Thursday, August 24, 2006

moving day

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The very first day I spent in this house, I stretched out head to toe on the couch and fell asleep. I was wearing a long green dress, which I never wore again, but that nap was prescient of so many naps I would take in the same position, on the same couch, in the same place, for years, so many years that I wonder if I ever woke up at all.

The very first day I spent in this house, I asked, in honest amazement, “what’s that?”, never having seen a washing machine so small. That was before I learned to live small, to operate that machine and navigate its programs with ease. That was before I learned a lot of things.

The very first night I spent in this house, I changed out of that long, green dress and into a short, sleeveless one, equally green. I was transported up a mountain where I ate wild greens with lemon and red pickled peppers, chalky goat cheese, and hard barley bread that I thought was stale. The wine I drank turned the city lights into a concert of stars. It was all so beautiful.

And now, the very last day I will spend in this house, my memories are mixed, those early passions dissipated. I’ve spent a lot of time alone here. It’s one of the things the house was good for. I’ve also spent a lot of time wishing I was alone here. Wishing lots of things. I wonder what ghosts I will leave behind in this house where my life changed forever, and then, didn’t change at all.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

summer reading

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I stopped work a few weeks ago, but before that, my prized student (this kid is a real prodigy) asked me to lend him a novel that he could read in English. He’s 15, so of course he asked for Stephen King or something similar. I’m not 15, so, despite my double- and triple-stacked shelves of books, I couldn’t find much of anything I thought he would like. Finally, I managed to glean a selection of “mystery” novels whose covers didn’t seem too overwhelmingly feminine. He chose a book called The Houdini Girl, which, as I told him, I remember reading with page-turning enthusaism a few years ago, but I couldn’t remember much about the plot, except that it was about a magician who weaves descriptions of his tricks into the story in an interesting way.

The kid loved the book. Every lesson he would ask me some unknown words he had encountered and tell me what was happening in the story. At some point, I started wondering how appropriate this book I had given him really was. (He was asking words like intimate and palpable -- very nice words, but I noticed some hedging on his part when I’d ask about their context.)

That’s okay, I decided. A little sex, some filthy trash (as one Amazon reviewer calls the book’s indiscriminate use of the f word) -- these are hardly disincentives for a 15-year-old boy doing extracurricular reading in a foreign language, in the summer, and on his own initiative. He even underlined key words as he read, as in the following passage:

Kim and I are in the foreground, the dreaming spires behind us; also behind us Rosa -- bending over, skirt raised and knickers lowered, to expose the dark cleft and twin white domes of her arse.

He finished the book, we finished our lessons, I got bored, and I decided to read it again myself. All I can say now, after rereading the book (which is actually quite good) and the kid’s annotations, is that I’m glad the book is safely back in my hands, and not his mother’s.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Piglet squid

[From an underwater image competition]

Definitely the cute animal of the day!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Women chanting

No, Greek Orthodox Easter is not now. I just came across this, and others like it, and kind of got stuck. It has nothing to do with religion --- or rather, it has everything to do with religion, but in that personal, non-religious, non-institutional, none-of-your-business kind of way.

Listen to it, if you feel like it...

PS. No terrorists in there, I hope, Sissy :-)

Word From Sun Ra

[From Amiri Baraka's self-published Razor.]

“You on the Space Ship Earth
& you outward bound
destination unknown.
But you haven't met the Captain
Of the space ship yet!"

Like the Dr. sd, suppose you actually believed
In God - but you don't....aint no reason to, mammy jammy
Don't exist-but suppose you actually believed
And therefore didn't understand that aint nobody
At the controls of this number...and them suckers
With the guns, is fighting to see who gonna be in charge
Of the crash!

If you was Shine, you would laugh
Cause you remember the real Titanic
And how them drowning ghosts
Was screaming your name
As you predicted Michael Jordan
With your Thelonius back stroke
From the Antarctic to Harlem River Drive.

