Tomatoes

Beta: Did Gamma bring you guys any of the dried tomatoes I made?
Dad: Spicy little guys!
Beta: That would be the dried jalapenos.

Deprivation, isolation, floating

What say the slain?
One day, months ago, during a brief respite from political ranting during a drive into town with Gamma, we listened to a radio program about a sensory deprivation / isolation / floating tank business in Vienna.
“I’ve always wanted to try that,” I said.
Gamma filed that information away neatly and guess what my daughters gave me for Father’s Day?
This is how I found myself sitting on a shady bench in a Vienna cemetery yesterday evening. I was early for my appointment at the Sargfabrik, an apartment complex in Vienna with a theater instead of a parking garage, and down in the cellar a room with a floatation tank.
Floatation (or floating? not sure) tank is what used to be called an isolation tank, and before that sensory deprivation tank.
I prefer sensory deprivation tank, but understand one must market the things.
Like I was saying, I was early as always and took a walk around the neighborhood and disliked the park (too sunny, for one thing, and generally unlikeable, at least yesterday evening, for me, at that spot) so I continued onward and found the cemetery next door and went in and found a shady bench and watched the gravediggers work, and read the dates on the headstones, as one does.
Then I thought, Ah! Cemetery – Sargfabrik, I get it!
I guess the Sargfabrik used to be an actual coffin factory until it was converted into housing.
Then I texted the floating tank guy that I was already in the neighborhood, in case I could get in early, and I did and there I sat, no longer in the cemetery, in the cellar, in a dimly lit, cool room, being orientated.
Epilepsy? he said. Claustrophobia?
Nah, I said.
Goals? Hopes? he said.
Curiosity, I said. Father’s Day.
He looked a little disappointed, (but I might have been making that up, there in the dim light) so I added, maybe get an insight into this deep sadness I lug around all the time that is kinda the mortar holding my world together? Or into this yapping I have been doing with my wife?
Okay, he said. I dunno, he didn’t look real relieved so maybe it really was the dim light after all.
He said he’d knock on the outside of the tank when my time was up, and left.
I took a shower and got into the tank and shut the lid.
I spent a long time getting comfortable which is weird because what could be more comfortable than floating naked in a shallow tub of super dense saltwater in the dark?
But such is life.
I floated there in the dark listening to something hum. Something was fucking humming! What kind of sensory deprivation is this? Maybe it was the ventilation.
More of a buzz than a hum. And not loud, but still.
It wasn’t me.
Then either I got used to it or it stopped.
I listened to my breathing for a while, and to my heartbeat.
After a long, tiring day, I was surprised I did not fall asleep, or even get sleepy. After lunch I had been nodding off at my desk.
I sort of meditated for a while. I hummed a little. My mind was pretty blank a lot of the time.
At some point I woke up, or regained consciousness, or something. So I was out for a while, in one way or another.
Toward the end, trying out different ways of holding my head and comparing relative comfort, I got salt water in both eyes and was really glad the orientator had showed me where the kleenexes were in case that happened. I opened the hatch and wiped out my eyes and closed the lid again and eventually the stinging stopped.
One’s ears are submerged in the tank, so sounds are muffled.
I lay there listening to my heartbeat.
Thump-thump-thump! Then after three thumps it stopped again. Weird, I thought. I tried various positions to hear my heartbeat clearly again like that. Then I did, I heard it again. Thump-thump-thump.
After doing this a few more times I realized it was the guy knocking on the outside of the tank that my time was up.
He went away again and I lay there for a minute, thinking, Well that was an anticlimax.
No jumping out of the tank and running around like a caveman like William Hurt in Altered States. No hallucinations, no epiphanies.
It didn’t even seem all that different from my normal, daily life, I thought.
Then I thought, my normal, daily life is like an isolation tank.
Then I thought, there’s an epiphany for you after all.

Tess (wet plate collodion)

tess wet plate collodion

Tess, taken 23 12 2014 on aluminum plate, 8 second exposure f3.5. Old Workhorse collodion.

Today’s wet plate

tess05102014Tess, partial shade, f 5.6, 6 seconds, old workhorse collodion, black aluminum plate. The scratch is from a momentary catastrophic loss of coordination in my dinky dark box while putting plate into silver nitrate bath. The original plate is otherwise clean, I think the white specks etc are from the scanner.

I also did my first glass plate today, a portrait of my wife. It turned out reasonably well. Collodion lifting a little here and there around the edges, not sure why, maybe insufficient cleaning of glass before pouring.

Dramas are cheaper than comedies

Man, it’s freezing out.

Winter.

But Odin doesn’t wear his hat when he goes to the store. He doesn’t want to make it any harder for the crows to recognize him, and he thinks a hat might do that. It sure freaks out his cats when he wears a hat.

So, no hat.

He buys honey-roasted peanuts and a baloney sandwich in a poppyseed roll. The crows meet him at the bench. Not immediately. He stands there for a minute eating peanuts before the first one, the grey one that reminds him of a duck, Huginn, appears on a telephone wire and swoops down for a piece of baloney sandwich.

Then the second grey one swoops down from the left and fights over another piece of sandwich with Muninn until Odin tosses them a couple more pieces.

For a while, they all hang out, eating silently.

Odin feels particularly unstuck in the multiverse today. All day, he has been slipping easily from one to another.

