30 April 2015

1 fyi

croftie dropped a badass amazing story this morning...

0 this is grim

something freaked me out towards the end of my drafting the jackie book. something essential that i've not yet figured out how to express beyond jotting notes in my journal under the heading "the horrible thing."

i've been waiting a month with this rolling around in my head. waiting to get back to london, back to the safety of library days and aloneness, so that i might lean in and figure it out. this horrible thing.

which doesn't sound at all fun but is somehow essential.

it's strange days. one person has read my book. four more are in the process. it's out of my head. a tangible thing now, for other people to have their ways with. and i'm thrown back into dark waters, places i've not yet been to figure out what it all meant so that i can write the other component of this wacky phd.

and for some reason that part seems to want to be about photographs. all i want to read about is photography.

there's this phase of writing that isn't discussed enough, which i'll call "thought soup," where you try to load into your brain the precise ingredients so that you're idling mind can get through all the muck and the nonsense to where it's trying to go.

i worry i'm becoming a devotee of psychoanalysis. after decades of rolling my eyes at psychoanalytic interpretations. but more and more it seems the way to get words on the page is letting go in the absence. waiting. idling.

none of which i'm good at, by the way.

you'd think it'd be easier now the draft is done. i do not know that the terror ever eases. it just takes on other nuances and you lean at a different angle, using a different set of muscles, to bear its force upon you.

i've seven months left, if we're counting. i'm trying not to because tomorrow is confusing enough. seven months is unfathomable.

i'm writing about anxiety. you can imagine how calming that is.

the thing is i'm not sure "the horrible thing" (which is perhaps best provisionally described as a profoundly unsettling experience of the fact that we are all doomed) is so horrible. unsettling, yes. but there's still the hope, the belief, that it can be explicable, that there are words whereby that i can make it ok. which i say though it is, i'm pretty sure, the very same delusion that enables us to go on, which has always let us go on.

22 April 2015

0 microfilmed

i've this tres tres vivid memory from when we lived in atlanta, and i'm pretty sure i was in 3rd grade, and they were showing us round the library and brought out THE MACHINE OF THE FUTURE.


which wasn't so much the machine of the future as the storage mechanism for the past.

mircofilm is one of those technologies that is super daunting if you've never used it so i've avoided it up to now. fortunately, nothing i've ever needed was on microfilm so it hasn't been hard to do. until today, when- in my ongoing denazification- i was responsible for transcribing pertinent information from the staff meetings minutes of the division chiefs, 1944-1947. all of which are stored on microfilm.

in the end, there was very little of use on the 3 rolls for which i was responsible, but i now know that watching a microfilm rewind at high-speed is an easy way to make yourself motion-sick.

21 April 2015

0 major historical dread

i'm in DC still, working at the national archives for my supervisor. looking at the information control department's files on denazification.

yesterday, somehow (probably because i dared eat lunch at 2:30 pm and there were fears i'd abandoned my trolly because "no one ever eats lunch at 2:30 pm), it got around that i'm working on denazification, so in the locker room, a dude said, "you're the one working on denazification, right?" and i was like THE FUCK?!?! then i remembered, yes, that is who i am right now.

it's an unfortunate time to be working on denazification. reading all these files about how our government intervenes with other people and tries to change their minds and impressions of their own country. i just lived through all of the national traumas of the 1960s and 1970s. i do not need denazification in my life right now.

my commute up to maryland is an hour and a half each way. i've downloaded buoyant dance songs of the last three years to try to blow the thoughts of we're all doomed out of my head on the way home. i'm not sure that it's so much psychological palliative as contributing to the fractured feeling of my recent experience (assassinations! watergate! jackie's death!) versus the current world (news programs composed entirely of questions!) wherein i seem to be city-hopping in such a manner that i'm taking the seasons in reverse.

i keep watching terribly unfortunate things before bed. a movie about 9/11. this hbo documentary on susan sontag which basically ended with her kicking and screaming and dying against her will, fearful of being extinguished.

extinguishment seems key. in writing the book, i've made myself see something deeply unsettling about extinguishment, which i'm not yet able to articulate and which i'mma have to articulate if the critical bit i've yet to write is going to be any good.

i read joshua cohen's the private life on the plane to memphis, wherein he suggests that celebrity functions to try to comfort us from the anxiety that we can never know other people and there are pieces of our selves that we keep hidden, even from us.

while i was in memphis, lainey gossip had a post on kristen stewart, wherein the idea was posited that, in our culture, celebrity has taken the place of having 8 kids and going to war and dying of TB. it is a luxury. a sign of a successful economy and country. that we have so much time to think about these people we do not know.

i initially saw these things as separate theories, but actually i think they're pointing to the same thing: anxiety. the anxiety of all we cannot know and the space that has opened up where we have nothing to do but think about that.

my brain has been idling in that space for about two weeks now, trying to figure out how to inhabit and think about and write about that anxiety. it is the weirdest possible time to be working on denazification.

20 April 2015

0 some thoughts upon watching american television news on CNN

(1) "we are standing on a map of iraq...": WHY ARE YOU STANDING ON A MAP OF IRAQ??!?! 

(2) when did the "news" become an interview show? 

(3) seriously. there is no statement of what happened or of headlines. there are no stories. everything is phrased as a question to a pundit. 

(4) i do not know what it happening in the world. 

(5) the only statement in this morning show was "we are standing on a map of iraq..."

(6) which just raised the question of WHY ARE YOU STANDING ON A MAP OF IRAQ??!?! 

