Monday, March 31, 2008
I'm in a weird disjointed mood. Part of it is that I've moved my computing upstairs and this dislocation is making things seem weird. Imagine when I move out of the house. In the condo it will be all new, though, and not just moving to a different part of the house to do something I'm used to doing elsewhere.
I'm such a wimp. I'm also off on my exercise program. Too much tennis and distracted by other things. This, too, shall pass. Just do the chores, one at a time. I've taken care of some of the EOM stuff. I'm going to shower and take my dad to a doctor's appointment. I'm going to work on planning condo built-ins this evening.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Louis sat on my right last night. FFP on my left. FFP wandered the room ("working it" he calls it) or engaged the dinner companions to his left. Louis and I had several conversations. In one he was explaining the research he was doing on a book he is writing and how quickly he'd found an expert and relevant materials through the Internet. (The topic was soldiers returning from World War I, I believe.) I started to tell a story to segue off that and I started having the feeling I'd told it to Louis before. Which may be true. But this much I realized for sure: I wrote about it here. And Louis reads the blog. (Yes, he's one of the four or five of you. Say 'hi' to Louis.) Anyway, I suddenly realized I blogged about it (a third reality) and that I was boring myself and Louis, too. And it was taking a lot of effort to tell my now boring tale because the room (giant tent actually) was so loud.
Yeah. When you blog it gives you more opportunities to repeat your boring self.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I also have a soft spot for blank paper, for the possibility of filling the pages with brilliant sketches and words.
The picture, before I continue this ramble, is from inside The Arthouse at Jones Center on Congress Avenue. They are doing a show on a collaboration between Ballet Austin, the artist Trenton Doyle Hancock and the composer Graham Reynolds called Cult of Color: Call to Color. Trenton Doyle Hancock's art is an elaborate story. He has written some of the story on the window of the museum, writing backwards on the inside. I found it very compelling. Especially taking pictures of the street through the words. I like pictures of letters and words!
I've been going through books with a vengeance. It's slow work. I look up availability of the book through online sources and what the editions and prices are. If I haven't read the book (the majority I'm afraid) I have to flip it open and read bits of it. If I feel I'd like to read it any time soon, I have trouble tossing it. If I decide to keep the book, I try to catalog it in my database and on Library Thing. I am leaving a lot of them on my database even though we are giving them away. That way the info is there should I decide I need to order a copy at a later time.
But back to blank paper. I found a box full of blank books plus a few more that were partially full of scribbles. Even though I have all these that I either bought or other people gifted me with because they know I'm a sucker for them if I see some cool ones in a store I have trouble resisting. Weird, huh? Of course the notebooks written in and the lined tablet sheets filled with doodles or notes are hard to discard. Some I've transcribed and managed to eliminate. I've even scanned a few. If I were a famous writer or artist, someone down at the Harry Ransom Center would have to carefully catalog them one day. But I'm not. Famous. Or a writer or artist. So they are just cubic feet of 'stuff' I suppose. Where am I going with all this? I'm not sure. I've been working on this entry sporadically over two days and I don't seem to know where I'm going! So I think I'll wind it up by saying that a blank book, not yet written in, is like starting life all over again.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
This long (as they all are in Austin in retirement) weekend is certainly presenting its challenges.
Tonight is not too bad. Business wear will do. One of my old custom made business suits and perhaps a little bit of fancy on the blouse will carry me through a reception for inaugurating a plaque in the Long Center and an Austin Cabaret Theatre performance.
Friday night is the big deal party at the Long Center. Black tie. Not that simple for women. I made a desultory stop at one shop to see if I could spark up my black tie sartorial choices. Then I decided: The Long Center is all about recycle and reuse. So, definitely, dig through the offerings of my own closet and should someone be rude enough to point out that they've seen my get-up (good Texas phrase for outfit!) before, I'll have a ready answer: "recycle, reduce, reuse." Would someone dare mention they'd seen an outfit before? Yes, it has happened!
Saturday night the Long Center stuff continues with a performance and the official costume instructions are 'Texas Chic.' I never know what that means.
The photo was taken of a vandalized window at Allen's Boots on South Congress on Saturday or Sunday. Once again, in spite of the Texas Chic thing, I won't buy boots. I have some bolo ties handy though.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
There are lots of things I wish I'd thought to do sooner.
Since there is no escape from a Visible Woman blog entry without a mention of the 'd word' (downsizing) I wish I would have thought long ago about the consequences of storing everything I purchased in a smaller space than this one. When I moved to Austin, I had a mover bring a single mattress, box springs, an old dresser, some modular furniture, a bumper pool table, kitchen stuff and a few odds and ends. I stuffed my VW bug with other stuff. Before I married FFP I foolishly bought a couch and some bar stools. We crammed all our worldly combined goods into a house smaller than our new condo will be. It worked OK. It was a little tighter when FFP started his business in that house. When we moved to this house, we stretched to fill the rooms. The house was smaller then. Our answer to our accumulation seemed to be: add more house. But then we would redecorate the new areas. We got rid of lots of stuff, of course, during these upheavals. But then acquired even more.
I wish I would have thought sooner about carefully cataloging the things I did decide to keep. I'm working hard now to have all the ephemera and books I keep cataloged before we move. The flip side of this (another day's entry?) is the way I start organization like that full of good intentions and then fall away into a maelstrom of chaos and entropy. [Ed. Note: A facile excuse to use (or misuse) three words you like?] [LB: Facile? Who's talking?]
Anyway. I wish I'd thought sooner to more carefully label and date all the files and photos on my computer.
