Posts Tagged ‘london’

Getting rid of some books, part 2

Another small round of decluttering. I spent most of the day in bed reading 5 Miss Marple novels. They are so classist and racist and sexist and full of horrible gender stereotypes but they are oddly satisfying because there are so many active women characters in them who are smart, powerful, shrewd, or who have other positive qualities – usually, they pass the Bechdel test very well. I kind of enjoy the classist bits because they make particular attitudes about class very clear – as in girls’ series books.

- The Mirror Crack’d. The neurotic American film star at the top of the stairs whose baby was born “mentally defective” and was put away in a home. Ugh! Makes one appreciate how times have changed. Sly blackmailing secretary with a nasal atomizer. Scatterbrained, gardening Mrs. Bantry whose house it use to be. Arty photographer girl from London. Busybody self centered organizing woman who does a ton of charity work (victim). Stupid parlormaid (victim) though not actually a parlormaid, is temporary help from, uh, the village. Or something.

- A Carribean Mystery. Miss Marple on some tropical island. Casual racism. Nice young couple who own a hotel. Stuffy old bore who tells stories of shooting lions in Africa, and murders (victim). Black parlormaid (victim) blackmailer. Cantankerous semi-paralyzed old man, Mr. Raffiel, who is insanely rich and who teams up with Miss Marple. His snoopy male secretary/valet/masseur. His widowed assistant/nurse/attendant.

- Nemesis. Sequel to Caribbean Mystery. Mr. Raffiel leaves a mysterious mystery to Miss Marple. Gardening tour. Middle aged ladies (I liked them.) Three sisters who live in a decaying old house. Many interesting references to a bad girl from the village who has been running around with boys since she was 12 (victim). Pure schoolgirl with heart of gold from days of yore (victim). Saintly, powerful headmistress of a school (victim). Miss Marple seems quite old in this book and it is suggested she might die in the next year or so.

- What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw. Miss Marple’s friend witnesses a murder on a passing train. Good character of the insanely competent university educated woman, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, who chooses to be an incredibly high paid domestic servant instead of academia, in order to have an independent life. Big family. Cantankerous old Mr. Crackenthorpe and his various children who want to inherit his cash and estate.

- The Body in the Library. Mrs. Bantry, much younger and still living in her enormous estate which was later bought by the neurotic film star in Mirror Crack’d. Arty, scandalous film people. A hotel in a nearby village or town where idle people seem to come and stay for an entire season, dancing, playing bridge, taking tennis lessons, and being secretly scandalous. Hotels seem to routinely keep a staff of “hosts” who mix with the guests and play up to them (as in Caribbean Mystery)

Why am I poisoning my mind with this crap! I have so many nice books to read!

Other books on the way out:

* Our National Parks vol. 1 and 2 (from the 50s, with cool illustrations)
* Several other very old guidebooks to parks and regions and beaches
* Sew Simply, Sew Perfect (for its 1960s-ness and basic concepts)
* Comparative Mythology by Puhvel (textbook?)
* How the Irish Saved Civilization
* The Voice of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job (???)
* The New Golden Bough
* Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga
* The Book of the Dead – dover thrift of the Wallis Budge version. Tempted to keep this one.

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Russian gangsters and Japanese philosophers, side order of trauma

Life has been a curious mixture lately with a bit of horrible intense drama and a bit of slack and routine, cramps and whining and sleeping late; yet as usual, though I think I’ve been doing nothing, when I look back and count up, everything seems so full, so good, so luminous. I feel like I’m riding a giant wave, exhilarating, heady with power. I have worked long days with the good feeling of knowing what I’m doing, being useful. I’ve had some bad days physically, and emotionally, but also, kept my shit together, and have a brain full of ideas and books. What I love, I love to be thinking and getting new information, playing, talking, looking at things with my awareness open. This week despite emotional lows I am full of poetry… I am Having an Interesting Life I suppose…

I’m reading a fantastic book that the SkaRat recommended to me, called I Am A Cat, published in 1905. It’s so good! It’s hilarious & sad. The introduction laid out charmingly how the author- Soseke Natsume – was something of a failure in his career & as a scholar – his teaching career sort of crappy – his pittance of a scholarship to go to London – which he mostly failed at because he hid in his room for 2 years doing nothing but reading a ton of books. OMG… my kind of person. It is all the cat’s pomposity and charm as he observes Human Nature… the scribblings of his human & the funny (catty!) conversations of the slack-ass scholar’s obnoxious, pretentious, half-assed friends. I keep thinking that surely the different characters sketched out must be making fun of particular figures from some intellectual scene in Japan at the time. I love the translation… it flows beautifully and succeeds in being funny (or at times in conveying that something complicated has just happened that would be funnier in Japanese, which as a translator, I appreciate).

I am also still reading the Crypt0 book but it is lost in the house somewhere. It is very good. Though… has that annoying golly-gee drooling P0 Br0nson flavor to it where you just want to go, Jesus, get a room already with your dreamy-eyed hacker boys. At least it does make it clear – the homosocial nature of geek culture. It was odd to read of what’s his face staying in McC’s house where I worked too. I could picture it (not the specific physical setting – I mean that I know the atmosphere well.) It explained some things to me about the feeling of working there and what was expected – expectations that one would have a sort of salon of underemployed geniuses who do your domestic labor and settle in a bit like extended family – not that I don’t appreciate some of the judgements and sentiments of that – but a fate I would particularly like to avoid from either side of the equation, underemployed genius side, or benevolent salon-aspiring employer whose homoerotic bonding time period had sadly passed with N. and M. in the late 50s and early 60s. Honestly the more I contemplate that looming fate for myself the more I want to do it co-op style or not at all. Anyway, read Crypt0 book and besides the actual ideas, thought of the cultural phenomenon where you do what RS4 did and ride your collective exhilarating wave of thought & collaboration, but it is not permanent, like having a brilliant rock band, and you may never get that synergy again in life, which seems awfully melancholy. One would just refuse to believe it.

My other book has been Godfather of the Kremlin which ummm what’s his name in Brussels recommended during a moment when I felt like there was no possible conversational topic since I was not really part of their work meeting, did not share their wonky knowledge of their topic, and did not want to talk about myself, so I asked this obviously interesting person what unusually good books he woudl recommend. It was this one. I’m enjoying it greatly… it’s super business-politics wonky and explains Russia in the 90s and specifically how Berezovsky and other capitalist gangsters looted the country during privatization… the whole thing with the vouchers is so horribly fucked up.. and I was deadly fascinated with the aeroflot story – the textbook case of how to loot a company you don’t own.

