Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thanxa notta latté

Yes, it’s time again to see my neurologists regarding my latest case of insomnia. Today I woke up at 2:30am. And one day last week I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 5:30am.

Memorial Day was utterly forgettable in the drizzle. It has pissed rain in Dallas every day for the past couple of weeks. At first, I thought maybe my sleep was off because of the cloudy, gray skies. But that’s no excuse even if it is true. Tomorrow I see the dentist, and then I’ll call about an appointment at the sleep lab.

I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee out in Dallas in such a long time. I’ve been compiling a list of places not to order coffee from. The list is tentatively entitled “Thanxa notta latté.” First on the list: Whole Foods. (Of course, why are you even buying a latté at Whole Foods in the first place? The only things you should buy from that big “green” monster is soap, lotion, and Snapea Crisps (because the World Market only sells the Caesar-flavored kind), and that’s only because you can’t tear yourself away from the fetish of “organic” and “biodegradable,” and “not tested on animals.” Each word worth a premium according to the posted prices down each aisle. At this rate, only the rich will be able to afford “-free” food!)

Next: the newest coffee shop to open up: Saxbys. Had a terrible latté over the weekend and then made it back yesterday for an even worse café au lait. The only thing more unforgivable is the Jesus-vibe: Biblical quotations from Proverbs and Zechariah in the bathroom, for fuck sake! And KLTY broadcast in the sterile, less-than Starbucks interior. (KLTY, pronounced clitty, is the local Jesus-fucking-Christ pop song station; you know, where they remove all the “baby girls” and “sweet-things,” and replace them with “Jesus.”) If Starbucks is Starsux, then Saxbys has quickly become Suxbys. Make me a fuckin’ decent cup of coffee!

I’m gonna be real mad when my doctor tells me it’s all because of this shitty coffee that I can’t sleep....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Memory of Loss

The dead will always outnumber the living.


One of my favorite works at the Art Institute was Chagall’s 1938 White Crucifixion. In it Chagall chooses to depict the crucifixion of Jesus (the “King of the Jews”), including this scene as the crux of a long history of pogroms against the Chosen—a history with its own chiasmus at the Cross, that damnable and lamentable inversion from Chosen to chastised, from blessed to bereaved. And somehow we good Christians (and post-1948, Judeo-Christians (if such a hyphenated beast/bestial identity exists; and why not Judeo-Christiano-Muslim?)) only remember the last 2000 years of victimhood and not the prior 5000 of gloating victors against all the other desert peoples (with their own desert gods). History will teach us nothing, for even the Palestinians (these new Philistines) will rise up and slaughter new innocents. It reminds me of a recent headline: “army battles militants,” and yet the unasked question still heard in the depths of language: who more militant than the military? And you too do not exist … nor I. Auch du und du. I’m reminded too of all those Japanese I befriended and loved whose fathers, and grandfathers, and great-grandfathers probably shot at my own grandfather, filling his mortal body with shrapnel and environmental detritus so that even weeks before his death metal was still winnowing its way from beneath his skin more than sixty years after the ceasefire. And when will this fire finally cease? And who will burn for more? And whose father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather was absent—absent in the way of a missing limb or a lastborn son—due to a shot fired from my grandfather’s rifle? How the missing trace their absence(s) down through the generations so that in my clinging I cling only to that which absences itself, that missing part, that lifeline of longing. Each near-death experience (and I know such a hyphenated beast exists) brings me closer to the death that awaits only me in its mortal vastness, in its singularity and solitude, for only that one death will make it all better by making us one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Against the wind


By the time I arrived in Chicago I was exhausted from several nights of little and low-quality sleep. So after a short nap, we headed to the Art Institute. I could only manage about 90 minutes of browsing before returning to the hotel for the evening.

The walk between our hotel and the Art Institute (which proved to be our main haunt this trip) had lots to interest us: public art, amazing architecture, parks and gardens, as well as coffee shops.

