Tuesday 200 — #73
The universe was holding its breath. That’s how still it seemed.
We’re lying back in an inflated sea canoe, stalactites hanging inches above our faces, slowly drifting into the cave’s darkness. A scratch cracks the hush, the match’s spark explodes like an antique camera’s powdery strobe. Shadows dance. Bat wings flutter. The sulphuric whiff transforms to jasmine as our guide lights the kratong’s three sticks of incense (one each for teacher, Buddha, scripture). Tiny candles are also lit, flames like giant fireflies, illuminating our offering – a bouquet of origamied banana leaves, orchids and marigold blossoms attached to a slice of banana tree trunk. We’re told to make a wish and let it float alongside us.
I realize I have everything I could want, and yet wish for more.
We float out of the channel and into the hong, a miniature lake surrounded by jungle-draped cliffs. If the tide came in we’d be stuck there for hours. Kratongs sparkle alongside our fellow travellers, whispers of awe swirl above the flickering water garden.
We leave the way we entered. A full moon, pregnant with light, shines through the hungry ghost who now sits atop me, hissing, “you were greedy with your wishes.”
:: :: ::
January 28, 2008
Can You Hear That Whirring Noise?
Methinks it's the grindstone beckoning.
I'm heading back to Ye Ol' Language Academy in a bit. I haven't had to work since well before Christmas, going on six weeks now, I reckon. I wonder if I remember how to teach? This week's
victim student is a French Mattel executive who works on Barbie.
I thought that I'd ease back into the real world thing, but it seems I was mistaken. Nothing like coming back to a full schedule.
Monday: teaching in the afternoon, a writing workshop, drinks with out-of-town friends
Tuesday: stand-by* in the morning, teaching in the afternoon, Life Clubs in the evening an then some big Radio party afterwards
Wednesday: am standby/pm teaching, kd lang at the Hammersmith Apollo
Thursday: am standby/pm teaching, reading at The Poetry Cafe for the Your Messages launch
Friday: am standby/pm teaching, book next flight back to Thailand after I've realized all this busy busy busy is too much.
I also have some flat hunting/viewings to do over the week (the one we pretty much decided on ended up not wanting to rent it unfurnished), a rough draft of story to write for next Monday's class, some grad school applications to begin, taxes to file, and a couple of Thai tales to write up and share with y'all.
When it rains, it pours.
* Stand-by is actually a pretty good gig. You show up, fill in for anybody who calls in indisposed or do some light admin work. I can live with that.
January 27, 2008
Here's a little something that I read for the Tales of the Decongested short shorts last month.
This is one of those creative non-fictions, or perhaps a fiction based on half-truths. Some of it's real, some of it's not.
One thing that is real right now is that my Grandma's house has been turned into a hospice. The "touch" of cancer I mentioned a couple weeks ago is in her pancreas and has spread to her liver, so it's basically pain management and home hospice for the dear old gal.
She turned 91 a couple days ago. Apparently she was a little tired today, because she stayed up half the night playing euchre with one of her grandkids. She loves her cards, Grandma does. And what better way to pass the time than throwing down bowers and winning tricks while hopped up on narcotics?
Gee, sounds me in college.
Five Feet Forward ...
Three come back.
Poor kitty Baby Girl is not only losing her fifth leg, but is going to end up a tri-pod.
January 25, 2008
I've Never Seen So Many Smiles
You know those holidays when you've had a great time but towards the end you're just ready to go home?
This was not one of them.
I'm not ready to leave. Two nights in Bangkok (let alone one) are not enough. And there's still so much more of the country to see.
Oh well, I've learned one of the keys to Buddhism is letting go of attachment. I guess that means I have to let go of this vacation. Or maybe let go of my attachment to comfortable flats (living spaces, not shoes) and people who speak a language I understand and come live here for a spell.
More from Blighty over the weekend, maybe even a picture or two.
January 21, 2008
Seeking Thrills, Finding Peace
Or is that seeking peace and finding thrills?
Not much blogging time as I've been pretty Thai-ed up the past few days.
Thanks very much, I'm here all week, try the Lad Nar.