(7) apparently things are happening because there's a ticker at the bottom of the screen with headlines, but they're not talking about those. 

(8) they're just asking questions of some dude whilst standing on a map of iraq. 

(9) if this were a map of france, would they be standing on it? or do they only stand on maps of iraq?

17 April 2015

0 this was yesterday...

two years ago, i interviewed the teacher of caroline kennedy's catechism class. we've been corresponding since then. today, i flew to washington via baltimore for the sole purpose of renting a car and driving out to spend an hour or two with her.

i think i answered at least three slightly different questions relating to the book with the statement, it has been a privilege. to speak to the people i've spoken to, to write about her, to been allowed to reimagine and inhabit this world. it is a privilege. 

btw, i am bereft.  

the full draft is done. and for two weeks there it felt like i was if not more present in that world then at least in full command of it. 

there's a number of metaphors i find i'm using.

during that fortnight, i was like a conductor who'd assembled all his musicians and their instruments. maybe they'd not be in tune or they'd suck but at least all the pieces and players were in place. 

now it is like a photograph, in a dish of developer. the colors slowly emerging, shifting, dependent upon the way the chemicals alight. 

that is exciting. and yet i am bereft. 

because those two weeks were enchanting, intoxicating. i am addicted. i will write a whole nother book to get to that moment: where at last, finally, i know what book i am writing and who all's in it.

i am bereft because, in some very real way that sounds ludicrous, i have just revealed to myself, in the most graphic terms, how history plods on, how very little we as individuals matter, and how extraordinarily, if unintentionally, cruel and destructive we nonetheless are.  and so we read history because we know what happens there. we know where they are going though they do not. it's a comfort until you realize we also do not know where we are going. we are just as doomed as them. 

i am bereft. like the chill grief of the immediate aftermath.  

i do not know what my day should look like. which isn't to say that there aren't things to do, just that i am not yet ready to do them because i am bereft. 

it has been a privilege. to exist in that world. i use the past tense very deliberately, because my occupancy in that world is ending. a statement that is ludicrous as there's 9 months left on this project for my dissertation and probably two years till the book comes out, so there's 3 years left at least. but something has ended for me.

of all things, amid all my faulty metaphors, it's perhaps the hokey pokey that best describes the sensation of finishing this phase of the book. you put each part in, one by one and then, finally, your whole self in. then, once you're all in, you turn yourself about.

it is not over. i feel like it is. i am bereft. it has been a privilege.

10 April 2015

0 fudged

i'm apprenticing with burvil to learn to make fudge. which basically means stirring for HOURS then feasting on the fruits of our labors and boasting of my blisters for DAYS.

wednesday, we made fudge. yesterday, we ironed fabric scraps and cut out circle pieces for the quilt i've been working on since 1989. super etsy up in here.

09 April 2015

0 burvil's buick

in 1986, burvil bought a buick. it was the first vehicle in our family to have power locks and power doors. it was, immediately, my kingdom and the power locks and power doors were my domain. WE'RE NOT SAFE, i'd scream, if burvil dared moved the car before i'd had my way with all the powered things.

i'm down on the farm with burvil, doing my fudge-making apprenticeship and, evidently, going to mantachie foods three times a day for a series of things we absolutely must have and yet cannot seem to remember at the same time.

before i got here, in speaking to various family members (ie. my mother, my father, my aunt), burvil thrice said in each conversation, ooooooh, caroline can drive, can't she?

burvil's been collapsing. she hasn't driven since the first time in october and she hasn't left the house much since she broke her tailbone when she collapsed last month. so when she said ooooooh, caroline can drive to everyone she knew, i was pretty sure we'd be busting out of here and gallivanting round town with me at the helm of a 28 year-old buick. which was doubly good as it busts her out of the house and it get me practice driving- which i've not done in 3 years- before i go out roaming baltimore in a rental next week to see my penpal/caroline kennedy's catechism teacher, sister joanne.

thing is though, burvil's smart. while debo was still here and i was crowing on about needing driving practice, she elegantly turned to debo and ever so smoothly so you wouldn't know it was a slipping of the responsibility from one to the other, told debo, oh so you can take her out for a little drive around the field before you go. 

well played. for, this turns out to have been wise for a number of reasons. in large part, because it gave me enough driving practice to have time to process the terror and accordingly mask the look of WE ARE GIONG TO DIE from my emotionally incontinent face.

it also means that burvil was spared the ordeal of leaving the driveway with someone who'd just asked, the gas is on the right, yes, and the brake is on the left?

08 April 2015

0 renewed

yesterday, debo and i braved the department of motor vehicles to renew my license.

the man collecting the clipboards had a gun.

07 April 2015

0 there's always a moment of adjustment, to remember

i got in last night, and we did an easter re-run dinner then sat around talking about 9/11, the fate of kelly rippa's dermatologist, the ken burns documentary on cancer, the position of "ambassador at large," the role martha mitchell played in the watergate crisis, how hard it is not to call "martha mitchell" "margaret mitchell," how the hair has started falling off the vieve's ears, and the tricks memory and media play on one's recall of experience.

and there was a point, where i actually said aloud, in both surprise and relief, oh yeah, this is why i'm me. because we're all like this. and then i, at my mother's request, i told the the story of how martha mitchell called helen thomas in the dead of night and told her some men had held her hostage in a california hotel room because they didn't want the truth about watergate getting out.

i don't know that i really believe in home anymore, at least not as a place. but i will say this: it's good to be home.