22 February 2015

0 caterbury, rain, 8 am

fyi, the cathedral opens at 9. you have to pay to go in. you will be yelled at by a parking attendant if, no knowing either of these two facts, you attempt to just walk on in through the back yard. 

20 February 2015

0 while we're looking back

one year ago today(ish), k.lo came to the uk, we missed our flight to greece, pouted over pride and prejudice in bed whilst eating petit fours, then went to brighton and played putt-putt instead. 

0 charmed

when i left the US- over two years ago now- in the last days, there was this general shoving of all things into the hands of my parents. and to some extent, the last two years have been spent trying to remember what i gave to the goodwill and what i gave to them.

for real, the "caro's clothes left behind" tub in my parents' attic is like christmas. every time i go back, i've completely forgotten what's in it and rediscover it anew.

so in the last few days i've been remembering this necklace i had with an emerald charm on it. the necklace is here in london. the charm is not. and i've this very very vague memory- so vague i would assume i had imagined it if most all my memories of those last days in chicago were not equally vague- of giving my mother a teeny tiny ziplock bag of a necklace charms. or pendants.

i keep calling them charms when, in reality, maybe the proper jewelry term is pendants. idk.

what i do know is that the teeny tiny ziplock bag was one of those teeny tiny ziplock bags that h+m uses for spare buttons, which seems an oddly specific detail to recall if this is an event that did not take place.

yesterday, i happened to remember these pendants whilst i was skyping with debo and so mentioned them to her, saying, mummybee, do you remember me giving you a teeny tiny ziplock bag of necklace charms at any point? 

and she looked thoughtful for a moment, recollecting, and then did that thing where we affirm something someone has just said by repeating it back to them practically verbatim, saying yeah, i think you did. it was a bunch of charms in a really small bag with a ziplock. 

and garebear, not missing a beat, weighed in from offscreen: no wonder you've been sick for three months, bearoline. you gave your mother your lucky charms. 

19 February 2015

0 keep things in perspective

0 forked

the standard mode of operation is that i'll pull All of the Things together into a word doc, so that i have this god-like view of everything that was going on in the day-to-day, then break them up into episodes and, from there, be writing several episodes simultaneously. so that there are multiple stories happening, but all of them occurring on roughly the same temporal plane.

that's the way it's been. multiple story lines being written that are occurring at roughly the same time or within a few weeks or months of each other. like laying down pieces of paper on a hard surface so that they're over-lapping just a bit at the edges. that's how it was.

but now, omg. IT IS CRAZY.

maybe this is the nature of being towards the end. of seeing an end and seeing how everything that's come before is coming together and being on the other side of the mountain where there's so much less to do than you've already done.

i will say this: it is hella weird. and i do not know that i am fond.

currently, i am writing jackie's death in 1994, jackie's shopping somewhere in 1973, jackie and ari's incompatibility around 1974, joe kennedy's death in 1969, some hijacking and kidnapping threats in 1972 and ari's exploration of divorce possibilities in some as-yet-undetermined time period. and because i shift between episodes while composing them, i am, quite literally, spending the day running all over the place.

whilst simultaneously solving camelot and figuring out watergate, two things i'm pretty sure are hugely intertwined. or perhaps less intertwined than i think they are but still intertwined nonetheless. it is, at this point, unclear.

everything is simultaneously so clear, there for the taking, and as yet unwritten. the effect of this is, i imagine, not unlike someone in the midst of a spiritual vision.

i see! and, therefore, am blinded. because the fact that this is all coming together doesn't mean that life stops. and so i go to the market and eat lunch and meet people for movies and coffees and struggle to make conversations where my brain tries to land one word over from where i want it because it is actually, secretly, engaged in working out all these quasi-written stories and only half paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth.

and the doctor wonders why i'm having trouble breathing.

there's a curling in. it's not particularly attractive nor particularly nice. but i've the distinct sense of being someone who is currently more present in an imaginative world than in the real one. it won't last. it never does. the thing is almost written. the beginning of the end is almost near. but i'd be lying if i didn't admit that it's something of a relief to see it coming. to finally begin to see the whole of the story, knowing now for certain what i didn't when i started out: that there is a there there. before, i'd had to imagine that.

18 February 2015

0 what is up with the UK this week?

props to USA today for their explanation of why this was not awesome... because "KKK, which in this case was intended to stand for 'Krispy Kreme Klub,' is, of course, more infamously associated with the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group."

