Save These

Save These

These Burning Man polaroids from 2002 made me smile, I look so carefree and cool. I’m glad someone took them because coolness is as elusive as a breeze on a summer night. Lovely but so fleeting. No sooner do you notice it then it’s gone.

The Story Behind the Photos

Imagine what you want is just outside the thickness of a camping tent wall. You are laying on top of a nylon sleeping bag that’s cozy in the cold but sticky in a greenhouse, which is your tent in the noonday sun, especially if you have a fever which you do. Everyone you know is outside having the most amazing fun that can be had, a fun so rare you can only get it right now, in this exact moment and location, but you are imprisoned by ill-timed ill health. The amount of pity you are wallowing in can be seen from outer space.

That was me a day before this photo. I think it was the flu. A fast acting one that cleared up as quickly as it came. I was only out of commission for a few days and still had enough time to have a blast. So grateful! It’s crazy how much one’s perception can shift in 24 hours depending on outer circumstances and the inner narrative response.

The Story Behind Finding the Photos

I found these while cleaning out an old storage cabinet. That’s number one on my list of things to accomplish this year, look at everything in the cabinet and eliminate two thirds of it to create space for Sidewalk Face Prints and mailing supplies. Does it seem like a no brainer? One cabinet, one year? It’s not. I think it’s more likely someone will crown me queen of England than I will be able to claim I have solved the riddle of too many physical artifacts from the past. But I am going to try and slay the dragon.

At least one outcome is seeing myself looking cool from a long ass time ago. That’s how the dragon gets you, you wouldn’t want to through away any spare coolness laying around. My first impulse was to appreciate my youth but as I remembered the actual events, I realize the real joy is in acceptance. Everything is coming and going and coming and going again. So, if it’s good right now, definitely take time to feel it. If it’s bad right now, it won’t last, don’t mistake it for reality. Be a good friend to yourself, tell yourself you’ve handled worse and you got this. In a few days you might even get a cool photo out of it.

If Books Were Toxic, I’d Be Dead

If Books Were Toxic, I’d Be Dead

Whenever something triggers me to imagine a truly terrible outcome, suddenly in the hospital, somehow in prison, stranded in a foreign environment, my thoughts always coalesce around a desperate fear I would not have enough books, or heaven forbid, any books. Sometimes I imagine there would be at least one book and I would read it over and over. So, in my mind, though I’m freezing on a remote mountaintop after a small plane crash, my first set of concerns is how many times I can read House of Mirth or the Talented Mr. Ripley before the magic no longer works. 

I am addicted to reading. I know I am. There is no public shame because the effects don’t cause problems. Internally, I worry about my supply. It’s the worst feeling to finish the last book of a favorite author knowing I have come to end of the road with that particular escape.

I find reading to be intensely pleasurable. If a favorite book were to go on forever, somehow sustain its structural perfection but never conclude and I could opt to leave my life and read into oblivion, I don’t find that a totally awful thought. And that seems like an awful thought.

Thought reading has given me so much, I am not addicted to the benefits, useful as they may be. I am addicted to the escape. When I am reading, I am not suffering. So simple.

I love to eat and read at the same time. I don’t get to do that too often as I usually eat lunch with my husband and eat dinner with the family. I might do it at breakfast, but I’ve taken to reading off a phone screen, and that’s always subpar, which is good because it’s pretty easy to break away and get back to real life.

I recently had the opportunity to eat lunch alone, my white table bright from a beautiful sunny day, I was having sliced apple with cheese and crackers, another lifelong favorite activity. So yummy! And so easy to clean up. If and when I end up alone, half my calories will come from cheese and crackers. Pair this with a paperback novel and it just can’t get any better. 

I have traveled the world through books. I’ve read authors from many countries, translations from their native language. I learned about all sorts of people and all sorts of activities. I cannot imagine who I would be without this wealth of voyeuristic knowledge. On some level, I have lived many lives, been many people, learned the lessons of others tragic choices, walked the cities and shores of foreign lands. So many small details which have never left me.

Did you know that in Mumbai police ply detainees with candy in order to make them thirsty and them deny them water as form of confessional coercion? (Maximum City – Suketu Mehta)

In the same book is a killer who has slept in a single room with his extended family his whole life is afraid to sleep alone.

Being frightening doesn’t make you less afraid.

This is what I remember.

My husband is also a voracious reader. We rarely swap books, though he usually tells me about what he’s reading. His habits are more eclectic yet cohesive then mine. He is a natural historian and reads widely on a variety of intersecting topics. Marianne Faithful’s steamy autobiography next to a collection of Tennessee Williams short stories next to Merlin Sheldrake’s treatise on fungi. I am lucky to live with someone who always has something interesting to share.

Residing in a transient neighborhood of apartments, we both regularly bring home books orphaned to the sidewalk. I see a pile in the distance and feel dread even as I hustle towards it. Our bookcases overflow with books laying horizontal on top of the ones placed properly. Books line the hallways. We frequently rehome them to friends, Goodwill or the library but still more come in the front door than leave though the back.

We have two bedside tables each. Yes, you read that correctly, our bed is flanked by four tables stacked high with books both read and unread. That was not a conscious choice and I can’t see making it on purpose, but I’ve grown fond of my second bedside book table with its foot-high sloppy stacks. I’ve told myself to clean it up because I like things to be tidy, and yet I am facing, right now, in this very moment, that it is a comfort to me, and I want to keep it. At least if I get sick and have to take to my bed, I know I am all set.

Darkroom timer with peanut butter; a domestic still life

Darkroom timer with peanut butter; a domestic still life

This post is all about the image. What do you think might have contributed to forming this particular arrangement? Consulting with husband, it was not intentional, three items on their way from one location to another, temporarily congregating together like boarders on different flights might mingle briefly at a magazine stand.

We were doing a bit of winter decluttering. This location had formerly been taken up with a wooden shelf warehousing dried legumes, still uneaten since early pandemic hoarding. Next to it was another filled with empty boxes, across from one holding all our CDS. Is it relevant to point out we don’t have a CD player? There is also a room divider hiding things I don’t even want to know about. The entire hallway had been reduced from a two-person thoroughfare to a one way only path. What is the point of that? Would you take the narrowest part of your home, the one most traveled, and constrict the flow? We’re constantly colliding into and inching around each other. A great way to increase irritation in case you’re needing more of that.

So, fixing this stupidity was the first thing that happened. Suddenly there was space again. The food shelf moved to the kitchen and kicked this cool 60’s relic out into the hallway, probably on its way to the garage. The darkroom timer was playing the role of ready-made sculpture on top of another cramped shelf in the dining room/office and it and everything else got cleared off in a minimalism frenzy. It’s also on its way to the garage.

The peanut butter is the real problem. Can it go to the garage? I can’t throw it away; I don’t want to eat it. It’s basically here in case of the apocalypse. It got placed on the lower tier while we decide where it’s going to live. Please don’t let it get behind the hallway room divider and start having promiscuous, unprotected sex with the harem of unused frames hiding there. Thank goodness inanimate objects can’t breed or we would be overrun with sticky rectangles.