Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Things Unknown

"Most great works of the imagination were meant to make you feel like a stranger in your own home. The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted."
--Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
quoted in David Denby's Lit Up: One Reporter, Three Scools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives (2016)

I don't agree that "most great works of the imagination" were meant to do to anything. Do you?

When authors set out to disguise instruction as fiction  ("to make you feel..."),  it doesn't reach the mark of "great works of the imagination". There's a suspicious odor about it, like the grocery bag of donated books with an unplaceable sweet odor that I unpacked the other day
When I got to the bottom, there was the melty body of a mouse.

George Orwell's novels, for instance, might be great political commentary, but they are not great works of the imagination--you can smell their machinery oil. 

And does most great fiction force us (force us?) to question our reality? Often it clearly presents what we knew to be true, but couldn't express.

Anyway, whatever--there is a value to things that shake us out of our mental complacency, and this quote came to me because yesterday at work, two customers asked me when Halloween was. 

Not like, "Oh, gee, how many days is it till Halloween?"
No, I mean, they literally didn't know what date the holiday fell on.

Work works like that--it makes me feel like a stranger in my assumptions. 
I love that. 
You'd think every grown up knows when Halloween is, or that state taxes aren't used to fund war, or that sterling silver shouldn't go in metal recycling.
But no.

Each social group has a community chest containing a general fund of knowledge, and there may be little or no crossover between these GFKs. 

My coworkers know lots of things that I don't even know are things to know...

Monday, October 28, 2019

Because it is bitter...

Coffee is brewing, but I'm starting this morning with liver-cleanser tea. I've set up my orange metal and tile café table in my room, for writing. The windows face west and north, so it's not a great morning room, but I can write without interruption here, [Housemate is chatty], and that's most important.

The tea tastes a bit bitter (dandelion), but its licorice, fennel, and ginger warm it up. Also contains burdock, milk thistle & barberry.

I got a couple ounces of this chunky mix at Tao Natural Foods, one of the businesses from the idealistic Sixties (1968, to be exact) that has survived by going upscale.
They serve kale massaged with EVO [extra virgin olive oil] and carry expensive potions and lotions. In their old wood loft, however, they still carry in bulk reasonably priced plant parts, now called "botanicals". You serve yourself out of big glass jars.
(This tea is $4/oz., and you can steep it more than once.)

I'd first bought this tea for a coworker who has cirrhosis of the liver, tried it myself, and liked it. 
I like bitter tastes--coffee, citrus peel, greens, tonic, etc.

Maybe I like bitterness?
I don't like feeling bitter. But it's a root emotion, and a touch of its honesty can be medicinal––an antidote to the cult of coziness I was complaining about the other day.

I like to BE cozy, but the marketing of coziness seems to be on the upswing, or am I just being crabby?

*googles hygge, Danish for "cozy"*

Nope, not just me being crabby:
The Danish Lifestyle Trend, hygge, . . .  is taking the world by storm".

There you have it: Coziness is taking the world by storm...

Close-up of human eye Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis

Coziness should be comfort from the storm, not the storm itself.

I distrust things that deny the demonic storms of our depths. 
I'm thinking about this because I'm going with bink to see my auntie in Wisconsin this weekend.

I love my auntie, but I have to steel myself against her relentless positivity. Her "look on the sunny side" philosophy has served her well in her 94 years, and I wouldn't wish it otherwise for her, but I hate that it works like an emotional Procrustean bed. Any "negative" feelings get lopped off.

I only challenged her on it once.
She was saying that she believes people can choose to be happy, so if they're unhappy, they need to adjust their attitude.

I told her that I use my mother's life as a measuring stick for my beliefs, and the belief that we can control our happiness levels just doesn't measure up. I knew my mother for forty-one years, and I never witnessed her choosing to be so unhappy that she eventually killed herself...

This was met with stunned silence. My auntie had nothing to say in response, and we never talked about it again. 

There’s life power in resilience, which is not the same as this flattening positivity. 
I stopped my bike to photograph this plant ^ growing up through a bulldozed piece of land along a four-lane road in my new neighborhood.

I've always loved this poem by Stephen Crane

In the Desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

Sunday, October 27, 2019


One of this fall's new dolls, hitherto named Myrtle. She says in this outfit she prefers Myrtell  (Mer-TELL), as being more astronauty.

Evening Walk

Dog has started to expect me to go for a walk with him.
This evening he was all ansy and dancey. 
I didn't want to go for a walk––I'd been out and about half the day––but I knew that's what he wanted. The minute I said, "Do you want to go for a walk?" the joy on his face made me glad. 

