09 October, 2008

Brilliant Pet Tricks

Sometimes genius is hard to recognize. It may sneak up on you like a cold, there on the margins of your awareness but never quite definite until it has you in its clutches. Maybe it’s just allergies, you think, or the pollution is particularly bad today (pretty common here in Paradise). You sneeze, wipe your nose and go on with what you were doing. Then, the next morning, WHAMMO!!! And you’re laid out like one of the Painted Pitbull’s meeses. Elvis Costello’s records always surprised me this way.

Sometimes it isn’t. Some genius signals its arrival with blaring trumpets, a big bass drum and the clanging of cookie sheets. Celebrants of the past referred to this parade as “a joyous noise” and it serves, unlike subtler pleasures, to awaken us from our drowsy complacency into a new world of unimagined possibilities.

Let us now welcome “Animal!,” the sophomore effort of Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s. It arrives with alarums and rainbows. And it is as beautiful as any angels.

I’ve been an advocate for this band lo these many years, ever since I stumbled across “The Dust Of Retreat” in 2006. I loved that album deeply, preaching Richard Edwards’s songwriting virtues to any who would listen and some who would not. Songs like “Skeleton Key,” “Vampires in Blue Dresses,” “Talking in Code” and “On A Freezing Chicago Street” exemplify the best that pop has to offer: lyric intelligence, sly wit, melodic originality and a kind of exuberant arrangement we have never before seen in an indie band. At the outset they seldom toured far beyond their mid-Western homebase of Indianapolis, despite my pleas (through myspace) for a West Coast swing. And then, six months ago, they passed through Echo Park. Because of the Echo’s tiny space and the unwieldy girth of the band (eight pieces which sometimes expand to ten when fortune smiles) the brilliance of the performance was muted by murky sound. Still, I and my friend (a novitiate since fully converted to Margotic proselyte) bounced and swayed and merrily shouted along to the set pieces of “Dust” and a few numbers from the still-embryonic “Animal!” I thought I might love the new album but reserved judgment, remembering the scars left by second albums past.

Tuesday night removed all doubts. By whatever kindness of fate, the show at the Troubadour proved to be the album release party. The modest venue was packed to the rafters, a crowd mostly comprised of rabid Margot fans like myself who knew every word of the entire “Dust” set-list. We were ready to cheer for “Quiet as a Mouse.” But I doubt anyone was quite prepared for the gorgeous, exotic creature that is “Animal!”

People go to shows to hear familiar songs. Usually, they applaud graciously for the new material and howl for the hits. But Tuesday night saw extraordinary ovations for blushing, untried tunes, like “Mariel’s Brazen Overture” that opened the set with a riff adapted from the equally-haunting Kate Bush gem “Army Dreamers.” One after another, the new songs proved even more complex, more expansive, more mature than what I had once considered the height of brilliance in “Dust.” While the hits certainly brought the house to its feet, it was the new material that ruled the evening in a way I had never before experienced.

After the show, I talked briefly with Erik Kang, the fiddler and lap steeler who manned the merch table in the bar. I mentioned how much I loved the set; that I’d spoken with him at the Echo show and even bought a print by Stacy Novak (the band’s pet artist responsible for all three album covers and most of the promotional art for the band). Then I queried him about the odd diffraction of the release: Epic offers a cd, “Not Animal!” and a vinyl pressing, “Animal!” Which, I asked Erik, should I buy? He explained that the release had been delayed because the label and band couldn’t agree on the album tracks, so Epic had released their version for the mass market on cd and consigned the band’s choice to a double LP with a free digital download included. Although I do not presently have a working turntable, I bought the vinyl. I always trust the artists’ instincts over those of the bean-counters, and once again I’ve been proven right. This is not to say that “Not Animal!” isn’t a great album. It is, and if all you can find is the cd, by all means snatch it up. I have both now, and I can state that “Animal!,” not “Not Animal!” is the album for the ages. As Erik said, “If you don’t buy ‘Animal!’ you miss the whole first third of the set.” That first third he refers to is the best third.