I was thinking this morning after we took a big load of stuff to the thrift store yesterday: it would have been interesting to photograph all the stuff we got rid of before giving it away or selling it. Too late. But it would have been interesting. By the way, in the last couple of days we have gotten rid of a coffee table (oak, handmade, bought at a charity auction), an old Sony cabinet TV we bought about thirty years ago that still worked, a VCR and a VHS player, several dozen books, and some glasses and knick knacks. (Actually the last of these are just queued up to go to the thrift store, but that counts.)
By the way, for those of you who look for The Visible Woman every day, I encourage you to use the RSS because I have to move some computer equipment and I have a busy social schedule for the next three days and my tech guy and I are going to be getting some new computer equipment going so...I may have to let go the circadian nature of this blog and use the time more, er, wisely.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
So how do you get a vacation from that? When you simply can't afford to leave town because of all you need to do otherwise and money being spent otherwise? We told ourselves we wouldn't leave town until we reached escape velocity from real estate hell. (That being still owning the old, too big place with too much land while having to pony up the money to close the new, more efficient condo.) So our fling in New York was the last out of towner for a while unless we do a brief drive to another city in Texas or something.
How about this? A pleasant hotel room with a stark modern aesthetic, just a few items of reading material, a bit of wine and some DVDs borrowed from the front desk. ("The Misfits" and "The Valley of the Dolls" were the ones.) It makes you more focused and it makes it easier to relax does a getaway like that even if it's a fifteen minute drive from home. Have lunch downtown, check into the hotel (you bought the stay in a charity auction), wander some cool shopping without buying anything, get a bottle of wine in the late afternoon and have a few sips (the wine was part of the auction deal), wander some more, have dinner, watch part of "The Misfits" and then decide impulsively to wander some more and have a drink and late night snack in a Mexican joint. And, if you can locate a place the next day to have a bit of early brunch, even though it's Easter Sunday, well it feels like a vacation. A silly one perhaps but a vacation all the same.
And "The Misfits?" That's the first time I ever saw it. What a movie!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
First things first: If you came here yesterday looking for a post because LB was as regular as the tax man, sorry. I got busy goofing off and it's harder to displace from goofing off than from reconciling bank statements, filing, shredding, downsizing, etc. to blog.
Photo was taken while on a wander with my buddy SuRu yesterday in downtown
SuRu was encouraging me to pursue my reflection photos as art. This entry was up on my computer, blank except for the title: "Lost Souvenirs" and when I saw this seedy souvenir shop on Congress that just keeps on keeping on, I had to get a photo to illustrate the entry. (Which I hoped to finish someday.)
As I sort through old stuff and ponder the demise of paper with my two readers (thanks FFP and Deb), I got the idea to title an entry "Lost Souvenirs." To talk about how our words and pictures from 2008 may not get preserved. First, we are getting more and more loath to save things. Second, so many things take a digital form. Third, some things just aren't as collectible any longer. Tickets to even the most expensive events are generic and ugly with bar codes for hand-held readers.
Things are getting tossed into the trash or recycling as soon as they show up these days unless they really cry out for keeping. I may find a 1994 copy of The New Yorker. But I'm much less likely to find one from 2006. Paper ephemera we might have once kept for months or years are dismissed to the paper sack for recycling post haste.
We take a lot of pictures these days. But print few. When SuRu was encouraging me to present my reflection pictures as an art form, I said "But I'm not making prints."
"Because of the cost?"
"No, because it would be more stuff. I'm going to present them as a WEB page."
However, how permanent is a WEB page under the aegis of some possibly itinerant WEB host? And if you leave the bits on your own computer or backed up on CDs or something, how permanent is that? Will there come a time when reading JPEGs will be hard because there is a newer, better format? Worse for words that are committed to MS Word...how long before the software will go beyond the format it is in?
As I promised a day or two ago, I located some stories about preserving the digital stuff. This one is about efforts at the Smithsonian. Here's a quote from it:
The problem of preserving digital archives is complex. Not only do computer hardware and software quickly become obsolete, but the durability of storage media is also limited. ''We know about paper disintegrating, but the digital world is so much more evanescent,'' Dr. Billington said.This one talks about preserving digital works of art:
''It's certainly been a problem since the first time we decided to keep something,'' said Richard Rinehart, director of digital media at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive of the University of California. ''That's what museums do: they are society's memory banks. Digital art is different because it essentially can disappear.''
''I like to joke that digital art can last forever or for five years, whichever comes first,'' he added.
Life is fleeting. More so today than ever. I think that's why blogging suits me.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
As I sort through books, unable to give up a (too large) number of them, I go down rabbit holes of reading. The above scan is of the cover of a book I bought some years ago in a second-hand store. I read it and found it intriguing because this escaped German POW who turned himself in forty years later got this book published before turning himself in. When I got this book, probably around 1993, online research was in its infancy. So I never found out the story's end...what happened when he turned himself in. I lent the book to my dad in 2001 to read and then stumbled on it in 2003 again while looking for books for him to read. Then I did some research with the Internet capabilities of ten years later. Here is an excerpt from my 2003 journal about that:
I started collecting first person accounts from World War II over twenty years ago. I picked up a book (Howard K. Smith's Last Train from Berlin) at my in-laws' house and read it. It was so interesting reading abuot events just before I was born and seeing the events through the eyes of one person in the vortex of history. The story had such individual urgency and yet the events were sweeping the whole world along. I went to the secondhand book stores and searched out similar books. A lot of them were like this copy of Smith's book. They were printed during the war or just after and were now old and musty, especially since the best quality paper couldn't be used. There were stories by refugees and journalists, foot soldiers and pilots, resistance fighters and civilians in the way of war. There were harrowing accounts of concentration camps, POW camps, fox holes and war rooms. There were touching accounts of lives touching, caroming off and spinning away from each other forever. Sometimes I felt that a big patchwork quilt of a story was being told to me, adding up to something like the truth. If truth is chaos and confusion. Sometimes the stories touched, recounting the same event from two sides or the people actually met.