The lake is only three blocks away, and it was a soft evening. The gingko trees had dropped their golden fan-shaped leaves all over the sidewalk, and the evening lake was lavender.

I know Dog would like a much longer walk, but after only a 25-minute walk, he came home and conked out on the couch next to me.

Dog has a decent backyard to run around in, but I think he's bored. Smelling is his social media--he needs to sniff new smells. 

And I benefit from getting out too.
At the lake we stopped to say hello to a Yorkie. The owner was a friendly middle-aged white guy in a Vikings cap. He said his dog's name was Tyson.

"Like the chicken?" I said.

"No," he said, "the boxer."

"Oh, a tough guy." I said. "Terriers are tough."

"That's right!" he said. "He's very territorial--better not come onto his property." 

So. Two middle-aged white people with dogs named after black performers.... Creepy. At least "Prince" is a normal name for a dog. It's #194 on this list of popular dog names of 2019.

Most of the houses in this neighborhood are single-family bungalows, like the one I live in. People decorate their yards for Halloween.

In my old neighborhood had many more apartment buildings, so people didn't have individual yards to decorate, and anyway, portable decorations were likely to be stolen.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Book Learned

Embossed on the old Standard American Encyclopedia
DOCTUS CUM LIBRO = "Book Learned"

I have a plan for writing in November: a ghost story, featuring a grown-up, real-life Penny Cooper.
The idea came while having coffee with an old pal, JS, who was telling me he'd woken up in the middle of the night sensing a presence. It was so strong, he got out of bed and checked his apartment door. It was locked. 

I pictured Penny Cooper having the reaction I had--assigning this event to neurology.
But... Penny Cooper is not always right, even though she thinks she is.

I don't like outright horror, especially cruel & gory, but I do like shivery ghost stories.
Maybe it started when I was ten with watching the romantic Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)? Rex Harrison is the ghost who falls in love with Gene Tierney (the widowed Mrs. Muir). Huh--I see her little girl was played by Natalie Wood.

It's not very shivery, but it is atmospheric.

Ghost stories are half atmosphere--shadows and creaks and blowing curtains. Writing one will be a good way to practice catching physical details. And they're genre--you don't have to create them from whole cloth--the reader knows the pattern. Character and plot are secondary.

Other ghost movies I've liked: 
The Shining (I maybe like its trailer recut as a comedy (on youtube) even better); 
The Sixth Sense ("I see dead people"); 
Whistle and I'll Come to You (the 1968 version, on youtube);
Ghost (with Patrick Swazey--not even scary though)...

And stories: The Monkey's Paw, The Woman in Black (Susan Hill), Turn of the Screw, Edgar Allen Poe

Penny Cooper is all excited about starring in a story. She says it's OK if she gets scared, since it's just made up, and not real like she is...

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Hand That Twitters

Book donation to the thrift store:
The Twittering Bird Mystery, by H. C. Bailey, 1938, Sun Dial Mysteries.

That hand, and twittering.... I'm thinking of a person ... a figment of imagination who never could have happened... Could he?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ghost Story

I was scrounging through the shelves looking for books to fill in my display of Halloween season reading and was pleased (with myself, smugly, as much as for the display) to remember that Our Town is a ghost story.

I've never read Zola, but I was surprised he titled a book In Secret--seems like modern styling. 
And it is--it's a retitling of Thérèse Raquin after the 2013 film adaptation.

It's gratifying when books sell that have been on the shelf a long time, once they're displayed. A couple Daphne DuMauriers, for instance.
But Anne Rice, once so hot, is truly yesterday's cold potatoes--her books don't go.

Sometimes I'm annoyed when someone buys a book I like seeing on display. Our Town sold right away.
Put that back!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

And another present...

I guess buying useful new clothes isn't exactly a present? But since I buy used clothes 90 percent of the time, it feels like it. 

I'd bought a pair of heavily worn Ann Taylor corduroy pants for $1 at the thrift store. They're wonderful, but they're on the verge of ripping.
I found a pair on Poshmark--I wasn't familiar with that site, but it's like ebay for clothes, you know?--where individuals sell new and used clothes.

Since they're new, they're plush and velvety. I love them! 
Here I am getting dog hair on them--but they're black, and Dog is black. 
(His name is Prince, but I cringe to call a black dog after a black musician. Housemate is oblivious to such considerations--Dog is named after Prince, because he, the dog, arrived on the day the musician died.) 

The cords are like-new and cost only $21 with shipping. On the Ann Taylor site they're close to $100.
Does anyone ever pay full price? (I believe they do...)

Here's Dog on a walk yesterday evening.
Look at that empty street!!! NO TRAFFIC! I still can hardly believe it. 