The emotional stuff has been difficult, I have felt intense about my physical issues and had a lot more pain this week, and also, had some fights with Rook over things, which brought up more issues for me than I know how to rightly deal with myself. It kind of brought up old family issues for me. I have particular difficulties when people are angry with me. Oh, can’t I be a grownup and not think back on things that happened over 20 years ago — haunted by ghosts? I understand ghosts now. I am happy with myself- and yet – not. Also, trying to face the ways in which I am, actually, an asshole. That’s hard! Rook is also very stressed in his job and this is his last week. He quit! I’m so glad he did, and think it is the right decision. I find it fairly easy to talk about most of my emotional problems or issues or dilemmas but he does not and I did not realize what he has been through. I also felt like, last year, with my health problems, I wanted him to have more support, he did not, I did not know how to provide it, I had my own issues and needed emotional support which he didn’t really know how to do either. I hope that is clear, yet vague… I was caught up in my loop of cranky pain, hating myself for not being able to be happy and full of attention and cheerful – hot and sweaty – upset with life – thining that i have not done enough – and that if I am in pain now, I might be in more tomorrow, or unable to even get up and therefore i should use the last of my strength to clear the laundry off the floor and make the room less disgusting – in case I am stuck in it for days – and thus trying to chivvy everyone else around me suddenly to clean and wanting to cry at being The Nag and also full of resentment at needing or wanting help and/or at years when it was my job to do the housework – And the reality of it is that we screamed at each other at the top of our lungs about housework… I am embarrassed… and that spilled over into arguing about everything – but I need to talk about it. I think we made it up and had a good conversation. And for some people that might be normal and part of life, but for me, not. Meanwhile I thought lately that things were calmer with a person who I mortally offended last year causing endless drama and pain, and yet who will not attempt to work that out with me in any way. I wish we could just sit down and talk. Or, if not, then I wish she would step off, keep her emotional pain to herself, and not lay it on me and people close to me. For various reasons, we are peripheral to each others’ lives. And we have to accept that and negotiate some way to tolerate that. That’s what I think. I can do it if they can. But, terribly, I feel that unholy feeling that something is being projected as being part of me, when it is actually that other person. In other words, that they have major boundary problems and the exact problems they have, they are attributing to me, and that, somehow, while not my Fault really, is partly because of my own strong personality, stubbornness, and what is either my assholishness or shininess depending; so that I am horribly aware that if I were somehow Lesser of a person, there would not be a problem; yet because this other person and I are both rather Rocketship in our approach to life, they bristle and cannot tolerate and I bristle and cannot back down.

I admire an uncompromising, unconventional person who has a strong personality, very much, often even when they position themselves in opposition to me or they clearly hate me or find me annoying as all fuck. A person who insults me, I can often look past the insult, and see the information. I also have Theories about how as a society we need people who don’t have great filters and who ignore social cues. I am one of them… But you know, some people are more extreme than me…. I appreciate what is good about them. Holy crap though, I don’t mean anything bad. If I’m offending, just tell me to my face… would the world end?

Other people have their own childhood-families and their own ghosts and histories… I am aware… So I will think about my responses to anger (paralysis, trapped, need to flee… flight reflex… ) and try to be easy on a person who has their own baggage, that I might trigger. But, it is not fair to the person triggering it, not to tell them or talk to them. I can’t erase myself, and won’t go away. The things thrown at me or accusations — and the tangible results of that — bring up my own irrational painful issues; abandonment in general. Therefore it seems logical to attempt negotiation, even if that is crazy moon language. Though I would just plain like the chance to explain myself, I would also willingly shut up and listen, not say anything, go away and think about it, and try not to go on the defensive etc. I see no need to hash it all out, but to establish reasonable boundaries, and what are the actual goals of talking at all. I do not expect some buddy buddy outcome here. I just want not to cause suffering to a person, and not to suffer their emotional outbursts and the effect direct or indirect they have on my life. I feel okay that I am saying this on my blog, and that I called the person to make the direct and sincere offer of “let’s talk”.

Meanwhile. Moomin has had “camp” which is really just day care, at his old school from a year ago, and though I thought he would find it boring, he seems to be having fun playing that he is squirrels with Jos3lyn and Mar1s0l and their entourage, and in the corners of time, reading Nancy Drew books. I had a call that he bumped his head, during a meeting at work, and ducked out to hear him sobbing with ice on his head, could tell he was okay but rattled, went to get him, admired the enormous bump on his head as he ran around and begged me to stay just long enough to have the ice cream sundaes… and enjoyed seeing the kids myself that I used to play board games with at recess… J0anna and the others…. I thought of M4rcus who was the most hawk like of them all and full of scorn and who could almost beat me at chinese checkers. (I would not insult him by letting him win – he was too smart not to see through that and be offended.) I miss getting to be a little bit involved at the school.

It has been 100 degrees or over – unbearable in the house – I got home today from SF, got the old library books, picked up Moomin (braving the horrible hill) and took him to the library. Worked a bit – looked up books with him – the Pilot met us there with Peanut who wants to play computer games – Moomin found a Nancy Drew and several books with magic & dragons in them – Maybe I can make it a custom to go there with him in the evening one night a week and just sit and read. We all went to the new Japanese restaurant on Main and Rook met us there. It’s not really very good… alas… I would not go there again … H1guma is still best in town. We had a nice dinner though. Moomin is eating more foods. He gets into the idea that it is korean food (will eat kim bap, fried tofu, the pickled gourd or radish thingies, and the other day with me and Rook at the korean restaurant in mtn. view he wanted to learn to read hangul characters. I am happy he has an interest but mostly just happy he will now eat more than 10 different things, 5 of them fruit.

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On Sunday Dinners, Cities, Pubs, Middle and Old Age

I have various observations from my trip, written on the plane from Heathrow to LAX in a 5am delirium.

Out of London
We packed, cleaned, and got on a train to Ch3lmsford to visit Z.’s family, for Sunday dinner. Everything still seemed new to my eyes as we left London and forayed out into fields and suburbs. J. picked us up at the station to drive us the long way round through a Sc4recrow Fete (the first time I’ve heard anyone say that word aloud, I think) which I didn’t care about though the drive was nice. What I was really looking at was how people set up their houses and gardens, at shop fronts and billboards; they all reminded me of the rural bits of R.I. in New England near where I grew up in the summers. The architecture (maybe the time period) of the buildings was the same in some subtle way I couldn’t pin down that wasn’t just about snow and being built of bricks.

The Rules of (not) Saying Hello
I had another observation of going through streets and train stations. I had read in Watching the English that people don’t say hello to strangers and in fact they don’t even look at you in the face or nod – it feels wrong and rude to do that, but it is my instinct because in the U.S. if you are walking past someone in a long corridor or on the street you would at least meet eyes and give a little nod as you pass and you might say “how’re you” or “good morning” in a perfunctory way to someone in an elevator. Certainly in Latino neighborhoods, “how are you/como está” or you are eye-rollingly rude. Here in London I think that would be a sign of madness, over-familiarity that might be a dangerous challenge or open hostility, as if by boldly meeting someone’s eyes, you might be about to steal someone’s wallet — like gorillas smiling to bare their teeth. This puts people in a bind, as they become disconcerted around me and want to leap to open a door or see if I need help but they are prevented from speaking to me by the Rules of Not Saying Hello. It’s extremely amusing!

the pleasures of essex
So, back to the pleasures of Essex, which the saying of the name to anyone carries a load of irony and meaning which I don’t understand but which is equivalent of bemoaning the fact of having come from Modesto, or Nebraska, a flat boring place full of sameness, hay, and hicks. To my eyes it was perfectly new, picturesque, with tall grass or wheat in the fields, little fields charmingly separated by lines of trees or hedges rather than the very ugly barbed wire or chain link I would expect, roads that had character and curve from organic and long development rather than being laid out by a surveyor’s line in an “empty” land seized all at once, parceled out and fenced. The suburbanness I found oddly reassuring as after all I am mostly a suburban creature. So the malls and the equivalent of big-box stories and in fact the very boringness of things were all interesting especially as I considered the things alike in Z. and I and in how deeply he must have chafed at growing up there with his dreamy nervous energy and free roaming thoughts and desire for companionship, for social quickness of mind, and whatever else drives him or drove him then — as I did in the distant outskirts of Houston with its miles and miles of cowfields, metal-buildinged strip malls, and housing developments. (At least he had buses and trains! My god!) The narrow scope of the world and yet thick material comforts, mixed, bourgeois paradise, with definite allure.