The trip's been lovely so far. A couple of adventures and lots of relaxing. I keep bouncing between two heads ... one that says I should be doing more with my time here (Must. See. And. Do. Everything.) and the other says you're at a spa on a quiet beach on a Thai island, so just chill.
And that got me on a big think about the pros and cons of controlling versus letting go and how there is a dichotomy there. A controlled meditation (or yoga, or writing) practice can lead to letting go. But if you try too hard to just be in the moment, then things can go out of control.
And we breathe and journal and hope that a short story comes out of this someday.
I did have a lovely moment of post-massage zen this afternoon, sitting on a terrace, listening to waterfalls and bullfrogs, watching a tiny sailboat, pinkish-white in the sunset's reflection, slowing drift across the bay in front of me. I sort of wished I had a camera, but if I ran back to the room, my ginger tea would have grown cold and I'd have lost the moment anyway.
Tomorrow is the "hong by starlight" sea canoe trip. No no no, it's not all massages and ladyboys and shots of tequilla with the bar manager and his boys (Choke, Tom, Mo, and Joke ... no lie) ... we're thrillseekers as well.
International thrillseekers. Yup, that's us.
January 16, 2008
Fuggit, let's go to Phuket
Argh. I'm feeling a little discombobulated. Been running around for the past few days and I'm not quite sure exactly where my head is. But don't feel bad for me because we're walking out the door about an hour to go to Thailand for 9 days.
In the meantime ...
* I may or may not write a Tuesday 200 for yesterday and/or next week. We'll just see what happens on the plane, at the beach, etc.
* We've found a few places that might be suitable to move to, but have balked on making any offers till we get back. If they're meant to be, they'll be on the market in nine or so days. If not, then kay sarah kay sarah.
* My grandma's in the hospital with a touch of the pancreatic cancer. This cannot be good. I hope she stays pain free and that she's getting the rest she needs and/or wants. She's quite the trooper, and deserves absolutely no discomfort. Any body that sees her, please remind Bunny I love her very very much.
* I've got a 'cheery' little ditty being published on Six Sentences tomorrow. Go on over and have a gander if you like. There's some great writing that goes up there every day, and I'm chuffed to have a few more turning up there over the next few weeks as well. I'll keep you posted.
* The beach beckons.
January 13, 2008
Do You Own Your Organs?
The headlines today are buzzing with a proposed new policy about automatic organ donation.
Anybody feel strongly one way or the other? I really don't see the downside, unless people start stalking others for their dirty pretty things. And near as I can tell, we haven't had a "they stole my kidney" story for a really long time.
Hmmm, I probably could use a new liver. But really, it would be a lot of work to find a non-drinker who has my blood type and then start stalking them, accidentally tossing banana peels in their path.
I guess the bigger question is should the government have the right to create an "opt out" rather than "opt in" system, using the dead to prolong its living citizens' lives?
Or should we just start cloning? Oh, wait, I read that novel (don't click if you don't want a spoiler ... but then you won't know what book I'm talking about. How's that for a Catch-22?)
January 12, 2008
Losing My Cool
We were strolling through Potential New Neighborhood this afternoon, timing how long the walk was from Potential New Flat to Potential New Tube Stop. A couple blocks into the adventure, Larry said, "Well look who it is."
Expecting to see someone I knew, or maybe the estate agent, I turned to see Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter pushing a stroller with a toddler in tow.
Being the epitome of non chalant coolaciousness, and being well-versed in the rules about casually ignoring celebrities (especially in their own spaces), I immediately beelined towards them and said something to the effect of, "Hi we saw Sweeney last night at BFI and thanks so much for the talk afterwards it was a great production and you probably don't remember but we've met before it was after a play I did several years ago at La MaMa in New York you were in the audience it was a show by Tony Ingrassia remember him and he introduced us after and do you live in the neighborhood because we're thinking of moving here just down the road in fact and my name's Bob by the way and this is my partner Larry and I 'm sure you don't recall but I was the one who played a twisted doctor who cut a woman's breast off on stage with a straight razor so I thought it was funny what with all the straight razors in Sweeney which we really really enjoyed it's a fantastic film congratulations to both of you ..."
