Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Center is Holding

The Center is Holding.
We struggle, Him and myself, with parents biological, adoptive, birth and step. We are hostage to four separate tragedies, playing themselves out before our eyes. We strive to honor our significant elders and beaten down we cling together and pray for patience and humor and thick skin.

Richard joined me and the kids at the Hotel for the annual Christmas celebration. Himself and I have a deal that he only has to see my mother on her birthday and I only have to see his father on his. Even in the few days since the move downstairs there is noticeable decline, although the strangeness of the big dinner and the room crammed with families may have addled her a bit more.

I am never able to eat the gravy laden served on styrofoam plates meals plopped in front of us at these huge holiday banquets but my mother and the kids, and even Richard eats with the nostalgic abandon of a kid in a cafeteria. I pick at my food. My mother glances at me. "Layne, you're not eating." "Yes I am." She returns to scraping the gravy from her chicken and shaping it with her fork into a smooth little mound, as if to say, "I dislike gravy." Spuds finishes every last pea and eyes my plate and I swap my full one for his empty one for him to attack. My mother glances at the empty plate in front of me. "Did you eat all that?" she asks, outraged.

I made latkes in the kitchen that I never enter without feeling deeply thankful for. I was reminded of how my dad always beamed when he talked about the screening room on Fulton Avenue. He did it on the cheap, completely by his own design, and it was cunning and groovy and I remember him running films and smoking his pipe and listening to Nelson Riddle or Artie Shaw in his beatnik riff on a French Cafe. This is the most happy memory I have of him. This space was the most beautiful thing he ever created in his life. I wake my beloved from a sound sleep and beg him to hold me so I feel safe and he is weary but he does. I cook in the kitchen I worked so hard to bring to fruition while the kids lounge about eating microwave popcorn right out of the bag and watching Arrested Development on the new t.v. and Himself sits in the corner and blogs and whispers little songs to his poodle. It is almost unbearably sweet. The center is holding. When I get over feeling bereft and humiliated, I am reminded again and again that I have what I need and then I bask in luxury.

The center is holding although tears are shed on Christmas, a day through California, from L.A. to S.F. up the 5 with snow and winds and tumbleweeds and pounding rain and rainbows and crystal skies and every second looked like the most romantic of matte paintings or idealized landscape of the big big west. The 16 year old made a trip playlist and recorded all of my favorite albums and a couple of Himself's on his IPOD and we listened on shuffle, each song a wonderful new treat, until Himself was driven, by the under representation of his musical tastes, to his own IPOD and the wife canceller's, the headphones which he spends hours of car time painstakingly cleaning and fussing over. Soon after, the 16 year old tired of my lexicon and reclaimed his IPOD and Himself and I listened then to a few hours of an Irish Radio produced reading of Ulysses, the part where Bloom burns the kidney and probably farther into the book than I ever got for a film and literature course I got an "A" in anyway. But I saw the movie.

Our rental apartment is on a sort of scuzzy part of busy Fell Street. The stairs are wobbly and steep and there is the musty small of rotting wood and vaguely damp carpet. The banister is six inches too low and rough with splinters. The towels are thin and the unheated bathroom is dank and moist. The tiny kitchen cupboard contains a head of garlic, a tiny bottle of Jack Daniels with a few sips left, reduced sodium soy sauce and thousands of packets of salt from In 'N Out Burger. We ordered Indian food online, a huge novelty because the only delivery available on Mt. Washington is Pizza Hut and the food was surprisingly good, particularly when followed by the pint of Hagen Daz I splurged on when I lay in a small store of provisions at the woebegone bodega, alone and lonely on Christmas Day.

We learned at an Exploratorium exhibit ways that married people can argue more constructively. We have issues that are such ancient history we don't even bother anymore. I eat in bed. I am extravagant. I am my mother's vain needy daughter. He would rather have a 13-year-old get drunk than waste a drop of the hard cider I was unable to finish. My beloved has now learned though that walking ahead of me, that beyond speechifying, hard kernel of ancient history, can have devastating results. Nearly half a century of pain and shame was savaged at him as long legs forged ahead en route to a dingy Chinese restaurant. We are full of empathy. We are disappointed and angry. I am tempted to change this to "I" am full of empathy and "I" am disappointed and angry because maybe it is arrogant for me to presume my beloved's feelings and foolish to try to capture the recent maelstrom in dumb meager words. Whenever Himself was wistful and yearning to know his biological parents, I assured him that this was something he'd overrated. But my heart hurts as he discovers that there is a truth to this. We have always said that the Bay area has been very good to us. This is a trip that challenges that. Or, it challenges us to make it so. We are tender and in this sentence I have no temptation to change the "we" to "I".

