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Archive for June, 2016|Monthly archive page

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…”

In Artists, coffee, Film, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, or juice, photography, proto drafts, Tea, Wine on June 30, 2016 at 8:47 am

Those are the first words I speak in Ed Maurer’s composition, Pérégrinations. Yesterday, I spoke them – and other bits used in the score – while the camera rolled. Others did the same. The shots will provide material for a clip. We laughed a lot – including after others helped me off the floor when a chair broke under me. Because of my weight? I doubt it, heavier bodies than mine occupied it first. No real harm done  but maybe I should take a refresher course in shoulder rolls and tumbles, as learned years ago in a judo class.

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…” And then? A cat dashed across the path? A cop car appeared? A group of marchers? No one other than a buzzing fly? A squadron of stingers? Had it rained during the night? Were the fields and spider webs covered with dew? Or was this a path through a forest? What kind? A path well-trodden or a push through scrub and thorny bushes? A street? Industrial, residential…

Characters, take your pick.

***

Behavior modification. Basic observation: you can’t modify eating habits the same way you quit smoking because you can quit smoking altogether but you can’t quit eating. Obvious? Yes. Not so obvious: the how-to. A trip to the small downtown supermarket now involves a mental blanking out of some nine-tenth of the displayed food stuff. Some of those I ignored already, some I bought on occasion, some I considered staples. I won’t be counting grams of ingested protein or salt forever but I’m doing so now to get the notions straight – including when eating out with friends.

I’ve reactivated a long-time companion for this purpose: a notebook I’d bought in Montreal a month before leaving for Europe. Jottings, drawings, notions about food. Fancy meals, simple ones. One recent entry shows cartoon figures at a café table in Gruissan. Date: May 28 of this year when I went to the seashore with friends. Comment added yesterday: “I didn’t know it but I was eating my last hamburger with fries. Delicious, luckily.” Better to end something on a great memory than on a lousy one.

So. Re-training the taste buds. Including when the jollity of a morning photo shoot peaks over wine and pasta with home-made pesto.

Yes, stomach? What’s that you said? ’tis time, I agree. I’ll have breakfast now.

Funny, that.

In Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on June 29, 2016 at 8:13 am

I walked home from the meeting last night wondering how in hell I could stay interested in a proto draft that doesn’t hold my attention better than live events do at the moment. Not world-wide headline making events (although they occupy a lot of space), but local ones providing more than their share of conflict.

The obvious vs the not-so evident. The well-travelled, well-practiced tactics in the arts of deception. After one participant left last night, a newcomer to the group expressed dismay at the “antagonism” displayed by the more vocal members at the meeting. Consensus matters. It matters so much, members of any group will twist themselves in triple pretzels to avoid making waves or rocking the boat. Smooth operators know this and adjust their discourse accordingly. Sometimes, it happens that the smooth discourse contradicts another bit of smooth discourse expressed by the same party in other circumstances. Then what? Let it ride? Pretend you don’t notice the glaring discrepancy? What interests are at stake? Someone’s vanity? Someone’s career plans? Someone’s survival, be it physical or emotional?

Of course the piece of fiction lurking in the sidelines won’t take off unless I manage to transfer to it more of  the tenseness and the fun holding so much of my attention at the local level these days. This isn’t a matter of producing more daily pages – those will happen if I hit the right spot. A spot where one or several characters take over because there’s too much at stake to allow wide-eyed dismay at how contentious things can get when conflicting agendas rear their heads through the smooth and untroubled waters of scripted pacifiers.

Funny, that: we get served with reminders we live in an Etat de droit (under rule of law) at every turn. We’re all supposed to accept the principle without ever putting it to the test. If and when we do, the effect is something like lifting a flat rock and discovering all that teems under it – and that was there, all along.

So, fictional ones: up to the challenge or not?

Specifics

In Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Poetry, proto drafts, Theater on June 28, 2016 at 8:51 am

Everything in need of one more push. Paper sorting and filing. Housework. Not supposed to look a given horse in the mouth? Maybe but a given fridge, yes. That part of the clean-up: done. Fridge operational and smokers take heed: baked white enamel can return from years of exposure to tobacco. Personally, I would clean a fridge prior to donating it but that’s me.

