Monthly Archives: December 2010

Natatorium / Natatoria


I escaped the blizzard. Etta cut my hair. I made a new year’s resolution to wear sneakers less.

Ida Crown

We sweat it out in an infrared sauna.


Face off

Q AND A with Kayla, my cousin: What’s your favorite color? Eyeball. Do you know how to rollerskate? Eyeball. Do you prefer round or rectangular pizza? Eyeball. Do you have to climb the rope in gym class? Eyeball. Have you ever seen a cake that’s actually a giant cookie? Eyeball!

Snake charmer

Uncle Johnny told a story none of us had heard before. He had rented a large horse while stationed on an Air Force base in the Philippines, back in the seventies. He went out riding one day, but his horse, Bishop, would not cross a stream. He slapped the horse, called it names, the horse bucked, and John landed on the wet creek stones. There was a cobra, and it bit him. He was flown by helicopter to the nearest hospital but ended up not needing anti-venom, because the cobra’s fangs had not discharged their deadly venom. Uncle Johnny showed me his five pet snakes. The longest and fattest is a licorice black corn snake. Its eyes were cloudy and it is blind. Tomorrow its eyes will clear and it will shed its skin.

True Grit

Chen Lee and General Sterling Price

Marshall Reuben J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn: This is my father, Chen Lee. And my nephew, General Sterling Price. [They sit down and eat supper.]

Chen Lee: You want more, Missy?

Mattie Ross: I’ve had enough, and enough is as good as a feast. I’ve never seen chopsticks work before.

Chen Lee: Chopsticks save the fingers.

Rooster: Gimme your cup.

Mattie: I don’t drink coffee, thank you.

Rooster: Well, what do you drink?

Mattie: I’m partial to cold buttermilk.

Rooster: Well, we ain’t got none of that. We ain’t got no lemonade either. Let’s get to the game. My deal?

Chen Lee: Yes, sir.

Mattie: What about my proposition?

Rooster: Thinking on it.

Mattie: Sounds like a mighty easy way to make fifty dollars to me.

Rooster: Don’t crowd me, I’m figuring expenses.

John Wayne shows how real men drink from a jug

Mattie: How you can play cards, drink whiskey and think detective at the same time?

Rooster: Well, if I have to go up against Ned Pepper, it’ll cost a hundred dollars I figure. And fifty in advance.

Mattie: You’re trying to take advantage of me.

Rooster: They’re my children’s rates! It isn’t going to be easy smoking old Ned out. He’ll be holed up down that Indian Nation.

Mattie: Well, I’m not going to keep you in whiskey!

Rooster: I don’t buy that, I confiscate it! A touch of it wouldn’t do you any harm against the night air! It’s the real article, genuine double-rectified bust-head! Aged in the keg.

Mattie: I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains.

Rooster: Well, sis, my price is a hundred dollars. There it is. Want to make medicine?

Mattie: I will think about your proposition. You better walk me over to the boarding house.

Rooster: You are a lot of trouble. Wait till I finish this hand. You can’t tell what’s in a Chinaman’s mind. That’s the way he bests you!

Mattie: [Sees a rat.] Scat!

Rooster: Mr Rat… My writ here says you must stop eating Chen Lee’s cornmeal forthwith. It’s a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of same. See, he doesn’t pay any attention to me. [Shoots the rat.]

Chen Lee: Outside is the place for shooting!

Rooster: I’m serving some papers.

Mattie [to General Sterling Price]: That was your job in the first place!

Rooster: You can’t serve papers on a rat, baby sister. You’ve got to kill him or let him be.

-from the 1969 film True Grit, directed by Henry Hathaway. Adapted from the novel by Charles Portis. True Grit stars John Wayne in a role for which he won the 1970 Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, and features the Oscar winning song, True Grit, sung by Wayne’s co-star Glen Campbell, who plays La Boeuf

Castillos de Cartón / Cardboard Castles

Nilo Mur painting Adriana Ugarte

This is “The Dog.” It is probably one of the most enigmatic of the black paintings. At this moment of his life, Goya has seen hell up close, which might be why this painting is so poignant. It’s the work of a man who is frightened. It was heavily damaged when taken down from the wall where it was painted. For a while, people even thought it was unfinished.

The Dog by Goya

If you look closely, the dog is gazing up, towards the upper right corner. An empty space. What is the dog looking at, buried there in the sand? At something in particular or just the void? Why do we identify with him?

-from the 2009 Spanish film, Castillos de Cartón, directed by Salvador García Ruiz, adapted from the novel by Almudena Grandes. In America, this film is unfortunately titled “3some”… and that’s probably why I watched it

The Fox Can’t Seem To Believe His Eyes…

Wood turtle

This is me, a wood turtle, a thousand dollar aquarium in a warm apartment, basking beneath a hot lamp. Through the thin walls I can hear the soft touch of the snowplow. That is where I am going, outside, the voltaic farness:

Cambridge St

…And Races Down To Confirm This Strange Sighting: A Human In Winter. November through February or March is spent in hibernation at the bottom of a small, flowing river. The wood turtle may hibernate alone or in large groups. During this period, individuals bury themselves in the thick mud and rarely move. Emergence does not occur until March or sometimes April.

