Saturday, May 31, 2014


What do they call the hour or so before magic hour when things are softly bright and still have some of broad daylight’s charm and cheer? I just went for a short walk (could only get in 20 or so minutes) but the air was as comforting and nurturing as cool down. I wish I could capture this not-quite-lazy time when the air is so silken and the light is forgiving.

I got up early this morning, well, at least before 8:00 a.m. I have so much housework and many personal projects to do, and I knew I would be needing and wanting a nap, that I headed out to the garage with my coffee to get busy on my refinishing projects. I must have worked for three or so hours, mostly listening to Jhumpa Lahiri's latest short story collection Unaccustomed Earth, but switching over to some random spot in Crime and Punishment as well. I just like listening, I guess. Good progress on the bureau/dresser and I am well into the tricky parts of the oak chair, the turned spindles. I'll try to post a picture. The pine nightstand is ready for sanding.

It's a week later! So much for my daily practice. 

I'm in Brooklyn, having celebrated B1's birthday a bit. There was a New Yorker in the bathroom that I picked up. As so often happens, I immediately stumbled across an interesting thought in a book review. (James Wood, not the actor James Woods, is mighty smart.)

There is a difference between knowingness and knowledge, but what is it? Knowingness comes after knowledge; it is only the echo of its source, and it is proud to be the echo. One of the liberties of our connected age is that we can be almost infinitely knowing, consoling our lack of true knowledge with an easy cynicism of acquisition. It is cheaply glorious to be able to discover almost any fact about the world on the machine I am using to write this review: I experience that liberty as the reward it is, and also as a punishment; as both a gift of the digital world and a judgment on my scant acquaintance with the actual world.

Speak for yourself, you may say. Who is this "we," so easily invoked? If knowingness is capitalism's gift to those metropolitan élites who haven't earned it, there are also multitudes of people, constrained by poverty and political oppression and the bad luck of obscurity, who don't deserve the brutal "knowledge" that is being meted out daily on their lives; they would be very grateful for the privileges of knowingness. And, by the way, would you, in Paris or New York or London, really rather know less, as the price of being less knowing?

James Wood, The World As We Know It, The New Yorker, May 19, 2014

Well, now that's something to think about. 

Meanwhile, I'm going to get dressed and meander over to the Farmer's Market for some herbs to plant for the few weeks I'll still be in Long Island. They'll probably grow fast and it will save me the exorbitant prices, not to mention the waste of not using up all the herbs I buy. 

It is a glorious day, cheap or otherwise.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Another grey day, although this one has moments of seductive Spring beauty. I am not convinced that the blue will overcome the grey, today at least.

I am psyched as my new glasses are ready. I'll be heading there shortly and the relief of being able to see is adding to a better mood. I'm still not sure what I will be doing for the weekend as I did not make plans to replace the one scotched for Schroon Lake. It's B2's birthday and there is a bash for her up in the Connecticut river house. Going that way is a commitment of the rest of the weekend, given travel time (2.5 hours). There's been talk of a long-delayed adventure to Brewster as well. 

But staying put, working on my projects, chatting with CandJ about my current conundrums, reading Proust, watching actual movies also appeals. The question is which will better improve my spirits and disposition, and move me further on my current quest for productivity and peace of mind? I do get a bit lonely out here, notwithstanding the good company of John and Melinda, and there is sure to be fresh stimulation heading North. But if I can get in a better groove here ... Oh well, I have some time to decide ...

Copyright Berke Breathed.
John and Tupelo headed back to Brooklyn this morning. Tupelo is pretty much unable to groom himself anymore, given girth and arthritis, so his long hair gets very matted. He was looking very much like Bill the Cat. As I was around yesterday, I took the opportunity to groom him, off and on ,during the day. I think it hurts him to combed with all those matts, so he gets pretty angry and one doesn't want to short circuit him in his delicate condition. So, I would take off a couple of pounds of hair (I wish I could take off a couple of pounds so easily) and let him calm down before I woke him from his respite to make more progress. But he does look quite a bit better now. 

Emmylou and Cooder also dislike combing and run away if they see me with grooming implement in my hand and intention in my eyes. Cooder is particularly shed-y if I have been away as she really doesn't let others pet her and there's a build up. The Mighty Clouds of Cat Hair,  indeed.

The noble beast pre-grooming.

I did manage an hour's walk yesterday and came home tired. There were no plans for dinner and John suggested spaghetti. (How can we get away from pasta? It's just those refined carbohydrates we need to avoid. But spaghetti is one of my favorite foods.) John headed out to the store, I set to work to augment a jar of sauce. I was nearly asleep on my feet (too much fresh air??) but if I am going to eat pasta, it had better be worth the calories. In a relatively short time, passed pleasantly as I listened to the last of Marmee and Louisa (very much recommended to feminist historians). Once the sauce was simmering away, I took myself to a cat nap with a cat. I woke before my 30-minute alarm to pouring rain and a delicious smell of tomato sauce and was, for the moment, content. The sauce was excellent and the pasta, some off-brand I had picked up at Big Lots, was perfection. I could have eaten all of it.

