25 Feb 2010, 4:28pm
23 Feb 2010, 12:00pm
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mapping happiness

i had a dream about dfw on sunday night. i can’t remember the details, but we were roommates. i wish i could remember! maybe it will come to me. i remember thinking in the dream, “this sure is interesting, to be dreaming about dfw.” later, after the thing happened that i made a dream-mental-note to remember and proceeded to forget, i got drunk outside the house on the big porch with some of my friends while dfw had a dinner party inside with his. i spilled beer in the hall.

the book is still rocking my world. i like the little mysteries the reader gets to solve and connections she gets to make. it makes me feel totally on the ball to read. you know?

right now i am wondering if i can draw some sort of connection between the Eschaton map–”Players themselves can’t be valid targets. Players aren’t inside the goddamn game. Players are part of the apparatus of the game. They’re part of the map. It’s snowing on the players but not on the territory. They’re part of the map, not the cluster-fucking territory. You can only launch against the territory. Not against the map… You do not get points for hitting anybody real. Only the gear that maps what’s real” (page 338) and so on–and the recurring use of “eliminating one’s personal map” in the book to mean death or self-destruction.

this weekend was the last weekend of my permaculture course. we all presented our design projects and got to hear everyone else’s. my group’s presentation went very well. one of the groups did a design for psu’s art building. a little bit less straightforward than my group’s… they called their proposal “permartculture” (grin!) and talked about how art reinforces culture, wraps a culture up into itself and so on, and if we want to change culture we need to make sure the art we make reflects the culture we want. one of the group’s members said, “i realized this when i was watching terminator, ‘you desire to destroy yourselves,’ and i said to myself, no, we don’t.” or, at least, that desire is not fundamental to our humanity. maybe it is fundamental to our culture, a little bit. who of us has not encountered it?

from infinite jest:

‘That: forget it. There is the villain he saw you needed, all of you, to delay this splitting apart. To keep you together, the hating some other. Gentle is crazy in his head, but in this “fault of someone” he was correct in saying it. Un ennemi commun. But not someone outside you, this enemy. Someone or some people among your own history sometime killed your U.S.A. nation already, Hugh. Someone who had authority, or should have had authority and did not exercise authority, I do not know. But someone sometime let you forget how to choose, and what. Someone let your peoples forget it was the only thing of importance, choosing. So completely forgetting that when I say choose to you you make expressions with your face such as “Herrrrre we are going.” Someone taught that temples are for fanatics only and took away the temples and promised there was no need for temples. And now there is no shelter. And no map[!] for finding the shelter of a temple. And you all stumble about in the dark, this confusion of permissions. The without-end pursuit of a happiness of which someone let you forget the old things which made happiness possible.’
(pages 319-20)


dichotomies are so hard to resist. like the figs in esther greenwood’s tree. let’s make jam instead.



kid: the pizzeria isn’t good…
teacher: is that so?
kid: for your butt!
teacher: (laughing)
another kid: rocket poop!
every other kid: rocket poop!
me & the teacher: (laughing hysterically)

kid: we’re aliens, ‘member?
kid 2: i’m batman! i hunt bats!
a third kid: i’m robin! i, uh, i hunt birds!

kid 2, later: i’m a chocolate chip!

some kids, later, holding volleyballs on top of their heads: i’m an ice cream cone!

i love the kids. i like this job. i have a lot of faith that if i just keep on keepin’ on doing what feels good and right, i will figure out what to do with my life and how to do it with what is here. i am still thinking a lot about this bit from always coming home: I took what was given, since I wanted to give.

dirt, kids, books, drama, we’ll see.

here’s a lesson the kids taught me: a few weeks ago i was playing with play-doh with some of them, and while they rolled it into blue pizzas and pancakes for me and the teacher,* i made little animals and lined them up in a row: a bird, a cat, a dog (by request), an octopus. eventually it was time to clean up and move on to the next thing, and a little boy repeated: “il faut ranger!” and squished all my tiny creations under his palm, just like that. only fair: we make them take apart their lego spaceships before they eat lunch or go outside to play. i enjoyed the creation of the little creatures, and the kid enjoyed their destruction.

* the law says there’s gotta be an adult for every ten kids, so the preschool classes all have assistants; when i sub, i am the assistant and if the teacher is absent, the regular assistant is the teacher. i’m learning a lot this way, and observing lots of different teaching and discipline styles and so on.



i picked some dandelion greens last night; not bad!