He offered one hand (while holding on tighter to the pram with the other) and said, "Yes, right, nice to see you again" as they all kept walking and pushing the baby away from the rambling American madman.
A few blocks later I realized I talked pretty much mainly to him (since we'd already met albeit a decade ago and he'd probably never gotten my bloody mastectomy out of his mind) and, OH NO I didn't specifically complement HBC on her performance, which, in all honesty (and without an iota of star-fuckerdom) I thought was brilliant.
Maybe we'll become neighbors and I can tell her at the housewarming. I'm sure they'll want me to babysit.
And that was just one tiny little stop in my day aboard The Crazy Train™.
January 11, 2008
Attend the Tale of Duvet Bob
You know those really crappy, gray, rainy mornings when you walk into the office and commiserate with your colleagues, saying "this is the perfect day to be hiding under a duvet with a stack of books"?
Today was one of those days. I got up, made a cup of coffee, grabbed a few books, a journal, a couple of my favorite pens and walked back to the bedroom. I slid under the duvet, listened to the rain pelt against my window, filled my head with prose from Anne Tyler and Heather Sellers, did some scribbling in my notebook, and had a delicious mid-morning, rain-induced nap.
Too bad enrollment at school is down this week. I could very well have been teaching idioms and collocations. But no, I had a perfect day instead.
Tonight we saw Sweeney Todd. I think it's a fantastic production, and it was especially cool to see it in London and then walk out of the cinema and be on the bank of the Thames, only a couple centuries and a couple of kilometers from where it was set.
January 10, 2008
Sarah Dip and Tea
I was intrigued by a talk they're sponsoring next month on "Encouraging Serendipity." Just who is this Serendipity (a disgruntled child of a flower-child?) and why does she need bolstering?
ADD turned my attention to a copy of yesterday's G2, which my table's previous patron had so kindly left behind. On the cover was an extreme, and less than flattering, close-up of Mrs Clinton, with the caption "The Power of Tears by Germaine Greer." Having been intrigued by Hillary's bout with the waterworks (or at least the media's coverage of it) and yet not really having read up on it, I found the leftover Guardian to be, well, at least a bit serendipitous.
And then I started wondering if I wasn't confusing serendipity with synchronicity.
Watching Hillary Clinton pretending to get teary-eyed is enough to make me give up shedding tears altogether. The currency, you might say, has become devalued. ... Hillary's feeble display of emotion, while answering questions from voters in a cafe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Monday, is supposed to have done her campaign the world of good. If it has, it's because people have wished a tear into her stony reptilian eye, not because there actually was one.
Okay then. Right. Germaine’s not a big Hillary fan, is she? Although, I will agree (after watching the clip my homestate correspondent forwarded to me) that I'm not certain the big H actually cried. Seems to me she just softened her voice and got all winsome trying to win some votes (apologies to Stephen Schwartz).
As I read Ms Greer's velvety verbage, guess what song was being piped through through the coffee shop's speakers?
And I thought, wow! Serendipity! Or was it synchronicity? Or just the miracle of a shuffling soundtrack (and me without my iPod turned on).
And before I misjudge your limits, or push you too far, I'll end this by wondering if perhaps there just is no cure for coincidence?
January 9, 2008
Paulie Bleeker Totally Rocks
It is has quickly found its way to a very high position one the list of my all-time favorite movies. Ever. If it hasn't been released in your city, then you should move. Or schedule a road trip.
Don't know what's in the water, or why there's a tide of teenage pregnancy lately, but having recently read Slam (btw, cover art much better in UK than US) and just watched Juno tonight, well I'm really sad I decided to give up that baby back in high school.
January 8, 2008
Tuesday 200 — #72
We got the prettiest invitation in the mail today. Right fancy. Shelia from next door saw it, she was over for a cup of coffee and a slice of rhubarb pie when the mail come. Says it’s hand engraved on something called translucent vellum and they ain’t got nothing like that down at the Kinko’s. Says Jonah must have spent a near fortune. Upwards of a four or five bucks a shot, depending on how many he had made up. Hell, he musta won the lottery or something.
