Friday, August 19, 2005
I bought a volume of Ogden Nash called Candy is Dandy this weekend past. It has the most wonderful introduction by Anthony Burgess, another one of my favourite writers. Over the past two days, Nash has kept me from drowning in despair and what is to the honest eye, self-pity. I've come to realise that it is such a pity about cliches. There is usually so much truth in them... especially the cliches about laughter and happiness.
And moving back now to Mr. Nash, I should like very much to share a few of my current Nash favourites.
You and Me and P. B. Shelley
What is life? Life is stepping down a step or sitting in a chair.
And it isn't there.
Life is not having been told that the man has just waxed the floor.
It is pulling door marked PUSH and pushing doors marked PULL and not noticing signs which say PLEASE USE THE OTHER DOOR.
It is when you diagnose a sore throat as an unprepared geography lesson and send your child weeping to school only to be returned an hour later with spots that indubitably genuine.
It is a concert with a trombone soloist filling in for Yehudi Menuhin.
Were it not for frustration and humiliation
I suppose the human race would get ideas above its station.
Somebody once described Shelley as a beautiful and ineffective angel beating his wings against the void in vain,
Which is certainly describing with might and main.
But probably means that we are all brothers under our pelts,
And Shelley went around pulling doors marked PUSH and pushing doors marked PULL just like everybody else.
There was a brave girl of Connecticut
Who flagged the express with her petticut,
Which her elders defined
As presence of mind,
But a deplorable lack of ecticut.
There was an old man in a trunk
Who inquired of his wife, "Am I drunk?"
She replied with regret,
"I'm afraid so, my pet,"
And he answered, "It's just as I thunk."
I love this guy! Over this long weekend, I am going to make Mr. Nash's acquaintance much more intimately, I think.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
I open the front door and smile . Into the living room, a door on the left leads off to the kitchen while the evening from the balcony seeps in, soft and easy. I hesitate to walk in, lest I should disturb the tranquility of this space with my relief.
I shut the door gently behind me, drop my bag on the dining table in the corner, my shoes on the stand next to it, and go into the kitchen. Soon enough, the brisk smell of lemon tea and a cigarette fills the house. I put on Fields of Gold and make my way to the balcony to watch the city, spread out beneath me, going about its business. There is nothing here except the enormity of the twilight and I. Comfortable in our silence, old bedfellows are we.
Almost instantly, my arrogance is shattered by a small movement in the far corner of my eye. I look leftward to watch a bat glide with grievous beauty into the deepening evening. Presumably it was in search of food or some company. Or perhaps, both. It is an envious, gentle smile that curves my mouth.
I turn around to flip the switch for the uplighter in the balcony. A whisper of yellow floods the room, lighting up its corners and lines. A couch, a mattress clothed in earth tones lives on the left (or the right, depending from where you see it). It serves double duty when a friend stays over.
Two overstuffed pillows sit companionably across the wicker table that separates them from the mattress. A charpai stool resides between the pillows. Under the glass top, an exquisite pillowcase is a red-toned patchwork of mirrors. It is a reminder of the endless frustration I endured while picking it out with him. It is also a reminder of the delight, of the joy we share.
I look towards the frames on the wall - a favourite etching from a friend, jigsaws put together while studying for a GRE long ago, some Van Gogh (my aspiration to high art) - and then sweep towards the bookshelf that stands faithful, a little ahead of the couch. The book I bought yesterday crooks a seductive finger which I resolutely ignore.
The colours of my home wash over me, soothing, comforting, on my way back to the kitchen to start dinner.
My kitchen. The greens and yellows of this one of my favourite places welcome me and my evening reverie. Soup, chicken, sauteed vegetables and bread, I decide, will make up this evening's fare. Within minutes, the aroma and sounds of dinner fill the spaces in the house. A few minutes later, I turn off the stove to go into the bedroom.
The table lamp I switch on provides a subtle yellow light as I pick my way through the debris. The bed against the far wall bears loud witness to the fact that we were late for work this morning. I spend ten minutes picking up towels and toiletries carelessly cast aside, shutting wadrobe doors and going through the motions of restoring order. The books on the bedside table are unsurprisingly unaffected. I spend another five minutes preparingto wash the day off me.
In twenty minutes, I emerge from the bathroom, feeling mellow and refreshed. I have a message on my cellphone. Reading it, I move back out into the living room. Fields of Gold is still playing as I begin to the set the table for dinner.
I have been waiting barely five minutes when the doorbell rings. I open the front door and smile.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Monday, August 08, 2005
I will deny this lapse afterward but in this moment of maniacal lucidity, I will tell you this secret.
I was reading a snippet about a guy who went on a date to some nice restaurant. When the bill arrived, his date offered to pay. For reasons best known to him, he took her up on it, without a fight. Later it seems, she told mutual friends that he was cheap.
Just to confirm, are we all on the same page? Do we all agree that the woman was WAAY out of line? Or I have taken my first step in treachery?
