November 29, 2015

Horses 40

I meant to post this photo taken at The Beacon Theatre on 11/10 sooner, but it felt weird to post about anything at the end of that week in light of the tragedy in Paris, and then I forgot.

A few months after I finished reading Just Kids, tickets went on sale for Patti Smith's Horses 40th anniversary tour. I had no idea -- just absolute perfect timing. I jumped on tickets because my admiration for Just Kids was still very fresh and I wanted to experience Patti's energy live. Plus I didn't know when I might be able to again.

I felt like more of a bystander, observing the way the older people around me were immersed in music they've long been familiar with. I smiled when the elder man two rows ahead of me would raise his fists or signal peace with his two fingers every time he felt especially moved by the beat or lyric of a song. I wondered if he had seen Patti before, and if he had maybe seen her 40 years before, and if it was in New York, and what that must have been like: to see her at the very beginning. Patti Smith is still a fucking rock star in every sense of the word & if I can sing and dance and scream and move the way she does at the age of nearly-70, I'll be a very happy woman.

October 27, 2015

I've returned alive & well & mourning the end of a beautiful trip that was much too short. (Post-vacation depression exists, right?) I did it alone, but often had the company of wonderful people throughout the week--by way of friends, Airbnb, and group tours. I'd travel solo again in a heartbeat & as I quickly approach age 26 (tomorrow!) I am seriously contemplating when I may be able to do it again--hopefully sooner than later.

Atop the Campanile di Giotto during one of the most peaceful hours I've ever experienced;

October 16, 2015

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91
The Bible

Never would've expected to post an excerpt from THE BIBLE but here we are. Before I left to study abroad in Italy in 2006, my mom handed me a piece of paper where she handwrote Psalm 91 in English for me to keep. I still keep it in my wallet, and I think of it now as I prepare to leave (in 20mins!) back to Italy for a week-long solo trip. I don't consider myself to be a religious person at all, at times questioning whether God exists, much to my mother's dismay, but I've found over the years that I've become more spiritual, at least. And I think I owe much of that to my mom and the circumstances we've found ourselves in. Her unwavering faith has given me much of mine, and that faith layered with the knowledge that she is the person who loves me most in this world, makes this piece of paper--and the message she imparted by giving it to me--very special. Also, I can't deny the fear I feel now that I'm so close to the trip--the first I've ever truly taken by myself. But I've known for a while I've wanted to do this. And maybe because I feel like I have a little bit to prove to myself, & because I've been wanting to return to Italy for so long: it all feels right. & these words offer me much comfort and strength before I go.

October 14, 2015

And you are here now, and you must live--and there is so much out there to live for, not just in someone else's country, but in your own home.

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

It feels pointless to blog any more excerpts, even though I could keep going. This book is remarkable & needs to be read in its entirety. 

I won't be forgetting about 'Prince Jones' anytime soon. In the last part of the book, Ta-Nehisi details his meeting with Prince Jones' mother, Mable Jones, and the entire section is gut-wrenching. 
"The thing to understand about Prince Jones is that he exhibited the whole of his given name. He was handsome. He was tall and brown, built thin and powerful like a wide receiver. He was the son of a prominent doctor. He was born-again, a state I did not share but respected. He was kind. Generosity radiated off him, and he seemed to have a facility with everyone and everything. This can never be true, but there are people who pull the illusion off without effort, and Prince was one of them. I can only say what I saw, what I felt. There are people whom we do not fully know, and yet they live in a warm place within us, and when they are plundered, when they lose their bodies and the dark energy disperses, that place becomes a wound."
(p. 64)

"She had never known her father, which put her in the company of the greater number of everyone I'd known. I felt then that these men--these "fathers"--were the greatest of cowards. But I also felt that the galaxy was playing with loaded dice, which ensured an excess of cowards in our ranks. The girl from Chicago understood this too, and she understood something more--that all are not equally robbed of their bodies, that the bodies of women are set out for pillage in ways I could never truly know. And she was the kind of black girl who'd been told as a child that she had better be smart because her looks wouldn't save her, and then told as a young woman that she was really pretty for a dark-skinned girl. And so there was, all about her, a knowledge of cosmic injustices, the same knowledge I'd glimpsed all those years ago watching my father reach for his belt, watching the suburban dispatches in my living room, watching the golden-haired boys with their toy trucks and football cards, and dimly perceiving the great barrier between the world and me." 
(p. 65)

"But you cannot arrange your life around them and the small chance of the Dreamers coming into consciousness. Our moment is too brief. Our bodies are too precious. And you are here now, and you must live--and there is so much out there to live for, not just in someone else's country, but in your own home. The warmth of dark energies that drew me to The Mecca, that drew out Prince Jones, the warmth of our particular world, is beautiful, no matter how brief and breakable."
(pp. 146-7)

October 13, 2015

But her beauty and stillness broke the balance in me.

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

"And still and all I knew that we were  something, that we were a tribe--on one hand, invented, and on the other, no less real. The reality was out there on the Yard, on the first warm day of spring when it seemed that every sector, borough, affiliation, county, and corner of the broad diaspora had sent a delegate to the great world party. I remember those days like an OutKast song, painted in lust and joy. A baldhead in shades and a tank top stands across from Blackburn, the student center, with a long boa draping his muscular shoulders. A conscious woman, in stonewash with her dreads pulled back, is giving him the side-eye and laughing. I am standing outside the library debating the Republican takeover of Congress or the place of Wu-Tang Clan in the canon. A dude in a TribeVibe T-shirt walks up, gives a pound, and we talk about the black bacchanals--Freaknik, Daytona, Virginia Beach--and we wonder if this is the year we make the trip. It isn't. Because we have all we need out on the Yard. We are dazed here because we still remember the hot cities in which we were born, where the first days of spring were laced with fear. And now, here at The Mecca, we are without fear, we are the dark spectrum on the parade.
These were my first days of adulthood, of living alone, of cooking for myself, of going and coming as I pleased, of my own room, of the chance of returning there, perhaps, with one of those beautiful women who were now everywhere around me. In my second year at Howard, I fell hard for a lovely girl from California who was then in the habit of floating over the campus in a long skirt and head wrap. I remember her large brown eyes, her broad mouth and cool voice. I would see her out on the Yard on those spring days, yell her name and then throw up my hands as though signaling a touchdown--but wider--like the "W in "What up?" That was how we did it then. And what were the laws out there? I did not yet understand the import of my own questions. What I remember is my ignorance. I remember watching her eat with her hands and feeling wholly uncivilized with my fork. I remember wondering why she wore so many scarves. I remember her going to India for spring break and returning with a bindi on her head and photos of her smiling Indian cousins. I told her, "Nigga you black" because that's all I had back then. But her beauty and stillness broke the balance in me. In my small apartment, she kissed me, and the ground opened up, swallowed me, buried me right there in that moment. How many awful poems did I write thinking of her? I know now what she was to me--the first glimpse of a space-bridge, a wormhole, a galactic portal off this bound and blind planet. She had seen other worlds, and she held the lineage of other worlds, spectacularly, in the vessel of her black body."
(pp. 56-58)

October 11, 2015

Perhaps I too might live free.

