The Dark Lady

The Dark Lady

One eye is a small hole in the pavement. The other eye is a piece of damp bark. Her mouth and nose were made with mud. She briefly materialized at the corner of Here and There, a section of sidewalk I stroll over almost every day. There’s a giant fig tree watered regularly by sprinklers, so the pavement is often damp. Apparitions flutter through the shades of gray. When I have time, I help them embody and we share a secret or two before sun and wind vanquish them back to spirit.

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Sidewalk Face 1166.

Too Much

Too Much

I want to do too much. 

I feel like I want to do many different things at every moment and no matter what I pick, I am berating myself for not picking the other thing. No choice can make me happy because I am always NOT attending to something important. Sometimes I gossip to myself about myself and I am not nice.

Of course, this makes me uncomfortable in the present moment. I want to leave this place that is so critical of my choices.

I usually pick something productive yet easy, like doing the dishes, and then I tell myself that when this little chore is done, we will be in better shape to do all the other stuff. I might listen to a podcast so I can’t hear the negativity.

When I am done with that task, I am surprised to find I still feel freaked out about how much stuff needs to get done. 

I am telling myself a lie over and over. The lie is this: You will be happy when all the things are done. Do you know what it’s called when all the things are done?

RIP.

I am trying to stop doing this. I am trying to stop trying. I am experimenting with just being in the activity rather than accomplishing the activity. It’s really hard. That gossipy part of myself is always blathering on and distracting us. She is constantly narrating everything, categorizing everything, ranking everything and comparing everything. It’s so hard to shut her up. But if I succeed without the aid of someone else talking, there is a sense of relief. 

A sense of just enough.

Get Yourself a Superpower in One Easy Step!

Get Yourself a Superpower in One Easy Step!

BACKSTORY

I am in love with learning French through Duolingo, which is an app on my phone. As I wrote in an earlier post, I absolutely dreaded the prospect of studying a language. In my imagination, it was right up there with taking an accounting class on Saturday morning and then spending Saturday night tackling calculus. Boring and super hard. That’s what I thought. 

I can’t stress this enough or you won’t understand how BIZARRE it is to me that the thing I currently want to do the most, even more than make art, is practice my French. What is going on?!

Everybody is different and I don’t want to sound preachy, but I am going to do a quick sales pitch for this. If you are someone who always thought it would be cool to know another language but was too scared to try, you might want to get the Duolingo app.

The way it teaches you is like a game. There is almost no reading. I mean obviously you are using your eyeballs to look at words, but you aren’t readying about language, you are playing games that put it in your head. It’s fun.

Late last night my nearly 18-year kid was letting me snuggle them on the couch while they fell asleep. As you can imagine, this is not as common as it used to be, so I was taking advantage. I quietly whispered every French phrase I could recall. I did this for a full ten minutes! That’s how much French I have learned in 48 days! That’s nuts buckets! C’est des seaux de noix!

SUPERPOWER PART

You know how in Harry Potter they go to Hogwarts and learn “how” to do magic. This is exactly like that except you can actually do magic, not just wave a $13 plastic wand around. You spend 15 minutes a day and all of sudden you can say: Hi Paul, how are you doing? For real, in a way that Paul can actually understand. 

While looking for a song in Spotify this morning, a promotion appeared for a French singer and I could read the French title of his album! * I couldn’t do that last year. This is a real power; I can use this to understand the world more. Holy Cow!

I learned about it from my kid who has been studying Arabic for over 600 days straight. That’s a much harder language. They had to learn the alphabet before they could learn any words. I’m not ready for that kind of challenge yet. But we are having fun talking about language. We talk about what’s similar, what’s different. Many languages are gendered, meaning words are assigned male or female. Different cultures use “the” in different ways. Noticing these differences helps me see how fluid language is. In English we ask How are you? In French they ask, How is it going? In English you say, I like chocolate. In French it’s, I like the chocolate.

There is not just one way to get meaning across. I love analyzing things and this gives my brain so much to chew on. If I was a dog, analysis would be the bone I love to chew. So, a double win for me!

FINAL PITCH

Being on the app doesn’t feel like work. It doesn’t feel difficult. It’s pleasurable, like relaxing with a video game. The difference is that you are relaxing AND gaining something useful.

It may not be for everyone, but I wanted to at least let you know it’s out there. And if it takes you as long to be converted from the time of first exposure as it took me then you should be starting to learn German, Polish, Swahili, Mandarin or Hindi in about 550 days.


*The album is Fils De Joie (Sons of Joy) by multi-media artist Stromae. The video is quite a spectacle!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7Z2tgJo8Hg&t=236s


SIDEWALK FACE 116

This is a very early Sidewalk Face. I’d been making them less than six months when I posted him to Instagram. I still remember seeing the white paint meant to designate a stop sign boundary, as in, stop your car before driving over this line. Right away I was like, that looks like an animal hat with ears, I need to put a face in that space.

Early on I was picking up everything I saw and had a robust beer bottle cap collection that I lugged around on every dog walk. I thought I knew the origin of these eyes (Michelob and Saffire) but after googling every conceivable descriptive permutation, I can’t find a pic of either of them on the world wide web. Anyone know what beverages they come from? The thing I remember becoming conscious of when I started this project is that people discard a lot of cigarettes and bottle caps.

Now I don’t carry much with me but maybe I should start doing that again. Every choice leads to a different outcome.