Can you see what he's pulling toward?

             . . . SQUIRREL!

He yanks my shoulder when he pulls suddenly, but he's very human-centered (not like terrier Astro), and he's gotten a lot better about not jerking the leash.

I bought myself a present.

I'm so excited! I have followed "Olga's Bears" on Instagram for quite a while, from Olga, a bear-maker in Russia. I admire her bears, and I also like her weird whimsy.
Cozy, but not clichéd.

Here, for instance, are her most recent bears in progress.

She posted these bears, finished, dressed as berries, and I was wondering how to buy one. 

This morning she posted the link to her sale site. Two bears were left, and I chose one, a girl named Pensive, to come live with the girlettes. At 7", Pensive is about the same size as the 8" girlettes.

She cost a lot––$125, including shipping––but I don't care.

I just talked to Housemate about saving money, since I will be dropping back to 20 hours/week.

We're going to share groceries. I used to eat out a lot, but I said I want to cook and eat at home more now.
She usually cooks at home anyway.

I was thinking I might work my way through the original Moosewood Cookbook (1974). Housemate has a copy.
It influenced the way I cook, but I haven't actually cooked out of it since the '80s. 
I was thinking of tamale pie...

Meanwhile, on Sunday I bought a Hungarian mushroom pie at the Savory bakery, which is about a mile away from here--even farther from my old place. I'd never been.
I also got pepper bacon, cabbage, leeks, and apples at the Farmers Market to cook up in my new Dansk casserole.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Steam Heat

Dog is camera shy. Sunday morning at Lake Hiawatha, three blocks from my new house. Can you see the steam on the lake? It was 40ºF / 4ºC.

Ha! I've been hoisted on my own petard--serves me right too.
I'd just complained about carelessness with facts, and three of you called me on my own carelessness in doubting that Americans keep their houses cold enough for tea to steam.

Thanks, everyone!
I looked it up, naturally, and discovered that other factors besides temperature determine water condensation--there's also humidity and air pressure. The temperature doesn't have to be very low if the other factors are right.
I was thinking the air had to be near freezing.

My apartment for the last seventeen years was near freezing (ice would form on the inside of my windows), but I guess my hot liquids never steam because I add cold milk.

Anyway, I wasn't doubting many of us keep our houses on the cool side (though above freezing); I was expressing annoyance with certain clichéd phrases, which for some reason includes almost all phrases about coziness.
I don't mind all clichés, but those get up my nose--like cutesy marketing copy--the pumpkin spice of clichés.

Another dog walker at the lake on Sunday.^

I'm loving my new neighborhood, and having a dog to walk encourages me to get out into it. I don't have to walk him, but housemate doesn't walk her dog every day--she lets him out in the fenced yard––so he's started to look to me in hope...

"Fall Is Reading Weather" by Art Sparker

Hooray! It's time for the new bookmark for my BOOK's, made by the inestimable Art Sparker, Susan Sanford (links to her Instagram, where you can see her "Garden of Hope" mural in process).

Now Susan has made four bookmarks for the store, one for each season. Thank you, thank you! This is my favorite.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Pot of Soup

GETTING OUT OF BED will be a big part of the challenge of writing every morning in November.
Supposedly people in the northern hemisphere sleep more in October than any other month. That seems right to me... and on into November too... Not that that's a problem, but I write best in the morning, so if I sleep too late, I don't write at all.

I cashier for a couple extra weeks beyond my two-weeks notice because a coworker will be out for medical reasons, they asked me to work longer. I don't mind helping, though it's predictable that the store won't get its act together and hire my replacement.
Oh well. 

Just time for a quick post this morning.
I made white-bean soup in my new Dansk enamel-over-cast-iron casserole I got from the store. Seven dollars. Figured that was underpriced--looked it up when I got home, and yes it was--though it's a modern remake of a classic, not a vintage piece.  (Also learned the lid doubles as a trivet.)

Living in this hippie Saint Francis-y house throws me back to my earthy granola days of cooking out of Moosewood and Laurel's Kitchen. I like that. It reminds me of my childhood in Madison, with neighbors starting the first food co-ops and going on peace marches.
The whole exposed-wood and house plants ethos.
This house makes me want to start inviting people over for homemade soup and bread and to sing folk songs. Which is a good thing!

But do I miss the Urban Sophisticate vibe?
The clean lines of the mid-century? 

Ummmm.... maybe a little bit. 
Maybe that's why I bought this pot. I mean, I love it, but one had come through the store when I was living in my old place and I didn't buy it then.

I hate cozy clichés, like "pot of soup simmering on the stove"––even though mine did––and "curl up with a good book and a steaming mug of tea."
(Who in modern America keeps their house cold enough that their tea steams anyway?)

