Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. These began with a word or topic and a time limit, and required only that the pen keep moving without stopping or editing--in essence stream of consciousness attempts to try to avoid self judgement during the initial creativity. My setting for doing these at home usually involved instrumental music, candlelight, cigarette smoke, and a glass of Laphroaig (which I haven't had in years but now find myself craving). If I find something interesting in the journals, I might post it; for now, just because they were available on a disc, here for your possible amusement and because I have nothing else to post, are a few very short exercises I did for an online group about ten years ago.


The minstrel in the gallery moved slowly among the paintings. Bosch,

Dali, all the horrors appeared on the walls. He hummed softly to

himself as he watched the beheaded apostle, with the eyes that stayed

on you as you moved back and forth. He pulled out his small notebook;

jotted down a few ideas. Gaudy shades of red mingled with the

prevailing black of his world, the shadows turning the entire room

into a place of further mystery. From beyond the barred windows, the

haunting sound of an owl reached his ears. He moved from corner to

corner, lighting the candles which provided the only light in this

room. He pulled the dark green armchair closer to the window, looking

out at the steeple reaching up against the black clouds. Thoughts of

his past and his freedom plagued him at this hour of dusk. This

artwork he had gathered here, the memories they stirred, the same old

thoughts in a slightly different form, the meaning he still sought.

The bottle of scotch called to him. He raised his glass to the silent

screamer, a smile of wry amusement and loss upon his face.


It's already Monday? I can't believe it. I just met her Saturday night

at this bar, you know the one on the corner across from the Texaco


Yeah, Jimmie's, that's the one. So anyway, I'm just sitting there

minding my own business, nursing a brewski, thinking about that

asshole at work Friday, still can't get that jerk out of my mind,

feeling pissed off, when she walks in to this dump and I think what

the hell is this? You know Jimmies's, you don't see classy broads in

that place but there she was and she's looking around the place, half

the guys in the place staring at her, the rest of em too busy watching

the Knicks, shooting their cueballs up their asses, right?

Anyways, she sees me looking and she's heading my way and I'm thinking

Christ what's this all about? She sits down on the stool next to me

cool as can be and me I can feel the sweat drippin down my sides but

I'm kinda checkin her out in the mirror and man, she looks good. Had

that kinda curly brown hair I always go for, you know?

So anyways she says to Tommy, he's working that night, right, she says

what's the best wine you have here and Tommy, what a card, he tells

her she better just get something else and I can't help it I kinda

snort a little beer out my nose, right?

So she turns and looks at me and I just stare right back at her,

figuring what the hell she already thinks I'm a jerk so what the fuck

right? Then she says, now are you ready for this, Mac, she says you

gotta problem? with this real Brooklyn accent and I'm thinking whoa

now who is this cuz I sure wasn't expecting that voice to come out of

that face.

No, she didn't sound like that when she asked about the wine, see,

that's what I'm tellin ya.


I wake in the night, The North calling to me, wind whistling through

the balsam firs. Here I roll across the bed, to where the sheet is a

little cooler, not heated by my sweaty body. Here coyotes, seeking to

extend their range, have begun to attack the surplus of young children

and household pets. There a wolf pack begins to run a moose. I hear

their voices, the excited yips as the hunt begins. I light a cigarette

and pace the apartment restlessly, caged in these walls, this city of

concrete and glass. The tall pyramids of the firs with their long

erect cones outlined in the moonlight bathing the cabin. In the summer

a pair of bald eagles often circle this lake. Perhaps the Lights will

appear tonight and make me forget who I've left behind. I strap on my

snowshoes and go out to wait.


Sublime?? You thought that was sublime? I thought it was ridiculous. I

should have known--everything you see that most people wouldn't like,

you think it's the pinnacle of art. Me, I'm more of a populist myself.

There wasn't even a plot or a hero or...What? Oh, a heroine, fine. It

was what? A feminist polemic against the tyrannical oppressiveness of

the patriarchy? Oh, OK. If you say so.

No, I'm not humoring you. Well, yeah, OK, I guess I am. No, now don't

get pissed off. No, I don't want to tell you what to feel. Yes, sure

you can feel whatever you want. Oh now I'm humoring you again. What do

you want me to do? No, I think that's anatomically impossible, baby.

Oops, I shouldn't have called you baby, should I? C'mere, will ya?

What, you're sleeping on the couch? Oh, *I'm* sleeping on the couch.

Look, it was just a movie, let's not fight about it. Well, yeah, I

guess it is too late for that, isn't it? I'm sorry, I just don't have

your fine taste in cinema.

Well, yeah, I guess that was kinda sarcastic, wasn't it? I should have

been ironic instead, right? I guess I screwed up again, yep, it's all

my fault, you're right. Damn, there I go again.

Tell you what, I think I'm just gonna go take a walk. I'll see you

later. Unless you want to go down by the river and watch the moon for



An old car, maybe a Model T, hurtling along a narrow road through

hilly hickory oak forest. It's cold for this time of year, with an

early snow making the woods glow brightly. Loss of control, plunging

down the hillside. Repeat frequently.


She sat at the formica table drinking her coffee, trying to wake up.

The cats leaned against her legs as they passed back and forth,

meowing for their breakfast. It's Tuesday, one of her favorite TV

nights. She wrote herself a note to stop at the market on the way home

for more ice cream and chips.

Anything special coming up at work today, she wondered. No, more of

the same, typing, filing, answering the phone. Maybe she'd see that

UPS driver she liked to talk with.

Then, the long ride home on the subway, the press of so many bodies.

She hated that. Such a relief to get back to her apartment and lock

the door. Feed the cats, open a new bag of chips, watch the TV (it was

a good night), then sleep. She liked that. She doesn't dream anymore

when she sleeps or maybe she just doesn't remember. Awake, she

struggles to ignore her dreams of falling...


The Eggs File

I pushed the fried egg around in the bacon grease and looked around

the diner again, searching in vain for my contact, the person whose

late night phone call had brought me here. The old metal stool creaked

as I turned. It scared me.

I always used to eat my eggs hard-boiled. That's how this all began.

With a hard-boiled egg. I bit into it and in horror spewed it out of

my mouth and across my office where it landed with a splat on my

poster of a porno star. For it was not an egg yolk I had bitten into

but something grotesque. Some creature. With four legs and a thick

body. Very small of course, hard to recognize.

At first I thought it was aliens as any reasonable person would. I

started looking at chickens very closely, trying to find a way to tell

the Earth chickens from the imposters. But I couldn't do it. They were

damn good with their disguise.

Then one day it hit me and I wondered how I could have been so stupid.

Of course! They weren't aliens; it was a government conspiracy. As

part of the never-ending conglomeration of everything, the FDA had

found a way to put little tiny pigs into eggs. Bacon and eggs in one

neat package. But what havoc would this wreak upon the American hog


I slid my index finger along my nose and the waitress came over.

"Skully," I said, "you've got to start eating more--you're getting too

thin." And I proceeded to tell her the story of the bacon & eggs

massacree in four part harmony. She poured me another cup of coffee

and said the cab would be here soon.

1 comment:

Lisa J. said...

I have been wondering how you & the Republicans were getting along. :)