About ten years ago I picked up a more recent book that still fit the genre. I bought it at Half Price Books for $2.98. It was published in 1985. The book was Hitler's Last Soldier in America by Georg Gaertner with Arnold Krammer. Georg was a member of Rommel's Afrika Corps and was captured and sent to New Mexico. He escaped from the POW camp in 1945 when the war was over. He was afraid of being repatriated into Russian hands. He lived without detection until 1985 when he published a book. The book implied that he would turn himself in, in conjunction with the publication.
As Dad and I talked about the book, I told him that I'd never found out what happened to the guy when he turned himself in. It had been a while since I'd tried to search and I'd never been that serious about it. I had tried the Internet once, I think, a few years ago. I gave it another shot and found the resume of the co-author, a professor at Texas A&M. I clicked on his e-mail and told him about buying the book and wondering. He wrote back in short order. Amazing. I printed his e-mail and put it in the book.
Georg's story is so improbable. You live in Germany, there is a war, you end up in the U.S. living a life. Your hometown is now in Poland. Life goes on for forty years and then you admit that you are not just a ski instructor, tennis player and amateur painter, but this last unaccounted for POW.
But everyone's history is interesting when you dig into it and see what happened and how and when. How some things seemed to be choice and some events just steamrolled the person. And how the generatons come and go, considered less than you might think by children and grand children.
Yesterday I found the book again. I was pretty sure I'd keep it, but I decided to see how easy it would be to replace if I didn't. This is something I often do. I'll say "yeah I might read this some day" and then I'll see that I could get one secondhand on the Internet easily. So I'll give it away and figure I'll buy one if I ever want to read or reread it. Well, Georg Gaertner's story wasn't that available. Powell's offered to let me know if they got one. A couple of dealers offered them at high prices. I decided to keep it. The e-mail from his writing collaborator is printed on paper and tucked inside. The reason I scanned the cover is so that my Library Thing bookshelf could show the cover. (By the way, on Library Thing, four other people have cataloged the book.)
As I sort through the books some have wonderful covers, beautiful paper (although the WWII era ones alluded to above are on awful wartime paper) and great inset pictures. It's hard to beat the experience of a book. Or a newspaper. I still like to fill in the crossword on the newsprint even though I have access to the fancy online crosswords.
The end of paper? No, paper and pixels will blend. Your book will come with a WEB page. As most do today. You will research things online and then buy an obscure book from a store across the country or find out online that it is in your library down the street or across town.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I remember the last encyclopedia I owned. It was my childhood one, purchased at great sacrifice by my parents, no doubt. It had a few years worth of 'yearbooks' which were attempts to update the thing with the changing times. The set fit into a coffee table with room for the basic volumes under glass at two ends with slots for the volumes and room on the sides for yearbooks and other books. My parents gave us that coffee table with the books and we had it in the house for a long time until we decided it was in the way of our plans. We sold it to some young college kids in a garage sale who packed it in the trunk of some old '50's car they'd restored. I think anyway. Wonder what every happened to it? I don't even remember the brand. Not the high end Britannica for sure. My parents couldn't afford that. But not the World Book either.
The end of paper has been predicted for some time. (The photo was taken this morning of a shelf in the office I'm trying to clean out. I know. Don't say it.)
In small ways we are escaping to bits and bytes. We don't get paper statements for some accounts now. One bank sends statements, but, at least, they print facsimiles of the checks and don't send them back. I have a couple of cubic feet of old statements and checks (from the early '90's) from our business that I've been shredding. Even though the bank accounts don't exist anymore. Still there are our signatures.
I'm still tossing magazines apace. I have no problem letting go of some titles. And The New Yorker I have on DVD up through February 2007 which makes it easier to toss any that are a little old. Well, easy is too strong.
I have about three cubic feet of old journals. Written in longhand on paper. I have an idea that scanning and/or transcribing can shrink this. But maybe not in my lifetime. So maybe I'll move a couple of boxes to storage. That's not so bad. If it wasn't for the books. Right now I'd say that we have about thirty cubic feet of books, if not more, that we haven't agreed among ourselves to get rid of.
The end of paper won't happen on our watch, I guess.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
It's amazing what people notice. For example: I almost always wear black shoes. They tend to go with black and gray, after all, and those are my favorite colors. I always felt I should own brown shoes, however. So I've ended up with several pairs, not often worn. A couple of times in the last few weeks, I've worn brown shoes. Yesterday, I put on a sort of brownish shirt and greenish khakis and it seemed that the brown loafers would look good. I've been trying to wear stuff in my closet to see if I really, really should be keeping each article of clothing and pair of shoes for the new, simpler life. As it happens, I saw my dad both times that I was wearing these loafers.
Dad remarked on the brown shoes the first time I wore them. Yesterday he said as soon as I saw him, "She's wearing the brown shoes again."
You wouldn't think he would notice.
It's funny what I notice, too, among all the things I'm 'processing' in this downsizing. Yesterday I realized as I sorted books that the early nineties was an era when we bought books with abandon. I was trying to get rid of some books, but found myself having trouble putting down a story collection copyrighted 1993. Later I found myself walking around with a receipt from 1993 destined for the shredder (even though the credit card number was not even valid any longer). I had some current receipts for logging into the budget in my hand, too. What are the odds?