Must go catch the bus to work now. (It's raining.)
Love ya!
Come over for soup. Bring your spaceship!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

House. Plants.

Housemate is out of town for two days. Today is my regular day off, and I'm taking an extra day off work tomorrow to resettle into the place. 
That includes cleaning––satisfying in its way but I wouldn't choose to do it if it didn't need doing––and more fun tasks that I would do by choice, such as repotting plants out of plastic into ceramic pots--
here, the two little barrel cacti up top, and the Christmas cactus in front, both in glazed green pots (I put rocks in the bottom for drainage):

I used to have lots of houseplants, until mold infected them and I had to get rid of them all. 
I'll enjoy the ones that live here. 

There isn't enough empty window space to add more... not unless we hang them from the ceiling. Pots in macrame hangers would fit this house well. Like Starsky's!
^ Photo from the blog Property of Starsky & Hutch,  "an inventory of all kinds of interesting items belonging to the two heroes of the television series “Starsky & Hutch” (1975-1979).

I like looking into the material culture of the era I grew up in--the '60s & '70s. I had dug around to find what that swimming poster is--it's from the 1972 Olympics. I blogged about it.
In fact, I see I've blogged about Starsky & Hutch 62 times! And I don't even like the show...

It makes more sense that I put together 28 posts on "Star Trek and Design".

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Saint Fish House

I'm relieved that I'm happy to be back to my new home. Having lived here only one month before going house sitting for two weeks, I was worried it wouldn't feel like home. 
But it does.
Some girlettes were waiting--you can see them on the table.

You can also see the house is sort of messy. 
When I walked in, I was a bit dismayed; then I realized that as long as it's not dirty, I don't mind mess. (I know it's not dirty because I've cleaned almost every surface.)

I like clutter that comes from being engaged with life, from doing and making things.
Half the clutter on the table is mine anyway.
Dolls, of course, and their tiny possessions, sewing threads, piles of Economists, vintage Change of Address cards waiting (still!) to be written and sent to friends...

My housemate is busy with house repairs and political work (refugees and immigration issues), so she's always got piles of papers.
I see a bunch of forms concerning the free new windows that will replace the old, lead-painted ones. She has to choose which kind, etc.

I even like the clutter of this house---its Saint Francis-y, hippie vibe--houseplants and exposed wood and books and art and symbolic tschotkes.

I put the plaster angel in the green dress in the center of the plant, below. (The big plants have just come in from the porch.) It's the archangel Raphael, but I like it because of the fish--a reference to the Biblical story in the Book of Tobit of a miraculous restoration of sight through the application of fish guts... (This is part of Catholic and Orthodox scripture, but not Jewish or Protestant.)
Anyway, I'm a Pisces (two fish swimming in different directions), and so is Housemate.
I've piled up books all over. HouseMate has books in shelves.
I'm reading Significant Others, about pairs of artists and/or writers who were married to each other.

Oopps--must run to work!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

First Fail

"If at first you fail..."

I did!

For my first writing exercise, I was watching Mr Furniture and thinking, I have no idea how to write about him as a physical being, except to write out a list of measurements.
I'll start there, but it's not bloggable.

It's much easier to report the interesting stuff he says, which is not the idea. (The idea is to practice writing stuff I have no idea how to write.)
Anyway, I don't want to report on people's lives.

Still, I do want to share this--it's such a perfect example of how we are living in parallel worlds.

Big Boss got lunch for everybody from Burger King yesterday.

He was going to charge us, like normal when someone makes a fast-food run. 
I pointed out we were working on a holiday–Columbus/Indigenous People's Day––and if we didn't get free lunch, we should get time-and-a-half pay. So we got lunch on the store.

I was eating my Whopper, and Mr Furniture told me he doesn't think it's healthy to eat red meat.

Right, I said. All that cholesterol and everything...

"When I eat red meat at home," he said, "I always boil it until it's not red anymore."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Traveling Bag

I found a traveling bag for the girlettes at work today.
They say they like it but that it's only big enough for four of them. 
They could all squeeze in, doubled up, I suggested, but was informed that that is against regulations.


Showing the Concrete

I woke up this morning happy about my plan to write every morning during NaNoWriMo-November and thinking it's a shame it's still a couple weeks away.
As if I couldn't start now....
Also, I probably don't want to write fiction, much less a novel. 
As if I have to....

I would like to write better, for myself. 

Specifically, I'd like to be able to describe physical things better.

I don't want to write lyrical descriptions––I don't like to read them. I would like to be able to add a touch of physical description to my writing.