Parsnips are the bomb
Immune to family weights and subtleties or nearly so (and securely knowing I could not possibly come off worse than particular others even if I was gauche and also, scandalously married; plus i hosted his family at my house; plus, they are just nice) I had a really lovely time, one of the best dinners ever with actual roast beef carved in slices along with at least 6 kinds of boiled vegetables (which seemed nearly unbearably exotically English like what people eat IN BOOKS) and including PARSNIPS which I don’t think I’ve ever seen and which I could not stop devouring – they were so delicate and faintly caramelized – better than yams and almost as good as plantains. AND apple crumble with … custard sauce? and TRIFLE. I tried to act casual but I know Z. knew how funny and exciting it was. Again, please imagine if you can possibly how strange this was. So aside from my marvelling at how stereotypes and things in books really are true, and my absolute & embarrassing uncontrollable greed for parsnips and custard (separately), one of the more pleasant things was how alike his family’s Sunday dinner was to my mom’s families’ sunday dinners (though we had our own Exotic Stereotype of incredibly great Italian food) at the leaf in the table, the lace tablecloth on top, and how the extended family would stay and play cards far into the night. (Though his did not, it had that feeling like they might have 30 years ago.) I missed his nephew (the MindWind Monkey) and worried over him in the hospital. His other (charming) nephew had a fine time with me and my amazing TWO COMPUTERS and my willingness to learn from him how to play Runescape at least long enough to get his other character online to pass some coveted black armor and a Staff of Air back and forth. (I killed some giant spiders and goblins.) I nearly fell asleep on the couch (and Z. fell asleep upstairs) which shows you how nice they all are (that no one really minded and that one feels comfy and at home enough to do so.) His mum gave us about 40 cadbury bars (I will grow out of this set of pants, dammit.) I liked his sisters especially the one I talked with more, and his teenage niece. Then we had a brief foray off to his dad’s house…

The life of the sunday dinner
Despite loving the visit I have to say that at my (finally true) nearing 40 and feeling like an actual grown-up, I have grown into a person who is relieved not to have a lot of burden of family no matter how nice. I felt no impulse to fulfill any role in their family really or to be specially dutiful (or in anyone’s) and felt satisfied we had not been lured into staying with family (and that I avoid staying with my own though I know that sounds a bit sad) I like to see them and to be friends with them but I really fiercely like to have my own life and complete independence of movement including not being pressured. I thought of course of Moomin and my own life and what my future might be like and how odd it would be for him to be grown, maybe seeing me once a year for a day or two, and I hope we will be closer than that. But, I do see the way people aren’t, and how many of my peers have parents who had such different expectations — they wanted the life with the Sunday Dinner, with extended family across generations getting together regularly, to cook and preside over the table benevolently — to shop and to help — to know the intimate concerns of their adult childrens’ lives. And, that has never been what I chose as an adult. The times I’ve tried it have been a strain. You know the feeling when you are just uncomfortable in your own skin – it is something like that. I feel for the frustrated dreams of the parents who saw themselves as beautiful and benevolent, generous and beloved patriarchs and matriarchs, but it doesn’t work out that way very often, maybe. As I mulled this over on the train on the way back I thought that my picture of myself as an older woman say 30 years from now does include (as I have remarked to my friend wild_irises) that I’d like to have cross generational friendships, to know and listen to people younger than me; and to be useful to them; I hope that will include my child and nephews and nieces and godchildren but it kind of doesn’t have to be them, or me for them, if that makes any sense. And also thinking of wild_irises’s way of having once a month sunday-at-home; very nice; I am not all that good at sustaining structured things; but I do host role-playing game groups which is incredibly nice, and, especially dear to me, having small swarms of kids have the free run of the house and yard (though again, it is also nice when they go…)

Where to be when older
I also continue to think that I will be happiest as I get older in cities, close to the center of things, public transport, good services, and (possibly most importantly) able to just see the daily life of many different people around me. I love to see people on the street, to look out the window and watch them going about their business. How stifling it is in the deep suburbs (not where I live now, but in Houston or Chelmsford’s semi-rural edges), with tiny glimpses of a neighbor perhaps once a week but no real bustle, no feeling part of a mysterious hive of life and purpose.

Rich neighborhoods can suck
Back in London, we switched sadly from A. and C.’s marvellous cosy be-Washleted rooftop-garden flat in Hoxton to the sterile absurd confines of the conference hotel, a scungy Holiday Inn in South Kensington which appeared to me as a hell of tourist-fouled bland international-mall-block overpriced theater-going pretentiousness. (Admittedly the Nathan Barley (or earlier incarnation, Cunt) population of Hoxton was high but still, it was nice and it felt *normal and human* like actual people actually live there.) Anyway, South Kensington. I’m sure I would like going to all the museums but, stay away from the embarrassing awful hotels. How nasty the Holiday Inn was, a little bit of importation of the worst of “America” with its ugly veneers and shoddy conveniences that utterly weren’t.

The conference itself fascinated me and I took extensive notes. (Z. wrote it up for the Ir1sh T1mes so you may go read his summary if you like. He was up all night in a fervor and is asleep on my shoulder in the plane; I had coffee and can’t sleep on planes anyway; thus this blog post.) I went to a half day each day and worked the rest of the time. I have massive notes from conference. Not written up yet. Notable was the home office guy, and the BP1 somewhat shark-like dude and his flunky who quizzed me on whether I download music illegally.

Monday night we went to dinner with S. who was nice, funny, and a bit pleasantly sleazy (like I can talk – I am notorious – and had a hard time not escalating to out do his stories – but could easily, without breaking a sweat). We talked about Internetty things, speculating, analyzing, predicting, trying to be wild-eyed but not quite hyped up or comfortable enough to get to that golden land of prophecy & inspiration. (Dinner was fantastic; can’t believe we lived a few blocks from Cay Tre all week and didn’t know to go there! Will amend C and A.’s house-sitting FAQ! Catfish in a clay pot, slightly caramelized, perfectly cooked with spicey sauce, and the (tender to die for) beef fried at table in rice wrappers. OMG.)

Squirrel with a hoard of small memories
Ultimate pleasure also at Z’s reading aloud of the Fish chapter of my Sumerian book, how happy it makes me to think of it, how absurd, but who else would share my pleasure at it (maybe Minnie) but, no one else could read it so well aloud with such understanding of the particular enjoyment.

You know particular moments stick with you and you know while they are happening that they will and that you are at a pinnacle of happiness? I have so many moments with Rook that are like that, sometimes very little things like watching the coyote pounce on a mouse at Fermilab from the roadside and feeling wordless about it, or when we watch Moomin and just about die of happiness, or watching him do his tap dance as King Herod in the musical. Anyway it is a little silly to say so on my blog since it is a private and unexplainable moment but that is also how I feel about the Sumerian fish.

Pubs and liminial spaces and the nature of time
Tuesday night (after particularly exhausting work, and then more conference where I paid close attention and became more burned out than i thought possible) we went out with S. again and more of Z’s friends and conspirators. I liked seeing him happy amidst his old friends (and as at the Opent. conference his friends’ pleasure in seeing him Cured As If By Miracle Back From Insanity or Nervous Breakdown or Misery or Whatever) Though I was too exhausted again to really be social and connected I had several drinks and talked with L. and S. a bit, but mostly listened to other people. (And I know that one is not Magically Cured from life, middle age, or particular traumas and does not return to an Old Self (as people kept saying “he’s BACK” which is both true and not) but people have continuity of identity throughout whatever scars they have. It is maybe more, ah, you have connected visibly with that old self we knew and that you were and that we thought you were or wanted you to be — when as we get older (speaking again from my getting to be middle aged with my bitter yet spoiled generation’s astonishment that that can HAPPEN) and watch people we know change beyond recognition, go down paths we never thought possible, cut off and disown or forget their former selves we used to love, or simply die. So I enjoyed their pleasure in the moment but found it a little bit sad and ephemeral. (Is it very American of me to be so earnest and analytical rather than sum things up with a little ironic remark – if so then pretend we are in the pub past closing time in the liminal space of drunkenness where such thoughts are permitted.)