A couple of days ago I was cleaning out some storage containers I'd been through a couple of times. I found some posters I'd kept over the years but never framed. There were a couple I remembered having, but would probably not have remembered where I put them: a poster from the 1972 Oktoberfest and one of the Berlin Wall commemorating its fall in 1989. But there was another tube mailed to me from a friend who lived in California in 1988. And inside was a poster from a winery her relatives had at the time in Sonoma Valley. As it happens I was having lunch with her yesterday. I took her the poster and in the twenty years since she'd sent it both of us had completely forgotten it. She seemed happy to have it, though, and said she didn't have one like it.
It's funny what we notice. And what we overlook in every minute of our existence. Never mind what we forget after we take notice.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.I don't usually quote the Christian Bible here, although it's infinitely quotable (well, that is an exaggeration, of course, that turn of phrase because, to my math-driven mind as the text is fixed and not being added to it is therefore countable with countably many ways to quote it). But as I have tried to deal with all the objects and real estate in my life, one word kept leaping to mind: hubris.
- Proverbs 16:18, King James Bible Translation
You even hear people talk about "house proud" as a vice. Anyway, my point is only that pretending you have the resources to maintain a large house and lots of objects, is only pride. I spent my earlier years not in want, but way short of all the things and the space that I imagined would be wonderful. Of course, I wanted to share these riches, to entertain, to have house guests, to have parties large and small. And there are people with the means to keep that dream alive. Perhaps if it was a driving force for me, I could remain in this lifestyle. But it is not my dream. My dream is to be freer, to have fewer things and to entertain in public spaces to avoid the cost of maintaining a home with large rooms only for entertaining.
FFP took the above picture for when we are marketing the house. It looks like a relaxing and lovely place to sit. At a home you'd be privileged to own. It is. But I see beyond that to the maintenance. The plants that need trimming, the annual cleaning of the lawn furniture.
I hope I can put aside the hubris and give up ownership of some real estate and objects and simplify my life.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Yesterday after tennis I wandered down to the gym to see if I could find a missing commuter cup (I think I left it there the day before) and to say 'hi' to FFP because his car was in the parking lot. I would have worked out a little but FFP was leaving and, after we pawed through the lost and found to no avail, we decided to go to the pro shop grill and get a salad. This was more satisfying than going home and looking through the frig and pantry. A Cobb Salad with boiled eggs, bacon bits, avocado, diced tomatoes and such. Tasty. The night before, as I admitted yesterday, we went to Fino and actually we had more than 'drinks and apps.' I actually had two drinks and a glass of wine. And we ate an entrée. I took this picture while we were having apps and drinks on the patio. That's the bartender's version of a Sazerac. He used Herbsaint which gave it a real anise quality.
Anyway. The food was good and it took my mind off all the sorting and packing.
After my tennis and lunch yesterday I came home and plotted how to move out of my office. I've been sorting stuff out of the files, closet, bookshelves and drawers for months and months. But the time has come to figure out how to move everything out. I have room to move my computer and printer upstairs, I think. But the bookshelves are going to have to go and a huge desk arrangement will have to be disassembled. The thing is 36 inches deep with a couple of six-foot sections held together by a necessarily huge corner piece. It needs to move off the floor it's on so the floor can be refinished. I've thought of putting it in what we call the storage room which is actually a heated and air-conditioned space behind the garage and below FFP's office. If it would fit, it would show that room as usable as a family project room or office. Of course, some things have to get out of the way there. I swear it's a puzzle like one of those we had as a kid with the little plastic squares with numbers that had to be pushed around until they were in order. Except that there are hundreds of pieces.
I decided I had to box up books I was keeping. (Theoretically. I keep winnowing down the ones I'm saving.) It was a step I could take. Without thinking too much about all the other steps. Of course, I had to think about where I was going to store them. In the aforementioned storage room there is a closet under the stairs. At the moment it was pretty full but with mostly empty boxes. We cleaned out under there and we had tossed or given away so much stuff that we had lots of empty boxes. We knew we'd need these but we put them under the stairs to get them out of the way. Now I decided full boxes of stuff from this office would have to go there for the interim. So I pulled out all the empty boxes. I found some boxes for some cheap (World Market) dishes we'd purchased for one particular dinner party. I'd decided they didn't have a place in our condo lifestyle so I used the boxes to get them out and get them ready to give away. (Fourteen dinner plates and fourteen salads.) I moved all the empty boxes out of the closet and started packing up books I'd identified as keepers and changing their location in my database to the boxes they were in. We've kept a database of our books for years. It was never completely accurate or up-to-date and now it contains hundreds (if not a thousand) books that we no longer own. I'd also placed a bunch of books on Library Thing. Actually a 'bunch' is too strong. Less than a hundred. Anyway, those are the ones I packed away. All nicely cataloged so I know what books are in the (three) boxes. This attention to detail will not last. I won't even say 'probably' won't last. It won't. So goes all my organizational ideas. I just have to accept that. I have to look with kindness on the stuff we are getting rid of and how many cubic feet it constitutes.
But back to eating and drinking. This sorting and packing is crazy-making. It's so much nicer to go out to eat. Last night we went to Zoot with three friends. We had a perfectly lovely meal and a fun discussion. I briefly quit worrying about how to deal with all this stuff.
But back to all that. Perhaps the urge to catalog each and every book I keep will encourage me to get rid of more of them!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
As we hurtle toward the new here we are constantly stumbling across the old. Old pictures and souvenirs. Old clothes, old magazines.
I don't find that I have much to say at the moment. We got rid of more books yesterday. We also had a brief "curbside mall" with some old gimme caps and such and a cheap rickety floor lamp. It wasn't long before the FREE sign (an old political yard sign with cardboard taped on top with a giant FREE written in black marker) was out there by itself. I retrieved it. I got a workout (a continuation of the "don't stop the thing that's working") and FFP and I went out very early for some drinks and apps. (At Fino.) I managed to sort through a few things and, given the warm day, put my sweaters away and refresh the moth balls.