The center holds. We cling tight with every sorrow and in each other’s arms we are more certain than we have ever been that God's grace shines on us now and more strange and wonderful, is that it always has. I write this from the old redwood ringed Mt. Hermon cabin where we stayed last summer, next door to Chris and Bob. This is our longest winter visit. Himself and I are both vulnerable to cold and sometimes even in milder L.A. our teeth chatter and our bones ache. We long to retire here and pass our days with books and walks and music and simple meals and complicated conversation. I guess we'll tolerate the cold, if we take vigorous strolls and clomp about in heavy socks and nubbly sweaters. I am waiting for Obama to wave his magic wand and let us believe again that this is possible.

Plotting retirement is foolish and masochistic in dire times when we are asking ourselves questions about short term survival that we never dreamed, after our decades of hard work, we would be asking. My mother's notions of past and future have degraded now in a (serendipitous) wearing out of an eighty eight year old brain. My own "now" demands my full attention and it requires self discipline not to wander from past to future in avoidance of the terrifying present. The center is holding but I have to keep reminding myself that this is true. I lie on the cheap Herculon couch in this funky cabin watching daytime network television with my indolent goofball teenage boys. We sleep in a double bed in a pine walled room, closed off from the central heating. The morning light streams through the redwoods and shines on our tangled bodies. The room fills with the ancient, familiar scent of our awakening together. I thank God for keeping me so very warm and am reminded the center is holding and it is sweet and solid.

May we all be showered with blessings in the new year, the year I believe will define for all of history the turn of the millennium. I send special love to Chris and Bob whose friendship affirms how very good the Bay area has been to us indeed, but we beg them to contact the Dog Whisperer post haste. Leaving our refuge here and returning home to home’s trevails is softer for me, knowing I will begin New Year’s Eve exercising and bitching in the dark cold with my beloved bootcamp sisters who are an anchor and a comfort. I cherish every minute I am blessed to spend with them, except for the exercise part.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fading Messengers

Fading Messengers

My last entry lauded the talents of filmmaker John Cannizzaro, whose program of animation at the Echo Park Film Center blessed me with a small rebirth of wonder. Instead of appreciation for my fawning, no sooner had I arrived at the office, before I even poured my coffee, I was admonished for failing to note that his tour de force "Fifty Feet that Shook the World" was also, as I had explained with regard to his film "Gulliver's Travels,” created for the eponymous competition “Fifty Feet that Shook the World” which requires filmmakers to create and edit a film solely inside the camera. I apologize for this erratum and express my thanks for the appreciation I did receive, after being corrected for my omission, for the (well deserved) extravagant praise I have heaped on the oeuvre of Mr. Cannizzaro, now thrice.

I signed up for online traffic school to make reparations for the speeding ticket I got on my way to Santa Cruz. The sixteen year old has had some DMV heartbreak and because I made a conscious decision to flout the law and knew that I was risking a ticket, I decided I was not really in need of re-education and that the on-line program might be most cost effective as a study tool for the written driver's test. He was off school last week because there was an emergency staff meeting of two days' duration precipitated by the carving of, by an unidentifiable hand, "Fuck this school' onto a class computer. I dragged the 16 year old to work with me for two mornings and he arrived to begin a four hour morning nap. When he was rested and luncheon digested, I hooked up my laptop on my desk and we listened together as the five chapters of traffic training droned on. At the end of each section, we completed the quizzes together with good success. We breezed through the final exam, confident of all of our answers and I was sure he had great command of the material.

Himself took the 16 year old for his second exam, but before entering the building made sure he was able to correctly answer all the questions from the five practice tests published by the DMV and also from the first failed test. Fewer questions were missed on this go round and a number of the ones he missed were confusing to me and pertained to topics not covered by the sample DMV tests we'd printed or in our on-line efforts to have my crime expunged. What is astonishing to me is that so many of the drooling fools on the road purportedly passed this written test which has caused us so much grief.