Additional thoughts to my post on Cities, suburbs, middle and old age on the other computer when the battery on the first one ran out

At Z’s dad’s house I noticed his frailty and old age and his air of real philosophical detachment which I have noticed in my own father (who is much younger in mind and body, but perhaps on the same path) and wondered at the life path that would take him to this place when nearby was the little bustle of the Sunday dinner which perhaps he might have come to. And that is clearly not part of the way he lives and I think we’ve all seen men who go that path and yet stay in a family, lurking in workshops or basements while the life of the kitchen and its gossip goes on around them. I wonder at it. I have definitely had my moments of desire (and fulfilment) of that matronly vision of the table of lovely food and everyone gathered round (and will have many more such moments) but there is a strand in me that leans another way (or that sees how I could become very different and yet be happy in it though I would not be happy in it now.) I also see another strand in future ways of living, of public involvement or public works or civic works, service rather than of private cultivation of my own garden.

Back to the moments in the monastic living room of Z.’s dad. I got to see Z. become younger suddenly in an indefinable invisible way. (And it was the house where he grew up, which I didn’t realize till later.) Other than looking at a few photos on the wall there was no reminiscing or dwelling on that aspect of the past. His dad had a million mannerisms I recognized as Z’s or really it is opposite and some of them also in other people though in fledgling form. Also, their hands are the same, so it was odd to see basically Z’s future hands and to imagine him old (while right then seeing him as much younger than he is now because of the indefinable slightly melancholy younger-infusion effect of being around one’s parent.) His dad interacted with us by firing a gentle barrage of diffident questions mostly at Z (a relief that there were not many questions for me!) but I felt a little melancholy myself wondering about the relationship. I thought of the time that we were soldering our LED kits together and both feeling a weird bond and memory of bonding with our dads — as if our dads would be pleased with us and pleased at having transmitted something to us that they had liked (even if they don’t like it or do it now.) Or would be proud of us in a minor quiet way. My own dad seems to have forgotten the pleasures of doing things like that (soldering and little projects) and does not really get it that it was important to me or the scale of that importance in a kid’s life (and the life of the future person – as we age and return to earlier memories; he is probably lost in his own bonding moments with his dad when he was young, over baseball; thus, disconnect as our significant memories that formed us are of different times.)

I thought of a blog entry I read recently from someone in the blogher network of being in the snow with her dad and how grateful that she was that he insisted she wake up and ski with him even though she hated it. It was not about the activity really but about giving her some way to remember him and herself, so that now whenever she skis or goes in the snow or whatever they were doing, she thinks of that time and of him. (He is not dead. But he’s different, and it’s harder for them to be close.) Her post was about her consideration of what she is giving to her children.

I think of both Rook and Zond-7 and what they give to their kids as fathers. They are both so good at it, I suspect light-years better than their own fathers were. I wonder if because my own dad was so nice and so good at it, I like them for some of those same qualities. For myself, I have an ideal of being a parent that I don’t at all live up to and never quite have even at my best moments. I am so sporadic in my abilities to do it at all. I’m not running myself down here – it is true – and not an awful thing – just how it is.

Partly this is because my particular skills – that I thought would be so useful in parenting – are not in my case becasue they are not what Moomin responds to and maybe I have not known how to learn and shift fast enough. Partly I might just suck wih little kids (beyond an ability to entertain and bond with any little kid for about an hour) and will come into my own & into usefulness when he is in middle and high school. But so farmy main strengths or things he will remember fondly might be much like my memories of my grandma Hemulen and the absent-minded way she would put hot dogs into the toaster oven for me and my uncle Redolb with a beautiful absence of fuss and we would run around doign whatever we liked, watching junky tv shows, playing with legos or making elaborate stuffed animal battles without interference.

While I do have a very solid comforting motherly reality-bending home-making ability I also think it is a bit unstable and (especially in the last year with health problems) I have pulled back from it. I like that quality in myself and value it and see how other people like it in me, but it’s like it breaks down daily – this might be part of my own damage or frailty that I don’t have clear grasp of yet – the damage that being in fairly high levels of physical pain has done – and the effect of my own fears.

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The mildest of adventures in London

Already I’ve lost track of the days but I didn’t want to forget lying on the leather couch in the trendy-empty bar looking out the window at some blue sky and the brick building across the narrow lane. The bricks were sooty gold with red-brick stripes and the outline of what seemed to be a ghost building underneath. The window and door frames, dark green, strangely the same color paint as the bar’s interior metal beams. I thought about the history of the building, and what it would be like to maintain it now as a facilities person or trying to run cable through it. I wondered why there were doors in a row on every story leading out into the street. Did there used to be a hallway? Zond-7 came back from ordering at the bar and said no – it was a factory and look up higher, there’s a winch. For winching out the finished websites perhaps since that’s what they make now, in the factories. We made up silly things, like the ftp man doing his rounds. “Bring out your files! Bring out your files! Uploads for downloads!” The telnetster in traditional garb, mostly superseded by the ssh man in his dapper uniform and neat-brimmed hat. Sad, really.

Later we figured out why that bar (so nice – called Cantaloupe) was empty – there are like 50 other trendy-ass bars but with patios and on hoxton square just a couple of blocks away. Not that that should matter since every ratty bar and pub is crowded here even on a Tuesday night.

street angel

We spent a whole extra day recovering and working from bed, only venturing a few blocks from the flat to grab some food. I have the very-local geography down, now, and know where to buy food and how to go find a taxi and the tube station and what other directions might be good to explore.

I am really enjoying c. and a.’s flat in every way. It’s so cute and perfect and cosy! I did my conference call from the hammock. The next door kids are cute as hell and it cheers me to hear them playing. I enjoy their art and funny kitschy stuff… and how cleverly they store all their crap… their million-page FAQ about their house and office and neighborhood, and their lovely gleaming red espresso machine (kitchenaid) and let’s not even go into how nice I think the damned washlet is. hahahah! Washlet!! I’m not super in love with having a million stairs, but on the other hand I can take my time, treat it as physical therapy, and it’s probably good for me. I’m trying to think what I can do in return or what would be nice to leave them… stock them up with nice groceries… nice coffee etc. And in general I have good “letting people crash at my place” karma so really the thing to do is to keep passing that on.

Observation, people in Britain do not say Hello or anything at all to strangers on the street. They take this so far that they don’t even look at you in the face, which makes it damned hard to tell which way to barrel forward in your speedy wheelchair.

fruit at night

Today I left Zond-7 sweating over his deadline while I ran off to the British Library for a couple of hours. I felt like I had to break a little barrier of going places by myself. Thought about taking the Old St. tube to St. Pancras or King’s Cross or whatever but then realized it was a bit late, I was tired, screw it, it would then become all about sweatily going through miles of tunnels and ramps and being ill natured at railway employees’ passive aggressive “help”. So, a taxi.

London taxis are AWESOME! I said this before, but here it is again. If you are in a wheelchair and have money to spend like water then just take taxis everywhere. All the black cabs are mega-accessible. The back doors slide open like a van, a ramp comes out, there are hand rails, seats swivel and fold down if you need that, and the back seat is huge with a big empty wheelchair-holding space.The taxis stop for me! They don’t fuss or freak out too much. A little bit, but not bad at all. I don’t need the ramp and I can pull my chair up into the taxi, without having to take it apart or fold it up.