I am boring. It's time to play tennis and I need some more coffee. So this is what you get today.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Yesterday, I was thinking "don't stop doing the things that are working!" Sure there are a thousand details I need to attend to vis-a-vis the big move and all the attendant duties and decisions. Sure I need to find more time for my dad and more time for writing. But since I retired I have managed to improve my health by exercising. Just don't stop.
I played tennis. We played for over an hour and a half, but it was doubles and, although I ran for a few balls, it wasn't much real exercise. Maybe just some stretching and movement. Not bad, but not cardio or weight-lifting. So. After the tennis I worked up a sweat and elevated my heart rate on the recumbent bike. And I did some ab work and a few weight things.
Only then (after doing the thing that has been most beneficial to me in retirement) did I go to my dad's house and deal with some issues with his Life Line and cell phone and then run an errand. (Returning one of our set top boxes to the cable company. Score one for downsizing.)
I wasn't very productive the rest of the day. I did juggle some financial stuff. And find some more books to propose for elimination with FFP. I took out garbage, folded some clothes FFP washed. In the evening my friend came over and we went for some dinner while FFP did yard work and made himself fish tacos. Then we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and looked at various things but bought nothing. She rejected some bar stools they had as cheap in price but too cheaply made. I couldn't find the exact replacement pan I was trying to buy (although I should go to the outlet mall for it). I considered buying some new containers to store sweaters but decided to swither more about it. There is a sort of step stool I want to buy but they didn't have one. So we wasted gas but spent no money.
But you can't stop. You have to keep going forward. Otherwise, the ivy grows right over you. As it will do one day anyway.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea,
Yet never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
This picture was shot the other day on South Congress. At Uncommon Objects, of course. (This blog seems like an advertisement for them at times.)
My life should be a cake walk right now. I have enough money. I have things I enjoy. Tennis, exercise, dining out, reading, writing. I am pretty healthy, it seems. I have things to worry about, sure. The parental units. Moving. The future of ourselves and the planet. But ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine....percent of the people in the world could only wish for my circumstances. (And yours, probably, if you are reading this and will admit it. Although, yeah, I know I am really lucky.)
Still a little dark cloud sneaks in. While I was looking up the Dickinson quote I searched for 'depression' as well as 'hope' and found this anonymous one: "Depression is anger without enthusiasm."
I don't know where this little cloud came from. Was it my attempt to start writing a memoir in my head? (I started thinking a bit too much about what I had done.) Was it a series of little things that go awry and make life less than joyous? (My dad, who for his part maintains hope and good cheer with the best of them says: "There is always something to take the joy out of life.")
This I do know: Writing helps. Just writing down that I felt down makes me feel less so. It makes me feel silly for feeling that way. Makes me give thanks for the blessing of fingers painlessly touch-typing this sentence. It makes me happy to go play a bit of tennis and go about the chores of the day.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
We paid the extra careful movers to move what can best be described as some junky furniture from our house to our parents' abodes. I was thinking I should recommend the extra careful movers to my friends moving to the condo and then thought better of it because it's hard enough to get an appointment anyway.
I had this old dresser that belonged to my grandparents (my mother's parents) and maybe my great grandparents. We displayed various art and awards on it in what we thought was an artistic way. It had occupied three different spots in our house, four if you count being in what we call the 'store room' while we remodeled the master. These movers had moved it to the store room for us, carefully taking the mirror part off and then moved it back to the location it occupied until yesterday. I'm a little sentimental about it because as a kid I would stay with my grandmother and sleep in her bed and go to sleep and wake up seeing it and I thought the top decoration was a face. So it reminds me of my grandmother and how much I loved her. It has no place in our stripped-down condo lifestyle and I would have been OK with selling it. Rather than face the wrath of any other family members on that point, though, I decided to put it in my dad's house (which is really ours, deed-wise) and keep it in the family a bit longer. Delaying the inevitable, I guess. We won't be collecting a lot of antiques, family or otherwise, in a 1200 square foot contemporary condo.
I moved some other furniture to Dad's because I thought that they were a bit better, all-in-all, than what was there. Now I have to get rid of some of the stuff that is there, but that's another day.
My in-laws would not hear to us getting rid of a breakfront and dining table and chairs that FFP had kept in his houses for almost forty years. (He lived down the street from here when we married and we lived there together for over a year before buying this place.) We talked about getting a new table and buffet and a couple of times were inches from pulling the trigger. I guess it's good we didn't do it because, of course, we would have probably chosen something that didn't go with our condo lifestyle, in size or design. But the in-laws made room for this stuff in their tiny cottage. I hope by getting rid of something else but I suspect not. I kept telling FFP it was easier to pay to move it over there than to argue.
This activity was sad-making, that's for sure. It is a little sad when we just give something away to someone who needs it. But just shuffling it around is even sadder.
We are also getting to the point that paring down the knick-knacks and books is painful. At first it was easy to find books we didn't want and get the other to quickly agree. Now it's harder. One person or the other "always intended to read it" or "was thinking of reading it again." I have to admit that I am amazed at some of the books we have and wonder that we thought we had to buy them and would find time to read them. I have to adopt the strategy now that I keep books that will be hard to find again. This is easier said than done, of course. I also want to have a small collection of books whose titles, together or separately, will amuse someone who stops to inspect a shelf. I'm losing books, but not my sense of humor, by going to the condo. But a second pass through things does yield some good candidates for the thrift store, especially given the old "cubic foot" rule where you look not at what it is or what you paid for it but only how much space it occupies. Reference books, too, are sort of redundant in the digital age although I have insisted on keeping my giant French/English and German/English dictionaries in paper form. So far.