That Jonah, you never know what he’s gonna come up with. Remember when he and Connie had us all over to watch “The Poseidon Adventure” on his video tape machine and then turned all the furniture over when the boat flipped? Then he kept rewinding it and making Connie hold her breath when that fat lady swam underwater. Ha!
He’s asked us all down to The Cherokee next Saturday for something called a “Happy Ex-iversary party.” Says it’s been one year of freedom and it’s high time to celebrate. One year already. Has Connie been gone that long?
Seems like just last month the sheriff was around, asking all them questions.
:: :: ::
January 7, 2008
Who's the Daddy?
It seems I am. Blog daddy, that is.
Ladies and germs, boys and berries, I'm proud to present the newest member of the blogosphere, my darling Daisyfae at Trailer Park Refugee.
And she's introduced me to a new favorite read, Nurse Myra ... who's "about" page should pretty much make anybody want to read her regularly.
Good news: Saw two new flats today, both very livable and we agreed on which of the two we favored.
More good news: Seeing more tomorrow.
Better news: We booked the garden leave holiday this morning. We leave next Wednesday evening for nine days. Wanna know where? Here's a clue. Odd, I thought we'd narrowed it down to Mauritius, the Maldives or Goa. Never a dull moment.
Interesting news: Meeting with the department head of MA in Creative Writing program on Wednesday. I'm pretty sure I want to grad school in the fall, at least when I'm not arguing with myself about being too old, too wishy-washy, too unfocused, too neurotic, too blah blah blah.
Weird news: Seriously ... what's happening to all the dinner forks? We're down to five.
Question of the day: Where did Richard LaGravenese go wrong? The Ref is one of my all-time favorite films. Living Out Loud and The Fisher King are inspired (or at least have moments of inspiration*). I saw P.S. I Love You last night and inspired is not a word that comes to mind. Though if one were playing Scrabble and had those letters, all one would need is another 'i' and one could spell an appropriate adjective.
* I worked with a woman in Chicago who was RL's ex. She says (if memory serves) she used to run around the apartment yelling "I'm Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and I can't find my baby." Boys are horrible ... they'll smash your heart then steal your catchphrase.
January 6, 2008
I Had a Dream
Many years ago, I went to a healer in New York. She really was quite amazing ... lots of energy work along with very deep massage and some chakra cleansing/alignment.
During one of my treatments, she told me she sensed a lot of psychic energy, and that if I ever had a dream about her, I should let her know immediately.
I never dreamed about her.
Over the last two nights, I've had dreams which have included a long lost friend of mine. The dreams weren't necessarily about her, but she's had a significant guest starring role.
The other recurring theme is that, in both dreams, there was news that someone I know has died. Both people are very much alive (as far as I know) and while they're not in my day-to-day doings, they're are often in my thoughts.
I won't name names for fear of jinxing things, and I'm certainly not going to ring them up and say, "Hi, long time no talk ... just been dreaming about you ... and your death ... yeah, right ... Happy New Year to you too ... cheers."
What is it that Freud said, "sometimes a funeral procession is just a funeral procession."
No ... that can't be right.
January 4, 2008
Looking at Gardens on Garden Leave
We began an earnest search for new digs this afternoon. It's no longer about walking around neighborhoods and peering into windows of lettings offices. We've stepped up our game and are now meeting with estate agents (one who looks like an undertaker-in-training) and going on walkthroughs of overpriced, under-refurbished properties.
My spirits remained remarkably (and uncharacteristically) undaunted.
We started small, both in the scope of our search and in size of the properties. We saw three 2-bedroom mews houses all within spitting distance of B2.
I think the cats would be very content in any of them. Of course, they'd have to live there on their own because there's not really room for two humans alongside them. Okay, I exaggerate. There's room for one human. And we really can't afford adjoining mews ... although that does have a certain Tim Burton / Helena Bonham Carter appeal to it.
