Monday, October 2, 2023

Reading Nice, Ordinary Things Is Nice (when you're sick)

I'm lucky that I'd brought home from work a donated copy of the novel Remarkably Bright Creatures on Saturday (on someone's recommendation--whose? was it yours?) because I came down with a cold on Sunday, and it was the ideal thing to read when sick. I read the whole thing in one sitting, from noon till bedtime, and enjoyed it.

Bright Creatures
was published in 2022, but it felt old-fashioned, like it could've been set in the 1990s. Reading it was so... emotionally easy, so . . . undisturbing.

The only disease going around is chlamydia.

A lot of the story takes place in a seaside aquarium in the Pacific Northwest, but no one mentions climate change or how it's affecting ocean life. (A Giant Pacific Octopus is a central character.)
No one even mentions odor,  though one character spends his work days chopping up fish for aquarium feed.

And the major trauma that sends an absent character into a life of addiction is a BOATING ACCIDENT.
What are we, Ordinary People? (That was 1980.)

The pre–9/11 vibe of Bright Creatures reminded me of the comic novel Less, which I'd read a few months ago. I enjoyed Less a lot--it made me laugh out loud, and it's far better written than Bright (which is full of holes), but I totally do not understand why Less won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It reads as if it's possible for things like age-related hair loss to be someone's biggest concern.

Of course it's possible, but is it Pulitzer Prize–worthy possible? The Pulitzer Prize that says, "Our mission is to champion the power of stories to make complex issues relevant and inspire action"?
Maybe they only apply those standards to journalism, not fiction?
Okay--digging deeper . . .  the fiction Pulitzer is awarded for "distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."
Here's a list from Powell's of winners of the Pulitzer for fiction. Not generally lightweight...

Less was published in 2017, so it's pre-pandmic, but not pre-Trump, and at that time it seemed like everyone else was writing premonitory novels about Bad Stuff Coming Our Way, whether a virus or white supremacy.
For the character Arthur Less, the approaching bad stuff is his fiftieth birthday and an ex-lover's marriage to someone else. He's gay, but in a way that also feels old-fashioned--he's just plain old gay,
not worried about it and neither is anybody else (like remember when Obama became president and people were saying America was post-racial?). Less is a writer in San Francisco, white, healthy, with good looks, has lots of casual sex.... Not that there's anything wrong with that.

In fact, both books were really nice to read. Restful. It reminds me that last summer when I had a cold I re-read the last three volumes of Harry Potter and also found that restful---to enter into a story world that ties things off with an uncomplicated happy ending. But Harry Potter is for children.

Still, happy endings are nice for grown-ups too! Especially if your head hurts. I'd especially recommend Less if you're looking for a fun, smart break. (Bright Creatures is fine, but a little more Hallmark channel. And the fact-checker in me dislikes anthropomorphizing the octopus.)
A break from Bad Stuff is nice, but it does make me wonder where they stashed it.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Voice dictation test

Can this type the words I say? Wow yes. Trying out voice dictation on this Blog because I am posting on my iPhone. Oh this really works. I don’t like to type on my phone’s little keyboard so is this an option I’d like? I don’t know. Talking is different than type-writing. 

How fast does this go? Pretty fast. 

Today is October 1 and I have a little cold. Sneezing! Weird. Even weirder, because of Unprecedented high heat and humidity today’s Twin Cities Marathon was canceled. Oh look it even capitalized  “Twin Cities Marathon”. Anyway I guess they they didn’t have enough Emergency support staff to care for all the runners expected to pass out from dehydration and overheating. I was tickled to see that a lot of people ran it anyway.

Penny Cooper says it’s too hot for her dress.

How many of you use voice dictation to blog? It makes me wonder if people with long, chatty posts are speaking them instead of typing because speaking is a lot Faster.

This speaking option will be really handy for translating English to Spanish and back again at work. I’ve often handed customers my phone to type in Spanish what they’re looking for. But this  will be faster. I am slow at finding this out… But faster than my coworkers who never use their phones for translation at all. 

I missed Asst Man more than I expected at work yesterday, the first day since he quit. He’s the only coworker who delighted in vintage thrift. He was almost the only coworker who even recognized vintage donations. That was some thing I very much valued. 

—— Not something I value, but I only recently realized that people don’t necessarily know the difference between paperbacks and hardbacks. A few months ago a customer asked me how she could tell book prices. I pointed to the sign that said paperbacks are $.99 and hardbacks are $1.99. She was holding a book and said, which is this? It was a paper back and I explained how to tell the difference. Then a new cashier at work asked me the same thing. This cashier is a reader, as was the customer. So once again I see I made an assumption about the general fund of knowledge parentheses capital letters GFK.