So much for Saturday morning nattering. Time to get dressed and see what seeing again will be like. 

Friday, May 23, 2014


A garden in Brooklyn.

Feeling a bit better today, although I can feel that dark cloud of uncomfortable-in-my-own-skin somewhere up there is the flat grey sky. I'm listening to and working on my "Ease Into Morning" mix that has some upbeat music on it (Kenyan Bana Likasi and some silly Chet Akins) and that helps keep the energy light. 

Writing this early in the day is part of my "action therapy" ... these posts might be boring for some of you, as I might well be continuing to repeat all the blah blah blah of my life. But this blog is important to me both as a discipline and a record of my trying to get it right, trying to do it right, trying to be right. And I think that requires self-examination, which requires digging through the quotidian stuff and nonsense of getting through another day.

My current topic of self-examination, what's on the front burner for the moment, is how much I live in "I want to do or be this" rather than taking action in those directions. How and why do I get stuck? And what of my behavior represents "stuckness"? This is painful and uncomfortable as I do believe some of my favorite activities, as I mentioned yesterday, might fall into the avoidance or blocking categories. Although my solitaire habit has abated greatly since I had my gig, I still find myself  thinking "I should do some sewing/go to bed/read Proust..." only to vegetate in the direction of solitaire as if by self-destructive compulsion.

At any rate, I have a little to do list and want to get in another walk, so I will keep this on the relatively short side. (Or am I avoiding delving deeper into this uncomfortable subject?)

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The grey is truly leaden and flattening today (which I suppose is better than fattening which every thing else seems to be). The green always looks good against the grey, but it isn’t very heartening, all in all, not like the blue sky and random high clouds can be.

It’s damp out there, having rained sporadically throughout the last night and day. It is warm enough and, really, dry enough to take one of those walks I am having such a difficult time attending to once again. I suppose the prospect of listening, while I walk, to another hour of Marmee and Louisa, which I am devouring instead of Proust (I still have two weeks to go before the next book group! and I am only three hundred pages from the end now ...) is some kind of impetus.

I'm in one of the those anxiety-tinged-uncomfortable-in-my-own-skin phases, not knowing where I will be in a few weeks or even how I should get there. I am tempted now to get up and go out as writing this is making me more so uncomfortable. I don't know if it is the weather or the allergies or my exertions in furniture refinishing, but my hands and finger have been bothering me all week, which is one reason why I have not gone back to those projects. I might have over done myself early in the week.

The pollen this week has been unusually terrible, and it well be that my general not-feeling-great is mostly due to that, although I am not following my healthier regime of better eating, walking, and no alcohol. I think I am angry with myself, to add to my usual feelings of being disappointed in myself. I feel myself wanting to float back down into the "comfort zone" of denial and depression and not exerting myself in the other direction. I want to soothe myself into not being with reading and narrative watching (it doesn't seem right to call it tv as it doesn't matter if it is tv or a movie or  ... just time-wasting internet surfing).

So, to this end, for the moment, I am going to put on my shoes, take some allergy medication, and get a walk in. That does often change my energy, so we shall see. 

The walk helped but I can scarcely keep open my eyes, so I am not going to try. This evening's soundtrack is Rock and Roll Woman by Buffalo Springfield. (By no means, watch the video as it is execrable. The sound quality is okay.) Maybe it's just the last line, "she's so hard to find ..." You know, Stephen, I know the feeling.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Rumor or the meteorologists, as you would have it, predicted a rainy weekend, but it is bursting spring lovely outside. The neighbors are having another yard sale and no doubt there are many in the area. For a change, I don't have an urge (compulsion) to treasure hunt among other's discards. I suppose I am more concerned what I am going to do with myself, my cats, and all my stuff as the summer goes on. I will content myself with listening to Conor Oberst's new release, Upside Down Mountain, on NPR's First Listen and finishing my coffee. (Not particularly impressed so far.)

The irises were blooming all around Brooklyn yesterday. Photographs do not justice them or the pleasure of seeing them sprinkled down the street. A better color setting might have helped in sharing with you, but there is some charm in the above image. 

It was not an easy week for me, emotionally. I have been very up and down, without having a good handle on what might be the cause of this current round of discontent and discomfort. Again, these causes are not, on a universal or geological scale, anything but specks, however, our worlds are quite contained within the confines of our own skin and experience. Which brings me to a funny Proust quote.