I was called in for a meeting with the director and medical staff of the dementia facility which houses my mother and that we refer to as the "hotel." My mom has drifted away bit by bit over the nearly 2 1/2 years she has lived there but in the past month, I noticed a marked decline. I was prepared to hear that there would be a rate increase now that she required more care and that the cat was a goner but these are kind people, devoted to my mother's comfort and safety. It was determined that my mother would be bereft sans cat and we negotiated a greater involvement by the staff in caring for it. I was also advised that it was time to move Mom "downstairs" and I agreed to the change. I have snuck up to my mom's room a few times and removed a number of garments that were either worn or stained or not to my taste. My mother had a penchant for jejune attire and I smuggled out a number of shirtmaker blouses, worn with tails tied high on the waist, in my handbag. It was determined that the staff lady who fixes her hair and manicures her would sort through her possessions and move her and cat downstairs on Saturday. This required me and the kids to keep her away from the hotel for several hours.

She was sitting in the lobby when we arrived. It was raining. She had her raincoat. "I'm surprised I still have this raincoat. It's reversible." She sees the kids. Their names and relationship to her are lost. "They're taller than I am." We get in the car. "Oh, Layne. You're driving now. You learned to drive really fast. You sure know your way around."

I order her a hamburger at the restaurant. "I can't eat all these fries. Eat them Layne." "No thanks Mom." "Layne, you don't eat very much. Eat these fries." "No thanks." "Look at all these fries. Do you want some of them?" "No thanks Mom. I've got plenty to eat." "You sure don't eat very much. Take these fries." Her coffee is served with tiny sealed containers of cream. "I don't use these." She grabs them in her fist. "Take them home." "I don't need them Mom." "They're good. Take them home." She shoves them at me. I palm them off for one of the kids to hide under a napkin. "Look at all these fries. You should eat some."

I help her with her raincoat. "This raincoat is reversible. I'm surprised I still have it." The kids help her into the car. "Look, they're taller than I am." We fasten her in. "Layne, you're driving now. You learned to drive one-two-three." We've decided to take her to a movie to kill time while her stuff is being moved downstairs. "You sure know your way around." I chose a movie based on convenient starting time and proximity to the hotel. I had assumed Slumdog Millionaire was a colorful frothy comedy, set in India. In the first scene, the main character is strung up at a police station and tortured with electric current and it really didn't lighten up until the beautiful big production number finale. My mother whispered "This isn't my cup of tea" a couple times but for the most part sat quietly, except for a loud and long foray to the restroom, for the film which the three of us thought was quite wonderful, and even though it was inappropriate for Grandma, she won't remember a single frame.

I helped her with her raincoat. "This is a good raincoat you know. It's reversible. One side is black and the other blue. I've had it for years. It's reversible." I park her and the boys in front of the theatre to bring the car around. "Look. They're taller than I am now." I pull up for them. "Oh, Layne. You're driving now. You learned so fast. Boy, you sure know your way around."

We were all very nervous about her reaction to the new room. A new key on a bracelet that says in big letters "ADELE NEW ROOM" is placed on her wrist. Our plan was to tell her that her boyfriend, Charlie, THE DOCTOR, had thrown his weight around and arranged for her to be moved to a better (identical to the old one) room, closer to his own. We placed a large photo of them all dressed up and holding hands on the door of the room and I bought a potted plant (she always reviled cut flowers as wasteful) and a box of chocolates as his welcome gifts for her and Sally the cat.

Two months ago this would have been a delightful fulfillment of romantic fantasy but she was quite non-plussed by the new room and only irritated that she was expected to wear the key on her wrist. We stayed a while to make sure she was adjusting and the kids and I looked through their old baby photos and I was reminded of how extraordinarily cute they were and how extraordinarily fat I had been. I reminded her again that she was in a new room and would no longer have to take the elevator. I told her again that Charlie had wanted her closer to him. She said, "Who's Charlie?" "Your boyfriend!" I reminded and pointed to the picture. She examined it and then spat, with disgust, "That fat thing?" My kids startled, and then both looked at me tenderly, hearing the vitrol with which she said, "fat."