Hm. How do I give instructions for things like parentheses? I guess I’ll figure it out. Let’s try… Add parentheses. No that wasn’t it. Begin parentheses. No. Well no big deal. In general this does incredibly well. I’ll go back in and clean up a few tiny mistakes but it’s really getting all my words right. I can see how it could lead to chattier posts because I don’t have to think about it. Ha, it corrects itself as it goes. For instance it started to type “cheddar” as in cheese when I said “chattier”. But corrected it to “chattier” when I added “posts”. 


Typing with my fingers now… Transcription could be handy for certain things—if the arthritis in my fingers gets much much worse— but for now I don’t think I’ll use voice dictation to blog regularly. Sometimes I just want to chat—I did laundry! got new furniture!— but often in blogging I want the slower voice, the slower thinking that goes with writing (even typing on a keyboard—different again from handwriting, which I almost never do anymore) — it’s a different language, and I want to spend time with myself in that part of my brain. (So I need to get my laptop connected again…)

But I’ll leave this for now. 

Happy Sunday! Don’t run 26.2 miles down asphalt roads steaming in the full afternoon sun now!

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Reimagined Saturday

Ongoing tech challenges notwithstanding, I woke up refreshed this morning. I work this Saturday and it looks like a nice one (and no Asst Man). After weeks with no rain at all, we’ve had rain for days —and nights, including last’s —and it looks spring green out there. Plus fallen autumn leaves. 

Last night Big Boss was to give a talk to the Society that runs the thrift stores and parish charitable group, and he’d asked me the day before if I could lend him a bear I’ve repaired—he wanted to use it to illustrate how broken things (including our broken selves) can be restored.

I dropped off a bear AND a doll for him yesterday —the girlette Puck who’s gotten a bionic leg —purple and multi-jointed (from a broken action figure), and Pyx the Unknown Bear, who’d been donated with his button eyes safety-pinned to his ear for reattachment. I’d also mended a tear in his white fur with a flowered patch. 
I wrote a note saying “re-imagined” might be another way of thinking about what happens rather than “repaired”
or “restored”—we are not returned to the way we were but become something different. Sometimes strengthened, sometimes fragile at the broken places.

It’s all alchemy.

Yesterday’s food shelf haul had changed to autumn colors too—nothing green… And nothing very great for making work lunches except the butternut squash—I’ll make soup. 
Would my coworkers eat quiche?

Thousands of strawberries though—you could take two flats if you wanted—each flat holding maybe 20 cartons of berries. I couldn’t carry them, or I’d have taken them for work.
Butter was in abundance too:
“Take a whole box, or two!”—each box holding 10 lbs. I rarely cook with butter but took two pounds. Got home and one stick had black spots on it-/put them all in the compost. And the same with the Indian naan bread—every piece was fuzz moldy. 

Ah, the ongoing adventures in the humiliations of poverty. Now I understand why Mr Furniture won’t eat my lunches—I’d told everyone where the food is from—and he calls it prison food. He’s right—this food isn’t good stuff from generous people, it’s food fit for pig troughs from grocery chains happy to offload what they can’t sell. It’s cheaper for them if a charity hauls it away than if they have to pay garbage service. I expect they get tax credit too. 
…Once again, I knew this but I didn’t have the personal experience of being on the receiving end.

The food-shelf workers where I go are as respectful as can be—I love ❤️ them!—and I know they work to cull the donations of actual garbage, the same as I do at work, but the food is ALL on the edge of sell-by dates, and while that doesn’t matter for canned goods, it does for everything else. You have to cook or freeze everything immediately, and who has that sort of storage room?

So, yeah—grocery shopping it is not.
Once again, a wealthy volunteer has given me a gift card to Aldi to buy lunch-makings—that’s better—I can plan a meal.

Friday, September 29, 2023


 I hadn’t posted this photo before my phone was stolen last week, and I was sad I’d lost it (the photo, and the phone)—I don’t use the so-called cloud for storage—but then realized I’d emailed it to someone so had that copy, and here it is. It’s from my recent day trip with Marz to Lake Superior. Not really tidal, the rock pools were full of rain.

It calms me to look at it. I’ve been out of sorts from dealing with tech—more like avoiding dealing with it, in dread—but in a weird piece of luck, yesterday someone donated a like-new iPhone 7 to the thrift store. (“Weird” because most donated phones are locked or defunct, and almost never iPhones either.) Big Boss unhesitatingly said I should have it for free to replace mine stolen by a temp worker. Not that an outdated 7 would  sell for much, but I’m very glad to have again a phone that I know my way around.

iPhone is on model 15 now; Apple doesn’t allow the 7 to update anymore (I’d forgotten that hindrance to using a phone forever), but it’s still better, especially its camera, than the cheapish Android from BJ that I was using. 