The funny thing about downsizing is that it can get you down. Or up. It all depends. Yesterday was a down.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Are my pictures worthwhile? Worth looking at? Is my story worth telling?
This has been a topic I've batted around in the last few days. Here and here. I even had a conversation with one loyal reader on the topic. [Ed. Note: The rest of them are loyal, too. Just, um, respectfully quiet.]
This inspired me to look back at my old journal where I had topics like Who, What, When, Why and Where. The Who is a little bio. It is a place to start with a story that is really sort of boring. [Ed. Note: You had to revise it before you wanted to point people to it. A life story keeps changing until (and perhaps after) death.] My story is a mixture of the true and the false, the well-remembered and distorted and, of course, the completely forgotten. Like every story.
Anyway, it's something to do, pondering a memoir, to distract me from other things. Downsizing has reached a gut-wrenching point that I might discuss tomorrow. And I'm also thinking about writing about how blogs and memoirs in books differ. Writing about writing. The dodge of the blocked writer? Talk among yourselves.
Monday, March 10, 2008
We all have monsters, I guess. In Rob's daughter's case, it is a brain malformation. Keeps her from speaking normally and has other manifestations. Rob talked about some of her classmates in a special augmentative speech device class and how their disabilities were both more obvious and overwhelming. Most of us just harbor smaller gremlins, maybe our genetic destiny, maybe something that has happened to threaten our psyche. I looked around at the reading, watched people as they asked questions and wondered: what are their monsters?
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we can get things organized, structured, simplified and in better shape. We think diet and exercise can make us better and, while that is true to a point, we are all falling down in this life. Headed to a sure extinction. We think if we get our finances straight (or find the right companions, or, you know, fill in the blank) we can be happy. Some think that if they get on the right side of their God or gods, all will be well.
The truth is that life is a monster who leaves you alone sometimes while it sleeps. What we do in these moments of relative peace is our life.
When I made my morning call to Dad this morning, his voice sounded strong. It could have been my dad, thirty years younger. He hadn't gotten out to see the rain, he felt pretty good, no surgery was scheduled. He is good at existing in those moments of peace. Getting a smile, even a laugh while the monster sleeps. Maybe even laughing at how old age has compromised him, laughing at the monster. He adapts, he accepts. And unlike his child he doesn't even try to make literature out of it.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Everyone has lists of things they want to do. I feel like I've gotten to do most of the things that I wanted to do in my life. I say that I have this dream to go to all the Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments. [Ed. Note: You did go for one day to Wimbledon.] I say I have a dream to follow the Danube to the Black Sea (on one or more trips). Truthfully, though, while I do want to travel to a lot of places and can't wait until my obligations make that more possible, I'm pretty happy with my life here in Austin. I'd like to beat back some of this downsizing and moving stuff so that we can live the dream of just walking out the door of our building to a cab and not worrying about a house. This assumes we can hire people to look after the parents, too, if needed.
Naturally, some of our dreams are under-financed, too. But truthfully it is mostly about time and obligations at this point. I'm not saying I have the money for all my dream vacations. Because I don't. I think I'd like to reach the point where money was the thing holding me back. And at some time before my infirmities are in charge.
That is the race we run, isn't it? With money, time, obligations and health. And no one is immune. I read in the paper that Roger Federer had battled mono in recent months. Hmm...maybe my chance to see him win a Grand Slam in person is past!
Meanwhile, someone seems to have stolen an hour in the night.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
This picture is of FFP in New York with the section of Berlin wall that is somewhere on 53rd Street (I think). It's a thing I do: take pictures of sections of the Berlin Wall where I find them. Has this one been further tagged in New York? Don't know. I took a picture here long ago but I would be hard-pressed to find it.
I'm a little worried about the downsizing projects. They seem to have slowed down. But I think that is only because I was immersed in taxes and such for a few days. In any case, time to get serious. Monday we are moving some furniture to our other house and to my in-laws' house. I do realize that it isn't exactly like getting rid of it, but feel free to point that out!
First, though, I think I'll get a workout and ponder how to get moving on the downsizing thing. I fear that in some realms we've reached the point where getting rid of more stuff is hard. We keep applying a finer and finer screen until what has survived seems precious. That's not completely true, of course. I think there are things we haven't even looked at yet, to be honest. But it does look like we will touch everything seventeen times (or some prime number of times) before we decide its fate.
Friday, March 07, 2008
The conversation at my lunch on Wednesday wound around to an affliction (as I called it, not my companion) that my lunch buddy began suffering after being hit by a truck. (I think it was a truck, although a passenger truck, but he was walking.) He's 'lucky' I guess that the only apparent result manifested in a loss of smell and taste for some but not all things. (It seems like a big deal to me actually.) I had offered some of my pizza. After he ate it I asked, "Can you still taste garlic?"
"Well, lots of garlic. Have to gargle today!"
"Thanks. There is nothing like garlic breath at the gym!"
I started joking about someone spotting for him and being bowled over by garlic breath and letting him drop a weight on his chest.
But we got around to talking about this loss of sensation. He said one friend of his thought maybe the changes in his brain from the injury had actually fueled his writing. He said he felt music in a new way since the accident.
So is our art, the unique things we produce, the sum of our unique afflictions and not our unique abilities? When we are blocked, is our competence overwhelming us?
Is my bloggy writing entertaining? Are my shop window and museum pictures that don't require(willing) models or a particular adeptness with a camera beautiful to some? Art even? Am I working within the negative space of my limitations? Is that the only place we have? Do I blog because the form fits my mental restrictions? (My buddy is disinterested in writing anything but plays. Why?) If it's good (big question), is it good because of the things I cannot do as opposed to the things I can?
Did Allan McCollum come up with his mass-produced but one-of-a-kind works because of a particular affliction?