I was floored when I saw the cover of the latest issue of Oprah's magazine. Oprah, after having gained 40 lbs. has been doing lots of headshots but on the Jan. cover sheepish fat Oprah is side by side with bare midriffed thin Oprah. "How did I Let this Happen Again?" sobs the banner. Oprah had an undiagnosed thyroid problem but also she was working too hard. She wasn't getting enough love. She took a vacation in Maui and sipped soy milk and snacked on flax seed and played with her dogs on the beach. Oprah says her goal is to "reorder my life so there's time to replenish my energy." It’s hard to muster a lot of pity for Oprah but I thought it was courageous of her to approve that cover and it inspired me to have a thyroid panel run.

Carnie Wilson is another celeb whose weight gain has garnered much snark. Carnie was interviewed about her accretion of poundage by skinny skank bitch Diane Sawyer who looked throughout the interview like she smelled a fart. Carnie was cool and got it that we suffer so much over the single issue of fat when what we need to aspire to is better management of global physical and mental health. But photos of Oprah or Carnie or Kirstie Alley eating are golden for paparazzi. Imagine what a shot of the three of them at a buffet would be worth. Rosie O’Donnell did a great cameo as a guest at a Weight Watcher type group that’s moderated by an insensitive monster on the HBO show Little Britain. I have replayed this skit a zillion times. My husband is sick of it but I especially like it when the group leader asks Rosie if she’s a lesbian because she’s fat or if she’s fat because she’s a lesbian. I have asked myself my whole life if I’m fucked up because I’m fat or I’m fat because I’m fucked up. My thyroid is normal. My mother said the word “fat” with a venom that took my breath away. But they have moved her downstairs because she is fading.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Bane and the Beauty

The Bane and the Beauty
The price of gas is down and suddenly there is traffic. Our morning commute is a long one and we are vulnerable to delays. Spuds' school makes tardy scholars (as they are referred to with no trace of irony) sit on a rug on the cement floor of the drafty cavernous building and miss the first period. It is a town without pity. We were late once, due to a traffic back up from a large fatality accident. I walked him in and shot the director a imploring but firm look and he was allowed to join his class. I figure I can pull this off again maybe once between now and June. The morning rush sometimes makes it difficult to harness my rage at the selfishness and thoughtlessness that people are capable of behind the wheel of a car. Sometimes the car ride is not a very happy one and I feel bereft for becoming unglued and missing genial chat with the boys. I am embarrassed by my outbursts and I try to remember to apologize after the fact. I am afraid my children will feel that the stress they witness during our rides to school is their fault and that they are the true object of my frustrations. My kids know, and I tell them far too often I'm afraid, about how their requirements impinge on my personal life and that I no longer enjoy the ease I knew before they were born. I want them to know that I am just weak and overextended and that they are the dearest blessings of my life.

My mother had a long term boyfriend and worked, usually full time, and conveyed consistently to me the injustice that someone with her looks be deprived a life of leisure. Her boyfriend died when I was fifteen so I was younger than that when, in some argument. my mother raged at me that I was the reason her boyfriend would not marry her. I probably was. Mimi was at some SRF lecture and a speaker said something about how essential for adult development it is to stop blaming our parents. I don't write here about the scars I carry to indict my poor parents. They loved me and wounded only out of their own woundedness, woundedness I am left alone now to puzzle. I hope I honor my mother and father by struggling to heal and praying for the strength and wisdom and grace necessary to avoid passing their mysterious kernel of hurt to their grandchildren.

My mother's has declined precipitously in the last month. She has refused to shower or change her clothing. The hotel has suggested she is no longer able to care for Sally the cat. What do you do with a seventeen year old indoor cat? Richard suggested we smear the cat with ground round and tell Rover that she'd called me a bitch. On our last visit I asked her about Charles, the gentleman with whom she passes all her waking hours and she said that she was not acquainted with him. Now, mine is the only name she knows. She has not visited my house since entering the hotel. We were remodeling for a long time and now that we are not remodeling I am afraid she would become disoriented, even if I were to stash away the few items of furnishings I appropriated from her home of fifty years. I made mashed potatoes the way she used to for Thanksgiving. She would have loved the food. I thought of picking her up but did not, more due to the fear that she would impinge on my guests and more particularly my personal enjoyment of the holiday, rather than a concern that she become confused and agitated.