So that’s a relief and felt like a weird bit of justice… 

Auntie Vi, is that you again? I’m going to assign all unexpected gifts of material things to Auntie Vi from now on.  

And I’m going to give that Android to a coworker with one eye who can barely read the shattered screen of his own phone. (My workplace can be like something out of Dickens.)

I’ve been feeling out of sorts with it being Asst Man’s last week at work, too—his very last day, today. Even though we’d had continual and serious problems and I’m glad he’s going, I’m also sad that I’m losing someone with whom I experienced one of the most astonishing days of my life—the day three years ago during the 2020 Covid shutdown when, after George Floyd’s murder led to uprising and looting, AM had called me up in the morning and said, “Big Boss just asked me to paint the boarded up windows at the store—do you want to help?”

We’d each rounded up house paint from our basements (I was rooming with HouseMate who was happy to donate hers), he’d picked me up in his car, and together we’d painted the plywood boards. We then walked together, the two of us,  through acrid smoke down Lake Street, along with groups of people, many of them carrying brooms and bags to clean up broken glass, to the overpass where a line of armed National Guards blocked further access.  

I’d posted about those last days of May 2020 here.

This morning I went into work to drop something off with Big Boss, and to say good bye to AM. I told him I’d been thinking about that day and how glad I am he’d called me that morning. 

He said yes, it’d meant a lot to him too, and too bad we have such “different personalities”. 

I felt again that slight surreality, a sense of dis-location —but weren’t we standing in the same spot?—that I often felt with AM. As I said later to a friend, it’s as if there were an invisible but powerful third person all the time between me and AM, like a road worker holding signs of misdirection. That invisible presence being, I think, alcohol.

At any rate, once again there was no connection, only a sense of something not fitting by a frustrating fraction—like a Tupperware lid that should snap onto a container but simply does not. 

So I feel a little crazy, a little fragile, a little sad, and angry, and mostly relieved to be free of this. I suspect it’s like the ever-so-slightly infected tooth I finally had pulled after several years—I will feel slightly but significantly better in my whole self afterwards.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Can I find 7171?

Inspired by Michael's sleuthing around in old NYC photos over on Orange Crate Art (like this one), I decided to see if I could track down the former owner of my old keychain-- an item donated this year to the religious articles ministry (Catholic) that uses the thrift store where I work as a mailing address.

Could I find who owner no. 7171 was? The guild that registered the number is still listed at this address, but on a quick search this morning, I could find nothing about it. Will look further...

Pro Deo Guild /5770 Mosholu Ave./Bronx, NY

The organizer of the ministry knows I love old Catholic holy medals (for themselves, not ironically), and she occasionally gives me some to look at, and to keep any I like. The intention of the ministry is to re-home these items--they come from around the country, often with notes along the lines of, "These were my mother's and I don't know what to do with them".
They are relics from another age.

I love that someone carried my keychain in their pocket and charged it with their faith, like we charge our tech. Though honestly, it's not worn very smooth, the way medals get when carried for a long time, so it might have mostly lived in a box...

Mosholu Ave. is in Riverdale--once largely Irish Catholic, and, according to Wikipedia, an affluent part of the Bronx. I'll search more later.

Meantime, here's the Mosholu branch of the New York Public Library-- a modernist building from 1955. I must look at a map to see if it's even in the same neighborhood--- but now I must leave for work.

"The Mosholu branch of the New York Public Library is located on 205th Street, adjacent to Whalen Park and the Perry Avenue exit of the D train.

"Like the neighborhood, the branch gets its name from the Native American word mosholu, which means 'smooth stones' or 'small stones' and once referred to a brook that ran through the Bronx.  The one-story, modernist building opened in 1955." 

Tips on searching? Other ideas? Email welcome at frescadp at the g.

Monday, September 25, 2023

On the Boards, Acrobats

 Unexpected! Together, the two boards work better than either one alone. They weren't intended as a diptych, but then, Em and I have never discussed any intentions, or even talked about the process of our collaboration. (Em doesn't stand still long enough for a conversation.) 

The boards go back to Em to work on again now... Or later, probably--I'm enjoying looking at them so much. I'm curious to see them with the third board (at Em's). Three ring circus?

 The acrobats are my favorite. Now with strawberry shortcake hats (the mother and daughter).

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Red Board, living dangerously

Em surprised me by bringing me the red board, above, the third board of the collaboration we'd started with Asst Man ... two? months ago. I'd thought she might never work on this one (which I'd covered with peeled-off, red cloth book covers) , so I was thrilled.

I like the faces she'd drawn, but the man with the beard looks a lot like my father ... This morning I saw the face as a fox (I started sketching it in, above).