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I finished this book last Saturday and immediately thought, "I have to read this again." I finished it for the second time today. I want everyone I know to read it in the hopes we can share the same experience -- that of my eyes and mind opening a little wider, enough to stretch my capacity for empathy, passion, understanding, and anger, more than was possible before. (And I am already very much capable of all of the above.) I witness the brutalities and injustices in this world & country -- especially towards black and Latino women & men -- via the news and continually feel angry but helpless. I came out of this reading experience feeling like there was so much more I should know but didn't. I felt similarly after completing The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ta-Nehisi's words, his intention, his message--directed to his son but meant for everyone--are so beautiful and necessary. It almost feels unjust to reblog so much of what he's written, so I'll try to limit the excerpts:

"I remember being amazed that death could so easily rise from the nothing of a boyish afternoon, billow up like fog." 
(p. 20)

"I loved Malcolm because Malcolm never lied, unlike the schools and their facade of morality, unlike the streets and their bravado, unlike the world of dreamers. I loved him because he made it plain, never mystical or esoteric, because his science was not rooted in the actions of spooks and mystery gods but in the work of the physical world. Malcolm was the first political pragmatist I knew, the first honest man I'd ever heard. He was unconcerned with making the people who believed they were white comfortable in their belief. If he was angry, he said so. If he hated, he hated because it was human for the enslaved to hate the enslaver, natural as Prometheus hating the birds. He would not turn the other cheek for you. He would not be a better man for you. He would not be your morality. Malcolm spoke like a man who was free, like a black man above the laws that proscribed our imagination. I identified with him. I knew that he had chafed against the schools, that he had almost been doomed by the streets. But even more I knew that he had found himself while studying in prison, and that when he emerged from the jails, he returned wielding some old power that made him speak as though his body were his own. "If you're black, you were born in jail," Malcolm said. And I felt the truth of this in the blocks I had to avoid, in the times of day when I must not be caught walking home from school, in my lack of control over my body. Perhaps I too might live free. Perhaps I too might wield the same old power that animated the ancestors, that lived in Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Nanny, Cudjoe, Malcolm X, and speak--no act--as though my body were my own."
(pp. 36-7)

October 04, 2015

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
By Issa Rae

I spent all of the cold yesterday afternoon in bed catching up on season 1 of Issa Rae's hilarious web series Awkward Black Girl. And I finished her memoir last week. Very good - can't wait to finish the series & follow her new one for HBO!

September 26, 2015

Live your life like a decent person.

Modern Romance 
By Aziz Ansari

"It was fun being single, but I had reached what I will describe as a "point of exhaustion." I had experienced this personally, but when I did interviews for the book, I realized it is quite universal. 
At a certain point the cost of the work needed to maintain a fun single lifestyle outweighs the benefits. The nights when you have amazing casual sex start getting outweighed by the times you wander home alone wasted and wake up hungover with a half-eaten burrito sitting on your chest. 
The endless string of first dates where you just say the same shit over and over again in the same places starts getting tiresome. The casual scene was fun, but in between the fun, a lot of times there was emptiness. 
Settling down offers the chance to fill that void with the dependable, deeper, intimate love of a committed relationship.
Now I had to find the right person. When I was out, I tried to keep an eye out for someone who could be relationship material. At first I had no luck, but then I had lunch with a friend who put it in perspective.
"I want to settle down, but I don't ever meet anyone I really like," I said.
"Well, where are you meeting these girls?" he asked.
"Bars and clubs," I replied. 
"So you're going to horrible places and meeting horrible people and you're complaining about it? Live your life like a decent person. Go to the grocery store, buy your own food, take care of yourself. If you live a responsible life, you'll run into responsible people," he said.
It made sense. I was staying out like a lunatic and complaining that I only met lunatics. I realized if I was going to try to find someone to settle down with, I had to change the way I was going about my search. Instead of bars and clubs, I'd do things that I'd want a theoretical girlfriend to be into. I went to more museums, more food events, more low-key/interesting bars at earlier times, and things got better." 
(pp. 211-2)

I've approached online dating in much the same way as I have reading via electronic device: with reluctance & disinterest & an allegiance to the more traditional method(s). Last fall, I decided to finally see what Tinder/Happn/Bagel Meets Coffee was all about. (I was and still am opposed to OkCupid - too much work.) To my surprise, I enjoyed online dating for about six months -- before I became tired and disenchanted with it. It was fun while it lasted, no regrets etc. but since the beginning of the year I've rediscovered meeting men in person -- through friends, through mutual interests, through chance encounters -- is 10x more preferable & rewarding. So yes Aziz, AMEN, & thank you. Online dating (& e-book reading) are just not my thang.

P.S. If you think you'll enjoy Modern Romance, I also recommend Aziz Ansari Live at Madison Square Garden, the comedy special which sparked my interest in this book. Both have so many great points & musings about romance and the (mostly awful) ways young people communicate with each other today.

June 17, 2015

There was something miraculous in caring about someone so deeply in an age where it’s considered wise to appear to care about nothing at all.

Illustration by Brian Rea, for The New York Times

Swearing Off the Modern Man
By Jochebed Smith

“There was something miraculous in caring about someone so deeply in an age where it’s considered wise to appear to care about nothing at all.”

June 13, 2015

The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always.