If I am creating anything in my bloggy space, it is definitely somewhat a product of shyness, attention deficit, fear of judgment, etc. And what are these things but infirmities?
Of course, when we explore artists who lost vision, musicians who lost hearing (or use of one hand) and writers who were unable to actually type or write or perhaps even say words, we find some great creations. In spite of? Because of?
As a last thought, and going back to the first in this series (Writer's Negative Space), memoirs need adversity. That must be true or would-be memoir writers wouldn't make some up! Do some of us lack enough pain to write certain things? Clearly not because they can be invented and convincingly so.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Let's see. I'm working on my taxes. So I keep finding reasons to be interrupted. I'm hungry. I need coffee. I'll surf the net while copying this. Fortunately I don't have to fill out the forms. I just have to fill out an organizer and, you know, get the stuff organized. My in-laws managed to sign theirs on the correct lines on the second try. Ours is a tad more complicated than theirs. It makes a national sales tax a tempting thought.
My head swims with figures and forms like the picture above. This is not my cup of tea. Hmm...maybe I need a cup of tea.
Another friend told me that she was reading a book by Scott Adams that he really just collected from his blog entries. (From Publisher's Weekly: " Adams builds his latest book (after 2004's The Religion War) out of entries from his blog, which results in a lot of short chapters and abrupt changes in topic.") She was suggested I make a book therefore from the sea of words washing around the Internet ether.
My point? [Ed. Note: You are a blogger not a writer so a point is not really essential. But do go on.]
What is blogging? What constitutes blogging? Can a sixteenth century essayist be said to be doing it? How about Pepys? And, more importantly, what is writing? When are we doing it? And, of course, when is it worthwhile?
I enjoy my morning typing. I place a picture on Austin Daily Photo. (Ah, the demands of my life. Every day. A darn photo is required from within the rough boundaries of Austin, Texas.) I can't resist adding words to picture. Then I sometimes type here. But is it writing? (Particularly when I have about seven readers.) Would it be better to be published on paper or associated with Montaigne?
People are desperate at times to have their words on paper. Preferably acid-free but anything semi-permanent will do. Memoirs are popular now and blogging is, mostly, writing what is true for the author in the moment. Supposedly. Of course, we have created such a demand for memoirs that people are making them up. James Frey was excoriated for exaggeration and playing loose with the apparently more or less true shape of his life. Now Margaret Seltzer has been exposed for making up a foster child/gang involvement story out of whole cloth. You know, I read the original NY Times story about this book and thought to myself that it sounded false. If I'd read it online I would have sniffed it right out, I think.
I don't think I would ever write a memoir. In fact, an uneasy feeling about what is true has stopped a lot of my unwritten fiction in its tracks. Someone I have read online for years has written a book and is in fact having a book tour event here in Austin on Sunday. I think Rob has had thousands of readers online, off and on. I read the book. I learned a few new things about Rob. But I didn't doubt the truth of any of it. Because keeping up a coherent story for a long time online is nearly impossible. And, of course, I've seen him and his family in person. And thousands of pictures. So the snooty editors and publishers and agents of the world would do well to take note that one way to be a little sure of the truth is to publish a blogger! Not that you can't be online and have secrets. But it's hard to tell a consistent lie over a long period of time. Think how hard it is to make a novel consistent. Then try to add little random bits on the fly without much time for editing.
The photo (of my reflection in mirrors in a the window of Uncommon Objects) is one of the few taken in this location that actually reveals that the shape across the street is a church. I used it because I wanted to show the ephemeral nature of truth and words for this Montaigne-like essay! Just kidding.
Stay tuned because I got another idea for writing an 'essay' here from my lunch date yesterday. A continuation of the title "Writer's Negative Space" we will explore creativity and the lack of senses. Or not. This is just a blog. You can't hold me to anything.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
What is also amusing about this picture is that MOMA is mounting a new show this week ( “Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today”) with an emphasis on color. And in The New York Times a guard was featured wearing a vest designed for the show in an article about it. It could be the same guard!
I mentioned the weather in my last post so I have to confess that the weather for tennis was so glorious that it dismissed my thoughts of politics, downsizing and taxes. Mostly. And I did get my in-laws taxes finished. Otherwise I wasn't too productive.
I'm getting nostalgic for this house. And we are starting to face some logistic issues. A couch we bought for the condo is being delivered so we have to have it delivered here and moved to the condo later. But we can't put it where the couch we gave away was because we are going to refinish the floor in that room. And it's spring so we have to at least supervise a lot of yard work. Well, FFP does, bless him. Anyway, as we move and touch all this stuff, there are lots of memories and impressions of comfort that we feel we might be giving up. This confusion and these feeling are inevitable, I imagine.
As part of my sorting and sifting, I bring things into my (still FAIRLY neat!) office and let them sit there while I decide what to do with them. Currently I have some magazines from the '30's and '60's, two clay beer mugs from Munich and a set of cards with an accompanying book called "The Observation Deck" which is designed to inspire creativity. Ha. You mean like actually writing something besides a blog?
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I have a busy day in a country club sort of way. Tennis. (I hope the wind has died down.) A meeting about a country club project. And voting. The lines I saw at early voting while running errands gave me pause. Maybe during the day while other people are working? Then I have to work on taxes for me and my in-laws.
Today's picture is our reflection in the Steuben Glass window in New York. Many mes. Many FFPs.
I'll be back when I have more to say. I stayed up too late reading a friend's new book. Yeah, the one I asked for at New York stores and didn't find. Rob has a reading on Sunday at the Arboretum Barnes and Noble and I decided to just go ahead and buy and read the book before the signing so when I was out that way, seeing about my dad, I bought a copy. I wanted to read it all last night and, although a follower of his blog will know a lot of the stories, it makes a pretty coherent and touching narrative. It feels a bit strange to hold a book about something that had been online 'ether' writing that could disappear. Also, made it hard to be objective about the book.
