Monday, February 25, 2013

A Rubble of Words

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

8:30 a.m. I wake up listening to Eat the Airwaves, a weekly news program devoted to covering items that haven’t been covered properly, if at all, with Geov Parrish, Maria Tomchick, and Mike McCormick. They segue from their winter fund drive into a discussion of the surveillance cameras the SPD put up on the Seattle waterfront, Alki, the Fremont and Ballard bridges and the Ballard Locks, and a wireless mesh broadband network created by 160 wireless access points, without informing anyone of their decision to do this, or formulating any policy about how the cameras will be programmed to respect the privacy of residents, whether the cameras will rotate or remain in a fixed position, who will operate them, whether they will include sound, what kind of data they’ll be collecting and what happens to the data long term. This, like the drone program the SPD tried to launch without public discussion, got a lot of public outcry as soon as it was discovered. SPD backed off and promised not to activate the surveillance system until City Councilmember Nick Licata drafted some legislation governing the acquisition and use of surveillance technology.
I pour some coffee and sit down at the computer. Toby leaps up on my lap, so that I can’t reach the keyboard. I can click the mouse, so I go to France Culture, an online French radio program, and listen to a discussion of La Coeur de la jeune chinoise, by Eric Marty, on Le Carnet d’or. This is a novel written in the style of a thriller, full of death and desire and a cruel satire of contemporary French culture, a corrosive humor and flair for violence akin to Quentin Tarantino.
10:24 a.m. I give the window a hard shove with my hand (there is a dog squealing in Bhy Kracke Park) and condensation rains on my hand.
I sit down again at the computer and listen to a Carole Bassani-Adibzadheh read Traité de la Réforme de L’entendement et de la Voie Qui Mène à la Vraie Connaissance de Choses, by Baruch Spinoza, and translated par E. Saisset. Translated from what, I don’t know. What language did Spinoza originally write in?
Spinoza writes about the good that people desire. He begins by saying that the events of his life have shown him that ordinary attractions of life are vain and futile and that no objects or events are good or evil in and of themselves, but that their character comes from the way in which they’ve touched our soul. He decides to devote himself to the quest for an essential good which might be communicated to people, a good which can fill the human soul so thoroughly that after that frivolous and vain and superficial things will hold no attraction and the soul will be satisfied with that one good thing alone, that eternal and supreme sense of well-being, which he is sure exists, but is as yet undetermined.
He goes on to describe the three main attractions to people, the three main things that cause people to slip up and make life worse for themselves. These are wealth, reputation, and what the French call la volupté, which is pleasure in all its forms, sexual, intellectual, or purely sensual.
Spinoza asks himself if it is possible to attain this higher level of well-being without giving up the things he likes, without altering his habits. The answer is no. The quest for pleasure is the greatest obstacle, since after its realization, which is inherently fleeting, comes sadness, and a spiritual flaccidity. Reputation, by which I believer Spinoza means fame, is equally unsatisfying and toxic. The quest for fame coarsens the soul, because in order to obtain fame one must do whatever is necessary to please other people, to seek what they seek and avoid what they avoid.
Spinoza sounds a lot like Buddha. What he urges is a form of Buddhism. Attachment to worldly things brings sadness and coarsens the soul. Detachment brings us closer to the infinite, to eternal well-being.
At 10:45 a.m. I go write. I hear the upstairs neighbors making breakfast. Their kitchen is directly above our bedroom, where the desk I use for writing is positioned against the wall, facing west, and a window well. I put in ear plugs and remind myself to ask Roberta that we need ear plugs and Hamlet. I want the Hamlet with Sir Lawrence Olivier. It’s the only one I really like.
11:30 a.m. I’m disturbed by the sound of a power saw. I look up, out of our basement window, and see a large, heavyset man with a chestnut mustache sawing a section of hardwood. I get pissed and go put on my shoes to complain. There’s no reason for these men to be working outside on the porch, inches from our window. The work they’re doing is for Z and L, their luxury apartment, which has been under construction for over three months and has eaten up all the HOA budget, and completely frayed my nerves. I have no more patience. The patience tank is empty. Dry as a bone. I’m ready to go do some serious bitching. As soon as I get my shoes on, the noise stops. I figure maybe the guy was only sawing a bit of molding, and go back to my writing.
12:30 p.m. I go for a run. I take the recycling garbage out with me and the drywall guy sees me and apologizes about the day before. He turned the water to the building off when I was taking a shower. I could hear him in the laundry room, on the other side of our bathroom. I was so full of rage, this being the fifth time in the last several months our water has been turned off, that I almost stomp into the laundry room nude to give him a piece of my mind. Instead, I poke my head around the door and shout what the fuck! The drywall guy appears and apologizes. And now, today, he is apologizing a second time. I tell him I survived. It’s ok. I hope he didn’t have his three year old daughter with him when I put my head out the door yelling at him. It seems odd that he would bring a toddler to a work site with him. I figure he’s divorced and this is only the time he gets to see his kid, or maybe his wife has a job at Walmart or something.
I pick up a receipt for Pioneer Photos and a Snicker Egg from Bartell Drugs on the way back, and toss it into the emptied sack, which I hang on the doorknob to our apartment. I’ll bring it in on the way back. Roberta doesn’t like me wearing shoes on the carpet.
My legs are still going strong into my third mile, on 10th Avenue West. The man I frequently see out riding his bike turns round to say hello. This guy waves at me every day and I wave back and I don’t have the faintest idea who he is. He appears to be about 60. It’s hard to tell because he wears a helmet. He’s fit, I know that.
I stop at the Bank of America to deposit my check from Corinthian, a Canadian oil company drilling on my grandparent’s old farmland, to which my brother and I hold mineral rights. The bank is closed. They close at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.
After I shower and dress I hear the guy outside with his power saw again. I try to contain my rage. I phone Roberta at the bakery and ask if she wants to take the bus down to the central library with me. She isn’t sure. She was thinking of going for a run. But she calls back minutes later and says yes. I tell her to meet me at Café Vita, at the bottom of our hill.
Café Vita is crowded, as always. It’s a tiny coffeehouse and always packed. I order a raspberry Italian soda with whipped cream on top. The woman behind the counter prepares it for me and I ask for a spoon. She gives me a spoon, I drop a dollar in the tip jar, and sit at a table by the window. There is music playing. I like the music, though it’s hard to identify what’s going on with it, over the hubbub of the coffeehouse. A soft woman’s voice sings over a background of other women’s voices, all in high melody, all echoing over a flute and drum. It’s joyful and otherworldly and helps calm me down. I sip my raspberry Italian soda and imagine all the ways I could disembowel, decapitate, or dismember Z.
I pull out a copy of Le parti pris de choses which I stuck in my coat pocket on the way out. I read a piece called “Natare Piscem Doces,” in which Ponge wonders if the author can remain at the interior of the writing and deduce the reality of a reality. He compares it to being in a cave, as opposed to liberating the sculpture within a block of marble. But then he asks, is the book the chamber within a cave, or the rejected material from digging into a rock? Does writing penetrate reality, or does it create a rubble of words that are only peripherally related to the subject, automatically dissociated once they’ve been written down? Roberta appears and we leave Café Vita go catch the bus for downtown.
We find two audiobooks at the library. One is a collection of short stories by Melville, Hawthorne, Chekhov, Cather, Joyce, and Guy de Maupassant. The other is South with the Sun: Roald Amundsen, His Polar Explorations, & the Quest for Discovery, by Lynne Cox.  
We take the number 4 bus home, eat dinner, and watch Part One of Lonesome Dove. I finish out the evening immersed in Tristes Tropique, by Claude Lévi-Strauss, in which he beautifully elaborates his preference for the mountains to the ocean, and I dream of Georgetown, in the Colorado Rockies, where I once heard a French woman sing La Vie en Rose in a cowboy saloon, hemmed by the mountains of Clear Creek Valley.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Foam of a Thousand Twilights

