11 June 2012

Too much has happened over the last few weeks to chronicle in these pages. Suffice it to say – in the immortal words of Peter Gabriel: I’ve been feeling part of the scenery…I’ve got to walk right out of the machinery…my heart going boom boom boom…

You can keep my things, they’ve come to take me home.

 

We’re taking this show on the road. Our next post will be from Cactus Country…

Solsbury Hill

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26 May 2012

A month or so ago, the Professor’s favorite independent radio station made repeated requests for listeners to vote for their favorite 20 songs – to be tallied and compiled into the top 500 songs of all time. The Professor waited until the last minute to vote – in part because she did not think it possible to choose only 20 – there are simply too many songs and versions of songs and artists and cover artists, etc. But also, she was afraid to post her list for fear of the djs secretly laughing at her. What if her songs were not quite cool enough. “The Rainbow Connection” as sung by the Muppets?

In the end her fear that Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen would once again dominate the top 10 (the epic size of their catalogs automatically affording them an unfair advantage) forced her to place her vote. Barbra Streisand was on the list but then so was Guns & Roses, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Ben Folds, Peter Gabriel…

Yesterday we invited your book recommendations, and while a handful of lovely readers liked or followed this page, no one left a comment. Perhaps, like the Professor, you have a list the length of a seventh-inning stretch you’d like to talk about/recommend but are afraid to appear uncool.

Fear not, dear reader. The Professor is the furthest thing from cool. While she generally does not seek-out books whose covers portray scantily clad women bound by handcuffs, she appreciates a case well made. A passionately argued review. Comment away. Don’t hesitate…the coupon expires on Memorial Day!

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25 May 2012

The Professor has noticed a pattern. She gets an email from Barnes and Noble offering her an additional 25 percent off her next purchase – on top of her member discount – every time she buys a certain number of books, let’s say five in the space of two weeks (Don’t gasp! I suppose some of you spend your money on things like groceries and gas – feed your head! That’s what I say.)

She is self-actualized enough to recognize the pattern but not strong-willed enough to avoid the bait, to keep away when a coupon is proffered. So, given that we have offered up a number of book recommendations in these recent posts, the Professor would like to invite suggestions from you, dear reader.

How should she spend her 25%?

post script: the Professor is a bit of a literary snob…no recommendations featuring the number 50 in the title, please.

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24 May 2012

Image

Allow me to introduce Willis. Willis, of course, is the bespectacled creature posed in front of my pot. I like him because his hair is even more ridiculous than mine. Also, I like that he is stuffed. He cannot move, unlike some of the other creatures which have begun to invade our happy home this spring. I can’t imagine what the Professor would do if she opened a book and found an actual worm gnawing away at the paste and binding. Tunnelling like a slimy bullet through page after page. I am confident the shriek would become the stuff of legend.

Willis has been placed here to keep me company. To talk to me about – what else? – books. We have been moved to the upstairs window. Situated on the ledge behind the Professor’s keyboard, and the view is invigorating. Treetop after treetop. Telephone wires, sky, and sun. More sun than ever showed its face on the western side of the house. Brandi – my dear unyielding Brandi – remains on the ground floor.

But onto the more important matters of the day. Willis and I would like to tell you about a book called The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Now in paperback, this novel is a spectacular read. Absurd in the best possible way. It chronicles the odd Fang family, who have spent the better part of their lives creating chaotic public ‘events’ masquerading as art. We learn about these escapades primarily through the grown-up lenses of Child A (Annie) and Child B (Buster).

Mr. Wilson is fond of the phrase “worrying over” and referring to emotion in terms of electricity, but we love that he does not provide excessive physical description of his characters. He allows us to use our own imaginations, and as readers, cacti, and worms, we appreciate being treated with that kind of respect. This technique serves, in its own way, as a metaphor for the fact that appearances matter least. That smooth skin (as opposed to spine addled, for example) is not the definition of beauty. Thoughts made manifest by words are where real love begins. And Mr. Wilson personifies this truth through a scene in which Buster (Child B) falls in love with a woman he’s never met after reading a story she wrote. In doing so, he lends voice to those of us who know what it’s like to be so filled, so validated by a writer’s words that we want to embrace her (or him) as soon as possible.

It turns out that Mr. Wilson is giving a reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City today. Unfortunately, from our sill, it is a 12 hour ride to Iowa, and the Professor has already said, No. She won’t drive us – even though she acknowledges that Iowa City is a great little town – full of wonderful independent shops and restaurants. But if you happen to be reading this blog from somewhere closer to middle America, please stop in and give Mr. Wilson a squeeze for us.

Iowa City

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23 May 2012

Do not go into that room tonight,

Fat and hairy and mad – keep away from

The spider! Oh patient spider, waiting to take a bite.

 

The Professor was typing in the bright of day,

When above her head the creature appeared;

Do not go into that room tonight.

 

She thought: What to do? For all such species

Remind her of Charlotte, a good friend and writer, too.

The spider! Oh patient spider, waiting to take a bite.