20 Feb 2010, 6:42pm
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early spring

that handsome fella hangs around our apartment building. the other day i was cleaning with the windows open (60 degrees and blue skies outside!) and he wanted to come inside and hang out.

yeah i take these photos every spring, the first cherry blossoms; they just about kill me with joy. they’re early this year, though. in 2009 we had record heat and record cold here; what’s in store for 2010?

12 Feb 2010, 2:36pm
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in which i practice writing about books (dipping my toe in the water)

infinite jest:

Please learn the pragmatics of expressing fear: sometimes words that seem to express really invoke.
(page 175)

‘Well suppose’—Pemulis can just make out Lyle—’Suppose I were to give you a key ring with ten keys. With, no, a hundred keys, and I were to tell you that one of these keys will unlock it, this door we’re imagining opening in onto all you want to be, as a player. How many of the keys would you be willing to try?’

‘Well I’d try every darn one,’ Rader tells Lyle.

Lyle never whispers, but it’s just about the same. ‘Then you are willing to make mistakes, you see. You are saying you will accept 99% error. The paralyzed perfectionist you say you are would stand there before that door. Jingling the keys. Afraid to try the first key.’
(page 199)

If, by virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway facility like Enfield MA’s state-funded Ennet House, you will acquire many exotic new facts. You will found out …

That no matter how smart you thought you were, you are actually way less smart than that.

That purposeful sleep deprivation can be an abusable escape too, and work, shopping, and shoplifting, and sex, and abstention, and masturbation, and food, and exercise, and meditation/prayer, and sitting so close to Ennet House’s old D.E.C. TP cartridge-viewer than the screen fills your whole vision and the screen’s static charge tickles your nose like a linty mitten.70

That you do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her/it. That loneliness is not a function of solitude.

That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack.

That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking. That the cute Boston AA term for addictive-type thinking is: Analysis-Paralysis. That cats will in fact get violent diarrhea if you feed them milk, contrary to the popular image of cats and milk. That it is simply more pleasant to be happy than to be pissed off. That 99% of compulsive thinkers’ thinking is about themselves; that 99% of this self-directed thinking consists of imagining and then getting ready for things that are going to happen to them; and then, weirdly, that if they stop to think about it, that 100% of the things they spend 99% of their time and energy imagining and trying to prepare for all the contingencies and consequences of are never good. Then that this connects interestingly with the early-sobriety urge to pray for the literal loss of one’s mind. In short that 99% of the head’s thinking activity consists of trying to scare the everloving shit out of itself.

That ‘acceptance’ is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.

That, perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it.

That God—unless you’re Charlton Heston, or unhinged, or both—speaks and acts entirely through the vehicle of human beings, if there is a God.

That God might regard the issue of whether you believe there’s a God or not as fairly low on his/her/its list of things s/he/it’s interested in re you.

70. Not to mention, according to some hard-line schools of 12-Step thought, yoga, reading, politics, gum-chewing, crossword puzzles, solitaire, romantic intrigue, charity work, political activism, N.R.A. membership, music, art, cleaning, plastic surgery, cartridge-viewing even at normal distances, the loyalty of a fine dog, religious zeal, relentless helpfulness, relentless other-folks’-moral-inventory-taking, the development of hard-line schools of 12-Step thought, ad darn near infinitum, including 12-Step fellowships themselves, such that quiet tales sometimes go around the Boston AA community of certain incredibly advanced and hard-line recovering persons who have pared away potential escape after potential escape until finally, as the stories go, they end up sitting in a bare chair, nude, in an unfurnished room, not moving but also not sleeping or meditating or abstracting, too much advanced to stomach the thought of the potential emotional escape of doing anything whatsoever, and just end up sitting there completely motion- and escape-less until a long time later all that’s found in the empty chair is a very find dusting of off-white ashy stuff that you can wipe away completely with like one damp paper towel.
(pages 200-5, and endnote)

when i ask the internet, it says read infinite jest with a dictionary. it also says this book is so long and hard to read blah blah blah. i am not reading with a dictionary. i have googled some words, most recently scopophobic/scopophiliac (fearful of being seen, loving of looking), and i pulled up a photo of bernini’s ecstasy of saint theresa (daaang) to look at while reading a description of it that compared it to a cocaine high. i mean, i had seen photos of it before, but dang (look at that cocky bugger, sent from god indeed). this book is awesome.* i would not mind holing up with it, unwashed, unfed, until i finished it. no, i don’t know. but to binge on it would be appropriate (or maybe really inappropriate). it is making me feel a little drunk, bloated, inappropriate, illicit, et cetera.