My writing has often needed more dough for the raisins, more cushion for the sitting––more air space. I don't know how to write that, or not well.

I also simply don't know the words for things--the parts of windows, for instance. I don't want to learn technical writing, but I would like to pay attention to the parts of things.

I'm going to start my NaNoWriMo by writing descriptions of my coworkers, trying to catch them in their physical selves––

like Flaubert touching on Emma's interior using only exterior descriptions––
not listing things my coworkers believe or their demographics (which is how I think of them to myself).

This will be like sketching in a travel sketchbook--it will help me pay attention to details.

I'm not very attentive to physical details.
Once I was trying to describe Mr Furniture to a customer, and they said, "Oh, the guy with the nose ring?"

I'd never noticed he has a nose ring. 

Mr Furniture would be a good coworker to start with because he's very physical by nature*, and by his work. He's the furniture guy, and he's also an artist, both of which are about moving physical things around.

(* "By nature" = Mr Furniture told me that when he was seven, he threw himself off the couch trying to fly, and broke his arm. I still see that approach in him.)

So today at work, I'm going to pay attention to what Mr Furniture DOES that shows who he is...

I think that will be fun. 
I also think I'll post these exercises, or some of them.
I don't know if they'll be interesting to read, but I always pay more attention to writing if it's going out into the world.

Oh--here's the sort of thing Flannery O'Connor says about the sensory nature of writing that got me thinking how I've never been good at this. From "Writing Short Stories" in Mystery and Manners.
"The peculiar problem of the short-story writer is how to make the action he describes reveal as much of the mystery of existence as possible.  He has only a short space to do it in and he can't do it by statement. He has to do it by showing, not by saying, and by showing the concrete––so that his problem is really how to make the concrete work double time for him."

And this, from O'Connor's "The Nature and Aim of Fiction", is what I've always thought about the material a writer needs:
"The fact is that anyone who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. If you can't make something out of a little experience, you probably won't be able to make it out of a lot. The writer's business is to contemplate experience, not to be merged in it."

Sunday, October 13, 2019

I became willing to write fiction...

I have two more nights dog-sitting before bink & Maura return from Greece. I'm looking forward to getting on with settling into my new place, which doesn't feel like home.
I feel like I don't live anywhere, exactly...

I intend to do another round of cleaning this week, including pulling out the fridge. I usually do that about once a year? I think this fridge perhaps has never been moved... It should be satisfying, if possibly horrifying, to clean underneath. 

My home-owner may not clean under her fridge, but she's whiz-bang at business stuff!
I'd told her about a country program for low-income homeowners that replaces old windows painted with lead. She applied the very same day I sent her the link, the assessors came right out, and now her house is approved for free new windows.
(Besides being low-income, qualifying applicants must have young children who live with or visit them, and her two grandsons do come and stay sometimes.)

I'd never have gotten on that so fast. We're going to be good housemates along those lines.

I'm still getting used to living in someone else's house. Nothing's wrong, but it's going to take a while. 

A big thing is, I need to make sure I take more time alone. 
To help with that, I've decided to sign up for this year's NaNoWriMo. I'm not going to sign up officially on the super-cute site, but between me and me, I am agreeing I will try to write fiction EVERY MORNING in November.

"Agreeing to try..."
Heh. How's that for hedging my bets?

But it's not really; it's more like the smart 12-step phrase, "I became willing...". *
It's not an iron-clad thing, setting myself up for  "I am going to force myself to..."

I did sign up for this one year, but I wrote for only one day.

But now I have an extra reason to try.
Being willing to write fiction every day will work as a double-organizing principle:
to give me time alone,

 and to try, try again to write fiction.

I've been reading Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose.

She spells out the thing about fiction I am so bad at:
its sensory nature.

I blogged not long ago about Flaubert's introduction of the young Emma--
how Charles Bovary first sees her sitting inside on a hot day darning a sock and cooling her hands by placing them every so often on the cool metal of the fire irons. 

I couldn't stand to keep reading, knowing Emma's eventual doom, but after reading only Flaubert's first description of her, I remember her.

I have no idea how to use words to create sensory reality like that.
I usually skip the sensory altogether. 

I do know adjectives are not a writer's friend.
For instance, I like Frank O'Hara's sensory poetry, but I would drop "fluorescent" from this line I quoted here the other day:

"partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches"

It's distracting. I want to question it. Are the tulips fluorescent because they are lit by the sun? Wet from rain? Or are they a certain type of tulip?

Is this really where the poet wanted to direct my imagination?

I don't think so. O'Hara doesn't spell out "snow-white birches" after all.
"Orange tulips around birches" is sufficient.