London taxi access

You see what I mean about mild adventures. Hey you’re on your own in a strange city! What will you do! OH I KNOW I’LL TAKE A TAXI TO THE LIBRARY. Okay! Yes! In fact, that is what I always do!

Then I wander around and take photos of graffiti and street art and bricks and manhole covers.

The British Library (the giant new brick building) has very good wheelchair access. I especially appreciated the signs, big, high up, frequent, and very clear, pointing me to ramps and elevators.

Revolution Revolution

So at the library I got my reading pass. They get you to line up and ask if you have ID and details of what you want to see. They don’t really care what you want to see and you don’t have to prove anything to them about your research project; they just want to know that you know that there’s a specific thing in the library that they own, that you want to look at! So they ask “Do you have something written down or printed out” … but mostly to rule out the people who should go to the public library to check out a mystery novel or look something up in the encyclopedia or whatever. I had jotted down the names of a couple of poets and began to open my notebook and they waved me through. If you don’t have “details written down” then they shunt you over to some computers where you can look in the catalogue and come up with a list of books. After this queue I filled out a web form (nicely accessible computer with huge monitor and huge font) and then waited till my number was called. A few questions later and a photo… now I have a nifty 1- month card! So I will be looking at a bunch of books by (and about) Emilia Bernal, and some suffragist newspapers and I might also look for women’s newspapers from 1830s France as I suspect they might be in there and it will give me a thrill.

I figured out by scouting it out physically that it will be easy to take the tube there and then harder to get back (because of having to come up the Old Street ramp) so it’ll be better to take a taxi back.

After a bit more work at “home” we went out to an indian restaurant on brick lane. I took a lot of photos of great street art.

It’s exhausting to wheel up and down all those curbs. they are oftn very low but even an inch up and down is tiring. My hands hurt like hell. Also… holy hell… bricks and cobblestones are hell on my back, it’s like the vibrations from “Wages of Fear“.

In the library as there wasn’t enough time left to order any books, I went to exhibits. There was a great exhibit of chinese, korean, & japanese color wood block printing on the 2nd floor. I wrote down a bunch of them to look up later. A lot of the bird ones I wished I could show Minnie. Here are my notes

- Ten Bamboo Studio 1634
- Soken Sekisatsu 1768 Hojakuchu “Dazzling simplicity in … prints”
- a literary and artistic gathering 1839 chikutenzan
400 artists and writers with names. i sat there a while and counted the women. there were 22. many facing each other or sitting in groups, not isolated from each other
- shin kawazu (..awase) 1820 New Poetry Competition of Frogs nifty anthology/collaboration
- kawa… bumpo = awesome
- The gifts of the seas umi no sachi 1762 mica used in ink for prints for fishy sheen!
- kimpaen’s picture album 1820 (bumpo, same guy) Kimpaen gafu. Birds birds birds!!!
- Wang Cheo pictures of foreign things 1998 made me think of “woolgathering”

chocolate for women, right?

Then saw huge Ramayana exhibit which made me think of talking with Neha (nehavish) about Surpanakha (who i did not find in the exhibit though i didn’t see all of it and she is perhaps not in every version) but mostly in this exhibit I was excited to see books written on palm leaves. One of those things I’ve often read about and wondered what it is really like… it is like thin flat fan blades about the size of an 8 inch ruler, with 2 holes drilled in rolodex style, polished smooth maybe with some varnish or sizing, and very small delicate writing.

Swooned at lovely book binding, maps, illuminated manuscripts exhibit. I thought of how lucky i felt when i worked at the geology library and dennis let me look at the super rare illustrated books he kept back in his office. amazing french books with taxonomy & botanical illustrations & fossils… The book that blew me away today and got me to tears was a persian one from 1610 ad , Anvar-i Suhayli which is a version of Kalila & Dimna / Pancatantra. written by Husayn … v…. Kashifi (can’t read my own handwriting!) for Prince Salim who became the emperor Jahangir. Now anyone who has bothered to read this for the last N years knows I’m obsessed with the Pancatantra and all its derivatives!

This might sound very exciting but consider that most of my time in London so far has been spent within a 3-block radius of this bed where I am lying 90% of the time peacefully Computing the same as I would anywhere else in the world, in the midst of a small mountain of used kleenexes and allergy meds, reporting intermittently that my legs and knees and back and hands hurt like hell and that I need more chocolate.

flyers

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Thoughts on Budapest

Not like I’ve seen any of it but the airport and the hotel!

Hungarian food is goddamned delicious! It’s the best ever! The little pastries even beat the Belgium pastries!

There are billboards like crazy. It could have been Houston, getting off the plane. I noticed advertisements in London were oddly restrained and dorky. Brussels… what advertisements? Other than Antiquities and snooty-looking fashion and billboards for the opera I did not see any evidence of popular culture or the hopes and dreams and chains of regular people. But, the billboards in Budapest were all full of people bursting out of reality, leaping in the air in gravity-defying ways, living it up at water parks or wild with laughter and romance. The billboards were all along the highway next to row after row of identical enormous concrete block apartments stretching as far as I could see. The billboards seemed perhaps related to the feeling of wanting to escape, wanting some wildness, having the ability to get out of the concrete block. There was plenty of graffiti. It’s scruffy like Beijing but not so full of earnest and callous Industriousness. A lot of women on the street have dyed bright red and purple hair.

I am happily ensconced in my swank hotel (Novotel Centrum) which is lovely & perfectly accessible.

I might go venture out by myself if I can’t wake up Zond-7.

I blogged a bit of the conference and have notes on later panels but then I conked out completely, took a nap, had a bath, read Iain Banks, worked, slept again. I am walking okay, in fact I feel like I could walk a few blocks as I did yesterday with no problem, but my legs hurt a lot and I have the burning and buzzing down into both feet. So, I want to go out to see the city, and yet lying down for a while longer would help my legs feel a little more normal.

I’m sad that I won’t see more – it is beautiful and interesting and jumbledy here

I have been feeling really grateful for my in-between-ness and ability to get around and yet also frustrated & impatient at not just being all the way better. It’s hard because, what would you rather do, walk 5 blocks painfully and not be sure you could continue on with people going somewhere, or just give up and wheel… thus being set apart and judged and also an annoyance and yet freed to go as far as you want to go…

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London rocks for wheelchair access at least for me

So far things are totally rocking. I have taken three cabs and they’ve all been nearly instant to stop for us, and all been accessible for me as they’re roomy, i can get in with the hand rail inside the back seat, then pull my (very light) wheelchair in after me, fitting it into the back seat without even taking the wheels off or folding the back down. There’s been a few curbs and stairs but even with jet lag I can manage. So if you are in a powerchair you’d have to scout or plan but if you can pop a small wheelie or go up a curb backwards you will be just fine in London in a manual chair.

Down sides are cabs cost buckets of money. I was on one train so far – the Heathrow Express – and had to get someone to let me through a hidden gate – and then holy crap when they say Mind the Gap they sure mean it. I see you are supposed to get someone to stick a ramp across the gap for your chair. I made one “gap” ie ABYSS FROM HELL but the other at Paddington was ridiculous – I got up and walked out which fortunately I am able to do and dragged the chair after me.

Visited C and A to pick up keys. Held their soothing and sweet baby who is in the kicky using-muscles stage and also cutting first teeth. Bonded telepathically with Washlet. There are stairs. I will Deal. Most of the time we will be in Foxy Hotel (for the days it was cheap) but the 3 days at c’s will save us like 1000 bucks (covering perfectly the days Foxy Hotel was insane like $350 a night rather than 80-ish).