Paper. More paper. Emails. Phone calls. The blessed tumble into sleep. (Note to self: when read in an over-tired state, the final act in King Lear sees bodies falling left and right and the dazed reader no longer knowing who the players are. Kent, Gloucester, Albany, Edmund, Edgar, Regan, Goneril, Oswald, a manservant, another, exeunt, enter the mad king, etc.)

Paper. Documents. Scraps with scribbles. Kitchen, cleaning and re-organizing. Bedroom. Books. Office: incorporating a bed in limited space. Books. Sorting. Phone calls. Tiny, precious breaks to allow the child to play with a trinket or find the one and only right spot for a favorite stone or framed photo or book. Food to recover from the neighbor’s fridge. A haircut – must work it into the mix today before the photo shoot tomorrow after the meeting at social services, etc.

Pause. Time out. Seamus Heaney. A poem. Forget generalities. Specifics, always. This day. This moment. This story, searching for its own voice.

At the Wellhead

Your songs, when you sing them with your two eyes closed

As you always do, are like a local road

We’ve known every turn of in the past –

That midge-veiled, high-hedged side-road where you stood

Looking and listening until a car

Would come and go and leave you lonelier

Than you had been to begin with. So, sing on,

Dear shut-eyed one, dear far voiced veteran,

Sing yourself to where the singing comes from,

Ardent and cut off like our blind neighbour

Who played the piano all day in her bedroom.

Her notes came out to us like hoisted water

Raveling off a bucket at the wellhead

Where next thing we’d be listening, hushed and awkward.

*

That blind-from-birth, sweet-voiced, withdrawn musician

Was like a silver vein in heavy clay.

Night water glittering in the light of day.

But also just our neighbor, Rosie Keenan.

She touched our cheeks. She let us touch her braille

In books like books wallpaper patterns came in.

Her hands were active and her eyes were full

Of open darkness and a watery shine.

She knew us by our voices. She’d say she ‘saw’

Whoever or whatever. Being with her

Was intimate and helpful, like a cure

You didn’t notice happening. When I read

A poem with Keenan’s well in it, she said,

‘I can see the sky at the bottom of it now.’

Moving stuff around

In Absurdlandia, and other spirits, Animals, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, proto drafts, Theater on June 27, 2016 at 8:26 am

I’m not personally acquainted with toads. They have an unattractive appearance which leads to negative symbolic representations. But I’ve never met a toad in any significant way so I don’t see why I should insult the species by comparing the squishy and repulsive double-speak of a Boris Johnson to that of the warty amphibian.

Not that Monsieur Johnson is alone in his pond of squishiness. “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises…” Caliban says in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Not all of the noises are sweet airs, nor are they restricted to the isle. Given the cacophonies reported in various media outlets, a healthy and varied reading diet comes high on my personal sanity scale. While I’d like longer stretches of time in which to concentrate on my proto draft, varied sources of activity aren’t a bad idea either.

The title summarizes what’s going on over here, both in general living and in writing terms. Housecleaning, exchanging a fridge with a freezer compartment against the current one going as a donation to the street festival. Freezer compartments are nice to have if you plan to organize meals in a less chaotic way.

Back to toads for a second because there is something toadish about Johnson. In the literary sense:

“Meanwhile, Toad, gay and irresponsible, was walking briskly along the high road, some miles from home. At first he had taken bypaths , and crossed many fields, and changed his course several times, in case of pursuit; but now, by this time feeling safe from recapture, and the sun smiling brightly on him, and all nature joining in a chorus of approval to the song of self-praise that his own heart was singing to him, he almost danced along the road in his satisfaction and conceit.” (Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows).

As reported in The Guardian, Johnson wrote the following in his column at the Telegraph : “There were more than 16 million who wanted to remain.They are our neighbours, brothers and sisters who did what they passionately believe was right. In a democracy majorities may decide but everyone is of equal value.We who are part of this narrow majority must do everything we can to reassure the remainers.We must reach out, we must heal, we must build bridges – because it is clear that some have feelings of dismay, and of loss, and confusion.”

Brave new world, and the dawning of a gentler, kinder Boris. Yes, all of us lowly non-elected ones are well-served by our champions in the political arena, these days. I have to wonder what a Rabelais or a Jonathan Swift would have made of it all.