It is in sickness that we are compelled to recognize that we do not live alone but are chained to a being from a different realm, from whom we are worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. Were we to meet a brigand on the road, we might perhaps succeed in making him sensible of his own personal interest if not of our plight. But to ask pity of our body is like discoursing in front of an octopus, for which our words can have no more meaning than the sound of the tides, and with which we would be appalled to find ourselves condemned to live.

from The Guermantes Way.

This is kind of akin to an observation I frequently quote from D. Matthew Smith, "If I could find the zipper on this monkey suit, I'd climb out of it."

It was only last night that I realized my last CandJ conversation took place on the 5th anniversary of Carl's death. I still think of him often. His absence is an emotional jewel that is worn beneath my clothing, my outward veneer for the world; I touch it sometimes to reconnect with him, remember why and how he died, and compare it to my own dysfunction and failure. I thought of him this week, of a drive we were on maybe the Christmas before he died. We were listening obsessively to Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower, and he was talking to me about Dave Mason on guitar and what a great arrangement that was, etc. That's what I miss, someone who knows much more about music than I do who would patiently explain all the layers and nuances of sound. And there were no limits or boundaries to the joy.

And then the next day was the birthday of my mom's excellent boyfriend who died six year ago. He would have been 92. And we all had too little time with him.

And the next day was the day my own father died, and I cannot now remember the year, but it must have been 11 or 12 years ago. It was after the Iraq War began because he, notwithstanding his own hawkishness, was completely disgusted and disgruntled (did you ever wonder what the state of "gruntled" must be? It has to be better than it sounds.)

(Okay, there are some very nice lyric turns on this Conor Oberst recording, although the musicality leaves me cold.)

And it was Cooder's 16th birthday. That gave me pause (I Will Resist Pun!) to consider our path together, the jobs, the states, the apartments, the books I've read in her company,  the other cats we've lived with, the lovers. On that same day, our good friend Tupelo had a near death experience. Melinda woke in the morning to find him sprawled out on the kitchen floor, unable to move his head. When she picked him up, he started convulsing. Without changing out of her pyjamas, she rushed him to the vet, which is, luckily, only a block away. He's diabetic and keeping his food and insulin regulated is quite a challenge. Melinda was beyond devastated at the sight and the experience. I was heading to Brooklyn/Manhattan anyway, and was able to hang out with her and comfort her. 

Tupelo is at home now as they were able to stabilize him. His vet will see him again tomorrow, but she thinks he has some time left. 

I hadn't seen Louise for ages, so we had a work date on Thursday. It was my first visit to her apartment since her familiar, Cosmo, had died in March. I had some grieving to do with her. We got caught up on a lot of topics and did some good work on our next project, and some, of course, on Monsterwood

And then yesterday afternoon, after mistakenly rescheduling a lunch with recent former workmate, SC, I did get caught up with another old friend who recently changed jobs. This woman had been an executive at a Very Large media company for nine years. She's developed and launched gigantic shows, some of their largest,  for this company and yet they were pushing her out because they felt she didn't make a good executive that could be continually promoted up the ladder and away from doing any creative work. 

This was fascinating and disheartening for any number of reasons. One of the most interesting things was hearing of her insecurity and difficulty in presenting herself to the world again. This friend has had huge jobs and, believe me when I say, her track record with award-winning, multi-million properties would strike awe in any of us. She landed well, although without the security she had (or thought she had). And I always thought she had too much heart and humanity for the corporation she served. 

So, I am not sure where this mishegas stew of feelings and perception leaves me. Well, one place it seems to leave me is something that I recognize as depression but might be something else like fear or denial or grieving or pain or uncertainty or procrastination or laziness or ... in process of becoming something else ...

And here is the Poem of the Day that arrived in my inbox this morning and I just read. Fits in:


Geometry is a perfect religion,
Axiom after axiom:
One proves a way into infinity
And logic makes obeisance at command.

Outside of the triangle, cubes, and polystructures
There is restless pummeling, pounding and taunting.
The end is diffused into channels
Every step into eternity—and steps are endless.

— Robert McAlmon, Explorations, 1921

Addendum: This was Jeff Nunokawa's post for the day:

5245. Why We Write

May 17, 2014 at 7:46am
Why did I write? what sin to me unknown    Dipt me in ink, my parents’, or my own? (Pope"Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot")

Why do we write?
Maybe, partly it's our parents. Maybe, partly it's ourselves.
Why do we write?
Maybe, partly we have to. Maybe, partly we just want to.
Why do we write?
Maybe, partly it's the material we have. (Or does it have us?) Maybe, partly it's the material we'll be.
Why do we write?
Maybe, because it's our best way of knowing that the best things in life are way beyond the separations that we see.
Note: Far off a young scribe turned a fresh
Page, hesitated, dipped his pen (James Merrill, "Flying from Byzantium").