I would say that Rob is my friend (in fact I did in the last paragraph and I called him a 'buddy' the other day). But, reading the book, I realized that I am merely his reader. We've had a couple of personal encounters. Even a drink. (Sadly, friends often become so over drinks in my world.) But I realized while reading the book that we are too far apart in our experiences. We have friends his age. Some a lot younger. We have friends with kids. We both like music and books and joking around. But there is something that has made a friendship a non-starter. (And the fact of that turns an online reader into a stalker if you aren't careful!) The funny part? One of his best friends is someone I consider a friend even though I never ever see her since she moved away, got a fancy pants job and became a stepmother (minus the wicked part).
Monday, March 03, 2008
But really. Don't you enjoy your routines and the places and people you are familiar with?
Not that I don't like to shake things up. Go some place new. Turn a corner and see an artwork never seen before and astounding.
But the familiar draws us.
This morning when I struggled to get up at 7:30 it was to execute a routine that, if possible, I like to do every day. I get coffee, I call my dad. I post a picture (and, usually, too many words) on Austin Daily Photo. Then I might write an entry here or bring up a computer file and write my personal journal.
I was thinking, "If I spent that time that I usually steal out of the day for coffee and self-indulgent stream-of-consciousness drivel in my blog or journal, then I could complete short stories, novels, plays, screenplays and, even, coherent memoirs." We went to a Austin Film Festival script reading last night and seeing that some people (actually twin brothers and their friend a short story writer) have completed a script and, no less, mounted a very polished reading with Jesse Plemons in the lead and the likes of Brad Leland, Ray Benson and John Merriman. (The title is "Out of the Woods" and the writers are Alex and Andrew Smith and Chris Offutt.)
But I know the shape and requirements of my blogging and my journaling. Which is to say: it doesn't have to go anywhere, it can be any size, it doesn't have to "get published" or "get noticed" or "get produced." What gets pushed to the public is under my constant editing control. I don't need an agent. I don't copyright.
It's familiar. It's comfortable. Of course, a little change now and then is nice.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Yesterday in Austin when I got up and after fooling around for a while I went to the gym in shorts and a T-Shirt without a second thought. The winter bulbs have bloomed. The Redbud trees will be pushing off their blossoms and replacing them with leaves before you know it. The Mountain Laurels are starting to cover their limbs with those purple blooms that smell like grape juice.
So that's it. It's Spring! It may freeze again but still.
We had a list yesterday of things to get done. One of them was ordering some furniture for the condo. That we got done. When I was laughing that we only got that done, FFP said he had hired someone to do part of it. And he did go to the bank with some deposits. (Where a teller talking on her cell phone left a zero off the deposit and said, "Well, they would catch it.") So, really, all we didn't do off that list (that didn't run into a snafu) was pick a contractor for some work in the condo and "Continue to toss stuff that isn't going." Downsizing. Ongoing. Must get on that today. I guess watching CBS Sunday Morning in your bathrobe isn't going to get me going on that. Hmm...maybe another cup of coffee.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Returning from a trip gives me a barely there feeling just like this shot.
Especially when sleep gets thrown off. We arrived home in the wee hours of Wednesday. Didn't help that I had a Wednesday night meeting to attend which took me away from poking around the house putting things right. Didn't help that FFP suggested going to Fonda San Miguel restaurant after my meeting. The one beer I drank was very sleep-making. I might have had a glass of Pinot in my meeting, too.
Thursday I had a tennis game and, while getting to the club by nine and doing a couple of sets of singles and a workout in the gym went a long way to revitalizing me and grounding me in my real life, it didn't help me catch up on sleep or chores.
On Wednesday my dad stopped by and I examined his eye and took pictures to send to my sister and nieces. He was complaining that he was going to need another blethoplasty. (He had a plastic surgery to remove sagging skin on his eyelid so that he could see better. I think it made him look like an old man doing an imitation of a surprised monkey. But it did keep his aging eyelids from poking his lashes into his eyes.) I told him this seemed to be caused by a small amount of swelling, closing the eye down a bit. So on Thursday (after my conventional Thursday dilettante start of a few minutes at the computer followed by tennis and gym) I decided to go over to Dad's after my shower and look at his eye. It seemed more closed to me than Wednesday. I did a couple of errands for him and I took another picture. When I came home I compared the pictures and still it seemed more closed. FFP and I had two different downtown events. But before we rushed off for that I called the doctor's office and they said someone would look at him on Friday morning.
All of that is to say that on Friday I had to get up earlier than usual and go pick him up and have him there by 8:30. The eye seemed more open than the day before and if it had been steadily opening I would have not bothered with the visit since we have an appointment with the surgeon on Monday. But we were there so they checked for infection, proper pressure. The ophthalmologist couldn't see his retina because the gas they injected is still in the way, but things seemed to be going OK. (He says he can see a 'water line' in his eye. That's the gas which his tissue will eventually absorb.) So, I was a worry wart but I felt better. I went home and tried to catch up on financial stuff and getting things orderly around here and then we went to see a couple of short operas at the UT Butler Opera Center. They were good, but I was tired. (Possibly that was exacerbated by stopping at Fino on the way for some food and a bottle of wine.)
So today it's time to find myself and find my routine. Although routine seems to be flying out the window as we prepare for this move. Our trip to New York was the only trip we've allowed ourselves until the real estate vortex is only a memory. (Although a couple of nights in Austin hotels purchased at charity auctions and maybe a trip to Dallas and/or Houston could happen.)
Meanwhile, I'm be here somewhere, online and off.