Perhaps I was and still am naive in giving this so much thought. Perhaps I should simply let it go. Perhaps I am foolish in writing this post too. And yet, I spent a good deal of time talking this over with a close male friend, trying to understand this because an unspeakable number of women actually feel this way about first dates.
I am afraid I am going to force this down your throats as well. Shall we then?
I assume, like any other rational human being, that two people go out on a date because they feel an attraction for each other. We will not waste time arguing the semantics of attraction – friendship is platonic attraction and there are NO technicalities on that one!
If mutual attraction exists, why expect the onus of anything to be on only the party of the first part… or the second, whichever you prefer. A mite unfair, don’t you agree? And the argument “That’s just the way it is” does not hold because if you want to go with the way of things, don’t offer to pay. Don’t be a superstar.
Choose a point of view: either you go with the flow of “things” or you stand by what you say and are fair. Don’t be a hypocrite because you see, an offer to pay signifies forfeiting your “right” to call the poor bloke cheap. Calling him chintzy then only ensures the negation of most things women have achieved in the past one hundred years or so.
As a woman, I don’t understand this. Why say something you don’t mean and then complain when he believes you? Why expect him to put up a fight and “take care of it”? This is not about “tests” the sexes give each other. Giving the man every benefit of the doubt, should you fail a man on some ridiculous “test” because he respects your equality?
Why does only the guy pay? Stereotypes apart, I’ll be the first to admit I love it when a man holds open doors and puts down his fork and knife in between bites to listen to what I am saying. Ah yes, I should add: this is fun only when it is a part of who he is and not something he is doing to impress me.
But I love it as much when I split the check for a first date. Not only do I feel less obligated to someone I don’t really know for having paid for me, I also love the reminder of my independence. I love it that I have contributed to this first date by doing more than just sitting there, looking pretty and making witty conversation at a table like this one.
p.s. The gorgeous photo - not mine though I sorely wish it were!
Friday, August 05, 2005
Thursday, August 04, 2005
In words. In colour. In music. In art. In emotion. In description.
Something about the melancholia, rains and the accompanying wind undulates through the soul to engender a primeval oneness with all things around you.
I spent a lot of time this long weekend reading. Reading new material, leafing through old favourites and feeling deliciously alive. And at complete odds with that, I also felt bored enough to climb the walls. Since I haven't sorted out the dichotomy yet, I will wait for another post in which to discuss it. :-)
What follows are extracts from two books: a collection of short stories by Anais Nin called Under a Glass Bell and Ulysses by James Joyce. One is a well-thumbed favourite, the other is still being discovered.
These are two pieces of inexplicable beauty I thought I should like to share. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did... Do tell me if you did!
"...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. "
-- James Joyce, Ulysses.
The houseboat was tied to the foot of the stairs…. The shutters opened and closed in obedience to the gusts of wind and the heavy poles which kept the barge from touching the shore cracked with the strain like bones. A shiver passed along the houseboat asleep on the river, like a shiver of fever in a dream. The lights and shadows stopped waltzing. The nose of the houseboat plunged deeper and shook its chains. A moment of anguish: everything was slipping into anger again, as on earth. But no, the water dream persisted. Nothing was displaced. The nightmare might appear here, but the river knew the mystery of continuity. A fit of anger and only the surface erupted, leaving the deep flowing body of the dream intact.
--Houseboat - from Under a Glass Bell by Anais Nin.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
"Memories, within themselves, are not enough. Only when they have changed into our blood; when they breathe in some corner of our minds, melting into glance and gestures, movements and thoughts, and are nameless and indistinguishable from our own self - only then can it happen that in some very rare sacred hour, the first word of a poem will arise in their midst and move forth from among them."
This is why I know the muse will return. This is why three lines will turn into a post someday soon. "I can feel it in my bones." :-)
I do not why I stopped.
I attempted a beginning the following day and have precisely three lines to show for it. I am at once amused and disappointed by myself.
My muse will return to me... I am certain of it. I remember the passage from what was plainly catharsis to what I considered accomplishment. Times unnumbered, my pen ran dry and not merely of ink. Those were the days I used a fountain pen and lovely, lovely handmade paper books, full of criss-crosses, fresh starts and the joy of expression.
What follows is the particular bit of poetry (if I may presume to call it so) I am most proud of. It came of great love, both given and taken, a time of joy... and a time of parting.
Of You and I
Beautiful, beautiful summer,
Evaporating faster than vodka.
Like ghosts in the fragile dawn,
Memories emerge to speak to me.
Speak to me...
Of evenings of Irish Coffee.
Drowning along the water's edge,
Panoramas of Elves, Men and Halflings unfold.
Frustrating, unintelligible letters
Become intimacy within smoke circles.
Around us, the silence is gray.
The silence is a pebble in my mouth.
You touch me... and smile.
I turn - to return to you.