Handsprings draw my enthusiasm. But a contact soaked in a rolling nutrition bursts with power, and cannot be denied. I must contact the resin. I like you, dear reader, whoever you are. Do you remember the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon? The bus? The Mexican hotel? I am painting you a picture of pyromania. The world needs calliopes. Violins in the windows. Windows in blueberries. I feel the voyage turn turpentine. There is something beneath my heart. I will call it a vowel. I will urge the use of fiddlesticks. There is a form of initiation in the writing of poetry that requires crawling. There is also a form of language that makes you squirt monuments. Our cookies lure the bears. Our jackknives perspire. A confusion collects kaolin and does what a jaw does. That is to say, dream. My bones are enjoying a romance with thought. I feel suitably benevolent, and signal codeine to a thermodynamic folklore.
Silly me. I forgot to hurl myself into the water. I’ve been dogpaddling all this time in thin air. What you call codeine, I call mood. For that is my mood. Mood is when a Rembrandt copper exhales England. Mood is the antique spigot that sweetens metamorphosis with the foam of a thousand twilights. I foster a loud nebula of grasping arabesques. This, too, is a mood, only with a little plumage to the poop. Shift your body to starboard. I am hauling a callous acceptance. The jokes about the hothouse are dripping with redemption. A puddle of wool opens its lips and emits a long vital tongue. It urges conference. We harden to hear it talk. It is to be assumed that we are all familiar with the art of fencing. Invocations such as this fold naturally into a raw sienna and delineate the properties of an energetic bug. Think of this as a dime. A small fragment of metal urging the radical clarity of an outboard religion.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I invoke the rails of Kerouac’s Mexico to bend into gravity and unfold my life. I bombard anguish with the gray of sorcery, and yet it continues to be a value I need. The massive puzzle of life thickens. Our talk swirls about it, just before dinner, and my arugula salad. Which has tiny walnuts in it. For example, mosquitos pull my memory of Minnesota across a lake of inner imagining. I can smell it. It smells of raw sienna. It smells of bone black and disparagement and asparagus. It smells of dirt. It smells of the sorcery of the hothouse. What is not a sorcery? Anyone involved in the business of putting words to paper knows what it is to grasp the smell of structure and fill it with theatre and sympathy.  