Friday morning we ate our breakfast at Café Descartes before heading back to the Art Institute for another go at their world-class collection. We left around noon to Macy’s to meet Mark, who took the train down from Milwaukee. After lunch, we returned to the AI where I photographed some of my favorite pieces.

There’s nothing like comparing a new city to the one where you’ve been living for far too long. The entire time we kept commenting on how accessible everything in Chicago is. There is no way Dallas would ever have one-tenth the amount of public art/space of Chicago even if it did ever flood the Trinity River and create a downtown lake. In one park, we saw a sign in 7 languages reading “restaurant and café”! My hometown would instead pretend that Hispanics are not a majority and that “Mexican” is not an acceptable language for public use. Oh how sad and mundane my little hometown is! And pathetic. The only plus I could see about Dallas is its highway system: no city driving required. But that does account for the fact that you can’t walk anywhere and that there’s no public art/space if you do. I’d gladly trade in any number of the I.M. Pei buildings that dot the skyline for one classy, early 20th-century skyscraper and a decent café to get to by foot.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vegetal Carnage

One of the most exciting things about living in Tornado Alley, USA, is every spring when the tornado/severe weather sirens begin wailing, and you have to rush into the hallway, grabbing the shortwave radio (and making sure that fresh batteries are nearby), the cats (and their food ... and hopefully a litter box), your cell phone, a flashlight or two, and some blankets (in case of flying glass) on the way. Usually you have about a five-minute warning before the storm is right on top of you. I never much worried about such quick preparations before Hurricane Katrina, but now the thought of losing everything--absolutely everything--seems much more like a possibility. (Thank you, George Bush, for all that you do!) In the past three weeks, the sirens have sounded twice. The last time warned of wind gusts of up to 100 mph. Listening to the news the next morning, you'd have thought that we had survived a major storm. All the Dallas news reports were broadcasting the damage all throughout north Oak Cliff. Apparently the small square where I live was the least damaged. Funny, but throughout the entire night we kept hearing screeching breaks; when we got out the next day we learned why: several trees and power lines were lying in the road right outside of the gate blocking traffic. The road remained closed for a couple of days. Walking and driving around the neighborhood, signs of devastation were everywhere. The main casualty: the lovely trees that make this section of Dallas the most beautiful and tolerable. The (vegetal) carnage was exquisite.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Grocery List

Ham Salad
*Cheese Danish*
Fruit
Sausage
Gravy Mix
Milk
Clothes Soap
Foil
Bread
Ice Cream
Imodium A.D.
After Shave
I found this list in the men’s restroom at the grocery store this evening. It reminded me of the scraps of paper Jola would find on the streets of Warsaw and would spend several days attempting to decipher the personality of the person who wrote such a thing.

I image the man who composed this list to be a 57-year-old, 230-pound African American who walks with a slight limp. His face is marked by laugh lines that a less generous person would assume were solely wrinkles and by kind eyes that have seen both too much sorrow and too deep joys. He calls everyone sir or ma’am, and makes sure to tip his fedora to his neighbors as he ambles down the sidewalks. Sometimes he stops at the freedman’s cemetery to pay his respects to those who have passed on and over; he’s never too busy to listen to children sing songs.

He doesn’t much care for dogs: they’re much too hyper for his sensibilities. Cats are fine, but he knows they’re the enemies of the birds he feeds scraps and crumbs to off his back porch every day.

He’s worried about the pain he’s been feeling in his left shoulder for the past three days, but medicine is a luxury and only as a last resort. Maybe tonight after supper he’ll soak a little in the tub to ease out some of the ache from the past several weeks. His feet smell, and he still tastes onions on his breath from lunch.

It sure was hot this afternoon, so he’s planning to take it a little easier tomorrow. Maybe water the plants hanging from his porch, maybe a game of dominoes with his niece who always comes over for a visit after church.

