It is the new moon, or thereabouts. Maybe it was yesterday. That wouldn’t surprise Odin. The new moon affects Odin more strongly than the full moon. Also, it’s stealthy. With the full moon, at least you can see the full moon and prepare yourself. You forget about the new moon.

The new moon makes Odin stupid, and he was stupid yesterday. Yesterday was Thursday. The day before that was Wednesday, and Odin was stupid then, too.

The only reason, for example, the only reason Odin didn’t get a ticket yesterday is, the police officer was… I don’t know why. No idea why Odin didn’t get a ticket, but the police officer just warned him. Odin wanted to buy him donuts he was so grateful.

And Wednesday. Odin was out of it, that is, unable to recognize situations in time and avoid them.

Such as: he sat on one of four seats opposite the doors on the street car. Never sit there. Those are the first seats. That’s where crazy people sit, for example.

Of course, crazy people sit everywhere.

Odin sat opposite the doors. At the next stop, all the average people got off but for one young man to Odin’s right. A very wide man got on and sat on the two seats to Odin’s left. Then at the stop after that, an even wider man got on; wider but shorter, with a huge head, small eyes and mouth. In a high voice he asked if he could sit on one of the seats, which were full. The young man to Odin’s right got up to let the guy sit so you had four seats, two occupied by the large man on the left, two by the corpulent large headed man on the right, and Odin squished in between.

The man on the left was looking for something in his back pack, which was beside Odin, and the man on the right was looking for something in the back pocket of his (the man’s) jeans. That is, there was a lot of squirming going on.

Odin thought, I deserve this for not reacting fast enough.

The man to Odin’s right had a caretaker he kept asking where they were; and the man kept showing him a map on his smart phone.

All of them were going to the terminal station, it turned out, where Odin got off, took a passport photo of himself in a photo booth and got yelled at by his wife for making her wait. Odin pointed out that it was still five minutes before the time they had agreed to meet, but that did not help.

So because of things like this, when a cat woke Odin early Friday morning, he did not fight to fall back to sleep. He meditated, and stretched, and wrote and started his day feeling human, if a little sleepy.

The new moon must be waxing, he thought. He did not feel as acutely stupid.

On his lunch break he went to a fabric store and bought black-out cloth. He took public transportation there and avoided uncomfortable situations and found most passengers delightful.

He also found the fabric store delightful in its plain-ness. Just bolt after bolt of fabric and sales clerks running around. One greeted him politely, he greeted her politely back and told her what he wanted and she sent him to the basement.

My childhood, it reminds me of my childhood, Odin thought. The plain functionality. The lack of any intention to delight you into buying more than you wanted was delightful.

The saleswoman in the cellar was from Africa. She gave Odin a choice between velvet, genuine black-out cloth, and another fabric she said another photographer had purchased and hadn’t worked. The velvet looked the prettiest, but the black-out cloth kept giving her shocks so he got that.

You have to like fabric that fights back.

On his way back to the office Odin got some Chinese takeout.

He was going to eat it in the office, but as he walked by the bench someone cawed at him and he was like, I know that caw. So he sat down and all three crows appeared.

He threw a piece of chicken to Muninn, the black one, and Muninn was like, whoa, dude! and Odin was like, sorry, shoulda warned you, it’s still hot. Didn’t realize it’d still be hot.

Then he threw a piece of chicken to Grey #2 but it landed too close and Grey #2 wouldn’t approach that close so Odin had to throw a few more.

In the end, the crows got most of the chicken, or almost half, and Odin had most of the rice and sauce.

That’s why Odin is so sleepy.

What say the slain?

Time travel is real, it’s a thing we all do, recalling the dreams of our child when she was small, or observing the salesclerk at the Kurdish fruit stand and noticing that his hair is grey and remembering when it was black and he’s the same guy but he’s not.

Just like all of us other time travellers.

The string theory of Cracker Jack

There are a lot of women with babies in strollers in the deli. One is tempted to assume they are mothers, but Odin assumes nothing.

One is very slender and dressed in black.

One has bright red hair.

The pre-packaged sandwiches and salads look depressing, but Odin gets turkey breast and cheese anyway. On whole-wheat bread.

And a mylar bag of “honey”-glazed peanuts.