I see in the philodendron a monad such as Leibniz described, a piece of eternity in folds of fragrance and waxy masses of pollen and confusions of twig and branch. My languor feels painted to my bones. Perceptions burn through my nerves and become values in my brain. The plough sparkles through the furrows of my reflection. I become a parliament of inner dialogue. I am the jerk that gives testimony to the confusion. I hang around among abstractions, inquiring about red, bathing it in cracks of thunder. I boil my wounds on the floor. I boil them in a big black pot. I collect blobs of phantasmal, parenthetical vertigo and spin them into jackknives. My life turns canvas. I roll the hugged crowd to Philadelphia. I dance around the bonfire. I jug my hare and drive a jeep through the ooze of a countless theorems.
Theorem and serum and my slippery romance with a suitcase. If infinity is ocher, then granite is heartfelt and butterflies conquer the goldfish.
Mindfulness sparkles among enigmatic mountains.
What if the mouth opens and a sentence flies out, rising and maneuvering through the air on black, membranous wings, and commits arrayal in an arroyo? Whose responsibility is it? Is it the responsibility of language? Or is it the fault of the Lawrence Welk show floating past Neptune?

It is the responsibility of speech, which is a form of color. This is why the parlor is called a parlor, and a parliament is a place for guano and radar.

The folds and wrinkles of the elephant testify to the shaping influence of gravity.
Language, like the elephant, lumbers among us, carrying our burdens, moving our logs, taking us to places deeper into the jungle where ancient temples await our renewal.
The gallop of a bone black abstraction echoes the embrace of a thousand moons in a sky of murmuring winds. I can see now why it is so important to venerate the flutter of the heart.
And why the philodendron has so many branches, and is therefore called a philodendron.
Say it: philodendron. You can feel it, right? Sure. That sweet vibration of consonant and vowel. Philodendron. Philodendron. Philodendron. Its syllables burning a hole in the bone black mouth of the murmuring world. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Things To Do When I Don't Feel Like Doing Anything

Run up and down the hill shouting Hollywood! Hollywood! Hollywood! 

Order a penis size enhancer for everyone in the neighborhood. 

Invent theorems for the unrivalled glory of eggnog. 

Get drunk on utter futility. 

Pack my favorite suitcase with tree bark and testimony, then board a Greyhound for Saint Louis, Missouri, while shooting furtive looks at the other passengers, careful to make sure I think of a possible role for everyone in a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which I will have to  write on my own, Dostoyevsky being dead for the last 132 years, thus burdening myself with the task of leading a live similar to that of Dostoyevsky, a feat remarkably simpler than one might believe, particularly aboard a Greyhound bus on its way to Saint Louis, Missouri. 

Count the number of times my upstairs neighbor coughs, who is now into her third solid week of coughing, I don’t know why she won’t see a doctor, or maybe she has seen a doctor but the doctor, out of an overweening sense of prudence neither good for his patient or the progress of medicine in the new millennium, did not prescribe cough syrup with codeine.  