He is at a movie premiere with his daughter. Standing in the cinema lobby, they crack jokes and watch people, observing the different tribes that show up at movie premieres – the movie actors, the journalists, the photographers, the fans, the weirdos.

They wonder if they should buy popcorn. They agree popcorn should be handed out free at movie premieres. They count uncanny botox foreheads.

Botulinum toxin is the most lethal toxin there is, his daughter says. 100 mg would be enough to kill everyone in the world.

Like Odin himself, Odin’s daughter is a fertile source of useless facts. This makes Odin smile. He has been smiling all evening.

You might want to use 200 mg, though, just to be sure, Odin says.

His daughter has another thing in common with him, too: she attracts nuts. Odin realizes this when a little man appears in their personal space and asks her if she is an actress in the movie they are about to watch.

She laughs and says no.

The lobby is very crowded and noisy now, and the man talks fast, so Odin catches only a portion of what he says, but he hears him say that a local film festival always shows dramas, but never comedies or action films, because dramas are the cheapest. He has something white in the corner of his mouth.

Probably food.

Is that right, Odin says. He moves to stand between the little man and his daughter.

So they show dramas. And documentaries. Documentaries are even cheaper than dramas.

For a while, he tells them about a movie he recently watched. Odin runs through his entire repertoire of things you do to signal a conversation is winding down, but nothing works.

Finally, Odin says, well okay then, grabs his daughter and walks with her to another corner of the lobby.

At one point, Odin gets the autograph of an actress his daughter and he both like.

At another point, they watch the movie. It is okay. It is a comedy, not a drama, and they laugh a lot. Afterwards, the cast come onstage and talk for a while, then Odin and his daughter go home.

Although Odin is unstuck in the multiverse, he is not entirely without control.

On days like this, he can slip almost effortlessly from one universe to another.

He is in his car, realizing it is snowing.

He is riding a train.

He is someone else, in 1972.

He is a man waiting for crows.

He is watching a beautiful woman.

He is playing Arvo Pärt with his daughter – she plays the piano and he plays the cello. Then they give up and he switches to the singing saw and they play it that way, and laugh and laugh.

He is digging post holes with another man, holding a heavy motorized auger between them.

He is back with the crows.

What say the hanged?

Live it up.

What say the slain?

They say live it up, too.

Tattoo

Man: Yeah, right here on my forearm. A turtle. Tortoise, I mean.

Young woman: Yes, that would be cool.

Man: Think so?

Young woman: Yeah. And you could tattoo a rock on your bicep, so that when you flexed your arm it would look like the tortoise was fucking the rock.

Man: [blink] Totally.

There is a word for it

Definition: the emotion a parent feels when their 16-year old daughter returns home from a weekend at a boy-laden rock festival in a city three hours away, happy, thorn-scratched, sunburnt, exhausted, hungry, filthy, robbed of sleeping bag and backpack (including contents) but not purse(+more important contents such as phone, ID, money, etc), long hair wild and glamorous and full of twigs, a goofy smile on her face and glad to be home.

Relief might be the word.

Or gratitude. Thanks for watching out for my kid, universe! And for the dozens of stories you gave her!

As others have said, this is the deal. If you do a good job, they leave. If you do a really good job, they come back. Now and then, at least.

Her sister’s still in the States. She’ll come back too, eventually. I hope.

We have her cat.

Her early-rising cat.

It’s fence-painting season. It’s Gamma’s summer job this year. I keep forgetting to tell her the Tom Sawyer story, but it’s just as well, I can’t imagine any other kids doing as good a job as she does.

Meanwhile, I found myself in a cloud of mosquitos yesterday evening trying to get the pool set up, because my wife wants her pool set up, and also it would be nice if Gamma could jump in when she gets hot out painting the fence.

Definition: the period of time in which a person forgets how the hoses connecting the pool to the filter and pump are connected; equivalent to the time from the end of pool season one year to the beginning of the next pool season the following year.

Imagine me standing there in a tie-dyed T-shirt and old running shorts, slapping mosquitos, staring at the pump, then the pool, then the hose in my hand, trying to grok the nature of this set-up. Eventually I do, of course, I am actually not bad at this sort of stuff, but this is where the fun part begins.

The pool is almost full, just a few more inches to the inlet/outlet holes. I turn on the hose, do stuff around the house, write myself a postit note to turn off the hose before I leave, and go to work. At lunchtime I call Gamma and tell her to turn off the hose and ask her if anything is flooding or leaking.

Flooding no, leaking yes, she says.

When I get home in the evening, I change back into my pool assembly clothes and reality morphs into a version of the cake factory episode of I Love Lucy only instead of cakes moving ever faster down a conveyor belt, I find ever more new leaks. I replace a leaking hose with a new one. I tape up another hose, but I can’t find duct tape and the packing tape I use does not stop the leak and looks decidedly white trashy so I cut more fresh hose but before I can take off the old hose I have to drain the pool below the outlet, so I get a pump  into the pool and water the garden.

All of this is done, by the way, with Beta’s cat walking in a figure eight around and between my feet.

I also tighten every screw on the pump and filter that can be tightened, and that stops a lot of the leaks too. Ditto the screws on the leaking skimmer thing on the pool.

Yes, then the water is down and the new hose goes on and the pool gets filled back up and I’m done.

Kind of wet, and covered in mosquito bites, but done. As happy and relieved as a girl arriving home from a pop music festival.