Travels with Charley: in Search of America
By John Steinbeck

"The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time. They have the mystery of ferns that disappeared a million years ago into the coal of the carboniferous era. They carry their own light and shade. The vainest, most slap-happy and irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect. Respect--that's the word. One feels the need to bow to unquestioned sovereigns. I have known these great ones since my earliest childhood, have lived among them, camped and slept against their warm monster bodies, and no amount of association has bred contempt in me. And the feeling is not limited to me."
(p. 143)

"I stayed two days close to the bodies of the giants, and there were no trippers, no chattering troupes with cameras. There's a cathedral hush here. Perhaps the thick soft bark absorbs sound and creates a silence. The trees rise straight up to zenith; there is no horizon. The dawn comes early and remains dawn until the sun is high. Then the green fernlike foliage so far up strains the sunlight to a green gold and distributes it in shafts or rather in stripes of light and shade. After the sun passes zenith it is afternoon and quickly evening with a whispering dusk as long as was the morning.
Thus time and the ordinary divisions of the day are changed. To me dawn and dusk are quiet times, and here in the redwoods nearly the whole of daylight is a quiet time. Birds move in the dim light or flash like sparks through the stripes of sun, but they make little sound. Underfoot is a mattress of needles deposited for over two thousand years. No sound of footsteps can be heard on this thick blanket. To me there's a remote and cloistered feeling here. One holds back speech for fear of disturbing something--what? From my earliest childhood I've felt that something was going on in the groves, something of which I was not a part. And if I had forgotten the feeling, I soon got it back.
At night, the darkness is black--only straight up a patch of gray and an occasional star. And there's a breathing in the black, for these huge things that control the day and inhabit the night are living things and have presence, and perhaps feeling, and, somewhere in deep-down perception, perhaps communication. I have had lifelong association with these things. (Odd that the word "trees" does not apply.) I can accept them and their power and their age because I was early exposed to them. On the other hand, people lacking such experience begin to have a feeling of uneasiness here, of danger, of being shut in, enclosed and overwhelmed. It is not only the size of these redwoods but their strangeness that frightens them. And why not? For these are the last remaining members of a race that flourished over four continents as far back in geologic time as the upper Jurassic period. Fossils of these ancients have been found dating from the Cretaceous era while in the Eocene and Miocene they were spread over England and Europe and America. And then the glaciers moved down and wiped the Titans out beyond recovery. And only these few are left--a stunning memory of what the world was like once long ago. Can it be that we do not love to be reminded that we are very young and callow in a world that was old when we came into it? And could there be a strong resistance to the certainty that a living world will continue its stately way when we no longer inhabit it?"
(pp. 146-7)

For Charley is not a human; he's a dog, and he likes it that way.

Travels with Charley: in Search of America
By John Steinbeck

Steinbeck on two separate experiences taking care of a sick Charley while on the road. Also this first passage made me laugh & also feel ashamed because I definitely talk to my dog in baby talk & I never considered that: maybe he hates it!

"On the other hand, I yield to no one in my distaste for the self-styled dog-lover, the kind who heaps up his frustrations and makes a dog carry them around. Such a dog-lover talks baby talk to mature and thoughtful animals, and attributes his own sloppy characteristics to them until the dog becomes in his mind an alter ego. Such people, it seems to me, in what they imagine to be kindness, are capable of inflicting long and lasting tortures on an animal, denying it any of its natural desires and fulfillments until a dog of weak character breaks down and becomes the fat, asthmatic, befurred bundle of neuroses. When a stranger addresses Charley in baby talk, Charley avoids him. For Charley is not a human; he's a dog, and he likes it that way. He feels that he is a first-rate dog and has no wish to be a second-rate human. When the alcoholic vet touched him with his unsteady, inept hand, I saw the look of veiled contempt in Charley's eyes. He knew about the man, I thought, and perhaps the doctor knew he knew. And maybe that was the man's trouble. It would be very painful to know that your patients had no faith in you."
(pp. 136-137)

"He lifted Charley in his arms and carried him out and laid him in the front seat of the convertible, and the tufted tail twittered against the leather. He was content and confident, and so was I. And that is how I happened to stay around Amarillo for a while. To complete the episode, I picked up Charley four days later, completely well. The doctor gave me pills to give at intervals while traveling so that the ailment never came back. There's absolutely nothing to take the place of a good man."
(p. 179) 

I am happy to report that in the war between reality and romance, reality is not the stronger.

Travels with Charley: in search of America
By John Steinbeck

"The next day a long-cultivated ambition was to blossom and fruit."
(p. 104)

"I am happy to report that in the war between reality and romance, reality is not the stronger."
(p. 105)

"When I was a child growing up in Salinas we called San Francisco "the City." Of course it was the only city we knew, but I still think of it as the City, and so does everyone else who has ever associated with it. A strange and exclusive word is "city." Besides San Francisco, only small sections of London and Rome stay in the mind as the City. New Yorkers say they are going to town. Paris has no title but Paris. Mexico City is the Capital.
Once I knew the City very well, spent my attic days there, while others were being a lost generation in Paris. I fledged in San Francisco, climbed its hills, slept in its parks, worked on its docks, marched and shouted in its revolts. In a way I felt I owned the city as much as it owned me.
San Francisco put on a show for me. I saw her across the bay, from the great road that bypasses Sausalito and enters the Golden Gate Bridge. The afternoon sun painted her white and gold--rising on her hills like a noble city in a happy dream. A city on hills has it over flat-land places. New York makes its own hills with craning buildings, but this gold and white acropolis rising wave on wave against the blue of the Pacific sky was a stunning thing, a painted thing like a picture of a medieval Italian city which can never have existed. I stopped in a parking place to look at her and the necklace bridge over the entrance from the sea that led to her. Over the green higher hills to the south, the evening fog rolled like herds of sheep coming to cote in the golden city. I've never seen her more lovely. When I was a child and we were going to the City, I couldn't sleep for several nights before, out of bursting excitement. She leaves a mark."
(pp. 150-151)

The same day I read this passage I went to Citi Field to watch the Mets vs. the San Francisco Giants & on the train noticed a man wearing a Giants jersey that said "the City" & I was able to connect what I read with what I saw in reality (didn't know this about SF before) -- & it was nice.

So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world.