If I have ever steered you right, then attend to “Mariel’s Brazen Overture,” “As Tall As Cliffs,” “There’s Talk Of Mine Shafts” and “My Baby (Shoots Her Mouth Off).” Let the swirling, eerie “At The Carnival” spin you giddy. Pop for the vinyl, turntable or no: it’s the only way you’ll hear these lovely songs (except “ATAC”). If there is any justice, these kids will be filling arenas someday. Richard Edwards is a true artist, and he has gathered about him a crew as agile, inventive and tight as any band playing. Though we have only just passed the autumnal equinox, I make this guarantee: “Animal!” will be my pick for the best album of 2008.

19 August, 2007

The Choice of Vicky Page

Would you kill yourself for art? Last night, on a beautiful, clear, cool evening after a sweltering day, I sat in a cemetery surrounded by 600 rapt souls, all of them breathing. On a white marble wall a hundred yards away a young girl and boy fell in love, twice: first with art, then with each other. The girl Vicky, who owed her art to an “attractive brute,” was forced by that brute to choose. The brute thought there were only two choices, art or love. He was wrong.

So would you die for art? I believe that at certain points in this movie – a magnificent work of beauty and passion called The Red Shoes made in 1948 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger – every soul in that audience would have answered “yes. Yes, I will.” Now I am not fool enough to think that the popcorn-chomping burghers of Louisville or Laguna Beach, shivering in their Gallerias, would even understand the question. But this was a special venue, my favorite place to watch a film. This was Cinespia, the outdoor film series in the Hollywood Forever cemetery (the last resting place of Rudolf Valentino, among other lights). On Saturday nights through the summer months, artists, hipsters and film buffs foregather on a lush green lawn, quaff their Imperial Tokay, nosh on their caponata and laugh over the terrors of the week. A DJ spins, usually the grooviest of music, reminiscent of a Tarantino soundtrack. Slides of vintage movie posters in every conceivable language (The Passenger in Hrvatski, anyone?) flash across the mausoleum wall. And when the dark has descended sufficiently, the films roll. This week’s was a particular favorite of mine and so, it seems, of the audience. It’s not often that this jaded group will cheer, but when the “Finis” title appeared the place erupted last night, with your Servant’s among the loudest and most sustained voices.

You see, I knew the director and worked with him when I was in college. Michael Powell came to my college for a semester to teach a class in advanced filmmaking, and at the time I was faced with a choice. I had decided that the cinema was my life, and had applied to several film schools as a transfer student. I had been accepted at NYU, one of the most prestigious in the country, when I learned of Powell’s imminent residency. Would I leave my liberal arts program in film theory for NYU’s more practical (and vocational) filmmaking degree? Or would I stay for the chance to work with a legend? I chose Powell and finished my undergraduate work at Dartmouth. And today I am a teacher, not a filmmaker.

Now remember, I believe I am not a fool. My choice pales to insignificance when compared to Vicky’s. But at root they may come down to the same thing, the same question many people, if they are lucky, must answer in their lives: What will you give up for art?

The power of The Red Shoes comes from its ability to make that question real, meaningful and important for people who will never have to answer it. In the context of the film, Vicky’s total self-sacrifice for the pure joy of art seems natural and inevitable, if tragic, so that when she makes her decision, you can’t really question it. Between loss of true love and of true art yawns the abyss, preferable to either option. When she makes her leap, we leap with her. Why?