 

But Charlotte stayed in her corner of the barn, and

Son of a Mother this spider did move;

Do not go into that room tonight.

 

Made small by fear of its poisonous pincers,

She grabbed a shoe box and aimed it at

The spider! Oh patient spider, waiting to take a bite.

 

A thwack and a primal scream that made the hound howl, somehow she missed,

And it disappeared into a dark crevice – pissed and hungry for vengeance.

Do not go into that room tonight;

The spider! Oh patient spider, waiting to take a bite.

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22 May 2012

The Professor finally got around to posting on her own blog today, so in lieu of my own words, I’ve decided to provide a link to her musings.

http://bridgetteshade.blogspot.com/

 

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20 May 2012

Somewhere in the distance, the frogs are doing a call and response number. I don’t speak frog, but I suspect these incessant glottal thrums may be an attempt at amphibian Barry White. It is spring afterall. The time when a young frog’s fancy turns to love. And a young cactus? Actually I have no idea how old I am. But I worry that my hair line is receding. The bright red flame which bursts forth from the top of my head is of late sliding further and further down the back of my skull.

Don’t think it hasn’t occured to me that this might somehow be the Professor’s fault. There are no other ‘house plants’ here, and it has not escaped my attention that neither of her thumbs is green.

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11 May 2012

Since I’ve been turned away from the world outside, I’ve had to entertain myself with the contents of the dining room. Grow where you are planted…right? Anyway, last night the Professor made mention of the book whose cover I’ve been intently studying for the past two days. Placing her fork on the table so that she could gesture accordingly, she recounted the details of the first tale in the collection.

It begins with a tiger. A bengal to be exact. And this tiger can talk – at least his inner thoughts take the form of people speak. The Professor describes how this tiger comes to discover love. (picture her clasping her hands to her chest) Not romantic love, per se but something like familial love. On the morning he realizes this love, the tiger waits for its object – the man known as Kitch to arrive, as he always does, bearing food and affection. All day he waits, and in the mean time the sun bakes his brains; his arch rival attacks him; a crazy singing lady parks herself on the bench outside of his enclosure – exacerbating his headace. The children who have not come to the zoo to see sleeping wild animals keep shouting, “Wake up!”  And just when the bad tiger is about to dole out more punishment, Kitch arrives. Thank Heavens, I’m thinking. Phew! That was close! But then for some reason, Kitch hits the good tiger. The tiger who loves him so. He cracks him upside the head with a long stick! And Oh, God. What happens next is just awful. Inevitable – as the tiger himself ultimately realizes but heart-breaking none the less.

This story is called “The Infamous Bengal Ming”. It’s written by a man named Rajesh Parameswaran – the spelling of which I’ve memorized from days of intense concentration. His name is infinitely cooler than Fred. Still, I can’t help think that I too could pen such a dark collection. I Am An Executioner (the collection in which the tiger story appears) might just as well be called I Am A Cactus. We are misunderstood creatures: cacti and executioners. Neither of us can help hurting the people who force themselves upon us.

I recommend reading Mr. Parameswaran’s collection of short stories but not just before bed.

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8 May 2012

The Professor and I have been brainstorming some alternative Mother’s Day card messages for those of you who, like the Professor, find yourself frustrated at the Hallmark store this time of year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

  • Mom, I love the way you smell. You smell like every good memory I have.
  • I can always count on you to have gum. And tissues. And a pen. Thanks for knowing what I need.
  • Mom, thanks for the cheese omelets and balogna with ketchup. The hotdogs tossed in scrambled eggs? Not so much. But if you’d never offered this to me, I might have made the mistake of ordering it from the menu during an important lunch meeting and embarrased myself by pushing the food around my plate.
  • Sometimes I say things that sound just like you. I used to think this would bother me, but it turns out, I don’t mind at all.
  • Science is now proving that children who are exposed to stories at an early age are more empathic, more understanding of the emotional needs of others. Thanks for reading to me – apparently it’s the reason I’m kind of a succor – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Thanks for having red hair. It’s given me so much to write about.
  • No one will ever love you as much as I do. This is well understood among the siblings. Please don’t bother leaving them anything in your will.
  • Don’t ever die.
  • Happy Mother’s Day…(shouldn’t the apostrophe be on the outside of the s’, given that it isn’t just one mother who is being celebrated but all mothers?) I defer to your wisdom.
  • You are a Mother of a mother.
  • When your left arm aches, my left arm aches. When your right foot swells, my right foot swells. It is the pain that binds us.
  • Thanks for laughing at me. There’s nothing better than that sound.
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7 May 2012

Apologies dear followers for my lapse in these posts. The Professor has found herself otherwise ‘engaged’ and as I am unable to ascend the stairs, incapable of speaking on my own behalf, I am at the mercy of her availability. Despite my frustration over her preoccupation with driving and other activities which require her to leave the house, she makes a solid point when quoting e.e. cummings: “…life is not a paragraph, and death, I think is no parenthesis.”

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