I had an old book covered in worn orange cloth--perfect for a fox. In process:


Asst Man has got a new job! --this coming week will be his last at the thrift store. He'd complained about management from the get-go, but wasn't able to do better himself. I figured when I called out his bad behavior when drunk that it would spur him either to address his alcohol use or to get a job in education, as he'd often talked of doing--both things, actually. I'm not surprised at his choice.

He's going to work as a teacher's aide with teens with special needs at a nearby highschool. It pays significantly more ($22?/hour). Schools are desperate for help and you don't need any training, just a two-year degree in anything. AM has a degree in graphic design.... 

To me it sounds like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, but I don't care. I'm just pleased he'll be gone. I think I've complained about him on this blog more than I've complained about anyone or anything. 

Speaking of complaining... After complaining here about Apple, I got my iphone stolen at work. 🙄

What a hoot--it felt kinda like instant karma. Luckily I still had BJ's new Moto(-rola) phone that her sister had given me when BJ died--(thanks BJ❤️).  I'm typing on it now because I haven't figured out how to synch it with my laptop to make a hotspot (I don't have internet service).

What happened was, a guy who was doing worker's comp hours at the store stole a bunch of stuff on his last day, including clothes, two phones (mine and another), and a customer's car. A car. They got it back, but nothing else. Some coworkers were angry, but I just shook my head-- our workplace once again proves to be the Wild West. And it's just a phone, just a thing.

The main problem with this relatively cheap phone, besides that I begrudge having to learn my way around it, is its poor camera (though I photographed the boards with it and they are okay). I'm not buying another Apple though, much as I love their excellent cameras, having just looked into the company's practices. (Also, $$$.) I think I'll supplement this phone with a better digital camera from work. Big Boss said I could have any donated tech to replace my stolen phone--not that we get good phones, but we do get some good cameras, since almost nobody uses them anymore.

Happy Fall Equinox! On we go, living dangerously, tipping and spinning in space... 

PS. Also I haven't figured out text messaging on this phone, so if we've been texting please email me instead.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Annual Two-Person Book Club

Every so often I round up books we have two copies of and set up a ‘two-person reading group’ display. Usually both copies don’t sell together, but I like the conceit. Here’s a few of this year’s round-up.

Monday, September 18, 2023

“Misanthropy is too easy.”

I. “Misanthropy is too easy.”

Yesterday, Sunday afternoon, I went to a bookstore (what I do on my days off my BOOK’s store). There I ran into a friend, KG, whom I hadn’t seen in years—I was so happy to see her— and with her partner, Mike, we went out for beers. I’d only met Mike once, a dozen years ago. I’d liked him—a reader and a complex thinker—but he’d come across as unpleasantly bitter and judgmental—even though I agreed with his judgments. I wasn’t sure how it’d be hanging out with him. 

It was great! I don’t know if he’d mellowed over time, or if I’d met him on a bad day in a bad year? He was just as judgmental (me too!), but the bitterness was gone.

“Misanthropy is my default,” he said, “but I try to resist it. It’s too easy…, and it’s what ‘they’ want you to feel—it divides, and they conquer.”

Yes! I feel the same—misanthropy is a honey trap. I told him [what I’d recently blogged about] how people at my workplace distrust one another and don’t bond to pull together against the machine, and the machine picks people off one by one. 

We can hang together or hang separately, as Benjamin Franklin said.

II. Muriel, the Book Angel 

Where I’m house/dog sitting has Amazon prime, and I was excited to watch season 2 of Good Omens, having loved season 1. 

What a disappointment. I slogged through all six episodes, and it felt like the actors did too (though David Tennant has said it was a delight to play the demon Crowley again—I hope it was— it felt stale to me). Then, all of a sudden, the show gets really good—in around the last fifteen minutes! I recommend you start with episode 6. The plot finally congeals (finally!), and the most delightful character comes into their own—the naive angel Muriel (Quelin Sepilulveda), on their first visit to Earth, discovers reading books.

BELOW: Muriel posing as “a human police officer”, trying to figure out what to do with their first-ever cup of tea, in Aziraphale’s book shop.  

Muriel helps me like the humans, though they are fictional (Muriel I mean, not the humans). But fictional people count too!

Below—Muriel holding a copy of The Crow Road by Iain Banks, a book which Crowley has tossed at them, saying “you’ll like this”. I guess Neil Gaiman does. (He’d had to write GO2 on his own, coauthor of Good Omens (book and season 1), Terry Pratchett, you know, sadly having died.) The Crow Road is referenced in other places in this season. (

In fact, I’d gone to the bookstore yesterday to see if they had this book. They didn’t, but there was my old friend and that was better. I have a different book by Banks at work—I’ll start with that. If I controlled my own inventory I’d stock Crow Road and display it with this photo.

III. Postscript to yesterday’s post

Writing about the golliwog doll yesterday, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that representation doesn’t matter—in dolls or otherwise. Hope it didn’t sound that way.