Drink a bottle of cough syrup with codeine. This will entail a strategy of shrewdness, daring, and not a little imprudence, since I do not have a bottle of cough syrup with codeine, nor is it likely I could get my doctor to prescribe a bottle of cough syrup with codeine, as I do not have a cough, albeit I could fake one, but my doctor is not to be trifled with, he is a savvy and perspicacious doctor, which is why I continue to see him, even though he has recommended a regime of strenuous idleness, which has left me with little to do, except this, and I’m not even sure what this is, is it fiction, or non-fiction? Is it an imitation of someone else’s style, or is it a completely original text with Icelandic grebes and diesel cylinders popping up and down in mechanical, self-effacing dedication? 

Perturb the serenity of the bathroom mirror with the tender abstractions of my face.
Spout edicts. 

Get naked and run around the city exhibiting a giant erection and a complete disregard for the theatrics of cause and effect.  
Diffuse the paradox of life with massive evasions and the ooze of ghostly estuaries.

Eat a packet of almonds. When I’m done with the packet, eat the almonds. 

Get physical. I’m not entirely sure what that means, “get physical.” What isn’t physical? But I like that phrase, “let’s get physical.” You know?  That song popularized by Olivia Newton John? It wasn’t a bad song, I mean, it wasn’t “Gimme Shelter” or “More Than a Feeling,” or nearly as great as anything by those two guys in the Black Keys, Dan Auerback and Patrick Carney, or that guy that they got to dance in front of the motel office for the song “Lonely Guy,” what a terrific song, what a terrific dance. If I’m not doing anything else, I think I’ll do that. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Art is the Scar of Rain on the Curb of Desire

It never occurs to me to wear gloves in the winter. I stick my hands in the pockets of my coat and think to myself, why does it not occur to me to buy gloves? I imagine leather gloves lined with thick fur. Then realize, I can’t do that, not fur, they have to kill animals for that. So what then, wool? It will have to be wool. I feel my hands. A trifle numb. An abandoned color travels through my right hand. The ghost of a stupefying logic haunts the left one. This is what happens to hands when they rest in the pockets of your coat. Pockets are internal places for lint and money and old movie tickets. Sometimes a book if the pocket is large enough.  

The next day the sun spreads its beautiful propaganda over the mountains to the east and the day expands into an iron gray sky overhanging a Saturday of thumbs and tinfoil. The woman upstairs is still coughing and there is a huge snowstorm to the east, burying Massachusetts and Manhattan and humble old Hoboken and the Ground Zero Construction Site. I drag a crackling kiss of empathy to UPS and they mail it to LaGuardia Airport. 

I spend the next several hours writing phosphorous sonnets and undergoing giddy transformations of form and feeling. At one point I am a lobster with lobster thoughts and lobster eyes and lobster legs and antennae and then I am a wiggly blob of apocalyptic algebra. I begin a debate with myself. I argue Adorno’s point of convention. He says that whenever conventions are in an unstable equilibrium with their subject they are called styles. This makes sense. And no sense at all. There are art forms whose subject matter is as beside the point as a Paleolithic butterfly pollinating a Cro Magnon mazurka. I both win and lose the argument. Adorno continues his point that style is the quintessence of all art and that it is always chafing against the restraints of convention. I hear the metallic sound of a greenhouse crow fulfilling this theme with perfect sangfroid and avian individuation. 

The warm argument of a burning imposition assumes the flashing inconsistencies of a Parisian pigment on the canvas of a penicillin morning. Apples sag. Morning struts on big yellow stilts. I build a sawdust hop and languish in adaptation. I celebrate the secrets of a tidepool. My hands are impenetrable dreams. I throw coffee at the rain. I am staunch as electricity and think of myself growing old Whitman in a big floppy hat with a butterfly on my finger. A daft old poet full of useless wisdom and abandoned yardsticks. I cry dive! dive! and my submarine dives.  

Isn’t language strange? Look how these consonants mutate into slender mushrooms, their intuitive vowels steaming like cows in the Rio Tinto Zinc Mine. I stitch sentences together with the unfettered thread of a spectral needle and the energy of a shield during the elation of war. I have things in the closet that are perturbing and red and a summer sidewalk hugged in chiaroscuro. I have a Subaru clutch and an anguish with the weight of a sweaty invocation. Hills boil smears of experience in a complex ocean of bubbling emotion. It is time now to go outdoors and squeeze something. Anything. An oar. A canister of drugs. A contraption of words whose rails lead to a grove of whispering oak and a giant paper lobster skidoodling into a hole of safe haven and the foghorns of Portugal.




