the owl of minerva

Walking up the street into the park it seemed that all my pudgy neighborladies had decided to sit on their yards and work on the plants, flapping their armpurses about. In the park people, young and pseudo-young, were everywhere lying about exposing their pallid or improbably tanned flesh to the sun.

These spring days are lent sweetness by the knowledge that I will soon be away. I spent an hour strolling and smelling the apple-blossoms and magnolias. My fascination was apparently shared by the bees, who seemed to hover around the trees in humming clouds.

Spring in my neighborhood reminds me of how the 1950s were represented in Pleasantville. Everything seems so pastel and tidy. Enhanced by the fact that for the past few days the air quality has been particularly poor, giving the sunlight a viscous gold quality one only sees in particularly nostalgic movies.

For the first time in a while I feel as though my life is moving in a forward direction.

(no subject)

Well, I'm leaving for China in a week and a half, and mostly I'm terrified. My mother reminds me that I've been terrified before every major leap I've ever taken, which is only slightly consoling. Everyone tells me I'll do just fine, that it will be wonderful, but what the hell do they know about what goes on in my head?

(no subject)

I awoke from a sweaty dream of playing poker with bulging highschool teachers in empty classrooms to the recollection that my old friend Vincent has arrived to spend the weekend. We grew up half a mile from eachother: the sons of doctors and their wives, the smart kids in school, competing and playing together when we weren't fighting like cats and dogs. I suppose that, when I graduated from Klamath Falls, he was the closest friend I had thus far allowed myself. In my imagination, he is less clever, more consistent, less emotionally open, almost always correct, and always convinced of the unassailability of his own position. He finished law school this last year and just started working this last autumn for an international business law firm called White and Case in San Francisco.

I've been dreading Vincent's visit. Not only have I been feeling vastly inadequate and flaky in comparison to his new life, but I'm also still upset at how little time he spared me this last fall. When I responded to a casual email query of his with a sweaty and drunken outpouring of misery and doubt, he didn't reply until three weeks later with a terse message I could paraphrase as "Sorry, I've been too busy to respond, look at this link showing I just passed the bar exam." This was infuriating, but of course I didn't say anything at the time. Further communications were just about as terse, and by the holidays I'd more or less written him off as another casualty of the growing distance of my childhood. Of course, he called me on Christmas morning and invited himself to come visit at the end of January. I was so stunned I don't think I even realized that I had accepted his self invitation until a few days later.

This last week has been an increasing frenzy of "ohmygod look at my life, what are the Joneses going to think?" generally resolved by compulsively playing World of Warcraft, drugging myself into unconsciousness, lather, rinse, repeat. Despite this I managed to refinish some tables, bully Scott into helping me finish painting a few rooms, finish de-Martha-fying the upstairs, cut my hair, and generally tidy the domestic situation while deceiving myself that I was doing nothing of the kind. All of which culminated this morning in the first significant argument in weeks, when I asked Scott not to be drunk when Vince arrived, alcohol in this household frequently commencing at one in the afternoon, drunken-ness at three, and incoherence after six. Scott justly accused me of trying to pretend we were someone we weren't, and the argument lasted for about fifteen minutes before he conceded to my own terror and we spent 45 minutes walking through the park and talking about addiction and the emptiness of our lives.

Around eight, mere fifteen minutes after I yanked the pound cake from the oven and started my own first drink, Vince arrived on the doorstep in black and grey with matched luggage. More affable and less arrogant than I had conjured him in my memory, his self assurance seems complete. Scott pulled me aside at one point and said "I was expecting the Baron Harkonnen, instead I get his nephew." Vince and I spent the remainder of the evening talking about his job, my family, the increasingly unlikely China situation, our differing relationships with different kinds of alcohol, and the awkward reminiscences the various furies, gaffes, and extravagances of my childhood, of which he has an unpleasantly keen memory and a fondness for reminding me.

I suspect I shall again attempt to be honest with him tomorrow about where I am and what's going on in my life. I imagine it will be met with thoughtful response and infuriatingly useful advice of the kind that is always useless. Similar disclosures of insecurity on his part are vastly unlikely. I don't know how I'm going to keep him entertained for the next day and a half, but it can't be that difficult.

I tell myself this at 4:30, having been unable to sleep since 3:00.

(no subject)

In my grandmother's company one is always excruciatingly aware of the passage of time. When she moved from her own house to my aunts, she brought with her all of her clocks, which all decorate her room, clicking, whirring, sounding the hours. From the moment I arrived for my latest visit I counted the hours to each significant event: trips to the grocery store, dinner, afternoon naps, bedtime. I looked forward to each of these with an ambivalence that extended itself into the present moment - a pleasure and terror at the passage of time.