maybe a lot of (great) fiction does this and i have forgotten ’cause i’ve been reading so much nonfiction lately. the nonfiction sometimes makes me feel full to bursting in a different way. balance.

these quotations that i’ve pulled from the book (i don’t know (yet) how to say anything about them that isn’t obvious, but there they are) maybe make it seem too something-or-other (i, unlike dfw, do not always have the right word at the tip of my tongue), but also, the book is hilarious and wonderful. just so you know, in case it wasn’t clear. that is not objective. really that is the best argument for the printed page: so that this book could wait fourteen years for me to have the time and the brain and the heart for it to be hilarious and wonderful, so that i could consume it alone in bites and binges in my apartment (and then blog about it). i am delighted and amazed to be so enthralled by teenage tennis academy students and quebecois separatists and troubled filmmakers and (wouldn’t want to spoil it for you). had some silly thought like, wow, ANYTHING can be about ANYTHING, because this book is about EVERYTHING… it’s not, really, i was just somehow surprised to find myself relating to these characters, like i’d forgotten that the human experience is never so unique as you think it is.

* i think because i am not reading it with a dictionary. i mean, really? i feel like reading this book with a dictionary would be a lot like reading shakespeare with a dictionary–you might get a joke or two that would otherwise go over your head, but the back-and-forth tedium will make you miserable and you’ll get a lot more out of the experience if you let yourself just fall into the language. it’s a really amazing quality of language in general, i think, that we DON’T need to know the detailed semantics of every word we read or hear to GET IT. beautiful. (this is a footnote only because it is way too long to be parenthetical, okay?)

yesterday just as i was leaving for my gardening class i found a slug inside the apartment, in an empty grocery bag in the living room. i shook it out outside near my potted plants and then i practiced squishing it under my sneakers, because if i am going to be a gardener here i can show no mercy to slimy greens-eaters. if i’d had time i would have taken some slug portraits. i would have liked to do that. i wore sneakers instead of boots. it’s almost spring. on the way home my bike’s front fender, held together and on with duct tape for the past month or so, broke irrevocably, but that’s okay, because it’s almost spring. in class we learned about weeds and incidentally learned to tell the difference between true dandelion and false dandelion. false dandelion isn’t edible (or at least is not eaten) but true dandelion is. i have never eaten it, though, because of fears i don’t understand and do not usually acknowledge, and because of inertia, i guess. this spring, i swear, i will learn to eat the wilderness that grows through the cracks in our culture. learn to take it into me.

8 Feb 2010, 3:16pm

infinite jest

i am reading infinite jest, which i bought sometime in high school when i got it into my head that the kind of person i wanted to be was the kind of person who read david foster wallace. i was very much involved in self-creation at the time. i stayed in my boarding school dorm room alone many nights trawling the internet for things i though i should be interested in. i listened to indie bands that no one at my tiny high school had heard of and everyone at my tiny college had been listening to for years (what a relief! what an embarrassment!); i did not read infinite jest but i did read girl with curious hair, and i read a lot of garcia marquez and kundera, who i somehow put in the same category as dfw, that category pretty much being “books by authors that the person i want to be should be able to reference.” in my senior year of high school, another girl and i both read of love and other demons and the book of laughter and forgetting and we sort of briefly had a little book club thing going, the two of us, but she was more enthusiastic about it than me–i copied out passages i found meaningful into my journal, but mostly i just wanted to Have Read those books, whereas she wanted to Read them… you know? and now, i am not sure i really wanted to Be a humanities major in college, or if i just wanted to Have Been a humanities major in college. i don’t know what i mean; i’ve just been thinking a lot about my undergrad thesis lately (about the bell jar and 4.48 psychosis and about me, dramatized and exaggerated and literally schizophrenized, separated into parts) and how i can’t tell where one thing ends and the other begins when it comes to Who I Am and What I’ve Done and hello i have a bachelor’s degree in literature (or, half a bachelor’s degree in literature? the other half is theatre) and i don’t know how to talk in any kind of sensible way about Literature; i still just copy passages that feel meaningful to me into my journal. i love to read, but sometimes i think i should Have Been a scientist instead. should Be a scientist? a. described me to an old friend like: “lit-theatre major who now wants to be an ecologist.” he also told his cousin that i am going to hawaii next year to “study sustainable agriculture.” when i tell people about my plans i say “i want to go back to hawaii because i feel like there’s something left there for me to learn,” or something, because i feel like pele isn’t done with me yet. and, i guess, to study sustainable agriculture. and to learn not to fear the ocean, and to swim a little longer in the liminal space between my childhood and whatever adulthood i finally, but not irrevocably, choose.

