Catching Up 2 – The Journals

10 06 2007

Of the folks still working at the old stand, some have improved, some have deteriorated, and some are, well, exactly what they’ve always been.

In the first category is Jen Balderama of Nonsense Verse (original review is here). Although she doesn’t post often, when she does she rarely misses. Her writing has deepened significantly in the past couple of years it seems to me. This is from a post about writing.

[F]or those who have fallen in love with an art, walking away, or being forced away, creates an irreparable wound, not unlike that of the amputee haunted by phantom pain. The limb is gone, and the amputee, no matter the prosthetics applied, will never be what she once was: whole. The artist severed from her art may not suffer in the same physical sense, the pain may not be located in a specific place, but the ghostly ache is there and always will be.

This all may sound overly dramatic, and yet, the comparison is apt if one is to comprehend the difficulty with which the artist, having lost one art, can even begin to consider picking up and moving on to the next. The artist is haunted by pain.

Indeed. I don’t have her chops but I’ve been writing since I learned how, and there was a period when I quit for 20 years. I couldn’t sell anything, nobody but me seemed to like to read what I was writing, and my relationships were all endangered by the time I gave to it. What’s the point? I asked myself, and answer came there none, so I just…stopped. For the next two decades I felt just the way she described – as if a part of my body was missing. It took me years to figure out why I was so miserable, and at that point I frankly didn’t care if I never sold a damn thing. I just wanted the pain to stop.

And it did. For a real writer (as opposed to an “author”), no matter how hard it is to write, not writing is harder and more painful. Her post catches beautifully the cast of mind, the shifts of allegiance, the doubts and the devils. It’s all there, it’s all true, and she manages to describe it without whining or complaint. Now that’s talent.

But I don’t want to give you the impression the comedy is gone. She’s still capable of satiric gems and flights of fancy. For instance, in a post called “They lost my blood“, Jen recounts an experience with our modern medical system.

What I would like to share is what happened on Monday, when I got a call from the joint hospital.

“Hello, ma’am. Did you come in for a pre-surgery appointment on oh, um, uh, eh–”

“Last week?”

“Yes, last week. You came in for an appointment, and did they, um — did they take blood?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well. Our lab can’t find it.”

“Can’t find it? You mean they lost it?”

“Yes. So we’re going to need to have you come in again before the surgery so we can take some more.”

“I see. So, sometime this week, then? Can I drop by any day?”


“And you’re open how late?”

“Oh, till about 5.”

“And open at 9 a.m.?”


“O.K., then.”

“But wait — could you tell us what day you think you’ll be coming, so we can have your file pulled?”

“Oh. O.K. I guess … tomorrow?”

“Fine. See you then.”

First, do marvel at the “duh” factor. “Did they take blood?” Of course they took blood! Is it normal to get a pre-surgery work-up without the taking of the blood? Or is that something the medical staff doesn’t bother itself with these days?

Second, there was the dazzling precision: I can drop by any day, sure, except that really, I can’t — I have to let them know ahead of time so they can pull the file. Because it takes hours to track down those files, dontcha know. They can’t possibly be filed electronically — or even alphabetically. They must be encoded in Sanskrit haiku and watched over by gnomes in the deep, dark basement who demand a 128-bit-encrypted password and your mother’s mother’s mother’s maiden name in return for access.

But third: How does this happen? I mean, we’re not talking paperclips or pens. Blood, you might think, would be treated with a little more care, no? This wasn’t even a mobile unit. It’s not like the blood took a wrong turn on the interstate or was hijacked by marauding vampires. It’s a vial. With a label. It goes into, what, a fridge? And one would hope it would be a fairly secure fridge, with clear labeling to the effect of DO NOT LOSE THIS BLOOD. And one would hope that on the journey from the fridge to the lab (and back), my vial and all the other vials would be kept in some likewise secure-type thingamabob, with more labeling along the lines of BLOOD: DO NOT LOSE! or LOSE BLOOD AND DIE!