For now: windows open to air that’s still cool. The sound of pigeons flapping their wings above the rooftops. Oh yes, and the small lizard that’s taken shelter under my bed. He(she) comes out at times. Slithers up onto the mattress or freezes on the floor. I’d hate to squish it by accident. Plus, living under a human’s bed must make for a solitary life and a limited diet too.

But how to get the message across the species barrier? Fear not, I come in friendship, little lizzy, and wish to point you to the exit. The window, see? Open. Freedom. Escape.The great outdoors. (I’ve tried this approach. Last night, I even extended an old world wall map as a carrier. No go. When my sister comes visiting, I’ll have to explain about the lizard under her bed.)

Hard to beat

In and other spirits, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, photography, proto drafts, Sundays on June 26, 2016 at 9:45 am

A few scenes stand out from last night’s outing. The ones that linger the most after less than four hours’ sleep have little to do with the purpose of the outing: a private party for a first presentation of a musical work by a friend. I provided some words and some voice to Ed Maurer’s fifty-minute composition called Pérégrination. The sixty or so guests enjoyed the performance, the food, the drinks and each others’ company.

Two of the kids held my attention most while I did my best to ignore the groaning board of forbidden goodies, the rum punch, the raspberry tiramisu etc. (Flash exposé: I blinked and faltered over the tiramisu.)

Back to the two kids who were both there and not there. The first, a girl of about ten, sat on the ground next to a vertical rack of sausage grilling by an open flame. While I worked on the experiment devised by the Greek gods – i.e. the mortals eat the meat, the gods get their fill from the smell of the roast – the girl peered down into her lit-up phone, oblivious to everything around her.

The second, a boy of about the same age, held my attention longer. In fact, we established the kind of relationship an adult and a youngster manage sometimes. One where neither party intrudes on the other’s privacy but a bond occurs. The boy’s attention was taken up by four activities: attempts at sketching a lighted sculpture while listening to the music (didn’t work, too many people milled around); lying on his back, staring up at the stars while listening to the music; sitting at the table, observing the patterns made by wax dripping from the candles (and attempting predictions as to which would drip next); and, finally – somewhere between one and two AM, sitting on the grass again, near the pool, playing a game on an electronic device.

He left with his parents just before we did. Looked my way and sent me a brief one-finger wave. I reciprocated.

***

Faces. Photos of. Plus titles such as TNYT The Woman Who ‘Totally Understands’ Donald Trump. As irresistible as a serving of that devilish tiramisu.

***

But hark! what light breaks beyond that yonder window?  ’tis the sun, and I’d better get a move-on if I hope to work a nap into the day’s proceedings.

Tangled

In Absurdlandia, and other spirits, coffee, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, or juice, proto drafts, Tea, Wine on June 25, 2016 at 7:59 am

Another old saw in need of sharpening: the one about the tangled webs. The tangled webs woven by beginners in the arts of deception. “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” That one.

In need of sharpening because the teeth on a saw have a double edge. The part about deception covers one edge. Doesn’t begin to deal with the tangled webs resulting from bona fide, top-rated attempts at sailing forth on the course of Truth. As scientific evidence of this? Perform the following experiment: gather together the finest-minded people you can find in your environment. All of them intent on helping others with their own physical, mental and/or financial resources. Watch your head and duck when the whirligig gets going. Not because anyone is lying or attempting to deceive. Just because. Because so-and-so understood such-and-such to mean xyz (in that order) while someone else concentrated on the w preceding the xyz and another questioned the relevance of the xyz approach and wished to test a zxy strategy.

The universe keeps expanding, remember? Opportunities for confusion grow at an exponential rate. Smile and bear on through the tangled woods.

***

Proto draft :

The fiction is only borderline funny at this point. I’m still processing the real-life bits that inspire the take-off into the realm of fantasy. The place where lofty ideals smack into basic incongruities – in other words, into humans as they are, while longing to be so much more, so much better, so much…nobler, kinder, happier, gentler, stronger, more decisive, better proportioned, better…oh, you know.

The peevishness that springs forth when uncertainty and frustration turn into a form of mental torture, for instance. What do you mean I still have to wait? What do you mean you haven’t found the magic key that unlocks the door to the magic kingdom? What do you mean my cherished dreams get shunted aside, again? What do you mean? I have to learn how to cook for myself?