He knows he’ll be fast asleep when his head hits the bed tonight: a good conscience is the only pillow he needs.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sexy New Beast

Optiplex 745
Since the semester ended almost two weeks ago, I've been busy trying to get my summer life on track: reading, cleaning, purging, socializing, etc., etc. And most importantly, I've been setting up my new sexy beast of a computer. It's fast, sleek, and oh-so-smart. Plus it looks good in black and gray. (As does this aging blogger who remembers the '80s with fondness.) Bear with me for the next several days as I spend way too much time transferring files and settings from my old desktop and installing software. If all goes well, this will be the sweet babycakes on which I write my dissertation ... as well as my next album and book. (Unless I fill the 250 GB of memory with porn first! Meow!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Overheard v. 4.0

Overheard between a Blockbuster employee and an anonymous caller: “Can you check to see if you have Last Tango in Paris?”

Overheard at Bianca Jagger’s soirée: “What is this K?”

Overhead at a Kandy Lixx concert: “Didn’t she die of a heroin overdose in the ‘80s?”

Overheard on Oprah today: “Amen! We’re singing about a wiener!”

Overheard at Casablanca: Ching-cha-ching-ching.

Overheard in East Texas: “Come ‘ere, dog!”

Overheard at a Mesquite apartment complex: “Chuy!”

Overheard on a flight to London: unintelligible Arabic greeting.

Overheard while watching Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: “A tear in the bucket; mathafuggit!”

Overheard in a private bathroom in Austin: “Don’t shave my junk too close.”

Happy birthday, Kris. I hope to continue overhearing voices in my head for years to come.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Uncovered (and recovering)

Last night at 10:00 I submitted my grades and officially ended the spring semester. Now (with head freshly shaved) it's time to rejoin the human race by returning to the gym, reading books and articles for fun, drinking and socializing--scandalizing--and fleshing out this virtual site.

Below are a couple of excerpts from my writing projects this term:

Irigarayan deinos and the Distance of Home

Our conception of nature—just like our grasp of masculine and feminine—is itself always already enculturated. That is, we cannot make sense of nature without resorting to culturally constructed tropes of intelligibility, without imposing human agency or scientism upon natural phenomena. Even when we attempt to make room for the inexplicability of nature (for example, relying on a “God works in mysterious ways” mindset), our conception of the mystery/mysterious is already encrusted by and ensconced within a cultural framework. We cannot conceive of nature that is not culturally formed/informed/deformed and is not a consequence of man’s greatest violence—the imposition of intelligibility. And yet “true” nature (physis) is first (at the beginning) and foremost absent of human beings. It just is—“measureless to man” and immeasurable. Only when man knowingly acknowledges that he neither has agency to grasp ungraspable being nor ability to run after receding being can he find his place, his home, as a resting place displaced—not at the center of being nor at its origin—but nearby, near-within, wherein man’s being calls forth being itself. At last being arrives but not according to man’s timetable, for it is only when man steps out from history, away from the act of historicizing, that he is able to attune himself to being’s already arriving. Only when man allows for a cultivation of the female/buddhic to be and accepts a position of repose, of rest and contemplation, does home—always already present even in its absence—draw close. When man’s fabricated home is no longer the site centered on the male to be, his true home opens up to the full belongingness of all beings.

Wounded Writing:
The Reticent Witness of Wisława Szymborska

From this lexical evidence, it seems that silence here has its own efficacy in opposition to names; silence, in effect, serves as a non-name that finds its own name in Szymborska’s poetry. Ultimately, there is no resolution to these antinomies; thesis and antithesis do not move gently toward synthesis in a semantically consistent form of Hegelianism. Instead, each image, each theme, each term flies free from any core meaning a reader might impose upon the text toward newly formed orbits of signification. This motion of silence and voice alternates back and forth like breath; every silence becomes a calling for(th), yet every shout is voiceless. This directed ambiguity resonates with the process of breathing: one cannot breathe by oneself; one cannot produce one’s own breathe. Similarly, the process of speaking and not speaking (that is, silence) alternates back and forth in Szymborska’s volume, always requiring the other and speaking through the other.