No, she hasn’t lost her touch. Far from it. This one’s a keeper. Bookmark it or RSS it so you know when she posts.

Also in the first category Joe’s rejectomorph (original review here), which is still at LiveJournal, though he’s threatening to move it. Joe hasn’t come along quite as fast as I’d hoped but come along he has. His poetic prose-style is a good deal less clumsy than it was, and though it rarely achieves beauty, it slides up awful close next to it and nibbles its neck some. He can even do it with humor and not fall off the high board.

Lots of little clouds and the occasional few minutes of overcast couldn’t prevent the day from heating up. Not even the handful of rain showers which spattered briefly and then evaporated within minutes of falling did anything to cool the afternoon. The belated early-spring weather is probably over for the year now. The jasmine-scented nights will be around for awhile, though. Some of the blossoms are turning brown, but there are quite a few buds that have yet to bloom. The greatest number are still white and fragrant, and tonight the warmth of the air has coaxed forth a surprisingly powerful scent. I’m quite surprised that I haven’t passed out from its soporific properties. It’s certainly distracting. Now that I think of it, yes, it’s insisting that I come out and inhale deeply. Well, I guess that’s it. I have no choice. If I’m not back in a week, send help.

In fact, he has a real thang about weather. There’s this:

I woke to a bright sky festooned with fluffy, white clouds. The clouds massed and turned the day gray, and then we had a half hour or so of sprinkles followed by a more intense rain which was accompanied by a sudden opening of the clouds which revealed the sun again. The wet street became blindingly bright and the air gleamed with falling drops. Once the rain ended most of the sky rapidly cleared and the pavement was dry within minutes. I love April weather, even when it doesn’t arrive until June.

And this:

My hours and hours of patient waiting were finally rewarded when, late this afternoon, the day’s luminous, pearly sky of persistent clouds at last released a few sprinkles. It was the rain of which the breezy air had smelled since early morning. The sprinkles continued off and on until, an hour before sunset, a steady rain began to fall just as the western ranks of clouds parted and allowed the sunlight to stream down. The vivid trees glistened with rain and the pavements glittered and steamed, and I found the brightened evening as delightful as I’d found the gloomy afternoon. Twenty minutes of clattering rain and the road verges had become gurgling streams and the eaves and leaf-tips and grass blades all wore sparkling pendant drops, and then the rain suddenly softened into a veil of glowing mist.

And this, all from the past week.

The overcast thickened and thickened and by midday had become grey masses of cloud which drifted northward all afternoon. This kept the air at least ten degrees cooler than it was yesterday. Everybody else found the day dismal. I found it delightfully dismal. I sat for awhile on the porch near the single sweet gardenia (they are pleasant flowers one at a time—it’s only when they bloom in great numbers that I find them offensive) and watched the steely and silvery patterns churn above me as the sky dimmed. The clouds are still there, still traveling, and, the moon being only a few days past full, I expect there’ll be some nice sky drama well before midnight.

But he isn’t a one-trick pony. In between are sprinkled (gawd, I’m picking up his favorite words, a sure sign I ought to read someone else) pithy comments on, well, just about anything. Paris Hilton, say.

If Paris is really having what used to be called a nervous breakdown, and as a result of this can’t spend more time in prison, then she needs to be placed in a sanitarium where she can get the proper attention she needs, from trained caregivers. But then maybe her family doesn’t care what happens to her. Maybe they just don’t love her. That would be too bad. Eventually, she’ll probably end up getting wasted and driving her car off a cliff, or drowning in her own vomit. While it can buy you fame, and it sometimes can buy you out of prison, one of the things money can’t buy is good sense.

In the middle category is, unfortunately, one of my old faves. I don’t know why – maybe she’s dealing with too many other things or typing a deal faster (there are a lot more typos than there used to be) – but whatever it is, ginmar’s A View from A Broad doesn’t have the snap, crackle, and pop it used to have (original review here). Not that it isn’t still worth reading – I doubt someone with ginmar’s talent could ever sink that low – it just doesn’t have the old bite and the hammer-and-nail prose we used to love, not as often anyway.The old ginmar still crops up when you least expect it, and she’s just as unforgiving and funny about incompetence as always.

