The Light of Peace

On Christmas Day
we celebrated at our house
I picked up my in-laws at their house
and drove them to our house.
They are old and wobbly
and there are lots of stairs
so it took a while to get them into my car
also my mother-in-law had a flame
the Light of Peace
that had come all the way from Jerusalem
that she wanted to share with us
and we had to be careful with that
so as not to light anything on fire
and especially not let it go out.
it was in the form of a candle, protected in a little
wood and glass lantern type thing.
she put that into a pot and carried the pot
for extra protection of all involved.
the light, as i understand it, someone goes to jerusalem
and sets something on fire from the Light of Peace there
and hurries back with it before it goes out
then they light more things on fire
and take them to churches
where people come and light other things, usually candles
and take them home
where the Light of Peace
shines on Christmas.
their neighbor had gone to church to get a flame
and come over and lit their candle for them
doubling the Light of Peace.
all the way to my house it smelled like something was burning
in my car but it was only the Light of Peace.
at my house everyone stood around
and watched
while I took out our candle
or rather put their candle-lantern thing into a larger lantern
of ours
a big glass affair
and took our candle and a long wooden match
with which to transfer the Light of Peace to our new candle
while leaving their candle burning
thus doubling yet again the Light of Peace
but instead, with the large match, I pressed the first candle’s wick
into the melted wax
extinguishing the Light of Peace
undeniably, before five witnesses
fuck, I said.
it’s like that Jack London story with the trapper starting a fire in winter,
i said
but none of them were Jack London fans.

Full disclosure

Mig: Hi. Watcha doin’?
Gamma: Well I was going to do yoga but I got stuck taking tests online.
Gamma: I wondered if I could name 20 elements, so I took a quiz, then I fell down a quiz hole for an hour.
Mig: Ah.
Mig: Your mother asked me what I was thinking. I said, well, I was thinking if someone kidnapped me and cut off the tip of one of my fingers, and then released me but threatened my family if I told anyone, if I would tell anyone. And how long it would take her to notice one of my fingertips was missing.
Gamma: Ah.
Gamma: Well, actually, full disclosure, I was thinking, if we were on a quiz show where they killed you if you didn’t know the answer, would I be able to name 20 elements.
Mig: Ah.

On memory and reality

My little brother sent me some short videos this week.
It went like this: he transferred VHS tapes to a DVD. Then he played the videos from the DVD on his computer, and filmed the monitor with his iPhone. Then he sent me the iPhone videos via a social media site, and I forwarded them to my family.
The quality of the videos was of course poor; not only were the original tapes nearly 30 years old, each step transferring, copying and refilming degraded them further.
And yet: they were still superior to my own memories of the events — a visit we paid to my family in the United States when our oldest daughter was one year old.
Alpha and I are now older than my parents are in the videos.
The house in which we sing Happy Birthday has since burned in an arson fire, and then been torn down to make way for a mall parking lot.
Some details were only slightly surprising: Beta is a serious baby in the video. I remember that she was a serious baby, but she was even more serious than I recall.
Some details contradicted our memories entirely: for 30 years, we have told Beta she never crawled, just went straight from rolling to walking. But in the video she crawls just fine. She was a fast crawler, chasing my parents’ wiener dog all over the living room.
To be honest, the videos freaked me out a little.
The speed at which time passes, for one thing. How people just die, two people from the video, for example, but time just keeps going.
But we know that. What really freaked me out was how the evidence contradicted our memories. I know I forget things. We all forget things. I know I have forgotten most of my life, when it comes down to it. But to see blurry, grainy but genuine evidence that even the little bit I remember is false, that’s freaky.
It’s one thing to read somewhere that memory is nothing but stories we tell ourselves, and that any particular memory is altered to a greater or lesser extent with each re-telling, but to actually see the proof like that makes you wonder what else you’re wrong about.
What grudges you’d be better off dropping.
What pain you could let go.

Being invisible was just the tip of the iceberg

Suddenly the Invisible Man is besieged by old snapshots.

Snapshots on the walls of his daughter’s empty apartment when he drops off something.

Including one of his wife wearing fairy wings and waving a magic wand while his daughter, as a child, regards the camera with a sober expression.

Snapshots in frames on his desk, or taped to the walls.

Including one of his wife smiling in a blue swimming pool, holding his daughter as a toddler, also smiling.

So much sunshine and smiling.

There are more. In one he carries his daughter on his shoulders. It is from before he became invisible. It is underexposed and he has black hair and a black beard and looks scary. His daughter is hugging his head. They are surrounded by flowers.

(It is the older daughter in most of the pictures, because the pictures of the younger daughter are mostly digital, and lost forever, or somewhere hard to recover).

Looking at all these pictures would be bad enough for the Invisible Man for the nostalgia alone but it’s worse.

The Invisible Man thought being invisible was bad, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. The snapshots goof up time and the Invisible Man becomes unstuck and encounters all his past selves, and the past selves of those he loves.

If you think being invisible is bad – and listen, it is, robbing banks is fun only so long – becoming unstuck in time and encountering all your past selves really sucks.

Because it turns out every single one is a stranger.

Those past selves you remember don’t even exist.

Memory is funny that way.

And in many cases, not every single one of these past selves is someone you’d care to remember.