There is a moment when art is made, and here I distinguish between Art and the commerce which passes for art in our contemporary “post-beauty” world. Art is made when the fragile envelope of fears and insecurities can no longer contain the vision of the artist. Now this line of inquiry could evolve into something not suitable for this space, but it’s clear that real art, the creation of the beautiful or profound without regard for its “exchange value,” is seldom enacted in commercial space. We may grow attached to, say, Happy Gilmour but no thinking person ascribes to it the permanent value of The Duchess of Malfi. And while people certainly write Lost or All My Children, few of us can remember who wrote the Emmy-winning shows of 2005… or even what they were. Wyeth loved and painted Helga in secret for twenty years because the value of that art for the artist lay in the perfections of her image. Yet that series may be his purest, most perfect work. Beethoven wrote the Late Quartets, his most revolutionary and, I believe, inspired work, when he had become profoundly deaf and could never hear them performed. True art such as The Red Shoes effects us as it does because we sense the shedding of the everyday to reveal the sublime. We leap with Vicky because we know that the merely conventional choice, marriage or dance, will no longer suffice. We have crossed the Rubicon and cannot go back. “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm/after they’ve seen Par-ee?” And that, my merry artistic friends, is what Vicky chooses: not art nor love but the emptiness between them. That emptiness is either bliss, or it is nothing. God or the void. You pay your money, you take your chance. But to one who is enamoured of art, it may be the ultimate act of creation. And that is a choice every artist, or lover of art, understands.

This piece will continue with a discussion of love in The Red Shoes.

26 June, 2007

The Pearl Necklace (absolutely no double-entendre intended, I PROMISE!) of the Adriatic

A year ago today, my sparkling new wife and I were recuperating from eighteen hours of planes and airports in a hired apartment inside the magnificent walled city of Dubrovnik. It was the beginning of our honeymoon, a fortnight of sheer delights and unexpected wonders. To explain that somewhat, I'm here affixing a note written not long after our return, when the details of the experience were still fresh in my Alzheimers-addled mind:

First off, let me admit that I make an abysmal pitch-man. I can't sell something unless I truly believe in it... hence my inability to flourish in the ad business back in the '80's. Knowing that, you should take what follows as a statement of heartfelt sincerity, and if you are contemplating a trip to this most lovely of destinations, know that I envy you.

I was responsible for designing our honeymoon last year. To my wife fell the more onerous task of planning the wedding, with a minimum of outside help and precious little input from her clueless future husband. But that also meant that what I should come up with better be spectacular. Now I have always been a lover of islands, That was the first allurement of Dalmatia to me. And when I travel, I like to move. None of this sitting plunked down in one spot for me, oh no. The purpose of travel for me, in imitation of the American voyagers of the Gilded Age, is to expose myself to new ideas and unfamiliar vistas, and to garner as much knowledge of this terra incognita as time and money allow. By choosing to island-hop, we could sample as much of the place as possible in our limited time (two weeks). Now, we weren't wrong to do this. When we return we'll do it differently, but we're glad we saw and did all that we did.

Given the choice of where to fly into, I should choose Split now, though we entered and left the country through Dubrovnik on this trip. Don't get me wrong: we love Dubrovnik. It's a gorgeous city, and full of appeal. But it can be bloody hot, and even more expensive than the hinterland and otoci (islands). And then, to get from Dubrovnik to the places you'll probably want to go, you still have to travel north, to the hubs of ferry travel: Split and Zadar. Since we were staying in southern Dalmatia, we chose the former. Split plunks you down right in the heart of where you'll want to be, I believe. We didn't stay in Split -- it's a bit sprawling and shabby, though it does have its charms -- but rather took a l-o-o-n-n-g bus-ride from Dubrovnik to the town of Trogir, about 10 miles west of Split and utterly enchanting. We stayed in the old town, within the city walls, in a hotel we can recommend without cavil, the Tragos (they have a website: http://www.tragos.hr). The staff there was very friendly and accommodating, and the rooms were airy, bright, modern and about as spacious as anything you'll find in Croatia. We had a couple of days there but found, when the time came to leave, we'd have preferred to stay longer. But we took a hydrofoil (highly recommended over the standard ferry) from Split out to Heaven -- oh, excuse me, I mean to say Hvar.
My wife and I decided that our next trip we would rather just laze on this delightful, beautiful and temperate island than flit around as we did. It is as damn near perfect as any place either of us have experienced on earth: the main town, called Hvar Town strangely enough, is an elongated strand of large, handsome modern (and pricey) hotels fronting on the quay at which an armada of pleasure yachts loll in their berths. A cosmopolitan complement of ridiculously beautiful people walk, chat, nurse drinks or babe-watch from the tables lining the way, from early morning into the wee hours. You may prefer the fast times of discos like Carpe Diem, just opposite the spot where the ferries dock. But we found ourselves drawn to the incredible blue sea, in places as warm as bath water, and the generous sun. Our hotel, which we can recommend so long as you ensure that your room is on either the 2nd or 3rd floor and facing the sea, was about a twenty minute walk from the center of town: the Hotel Podstine. And we fell in love with the rest of the town, the twisting warrens of streets climbing up into the lavender-choked hills. We found some great restaurants, like the Konoba Luviji, around a narrow corner and uphill from the cathedral. You must try their lamb, but make a reservation as it's tiny (seats about 12 - 15 guests). And be sure to hire a scooter or moped (or car) and get up into the hills amongst the lavender. One afternoon on the scooter we were caught in a sudden rain shower on the mountain road to Stari Grad, where the main ferry docks; we sought refuge (porous but adequate) beneath a feral olive tree, and my wife says it was there that she first realized how much she really loves me.

