Monday, February 9, 2009

What The Mind Is Like Under A Yellow Moon

Some people don't believe me: I am more disoriented and prone to mood swings around the time of the full moon. Also I seem pretty emotionally affected by heat and clouds. Inner weather mimics the outer. Bodies are bizarre. Bio-meteorology should be a science.

No wonder this is my favorite novel.

Eight loads of laundry, some cooked broccoli and a bulbous yellow moon shining over the Walgreen's. It's lard-yellow and seems to quiver it looks so big. People sway forward with bags of meat and plastic rectangles clamped to their ears. I'm hauling months worth of well-loved garments brittle socks and ripe unmentionables. Exhaustion turns simple things into urban trials. I hunt for quarters, no different now than the one local panhandler who seems glued to our particular cul-de-sac, for whatever reason, always loitering on the stoops in the darkness. Or standing under the awnings of people's homes, smoking and talking to no one. Until he emerges and you must confront him.

In the Laundromat I hear Tagalog being spoken which to me sounds like Khmer and Spanish combined into something musical. I drop the lady's sock with the pink ball on it I'm washing and the older woman laughs at me as she picks it up. I've been found out, or something. Laundromats like libraries you don't have to have a purpose to be there.

I feel (off again/on again) more inured to the headache of street noise, to sidestepping trash like tumbleweeds crowding the sidewalks. Trash here heaps at the bases of trees like penitent offerings. But nature isn't moved. Only in retreat. An old, rickety, drooling man making his way to Burger King asks me where I'm from. I say, from around here. Oh, from here? Have you noticed any changes? Have you?? OH--I mean San Francisco, I've only been "here" though for 5 months. Ah, I see, then you're still new. YOU DON'T KNOW YET...and we walked on, him to his burger, me to my bus.

What I can't accept are the countless car alarms going off in this neighborhood, especially if they're blaring out of a stretch hummer limousine. There's not enough dynamite in the world to stick in the tailpipe of that monstrosity. So being the wavering, occasional misanthrope, I turn to fiction and poems. An old, old remedy. I sometimes wish it was sports, especially soccer. I want to be a bigger soccer fan.
I have towers of bound paper with blurbs on their backs. I hope they teach me things. Among more recent books I think necessary to sift through and savor:

1. Dubliners. James Joyce. Re-reading this because it sort of fell on the mental wayside after I studied him in college. I started with "The Dead" and will move backwards. It definitely retained its sucker-punch to the heart effect with nonchalant precision. Nothing new needs to be said about how timeless this story is. I do want to make a list of all the verbs Joyce uses so far because from what I can tell he never fails in applying the perfect words, especially verbs to any given sentence situation. Enviable to say the least.
2. Collected Poems Of Hart Crane.
3. The Jules Verne Steam Balloon by Guy Davenport.
4. About Writing by Samuel Delany. This book has been in my bag or on my person for many a month now. The pages are falling out, most of the passages are underlined, and I'm only half way through. A fairly necessary book if you desire to write fiction.

So yes, beyond books, the weekend was intense, weird, overwhelming and full of stories within stories. One of those wonderful yet dangerous coincidences brought two friends, an Alaskan and an Arizonan to converge on my filthy city, both stand-up fellows and thorough iconoclasts with libertarian tendencies. Fun was had, even in the rain. The first night came after a long, bustling workday of assembling a large, multi-state legalistic paper trail. Once sent into the void, or mailed, we lunged out into the warm Oakland evening. 8 helicopters dawdled in the pale blue sky, creating a ruckus like a Herzog movie set or how you imagine a war. The Fox Theatre was having its grand opening; a protest was about to start; the First Friday art-walk was imminent; Oakland downtown suddenly seemed invested with life and people and cars. We found a lovely old club with polished wood and brass and large gilt-frame mirrors. The magenta-haired woman with tattooed breasts served us cheap lagers. I saw my old housemate with the weird cockney accent. I had reasons to grieve too. And get philosophical. I absorbed good advice from a man who has an enviable amount of happiness and meaning in his life. The red-haired was replaced by a woman in suspenders wearing a sailor cap who had an understandably steely gaze for the sudden mob that had formed. Little things take the heart far. Adornments are necessary, sometimes tip the mind right off the edge. Helicopters reappeared. We wondered aloud about sacrifice and family. Everything can't all be ripped to the bone. City-spaces exploding with activity and promise. Fireworks, a treasure hunt, alley offerings, secret playgrounds, lurid interludes, loss, sadness, anger and desire. Streets are cordoned off so people may walk amidst the festival wreckage. Smoke hides things, uncovers others. I come home dazed. She's been busier than I have, and with more challenging endeavors. Smiling laughter encloses me like a warm cotton fort. The physics behind oscillating gazes. I never knew I had slightly yellow eyes until she said so. In a tangle of laundry and sketchpads, fishnets and garters, leather boots and leather belts: repose, laughter, solace.

It feels like there is a lot to talk about or try to make heads or tails over. City things. Private things. Family things. Sad and angry things happening at a nexus. More later.

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