He eats peanuts on his way to the bench. This afternoon, they remind him of what was, for him, the best part of what he as a boy knew as Cracker Jacks, real name Cracker Jack, an American snack treat made of popcorn coated in molasses flavored candy, candied peanuts and a cheap toy surprise, originally in a waxed box, now probably in a mylar bag (he hasn’t eaten any for decades), invented in Chicago by German immigrant Frederick William “Fritz” Rueckheim, registered in 1896, making it America’s oldest official junk food.

According to one theory of the multiverse, one universe can arise in another universe via a quantum tunnel, and continue to expand and exist there, without being detected by observers in the first  universe (Odin assumes). Although he can sense a Cracker Jack universe now, somewhere nearby, where he is a young boy peeling back the foily wrapping on a waxy box, and tearing it open and shaking out some candied popcorn and eating it, and fishing around for the prize (a ring in this case, or a little plastic game where you roll a small metal ball around a maze) looking forward to the candied peanuts that always seem to sink to the bottom of the box.

Eating his glazed peanuts Odin thinks this is like cutting to the chase of eating Cracker Jack. He liked the peanuts more than the prize, although the prize was ostensibly the culmination of a Cracker Jack session, which for Odin (back in the Cracker Jack universe) was a special occasion, perhaps once a month or when his aunt visited and brought Cracker Jack and Swedish fish candy.

At least that’s what he thinks the fish candy was called.

It’s been almost fifty years.

No crows show up at the bench, only blackbirds, which Odin ignores because he doesn’t want to start anything with a new species, although blackbirds (although nice songbirds) lack the intelligence of crows – they are dumb (or daring) enough for his cats to catch now and then, and one flew into his car last week, expiring in a cloud of feathers, which still makes him sad when he thinks about it.

He hears a crow cawing, however. He gets up to throw away the garbage from his lunch – mylar peanut bag, plastic sandwich package – and saves a little of the sandwich, because he senses the crow he heard was talking to him. From the garbage can, he can see the third crow, the grey one, waiting at the bench. It is nervous and skittish, so he tosses it the sandwich he saved from a greater distance than usual. The bird flies off with it in its beak, landing on the roof of a garage across the street, where it eats at its leisure.

The honey-roasted peanuts Odin had for lunch today were not very similar to Cracker Jack peanuts. The coating on today’s peanuts was crustier and duller; the Cracker Jack peanuts he remembers having a thinner, shinier coating.

They were the only junk food he got as a boy, and only about once a month.

His father’s eyes

It’s a weird day. It’s been a weird winter entirely. Walking down the sidewalk, Odin alternates between powerful and stumbling drunk. Sometimes he forgets to breathe, then remembers and gasps in grey atmosphere.

Crows follow him to the store, where he buys salad and salted cashew nuts because he is trying to go a few days without carbs or sugars.

By the bench, two crows – Muninn and the nameless second grey one – take nuts without complaint. The grey one flies off with a beakful.

Odin’s little brother posted a photo of himself to a popular social networking website. Looking at it, in that first instant between seeing something and identifying it, Odin’s brain was already filing the image in the section of his memory associated with his father. Oh my god, Odin said, out loud. Odin had never noticed their resemblance before, his little brother had always been bigger than their father, taller and heavier, and now he was balding in a different pattern than their father had, and with a white moustache their father never wore; but the eyes!

Odin is in a universe in which recombination of elements is the basis of all existence. All matter is made of the same atoms. Sexual reproduction recombines genes. Philosophies and religions recombine ideas. The faces of children recombine their parents’ features.

Originality is in the recombination, not in the building blocks, Odin thinks.

The universe is one big Markov generator, Odin thinks. The present moment is a combination generated from previous moments. Your thoughts are generated from previous thoughts.

So, Odin tries something. Odin moves closer to the light.

First, Odin thinks he has stumbled onto an idea he could parlay into a massive self-help empire. Then, he thinks this is the idea at the root of every previous self-help empire (including religions) in history.

Positive thinking.

Now and then, Odin thinks, Love. Or he is nice to someone. Or he thinks about someone he likes, his daughters or his wife or a friend.

Odin meditates, and a cat crawls over him and he thinks, what a pretty cat.