Can you tell that we worship Hvar? We also loved Korcula, though we only stopped there a few hours overnight. Because we were only staying a night, we couldn't book a hotel room in advance. But we found it the essence of simplicity to acquire a perfectly fitting room for the night. Many Croatians have outfitted their houses with separate apartments or simply rooms with baths that can be had at a very reasonable price (look for the signs stating, "Sobe Zimmer Camere Apartemani"). The landlords know the ferry schedules by heart and meet each boatload of disembarking passengers with pictures of their available facilities. We were very lucky to find a man of about my age who spoke flawless English and had a nice, newly remodelled room only a few hundred yards from the dock , which suited us since our boat was leaving at 6:30 the following morning. We dropped our stuff then went in search of food. And if you go to Korcula, you must eat at "Adio Mare", a konoba very near the specious Marco Polo house in the center of the old town.Their pasticada, a Dalmatian specialty something like sauerbraten, was dreamy -- if a dish concocted of peppers, tomatoes and round steak can be called such a thing. And while nothing in Croatia is particularly cheap (forget what the guidebooks tell you; Bush and his deficit have rendered the dollar as creaky as a Croatian grandma), "Adio Mare's" bill failed to cause agita. My wife, who is not a friend of Bill Wilson like I am, thoughtlessly regaled me over the glories of the local posip, a crisp cold white wine with an expanding reputation outside Dalmatia. She was transported. I craved sweets. So we took off walking through the Korculan night. The ancient courtyards and flagged squares rang with the cheers of soccer fans crowding around flat screen TVs (every restaurant, saloon, bodega or snack bar we encountered in Europe had at least one screen tuned to the Cup); we were looking for ice cream, and boy did we find it. Dalmatia, as you may know, was long a province of the Venetian empire, so spaghetti and pizza are staples. And everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- consumes gelatto at least once a day. My favorite variety was ljesnjak, or hazelnut. And my wife has acquired a nickname of "Keks," which is vanilla interlarded with veins of chocolate sauce and chunks of sponge cake (scrumptious).

Our final stay was on the bucolic island of Mljet. I had chosen this for our last stop so that we might take a couple of days to recharge our batteries after so much travelling. It was worth the stop. Though our hotel was a slightly weathered Socialist holdover, the Odisej, it was perfectly situated in the tiny town of Pomena, directly adjacent to a National Park which boasted not one but two salt-water lakes and a 14th century monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. If you enjoy strenuous cycling, this is the place for you. On the map, the trip from Pomena to Polace, home to a ruined Roman wall and the only fresh bakery for 30 kilometers in any direction, seems child's play. Be advised that Croatian children must all be named "Lance" and have the powerful thighs to prove it. The 4 kilometer trip seems somehow to be all uphill in both directions. So the welcoming water of Malo Jezero, the aptly-named "Little Lake" offered an hour's respite and served to wash away a fine coat of sweat upon my return (with a cherry streudel in hand for my beloved). The island is, frankly, breathtaking. The forest's balsam perfume blends with the snap of the sea to create a sense of drowsy peace and contentment. There's really no rush to do anything here, and that feeling was so far from our Angeleno experience as to instill a kind of childish wonder. Though if you should happen to feel stirred to perform on Mljet, there's no lack of outlets for that gush of energy. The waters thereabout are famous amongst divers and windsurfers, the surrounding channels are a yachtsman's paradise, and halfway up the southern coast of the island sits a cave reputed to have once been inhabited by Calypso, the nymph whose seductions distracted Odysseus from his homeward quest for seven years (she must have had some chops!). We just slept, swam and took the sun, however. Oh yes. And walked along the lakefront.