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Loose Sally of the Mind

Essay  -  A loose sally of the mind; an irregular indigested piece; not a regular and orderly composition. 
-          Samuel Johnson, Dictionary  

Each and every word is a concept. The smallest word is a concept. Prepositions are concepts. Conjunctions and articles are concepts. Not just nouns. Pronouns are concepts. But certainly the strangest word providing the strangest concept is the word ‘mind.’ What does that word mean? Activity in my head, activity in my brain, but what is that activity? If there were no words to attach to the energy in my head, what would that energy look like? Would I be able to paint it? Sculpt it? How would I describe that activity to someone else? What use could I make of my body and hands to get the idea of ‘mind’ across to another mind? 

I can see the action of my mind in a jar of strawberry jam. That is to say, judgment, problem solving, perception, conceptual configuration. A dance of interrelation. I need a tool. I choose a butterknife. It has already been in use for the butter, and since I don’t feel inclined to wash more cutlery than is necessary, I wipe it on the toast. The jam is in the refrigerator. I have to maneuver the jam out of the refrigerator through an obstacle course of jars and bottles. Then I twist, and remove the lid. I plunge the knife toward the bottom of the jar where there is a layer of jam about an inch thick. I maneuver the jam from the bottom, upending the jar, and wiggling the knife back and forth toward the opening. I put two generous dollops of jam on each slice of toast. This entire operation has involved a set of calculations that evidence a modus operandi of that stuff in my brain called a ‘mind.’ 

Every substance has something of the infinite, in so far as it involves its cause, namely God, observed Leibniz. That is, it has some trace of omniscience and omnipotence. For in the perfect notion of each individual substance there are contained all its predicates, alike necessary and contingent, past, present, and future; nay each substance expresses the whole universe according to its situation and aspect, in so far as other things are referred to it; and hence it is necessary that some of our perceptions, even if they be clear, should be confused, since they involve things which are infinite, as do our perceptions of colour, heat, etc. 

It’s inconceivable to think of a mind separate from a body. Separate from physical reality. Sensation. Appetite. Desire. A vision of spring with all the sensations attendant on spring, fragrances, breezes, buds blossoming. We think of spirit as an entity without a body, but when a spirit is imagined, or manifested in a movie or drama, the spirit has a voice and an attitude. Spirits always seem to be pissed. Peevish and solemn. Why do we imagine spirits being angry or frustrated? We in the English language always dramatize spirits as being trapped by some obsession or unresolved problem. Emotional distress. L’esprit, in French, refers simultaneously to mind and spirit. The French do not distinguish between mind and spirit as we do in English, the language of Scrooge and Hamlet.

Mind, in German, is referred to variously as Geist, Kopf, Sinn (intention), Meinung (opinion), and Geistesgegenwart (presence of mind).  

Mind, in Finnish, is mieli. I like that, because it sounds close to French for honey, miel. As if the mind were honey, sweet and translucent, the product of bees, buzzing, stunning navigation and pollination.  

But it doesn’t stop there. There is also ajatukset (reflections, reason, sense), järki (sanity, mind, wit, intellect, memory), muisti (retention), mielipide (opinion, view) and psyyke (psyche).  

Mind in Icelandic is huga, which reminds me of a car honking: huga! huga! 

In Italian, mente, which reminds me of mint, those chocolate covered candies with the sweet white goo inside.
Albanian mendje, Danish sind, Dutch geest, Filipino isip, Haitian Creole lide, Irish aigne. 

There are, then, two kinds of thinking, each justified and needed in its own way, observed Martin Heidegger: calculative thinking and meditative thinking. This meditative thinking is what we have in mind when se say that contemporary man is in flight-from-thinking. Yet you may protest: mere meditative thinking finds itself floating unaware above reality. It loses touch. It is worthless for dealing with current business. It profits nothing in carrying out practical affairs.  

And you may say, finally, that mere meditative thinking, persevering meditation, is “above” the reach of ordinary understanding. In this excuse only this much is true, meditative thinking does not just happen by itself any more than does calculative thinking. At times it requires a greater effort. It is in need of even more delicate care than any genuine craft. But it must also be able to bide its time, to await as does the farmer, whether the seed will come up and ripen. 