When you are surrounded by shit, and you recombine things, and it comes out looking like shit, that shouldn’t surprise you.

So Odin stops surrounding himself with shit, and surrounds himself instead with beads and semi-precious stones, ripe berries and smiling women.

Odin doesn’t know if this is naiive or simple.

Odin tries to recall the hardest joke he ever heard, the hardest joke to tell, but all he can remember is the man telling it – the delivery – and not the joke itself.  That alone makes him laugh.

It’s his father’s laugh.


Building a tripod

As you know, I bought an old camera with which I hope one day to take wet plate collodion pictures. Before that, I need to do two other things: figure out if the plate holders that came with it are plate holders or film holders (I haven’t checked yet because it would be too depressing if they were film holders, although it probably wouldn’t be impossible to adapt them); and obtain a tripod suitable for the camera.

Oh, also organize a light-proof cloth, and darkroom equipment and supplies. So, five or so things.

But I have been concentrating on the tripod lately.

The problem is, the base of the camera has two screwholes, not just one. Meaning any normal tripod with a single screw is not going to support this camera stably (which might explain why the wood around each screwhole is cracked).

So no normal tripod would work, unless I interposed some sort of two-screwhole plate between the head of the tripod and the camera.

I browsed the Internet seeking a solution. Large-format tripods are expensive, even on ebay. I found a video on youtube showing a fellow apparently making a wooden tripod on the concrete floor of a garage somewhere in India, using only a hand saw. I found another site selling plans for wooden tripods for wet plate cameras.

He wanted eighteen dollars for the plans. The good thing about this tripod was that the top part was sort of a wooden plate, a little table top where the camera sat (instead of the usual modern tripod head), with three legs.

It would be easy to drill two holes in the appropriate place in that top and mount the camera. But I am too cheap to buy plans. Instead, I stared at the photo on the website for a long time and thought about what the design needed in order to be 1) stable and 2) adjustable. There is nothing that is more fun than figuring out something like that. This was a few weeks ago. I bought the wood I thought I’d need and started tinkering with it.

It’s mostly done. It needs to be sanded and painted, then assembled. I need to get different-sized screws for the legs (the first ones I got were too fat). Most of all, I needed the right screws to fix the camera to the top plate.

I looked at the hardware store first, but they didn’t have screws that fit. The thread was all wrong. Too coarse. Maybe not metric. The salesman recommended a professional screw store. I drove there but they weren’t open on the weekend, nor at any other time that worked for me.  But I had an important piece of information: there is such a thing as professional screw stores.

So I found one in Vienna and went there today.

I called first to see if they were open at lunchtime, which was good, because a gravelly-voiced man told me No, they are not open at lunch. So I went there after lunch. I walked around looking at graffitti, and calling my wife, and texting my daughter until the shop opened up.

On the phone with my wife, I made screw jokes, then she made screw jokes, then explained to me that she had been making screw jokes because she thought I wasn’t getting her screw jokes and hadn’t noticed that I had made screw jokes too.

That’s how subtle I am.

Then I went in the screw shop which was awesome. It was a normal-sized shop, full of shelves. You walk in and there is the counter already and maybe room for two or three customers to stand and the rest is shelves of boxes of screws.

And a woman who looked to be about eighty. She ignored me when I came in the shop because she was doing something important behind the counter. I don’t know what, she got lower and lower and then was out of sight for a while. Finally she stood back up.

I need screws, I said.

The woman had a wart on her nose and a white hair was growing out of the wart.

I have an old camera. I need two screws to hold it to a piece of wood. This is the base of the camera, see the screwholes? I said.

She shook her head. Those don’t look metric, she said. (She also had a gravelly voice, but it was not the voice I had heard on the phone.) What did you say it was, a sewing machine?

She had some of her lunch around her mouth, caught in hairs, and was eating more of it, with a spoon, out of a small plastic container. It looked very much as if she had made it by gelatinizing small children with lye.

The piece of wood is 1.8 cm thick, I said.

Sewing machine, she said.

Camera, I said.

You could be in luck then, she said. Tripod screws are normed.

She went to a shelf and brought a box of screws that fit, on the first try. How long? She said.

Well, the board is 1.8 cm thick.

Here, measure them, she said. She handed me a folding yardstick thing. Sewing machines aren’t normed. They take all different screws.  They could be any size, she said.