 Images don’t stand alone—a seemingly friendly image may be part of a cluster that links to something hostile. 

In the case of Black Americana, some years ago I was looking into donated objects to determine if I should put them out at the thrift store. I found the excellent Jim Crow Museum of Racist Imagery and was shocked to see the direct line from, say, a Mammy salt shaker to postcards showing lynchings as fun picnic outings for white people—the sort Bob Dylan was referring to when he sang “they’re selling postcards of the hanging” in “Desolation Row”. (Re the 1920 lynchings in Duluth, Minnesota, where I go on vacation.) Which did rather change how I feel about even the most innocuous items…

 — I looked up “golliwog dolls” at the museum’s website. Their article offers a good overview—how much the doll is or isn’t offensive is an ongoing debate, but its history is rooted in the same soil as blackface and so on, and so forth. 

What I was objecting to, I hope it’s clear, is the hypocrisy of “virtue signaling” when people target someone for liking something problematic—as if they themselves were morally pristine. 

Making no claims here of my own innocence… Hardly! 


“wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”

—Matthew 7, 3–5, King James Version. That’s Jesus speaking. (Probably not like that though.)

Sunday, September 17, 2023

I can’t hear you, I have an Apple in my eye.

Blogging on my phone this morning on the front porch where I’m house sitting the dog Astro. He seemed chilly so I wrapped him up. Pup in a Blanket. 

No pup though—he’s ten. As with the previous wire fox terriers here, he finally calmed down significantly when he turned nine. Until then he was a terrierist. 

I’m slow on the phone keyboard, so I don’t much like blogging on my phone. I imagine the phone is a major contributor to the decline of long-form blog writing?


I AM TYPING THIS, right now, on an APPLE IPhone. From my first laptop bought in 2004 onward, I have never owned any computer but Apples, and I have loved them. 

Recently a blogger (white) posted a photo of a golliwog doll bought in England. These dolls are black, and cute—from an old children’s book—with stereotypical features of people of black African descent—like Little Black Sambo.

The doll is of relatively small significance—it’s not my interest here. If you love ❤️ it, enjoy it! I don’t care. What interested me is that the blogger has also been writing recently about trouble with Apple tech, and while two commenters took the blogger to task for buying the golly doll, NO ONE criticized the blogger for buying Apple. 

Now, in itself the golly doll is cute and friendly, but if you and your family have been compared to gorillas (as the Obamas have been, for instance) and other stereotypical insults, I can see why you’d be tired of depictions of Black people looking like “happy darkies”. And “wog” is a racist slur. 

So, yeah. 

But who is currently employing—almost enslaving—people in workplaces so dire that workers kill themselves in despair? And what product uses minerals mined in and contributing to conflict in war zones? 

Well, all smartphones use conflict minerals, but I’m thinking of the working conditions specifically at 🍎 Apple factories.  (You probably know about this (or can google it).)

But my, don’t we feel virtuous for calling out old racist stereotypes? All the while supporting slavery by other names today?

(It’s not just Apple, of course. When we order from Amazon, say, who fulfills those orders? And who made them?)

Look, I do it too. I’m not saying we have to be pure. But let’s not be such hypocrites. Let’s not feel virtuous for calling out other’s possibly poor vision when we have an Apple in our own eye. Also we get no moral credit for feeling bad and mourning our behavior in public. It only matters what we do about it.

I’m going to look into alternatives to Apple—is there any more ethical tech? I don’t know yet. Do you? I’ll leave comments ON in case anyone has helpful knowledge or relevant thoughts. Inspire me, beautiful people!

[UPDATE. I checked. As I feared, the short answer is “no”. Just use the one(s) you own for the rest of your life.]

Why haven’t I even checked before? Because I totally bought into Apple’s image—the sleek future, the elegant design, the gleaming (white) box. And their ads—so good!—designed perfectly for people like me, who liked to see ourselves as part of a “think different” creative class. 

OMG, and didn’t they have The Best Ads? Makes ya weep. If only they’d proven true.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Duluth Trading Twins

 My coworker Grateful-J, above, often wears clothes from Duluth Trading Co. Yesterday I pulled a pair of work pants by them out of our textile baling bin—my size! A bit torn, but it’s only 50 cents for items going to recycling. 

I showed Grateful-J, and we happened to be wearing similar colors. Twins! He’s one of my favorite and best coworkers. Good for him, sad for me, he’s only here part-time now because he’s working for a guy in the wild mushroom trade—foraging and selling to restaurants mostly. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Happy Blog-a-versary, Orange Crate Art!