Ate at Cantaloupe which seems like a vaguely latin american hipstery bar/burger/steak place. It was nice to lie back on soothing leather couches and contemplate the terracotta-red walls and green ceiling, and the hanging plants coming down. I had a mojito. There was free wireless.

Shoreditch/Hoxton seems the exactly right and fun neighborhood for me… We have space to work in next week out of c’s office

Our hotel near Waterloo sort of blows. it’s swanky and interesting but has only just begun to live. The supposed-to-be-fancy bathrobes actually suck, and mine has a funny tag on the lapel, a sticker that says “Rental…” with a price tag and bar code. The bathrobes are rented! Hahahah! And no one took off the price tag! I immediately broke an espresso cup, used all the bath towels (purpling one) and bled all over the sheets by accident when I fell asleep on first arrival. We have packed in a miracle of compact light carry-on-bag packing yet that means we have to unpack everything to find anything, so underwear and electronic gadgets are strewn all over the room. Later I will list our gadgets and cords for your amusement.

Passing out now. Wish me luck tomorrow on the Eurostar… I look forward to all this but very much to coming back to hang out in Shoreditch.

Weather is not too hot at ALL – it is springlike and mild – jackety in evening – I erred in unpacking my pajama pants and adding a skirt to sleep in – hotel has a/c

I am overlooking all the huge trains at Waterloo and can see st. pauls from bed

Taxi drove us past the Albert Memorial. I screamed uncontrollably with laughter for about half an hour – it was the Best Thing Ever.

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A city’s soul and a fat rant

For the next three weeks I’ll be traveling around! London, Brussels, Budapest, then London again. See you at Global Voices / Open Tech ! I’ve packed really well for the trip!

My tiny computer is very cute! I am still setting it up, but now it has functioning wireless and ubuntu on it! I described the process of installing eeebuntu on it!

Here’s a very lovely blog I came across thanks to paraleipsis, beautiful & inspiring & clean & messy all at once, really a poet of vignettes & cities:

http://rocalberto.blogspot.com/

One of the things i like about this city ( and of course i didnt like everything, you can see in many ways how spoiled many americans are) is that being direct is a quality, its just an arrow that goes directly to your heart, somethimes you say ouch!! now THATS a quality, If you are like that you skip many many problems on the way. They have created the city of either you are strong, direct and fast or you are dead, and self consciusness is high .

I liked the photos and thoughts on all those rusting things, and also when he goes to be a fireman for one week in a fireman class and thinks, Fuck Art, this is much better.

Every once in a while I come across a stranger’s blog and fall in love a little bit. Today I’m in also in love with Joy Nash and her Fat Rant #3:

I have a big juicy blog crush on justmylife and her dilemmas over her mom in law and swimming in the pool, and how her husband comes home from driving his concrete mixing truck and falls asleep in the recliner, and her potty mouthed bitching which I totally identify with and do all the time about every detail of my life complete with detail and overanalysis. There is something about the totally honest way she writes about the complexity of her extended family and daily life that I really admire. I think she is the secret-blog-friend I would most enjoy hanging out with in real life of all the hundreds of blogs I have seen in the last two months in my new job! She makes me miss Texas a bit… though I don’t know where she is…

Today in Actual Real non-blog life I dropped Moomin off with my friend SuperT (You remember her from WoolfCamp?) and her son Hamster; I worked like a dog; I then had a nice gossipy lunch with Sarah and then we had a supposedly 1 hour meeting which was so productive we just kept going for several more hours. We do work well together! And she is a fantastic project manager! We were on the same wavelength or something and just cut through all sorts of confusions, design issues, usability, and all that stuff.

Then I drove back hauling ass through massive traffic to pick up Moomin and I got to hang out a little bit with SuperT! I gave her a cd with mashups and I showed her how to make music playlists in iTunes and how to organize bookmark toolbar in Safari! A little computer help is a birthday present too! We sat and sweated and talked about our lives! I miss hanging out with her.

And of course I am still completely fascinated by the Obama with roses and unicorns. I would totally get this airbrushed on my truck if I still had a truck. Hello! He’s ejaculating roses! He has sparkles! What is he holding in his hand, I can’t tell?

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Invertebrate rescue and the Rights of Women

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to meeeeee! Eeeeeeeeeeeepc!!!!

I got a tiny cute little computer for my birthday!

And pancakes and colorful drawings, and everyone being together, and the beach, and seeing the Kung Fu Panda movie (which I wrote up briefly this morning for Body Impolitic), and some fabulous zines, and Flora Tristan‘s The Workers’ Union. (DROOOOOL, I love Flora Tristan so much! I’ve read her Peregrinations of a Pariah and her London travel journal and some of her political writing! But not this, ever. It’s amazing.)

Rook made the pancakes and had also made cookies the night before. After the movie last night we all ran around Yerba Buena Park, went to the MLK waterfall, and it was super nice (but tiring). He and Moomin were doing fake kung fu and then I think for the rest of the evening and the next day they were playing they were superpowered kung fu animals. Rook and Zond-7 and I watched the two newest Doctor Who episodes and they were JUST GREAT and very disturbing.

Today! I almost wimped out on an Expedition. Went anyway.

Went to the beach! Everything on the drive down rt. 1 stunningly beautiful. My favorite tiny beach inside the breakwater! Kids rocketing around! They built a sand castle with me & ran around like wild things. Lucked out no traffic no fog, only a bit windy! Saw many moon jellies, harbor seals sticking up their heads from the water, grebes pelicans cormorants and terns. Rolled & walked rather a long way. (I am exhausted but aside from the pain in my leg am okay, it’s more like regular exercise exhaustion, but I don’t know how much I can do tomorrow physically).

Then when we walked to the point to sit on the wall, we saw a guy surf fishing. He pulled something out of the water with a gaff, inspected it, and threw it down onto the sand. He was far enough away that it was hard to tell what it was. But… it looked like the shape of a giant gumboot chiton and I saw a flash of orange underneath. I didn’t have my crutches (having gone from the path to the wall on Zond-7′s arm) and there was no way I could get to it. “You could find out…” “I won’t know what it is!” “You could bring it to me!” “WHAT!!! Pick it UP???!!!!” I couldn’t believe it when he really picked it up and started bringing it over. I mean, this is a thing pretty much as big as a human liver and kind of the same texture. Or, like, a liver mixed with a smallish nerf football. OMG I started bouncing around and going “YAYYYYYY!!!” Guess what, it was indeed the most humonguous gumboot chiton I have ever seen. It’s my favorite kind! I saw the magnetite-tipped teeth of its radula! and they were super disgustingly creepily awesome! Anyway this thing had to be a foot long! We held it for a while and then Zond-7 was totally a hero and clambered out onto the rocks with it and dramatically threw it into as deep and rocky a spot as he could manage. I’ve never seen one at this beach and it seemed like a sort of fabulous omen for it to be my birthday and that I got to hold my favorite invertebrate.

The beach has become a mixture of sublime and boring, like that Berlioz opera.

