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Archive for the ‘Absurdlandia’ Category

Keeping House

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Artists, Current reading, dreams, Rejection on July 20, 2016 at 8:13 am

The walls are lined with books, all in French. The literature sorted by period – the well-known classics, most of them from the nineteenth century and early twentieth. I pick up some of the more recent, read a few chapters, and set them down. Uninteresting? No. Predictable. You turn to the last page: sure enough the landing, as expected.

The boy comes back from his shopping expedition with two others in Toulouse. Tells me about his purchases and the highlight of their foray – a kebab shop where they ate so much, he says, that at nine PM, he’s not hungry yet. Large eaters they are not. He heads back to my place for the night, proud to have his own key, his own room – and the envy of some of his friends, still in the Home. Before leaving, he wonders how I can spend entire days alone. Reading and writing, I explain. The notion strikes him as too odd for response.

In fact, the writing is at an utter standstill. Something like a stunned silence with brief interjections from time to time. “I thought I knew, but I didn’t,” –  that kind of thing. Totally off track, in fact. Imaginary friends are tricky that way.

Recent writings in French don’t appeal much so I revert to a battered old find. The lives of famous seamen, offered in the year eighteen seventy-five to a young lady, as first prize in religious instruction. Instructive indeed in terms of the White Man’s great mission of spoil and plunder. The racism so blunt and blatant it could be lifted straight off some contemporary twitter feeds and Facebook comments.

Dispossessed and at sea. Basic theme: I thought I knew and I didn’t. A familiar place. I’d like to visit other spaces where some of the people keep some of their promises some of the time.

I’ll find my footing again? Of course I will. But I expected better and will have to find some way to make it so for myself and for others.

When nothing works out as you’d intended

In Absurdlandia, dreams, Local projects, proto drafts, Rejection, Uncategorized on July 19, 2016 at 9:02 am

lots of ways to chip away at someone’s self-confidence. Lots. Anonymity allows for lots more. Add the “hark, who goes there?” factor to it and  you can do a mighty fine job – something like the psychological equivalent of earth tremors. Is the ground moving? Will it grow to a rumble? Will your entire life’s work crash or dissolve or pale into insignificance? Are you being overly sensitive? Is it all your own fault anyway, etc. Upbringings rich in guilt education make for extra-favorable ground to self-inflicted doubt. Fighting the paralysis when it creeps in – how best to.

Move the limbs. Move the fingers. Refuse, refuse the verdict – be it self-administered or someone else’s take on who you are, what you mean, why you said or did not say, why you did or did not do.

The world’s a crazy place and not about to get saner.

Tenir debout dans le chaos. Just because it’s your life and you’re not about to be handed another.

How this will translate in fiction? No idea. None. Right now, the whole project feels as lifeless and useless as a dead fish left to feed the flies under a pier. I’ve no doubt this too shall pass, because that’s what feelings do. Pushing out and out, and out some more. Taking time out to say hey, me, whereto now? Nothing works out the way you expected, does it?

Whereto now.

Vacuum filled with bits

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Local projects on July 18, 2016 at 7:44 am

I’m pulled away from my morning rituals by the sound of the vacuum cleaner downstairs. The boy is back and he’s decided he’s in the mood for housecleaning. Which is a lot better than being in an angry and surly mood, granted, but so much for morning, noon and evening rituals.

Moving over to a friend’s house for a week of dog sitting, among other community services. If life choices were like cafeteria offerings, this summer wouldn’t feature as my automatic reach-for-your-favorite.

Will I get back to fiction some day? Maybe, but in the meantime life is being pretty intrusive.

 

Vendredi matin, le roi, sa femme et le petit prince…*

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, Food, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Sundays, Visual artists on July 17, 2016 at 11:03 am

*the title refers to a traditional French song in which the king, his wife and their little prince come visiting the singer on every day of the week. Since the singer isn’t in, the little prince says: in that case, we’ll come back tomorrow. And so on, until the singer runs through the days of the week.

Friday morning my sister and I went to the supermarket in Gaillac. So did a whole bunch of people on holiday for whom the supermarket visit was something of a family outing. Crowded parking lot, impatient parents, blocked alleys while grandpa waited for grandma to choose the one essential flavored tea among the seventy-eight varieties on display. All par for the course – and the main reason why I visit supermarkets as little as possible.

Can you call it a moment of zen when the experience borders on disgusted amazement? Zen of sorts, I suppose, that landed on me in the yogurt section.

Yogurt. A double alley lined with refrigerated containers. Yogurt for children, one label read (this meant either slurpies  with cartoon characters on them or containers with – yes, cartoon characters). Next, you had organic, health (different from the organic kind, presumably), lo-cal, flavored, with fruit at the bottom or fruit mixed in. Did they have yogurt for boys and yogurt for girls? Not that I noticed. Maybe I should complain.

In other words, senseless glut, aisle after aisle after aisle.

Yesterday, before she left for Canada my sister and I took in a exhibition of ceramics in neighboring Giroussens. With all due respect for the potter who finds fulfillment in reproducing stones out of clay, my preference went to a large amphora in the courtyard. Shaped like a traditional receptacle for oil, wine or grain, it is decorated with leaping goats, flying fish and fowl blowing on trumpets and other friends of dance and music. A small sample?

