Saturday, July 31, 2010

There were shadows in the windows

Typically, whether by a sense of propriety or moral code or fear of breaking mortal or transcendental laws, I don't feel tempted to trespass. A man's house is his castle, and I don't want boiling oil, real or metaphorical, poured on my head.

So when I see caution tape roped around a building, and draped across the entrance, and the doors and windows are wide open...oh, why does it seem like the best idea in the world is to enter said building and poke around?

I didn't, because I have no spine. And because I wouldn't be able to write about the story here.

I'm reminded of that literature professor of mine in St. Petersburg, who had us stand in a snow drift for a half hour while she tried to pick the lock on the courtyard where the starushka in Crime and Punishment lived; that itch to jump, to fall, to be tempted, I suppose, is a universal. Hurray!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Take that, Summer Work Ethic

I'm composing at my Portsmouthwerk in a lounge chair beside a tall window, the interrogator's lamp protecting my weakening eyes before the onslaught of yet another glowing screen, another blank page, another attempt to organize all of the fragments and sketches.

There's a breeze from that window, and the sounds of cars and humans, and I remember a similar lighting, a similar breeze, from some summer in my childhood. It was a time when the bathtubs had cats' feet, and pails were full of blueberries, and in our utter boredom Visa and I looked up the species of all the robins breeding in Grandpa's rows of corn and raspberries. Such breezes are as an amnesiac for the sun and heat (what sun and heat?) that had (might have once) been the scourge of the day.

That was when the Old Man still stood, and there were no drunk people shouting at each other that they'd be late, that they were going the wrong way, but there was still that feeling that even as we were finding ways to occupy our lives, even if we found something that made us forget that as-of-yet-unknown buzzword for this day and age, ennui, we could never escape the ticking of the clock, the march towards some inexorable yet equally incalculable end.

I choose, rather than inertia, rather than a Hegelian synthesis, to sidestep fate. Beer o'clock down at the pub it is, then.

Funny How Things from 46 Years Ago Still Make Me Mad

There's nothing that says conservative-bred indoctrination like Johnson/Khrushchev-Era Cold War fearmongering!

Oh, kids. When will you learn - if you gripe about your ears of corn, we'll deport you to the GULAG? Consider the Communist, who has neither ears nor corn...

I'm actually more upset by the second interior page, just for the wild leaps of faulty causational logic it causes my brain to undergo:
Anti-Communist ideology
Where Communist = atheist
Means Anti-Communist = anti-atheist
Means US Ideology = pro-religion
Obviously that's the state of American ideology, and has been, and is, and likely shall be. Yet - still. Seeing such a slap in the face, couched in the terms of "freedom of conscience," stings.

"Nobody can control what you think" is my favorite line, for its intense and unintentional irony. "Nobody can control what you think," says the book of anti-Communist indoctrination.

Now go buy a rifle for the coming storm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What ho, professional conference!

A Russian anecdote I recently heard from a keynote speaker:
It's better to marry a public servant than an oligarch. The perks are the same, but job security is much better.
This is what I've been trying to say. Then I won't have to worry about supporting anyone on my cray schemes. Madame de Pompadour and I have agreed it would be a worthwhile venture. Let the politician hunting begin!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Congratulations to the Wer and the Wif!

I am a naughty blog writer, excuses, blah blah blah. To repay you I break from my m.o. and present you with pictures of people! People that I know! Pictures of Frozen Icarus himself!

Lord preserve.

The mirror-shot seemed like a good idea but the mechanics were hard to work out. Jonathan Strange would have helped.

Groomspeopleses. (Can we talk about the solar plexus thrust that Good-ol'-Abe and I are doing?)

The Gallows Men, and The Artist

The lovely sunset

The lovelies, themselves!

Did you like the rhetorical device I used in not revealing the bride until the final moment? :D

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nor do I keep bugs in plastic baggies.

The other day I went up to an old New Hampshire mill town for the committal of a relative's remains at the family grave. The thing about that - other than such cemeteries being, essentially, a French Canadian phonebook {Ledoux, Dauphinon, Perrier, Mercier, etc} - was that it was an opportunity to fill in the gaps.

Let me rephrase. My dad has this habit of turning to one of my brothers or to me, this during an extended family get-together, and asking some kind of personal question that's just come to his mind: "Where will you be living next fall?" "What's your next trip to Russia hold in store for you?" "Tell me your hopes and dreams."

Well. That last I'm more likely to intone than he, but you understand. The interment became an exercise in digging up (horrible pun, that) aspects of my genealogy I never knew existed, like this, my great-grandfather's headstone; like the house in which my grandmother grew up; like my father's easy tour-guide spiel as we passed streets and buildings I'd never seen before.

I didn't even have to travel to Ukraine to get it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Liberty, and Justice, For All

When sunset hits the square, a discordant violin begins to play, and cheers from the sports bars down any alley, and shouts and tumbles fill the park.

What does that fiddle player here, so far from Harvard Square, the hobo capital of the world? Is there any change in his bag from human hand, or is it all bait? And what made him pick this, he, who could be of age to dishwash or cull the field or herd or school, as the most appropriate of careers?

He pauses, and looks up, and I follow his gaze - the mighty Leftist Marching Band approaches! (We both, I think, share the amused look that says: "Isn't that a redundancy? What else ought the Leftists do, but parade?") The hula hoop woman, the ringleader Lenin standing tall, shouts to me: "We're going to interrupt your reading, we're going to interfere!" and somehow it seems like she's saying more than just now, immediately, in this time and space; somehow it's a battle cry.

Some of the band members are crunchy college girls, the rest old citizens, their hair frizzled or gnarled or dyed unnaturally. The ringleader, the hula hoop woman, has a mace now, and she doggedly twirls it in the steps she remembers from the old propaganda footage of Red Square. Her combat boots strike the brick earth, the band begins a funk rendition of "This Land is My Land," and they gyrate at the hip, the feathers in the hair twitch, and the only missing bit is an acrobat to whip the crowd into a frenzy, else a pied piper to milk the people and spirit the rats and children out of Portsmouth.

The drummers' cymbal is cracked all down the middle, the crack in time and space that brought them here via 1969, and as the sun makes its last desperate pleas to the square's rooftops, they begin to lose their grip on this reality, their gyrations turned deadly, their May 1st circle dance into a black hole.