I thought about how intensely my perceptions and experience have changed over the course of my life. When I was a kid, I loved the cold. It felt just cold, but not bad. There was an initial shock, then I welcomed the cold and felt like I was made of knives and wind. I’d breathe in the cold, or open myself up to the 50 degree sea water, and expand like the universe, jumping around, body surfing, rolling in the snow, whizzing down a hill on my flying saucer. My lips would turn blue and I’d shiver uncontrollably, and someone would make me come out of the water or into the house or car. But now, there is no way I can enjoy the cold, or even tolerate it without intense pain. I thought of times when I’ve heard people (talking to me, or others) cajoling, persuading, bullying: “Come on! It’s not so cold! You’ll get used to it!” They could say that to me now, and it wouldn’t be true. Likewise, I thought of all the old people who I grew up around, and their constant horror at how cold I must be, and how impossible it was for them to understand that I was not suffering from cold air or water or snow, to the point of complete disrespect of my reported experience. I thought of how many experiences like this there are. Not just cold or heat, but pain, the tastes of food, emotional suffering, oppression, sanity, *reality*. People change over the course of their lives, and know, or should know, that it is possible to perceive the world and experience very differently and that cold DOES feel good, and that also, cold DOES feel bad and terrible, and there is a giant spectrum of true experience. In other words, I marvel that people don’t respect others’ subjectivity or reported experience. How can they not have learned some measure of empathy, merely from the changes they’ve been through in their own lives and the different people they were and are and will be? I said some of this to Zond-7 who replied that people are alienated from their former selves, their younger selves, and instead construct narratives in which they used to be wrong, and now are right. I felt like I was seeing in greater depth how it is that people lose or never develop a sense of that respect and empathy and how related it is (or can be ) to discontinuity of identity and self hate/disrespect. I realized that “self respect” has to include all your selves across time. Zond-7 went on to talk about the evening person (who stays up too late) dissing the morning person (your future self who you are screwing up by staying up too late) so that the morning person (future you) is really angry at past you from the evening before. (Hmm, I am still thinking about that and myself and my issues with health and driving myself too hard.) We made some remarks on how lovely it would have been in a way to have these thoughts in 1789 or something when we could have written “A Treatise on the Unities and Discontinuities of Human Consciousness and the Rational Social Mind” and been studied like geniuses hundreds of years later but instead it will be like “LiveJournal entry, ho hum, 2 comments”. Hahaha! We didn’t mean it and do believe it is a million million times better to have the net and have everyone saying this sort of thing in casual asides to ferment & propagate like letters but more discoverable.

I give you a quote from Flora Tristan, from the chapter “Why I Mention Women” in The Workers’ Union, 1843, the book where she called for an international social justice movement and union to transcend existing governments:

Workers, in 1791, your fathers proclaimed the immortal declaration of the rights of man, and it is to that solemn declaration that today you owe your being free and equal men before the law. May your fathers be honored for this great work! But, proletarians, there remains for you men of 1843 a no less great work to finish. In your turn, emancipate the last slaves still remaining in French society; proclaim the rights of woman, in the same terms your fathers proclaimed yours.
“We, French proletarians, after fifty-three years of experience, recognize that we are duly enlightened and convinced that the neglect and scorn perpetrated upon the natural rights of women are the only cause of unhappiness in the world, and we have resolved to expose her sacred and inalienable rights in a solemn declaration inscribed in our charter. We wish women to be informed of our declaration, so that they will not let themselves be oppressed and degraded any more by man’s injustice and tyranny, and so that men will respect the freedom and equality they enjoy in their wives and mothers.
1. The goal of society necessarily being the common happiness of men and women, the Workers’ Union guarantees them the enjoyment of their rights as working men and women.
2. Their rights include equal admission to the Workers’ Union palaces, whether they be children, or disabled or elderly.
3. Women being man’s equal, we understand that girls will receive as rational, solid, and extensive (though different) an education in moral and professional matters as the boys.
4. As for the disabled and the elderly, in every way, the treatment will be the same for women as for men.

A footnote by the translator, Beverly Livingston, notes that Tristan had read Mary Wollstonecraft but probably not Olympe de Gouges.

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Scary sleepwalking, sweaty night terrors

Well, that was terrifying. Moomin used to get these “night terrors” when he was little. Just now he was screaming and sobbing and crying and calling for me – while he was in my lap – and talking incoherently – and screaming more through my attempt to cuddle him or soothe him.

I had him looking right at me and trying to answer my questions about what was wrong, what was his name, how old is he, what school does he go to, and he would babble something about being sorry about the man, or how it hurts, or to let him go, all mixed in with what seemed like nonsense words. He got his name right once, and his school right, but could not tell me who I was or how old he was. Finally I yelled at him to wake up and talk to me, because I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I think the combination of my acting angry and the ice-cold facecloth on the back of his neck woke him the hell up finally.

Ohhh that was scary. It seemed different from the “night terrors” of his toddlerhood, I guess because the incoherent talking was so spooky. But, he was in the same odd sweat. He breaks out into a sweat that smells really strange, not like his usual smell. His heart is pounding a mile a minute. As soon as he is really awake, he is cool and normal again. I had taken off his pajama top because it was all sweaty and rank… and he looked up at me and went, “What are you DOING… Could you please get that OFF of me… I think that is ENOUGH.” in a bossy sarcastic wondering tone. “What are you TALKING about? ” I explained that he had maybe been walking and talking in his sleep and that I couldn’t wake him up and I got a little scared and yelled at him to wake him up. (I was starting to panic and wonder if it was some feverish delirium or seizure and I should be calling the hospital and I remembered everything about when his appendix burst and the resulting week-long mayhem in the hospital.)

I should not have panicked! I know perfectly well what to do and that this happens to him, and that I should just comfort him and wait and he will wake up! I wish I hadn’t panicked and yelled. It was after a long time of holding him and listening to his somewhat perturbing terrified sobbing and rambling. It was so spooky to have him calling me and then saying “No, I want Mom” when I was *right there*.

He never remembers being in that state. He used to sometimes wake up but more often just appear to be confused or to fall fast asleep again – he would even fall asleep on his feet while we would try to lead him back to bed!

Whew…

As I recall, it never happened more than once in a night, and it would happen always in the early evening, after he’d been asleep for an hour or two.

Right now we’re both having either the worst allergies ever, or might be sliding into getting colds. I thought for sure allergies all day today, but now I can’t tell anymore. So I would bet his stuffy nose and post nasal drip messed up his sleep.

As I surfed about just now soothing myself with Facts About Sleep Disorders, I came across some marvellous bits of info about Dion McGregor, a famous somniloquist whose roommate (lover?) recorded his sleeping monologues. There are three albums of his sleeptalking, some of which you can listen to on this page from Torpor Vigil Records; and a book with transcripts, illustrated by Edward Gorey. I would certainly like to find that book! Anyway, listen to “Food Roulette”. “Don’t spin it so fast they fly off! THAT way lies MADNESS!” Oh, my god… this is great stuff.

I am reading The Fountain at the Center of the World and really liking it. A guy I met at the last translation conference told me to read it and in fact I think he bought it for me in the big bookstore in downtown Seattle – he is a translator of Galeano and we got into a long interesting conversation – the novel is a fabulous globalization melodrama – brothers separated in childhood – one adopted and raised in London and a globetrotting horrible PR bigwig apologist for multinationals – the other stuck in a village in northern Mexico devastated by pollution and drought caused by multinationals sucking out all the water so the rivers run dry – and events progress so that the brothers meet and in a way switch places so that the Mexican brother (who bombed a pipeline) ends up in Seattle at just the right time. It sums up a lot of what I know as truth about the world, about complicity and action. I am enjoying all the characters, and the women are not written annoyingly or as placeholders for some Idea but instead come off as complicated people with their own view of things (views that the men around them never quite “get” but are trying to get.) It’s beautifully written. I would recommend it to anyone.

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alternate history amber game!

