Two paintings from Japanese surrealist Shiori Matsumoto
Private Time (1999)
Installation Art by Jenny Holzer, 1994
And so this evening I’m suppose to be working on the remix of my novel - and I am - but I need to take a break because my characters are irritating me. Their stories don’t want to coexist. I’ve been fighting the urge to cut one of the more developed characters completely out of the story. It doesn’t feel like work, per se, but more like wrestling, which is not an easy thing to do when you’re as (un)athletic as I am.
I found this snarky article in Granta entitled “How to write about Africa” and then I got discouraged and so I went to this Lulu Titlescorer thing where I found out the title of my novel, City of Floating Seashells, has a 63.7% chance of being a bestseller. Aside from the simple novelty, it was uplifting to have a machine create positive conjecture about my work.
Tomorrow all day grading papers.
This is a still frame, only moments before the man's straight razor slices the woman's eyeball, from the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou (1929) Directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí
My ENG 101 class watched this film today and then we discussed the idea of "meaning." So many of them are still under the impression that there’s such a thing as universal meaning, that there exists a right way and a wrong way to understand something.
Students said stuff like, “It didn’t make any sense.” or “What’s the point?”
As a teacher I’m excited to be the person who introduces them to the idea that there is no such thing as “meaning,” no such thing as “a point.” Just as there is no such thing as right or wrong, no such thing as good or bad - that the only thing which truly exists is our own personal perception of these things, our own personal truth, our own idea of what is good and bad. Not an easy concept to grasp when you’re 18-19 years old and you’ve been programmed by public education, religion, and American capitalism. But I’m impressed with their willingness to grapple with these new ideas. It was an exciting day.
I have eaten very little this week. At night I watch televangelists and self help gurus who promise to change my negative thinking patterns. But just watching their program does no good, you have to purchase something for the magic to happen. You have to send some money for your life to turn around. I wonder how many people slit their wrists on the way to their pocketbooks to fish out their credit cards.
I conversed with my buddy S.E. today over coffee at The Mill, a coffeehouse downtown, in the Haymarket District. This is a place I rarely go these days, but when I first moved to Lincoln it was the place I most frequented to write and get out of my apartment. Many nights I sat alone on the terrace of that place with a composition book and an insatiable fascination with the red neon lights shining on the brick building across the street. But today, I sat inside and discussed everything from his time living in an isolated cabin in Oregon to me having trouble organizing my novel.
Being light as a bug blinking over calm waters, a quiet walk down B street, up 18th to D street, turning before making it to E.
Yes, it is cold here, but not snowing.
On the television the Rose Bowl begins. I think of Pasadena. Driving solo over that gothic bridge from Highland Park, cruising down Figueroa to Colorado Blvd. Parking and walking the outdoor shops: Urban Outfitter, B&N, that pet food delicatessen that only sold fresh baked pastries for dogs and cats, that record store that only sold records.
Sometimes I went to movies by myself, in fact, I remember seeing Von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark" by myself at that oldtime Pasadena Theater that eventually got shut down.
I think of Christmas that year, how it was cold for LA and I wore an oversized black suit jacket to impress the costume designer I was with, and how she talked me into buying a present I didn’t really want to buy.
And all the while, the ocean was so close by.
I think of the Italian dinner with Fast Eddie and his sister, how she squirmed in her seat with excitement because I told her I studied consciousness with Dr. Raymond Moody at UNLV. Fast Eddy had never heard of him.
Then there’s the Pasadena I really remember. The nights Basquiat and I couldn’t sleep, worried about work, worried about friends, worried about loneliness and so we drove ceaselessly the streets of Pasadena; he, being a cat, enjoyed the passing cityscape without comment. But I spoke to him on those drives. I told him about my thoughts and feelings and I imagined that he could understand me.
He gave a lot of good advice.
But this is not Pasadena. And my cat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, disappeared in Las Vegas shortly after those drives.
I’m now many years gone from that place, but surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), I'm still as alone, except that now I’m driving solo down O street to get a gingerbread latte with no cat and no ocean close by.