Travels with Charley: in Search of America
By John Steinbeck

"For weeks I had studied maps, large-scale and small, but maps are not reality at all--they can be tyrants. I know people who are so immersed in road maps that they never see the countryside they pass through, and others who, having traced a route, are held to it as though held by flanged wheels to rails. I pulled Rocinante into a small picnic area maintained by the state of Connecticut and got out my book of maps. And suddenly the United States became huge beyond belief and impossible ever to cross. I wondered how in hell I'd got myself mixed up in a project that couldn't be carried out. It was like starting to write a novel. When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing. So it was now, as I looked at the bright-colored projection of monster America."
(p. 20)

"I've lived in good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate. In Cuernavaca, Mexico, where I once lived, and where the climate is as near to perfect as is conceivable, I have found that when people leave there they usually go to Alaska. I'd like to see how long an Aroostook Country man can stand Florida. The trouble is that with his savings moved and invested there, he can't very well go back. His dice are rolled and can't be picked up again. But I do wonder if a down-Easter, sitting on a nylon-and-aluminum chair out on a changelessly green lawn slapping mosquitoes in the evening of a Florida October--I do wonder if the stab of memory doesn't strike him high in the stomach just below the ribs where it hurts. And in the humid ever-summer I dare his picturing mind not to go back to the shout of color, to the clean rasp of frosty air, to the smell of pine wood burning and the caressing warmth of kitchens. For how can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?"
(p. 29)

"I've always admired those reporters who can descend on an area, talk to key people, ask key questions, take samplings of opinions, and then set down an orderly report very like a road map. I envy this technique and at the same time do not trust it as a mirror of reality. I feel that there are too many realities. What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style. In literary criticism the critic has no choice but to make over the victim of his attention into something the size and shape of himself.
And in this report I do not fool myself into thinking I am dealing with constants. A long time ago I was in the ancient city of Prague and at the same time Joseph Alsop, the justly famous critic of places and events, was there. He talked to informed people, officials, ambassadors; he read repots, even the fine print and figures, while I in my slipshod manner roved about with actors, gypsies, vagabonds. Joe and I flew home to America in the same plane, and on the way he told me about Prague, and his Prague had no relation to the city I had seen and heard. It just wasn't the same place, and yet each of us was honest, neither one a liar, both pretty good observers by any standard, and we brought home two cities, two truths. For this reason I cannot commend this account as an America that you will find. So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world."
(pp. 59-60)

May 24, 2015

I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage.

Travels with Charley: In Search of America
By John Steinbeck

"During the previous winter I had become rather seriously ill with one of those carefully named difficulties which are the whispers of approaching age. When I came out of it I received the usual lecture about slowing up, losing weight, limiting the cholesterol intake. It happens to many men, and I think doctors have memorized the litany. It happened to so many of my friends. The lecture ends, "Slow down. You're not as young as you once were." And I had seen so many begin to pack their lives in cotton wool, smother their impulses, hood their passions, and gradually retire from their manhood into a kind of spiritual and physical semi-invalidism. In this they are encouraged by wives and relatives, and it's such a sweet trap.
Who doesn't like to be a center for concern? A kind of second childhood falls on so many men. They trade their violence for the promise of a small increase of life span. In effect, the head of the house becomes the youngest child. And I have searched myself for this possibility with a kind of horror. For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I've lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage. My wife married a man; I saw no reason why she should inherit a baby. I knew that ten or twelve thousand miles driving a truck, alone and unattended, over every kind of road, would be hard work, but to me it represented the antidote for the poison of the professional sick man. And in my own life I am not willing to trade quality for quantity. If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway. I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage. It's bad theater as well as bad living."
(pp. 17-8)

May 17, 2015

In the end, we were more alike than not, and gravitated toward each other, however wide the breach.

Just Kids
By Patti Smith

Just Kids is the most beautiful tribute to someone I've ever read. I finished it this morning, and have been thinking about it all day. I listened to Horses for the first time while I made dinner. Just me and my thoughts and the music. It felt appropriate and I loved it in a way I don't think I could have before. I'm sad, but in complete awe. So incredible are the connections human beings can create with one another if they want to, if they're open, if it's meant to be. What a gift that Patti could capture hers with Robert this way to share with others.

"We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad. Through the years these roles would reverse, then reverse again, until we came to accept our dual natures. We contained opposing principles, light and dark."
(p. 9)

"Our social differences, however exasperating, were tinged with love and humor. In the end, we were more alike than not, and gravitated toward each other, however wide the breach. We weathered all things, large and small, with the same vigor. To me, Robert and I were irrevocably entwined, like Paul and Elisabeth, the sister and brother in Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles. We played similar games, declared the most obscure object treasure, and often puzzled friends and acquaintances by our indefinable devotion.
He had been chided for denying his homosexuality; we were accused of not being a real couple. In being open about his homosexuality, he feared our relationship would be destroyed.
We needed time to figure out what all of this meant, how we were going to come to terms and redefine what our love was called. I learned from him that often contradiction is the clearest way to truth."
(p. 200)

On Robert shooting the album cover for Horses:

"The light was already fading. He had no assistant. We never talked about what we would do, or what it would look like. He would shoot it. I would be shot.
I had my look in mind. He had his light in mind. That is all.
Sam's apartment was spartan, all white and nearly empty, with a tall avocado tree by the window overlooking Fifth Avenue. There was a massive prism that refracted the light, breaking it into rainbows cascading on the wall across from a white radiator. Robert placed me by the triangle. His hands trembled slightly as he readied to shoot. I stood.
The clouds kept moving back and forth. Something happened with his light meter and he became slightly agitated. He took a few shots. He abandoned the light meter. A cloud went by and the triangle disappeared. He said, "You know, I really like the whiteness of the shirt. Can you take the jacket off?"
I flung my jacket over my shoulder, Frank Sinatra style. I was full of references. He was full of light and shadow.
"It's back," he said.
He took a few more shots.
"I got it."
"How do you know?"
"I just know."
He took twelve pictures that day.
Within a few days he showed me the contact sheet. "This one has the magic," he said.
When I look at it now, I never see me. I see us."
(pp. 250-251)

It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods.

Just Kids
By Patti Smith

"Yet you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up."
(p. 104)

It didn't matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language.