What more delightful sensation is there than to let the mind drift like something afloat on the ocean amid the glitter of waves? Undirected musing is a sensation of buoyancy and freedom. Freedom from the constraints of onerous survival, of performing activities without a narrow, purposeful channel to follow. Drifting is large. It is a taste of the infinite. We float among the stars, untethered by anything mundane. The spectacular, unpredictable energies that make a universe are available to us, and creativity begins.



Friday, February 1, 2013

In Which Captain Nemo Sends A Message

Sunday, January 27th, 2013 

8:30 a.m. I wake up listening to Making Contact on KEXP. The host, a young woman with a pleasing voice, asks “what is green and sustainable about dams and hydroelectricity?” Dams destroy communities and cause people to move into the margins of industrial societies. They destroy floodplains and the loss of soil that rivers carry deplete the fertility of coastal regions, many of which depend on fishing for a livelihood. “The Twentieth Century has seen the production of dams never seen before," she continues, "progress was measured in concrete and steel. Today, two thirds of the world’s rivers are clogged by dams.” She interviews Jason Rainey, an advocate for economic justice and movements for ecological restoration. He remarks that 4% of the methane entering the atmosphere and contributing to greenhouse gas comes from the rotting of forests that have gone underwater as the result of dams. I fall back asleep. I wake again, this time listening to an interview with Derrick Jensen. Jensen remarks, very poetically, that rivers are living beings. Rivers are moving, complex entities that interact with the environment in very complex ways. The trees that line their banks, the soil they carry, the mist, the wildlife, are all interrelated in a delicate equilibrium. Rivers move through the country like snakes. They bend, coil, and meander, and when they leave their banks they and flood the countryside they create new channels that result in new communities. It is a process of continuous reinvigoration. Death and rebirth. Rivers exemplify the complexity of all organisms. Even the human body is made up of organisms that do not carry our DNA, namely, bacteria. We need certain bacteria to live. Dams kill these complex interactions. They kill everything. There are two million dams in the United States. 70,000 dams above 6,000 feet. It is a mass murder of rivers. The Colorado River doesn’t even reach the ocean anymore. “I have a friend in the fisheries community,” he says, “who said something very moving and beautiful. She said that it breaks her heart when a river floods a valley or plain. Frogs, trees, snakes, salamanders, everything dies. But then, when the river recedes, the region’s fertility is greatly increased. In other words, a short-term loss becomes a long-term gain. This is true in so many aspects of our existence. Why do we stay in bad relationships or jobs? It’s because we fear short-term loss, when we could be benefitting from long-term gain.” 

9:00 a.m. I get out of bed. I make the bed. It feels both annoying and good to make the bed. Annoying, because it’s the first chore of the day, good, because the sheets and blankets feel good. It feels nice to yank them up, smooth the wrinkles out. Bring order to disorder. When the bed is made, and all the pillows are back in place at the head of the bed, the day feels as if it has officially begun. I navigate my way to the bathroom, attend to my hygiene, soap my face and splash some warm water into it, brush my teeth, get the hairbrush and make a few cursory sweeps through the chaos that is my coiffure, then stroll into the living room and get dressed. Every time I get dressed Louis the XIV of France comes to mind. I imagine him surrounded by his retinue, a group of 17th century men grouped around their divine king in nervous preoccupation, dressing him, fussing over his flounces and furbelows. How absurd and awkward it would be to have a team of men dress you every day. I also fantasize being an animal that doesn’t require clothes at all, like Toby, our cat 

9:15 a.m. I pour some coffee, dollop some “Chicken Formula” cat food into Toby’s dish, and sit down at the computer. I check email. There is an email from L, asking if Tim the roof man can deduct the cost of replacing the awning he burned a hole in from the roof repair he was planning doing. I write back no. He will need to reimburse us for a replacement. A few days later, an awning specialist names Mike brings a large notebook full of fabric samples.  