OCA is nineteen today—entering its last year of teenhood…
I think of it as a sort of older cousin blog to l’astronave, who will turn sixteen on October 7. 
We met in 2013, through nail clippers of all things, when this blog (b. 2007) was six. 
Michael is the only blogger I know from the (g)old days of blogging who still posts regularly—and interestingly too. OCA is a place to start… and a place to keep coming back to.  

This morning before I read OCA, walking Astro, the dog I’m house sitting, I happened to pick up a couple orange crates in the alley, with some tattered art still holding on. A happy coincidence? Or subliminal programming?

“Why are you lugging those?”

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Back at work

 In my five and a half years at the thrift store, I’ve never seen a single one of these Fire-King teardrop mixing bowls, much less a perfect set of four. I wouldn’t want them, but I bow to their prowess. 

A volunteer is now listing occasional high-price stuff on eBay for the store, and AsstMan gave the bowl set to her to sell. “Why not try them at the store first?” I said. “They’re just what thrifters are hoping to find.”

He was doubtful anyone would pay that much (350-), and I reminded him we’d sold a four-place set of  Dansk silverware for 125-. People will pay antique store prices for super cool rare finds.

He consulted with the other underling manager, and together they decided to try them in store for a month. 

Such is the high-wattage decision making power at the store. At any rate, I’m glad AM and I are maintaining the “professional workplace relationship” I’d told him I wanted after his denial of any drunken wrongdoing.

I’d rather have the dignity of being honest about my wrong-doings than the indignity of weaseling out of responsibility. But that’s just me, not certain …leaders (imagine air quotes).


Lunch (by me) yesterday was pulled chicken in barbecue sauce with fluffy white buns (thanks, k., for suggesting the element of “fluff”) and coleslaw. I hadn’t had time to get to the food shelf (very limited hours, all during the workday—really NOT good for “the working poor”), so I used the $25 gift card to Aldi a volunteer had given me for that purpose (feeding coworkers). 

I ended up spending $8 of my own too because ALDIs $2 barbecue sauce was basically pancake syrup (first ingredient = corn syrup). I used it anyway, but the chicken tasted like the chicken in sweet-and-sour American Chinese takeout (where’s the sour?). I drained it off, stopped at the co-op, and found a sauce with tomato first, then vinegar, then sugar. Organic and vegan. For your barbecue tempeh, I guess. Basically tomato paste with spice, it cost $8, but it was good.

I’ve made my own bbq sauce in the past—easy, but messy—and easy I’m trying to keep this fast and with as little cleanup as possible because one thing I dislike is doing dishes. And if I’m going to keep doing this, as I’d like to, I need to practice Resentment Management by keeping it cheap ‘n’ easy. I am no selfless angel.

My workplace, as I’ve said many times, is rich in resentment opportunities. After three workdays away, I returned yesterday to see that my coworkers had dumped book and toy donations in such a way to block my workspace aisle. Toys are easy enough to shift, but boxes of books aren’t. I spent half the day digging out. Thanks a lot, my darling  m’fuckers.  

I know why they do it—they’re old men in poor health tasked with moving truckloads of crap.  But jesus… Lengthwise, people! I tell them, but it does not take.

I don’t know much about Marxist thought, but it occurred to me I’m seeing the inner workings of Maintenance of Poverty: people do not pull together, do not pool resources, do not think in cost/benefit terms. Definitely a mistrust keeps everyone working for himself at their own detriment. 

I’ve suggested, for instance, that we chip in together to buy cases of pop, which would equal about 25 cents/can. But everyone prefers to run across the street to the little shop that sells it for $1.50/can. I expect they think someone would take more than their fair share of the case of pop. I believe they’re right, but a person would have to take [oh no, math!]… uh, a bunch of cans (5?) before you were paying more than $1.50 for your can. 

This self-defeating lack of pulling together can look like stupidity, but I believe it’s learned helplessness + learned distrust, plus a big scoop of exhaustion. Result: My coworkers are NOT ripe for radicalization. Including Mr Furniture, the guy who’s always talking about The Master Plan. He can see it, but he can’t see his way around, over, or under it. We all carry it on our backs and dump it in each other’s areas. If I do it less than some of the others, it’s only because I am lucky enough to have resources they don’t. 

Like, I can read the label. Literally.

And that’s my class analysis from the armpit of Lake Street today. Off to work to shift more heavy stuff. The truth is, if it doesn’t break me (go slow, Fresca!), it genuinely does keep me stronger. I don’t like to exercise. If I’d been sitting at my laptop editing /writing all these years, I’d be a total pudding.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

gone, gone… awake!

PennyCooper lays the moth to rest.

They determined a land place of rest was best for the moth. “It was not a swimmer.”

As at the Bee Burial, at the moth funeral we all chanted the Heart Sutra (in Sanskrit?):

"Gaté, gaté (Gone, gone), Paragaté (Gone beyond),
Parasamgate! (Fully beyond!)
Bodhhi! Svaha! (Awake! YAY!)"