13 February 2015

0 oh my family

my parents were in mexico when richard nixon resigned. my father was in mexico again when he died. as a result, in my family, we've this not entirely articulated but fervently held belief that our going to certain places makes certain things (ie. DISASTERS) come to be.

joe's dead day looms at the end of this month. we are all (by which i guess i mean my parents, my aunt and i- for we are suddenly "the grown-ups") apparently a bit shaken by the prospect but more so by the fact that, as she did the year that joe died, my aunt is going to be in puerto rico.

there is the unspoken worry that when she goes back, it will bring about family death again. unspoken because to speak it would be superstitious and god-fearing people aren't supposed to be superstitious. and so we just make veiled, repeated references to the resignation and death of richard nixon and we pray for burvil and ready ourselves.

this afternoon, my mother spoke to the estate lawyer and my father and i reviewed the terms of the will. this evening my aunt, knowing nothing of that, sent this:

seriously. is it any wonder that i am macabre? 

0 something new to look forward to

11 February 2015

0 third year

i've caught a cold. by this point i assume my neighbors are like holy god, woman, GO TO THE DOCTOR. as i hear them when they cough so surely they haven't been spared me.

in early december, after completion of The Fortnight of Doom, N and i joked that the day-to-day condition of our health was not unlike the feeling you have after just having donated blood. which, we realized wasn't the greatest though now, after nearly two months where the condition of my health has resembled that of a 19th century consumptive, it seems almost ideal.

this is all we talk about now. the question why are we always sick? recurs with such frequency that it is no longer accompanied by the acknowledgment that we talk about nothing but our health and this makes us feel 95.

is it the germs at the library? the dust from the books? that one sign by the men's lavatory on the 4th floor at senate house with the warning of asbestos seems ominous. are we being poisoned by the library or by our PhDs?

yesterday, despite the entrance of a disconcerting rattle into my cough over the weekend, i felt almost well and, for the briefest of shining moments, i also felt THISCLOSE to being able to articulate the dynamic between jackie and camelot and america, circa 1975.

SOCLOSE. and no cigar. the moment dimmed. i left the library and came home and immediately descended into an abyss of uncontrollable coughing and snot.

my cough drop consumption is reaching epic proportions. nearly pack a day.

last friday, in our lone attempt at leading social lives and in celebration of a grant we've won to organize a conference (the organization of which will probably kill us), N and i went out to drinks with the grant-givers. it was some consolation to hear tell of his PhD experience. of how he felt ragged for the whole final year and his mother- a physician- diagnosed him with low blood pressure. then he hauled himself to the doctor and said i'm doing a PhD and they said ooooooooooh, you don't have low blood pressure. this is just who you are now. 

i am slowly resigning myself to the notion that maybe this is just who i am now, for there is nothing left to adjust. i am eating meat again. i am taking vitamins in addition to the vitamins i've been taking all along. i'm drinking water and eating vegetables and doing yoga and sleeping more and better than i've slept in my life.

the only thing that could possibly go is the writing and it is the one thing that cannot. and, along with the coughing, it is the only constant.

the tension here is both obvious and amusing. can writing really be that draining, make you that vulnerable physically? i mean, i sense that it is dangerous, what i'm doing. making my mind jump all these tracks to write at different registers. mentally, it feels like a physical exertion, and already i feel that there will be an ending and, when that ending comes, i will need to sit in a dark room for about a month, reading deeply trashy romance novels about which i will not need to think critically while someone else takes total responsibility for ensuring that i am fed and watered. like a delicate plant.

perhaps this is what photosynthesis feels like? or an exorcism?

N keeps comparing it to being underwater. the idea that usually you walk through the puddles and get your feet wet but there is space between the puddles and so eventually the feet dry off.

there is, currently, no space between our puddles. because they aren't puddles but an ocean.

this is an argument to made against long-term projects of any kind. but then, i no longer know what i would do with myself without this always at the back of my mind, churning away in concert with the long-term projects i'm mulling for after. this and those have become integral to who i am.

i'm addicted to the stories, to the finding and telling, and the coming together. and the adrenaline rush that comes after reading biographical writing in public.

we are jugglers in an ocean. i have simultaneously never felt better nor worse. this is both ridiculously melodramatic and entirely truthful.

09 February 2015

0 FJ: steinem and porter: a close reading of a fashion tribute to a feminist icon

surely we’ve all been around the block together enough that i don’t have to preface my close reading of a seemingly deeply shallow thing– in this case, a fashion magazine editorial (the captions! the prices! the open mouths! the ennui!)– with a disclaimer that i don’t always take a magnifying glass to a fashion mag to study the fine print in the posters the model’s affixing to the wall, yeah? surely it’s understood by now that i’d only do that when it leads us to a cultural Deep Point? yes?
i’mma go with yes. and assume you’re with me.
anyhoo, so in the past week, steinem has suddenly been EVERYWHERE. by which i mean she is probably no more or less present in all your lives than usual but, in my own, because i’m writing about the 70s, she is increasingly, every day, coming up.
Gloria Steinem

06 February 2015

0 in the beginning

i'd actually forgotten what it's like in the beginning-- when you're all in the first flush with the idea and other people's reactions to it feel like life and death.

and it's never that i've got it all wrong (for i cannot get it all wrong [because to allow myself to think that it's possible that i am getting it all wrong is the beginning of the end]). it's always that i'm not explaining it well or that they will never get it.

which is reassuring. and annoying. and difficult to endure.

it's not a rolling of the eyes exactly, but a certain deadness. a decided lack of the lighting up that occurs among those who do get it, the people who would read that book, especially the ones who look almost envious as they say i wish i'd thought of that.

which is basically what you want to do: write all the books other writers wish they'd thought of.