***

Coffee. On the brink of starting my seventh decade on planet earth, seems I’ll have to learn to enjoy it black. In fact, I’ll have to re-examine all my habits and preferences in matters of food and drink. I know full well habits can get tweaked. But some are more resistant than others. So, as I did when I quit the habit of smoking, I have to change something basic in the stories I tell myself about foods I like. A few post-hypnotic suggestions may prove useful in that regard. Oy. Laughter, the best medicine? I’m smiling, yes, but I’m not splitting my sides over this one.

OK. Universe, I hereby apologize to my kidneys, and promise to give them an easier time from now on. That better? (Eyes roll up. The lesser self – also a basic component of the universe – mutters “yeah, sure”.)

A last mouthful of black coffee. Sensations on front, sides and back of the tongue? On the palate?

I’ll stick to the word different for the time being.

quip, quack?

In Artists, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts, Theater on June 24, 2016 at 8:14 am

Looks like rubber duckies are in for a hard time. Should they retire? Commit rubber ducky hara-kiri (a swift puncture on a rusty nail, rubber ducky fills with water and sinks in a dead faint, investigated by fishes in search of a tasty snack).

***

I promised my neighbors a moussaka dinner for tonight. Cooking early to avoid an overheated kitchen. A Greek dish, as the next scene in the European drama opens on cheering Britons (and despondent ones too). Plus cheering right-wingers across Europe chafing at the bit for their share in the dismantling of the European so-called union. The distance between symbols and their underlying reality: astounding, at times.

The words “the people”, for instance. Has anyone ever met an entity called “the people”? No. Collective swings in mood happen, some more enduring than others. The way some cloud formations persist longer than others. But “the people”? Whose? Where? Which one?

***

Meanwhile, King Lear grows ever more befuddled, poor dear. What can a poor fool do when his employer loses his grip? Observe, comment, quip. A good name for a fool, that. Quip. “I quip therefore I endure.” Until the curtain falls – in a stately manner, or in a heap.

So. Moussaka. Phone calls. Appointments. New story, bit by tiny bit. Plus Shakespeare, still my favorite Briton.

Don’t leave home without one (or two)

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts on June 23, 2016 at 8:49 am

I don’t know what the man expected. After all, this was the year-end program of the kiddie classes at a local circus, not a dress rehearsal at Cirque du Soleil. He sat in the bleachers as solemn as a pope receiving his instructions from God. Applauded once as an acknowledgement to local custom, and left with his son (scolding the boy all the while) as soon as his bit of the performance was over. The mother sat next to me. She stayed on and allowed herself some applause and some admiring comments after hubby took off. From previous encounters, I understand he once held a lofty position of some kind in the world of media. Why this means he can’t applaud at a school performance, I don’t know. Bucking the tide, maybe.

***

Ah, CNN: “Some of the Dems had pillows and blankets”. The rogues. I say why not? Better than a kalash or a flame-thrower if you’re planning a sit-in on the issue of gun control. I might have brought along an inflatable mattress, myself, or even a rubber ducky or two to go quack-quack at opportune moments.

***

Meanwhile in fun-loving France, the great minds who’d forbidden today’s demonstration by the unions recanted after their suggestion of a stationary demonstration earned them the ridicule they so deserved. (Stand at attention? No milling allowed? March in and out at your leader’s signal?)

As for the merry-go-round circuit now authorized for the gathering, I hope all demonstrators step smartly or they’ll get tangled in their banners. Will they be fenced in on all sides like fearsome saber-toothed lions in a cage? Will the barbarians break free? Will blood flow through the streets? etc.

Of note: even the most right-wing of the right-wing police unions protested against the ban on the demonstration. Because they enjoy lobbing tear gas? Maybe some of them do, but that wasn’t the reason for their protest. Demonstrating is a sacred right, they wrote in their press release. Oops. Hm. Oh, responded the Elected Ones, the cops say we shouldn’t ban marching to slogans…uh…

With ridicule at such high concentrations, I wish everyone would laugh. Nothing else. Just laugh. See a minister strolling by with hand extended for the photo op? Don’t scowl. Don’t scream. Don’t rant. Laugh. If you have a rubber ducky or two handy, a few quack-quacks won’t hurt.

***

Do we lose Britain today? Does the dis-united kingdom break off into the Atlantic? Sail up beyond Norway or head down toward fairer climes?

The suspense.

Unbearable.

Quack-quack.