9:17 a.m. I go online and visit Litterature Audio. This is a free online service in which texts from all sorts of French literary genre are read outloud, in French, by various people. It’s an excellent way to hear French spoken. I’ve been listening to someone who goes by the Username “Orangeno” read L’Îsle mystérieuse by Jules Verne. I am at Chapter 15 in Part Three. I write down all the words I need to look up later: septentrionales, égueulement, empanacher, madriers, scieries, goélette, cintre, bordage, vaigrage, ferrures, cheville, fenaison. Many of these words are related to shipbuilding. The five marooned men, Cyrus Smith, Pencroff, Nab, Harbert Brown, Gédéon Spilett and the reformed pirate Ayrton and Jup the ape and the little dog Top, receive a mysterious telegraph message from the little house in the corral. They go to the corral, suspecting that the message must be from the mysterious figure who has been providing help since their arrival on the island, including the death of the marauding pirates whose sunken ship they are now cannibalizing to build a ship of their own. When they arrive at the corral, they discover a note urging them to follow another wire. They follow the wire to a huge cavern, and discover that the mysterious figure is none other than Captain Nemo. 

10:00 a.m.  I make scrambled eggs and toast with strawberry jam and pour a glass of grape juice and sit down to watch Sept jours sur la planete, a weekly French news program. The host, Isabelle Malivoir, interviews José Garçon, a former journalist of Libération, who founded and co-hosted an exhibit of 61 Arab artists for an auction at Arab World’s Institute in Paris in support of the victims of the Syrian conflict. 
10:30 a.m. I write.  

1:00 p.m. I call Harald.  It’s his birthday. Harald and I have been friends for 44 years. We first met at San José City College, in 1969. He was 18 and freshly arrived from Bremen, Germany, where he grew up. His wife was a friend of my ex-wife. After our divorces, we shared a small house together for a while on Balbach Street, downtown San Jose’. We talked for an hour. 

2:00 p.m. I go for my usual afternoon run. It’s a wet, cold, gray, gloomy day. It had been raining, but now there is mostly just a fine drizzle. Near the end of my three mile run, I see a couple, a man and a woman of indeterminate age, admiring the view from Kerry Park, which overlooks Elliott Bay and the Seattle skyline. The man is looking through a pair of binoculars. Each is wearing a black jacket. It says “Sunset” in orange letters on the back of the woman’s jacket, and “Polkadot,” in white letters, on the man’s jacket. I can’t see the smaller words beneath, but I imagine these words are the names of taverns, or casinos. “Sunset” makes sense as the name of a tavern, but perhaps not a casino. Who would want to gamble in a casino called the Sunset Casino? Or, for that matter, roll dice and shoot craps at a casino called “Polkadot?”  

4:15 p.m. I turn on TV and immediately get absorbed in a show on TV5 Monde, our French cable channel, about Carlos Coste, who, in 2010, set the longest distance swim underwater in Dos Ojos, a cave on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan peninsula. Dos Ojos means “two eyes.” I watch as he sits cross-legged on the ground doing Yoga-like breathing exercises, preparing to hold his breath for a period of approximately ten minutes while he glides through the water, making undulatory movements with a uni-fin on his feet, weaving in and out of the columns and rock formations in the subterranean lake. He wears nothing except goggles and a skin-tight latex swimsuit and carries a small flashlight so that he can probe his way past a maze of stalagmites and stalactites. Above ground, with a team of onlookers and photographers and journalists, his wife runs to meet him at the opposite mouth of the cave, presumable the second eye of Dos Ojos. She is full of anxiety. You can see it in her face. You can see it in her two eyes. 

5:30 Roberta makes dinner, piroshky with kielbasa. We watch Questions pour un Champion during dinner, then have desert and watch Jerry Maguire. We’ve seen this movie numerous times but never tire of seeing it. I always enjoy watching Tom Cruise, although I have to make a conscious effort not to think about his weird involvement with the Church of Scientology. Usually, I forget he’s Tom Cruise, and think of him as the character he’s playing: Joel Goodson, Cole Trickle, Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, Charlie Babbitt, Ethan Hunt, Jerry Maguire, Bill Harford, Frank T.J. Mackey, John Anderton, or Stacee Jaxx. 

What, I wonder, kind of roles will Cruise play when he’s in his 70s?  

8:30 p.m. I read Les Champs magnetiques and Les Vases communicants for the next several hours, intermittently playing with Toby, and/or talking with Roberta.  

10:30. I clean the next CD of Margaret Atwood’s novel Cat’s Eye, an audiobook which we have checked out from the library. Library CDs tend to be smudged, little telltale fingerprints that show up when I hold it in the bright bathroom light. I get out some Windex, squeeze the trigger and feel a fine spray through the little hole of the CD. It feels good, this liquid. I rub the CD with Kleenex, put in in the player, and get in to bed.