HOLY MOSES, you guys. let’s dispatch with the easy stuff first…

04 February 2015

0 4 february 2015: still, i know not

04 FEBRUARY 2013

february 4

today is the birthday of someone who has died.

i do not know what to do with it.

are they meant to be commemorated, the birthdays of the dead? 

should there be cake? i kind of want cake. but then i always want cake, so am i exploiting the birthday of someone who has died to satisfy my own cake gluttony? 

i'm making this all about me. this isn't about me.

i should not have cake.

and yet, a birthday is meant to be celebrated. it feels far worse, profane even, to abstain. to let it pass without comment, without pausing, as though it were something of which we were ashamed, as though we wanted to forget.

i am not ashamed. i do not like to forget.

but to whom can one direct the well wishes? a birthday is such an extraordinarily personal thing. where are people meant to send their celebrations of your birth after you've died?

there is no card for that. nor no forwarding address.

for lack of anything else, i find myself tempted to text the disconnected number that remains in my phone. just so that i will have done something. it seems very important to do something at such times as these, times in which there is absolutely nothing to be done.  

i want to know, knowing i never will: what are we to do with the birthdays of the dead? 

03 February 2015

0 where are we going?

i come back around to the idea of a kaleidoscope rather a lot because that is, to me, how stories feel. you write them down and you hand them over and you hope the reader has a steady hand and doesn't knock the particles around too much in the handover or- dear god!- twist the tube and see something altogether else.

everyone wants to know where this is going, how it will end. my supervisors say they're looking forward to seeing the full draft because they need to know where we're winding up. my father, upon reading the draft at christmas, said he'll read it again once it's done with an idea to where it's winding up.

am i completely bananas for thinking this is the wrong attitude to be taking? is the reading of a book really that dependent upon an end?

i ask that knowing it's true, but kind of wishing it weren't.

in my heart of hearts, i know where we're going. it's been there all along, sloooooooooowly pulling me on, so that we're now fast upon it.

there's a very real panic that the end of my book, as submitted for my dissertation, is totally going to suck. because i've lived with the first half for nearly years. the second half is more raw. the last quarter will be barely six months old when it goes before the firing squad. a scary thought.

some months ago, maybe last june, i wrote the paragraph that will end the book.

in the last few weeks, in this very real panic, sloooooooooooowly i've begin jotting notes for the paragraphs that will precede it.

and then yesterday, there was this:

i'm writing a partial life narrative precisely because i did not want to have to do this. and yet, perhaps it was always inevitable.

as 1994 is when i met her. the story i am writing, the story of my life with jackie, began when she died.

it's funny how the brain works. funny how you think you know what you're doing, where you're going and how it's all coming together, and suddenly things click into place in a new way and all the steps you've taken previously realign as well.

you were not headed where you thought you were.

perhaps this is why i'm so resistant to this idea that everyone keeps repeating, this notion that everything i've written so far has to come together in an ending to be understood.

endings feel terribly false these days.

some months ago, like a woman possessed, i sat before my computer for a solid four days exorcising from my brain an academic article about silence and jackie and first ladies, which was in large part also about obituaries and jackie's death in 1994.

ostensibly, i would submit this for a journal.

it's been through several drafts. it's nearly ready to go. it sounds academic and jargony and one friend who read it who envies my ability to do creative work was visibly downcast over the fact that academia could flatten such a lively writer as i into such an article as this.

this came about because i went to a talk on post-docs and, overwhelmed by the looming future, i was seized by the notion that i had to have something published immediately. that's what it was doing then.

what it was also doing, i realize now, was laying the intellectual groundwork for now.

the whole point of my phd is to see how creative and critical practice in biography can strengthen one another. 

truth be told, i usually see this going on way: creative -> critical. so that my DEEP DEEP knowledge of jackie's life enables me to carry the cultural analysis around her life/death/america mid-90s to new depths as well. to put that in ever so slightly more real world terms: the obsession with jackie's silence upon her death is directly linked to the hatred of hillary clinton as an "uppity" first lady. 

but, turns out, it goes the other way too. critical -> creative. and four days some months ago of saturation in obituaries and 1994 brings me here, very nearly ready to kill jackie. very nearly ready to do what, without realizing it,  i have been readying to do all along. 

while we're here...