Writing well takes that nit-picking care. If it's not taken, it shows.
I don't want to read books like the Koontz one I mentioned the other day, in which the character "unavoidably" leaves wet shoe prints.
If the character isn't real enough to tell the author that he, the character, could take off his shoes, he's not going to be real to me either.

I think it will be fun to try to write some sentences (and they don't have to be ficion, come to think of it) that make something real in a sensory way---without being overblown. You want to touch lightly, not to bruise the reader.

Also, how boring is it to read unnecessary physical descriptions? Who cares if a character has "thick brown hair and bright blue eyes" if it doesn't mean something?

Flaubert chooses to show us Emma cooling her hands not because she really did (she doesn't exist), but because he's conveying something meaningful about her--or, rather, he's getting us to enter into a certain kind of relationship with her.


* "I became willing..."

That's from Step 8 & 9: make amends to all people I harmed, except when to do so would harm them or others.

I know this from my short time in OA, Overeaters Anonymous. There's some good stuff in that program, including, for me, the phrase, "I am a compulsive overeater."

I use still use it, like if someone says, "Please take home the rest of this pan of brownies!" 
I say, "No, thank you. I am a compulsive overeater and I would eat them all."
At which point, the person who is trying to pawn off the brownies on me says she is too. I am not above suggesting we just throw the damn brownies out.

Bond Covers

Steve at Shadows & Light posted the cover of a 1966 edition of Ian Fleming's Octopussy and the Living Daylights (two separate stories).
Yesterday a batch of newer Penguin paperbacks of James Bond novels got donated to the thrift store. We happened to have a couple old Signet editions too. 
It looks like the new covers are updates of old ones.

 Here's Goldfinger:
(OK, found them--these are some of the fourteen covers from 2002-2003 by artist Richie Fahey. They are like the covers of the Signet paperbacks from the 1950s-60s.)

We don't have an old copy of Octopussy.
The new one [below] is tamer than the 1966 cover Steve posted, with its lurid image of flies crawling toward the opening of a pink conch. Looking at that 1966 cover, you almost smell dead seafood...

Speaking of dead fish, we also got this book, from a different donor. It's a real cookbook, published in Washington state in 1985:

Ghost Season

It snowed yesterday! The snow didn't stick--it's too, you know, warm for that: all of 39ºF (4 C) this morning.
Anyway, it's the season for ghosts and goblins. I put together a Hallowe'en display at work. Since I only have donated books to work with, putting together displays is a scavenger hunt--any trinkets must fit on a shallow shelf. Like the pumpkin-scented owl candle.

(That open book, bottom right, is The Complete Phantom of the Opera.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Penny Cooper's Glasses

It's my day off, and what a relief it was to wake up knowing I only have two weeks of cashiering left. It's like the relief when you've been ill and you feel the illness lifting.

This morning I made Penny Cooper the eyeglasses she's been asking for ––"I can't see the chalkboard!"

After Red Hair Girl hit the road, I missed her a lot--even after two good-bye ceremonies. It felt a bit excessive; I wasn't sure what was going on... until it came to me:
I felt I'd lost her, but Red Hair Girl is part of me. Part of her is traveling on, but I can't lose her.

I found her original wraps––made from cloth Orange Crate Art sent a couple years ago ( Red Bear had opened the package)––and I wrapped a strip on my phone bag's strap.
Penny Cooper says, 
"I can see very well. This is my best friend's."

And here's Red Hair Girl in her wraps with bink two years ago, October 2017, when RHG was the only girlette.

(bink and Maura are in Greece for another week. I'm house & dog sitting till they get back.)

Trump is in town tonight. There's going to be a HUGE protest--too big for me and the girlettes. I'm staying home and making ratatouille with veg from the farmers market.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


This was truly helpful: 
not a single person online or in person said to me, "You should stay in your low-paying, boring yet stressful cashier job."

Also, this morning Penny Cooper pointed out that I've hardly played with her and the other dolls lately.
"You have not made me a pair of glasses like you promised," she said. "Now I cannot see."

Well! Then I had to give my two-weeks notice from cashiering. 
I lied and told my three managers that I've gotten freelance editing work, so I will return to only book wrangling 20 hours a week. 
I didn't want my decision to appear to be about store management. That would be pointless. I am the square peg, the hole is not changing shape.

(Even though the editing work was a lie, maybe I will look for some. I miss using my written-word brain.)

I left work happy, thinking I'd have a celebratory glass of box wine on the porch... 
Whyever are the girlettes on a tilt?

I'm off work tomorrow. 
Glasses for Penny Cooper, coming up.

Should I stay or should I go?

After three months cashiering, I'm still spending too much a time frustrated with (and blogging about) my workplace.