The Exotic Common White-lined Sphinx Moth (funeral to follow)


“We must give it a funeral.”

They’re pleased to have found a beautiful dead thing, to indulge their tender hearts and flare for drama. They are composing a dirge—I hear their little voices—while I have my coffee before heading out to the estuary—likely moth’s send-off will be on water.

Unfortunately for me, it’s rainy, but I brought a rain poncho. You never know when you’ll have to attend (officiate, even) an outdoor insect funeral. 

I’m in Duluth for an over-(last)night—staying by the St Louis River that flows into the Great Lake Superior. The girlettes found the dead moth yesterday, as big as their head. I showed it to the motel owner, who recoiled. “Ew, no!”

Looked it up instead. It’s a white-lined sphinx moth—pink inner wings clinch id—so big it can be mistaken for a hummingbird I read. Looks exotic, but is common. 

The girlettes object. “There’s only one!”

Quite right. And it is no more. Its passing shall be noted with grief and appreciation. 

Bring on the funeral rites. Alas, too wet for a flaming barge. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

What’s on your nightstand?

 ….Michael asked on OCA today, What’s on your nightstand?

My nightstand is predictable—toys and books.

Discussing whether a doll can be a cyborg…

The Long Walk is the book Peter Weir made into his last movie, The Way Back. A good read, though likely fictional—about a group of escapees from a Soviet prison camp during WWII walking thousands of miles to British India. If the author didn’t actually do it, as he wrote in an afterward there are many people who did and do do such feats of survival.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Apotropaic Knight Squirrel, most powerful protector

This Knight Squirrel came together easily—a sign that it was ready and that it is the correct apotropaic for me to make for the person (the customer I mentioned in the previous post.)

Its helmet is also a face shield, and it can carry the sword or not (or use it to spear acorns). Also it can hop in and out of its cup. I wanted it to be flexible.

I don’t know the person well, and I hope but don’t know if this will fit them. All I know is, it is the true thing I have in me to offer.

(Thank you, Linda Sue for the tiny salt shaker that provided the lid.)

"You're in the right place."

I walked into the reception for Douglas Ewart wearing my musical headdress. The gallery director saw me right away and said,
"You're in the right place."

When Douglas saw me, he stood still, and quiet. He was looking closely at each element on the frame.
His rare ability to quiet, to pay attention, is a kind of generosity.

I'd like to be more like that with people. I tend to get hyper in social settings.

Btw, my favorite element on the headdress is a rolling wheel for sealing ravioli— like a pizza cutter —with a crimping edge--the 2nd uncolored clanger from the left. I'd picked it up in the thrift store and wondered what it was--a customer told me. Oh, bink points out it can also seal pie crust. 

II. “Talk Werk”

BELOW: Donated like this. I might bring this dictionary home.

BELOW: Books, side-by-side. Henry VIII's wives disappear when you pour hot water in the mug.
(Some volunteer ladies in housewares are indiscriminate in their label placement--smack in the middle of a decoration on a plate, for instance.)

III. Bionic Leg!

I'd stopped on my bike and picked up a run-over action doll--its legs were intact and I thought one of the girlettes might like to swap a leg.
"Me! Me!" said Puck.


(Heating the area with boiling water or a hand hair-drier softens plastic enough to pull/push a leg with a joint in and out.)

IV. Apotropaics to Be Made

BELOW: Em came in on her birthday last week, and I gave her this broken porcelain doll I'd saved for her. (I'd dropped it and the face broke. We get a lot of these modern, fake-antique dolls.
"They are not alive", says PennyCooper.)

E has an uncanny way of looking like other things.

She has not worked on the red board for our collab and isn't actually sure where it is. I'm giving her the clown board, but maybe this project is at its end.
She's really brilliant at of-the-moment creation though. I should/could show up at her place and say,
Let's make alley protectors!

I want to make an apotropaic for a particular person. A regular customer texted me--a month ago we'd exchanged numbers re some books--apologizing for the delay. He'd taken a month off due to "some deaths in my immediate community."
I'm pretty sure he's talking about the mass shooting at a DIY punk/queer community / performance space a mile from the store.

I was thinking what to do...  
Like I did for Linda Sue's son who was shot by police, I decided I'll make an apotropaic for this customer.

What's the etiquette for expressing care toward witnesses and victims of hate crimes anyway?

Why is this a real live question in my life? Our lives.

Wrong place, wrong time?
Right place, wrong time?

Right place, right time?

Friday, September 8, 2023

Reclamation II: "Would you like something to read?"

Books from my earlier life have always shown up at my workplace, but only recently have I started to buy any of them for myself.
Over the years, I'd gotten rid of all but a short shelfful of my books.
Now, at sixty-two, I seem to have started some reclamation project of my past, including framing one of my oldest family photos (post below this one).