anyway, i am reading infinite jest and i expect it to be meaningful to me mostly because it is very meaningful to someone who is very meaningful to me, which i think is a better reason to be reading it than any reason i had to read it in high school, but there it was on my shelf, courtesy, i suppose, of the person i wanted to be in high school, and that is really why i’m reading it. i’m thankful for a lot of what that person has exposed me to over the years, though i’m not sure who or where she is. i know: there is no duality; there is no scientist OR literata; there is the ecology of me (a delicate balance of scientist, literata, baker, wild dancer, treehugger, and so on), and the understanding that understanding is many-faceted. there are a lot of sort of inane epiphanies that i have to have over and over and over and which may never sink in. i have no patience for the part of me that has no patience with the part of me that draws conclusions, like, strip clubs make me uncomfortable, and then much later has a pretty fabulous time getting drunk with beautiful women who have been my best friends and watching other women dance in their underwear. for example. it is okay to have opinions and words and then later have different opinions and words, and thank god for that, thank god for these inane epiphanies, thank god i am not stuck forever with the beliefs i held in high school and in college, thank god i am not stuck forever with the things i believe now.

in new mexico when a. and i were reacquainting ourselves with the guilty magic of highway driving, we found this great radio station that played all sorts of things, and one of the things they played–or maybe it was just npr we were listening to that day, i don’t know–was a discussion on arguments and beliefs. and the purpose arguments serve–like, let’s say you and a friend are going to a particular restaurant, and you’ve both been there before, and you know approximately but not exactly where it is. you think it’s a right at the next intersection and say so. your companion says, “no, i’m pretty sure it’s left.” you say, “no, i really think it’s right,” which tells your friend that you not only have a different opinion but hold it strongly enough that you’re willing to repeat it even after learning that your friend disagrees. if your friend then says “no way, i remember it’s left,” you’ve learned that not only do they hold that belief, they continue to hold it even though you’ve now reinforced your own belief again. you, upon learning that, might go, “oh yeah, i think maybe you’re right,” or you might repeat your opinion again and possibly sway your friend. the point of the radio item was that argumentation can solve this kind of problem! and that it works when things are really important, which is, sort of paradoxically perhaps, when your beliefs are more likely to be flexible. it’s really important that you turn the right way or you’ll never get where you’re going. it’s really important to know whether or not a plant you’re about to eat is edible, because if it’s poisonous, you’ll die. so arguing about these things is quite fruitful. this is why we are often really steadfast and inflexible in our beliefs and opinions about things like politics and religion… because these things don’t really matter! we can afford to be wrong. if heaven doesn’t exist, oh well, we’re dead anyway. if it does, isn’t that nice. if we vote for the wrong guy, oh well, one vote is a drop in the bucket anyway. i thought that was pretty interesting because politics and religion are the things we think of as So Important… i guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

i want to write here and get back in touch with the literata in me and with the People I Wanted to Be in high school and college, here amidst my permaculture notes and mandalas and love of the spring and my cat. i don’t want to make excuses about it and if you think i am oversharing i’m okay with that. i didn’t want to be a writer until i started writing on the internet and i’m okay with that, too. so, i dunno, i am starting slow, i will copy passages i find meaningful into my journal, here:

(pages 84-5)


my cat’s beautiful eyes:

(he’s yawning in the last photo. i like it better if you don’t know that, but i don’t want you to think that he’s a wild beast–he is only as wild and beastly as any of us–or that i’m pulling his tail or something. of course he’s yawning. mostly he sleeps. sometimes he’s a wild beast.)

7 Feb 2010, 2:46pm
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6 Feb 2010, 8:47pm
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what is given

two excerpts from always coming home, by ursula k. le guin (who is one of my very favorite writers)–


“I had always liked potting more than any other skill, but with sheep, goats, and a good loom, it seemed that weaving was there to do; so I did it. I took what was given, since I wanted to give.”


“We mostly seem to feel it appropriate and desirable that all spoken words, even office memoranda, recordings of private conversations, grandmother’s tales, be saved on tape, stored in memory banks, transcribed, written, printed, preserved in libraries. Perhaps not many of us could say why we save so many words, why our forests must all be cut to make paper to mark our words on, our rivers dammed to make electricity to power our word processors; we do it obsessively, as if afraid of something. Maybe we’re afraid of death, afraid to let our words simply be spoken and die, leaving silence for new words to be born in. Maybe we seek community, the lost, the irreproducible.”