We decided to go to the beach, maybe the river beach. My boss Diane found my orange flip-flops from the dollar store and declared them perfect, she would wear these. The others went out to the car and I was in the kitchen putting my shoes on. The music from the end of Star Wars was playing, the award ceremony part, and I picked up a Star Wars novel on the kitchen table and started reading it.
Diane burst back into the room, going WHY ARE YOU CRYING? I’m not crying, I said, I was reading longer than I thought. Sorry, I know, everybody’s waiting, sorry.
ALL I wanted my dad to do was sign the Reba McIntyre CD so I could send it in and get… um, I don’t remember now. But he wouldn’t, suddenly he was saying it was like prostitution and pot-smoking. “It is NOT,” I said, thinking, how are those two things even alike except that they are illegal, which Reba’s disc deal clearly is not, and the only reason you’re conflating them is you’re a RULES-FOLLOWER. DAD.
And then the cat was licking my armpit so we got up to start another long day of thwarting and oppressing her.
I’m rereading The Golden Compass, and relishing the feeling of going slowly, and thinking and looking back at who said what in previous scenes, now that I don’t have to vicariously solve the plot right now by reading. I’m especially taken with the witches so far this time around, particularly in contrast to the daemons. I don’t remember it bothering me before, but the way the unsettled daemons have no conservation of mass (Pantalaimon is sometimes a moth, sometimes a porpoise) tips them too far away from actual animals for me. Then I start thinking about how they don’t interact like animals, and certainly don’t have social groups. Is an animal without its family group or ecosystem really truly that animal? Not quite, for me. It’s all a bit decorative.
The witches, however, are presented as not all one group, and they seem less of a foil to humans than the bears do. I sense complexity in the way they conduct their lives and politics in the natural world. Perhaps it’s this underlying connection that allows them to send their daemons farther away? I haven’t been in the north very long, so there is lots more to reread about them.
omg you guys, there’s a new documentary about Andre Gregory and it’s playing at the art museum on Friday night!
After work I went through my current spiral notebook. It’s time to start working on my
next long project book again after a long break over the holidays, and I wanted to see what notes I’d made. (KFC is Monday, and I really want to have something. Anything. I no longer worry about wasting their time.)
There were a lot of one-page blocks I wrote in the early mornings, mostly recounting dreams. I have no memory of a lot of them, even when I read them in my own handwriting. But it’s still neat to know that my brain came up with Colin Powell trying to build a filing cabinet around me in the garage.
And this notebook had reminders that Louie’s last few months were hard, especially before we knew his death was imminent. The first page, August 29th, starts with
The dog doesn’t get off his bed now. He doesn’t come sleep on the bedroom floor to be with us. He’s here when I come out to the living room. Yesterday I got a wagging tail; today just a measuring look.
In his last few days, it was easy to be resigned and indulgent with taking him out all the time, and cleaning up after him. I forget that when the end was not quite in sight, it was much more adversarial:
There is this old dog, and he is trying to kill me. Or he is trying to get me to kill him, is what I would like to believe, because I want to. He is trying to kill me with guilt. He has watched our struggles with guilt all these years–it’s coming from inside the house!— as we do or don’t yell at him over puddles of pee on the floor. As we yank his leash, then hug him. He found it pretty funny, the whole thing, and now he is going to kill me by panting and stomping.
Jo Ann Beard wrote a beautiful essay with her old collie in it, and that is nothing like this, because I am sleep deprived, deprived of time without toenails clicking and dragging on the linoleum, time without panting amen.
And the next day:
The dog is whining from across the room. From seven to eight I ignore him. That is how we can live in peace. I don’t even know.
The notebooks will never be a representative sample of my emotional life, because I write more in some emotional ranges than others. They are a place to lie, too, and to alternate between bitter kvetching and making fantasy lists and schedules. But sometimes they remind me of some things. I save a few lines and then shove them in an overcrowded box in the basement, or recycle them. I no longer think anyone will want to pore over them in an academic library after I die. They do pile up.
The bookstore I dreamed about last night was small, just a few hundred square feet. The books on the first floor weren’t for sale, because their magic might not last if they were removed from the premises and because the store’s footprint was so tiny that it might run out of books if people bought the books and took them away.
But the first-floor books were pretty awesome. There were sequels you hadn’t known about to all your favorite series, and how-to books that came with the right equipment and exactly the right level of instruction to make you a master. (A couple of my friends were trying out the martial-arts ones in the store.) As I browsed, the owner unpacked a rack of brand-new yet somehow original-series Nancy Drew mysteries. And I found a novel by Stephen McCauley that had an author photo of him beaming! This was the Stephen McCauley book where he was happy and not cynical!
The second floor of the bookstore had the regular books, new books that you could buy and take home. The magic of the second floor was that the exact right book for you would come to hand. If you wanted, you could think about topics or questions as you browsed on the first floor, and when you got upstairs, the book addressing them would be waiting.
To get to the second floor, you had to go up a steep ladder and pull yourself over a carved wooden gargoyle. My head had just cleared the top of the ladder when my alarm went off. I was disappointed, but it was so clearly set up that way I also had to laugh.