To any prospective visitors, I hope this has been some use to you. I'm sure there are other recommendations I could make. One would be, don't bother trying to learn Hrvatski (Croatian). Here is the absolute sum total of what you'll need to get around: "molim" and "hvala:" "please" and "thank you." Literally every person we met had some English. And many people in the hospitality industry spoke better English than I do. They are generally kind and helpful -- and beautiful, by the way. I should mention that everything has a charge attached -- even ketchup, should you be so mad as to order a burger, will cost you 3 kuna, or about 60 cents. The Croatians, we discovered, put ketchup on their omelets, pizza and spaghetti, but not their french fries. Go figure. And in that spirit, my final recommendation is:

19 April, 2007

23 Skid-OW! or, Dr. Pangloss meets the Pavement

About six months ago, I sold my car and bought a scooter. This, I thought, as an urban dweller with a five minute commute, was merely the logical thing to do in times of four dollar gas and global climate collapse. We still had a car (my wife's Prius) for such things as schlepping desks across town, fetching Christmas trees and stocking the Blakemore Institute with comestibles and liquescences. Now, many of you have seen what passes for a scooter these days: chiselled wads of Chinese plastic and tin foil meant to summon visions of Luke's Speeder rather than Quadrophenia. Me, I love the old Lambrettas: time capsules of classic 1960's Italian design, made to tool around town with a plait-wrapped bottle of Chianti whilst the raven-haired, pneumatic sirens simply melt at your pointy-toed feet. Sadly, Lambretta has joined the Avanti and the Cord in the graveyard of beautiful ideas, but the Vespa, always more conventional and less dorky-gorgeous, still aspirates, still draws stares... and gasps from anyone perusing its price sticker. Me, I teach. School. In Los Angeles. So a seven-thousand dollar scooter was about as likely in my driveway as a Tiffany's diamond on my wife's finger.
I fancy myself very clever. And knowledgable of the ways of the 'net. So when the dream of a new Vespa went south, I parked my ass at Google and reckoned up my few alternatives. There were the Japanese faux Vespas, the so-called "retro" Vinos and their ilk. There were a few macho-looking German scoots with names like automatic weapons, all of which severely underpowered by crippling 50cc engines. There were the breathtaking restored Vespas and Lambrettas advertised on eBay for sale from Vietnam, whose new parts were pressed from recycled aluminum cans (an environmentally-sound decision that unfortunately resulted in bikes which crumpled when pushed against a drunken frat-boy's forehead). And then there was the Bajaj.

Ahh, the Bajaj. Built in the subcontinent at what was once the Vespa India factory, using mostly Italian design but modern 4-stroke engines, gearing and brakes, this lovely little throw-back seemed to my jaded eyes the best of all possible worlds: new yet old, stylish yet reliable, economical (90 mpg, according to the screaming web-page) yet powerful (55-60 mph, baby!). This would be my bike. At 3800 measly schekels, how could I lose? And then, as if God were shouting "BUY!! BUY!!" in my ear like some commodities trader, while surfing through Craigslist for solid gold noseclippers I stumbled across a jade 2006 Chetak, 94 strapping miles on the odometer, whose owner was willing to part with it for only 2500 beans. What could I do?
Well, running the opposite direction might have been a good start.

31 March, 2007

Once there was a way to get back homewards...