Cashiering puts me in the line of fire more often, and I don't like that, but it's not the customers. I'd expected them to be challenging, but I've had no serious problems with them. 
A lot of them are regulars and generally pleasant. The troublemakers don't bother me as much as I'd expected. I mostly shrug and say, sure, they can have a discount, or whatever they want. They're usually poor. 

We could handle a lot more customers--we have the stock and the time--but honestly, unless we clean the bathrooms and improve customer service (ohgod), I'd hesitate to advertise more.  Though except for what I do on Facebook, the store doesn't advertise anyway.

Blah, blah, blah.
The unexpected upshot of this is that cashiering is pretty boring, and the increased contact with the management (dys-management!) is irritating.

Should I quit cashiering, and go back to doing the BOOK's 20 hrs/week?
It's been good to have the extra money, but working for minimum wage, 12 hours/week doesn't add up to much.

I feel lonely there. Everyone's OK, but there's no one I seek out to talk to.
Must think more about options...

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

3333 Posts, Twelve Years

No significance to this being post #3,333––I  noted the nifty number this morning, then realized yesterday was l'astronave's twelfth birthday! Born October 7, 2007.

I don't think of my blog by its name––"starship" in Italian––I think of it as "my blog". Or even as gugeo--its url name--short for "guerrilla geography", a name that was already taken when I started this blog, a name I wanted because I was tired of writing geography books for middle school libraries at the time, and wanted to go a bit rogue.

I didn't though––go rogue––I still write as if I'm an editor who has to footnote everything I say.
I like that, mostly. It can slow me down, but when I read wrong "facts", I wonder, why didn't someone fact check this? 
I remember when it was hard to look stuff up--you had to go to the library--but now it's the work of seconds to google it.

I'm not too picky about casual writing (like emails), but published?
The other day I started reading a Dean Koontz novel on the rec of a customer, and I stopped after DK describes his hero––a man who supposedly knows spy tactics––as "unavoidably" leaving wet footprints on a carpet.

Wouldn't a spy know to take his wet shoes off, if he wanted to avoid leaving footprints?

Cranking this stuff out top speed, are we, Mr. Koontz?

I put genre books like Koontz's out for .49 each at work. People buy them in piles. I get the appeal--it's like eating candy--doesn't have to be great--but I don't enjoy it. 

I cashier from 10 to 2 today. I just took my CBD in preparation. Yesterday I didn't take it, and I felt super annoyed at the store. I was muttering to myself, "Why am I putting up with this for minimum wage?"

Just the usual, relentless mismanagement. 
For instance, someone accepted a load of books that had been stored in a basement. You could see the mildew on them, and you could smell the odor from a couple feet away,
though the worker who is, of course, entirely untrained, said he couldn't smell it.

 I hate to handle books with mold and mildew--even carrying them  as far as the Dumpster--it can infect your lungs...
Oh, well. Other than that, my life is going well. House sitting is nice--far from feeling displaced, I like being in such familiar surroundings after one month in a new and foreign neighborhood. 

My new homeowner messaged me a photo of the three girlettes I left there. "They are waiting for you," she said.
Jayne, Bubblepop, and Opal

Saturday, October 5, 2019


I. Toast

My favorite thing about house sitting in this neighborhood is... weekend Toast Bar! at a nearby coffee shop.
I'm sitting here with my laptop right now.

Some girls in line are wearing shorts, but it's only 50ºF (10 C) and rainy.

The barista cuts slices off your choice of loaves from a good bakery; you toast it yourself and choose toppings, including hard-boiled egg, avocado, and homemade jam and nut butters. 

Seven dollars.
That's either a great deal (artisinal nut butters!), or, as my coworkers would mostly think, a total scam. I can just hear Mr Linens. "Seven dollars for toast? And you have to make it yourself? What kind of bullshit is that?"

II. Safe

I don't feel any differently about Big Boss, but I'm glad that because of the break-in at the store he and I had to collaborate together yesterday, putting together a Facebook post about the theft.

We worked together as well as ever.
I've noticed before that people who don't care much about individuals can be good managers, (if they're fair minded), because they don't get very emotionally involved. 

My sister was an excellent manager. She told me she didn't care about people's feelings, she just wanted them to do a good job, so she worked to create circumstances that helped them do that. If that meant listening to them talk about their personal lives sometimes, she was willing to do that.

I'd be a bad manager--I'm too swayed by emotion and my personal preference for one person over another.

I'm glad I've kept some distance from the thrift store's management––resigning from the store committee, for instance. It would be awkward to disentangle myself now, when things have gotten complicated.
Can it be . . . I've actually learned from my past mistakes?
Hey, good going, Fresca! Very grown up of me.