My mother has lived at the dementia facility for over two years now. The first few weeks were difficult but then she eased in, felt safe and loved by her man friend there and she was freed of most memories. I have never seen her happier. I have been gratified that for most of the last few years she has been at peace for the first time in my memory. It was hell prying her away from her home of fifty years and selling it and everything in it. My ordeal was worth it and the last two years of serenity is my gift to her. It took an enormous amount of forgetting for my mother to soften and feel safe in the grace of love proffered, blissful in the eternal now. I have made it clear to my own children though that, having had a far different life than my mother did, I cannot bear the thought of, and would not wish to live, stripped of my own memories.

I often think of how my mother would react if she understood that most of her precious possessions were sold for nothing or given away. She was house proud and enormously fussy and in later years truly paranoid, about the upkeep and safety of her property. There were many strict rules of conduct on Fulton Avenue. Even though I learned the rudiments of cooking in the kitchen there, it was always at the risk of inciting my mother's rage for improper clean up or placing a pot in the wrong cupboard. Spuds and recently even the 16 year old, are learning to cook, usually under my tight supervision. I try to gently impart to them how much easier a kitchen works if order and cleanliness are maintained but sometimes, for all the promises I made to myself to be better than my own mother, I morph into a screaming control freak monster. Himself writes 5000 words of erudite criticism a week but he is unable to distinguish a saucer from a dessert plate and his natural curiosity does not extend to learning the difference. There have been words and accusations of shrillness. But, more often, there have been meals he's dug into with such gusto we're tempted to hose him down after. Perhaps I am a bit too kitchenproud, it straddles the t.v. as the center of our home, but for the most part the home improvement has brought joy in cooking and in eating, even sweeter when we recall the endless remodelling when I was too dispirited to even divise a perfunctory meal and Spuds toiled nightly with the Foreman grill and the microwave for which he received $2.00 a meal.

I copy and paste a link and a customer in Australia is able to download broadcast quality images and pay for it with a credit card. In my father's day a ninety minute film meant three steel reels in metal cans, packed in a fiber shipping case and weighing approximately 18 pounds. No physical commodity is involved in most of the sales we make now. My building is still crammed with films, valuable now only for the images we copy and license from them. Film is susceptible to an organism which causes it to melt into a gooey ooze, a condition called the vinegar syndrome. My father completed a full inventory about five years ago and purged us of cases and cases of putrid festering film. I notice lately the strong vinegar smell in the aisles. We are overdue for another inventory. The boys will start it over the slow holiday period and for weeks the dumpster will be full with wreaking decomposing celluloid, including rare prints of films that now will never be seen again.

I stroll racks of film in my building and it is bittersweet for me. They feed my children. They rot away. I walk through the aisles and see Dad's meticulous, almost mechanical, printing on many of the cases. Thousands of feet of celluloid here have run on manual rewinds through my father's calloused thumb and forefinger. Thousand of tears and breaks repaired by precise guillotine splices would hold, intact and perfect if they were to ever pass again through a projection gate. I remember films he showed me when I was little or prints I'd borrowed to show to friends in college but then I smell that vinegar smell and feel sad and vulnerable and impotent that I can do so little to preserve the collection, let alone this business my father began in 1950. People always visit the office for the first time and gush, "Look at all the film," and I respond with less and less enthusiasm or pride. The economy is rotten all over though so somehow my diminishing, literally rotting, assets and mocking, silent phones, do seem a bit less like a personal failure.

I went to a program curated by my friend and colleague, filmmaker John Cannizzaro at the Echo Park Film Center. I often feel stuck and oppressed, sitting here in my office jammed with films and obsolete equipment and film books I haven't touched since IMBD and lots of other crap. The Film Center is a non-profit community group in a funky store front on Alvarado. They teach film-making to kids and seniors and have a big bus they drive around with, teaching folks to make films during the day and showing movies on a big screen at night. They teach super 8 and 16mm film-making and host public screenings a couple times a week. The accouterments are similar to my office but while sometimes it feels like Mrs. Habersham here, everything withering and rotting, the film center feels wonderfully comfortable and alive. This funky community center reminds me, that despite having been worn down by trying to eke out a living for over a quarter century, I do love film. I took the sixteen year old with me. He has seen 16mm film projected more frequently than any of his friends, but last night I realized, watching him watching, that it hasn't been enough.