Just Kids
By Patti Smith

"I was always hungry. I metabolized my food quickly. Robert could go without eating much longer than me. If we were out of money we just didn't eat. Robert might be able to function, even if he got a little shaky, but I would feel like I was going to pass out. One drizzly afternoon I had a hankering for one of those cheese-and-lettuce sandwiches. I went through our belongings and found exactly fifty-five cents, slipped on my gray trench coat and Mayakovsky cap, and headed to the Automat.
I got my tray and slipped in my coins but the window wouldn't open. I tried again without luck and then I noticed the price had gone up to sixty-five cents. I was disappointed, to say the least, when I heard a voice say, "Can I help?"
I turned around and it was Allen Ginsberg. We had never met but there was no mistaking the face of one of our great poets and activists. I looked into those intense dark eyes punctuated by his dark curly beard and just nodded. Allen added the extra dime and also stood me to a cup of coffee. I wordlessly followed him to his table, and then plowed into the sandwich.
Allen introduced himself. He was talking about Walt Whitman and I mentioned I was raised near Camden, where Whitman was buried, when he leaned forward and looked at me intently. "Are you a girl? he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "Is that a problem?"
He just laughed. "I'm sorry. I took you for a very pretty boy."
I got the picture immediately.
"Well, does this mean I return the sandwich?"
"No, enjoy it. It was my mistake."
He told me he was writing a long elegy for Jack Keruoac, who had recently passed away. "Three days after Rimbaud's birthday," I said. I shook his hand and we parted company.
Sometime later Allen became my good friend and teacher. We often reminisced about our first encounter and he once asked how I would describe how we met. "I would say you fed me when I was hungry," I told him. And he did."
(pp. 122-123)

"I was excited to go. I put on my straw hat and walked downtown, but when I got there, I couldn't bring myself to go in. By chance, Jimi Hendrix came up the stairs and found me sitting there like some hick wallflower and grinned. He had to catch a plane to London to do the Isle of Wight Festival. When I told him I was too chicken to go in, he laughed softly and said that contrary to what people might think, he was shy, and parties made him nervous. He spent a little time with me on the stairs and told me his vision of what he wanted to do with the studio. He dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in Woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play. It didn't matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language. Eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio.
"The language of peace. You dig?" I did.
I can't remember if I actually went into the studio, but Jimi never accomplished his dream. In September I went with my sister and Annie to Paris. Sandy Daley had an airline connection and helped us get cheap tickets. Paris had already changed in a year, as had I. It seemed as if the whole of the world was slowly being stripped of innocence. Or maybe I was seeing a little too clearly.
As we walked down the boulevard Montparnasse I saw a headline that filled me with sorrow: Jimi Hendrix est mort. 27 ans. I knew what the words meant.
Jimi Hendrix would never have the chance to return to Woodstock to create a universal language. He would never again record at Electric Lady. I felt that we had all lost a friend. I pictured his back, the embroidered vest, and his long legs as he went up the stairs and out into the world for the last time."
(pp. 168-170)

"Janis spent most of the party with a good-looking guy she was attracted to, but just before closing time he ducked out with one of the prettier hangers-on. Janis was devastated. "This always happens to me, man. Just another night alone," she sobbed on Bobby's shoulder.
Bobby asked me to get her to the Chelsea and to keep an eye on her. I took Janis back to her room, and sat with her while she bemoaned her fate. Before I left, I told her that I'd made a little song for her, and sang it to her.

I was working real hard
To show the world what I could do
Oh I guess I never dreamed 
I'd have to
World spins some photographs
How I love to laugh when the crowd laughs
While love slips through
A theatre that is full
But oh baby
When the crowd goes home
And I turn in and I realize I'm alone
I can't believe
I had to sacrifice you

She said, "That's me, man. That's my song." As I was leaving, she looked in the mirror, adjusting her boas. "How do I look, man?"
"Like a pearl," I answered. "A pearl of a girl."

May 16, 2015

The one life we're left with is sufficient to fill and refill our imperfect hearts with joy, and then to shatter them.

Bridge of Sighs
By Richard Russo

"The line of gray along the horizon is brighter now, and with the coming light I feel a certainty: that there is, despite our wild imaginings, only one life. The ghostly others, no matter how real they seem, no matter how badly we need them, are phantoms. The one life we're left with is sufficient to fill and refill our imperfect hearts with joy, and then to shatter them. And it never, ever lets up. Blame love."
(p. 463)

I'm 25 and continually overwhelmed by endless possibilities, this or that decision, deep impassioned attraction(s), yearning. And I am faced with the growing understanding that there are a million and one decisions I will have to make, am making, every day of my life, but there is only one path. In the end, I'll have to make peace with it. This book gave me such a rich, layered experience, and there's so much more I want to say about it but won't/can't, for now.

May 13, 2015

It is the nature of some things to remain locked away for the simple reason that revealing them serves no earthly purpose.

Bridge of Sighs
By Richard Russo

Oh, this book made me feeeel. My friend knows me so well. More on those feelings another time.

"It is the nature of some things, I believe, to remain locked away for the simple reason that revealing them serves no earthly purpose. For instance, I've never told anyone, even Sarah, what my father confided to me when he was ill. I've wanted to. His secret has weighed heavily on me, especially these last few years. I tell myself that he didn't mean I shouldn't tell Sarah, whom he loved and whose kind heart he trusted. But his instructions were "Don't tell nobody," and so I haven't. I've told no one that when my father entered the voting booth each Election Day, he stayed there for as long as he judged it would take to complete a ballot, then returned his to its protective sleeve, unmarked. Unable or unwilling to follow my mother's advice, he wasn't confident enough of his own conclusions to act on them. He felt the burden of democratic responsibility and believed that decisions of such magnitude should not rest with men like him. Because he was a proud American, he knew he had the right to vote. But he also knew he had the right not to, and he exercised both of these rights each Election Day.
Have I kept this secret so long because I'm ashamed of him, as my mother would've been if she'd known? Or because it would break Sarah's heart to hear it? Or because it broke my own, to know that he considered voting to be something for my mother, and later for me, but not for him? I don't know, but his secret is mine to keep, and so I will. I am not Buddy Nurt. I don't mine humiliation for gold. That said, what then can be the point of telling my story? Why scan the past for the shapes and meanings it surrenders so reluctantly if you mean to suppress some and exaggerate others?
But is the living of life so different from the telling of it? Do we not, a hundred times a day, decide not to bear witness? Do we not deny and suppress even at the level of instinct?"
(pp. 218-9)

"Is it any wonder our adult lives should be so haunted? Over and over we go up and down the alley between the theater and the dime store, as my mother and I did today, moving through space, yes, but also through time, meeting ourselves, as Owen always says, coming and going."
(p. 220)

April 26, 2015

We shared, all of us, a powerful sense that what was at stake on those crowded stairs was nothing less than the rest of our lives.