So it's been a while since I last blogged. Much has been happening. I discovered gingko biloba, which helps some in the recovery of my lost intellect. I've finished one term and am preparing to begin another. I've begun to question some positions I'd taken on unexplained phenomena (such as belief in God, the reality of UFO's, the existence of ghosts). I'm about to commence an Introductory Screenwriting class (though I've written five complete scripts, I feel I need a better grasp of current narrative theory to move to the next level -- plus, I need the catalyst of a deadline to stir me off my fat ass). But first and foremost, I've discovered iLike.

What is iLike? Well, it's in beta right now, so it will probably be quite different once you start hearing much about it. As it stands, it's a little app that piggy-backs on iTunes to send a record of what music you're playing at any given time to a central server. The server retains a list of the last hundred or so songs in a "Recently Played" RSS feed which is available for any iLike member to view. It also compiles a list of "Favorite songs" spuriously based on iTunes' "play counts." I spent hours trying to fix the pentimento of a loop I used for a class recently which, in iLike, informed the world that my favorite audio was Bigfoot screams.

But what I find indispensibly addictive about iLike is its notion of "Friends." To create an iLike account, you first go through a long selection process wherein you choose bands "I Like." It can take a while, and many of the more obscure groups I happen to favor never appear. In this case, you can simply enter the name in a search window. If anyone else has ever expressed an affection for them in the past, a page will appear listing their albums, top songs and admirers; if not, you get to pop their cherry). Once you've created an account, you begin playing your music and fishing through the multitude of other users for Friends: people with similar or complementary tastes, based on their own recorded preferences. If someone likes Movietone (which thins the herd dramatically, let me tell you) they will show up as "Highly Compatible" to yours truly. If they prefer Akon, 50 Cent and Shakira, the app will gently steer me elsewhere ("Compatibility: LOW").

If this was all iLike did, we'd be looking at a rather grandiose Mutual Admiration Society. But remember that you can see what your Friends are playing -- this appears in what's called the iLike "sidebar" which attaches itself like a barnacle to the right side of your main iTunes window. And the website includes a rather rudimentary Chat function which allows users to send instant messages and emails to their Friends (or, indeed, to any other user, friend or foe). So, when my friend Annie recently decided to bail on her eMusic membership and donated her remaining 80 downloads to me, I solicited suggestions from most of the 26 members of my Friends List. What a treasure trove of arcana I received! Amazing suggestions for bands new, old, famous and obscure. I managed to run through my 80 selections in less than a day and was tempted to re-up my old subscription, just to complete my fishing junket.

Some of these folks must have the most incredible record collections: JenaSuperMoxie!, a retired drummer from Seattle, has not repeated a song (at least while I was online) in two weeks, and of all her stuff the only name familiar to me was "Bowie, David." I've been watching what she listens to, sampling it (iLike has ten- to twenty-second samples of most widely-available music) then buying the stuff I could actually discover at any of my multifarious online resources. Zak Shooster and I have discovered a mutual idolatry for Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Kazuya T., a Kyoto DJ, mixes Todd Rundgren and Sergio Mendes with the Reindeer Section, I'm From Barcelona and Ninja High School. It can get a little daunting, trying to keep up. But if you like to stay abreast of the latest scene, iLike is the place to hang out.

So why is this guy, about to enter his second half-century, so involved in the fringes of popular musical culture? For the same reason I ride a scooter (oh yeah, i forgot to mention that - for some later post, perhaps). I guess I haven't yet given up on that idea which possessed and chagrined me from my earliest youth. One summer evening in the late sixties, I lay on the front lawn of our house in Riverside, Connecticut and gazed up into the starflecked sky. Then I started to cry. In part, it was out of fear: there were so many stars out there I felt impossibly small in my particularity. But also because I realized that I would never know everything -- and I wanted to. Something in me, in this rational adult being, still longs to know everything there is to know: every band, every singer, every new genre. It's not a dangerous curiosity, at least I don't think it is. And given the sullen, self-pitying tone of my previous posts, maybe it's a very healthy one. So thanks, JenaSuperMoxie! and Kazuya and Zak and Fish and Bugg and anjuli and Burko and SARAH i and snob and one thousand one and Manda and allie and Whirly Wombat and ki and Jessi of Asher, are you drawing pretty things and Nikka and TMB and Clara and Substandard Vixen and Ambure and sonic meow and Sue Merchant and la-underground and Oenodog and Tracy and Thomas S. You've made my world bigger... and smaller.

