Monday, November 24, 2014

dilemma



it would vacillate between being a beautiful box constructed by traditional japanese joinery finished in beeswax and a bright pink lacquered frame. every time it would morph from one to the other, we would all 'ooh' and 'ahh'. both were exquisite and we all agreed there seemed to be sound arguments on both sides when it came to choosing either one. finally someone said, 'only a geisha would know the right answer!'. at that exact moment, two geishas entered the room and as they carefully folded their flowered umbrellas, we ran to them and excitedly explained our dilemma. the geishas did not interrupt the smooth forward flow of their entry despite being mobbed by us. they folded and then carefully placed their umbrellas into the porcelain stand and then slipped out of their wooden getas. they only nodded at us over their shoulders as they continued wordlessly up the stairs and on into their rooms.

we felt somewhat deflated but quickly agreed that our excitement must have seemed frivolous to them. we returned to our previous spot, marked two columns on the top of a paper and began to make a list outlining the attributes of each as the object ebbed and flowed from one form to the other.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

flour mill



my work would keep me in stockholm for the next 7 months. i sent word ahead that my only requirements for a living space were that it be immaculately clean, totally quiet and within walking distance of the studio. a flurry of worried emails littered my inbox regarding the impossibility of fulfilling my request since all the best hotels were on the opposite end of the city. my terse response was a copy/paste of the original post. i subsequently automatically deleted any emails regarding the subject as i was too busy to give it any more thought.

3 weeks later when i arrived in stockholm i was met by a small dark man in an ill-fitting black suit and a chauffeur cap holding up a placard with my misspelled name. he loaded my bag and we traveled in silence as i concerned myself with answering all the emails that had piled up since i'd stepped onto the plane. as the car rolled to a stop in front of the studio, i knit my brows and tilted my head as a question. 'you're over there across the street on the top floor. they found you a spot in the graduate student housing.', he answered directly. i gave him a tip, thanked him, extended the handle on my bag and rolled it behind me toward what looked like an abandoned flour mill. as i passed through the glass doors into the cavernous space, i became aware of the sound my leather soles made on the worn, silky smooth cement floor. sssss-clip, sssss-clip. it made my ears feel relaxed and i let my eyes wander over the beautiful decay left by the flour industry. giant stainless steel vats, the still rollers of gravity conveyer belts winding through the space like a massive sleeping python and the walls of small paned windows three stories high flooding the details of the factory with golden hour light. by the time i'd closed myself into the freight elevator, i felt myself smiling.

when i stepped out onto the top floor, i saw a row of louvered doors. here and there they would open or shut as some preoccupied grad student shuffled through. 'perfect,' i thought,' everyone is as busy as me.' i walked down the row until i found my room. a bed, a closet, small desk, sink to brush my teeth and a key to my personal toilet/shower directly across the hall.

i unpacked my things and headed over to the studio.


Monday, November 17, 2014

the master


with incredible skill, speed and precision, he grabbed, dispatched, gutted, scaled and extracted two perfect filets from each fish. into a large bucket went the heads for stock, the tails got tossed over his shoulder to the gallery of hungry cats. his head was bent toward his task and his little white cap was pulled down upon his skull so firmly it made his ears stand nearly straight out. his tiny fingers, impossibly nimble were glistening with water and blood. his every movement was artful and full of grace. his apron was wet and glittered with cast off scales. the waiting buckets of writhing gills and fins kept getting pushed nearer as he emptied the ones closest to him. i watched him for many minutes and only realized my mouth was hanging open when i started to speak, 'he's-', 'he knows he's a raccoon.' interjected the man standing next to me. 'no, not that...' i said, 'he's amazing.'

Sunday, November 16, 2014

favorite niece


my favorite teenage niece had been behaving strangely. her last few visits had found me with my house too full of people and activity to do anything but observe her from a distance, but i was absolutely sure she was under the influence of something.

this day when she crossed my threshold, i resolved that no matter what was going on i would focus solely on her. she was (as always) delicate, sweet and beautiful, but her pale blue irises were almost entirely obscured by her dilated pupils. when i asked her to follow me to my office she did not hesitate. i closed the door for privacy and before we'd even sat down i asked her what she had been taking, she answered immediately, 'klonopin and benzedrine'. i was completely floored but i commanded every corpuscle in my body to remain steady so i could help her. 'do you know why?' i asked. 'to be crazy and have fun- like you did when you were my age' she answered sincerely. i squeezed my temples with the tips of my fingers and knew she was referring to one of my books. she admitted that she didn't really know what the drugs were, but that she enjoyed the effect. i opened my laptop and she sat next to me staring at the screen while i googled the drugs. soon i'd read enough and quietly closed my laptop. in the next few minutes, she told me that all her friends took the combo and there were literally hundreds of the pills available for practically nothing since the kids were stealing them from their parents. i thought for a long moment. 'if i asked you to come with me when i go to india for 6 months on the condition that you put all of this down and gave some serious thought to not picking it up again, would you?' 'YES!, absolutely!' she gripped my arm and asked me if i was certain and i assured her i was. as she ran out the door, i picked up my phone and started making arrangements.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

only acrimony


Thursday, November 13, 2014

young teacher



i was frustrated. i'd gone through at least a half dozen teaching assistants and the semester wasn't even half over. the leaves of the palm trees outside glistened in the sunshine and bent enticingly in the warm trade winds. the sapphire blue of the ocean could be clearly seen through the floor to ceiling windows that took up an entire wall of my classroom. my students were distracted and screwing around and i knew i was wasting my time even going through the motions. i sighed deeply as i wrote the days work on the board. i tried not to listen to the chatter from the class behind me and stay focused on getting the correct information up in front of them. as i turned around i caught the tail end of the descent of some unknown object that had been tossed across the room. i walked over to the windows to draw the blinds so the projection screen would be visible. as the room grew dark, i saw that all of my clothing had been outlined in one of the fluorescent dyes we used for experiments. i looked like a glowing rudimentary drawing. i started to try and figure out how in the hell they had accomplished the feat, but stopped myself when i realized it was just pushing me further off track. i pressed my eyes closed as the class erupted into laughter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

one more year in LA


faty and mario had lost another tenant. she begged me to take the house for a year but i resisted because i as much as i wanted to help her, i had my heart set on leaving LA. 'just come and look' she implored. after saying no a dozen times, i finally relented figuring i could at least spend some time with her and assure her that everything would turn out alright.

two giant eucalyptus trees flanked the walk leading to the house and rustled their leaves in a peppery greeting as we passed. we walked into the house and i couldn't believe how adorable it was. it was a turn of the century california bungalow in a great neighborhood near the ocean with all the right elements and tons of natural light. though it wasn't a green and green, it was pretty darn close. when you stood at the front entryway, there was an unobstructed view all the way to the screened back door. the mature foliage that surrounded the property gave it a feeling of luxurious privacy. faty said she and mario had restored it before the last tenant had moved in and it truly was beautiful. i couldn't help but picture myself padding barefoot on the wide plank hardwood floors with an unhurried cup of saturday coffee cradled in my hands deciding what route to bike to the farmers market. 'okay,' i said, 'let's work out a price.'

faty hugged me and the deal was made.