DSCN3076 With thanks to the potter Thierry Basile, whose name lurks at the bottom of the jar, along with a pair of used work gloves.

Frustration – dealing with

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on July 15, 2016 at 8:01 am

Such are the ways of internet that I learn of grief and carnage further south here in France from an email received from Canada. The grief and carnage (and looming rage, revenge and so on): undeniable. But I have more immediate and local concerns centering around a group of teenagers – and one in particular – so you might say that, for the moment, the immediate looms large enough to counterbalance the further down the road.

The title summarizes the predominant feature in the inner landscape this morning. Frustration at not getting through to a frustrated teen ager. Of the group, he’s the one most at risk of falling in with the wrong friends. The one most in need of structure and of someone playing the role of a father figure or older brother. Obviously, I am neither of those.

Unseasonably cold weather. The proto draft on chill too, for no other reason than the impossibility of maintaining the breathing space in which to let the characters out to play.

Magpies chattering outside. Recollections of a long-ago dream in which my former mother-in-law and grandmother to my child instructed me on how to deal with all those dangers at my door and windows. Concentrate on one object, she said in the dream. Even as someone jimmies the lock on your door, concentrate on one thing and one thing only.

Breath, for example, the empty space between intake and out take. The space where potential likes to hang out.

 

Yes and no

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Dance, Film, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts on July 8, 2016 at 8:11 am

If writing is something like your first responder on the scene, resisting the urge takes some doing. Resisting the urge to identify. But aren’t you supposed to identify. Aren’t you supposed to put the pen to paper or the fingers to the keyboard the second the urge to do so shows up?

Answer: as the title says. Yes, for the small nugget you may find in the reams of repetitious bilge a body can produce over time. Or for a try at another angle on some obsession of yours. Some need to know that won’t go away, no matter how often you tell  yourself you’ll never get an answer other than: that’s life or who knows or some other pat formula designed to chase away the pesky fly.

Except the fly keeps on coming back.

Resisting the urge? Yes. Forever? No.

***

A phone call in all the din out on Place du Jourdain last night during pre-opening events to the annual street arts festival. A woman whose voice I can barely make out. Someone I know told her to call me. New family in town, maybe I can help. She’ll call back this morning.

***

Unanswerables. France won a soccer game against Germany last night. Honking cars streamed by with folks hanging out the windows waving flags, way past midnight. In the afternoon, an eleven-year old American boy by the name of Omar asked me – if I had a choice – what French name I would give my lodger from Mali. I’d never given the matter even the edge of a thought but the boy answered for me. “Hassan would be nice,” he said.

***

The gulf between the virtual and the real, the article says in The New York Times over one of the shootings in the States,   recorded live as-it-happened.

Unanswerables piling up like overdue bills. “Tenir debout dans le chaos” – the title to a piece published in a temporary paper put out during Aurillac’s street arts festival last year. A swirl of unanswerables, like so many pieces of confetti. Catching some of the patterns they make – is that the best a body can achieve?

The fine edge. Collective joy, collective grief, sadness, anger, rage, panic. Collective. Private. The edge where one emotional state tips over into another.

***

A total change in eating habits isn’t a full-time occupation? Yes and no, when you’re out in public places with food and drink provided by others.

***

Allez, I’ve used up this morning’s musing time.

 

While a silly tune plays havoc with my head

In Absurdlandia, Artists, Circus, Dance, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

This is serious. Come on. Look at the mess on your desk. Look at everything you must get done before nightfall. Plus, the horrors, the miseries, the emergencies. Plus, you must take some time for yourself, as they say. Relax. Wind down. But Think Of Others! But don’t stress out. But…! and so on.

Tragedy/Comedy. An impossible balancing act? But so is the simple act of walking.

Few of us will ever push the act of walking up to the level of walking on point, one foot at a time, on overturned glasses. And, indeed, what is the use or the purpose of achieving such a level of strength, grace and daring? No purpose. The notion must have appealed to the circus artist* the same way a crawling baby decides he’s going to manage that trick of walking on his hind legs no matter how many times he lands on his bum.

Impossible. The tragedies, too deep. The comedies, too superficial. “Not funny,” say the mourners, and of course, they’re right. Except for the fact laughter doesn’t ask anybody’s permission to show up, even at a funeral. Laughter breaks forth – in churches, in schools, in hospitals. It can even break forth while having sex or visiting a sorely afflicted friend stranded in dire circumstances. How? Why? Because of something incongruous. Something that breaks the solemnity. A fly on the solemn speaker’s nose. A piece of savage wit. Anything, anything at all that interrupts the narrative and sends it spinning off in another direction.

Something silly enough to interrupt even horror?I don’t know, although some of my characters keep on trying to break through that barrier too.

For now they’ll have to take the back seat while I tackle another bout of paper sorting, laundry and house-cleaning, prior to various visits – official and otherwise –  to my humble home. (The official part happens on Tuesday. Can I greet two persons from Aide Sociale à l’Enfance with my living-room in this condition? And my kitchen? And – gad – the bathroom. Will you look at this mess in the office? )

and so on.

*La danseuse sur verre (Lucie Boulay). You can see her performance on youtube or visit this page of Le Boustrophedon’s website.

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.)

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.

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.