With love,

Servant Severin

07 January, 2007

Erato or Thalia?

What follows is a poem I wrote a few years back, as Sariah and I were just getting to know one another. She was my inspiration then, my muse as I called her (she still is, BTW). I kinda like it. It goes so:


My name is shorter than yours
like one loose straw poking from the brim
of Uncle Henry’s fishing hat. A surprise
if you taste it: still sweet-green
after years of yellow from the sun
on Uncle Henry’s fishing hat. Listen

to the voices from the street. The girl’s
thin shriek pickled in peach brandy;
the piping bark of the dog, salty as ham,
like swearing; a very little laugh
not meant to travel. She is out without a hat

beneath a sky just waiting for morning. Why argue
if we have no answers, if the questions
won’t bring fine weather? Why ask
without a hope? Why look at me that way

through those glasses
cocked like Sinatra ordering a sandwich
at three a.m. That bird sees you.
The braying girl made happy
by the smell of new asphalt loves you too.
Have mercy. The sun may rise
as expected. For now, let’s watch the surfers
pack their cars, dreaming of sand
between half-open eyes. If you spread
your hands to me
I may crawl in.

02 January, 2007

Explosive Logorrhea

Greetings, all. I decided to start a separate blog from the family one because I wanted control over its look, and my wife ruled the Institute. So here I am. Starving.

That's right, starving. Two days ago, we started the so-called "lemonade diet" or Master Cleanse, because I stepped on a scale last week and lapsed into a coma. Lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and spring water for two weeks... and nothing else. After two days with no actual solid food, even the dog chow smells good. But it feels like it's working. That is, we're both starving most of the time, but we're not eating. And anyone who read my other blog will know that I was worried about my slipping mind. Well, it feels sharper already, along with my temper, probably because I haven't eaten for two days. Go figure.

It's not really so hard to do. But as we both have noticed, so much of our everyday life is taken up in planning, executing and consuming meals that we have these gaping holes in our days. I never know what to do about now -- suppertime -- and Sariah's at the same loss. No breakfast. No lunch break. No family hour over dinner. The world feels thin, "like too little butter spread over too much bread" to paraphrase, I believe, Samwise Gamgee. And I seem to miss meals, even though I'm not actually hungry. It's a little like how I imagine amputees feel when they talk about pain from a lost limb...only hardly so severe, of course. (beg pardon to any amputees reading this)

I won't talk about what happens to one's innards in this process, but you may fill in the blanks with some success if I mention that, before bed each night, one drinks or eats a healthy dose of herbal laxative, then in the morning, upon rising, guzzles a quart (yes, you read that right: a quart) of salt water. Then of course you dash to the water-cabinet and hunker down for the duration (an hour or so is recommended). We have laid in a supply of Charmin BIG rolls for our little adventure, and today I purchased some limes to alternate with the lemons and give a a whisper of variety. But let me tell you how lemonade, usually one of my favorite liquefactions, is ruined by the addition of cayenne. Initially, Sariah said it reminded her of a treat she used to get in Mexico when she was a child: jicama coated with lime juice and chili powder. Now she simply makes a face every time she takes a sip. A student in a childrens' lit class I used to teach once brought in a sampling of Mexican postres which included mango coated with chili. Even she could not explain its odd allure. My individually wrapped serving wound up in the bottom of the wastebasket, right beside the half-masticated morsel which had insulted my tastebuds. And now I have to drink the same thing between 6 and 12 times a day, for at least 10 days. If we make it, we'll have earned our merit badges.

To distract us from our misery, we attended the Magritte show at LACMA today. It will take me till tomorrow to process the brilliance, but more on that then.

Pray for me, friends.