I'd said I'd like to see the video of the thieves rolling the safe out of the store on an office chair. Well, I got to: 
it's online, in a TV news report.
You can see some of the store in action too--Big Boss is filmed with the BOOK's in the background--and it cracks me up that the sneaky character on Art Sparker's sign [in gold frame] figures prominently at one point:
No sneaks disturbed the books. 
All that was taken was the safe with the cash––about three thousand dollars. We're such a nickle-and-dime operation, that's a lot for us. On Facebook we posted a link to where people can donate to help recoup the loss. I'll be curious to see how that goes. 

III. Late
As usual, I'm not hearing any abstract analysis of the break-in at the store.
Every discussion I heard of the theft was about the thieves as individuals--including a couple volunteers saying, "If only those guys were as motivated to do something positive."

I'm like, "The poor preying on the poor is a characteristic of late-stage capitalism." *
I guess of all capitalism, really.

I never hear this mentioned at the store, but Frederic Ozanam, the 19th cent. founder of SVDP, called for systemic change--change the system that creates poverty and keeps people poor.

In the words of St. Vincent de Paul, “There is no charity that is not accompanied by justice.”

Not that I'm going to get involved in working for systemic change [committee work!]––I do best one-on-one. 

That may be a Band-Aid approach, but a Band-Aid is a good thing for a person with a cut.

Obviously people have individual responsibility for their actions, but it helps, I think, not to assume that the person who needs a Band-Aid is a stupid klutz but to consider the possibility that the machine that cut them is poorly designed.

Along those lines, I'm eager to see photographer Chris Arnade's book Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America.  
From the Guardian article, "Our forgotten towns: struggle, resilience, love and respect in 'back-row America": 
"Chris Arnade lays bare what life is like for America’s marginalized poor – and exposes the broken social systems that have betrayed them."

(I cropped this photo so the faces show better on this small format. It's  in Ohio, but it looks exactly like Duluth, MN.)

*What is "late-stage capitalism" anyway, and why did that label come to my mind?
According to the article on the personal-finance site The Balance,
"Late Stage Capitalism, ...Why the Term Is Trending"
"Late stage capitalism is a popular phrase that targets the inequities of modern-day capitalism. It describes the hypocrisy and absurdities of capitalism as it digs its own grave.
Social media website Reddit describes it as 'the horrible things capitalism forces people to do to survive.'

[The term] spotlights the immorality of corporations using social issues to advance their brand. An example is Budweiser spending $5 [million] to advertise how it donated $100,000 to [canned] clean water.
Another example is Starbucks' #racetogether campaign.
In the same vein, it highlights how the middle class is largely oblivious to the struggles of the poor."
The Balance is pro-capitalism and the rest of the article argues that the solution is not socialism, as people who use the term "late-stage capitalism" tend to believe, but for the government to replace the eroded protections of the free-market economy, and for the government to create and protect equity for all, which capitalism doesn't do.

Well, that would be nice, wouldn't it?

When I say "late-stage", though, I'm not thinking socialism would be a solution. I'm a little wary of that--what I'm thinking is that it's possible something worse could arise. Fascism, etc.
I hope not! This is not a prediction, just a fear––but, sadly, a reasonable one, don't you think?

I hear that fear reflected in casual chat sometimes. 
The other day at the store, someone was saying that if things get bad, they're going to hang out with old people, because old people know how to do things by hand, like cook and sew. 

Heck, yeah. We could even toast bread with only fire and a stick.

Friday, October 4, 2019

"This is that scene."

Deanna left a great comment on yesterday's post about my conflict with my boss--pointing out that different conceptions of God influence how we see other people.

Big Boss sees God as a fearsome father judge who wants our obedience. He told me that God doesn't want us to get too comfortable with him, but to maintain our awe.

I imagine gGod as being more like the gentle hospice nurse played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie Magnolia--here, asking, begging, for help for his dying patient. 

"This is that scene where you help me out."

(I still miss PSH.)

"partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches"

I feel a little icky this morning from yesterday's encounter at work, but I am cheered by Frank O'Hara reading "Having a Coke with You" (1966).
What a neat-o love poem.

And I like orange.
Here is part of an illuminated Gospel page with the four evangelists (Matthew, top left, looks a little like Frank O'Hara, but how great is Mark as a lion, bottom left?!!), from late 14th Cent. Amhara region of Ethiopia; see full page at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 "Look here. ^ Free experiences!"

BELOW: Sign I saw downtown, on the way to the bank. And now I'm off to work--pricing more of the expensive books I've set aside over the summer to look up.