Bridge of Sighs
By Richard Russo

"The terrible anticipation began on the stairs when, if someone tripped or an adult appeared on the first landing in an attempt to slow the throng surging upward like water through the damaged hull of a ship, the stairway would jam, desire and anxiety and unbearable hope momentarily thwarted, delaying by eternities our emergence into the gym, into Mystery itself, where the music--we could hear it in there in the stairwell--had already begun to play. Once, stalled in this fashion, I happened to look at the girl next to me, and when our eyes met, I saw that hers were full of tears. Possibly she was simply afraid of being crushed. She'd been separated from her friends, and though we couldn't move forward, those below continued to press upward, causing everyone in the stairwell, our feet locked in place, to lean forward, our hands pressing for balance into the backs of those on the next-higher step. In a matter of moments we were stacked there like semi-toppled dominoes.
That's one explanation. But I recognized this girl as a fellow East Ender and think now that her eyes had simply filled up with pent-up anticipation. She was imagining her friends already upstairs, dancing without her, getting so far ahead that she'd never catch up. By the time she joined them, the boy she'd been thinking about all week, whose eyes she'd met across the crowded cafeteria, who was too popular--admit it--to be a realistic aspiration, would already be taken. We shared, all of us, a powerful sense that what was at stake on those crowded stairs was nothing less than the rest of our lives, that our every move in that gymnasium had an unimaginable significance, that we were being watched, judged, elected or damned. Slow down, we were being told at home and at school, you've got your whole lives ahead of you. But to get stalled in that stairwell was to understand how little time there was, and how fast it was wasting."
(pp. 124-5)

April 24, 2015

I've always known that there's more going on inside me than finds its way into the world, but this is probably true of everyone.


Bridge of Sighs
By Richard Russo

I go through awful sleep patterns. This week, I've been falling asleep (unintentionally) as soon as I hit my bed, only to wake up at 2/3/4AM to shower and then stay up for the rest of the night. When this happened last night, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe my weird sleep & lack of it is what's kind of resulted in my strange mood these past few days. I've been tired physically but also mentally, which has led to discouraged thoughts, rising doubts & insecurities, etc. "Sleep is the key to happiness," I reminded myself early this morning. And I went back to sleep. So here I am, awake & feeling more optimistic (+ it's Friday!). Birds still chirping, but a little later now.

I like that my friends know to gift me books. So far, they haven't missed the mark. I've loved each one. Bridge of Sighs was a birthday gift, so it took me six months to finally pick it up. It's a monster of a book, a little more than 500 pages long, so maybe there was some intimidation there and some waiting for the right time.

"The self I meet coming and going is, I confess, relentlessly unexceptional. I'm a large man, like my father, and the resemblance has always been a source of pleasure to me. I loved him more than I can say, so much that even now, many years after his death, it's hard for me to hear, much less speak, a word against him. Still, there's also something bittersweet about our resemblance. I am, I believe, an intelligent man, but I'll admit this isn't always the impression I convey to others. Over the course of a lifetime a man will overhear a fair number of remarks about himself and learn from them how very wide is the gulf between his public perception and the image he hopes to project. I've always known that there's more going on inside me than finds its way into the world, but this is probably true of everyone. Who doesn't regret that he isn't more fully understood? I tend to be both self-conscious and reticent. Where others regret speaking in haste, wishing they could recall some unkind or ill-considered opinion, I more often have occasion to regret what I've not said. Worse, these regrets accumulate and become a kind of verbal dam, preventing utterance of any sort until the dam finally breaks and I blurt something with inappropriate urgency, the time for that particular observation having long passed. As a result, until people get to know me, they often conclude that I'm slow, and in this I'm also like my father.
I don't remember how old I was the first time I overheard somebody call Big Lou Lynch a buffoon, but it so surprised me that I looked the word up in the dictionary, convinced I'd somehow mistaken its meaning. This was probably the first time I recognized how deeply unkindness burrows and how helpless we are against it. At any rate, I've noticed that people who eventually come to like me often seem embarrassed to, almost as if they need to explain. Though I've been well and truly loved, perhaps more than I've deserved, my father is the only person in my life to love me uncritically, which may be why I find it impossible to be critical of him. In one other respect, I'm also my father's son: we both are optimists. It is our nature to dwell upon our blessings. What's given is to us more important than what's withheld, or what's given for a time and then taken away. Until he had to surrender it, too young, my father was glad to have his life, as I am to have mine."
(p. 12)

April 22, 2015

We usually expand our capacities without changing our lives.

Illustration by Zohar Lazar (for The New Yorker)

The Driver's Seat
By Adam Gopnik

I first read this on a flight home from my Savannah/Charleston/Nashville trip, where I logged approximately 15 hours in a car but 0 hours of the driving. (Many thanks to my friend Christina who graciously offered her car & driving skills when we first decided to do this trip.) I got my license when I was 17, the day before I graduated from high school. I had no real intention of using it often -- at least not then -- but I wanted to get the process of getting one over with. (I'm glad I did--I have friends who still haven't received theirs & it would be a bitch for me personally to try and do it now.) But still today, I don't entirely consider myself a driver. This is the lamest of all things, but I still haven't really driven long distances (or on high/freeways) without the assistance of a driving instructor. Currently, I don't feel like I need it. But when I take trips such as the one last month, it hits home-- it's a skill I should have and I should start building the confidence to be able to do so regularly, or at least at a moment's notice. I took refresher courses when I moved back home after graduating college. And last year when my mom went abroad for three months for new job training and I became the temp head of the household, I drove frequently (locally) to get things done. It was nice. I enjoyed the freedom and power being able to drive a car gives you. But as soon as my mom returned, I happily resigned myself to the passenger seat.
This is all to say I really loved this essay about a middle-aged man's experience of learning how to drive. And I want to be a better driver!

"The discrepancy between difficulty and danger is our civilization's signature, from machine guns to atomic bombs. You press a pedal and two tons of metal lurches down the city avenue; you pull a trigger and twenty enemies die; you waggle a button and cities burn. The point of living in a technologically advanced society is that minimal effort can produce maximal results. Making hard things easy is the path to convenience; it is also the lever of catastrophe. The realization of how close to disaster we were at every moment helped press my panic button, and, while Arturo's singing and commentary reduced the panic some, I tried to find other ways to overcome it as well."

"My not driving was, in some sense, a response to his driving all the time. We make ourselves in our father's sunshine but also in his shadow; what he beams down we bend away from."

