Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Borges and I"

It's Borges, the other one, that things happen to, I walk through Buenos Aires and I pause- mechanically now, perhaps- to gaze at the arch of an entryway and its inner door; news of Borges reaches me by mail, or I see his name on a list of academics or in some biographical dictionary. My taste runs to hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typefaces, etymologies, the taste of coffee, and the prose of Robert Louis Stevenson; Borges shares these preferences, but in a vain sort of way that turns them into the accoutrements of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that our relationship is hostile- I live, I allow myself live, so that Borges can spin out his literature, and that literature is my justification. I willingly admit that he has written a number of sound pages, but those pages will not save me, perhaps because the good in them no longer serves any individual, not even to that other men, but rather to language itself, or to tradition. Beyond that, I am doomed- utterly and inevitably- to oblivion, and fleeting moments will be all of me that survives in that other man. Little by little, I have been turning everything over to him, though I know the perverse way he has of distorting and magnifying everything. Spinoza believed that all things wish to go on being what they are- stone wishes eternally to be stone, and tiger, to be tiger. I shall endure in Borges, not in myself (if, indeed, I am anybody at all), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others', or in the tedious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him, and I moved on from the mythologies of the slums and outskirts of the city to games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now, and I shall have to think up other things. So my life is a point-counterpoint, a kind of fugue, and a falling away- and everything winds up being lost to me, and everything falls into oblivion, or into the hands of the other man.

I am not sure which of us it is that's writing this page.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The heart goes where the head takes it, and neither cares much about the whereabouts of the feet.

Monday, November 15, 2010


$25 to check your first bag. $29 dollars to switch to a window seat. $9 to buy my way into the coveted boarding group 1. I only sort of hate flying. I hate a lot of things more, but SHIT why are they trying to bend me over like this? I’ll never be the kind of person who can pull their shit together to be in boarding group 1. I’m a 2 at most. I’m flying Frontier Airlines for the first time. We’re introduced to Captain Larry, First Officer Steve, Sandy, Ronnie. The staff all has that kindly Minnesotan accent you would expect from an airline called Frontier. They seem to have been raised in values-based households. They have bodies built for hard labor. They are from somewhere where there is a lot of land and it gets very cold. Each is probably no more than one generation away from a man who chops down his own Christmas tree. Shit. Maybe it’s a woman who does the chopping. I imagine that sort of thing happens in Minnesota.

I’m in the middle seat between the tallest man and the tallest woman in the world, and I feel like a third wheel. They should know each other. I wish I were tall. Elegant people are always tall. They don’t perch Indian-style on bar stools like tiny little gremlins. My mom tells me I sit like a child. Paul Bunyan to my left might be literally twice my size. I wonder what he weighs. I shouldn’t think about that. But seriously, what does this guy weigh? The woman to my right crosses herself. A Hispanic woman is crossing herself. Now I’m bored. I do hope I’m close enough to be in that Catholic force field though if the shit goes down.

Whenever a plane takes off I always expect it to immediately fall right back out of the sky. I close my eyes and I can already taste the impact (watermelon). I mean, I’m not stupid. A pressurized metal tube that magically carries dozens of people through the air? Air travel is absolutely impossible and doesn’t exist. Our spirit animal Andy, the prong-horned antelope is guiding and protecting us on our journey. Andy and Catholic God. This seems just as likely as anything else.

What if my health fails? What if the artificial pressure of the airplane has some sort of deleterious effect on my hypertension and the moment I stand up I collapse and the whites of my eyes fill with blood? I don’t know enough about biophysics to dispute this! Am I lightheaded? No. Okay good. I am a little nauseous though. If only I could stop biting down on the insides of my cheeks I wouldn’t have a constant drip of blood going into my stomach. This is the Stomach Full of Blood Theory of nausea (SFoB). Other theories include medication reactions and just regular mental illness/hypochondria.

I need a distraction. Out of the window the Texas cul-de-sacs of McMansions look like paisley against patchwork of farmland. Can you imagine anything more tacky than paisley against patchwork? What a bunch of assholes. I abandoned My Antonia for the addictive new Jonathan Franzen novel. I hate it when I do that. When I get home I will finish it. I have to. I have to. I have to or I’m a bad person.

I wonder how many aluminum cans airlines go through. I really won’t be able to relax until I know what their recycling policy is like. I’ll check the airline magazine. Oh!! Leg exercises to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis! I better do those. And then I’ll ask Sandy or Ronny about the recycling. Are they composting these cocktail napkins? I sure hope so. I have recurring dreams about my children living atop garbage heaps. (Refer to Hunter’s Point and Treasure Island)

I power through the New Yorker. I can’t believe I just read that many pages of text about leaf blowers and noise pollution. Harry Reid. Silver carp that fly out of the water and slap you in the face. The man next to me just ordered apple juice. I am not going to think about how much sugar that has in it. I’m not going to. I’ve already done it.

I’m finally in Nashville. Someone taps me on the shoulder. God damn southern people who still think it’s okay to interact with strangers. Oh. It’s my mother. I ran into my mother at baggage claim. I wish someone had told me she was coming into town. Does no one tell each other anything in this family? Why is every little thing such a fucking secret?! I’m starting to understand why I am notoriously bad with communication and correspondence.

It’s straight from the airport to the hospital. He’s going to look terrible. I know this. Try to not look surprised or horrified. It’s bad for morale. Don’t be such a fucking baby, Leslie. I tell myself. I tell myself. I tell myself. Parents get sick. Circle of life.

He looks absolutely terrible. The wind has been knocked out of me and I’m scared if I try to inhale again the audible rush of air will give away my shock. Better to just not breathe at all. I’m completely aware of his skeleton. He’s jaundiced. He has grey whiskers. When did his beard go grey? Probably years and years ago, I’ve just never once in my entire life seen him without a clean shave. But now how do you even shave a face that is dripping off the skull like a Salvador Dali clock?

My mouth fills with brine. I won’t cry if I just stand here and breathe deep controlled breaths through the nose. Breathe. I hug my father for the first time since my high school graduation. The nurses are saying words like “advanced liver disease” and “ammonia” and “lactalose” at me I think but I’m already glazed over. I’m a glazed donut. I wonder how much sugar is in a glazed donut. How can I possibly assign a moral value to something if I don’t know how much energy is required to break the glycosidic bonds?

“Is this your daughter?” coos one of the nurses at my father without really acknowledging me. “She’s a very pretty girl.”

“I’m in the room standing right here and I’m an adult woman.”

“Oh this must be the daughter from California” (hah!)

Eventually I’m alone with Dad. I help him use the bathroom. I’m a public service announcement. I am going to grap people by the wrist on the street and exclaim, “THIS IS WHY YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO HAVE CHILDREN IN YOUR MID-FORTIES!! 26 IS NOT WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO DO THIS. I’M AN ASSHOLE!”

Afterwards I take the car, my first time driving in two years, and go immediately to a fancy gourmet food shop. I need to replace the part of me that has just died from the bathroom experience with something. I buy a cookie that cost $6.50 and demanded they provide me with ice tea in a cup that isn’t made of Styrofoam. I shove the entire thing in my mouth while sitting in the car in the parking lot of the Apple store where I’ve just impulse purchased an iPhone 4.

This is how we soothe ourselves in America.

"Being young means you don't have to sleep or wear a bra and you can live on cigarettes and sugar alone"