BELOW: My mother cooked out of the original Betty Crocker cook book in a three-ring binder. This is a bound reprint.
I've never actually read archy and mehitabel, but I remember staring at the illustrations in my parent's paperback--they're by George Herriman, who drew Krazy Kat.

Every year, in the evenings leading up to Christmas, my parents read aloud Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol--a little red leather edition. If it was on TV, we'd watch the 1951 movie with Alastair Sim as Scrooge. (Found it on utube.)
On Christmas Eve, we'd read The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Arthur Rackham (above).
On Christmas Day, we listened to the LP record of Dylan Thomas reading A Child's Christmas in Wales.
"Would you like something to read?"

The three books were my parents' choices. I discovered C. W. Anderson's horse books--including the Blaze series––on my own. I mostly got them from the library, and I drew horses, copying
Anderson's style.
I was so excited to own a copy of Heads Up, Heels Down, his instruction book on horse riding--hardback with an orange dust jacket.
I think it was a birthday present--maybe for my tenth birthday?

I've ordered a couple other books from my past off ebay, inexpensively. The cheapest copy of Heads Up, however, is around $25 with tax and shipping. I don't want to pay that much. I'm not trying to rebuild my entire bookshelf.
Also, I prefer the serendipity of thrift store donations.

These books, below, for instance, I never would have searched out, except maybe Star Trek 2 from my teen years. It's one of a series of novelizations (short-storyzations) of the show's episodes, by James Blish. I didn't care about the stories--I was delirious to have this cover photo of Spock and Kirk, in particular--back when you couldn't easily find photos of old TV shows.

The Country Between Us
I discovered in my early forties, when I rewrote a geography book for middle-schoolers about El Salvador (contract work I did for a decade for a children's book publisher). I was going to quote a famous line from the poem "The Visitor", but it's too grim. You may know it already. (NYT review of Forché's book.)

Sixteen Pleasures (1994) and Towers of Trebizond (1956) are from the first, happy years of knowing Oliver, in my early thirties, before we started an affair. They are, however, both about affairs....

I'd recommended Sixteen Pleasures to him, ostensibly because it's about book restoration after the Florence flood.
And he gave me a copy of Towers before a trip I took to Turkey, which is about traveling there. I brought it along.

Towers's opening line:
"'Take my camel, dear', said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."
Aunt Dot's full name is Dorothea ffoulkes-Corbett. The book's like that, and so was Oliver.
Hm, looking at the Wikipedia article makes me want to read that again--I haven't in twenty-five years...

It's difficult to call up feelings of
happiness, or even love, toward people when things have ended very badly--for me, that means Oliver and my mother.
I remember that I did love them very much, but I rarely feel anything pleasant when I think of them now.
These books I've collected help in both cases.

it's easy to call up a pleasant and fond feeling for my father, whom I didn't love deeply. My worst years with my father were all before I was twenty-five. After that we had a cordial relationship, with some moments of true connection.

I graduated from college in 1996 with a BA in Classics, when I was thirty-five. (I thought I was sooooo old.) In celebration, my father gave me an antique, leather-bound book in Greek (I don't remember what it was), and a check for a hundred dollars. I no longer have the note he'd written to go along with the gifts, but I remember what he'd written:
"There are few times in life when a person can be genuinely proud. This is one of them."

Reclamation, I. (Was there always a dog? Of course there was always a dog.)

Old photos are donated to the thrift store with some frequency--often loose, sometimes in albums, and sometimes they've been professionally framed in colors suited to old sepia.
I bought such a framed one, took out the old photo (saved it), and framed the photo of my mother's father as a 12-year-old boy. I've had it since my mother died twenty years ago.

Below, far right: my grandfather, Lytton Somer Davis, Kentucky, c. 1912.
Handling the photo, I noticed THE DOG lying at the family's feet. |
Of course it has always been there--had I never seen it? Or just forgotten?
I've posted this before, but here I brightened the photo so the dog is more visible:

My grandfather always stayed aloof when my mother took my sister and me to visit her parents in Missouri. He did tell stories about growing up though, and the memory came to me that he'd said all their dogs were named Ticky Pete.

Here's my wall with the sepia photo (bottom row).
Auntie Vi drew the charcoal picture of a bridge in winter, far right. I've walked across that bridge often--it's in a little park near her house.

I will keep an eye out for more good frames--I want to add some favorite photos from my father's family too.

Not sure I want photos of my immediate family on display, though--they mostly call up pangs of sadness...
Auntie Vi never had family photos up, said they made her too sad. Now I understand. But the generation further back, I don't have close memories.
With everyone gone, the photos remind me of where I come from, the framework of who I am.