John, the co-curator of the International Animation from a Surreal Mind program, out of sheer love, though buoyed by some good film festival nods, produces avant garde shorts and frame-by-frame stop motion animation. The program included some stellar examples from other filmmakers, including the breathtaking 1971 Jabberwocky from Czech animator Jan Svankmajer. The intricacy of this film, which made use of Victorian dolls and costumes and extremely elaborate and exquisite paper arts is a stunning ode to patience and vision, even though John's 16mm print is quite faded to red. Another highlight for me was Frank Mouris autobiographical Frank Films from 1973, a stunning stop motion montage of thousands of images that captivated the artist through the course of his life. John's own stop motion parody of Eisenstein, "Fifty Feet that Shook the World" in which the Odessa steps scene is reenacted by film cameras, uniting in solidarity against the encroachment of video is hilarious. if not prescient that video itself would be close to obsolete not long after the completion of this laborious production. His second title was made for a competition to create an unedited narrative film entirely inside the camera, and Gulliver's Travels, a stop motion homage to Eastern European animators is visually complex, funny and a wonderful example how some artists can flourish even when imposed with seemingly impossible constraints. There is no more labor intensive form of film making and I kept elbowing the 16 year old and spitting, "This was made WITHOUT computers."

My business is transacted mainly via computer. I smell the film and worry about it but most of us labor at keyboards all day and seldom refer to a film element. We watched real prints last night in Echo Park though. The film broke. The focus was fuzzy. Some of the prints were bad dupes and others were scratched. Nothing was new or pristine or digital. It was real live film, rotting, fading and breaking and it is beautiful.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008



Barney, a particularly charming beagle whose vivid black and tan had faded to snow white in the course of his fifteen or sixteen, or so, rescue dog years, has eaten his last doggie treaty. I offer up condolences to MB and the family Inkelis. Barney died naturally and at home. Poor MB had to take the body to the vet's for cremation. Natural and at home is preferable to "the shot" or at least the excruciating anticipation of it, but I suck with dead bodies, pet and human and roadkill. When it became clear that our beloved ancient Bowser was beginning to suffer, we arranged for a vet to come to the house to administer the two injections. Himself was able to stay a bit but I fled at the instant of the final pronouncement. The remains were discreetly removed and boxed immediately and left in the driveway for the crematorium driver. Even though we were spared much contact with the body that was formerly Bowser, we must have fallen apart pretty royally. The vet, who probably performs this very service several times a week to much waterworks, expressed very earnest and particular concern about our emotional condition.

My husband loves dogs and I impressed him early on in our courting phase with my good recognition of different breeds. He wept on the balcony of the El Capitan at a sad scene in Beauty and the Beast. He feels shameful when he indulges in sleeping late instead of rising at the crack of dawn for a rigorous jaunt on the treadmill, a thorough brushing of dogs and a spartan breakfast of strawberries, non-fat yogurt and artificially sweetened tea. He recycles. He discourages triviality. He gets cranky sometimes, usually in the face of the necessity of him leaving the house or the necessity of someone coming to the house. He dislikes most vegetables. I have written oft about the cellphone loggerheads but I am hoping that the dishwasher issue is nipped in the bud right here and now so that no bandwidth is wasted on it.

I was close to bawling most of the week, blissed out to prepare my first Thanksgiving in the new kitchen. I had Lucy on the big dick t.v. to keep me company and the kids and Himself wafted in and out to watch or eat or hang. Himself gave me a real hard time about buying the t.v. and indeed it has defined a real center to our house. I am not stressed that the t.v. will dumb down Casamurphy. My only concern is that its proximity to the kitchen will lead to the fattening up of this viewer. We do spend more time with the kids and get a clearer idea of what rocks their world. They watch pretty good things although perhaps they are more selective when I am present. Every minute my children spend in front of it is one minute of exercise, or reading, or room tidying, or cancer curing pissed away, but I do love my big t.v.

After Thanksgiving I went into a three day drool. I stayed braless on the couch and took no real meals, grazing only on Thanksgiving leftovers. My artificial molar floated in Polident for 72 hours. I wrote not a single word, read one novel (that my husband considers middlebrow), played online word games and watched t.v. with the kids. Himself also had several consecutive days of leisure. For the four day period of November 27-30 he wrote nearly 5000 words. I am very satisfied to write 1500 words in the course of a week. He posted reviews of the following books: The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, 352 pages; Young Irelanders, 244 pages; My Name is Legion, 512 pages; Idle Passion 248 pages. He also reviewed a Deerhunter CD called Microcastles. He wrote two brief entries about i.q. and taste in music tests specifically for his blog, as well. This staggering output, and the fierceness with which he reads and riffs on it, is not an anomaly of a long weekend. I have labored enormously for the 71 blog entries I have posted in 2008. Himself's blog boasts 349 entries so far for the year. And he apologizes for sleeping late.