"I put the license away in my wallet and have not had a chance to use it since. We usually expand our capacities without changing our lives. People go off to meditation retreats and come back to their Manhattan existence; on the whole, they are not more serene, but they are much more knowing about where serenity might yet be found. People go to cooking school and don't cook more; but they know how to cook. Dr. Johnson was once asked why he always rushed to look at the spines of books in the library when he arrived at a new house. "Sir, the reason is very plain," he said. "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." Almost all of our useful knowledge is potential knowledge.
The potentials may serve merely as vicarious experience, but almost all experience is vicarious: that's why we have stories and movies and plays and pictures. It's why we have drive-in movies in summer towns. We expand our worlds through acts of limited empathy more than through plunges into unexpected places. My father's "Now you know how to drive" had wisdom buried in its simplicity. The highlights of life are first unbelievably intense and then absurdly commonplace. I am now a licensed driver. But almost everybody is a licensed driver. Having a child born is a religious experience. But everybody has kids. Everybody drives, and now I can, too. That's all, and enough. Now I can drive straight across the country, without a stoplight. I don't think I ever will. But at least I know I can."

"There is a postscript to the story. My father called in early January to say that, on the eve of his eightieth birthday, he had been forced to take a driving test.
“But it wasn’t a driving test—” my mother interrupted, not for the first time in their sixty-some years together.
“I’m getting there,” he said, sounding unusually testy with her.
It had been a very Canadian test, he explained, a vision examination allied to a reading test, conducted in a friendly spirit—but its dagger end was present. One of the eighty-year-olds tested had had his license taken away, never to drive again. Social life involves being sorted by a few others who have, by the rest of us, been given the power to sort. Our illusion is that it ends on graduation, from one school or another, when one teacher passes us, and then passes us on. But it never really does. We go on being driven and sorted, until at last we’re sorted out, and driven home."

April 21, 2015

Most of the time, the universe speaks to us very quietly.

Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe

Look at how the subway car floors resemble the night sky in the picture above! Could have never seen them that way until the moment I laid the book on my lap. Kind of beautiful, no? Yumi Sakugawa's illustrations are whimsical and charming. A comfort. I bought this book for a friend and a month later could not resist purchasing one for myself. I needed it, too. I needed it today. Felt so defeated, tired. Sometimes putting in maximum effort doesn't yield maximum results. I hate wasted energy and feeling like what you do is not enough. But maybe I'm exerting energy on the wrong things. Not sure. This book teaches: sometimes, you just need to take a deep breath. Re-evaluate. Many gems in this one, and I can't decide which page to post. It's 4:30AM and it's quiet save for the sound of a bird chirping outside and my head feels the clearest it's been all day. Maybe this:

by Yumi Sakugawa (p. 25)

April 06, 2015

Life is most transfixing when you are awake to diversity, not only of ethnicity, ability, gender, belief, and sexuality but also of age and experience.

Illustration by Roman Muradov (for The New Yorker)

The Middle of Things: Advice for Young Writers
By Andrew Solomon

I like this:

"When one is young and eager, one aspires to maturity, and everyone older would like nothing better than to be young. We have equal things to teach each other. Life is most transfixing when you are awake to diversity, not only of ethnicity, ability, gender, belief, and sexuality but also of age and experience. The worst mistake anyone can make is to perceive anyone else as lesser. The deeper you look into other souls—and writing is primarily an exercise in doing just that—the clearer people’s inherent dignity becomes. So I would like to be young again—for the obvious dermatological advantages, and because I would like to recapture who I was before the clutter of experience made me a bit more sagacious and exhausted. What I’d really like, in fact, is to be young and middle-aged, and perhaps even very old, all at the same time—and to be dark- and fair-skinned, deaf and hearing, gay and straight, male and female. I can’t do that in life, but I can do it in writing, and so can you. Never forget that the truest luxury is imagination, and that being a writer gives you the leeway to exploit all of the imagination’s curious intricacies, to be what you were, what you are, what you will be, and what everyone else is or was or will be, too."

I'll be back again soon.

February 22, 2015

He replied that I was not to worry, that the penny could come out of the fountain again and again and again.

Let The Great World Spin
By Colum McCann

This novel is a work of art & there is so much more greatness & sadness & humor & beauty & depth in it than I could ever hope to capture with a few excerpts. It's perfect as whole. I hope to reread it again someday. 

"I told him that I loved him and that I'd always love him and I felt like a child who throws a centavo into a fountain and then she has to tell someone her most extraordinary wish even though she knows that the wish should be kept secret and that, in telling it, she is quite probably losing it. He replied that I was not to worry, that the penny could come out of the fountain again and again and again."
(p. 277)

"I will always wonder what it was, what that moment of beauty was, when he whispered it to me, when we found him smashed up in the hospital, what it was he was saying when he whispered into the dark that he had seen something he could not forget, a jumble of words, a man, a building, I could not quite make it out. I can only hope that in the last minute he was at peace. It might have been an ordinary thought, or it might have been that he had made up his mind that he would leave the Order, and that nothing would stop him now, and he would come home to me, or maybe it was nothing at all, just a simple moment of beauty, a little thing hardly worth talking about, a random meeting, or a word he had with Jazzlyn or Tillie, a joke, or maybe he had decided that, yes, he could lose me now, that he could stay with his church and do his work, or maybe there was nothing on his mind at all, perhaps he was just happy, or in agony, and the morphine had scattered him--there are all these things and there are more--it is impossible to know. I hold in confusion the last moments of his language."
(p. 283)

"In my worst moments I am convinced that he was rushing home to say good-bye, that he was driving too fast because he made up his mind, and it was finished, but in my best, my very best, he comes up on the doorstep, smiling, with his arms spread wide, in order to stay.
And so this is how I will leave him as much, and as often, as I can. It was--it is--a Thursday morning a week before the crash, and it fits in the space of every other morning I wake into. He sits between Eliana and Jacobo, on the couch, his arms spread wide, the buttons of his black shirt open, his gaze fixed forward. Nothing will ever really take him from the couch. It is just a simple brown thing, with mismatching cushions, and a hole in the armrest where it has been worn through, a few coins from his pocket fallen down into the gaps, and I will take it with me wherever I go, to Zacapa, or the nursing home, or any other place I happen to find."
(p. 284)

"The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough."
(last page)

The core reason for it all was beauty.