But if you aint Shine, and don’t understand
That this space ship is a disaster gonna waste
Almost everybody in the sky sea and land

What can I say, and if I did say something
What wd it sound like to you and the ghost
And the deeply ill this explosion will kill

Say this, to answer that. . . .Aint much time
And Shine done sang his song. But you got
Any Sun Ra records or DuBois books?

You gon die
With the murderers
& crooks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

stem to stern

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Drawing by Eliane Duvekot

So I was reading through this contract today, a stem cell storage agreement, and I get to the required fields of mother’s surname, father’s surname, etc. Typical stuff. And yet, really, I had to think for a minute, what do my parents have to do with it?

And now that I’ve realized who the relevant parents actually are, I’m still asking myself, who are these people?

The months have flown by. If you don’t believe me, watch this video. It’s a cool project. Almost as cool as stem cell storage.

Friday, August 11, 2006

turning point

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a preferable breech

The house may not be on schedule, but the buka’s doing just fine. We’re at 36 weeks and change. I had been worried because, the last two doctor visits, she was upside-down, ie. right side up, her head under one breast, her butt under the other, and her long legs hanging down along my left side. The doctor said if she stayed in that position, I’d have to undergo a c-section two weeks before my due date. I’m neutral about the possibility of a c-section. I don’t think any woman can afford to be against it on principal, but neither would I choose it as a matter of convenience. Politics aside, I need all the time I can get; as I said, we’re cutting it close on the house.

I was really worried about that silly upside-down buka of mine, and of course I started looking inward for something to blame; I thought all my topsy-turvy emotions had her disoriented too.

And then a friend put a different spin on it for me. Maybe she likes to do things her own way, he said, a bit like her mum? And just like that, it all made sense. I was proud of the buka, her logic, her spunk.

I was equally happy to find out, yesterday, that she has in fact turned. She’s heading south, like a good baby should. And guess what -- she's upside-down and right side up! I know she’s going to keep me guessing, but I sense a cooperative spirit between us. We have an understanding.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

the gate crashers

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This is the gate to my new house -- and a bunch of junk that was removed from the house, there in a pile on the left. Oops. Gotta get that cleaned up, boys. In yet another immaculate stroke of absurdity, I have been informed of the ground floor neighbors’ insistence that, before the top two floors are reoccupied, a new gate be installed, to the left of the current gate, for the upstairs tenants’ use. I hope the picture makes clear that the distance between the two gates would be all of one meter, or less. A second gate would serve no purpose at all except to reinforce the idea that they were there first, and that we are the interlopers. All of that exterior space is communal property. Just because they put their fancy garden furniture and a few trees there doesn’t make that space theirs.

All this hostility… and we’ve never even met.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tame life

Just an addition to the recent Sounio wildlife collection...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Force majeure

About two years ago I single-handedly designed and built this magnificient, award-winning, one-of-a-kind trellis (I didn't know that's what you call these things, Sissy told me).

I designed and measured it, located the best and cheapest wood in the area, bought it, cut it, varnished it (3 hands), even came up with a clever way of setting it up without having to climb behind it (it's patent pending, don't ask).

A couple of months later it was summer '05, and I was eager to see all sorts of plants take home on it.

One year later, nature has completely taken over it! Cool!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

red tape cont'd

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glass doors, mosaic floors

One of the many things the Ministry of Defense wants from me (in two languages and six copies, thank you very much) is my criminal record. So I call the embassy to ask how to go about getting my criminal record. It sounded so ridiculous coming out of my mouth that way, since, in all honesty, I have no criminal record. A very helpful person tells me that all I have to do is “send my fingerprints and $18 to the FBI.”

Who knew the feds would be involved? I just want to buy a house. But now I know, if I didn't before, that there’s no way I can do everything that needs to be done in time to get my name on the contract. I’m okay with that.

Work on the house continues. The move has been set for August 25.

Yesterday I set off with my new cartoon haircut to find the office for my insurance papers. I found the address, but not the building. I called for help and got yelled at. I walked up and down that shadeless street 9,000 times. I ended up in tears feeling like the saddest pregnant person in the world.

Today I’m okay with that too.