Man With The Woman Head


The man with the woman head
Polynesian wallpaper made the face stand out,
a mixture of Oriental and early vaudeville jazz poofter,
forming a hard, beetle-like triangular chin much like a praying mantis.
Smoky razor-cut, low on the ear neck profile.
The face the color of a nicotine-stained hand.
Dark circles collected under the wrinkled, folded eyes,
map-like from too much turquoise eye paint.
He showed his old tongue through ill-fitting wooden teeth,
stained from too much opium, chipped from the years.
The feet, brown wrinkles above straw loafers.
A piece of coconut in a pink seashell caught the tongue
and knotted into thin white strings.
Charcoal grey Eisenhower jacket zipped and tucked into a lotus green ascot.
A coil of ashes collected on the white-on-yellow dacs.
Four slender bones with rings and nails
endured the weight of a hard fast black rubber cigarette holder.
I could just make out Ace as he carried the tray and mouthed,
“You cheap son of a bitch”
as a straw fell out of a Coke, cartwheeled into the gutter.
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood,
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood,
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood.

-Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefhart, from the 1975 live album Bongo Fury with Frank Zappa, RIP

Gulo Gulo

Steve Kroschel

My dad told me to watch the Nature program on wolverines. Through that I was introduced to Steve Kroschel, who runs a wildlife center in Alaska where he births, mothers, and plays with wolverines, and other wild animals. Like they were Roly Poly. Not A Zoo – It’s An Experience… Experience Wildlife A Paw’s Length Away! Steve directed Running Free, also known as One Paw, the 1994 film about a twelve year old boy who befriends a wolverine. The bad guys eventually attack One Paw with grenades from a helicopter, a scene which some on IMDB found to be ludicrous.

Playing on the ice

“What I really want to do is just be a wolverine. I want to go where I want to go, do what I want to do, bite who I want to bite, and climb what I want to climb.” Doug Chadwick, author of The Wolverine Way

“The wolverine has a great deal of spiritual significance for Native Americans. For some, it functions as a link to the spiritual world and is understood as both a trickster and a hero.”

-from Chasing the Phantom, on PBS


Moqui marble

Emotional Content Disclaimer: There may be emotional content ahead. Rocky waters. Yesterday I had a bad day at work and my chef recognized it. We talked after the shift. He observed that I have been beating myself up ever since the job interview last week in Chicago. Chef Goob told me to remember who I am. He said he’s proud of me, that I have grown and to be confident going forward. I guess I have been holding a lot in because I started crying… cried on the street, cried behind the wheel of my car, cried waiting for the guy at Hess gas station to slide me two twelve packs of Diet Coke. Driving home I saw my former chef, Chef Lord, and his father in law Sari, and pulled over to hug him. At home I talked to my sister on the phone. And I got some sleep and I took out the garbage and unclogged my toilet…

Chef Goob gave me a moqui marble today. Its a concretion from limestone, windblown and ancient. He found it on a hike with his mother in Utah. Moqui means the dead, the departed, in Hopi. These stones have long been prized for their weirdness and ritualized by shamans. I am going to use it to remember who I am. Tonight in the restaurant I waited on two wild-eyed gray-haired catfish; two old men with wits and a hunger for meat. They asked if I read tarot cards and I said no and showed them my marble. One held it up to his eye with a toothsome grin. On the way out I asked them for some advice and was told to never have children unless you plan to stay married. Then they told me they had both been married to the same woman; since she died, they have each other’s friendship. Five years earlier and 125 million miles away the rover Opportunity operated on the Meridiani Planum…

Martian blueberries

NARRATOR [from the 2005 NOVA program, Welcome to Mars]: Opportunity climbs out of Eagle Crater and takes in the view: billions of blueberries formed in rocks that have long since eroded away, and on the horizon, the rim of a much larger crater, called Endurance, where the water story of Meridiani takes on a new dimension…

[It] would be familiar to anyone who’s ever walked on the beach at low tide: ripples created by the flow of water over loose sand. Over long periods of time, rippled sediments can build up and harden into stone. The water is gone, but the ripples are still there in the layered rock at Meridiani. Where the water came from is still unknown, but one possibility is that it came from below as groundwater, laced with sulfuric acid, percolating up through the volcanic bedrock, leaching out elements like iron, creating a broth of dissolved salts. At times the water would flood the surface, forming shallow lakes or seas that would last for a while and then evaporate, leaving a crust of the dissolved sulfate salts behind. This may have happened repeatedly, building up a thick deposit of salty rocks over time. The hematite blueberries would have grown within these rocks while they were saturated with water. Now the water is gone and the rock is eroding away, leaving the harder berries behind.

STEVE SQUYRES: So we think we’re parked on what was once the shore of a salty sea on Mars…

After Passing By And After That

Chow Chow


The ellipse of a cry
travels from mountain
to mountain.

From the olive trees
it appears as a black
rainbow upon the blue night.


Like the bow of a viola
the cry has made the long
strings of the wind vibrate.


(The folks from the caves
stick out their oil lamps.)


Mayo Spicy Scallop Roll


Listen, my son: the silence.
It’s a rolling silence,
a silence
where valleys and echoes slip,
and it bends foreheads
down towards the ground.

-from Federico García Lorca’s 1921 Poem Of The Deep Song

Barbarians / California

Kurt Russell is John Carpenters muse

I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.

The Thing from Another World

[talking into tape recorder] I’m going to hide this tape when I’m finished. If none of us make it, at least there’ll be some kind of record. The storm’s been hitting us hard now for 48 hours. We still have nothing to go on. [Briefly turns of tape recorder and takes a drink. Looks at the shredded longjohns and turns it back on] One other thing: I think it rips through your clothes when it takes you over. Windows found some longjohns but the nametag was missing. They could be anybody’s. Nobody… nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired… there’s nothing more I can do, just wait… RJ MacReady, helicopter pilot, US outpost #31. [turns off recorder]

-Kurt Russell, in John Carpenter’s The Thing, from 1982