Himself reads a dozen books for each one I finish. He reviews in depth and detail everything he reads and listens to and is, according to the new and preferable rating system, the 142nd most popular reviewer on Amazon. I can look at his reviews chronologically and trace his journey through chess, and Buddhism, and Welsh and California deserts and Hungary, larded with all manner of fiction and things Irish. He has been teaching himself Gaelic for years and practices by writing small passages in Irish about his day-to-day life. The translations of these little language exercises into a sort of halting English that reflects his humble awareness of his limitations in Irish, are among the most beautiful things I have ever read. My husband was raised where the only labor of value was either physical or wage earning or preferably, both. The concept of personal satisfaction was some high falutin' notion to those particular Irish Catholics, born to work and suffer and reject those who would aspire otherwise. I try to encourage my beloved to do what he loves doing the most and he feels guilty because he derives so much pleasure from it he cannot construe it as work. But work it is and so very fine.

My husband's parents owned a kennel. They bred boxers, and some other breeds of dogs that don't much appeal to me enough to even bother spell checking the names, and boarded dogs. In the dog eating regions of China there is a distinction between food dogs and pet dogs. Struggling with a similar distinction is part of coming of age in an environment where there are pets and dogs that generate income. My sister bred dogs so I saw dogs come and go and I got to know some dog people. Himself and I both share heartrending childhood tales of coming home to find a beloved dog "gone to the farm" for the most specious of reasons. We have tolerated some pretty ill behaved canines that have led us frantically to pet psychics and the Dog Whisperer and perhaps our dog doggedness thing is one way we work out the abandonment issues we also have in common.

When I am desperate for a sign I do this Ouija board type of thing, counting on my fingers to make decisions or ascertain whether hopes will be fulfilled. I also count while I'm driving. If I see ten blue cars, or six Volvos or five out of state plates before arriving at the office there will be a big order. This is a weird thing I've always done and was too embarrassed to even think about on any conscious level until my beloved described it as a form of spontaneous divination which he, and I don't know if it should be to my comfort or my distress, practices too. Wikipedia lists many different forms of divination. There is alphitomancy, which is divination through barley, and cephaleonomancy which involves boiled donkey heads and choriomancy when pig bladders are the conduit to the divine. Dacylomancy (finger movements) and arithmancy (numbers) would cover the thing I do and I was glad and relieved that there's a name for it until it turned out the only reference cited for the article was Harry Potter. The sixteen year old and I also count fat students (an extraordinarily high percentage) in front of Muir High School in Pasadena. We know that this is mean and that it isn't really spontaneous divination. We get bored spending so long in the car though and perhaps this badassedness is a talisman against the next door McDonald's and the lure of the Casamurphy refrigerator, now dangerously close to the altar of entertainment.

My life has always been loud but my beloved has taught me to appreciate the quiet, and sometimes ventures with me to my joyous loud. I don't serve salad. He plays host. I slog through books beyond my ken and force my lazy brain around ideas instead of daydreams to make him proud. I would be single with many cats and left to my own devices I might have become a reader of US WEEKLY. Himself sings to the dogs and dances with them. We watch the new t.v. We are more tender with each other than we are with ourselves. I fall asleep wrapped in his arms and I wake him up to hold me every morning for a few minutes before I start the day.

Years ago Julia had a party and one of the guests was newly returned from graduate school at Brown and I asked him what he'd studied and he said in a single sentence, "Semiotics do you know what that is?" I began this blog entry yesterday and returned home to my still blogging helpmate. He was struggling to find an illustration for his entry and I asked him what he was looking for and he said, "Bibliomancy do you know what that is?" I told him it was the practice of using the bible for divination and remarked that I had written that afternoon about spontaneous divination. Several weeks ago we wrote on the same day of eucalyptus, the subject of my earliest memory, and now we both consider divination. Maybe it's a sign.