I told her I needed longer screws, she brought me some, I paid for them and here I am with two screws in my pocket.

Actually, they look like bolts, but screw is more fun to say.

Now all I need are bolts for the knees of the tripod legs, and I’m set. The world is my oyster.


It is a warm winter day, warm in a way that makes you suspicious because winter is supposed to be cold. Odin goes to the pharmacy to pick something up, also his wife wants something that they don’t have but at least they have what he ordered. No crows see him on the way there,  unmolested by corvids he walks on damp sidewalks dirty with gravel and salt spread during the freezing rain a couple days earlier.

Odin walks around for a while. He calls his wife and says, hi. He sends someone a text message. He walks past the store but doesn’t go inside because he isn’t really hungry. It is lunch time but Odin isn’t hungry.

He stands on the corner for a while but Huginn and Muninn have forsaken him.

It is a suspiciously warm winter day and the crows have forsaken Odin.

He decides to go back to the office and goof around. He is almost back to the office when the crows show up. The two grey ones, then the black one too. The duck-sized grey one hops from car to car, following Odin. The black one sticks to the trees, the low branches. The smaller grey one likes the telephone lines.

Ok, Odin says. I’ll go get you something.

He walks back to the store. He buys a sandwich and a nut/berry mix.

The crows follow him up the street. He gives them a few nuts, then walks over to the bench and sits down.

At first he fears the crows thought all he was going to give them were a couple almonds, and gave up on him.

Odin couldn’t tell you where this abandonment anxiety comes from.

Then Muninn shows up (the black one) and Odin peels the lid from the plastic container containing the chicken sandwich and removes half, which he tears in half again. He tosses a piece to Muninn.

Muninn discards the cucumber slices, eats a little bread, then flies off with a beak full of chicken.

Then Huginn arrives and gets the other piece.

Odin is left with the remaining half of a chicken sandwich he doesn’t want. Garbagemen walk down the street and putter around in the nearby intersection. Odin wonders what their policy is on whatever it is one would call what he is doing. Feeding crows. Throwing your sandwich on the ground. Sitting on a bench and staring into space.

When the garbagemen turn their backs, Odin breaks the remaining sandwich into pieces and leaves it on the ground for the crows, in case they should return.

What say the hanged?

Today is made out of yesterday, and tomorrow out of today. So if you want tomorrow to be different, you have to do something different today.

It doesn’t have to be a huge change.

Small differences are okay too. You never know.


It’s like when you’re out in the woods building a fort. A fort doesn’t just build itself.

Or a treehouse.

You need the right things. A shovel, or wood and nails, a hammer, a saw. If you want a fort tomorrow, you need these things today.

On abundance

Pronoiac Rob Brezsny linked an article on F*c*book today and for some reason I clicked on the link and read it.

The title was, “Scarcity is a Myth“. That must be why I clicked on the link, because the idea of scarcity vs. abundance interests me. It was written by Tara Stiles, of whom I had not heard before, and who seems to have a business involving yoga.

Immediately, I prepared myself to scoff at the article, because it was a listicle by a beautiful young person. I am tired of listicles, and I am tired of young people imparting wisdom to me.

But I read the article. It consisted of Five Rules to Enjoy Abundance.

All I could find to disagree with was her claim that scarcity is a myth. In fact, scarcity is not a myth. Scarcity is a fundamental fact of life. This is not all bad. Life is scarce, thanks to death, but were it not scarce, it would have no value.

That is the function of scarcity, imparting value, maybe.

But it is a fact that there is a lot of artificial scarcity going around, manufactured by various people for a variety of reasons – political, economic, habitual, psychological.

We do have way more scarcity than is really necessary, this I believe.

But the Five Rules to Enjoy Abundance? I read them with my late uncle Phil in mind. I have mentioned him here before. Uncle Phil made the world an abundant place, and taught those of us who loved him how to do it ourselves.

It turns out the Five Rules were also his rules.

These are the rules: humility, thoughtful action, support, landscape, and joy. Tara explains them a little in her article, go read it if this interests you. They are good rules. I learned them from my uncle, and I try to live by them. Beauty and youth do not preclude wisdom after all. I apologize for ever thinking they could.