We’re playing our first Amber game – last session we did character creation. It’s 1943 in Nazi-occupied Britain. I’m Major Hector Ashton-Dent, a grizzled big-game hunter and political conservative… Rook is Manfred Pfirsch, a foppish German army quartermaster – vito_excalibur is Janica Krizci, an international woman of mystery & a paralegal – Cyn is Alexandra Debenham-Smith, a sort of pastiche of Jessica Mitford – Whump is Federico Lombardi, an american who was in WWI with the Major, a communist with a machine shop – and together we’re the heads of the British Resistance… and are of the blood of Amber… zdashamber is the gm.

And we’re being run by President Eleanor Roosevelt, who is from Amber. The U.S. had its own Suffrage Wars in the teens. Tentacles at Dunkirk. Churchill speech about fighting to the death etc. He dies of a heart attack in 1941. The Dover government and the Cliveden gang, head of Dover govt is Lord Hallifax (with his withered arm). King George & family is in Canada.

“Manfred, what you need is survival.. to live off the land… Like I did in Orkney for 6 months eating nothing but limpets and grasshoppers…”
“Hector! I do rough it… want to see the marks?”

Ew!

So. We hear tell of the neighborhoods at either end of London Bridge being evacuated, something to do with the tentacled things coming up the river, and troop buildups in Brixton… We’re all trumping each other to talk about plans…

Manfred makes an “error” in the supply so that he can go correct it later.

Alexandra gets a call from her former piano teacher about the troop buildup.

Federico gets calls from his contacts about the tentacle things. Hector concludes it is a secret weapon or robot submarine being brought to shore and that we will capture the sub. Manfred thinks it’s a problem how to get the sub away and where to park it. Hell, man, smugglers will hide it for us! Janica and Federico think it is really some squid-beings.

Janica hides under the bridge in some girders or rafters or something… with sniper rifle… and dynamite that Manfred trumps to her.

The troops in Brixton are preparing to go house to house and demand info of the restistance and shoot people in the head. Hector plans to fuck shit up. “But, peopel will die! they’ll shoot us” “Man, we’re at war. of course people are going to be shot. We’re not pussyfooting around wondering whether we might bother the Huns into shooting innocent people.”

OOC I wonder if we should all be meeting to coordinate plans. Rook asks if any of us are the leader. vito_excalibur thinks no – we sshould have tension. I think none of us would accept the others’ leadership – we all report to President Roosevelt.

Manfred has a map with colored pins. “Right-o. Colored pins. As it should be!” Hector loves the colored pins.

Hector’s resistance cells blow stuff up and have ambushes and chases. Foolish teenagers run out to join us and get shot.

Janica tells Manfred about a big shiny car showing up at the bridge.

The plot thickens. More dynamite. “We need a backup plan, then.” Manfred: “I have this crate of dynamite.” Janica: “This is the kind of backup plan I like.”

***

Janica hears the Thing… the horrible tentacled thing… talking to a german officer.
Manfred vaguely is aware something is happening and is setting up some explosives.

Federico is trying to look through Janica’s eyes… (consensually? I’m confused) question about who is first in Psyche… Janica does not let him look, actually.

Federico to manfred, sotto voce: “That’s no submarrine, that’s an armored suit!”

Hahaha! If this were call of cthulhu we would all lose a san point.

“i have brought you … THIS…” (says the squid thing) holding out a sort of seven legged octopus end table. “it reveals the heart of secrets…” tap, tap, tap… Janica calls Hector to pull her out in a minute. “tap, tap…” “I’m going to shoot the shit out of everything down there!” zamber: you can bite the fuse off the dynamite… Hector pulls Janica through… Manfred pulls Alexandra through to where he is. The bridge explodes… No, wait, Hector can’t have pulled her through until a bit later because we’re in seconds not minutes time.

Did it blow up the end table? Yes, it shattered like crazy. Did it blow up the tentacled sea lion? yes it’s screaming… there’s chaos… Janica is throwing more grenades, a bunch of ss go down… hahaha Madeline and Lee are like, salivating at the descriptions of the mass destruction. THEN hector will pull her through to where he is, which isn’t exactly safe either.

Alexandra’s like shit, where am i? it’s dark, there’s shooting, it smells like dead fish. Manfred grabs the half exploded, screaming sea lion tentacled thing and goes through to federico.

Janica’s like “omg i had no idea you insane english fools would grab a screaming burned tentacled thing and take it WITH you.” Hector: well! you should read my memoir, 30 years of cougar hunting in the abyssinian highlands! then you’d see what a well bred english schoolgirl is capable of when faced with a savage wounded beast!”

We’re very silly! What cougars?

During character-building I had bought up “warfare” heavily figureing that Hector would be a strategic genius, and had a good shot at being 1st in war. But then I was slammed by specific, nasty curses and ended up 4th. So I figure that he is brutal and effective in war, but gets a lot of subordinates killed and might have something of bad luck about being not quite in the right place at the right time, but ending up on the sidelines of action. Here’s his curses:

Hector suffered in the wars. He sustained a brain injury, and
occasionally gets debilitating migraines during which it’s very hard
to focus on anything. An important operation behind the lines got
cancelled because one of his trusted subordinates was indiscreet, and
now he’s less confident in his ability to judge people’s
capabilities. Each of these cost him 5 points of Psyche, dropping
him from 1st rank to 4th.

Hector got a lot of bad intel, and it instilled bad habits in him, to
the tune of 6 points of Warfare lost. He skillfully assassinated a
visiting Nazi bigwig, and then had to spend the next six months
hiding in the Orkneys to escape the enormous backlash, missing out on
plum missions… Perhaps it was the frustration that cost him 3
points of Warfare there. In all, he dropped from 2nd rank to 4th.

Federico: okay guys get ready, she’s got the armored suit!

Janica calls for pullout now, and snipes to cover for Manfred while that happens.

“i understand your british thing for pets even less now, and i’m never eating calimari again.”

*grenades*

Giant wrestling match between squid thing and Alexandra Debenham-Smith, field hocky playing communnist debutante (first in strength). Federico’s “boys” are ready to shoot it!

we’ve got blowtorches and we’ll blast you out fo that armored suit!

the wounded squid thing bashes a guy… it’s not listening to demands to surrender.. it’s in pain…

Looks like motor oil, smells like seaweed.

What’s Manfred doing? “I’m in uniform, it’s dark, i’m surrounded by dead bodies, I can lay down and make a trump call after I see that it’s safe.”

“We killed the German high command! The demon was giving them a superweapona nd I blew the shit out of it!”

“Well done!”

Federico, about Alexandra: “Will someone please get the lady a…”

Janica: “… moist towelette?”

*laughter*

we analyze the squid. “do you mean demon as in xtian theology?” “no… unnatural… in your explorations… ” “no, never seen anything like it. you said it spoke?” “in german, then in Shelta Thari” “Funny, doesn’t look Irish.” “Ugly enough, though.” We speculate that the irish must be in league with the germans b/c they hate Brits… “I don’t want a whole tentacle,” Lee demurs. “Just a piece that I can wrap up in my handkerchief, maybe with a sucker on it.” We might not be the first peopel to see these things. I can’t go around with a tentacle the size of a bus saying Do you know this tentacle.”

Manfred declares we need a naturalist… or really, an unnaturalist. We put it in a jar for Hector to take to his club.

Marzipan is a running joke somehow, as Manfred offered it to the german soldiers.

We pose for photographs with the squid thing. The American has a camera.

Sophia Havisham calls Federico to enquire after Lady Alexandra. Eeep! Federico pretends not to know what she’s talking about, claims it must be a wrong number. excellent caution.

Lady Alexandra takes a shower and puts on a mechanic’s jumpsuit. You wouldn’t believe I’d made my curtsey to the queen…

***
Havisham… calls and then Blaise from the books talks to Lady Alexandra with offer of info about the squid demons.

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