Let The Great World Spin
By Colum McCann

"Within seconds he was pureness moving, and he could do anything he liked. He was inside and outside his body at the same time, indulging in what it meant to belong to the air, no future, no past, and this gave him the offhand vaunt to his walk. He was carrying his life from one side to the other. On the lookout for the moment when he wasn't even aware of his breath.
The core reason for it all was beauty. Walking was a divine delight. Everything was rewritten when he was up in the air. New things were possible with the human form. It went beyond equilibrium.
He felt for a moment uncreated. Another kind of awake."
(p. 164)

"Which was one of the things that made Judge Soderberg think that the tightrope walker was such a stroke of genius. A monument in himself. He had made himself into a statue, but a perfect New York one, a temporary one, up in the air, high above the city. A statue that had no regard for the past. He had gone to the World Trade Center and had strung his rope across the biggest towers in the world. The Twin Towers. Of all places. So brash. So glassy. So forward-looking. Sure, the Rockefellers had knocked down a few Greek revival homes and a few classic brownstones to make way for the towers--which had annoyed Claire when she read about it--but mostly it had been electronics stores and cheap auction houses where men with quick tongues had sold everything useless under the sun, carrot peelers and radio flashlights and musical snow globes. In place of the shysters, the Port Authority had built two towering beacons high in the clouds. The glass reflected the sky, the night, the colors: progress, beauty, capitalism.
Soderberg wasn't one to sit around and decry what used to be. The city was bigger than its buildings, bigger than its inhabitants too. It had its own nuances. It accepted whatever came its way, the crime and the violence and the little shocks of good that crawled out from underneath the everyday.
He figured that the tightrope walker must have thought it over quite a bit beforehand. It wasn't just an offhand walk. He was making a statement with his body, and if he fell, well, he fell--but if he survived he would become a monument, not carved in stone or encased in brass, but one of those New York monuments that made you say: Can you believe it? With an expletive. There would always be an expletive in a New York sentence. Even from a judge. Soderberg was not fond of bad language, but he knew its value at the right time. A man on a tightrope, a hundred and ten stories in the air, can you possibly fucking believe it?
(pp. 248-9)

February 14, 2015

There were rocks deep enough in this earth that no matter what the rupture, they will never see the surface...There is a fear of love.

Let The Great World Spin
By Colum McCann

"Maybe, yes, it's just pure selfishness. They did not notice the mezuzah on the door, the painting of Solomon, didn't mention a single thing about the apartment, just launched right in and began. They even walked up to the rooftop without asking. Maybe that's just the way they do it, or maybe they're blinded by the paintings, the silverware, the carpets. Surely there were other well-heeled boys packed off to war. Not all of them had flat feet. Maybe she should meet other women, more of her own. But more of her own what? Death, the greatest democracy of them all. The world's oldest complaint. Happens to us all. Rich and poor. Fat and thin. Fathers and daughters. Mothers and sons. She feels a pang, a return. Dear Mother, this is just to say that I have arrived safely, the first began. And then at the end he was writing, Mama, this place is a nothing place, take all the places and give me nothing instead. Oh. Oh. Read all the letters of the world, love letters or hate letters or joy letters, and stack them up against the single one hundred and thirty-seven that my son wrote to me, place them end to end, Whitman and Wilde and Wittgenstein and whoever else, it doesn't matter -- there's no comparison. All the things he used to say! All the things he could remember! All that he put his finger upon!" 
(p. 107)

"Her Bronx accent threw the poem around until it seemed to fall at her feet." 
(p. 148)

"Outside, there were two tickets in the window of the Pontiac--a parking fine, and one for a smashed headlight. It was enough to almost knock me sideways. Before I drove him to the cabin, I went back to the window of the bar and shaded my eyes against the glass, looked in. Ciaran was at the counter, his arms folded and his chin on his wrist, talking to the bartender. He glanced up in my direction and I froze. Quickly I turned away. There were rocks deep enough in this earth that no matter what the rupture, they will never see the surface.
There is, I think, a fear of love.
There is a fear of love. 
(p. 156) 

February 07, 2015

Human knowledge is power, Mama. The only limits are in our minds.

Let The Great World Spin
By Colum McCann

Hello hello hello. Not a great reading/blogging start for me this year but that's OK because the new year is exciting and I've been living. And I am ready now to tackle the many many books I want to finish in 2015.

Colum McCann is a poet. His sentences are poetry. I love this read, though it took me a while to embrace it. My friend gave it to me for Secret Santa -- a great gift. I'm about halfway through & savoring his language every moment.

"Some kids were dancing on the corners. Their bodies in flux. Like they had discovered something entirely new about themselves, shaking it through like a sort of faith."
(p. 70)

"Nothing much happening on Park. Everyone gone to their summer homes. Solomon, dead against. City boy. Likes his late hours. Even in summertime. His kiss this morning made me feel good. And his cologne smell. Same as Joshua's. Oh, the day Joshua first shaved! Oh, the day! Covered himself in foam. So very careful with the razor. Made an avenue through the cheek, but nicked himself on the neck. Tore off a tiny piece of his Daddy's Wall Street Journal. Licked it and pasted it to the wound. The business page clotting his blood. Walked around with the paper on his neck for an hour. He had to wet it to get it off. She had stood at the bathroom door, smiling. My big tall boy, shaving. Long ago, long ago. The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward.
No newspapers big enough to paste him back together in Saigon."
(p. 81)

"Perhaps she could hire Gloria. Bring her in. Odd jobs around the house. The bits and pieces. They could sit at the kitchen table together and while away the days, make a secret gin and tonic or two, and let the hours just drift, her and Gloria, at ease, at joy, yes, Gloria, in excelsis deo." 
(p. 82)

"It was easy enough to write a program that would collate the dead, he said, but what he really wanted was to write a program that could make sense of the dying. That was the deep future. One day the computers would bring all the great minds together. Thirty, forty, a hundred years from now. If we don't blow one another asunder first. 
We're at the cusp of human knowledge here, Mama, he said. He wrote about the dream of widely separated facilities sharing special resources. Of messages that were able to go back and forth. Of remote systems that could be manipulated through the telephone lines. Of computers that were capable of repairing their own malfunctions. Of protocols and bulk erasers and teletype printouts and memory and RAM and maxing out the Honeywell and fooling around on the prototype Alto that had been sent across. He described circuit boards like some people described icicles. He said that the Eskimos had sixty-four words for snow but that didn't surprise him; he thought they should have more -- why not? It was about the deepest sort of beauty, the product of the human mind being stamped onto a piece of silicon that you might one day cart around in your briefcase. A poem in a rock. A theorem in a slice of stone. The programmers were the artisans of the future. Human knowledge is power, Mama. The only limits are in our minds. He said there was nothing that a computer couldn't do, even the most complicated problems, find the value of pi, the root of all language, the most distant star. It was crazy how small the world truly was. It was a matter of opening up to it. What you want is your machine to speak back to you, Mama. It almost has to be human. You have to think of it that way. It's like a Walt Whitman poem: you can put in it everything you want."
(p. 89)