My initial thought was they'd be great starter flats for single people who had no furniture. None of the bedrooms we saw would accommodate our bed, let alone chests of drawers, side tables, bureaus, etc. I didn't want to sound negative right off the bat, so I bit my tongue. Fortunately, they were too spartan for even my spartan Canadian, who would be happy in a studio with a telly. Me, I prefer something more the size of a television studio.
I admit. We're spoiled in this place. It's much more grand than anything we might have found on our own, but Citi gave us a housing allowance and it was use it or lose it. So we used it, and in the course of two years I've gotten used to living in the equivalent of a medium-sized house right in the smack dab of Central London. I knew at the beginning it wouldn't be forever ... but still.
Change is good. Change is good.
On Monday we're looking at (at least) three new spaces in and around Belsize Park, with our new friend Tom (who does not look like a keeper of caskets). On paper, the properties look quite attractive. I'm especially excited about the 2-bedroom split-level on England's Lane, complete with a kicky wooden staircase that leads up to a private panoramic roof deck. It looks kind of loftish ("semi-open plan", they call it) and the neighborhood seems great. We had an early (and very tasty) dinner at the Washington, which could be one of our new locals, and it had a homey, laid-back feel to it with a friendly staff, including a one-armed barman.
If the split-level doesn't work, there's a nice place down the road from there with a garden (that's a back yard for all you Yanks), a gas-powered fireplace in the living room, and an eat-in kitchen. I would love to have a proper eat-in kitchen, with loads of counter space. I'm all about having "space" these days, and becoming less inclined to go out. See? I am getting old. But not so old that I want to move to the suburbs. We're all for easing out of our comfort zone ... but only one step at a time. So we'll dip our toes into Zone 2 and see how the water is.
I guess we'll probably have to give up the American-sized fridge, and it looks like we're going to be hard-pressed to get a utility room with a washer *and* dryer (everything seems to be a w/d combo (ugh), but one never knows. I suppose an ice-maker is going to be totally out of the question. Oh well, at least we don't have to refrigerate red wine.
I know. I'm spoiled ... but I've had an ice maker for the past nine years, and it's hard to go backwards in one's food preparation conveniences.
But then again, if we have decent water pressure, plumbing that doesn't crap out (pun intended) every two weeks, a dishwasher that works (ours has been on the fritz since Thanksgiving), and hot water that actually comes out of the taps (which has been missing for four of the past six days), we'll be a step ahead of our fashionable Marylebone digs. I can now honestly say I know what it's like to live in a cold-water walk up.
The good news is we don't have to find a place within any given time frame, and we've always been very lucky in finding a place to rest our heads/receive mail/come in from the cold (or whatever it is that makes you call a place "home").
January 3, 2008
The Lime Green Gloves of a Dead Woman
Okay, I know this is going to be one of those posts that will leave the majority of you scratching your heads. But the rest of you will no doubt see the genius that struck me (ow!) while walking through the cold, drizzly streets of London this afternoon.
Really, any show will do ... just put them all together on one stage.
January 1, 2008
So Many Bobs ...
When I was back in the States, and Canada, during the North American Xmaspalooza tour, I had several people say, “I read your blog every day. Sometimes I think you’re hysterical, sometimes touching, and other times I have no idea what the hell you are talking about.”
One of Larry’s uncles told me that. He also patted my stomach and said, "I see London's treating you well." The bastard ... you'd think he'd have been kinder at a funeral and all. (Hi Fred.)
Then a blood relative said pretty much the same thing a few days later. (Hi Dad.)
I ventured back to New York where I ran into one of my fashionable hipster friends, and she repeated the sentiment. (Hi Christine.)
Curious. I didn’t think I was all that obscure.
Anyway, I saw Todd Haynes' new film tonight and apparently I'm in good company.
I liked a good deal of I'm Not There. I thought some of the performances were stellar and found many of the images compelling (although just what was a giraffe doing in the
Deadwood Billy the Kid segment?)
Apparently, I'm in the good company of many of my readers, as I walked out of the cinema scratching my head and asking, "Can someone please explain that to me?"
Unfortunately, my date for the night (being more of a Todd Haynes than Bob Dylan fan) could not. (Hi Anthony.)
So ... anyone got any insights?