There is a reason memory does that.

This is why forgiveness is so important.

Because sometime the snapshots add up and time dissolves and then what?

He calls his wife and apologizes.

Water under the bridge, she says.

Sunk cost.

In Russia, cat adopt you

Odin wonders, did kittens have something to do with the loss of his one eye and he made up the story about the spring of wisdom because it sounded more divine?

He wonders, is that what happened to Van Gogh and he made up the whole cut off his own ear story because mad artist sounded better in the 19th century than kitten?

See Odin woke up at 3.30 with a kitten gnawing on his ear, making nomnomnom sounds and purring sounds, and smacking its lips.

It also bathed his entire head as he tried to fall back to sleep.

You ever try to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night with a kitten chewing on your head? he asks the crows.

Of course not.

Of course not. The crows aren’t even there, Odin is just imagining them today. His wife packed him a lunch and he ate it early in his office and now he’s sitting there while workmen drill holes in brick walls on all sides and concrete walls and do other things similarly noisy to floors and ceilings with other power tools.

What say the slain?

Here is what I wish for you: that one day you lay aside the millstone of recognition for just a second and driving down the street, say, you see a young woman walking toward you on the sidewalk, smiling in the morning sunshine, on her way to work, dark hair flowing in the breeze and unaware of you and the sight of her makes you happy and you think, what a beautiful, together, strong, happy, professional-looking, competent, smart, intelligent, interesting, charismatic and unique woman and only then after this objective reaction to a stranger, realize she is your daughter.

What say the hanged?

Seeing yourself at the center of creation is a failure of imagination.

Edgar Allan Poe and The Season of the Tortoise Dish

Edgar Allan Poe wakes from fitful sleep his eyes burning and swollen. He looks at the alarm clock but can’t focus his eyes and can’t find his glasses. He dresses and goes downstairs and looks at the clock in the kitchen which says two in the morning. Upstairs his wife is coughing. He looks for laudanum but they’re all out of laudanum.

A red cat rubs up against his pantleg, covering it with hair. Edgar Allan Poe opens the door and lets out the cat.¬† In accordance with the Law of Preservation of Red Cats, the other red cat comes in and demands food. Edgar Allan Poe goes back into the kitchen to get cat food because even though it’s too early if he gives the cat food it might let him sleep. If he doesn’t, it won’t.

In the kitchen, he steps into the tortoise dish.

These are the facts of the tortoise dish: it is too warm for the tortoise to hibernate, but too cold for the tortoise to spend all day outside. So the tortoise lives in the kitchen. That’s why there is a tortoise dish in the kitchen. The tortoise dish is full of water. The tortoise drinks from the dish, and walks through it before having a bowel movement.

Of the three nasty things you can do with the tortoise dish, stepping into it turns out to be the least nasty, as it spills the least water. The second-worst is to kick it by accident, which spills more water. The worst is to step on the side, which flips it over and empties it out, throwing algae-and-worse-filled-water a long distance.

Edgar Allan Poe goes back to bed, but the cat he let out is meowing so he lets it back in.

In this manner, he fails to fall back to sleep.

His alarm goes off at 4.30. He gets up, feeds the cats, eats breakfast, makes a cup of coffee and his wife asks him to take out the garbage.

He goes around the house gathering  the residual waste from all the half-filled garbage cans into a single garbage can. When he empties out the bathroom garbage can, something remains stuck to the rim of the bin. He looks closer. It is a sanitary napkin.

He sighs, and reaches to take it, but his wife is walking past and plucks it off and drops it into the other garbage can.

Edgar Allan Poe gathers residual waste from the rest of the bins in the house. He goes outside and empties it all into the large garbage can. The sanitary napkin is stuck to the rim of the small garbage can again. Edgar Allan Poe says, It’s the Tell-Tale Sanitary Napkin, or something. He plucks it off, and throws it away and returns to the house.

He opens the cabinet to get cat treats to lure a cat out of the living room, and kicks the tortoise dish.

Edgar Allan Poe drives his daughter to town on his way to work.

It’s beautiful isn’t it, he says. The weather. Like a new season. Too warm to be winter, too crisp in the mornings to be summer. They should invent a new season.

Dad, dad, dad, says his daughter.

Luwak epiphany

0002

Photo by Bruce

I was at the doctor yesterday and she asked me how I was mood-wise cause a medication she prescribed can cause suicidal depression. I had totally forgotten. I thought it was the fog and general greyishness. Overall not so bad, though, I said. Actually, really great, I think now. My kids ate dinner with me and it was fun talking to them. The cats were freaky when I got home because my wife is away on a business trip and they were alone all day. This morning I was carrying one around and she stuck her tail into my coffee and I had to decide whether to make a new cup or just drink it. Making a fresh cup would have taken 30 seconds and I didn’t want to wait that long so I just pretended it was Luwak coffee. Then that, in combination with everything else, triggered an epiphany, which I sort of described in a post at medium.com.

Writing blog posts is a lot of fun. Sometimes I am really happy with what I end up with, despite or because of the randomness and accidentiality of them. I am trying to write a novel right now, yet again, and am trying to figure out how to translate blog-type writing into a novel.

A whole bunch of short chapters, I guess.