Her head and hands are remembrances of time. As long as I can remember my grandmother has dressed in the same sorts of shapeless utilitarian old-lady clothes, the only parts of her anatomy displayed to the world being her head, hands, and a bit of ankle between sock and pants when sitting. I have always thought her hands exquisitely beautiful: crumpled parchment and yellowing nails over ropy blue veins and knobby bones. Even when she was not yet so old, her hands proceeded her. Her face remembers time not so much because it looks ancient as that it looks older than it once did. Her formerly steel grey hair, always tightly permed and recently cut has become all white, alternately tufty and lank, disheveled. She's grown more moles and liver spots, dark circles under her eyes, more wrinkles than one could draw. I looked at her and could not help but be reminded of death.

I cannot decide whether, as she has grown older, she has become simpler or more complex. It is as though she is an equation, differentiating slowly as her life spins down. In my childhood I seem to recall her as firm but kind, clearly in that order. Her firmness seems now more a mist than anything, easily blown away by the contradictory wills of her innumerable heirs. Occasionally she will show a bit of the old rigidity, but it manifests itself now as querulousness, mostly, such as complaints that her daughter's kitchen should be so topsy-turvily ordered.

More and more, though, she seems to simply seek the affection and approval of those she is fond of. She asked me six or seven times over the course of her visit whether or not the way she was living her life now was okay. Despite the fact that she had several times previously told me she didn't want me to leave the country, she now hold's forth that I should go, and seems to have rallied that portion of the family which follows her to her banner. She has convinced my uncles and aunts who disapprove of practically everything I do that it is right and appropriate that I should go on.

While we avoided discussion of my 'lifestyle' in the company of my evangelical aunt and uncle, in private she showed a great deal of curiosity about this man I was living with. She spoke of the difficulties of 'coming out as they apparently call it' and how she found Ellen DeGeneres' talkshow to be one of the few things on television worth watching (along with Fox News, of course).

She poured forth story after story of her husband, her brothers and sisters, my father, stubborn old people who refused to leave home. Everything seemed to have a moral summing up, as though she were on the cusp of decision. She said to me "The only thing left I have to do now is figure out how to die."

Last night after we had agreed that my Uncle Otto should drive me to the station this morning, she said "Goodbye, Charlie." She said it with such finality and love I was sure I would never see her alive again. I stumbled up the stairs with my eyes full of tears, and they return now as I write this.

(no subject)

But oh how swift methinks this old moon wanes. Today, guests come to dinner. I am making crab boil. Ridiculously simple, but nevertheless restraining my unrestrained killy-kill-kill activities. I feel resentful toward the day already, though I've only been conscious for half an hour.

Need injection now.

(no subject)

In the words of many who have gone before me:

I am World of Warcraft's bitch.

Why, then, am I sitting here posting to all and sundry? Servers are what we like to call lag-a-delic.

Do not invest in this evil, for you will never break free.


I was taking off my shoes before today's Tai Chi Session and heard four languages, all being spoken at once by native speakers. Mandarin, French, English and Spanish, and they were all being spoken, with the exception of the spanish cell-phone conversation, by a native speaker and a non-native speaker. It was an amazing moment I don't think I've ever seen before, and yet I imagine that many people would find it perfectly commonplace. I feel suddenly provincial. No great surprise there.

Bloody peasant's back continues to stiffen, to the great dismay of all and sundry. Neck muscles in moderate irritation most of the day. I really must find a way to relax the combined effects of foes, family, and Chinese upon one's shoulders.

World of Warcraft comes out today - with the expected result to be that I will cease to be human for several days at the inside.

Well there you are. How d'you suppose they do that? Its a wonder. I'll let you go.

*runs off singing Python M.- "I like Chinese..."

(no subject)

I remember when I was younger and had to go to the dentist's I would get the most fabulous visuals when he was drilling. Apparently not so much any more. A few of the light fizzies that one associates with having whirled around in circles a few too many times, but... nothing on the order of transcendent eye squiggling teeth rotting visuals of my childhood.

Really rather disappointing, since they doped me up pretty good to solve my little cavity.

Perhaps I'm just more resistant to the drugs than I was formerly.

My mother's cat is moving out on Wednesday, and then the upstairs will once more be free from cat oppression (for however brief a time).

Keep thinking of what a lively time I had climbing Mt. Mohonk's rocks, and wishing that there were similar rock-climbs out here. It is always a good day when one can actually recall some of it more than a week after it. I remember rolling down a grassy hillside afterwards and rolling through some deer poo.