Another bit of folk wisdom for the ages?*

In Absurdlandia, Fun, Games, Local projects, Music on June 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

Didn’t they warn me over and over and over again? Waste not, want not.  A stitch in time. Not to mention: be careful what you wish for.

Ah yes. They were right. Be careful. Given the universe’s  irrepressible sense of fun, you’ll get “it” and curse through your teeth. The timing will be off. The constraints on your life, on your time, on your personal space: enough to set up a wail to the heavens. But you wished for a break in the logjam, didn’t you? Ha-ha, personable one, smile to the camera now. Looks like you and your buddies won this round. Und now: never mind the parlor, says the spider, let’s move along and find  you a snug little cocoon to sleep in.

Brief factual translation of the above: a combination of phone calls, emails and registered letters has tipped the scales of justice into the proper alignment. Almost two months after the court decision, Child Protection Services (with help from the friendly reminders mentioned in the previous sentence), “accede to the minors’ wishes”. After suitable interviews and home visits, the four minors will be sheltered in private homes, their benefactors paid for the privilege of doing the work of sheltering, feeding, clothing, insuring proper schooling etc. Said benefactors will have signing authority for all medical and educational needs.

Right here, I break out into a lusty rendition of Viva mi patria Bolivia as a suitable hymn to my foolishness. Why?** Because I’m one of the lucky four. The thought of sharing my living quarters for an indefinite period with a seventeen year-old given to bouts of panic and… well, of seventeen year-oldedness combined with cultural cluelessness?  Leaves me with the choice of cursing or of singing. As usual, given a choice, I do both.

However. Apart from the possible benefits accruing to the four minors, two considerations stand out this morning: 1) I cherish my sanity, and my privacy too. 2)Coping with discomfort has a marvelous way of speeding up the process called On to the Next Thing. I don’t intend to become anyone‘s surrogate parent for any length of time. Ergo, somebody’s wish for the fast track to independence has more than my full support. Good luck to him, and to me.

* As a further bit of wisdom for the ages, I suggest: While skittering across the landslide, don’t forget to enjoy the view.

**Yes but: why Viva mi patria Bolivia? Am I Bolivian? No. The song landed in my life at some point. It tends to crop up in my head when the universe’s peculiar sense of humor so decides.

No trace of vestibular plagorism in my upper bile duct

In Absurdlandia, Music on June 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm

First, a word to the spammer, asking for advice concerning copyright violations and “plagorism” of his/her writing: Yes, spammer, I’ve seen a lot of your poor spelling around the internet but…was it yours or someone else’s? I can’t say. Good luck in all your endeavors.

***

After the ultrasound, the pleasant doctor wanted to send me over to the scanner but it was down for maintenance. Meaning I’ll have to book another appointment and locate another kind soul to bring me to the clinic and back. Considering the pleasant doctor found no trace of vestibular plagorism or plagiarism in my upper bile duct, I’m assuming the exams will turn up some minor, if annoying condition. Or one of those aches no one has worked into a compendium of ills yet – the perfect candidate for a pharma corp’s ad agency.

(Squeaky disquieting soundtrack. Dark bedroom, curtains flutter at the window. Camera pans in on a woman lying in bed with an anxious face. Close-up on the eyes. Concerned voice :” Do you sometimes wake at night with the certainty something is weighing down on your lower body? Do you sometimes experience sharp stabbing pains no one can explain? You may have plagorism of the lower intestinal tract. Ask your doctor about Plagorex and re-discover true well-being both day and night….Product appears on screen in a pretty blue and white bottle…Shot of same bedroom in soft evening light. A laughing woman in a negligee, laughing male partner – no worries, both wearing wedding bands – pleasant, light-hearted romantic music and final voice-over: With Plagorex, be plagued no more.”)

***

Next : I go to the doctor’s office so he can admire ultrasound pics of my innards and book me another appointment. Then traipse home again and find transportation back to Albi for this evening’s concert.

Ordinary doesn’t come close to describing this day.

***

(For the record in the absurdlandia category: the gentleman shuffling out to the benches outside the clinic, holding on to the pole from which a bag of milky-white liquid spouted down into a number of plastic tubes leading to the side of his neck. Sitting down with precautions that made me wince. Then, pulling out his pack of cigs and his lighter in order to add an extra layer of soot in his lungs, and a deeper tinge of grey to his skin. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he had aggravated plagorism of the upper bile duct).