We counted and folded cold weather gear, even though my shoulder began hurting early and often.

*Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold* toss onto the pile.

HRT picked up something—-I was sitting on the floor, because it made it possible to do things faster—-and eyed the garment quizzically. He dug for the label. Meanwhile…*flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. “How do you do this again?” he asked the air. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. He checked his watch, sighed, glanced around, from where TG was busy bundling up piles of ten, then tried to desultorily fold the sleeves of the cold weather jacket he was holding with the minimum of effort. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. “I’m going to go get a drink of water.” He tosseed aside the jacket—-onto a pile where it didn’t belong, and so carelessly it fell apart. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. TG ties up another bundle, shows me a blister on her hand. “Here, I have a bandaid in my bag,” I said, and nothing would do but I put it on myself. Her hand did look bad. Meanwhile. HRT returned from his break and picked up another piece, then folded it in the time it took my to fold five. My shoulder started burning. He took another break. TG and locked eyes, then performed identical eye rolls. *Flip*flip*flip*flip*fold*toss onto the pile. And so it went.

We finished hundreds of items while he did twenty—badly—at most, and took frequent breaks.

Then there’s the neighborhood delivery man.

OH, and UPS guy? What the fuck are you, the Jack BAuer of delivery guys? What’s with the tiptoeing around? It’s starting to freak me out. I swear the fucker parks around the corner then sneaks into my yard to deliver packages, then vanishes into the night. I bet he wears a cape and a mask or something, in which case, I really hope I don’t see him, because that would be too weird. There’s a couple guys who swan around the cities in cloaks, and you just want to pull them aside and go, “Pssst, dude, you’re trying too hard. Nobody is going to mistake you for D’Artagnon. At least not with the Snidely Whiplash stache. Also, wearing a cloak in the daytime? Tacky.” I used to have an annoying coworker who supposedly had all these adventures, and he felt appropriate winter wear was a….Jedi cloak over his polyester security guard uniform. Dude, you’re a security guard. It’s a great job if you like reading and walking, but it’s not exactly guarding Fort Knox. A Jedi cloak? Dude, seriously. I doubt Obi-Wan rides the Number 5 bus, somehow. Not that I’m not in favor of guys dressing up, but…..dude, you’re not Rick in Casablanca, especially with the Jedi thing. You don’t have a mysterious past. You’re not a mystery at all. As a matter of fact, your boasting kind of makes it clear that if you ever do anything interesting—which is kind of hard to do when you’re so busy preening in the nearest mirror——you won’t be mysterious about it….Dude, be yourself. Somehow I seriously doubt you’re a Jedi Knight. No, I don’t want to see your lightsabre…..[I]t’s irritating. Not that I’m bitter. There’s just people you want to slap sense into, and Basement Boy was definitely high on my list.

Her take on Paris is different from Joe’s: she sees the misogyny lurking beneath the surface of the obsession.

Paris Hilton doesn’t deserve hatred. She deserves disinterest. That she’s not getting it is kind of scary. All that needs to be done is change the channel or flip the page in the tabloid. People are acting as if she’d done something to them personally. They only do this to female figures. Susan Smith is despised, while Charles Rothenburg is unknown. Andrea Yates’ name is widely known, but men kill their wives and/or all their children and get called, “Distraught.” I know she was drunk driving and shit, but that’s just an excuse. She’s hated the same way Leona Helmsley was the Queen of Mean while Michael Milken was allowed to quiet serve his sentence, while Hillary Clinton is a lamp-throwing harridan while Bill Clinton gets winked at, while Martha Stewart was gossiped about while nobody remarked with viciousness how Donald TRump was marrying a model thirty years younger than him. If she hadn’t gone driving on a suspended license, she’d still be hated; the hate was vicious before it got this far. Any time the dialogue about women includes the words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ and comments about her sexual virtue we’ve taken a step back. Does her sex life have anything at all to do with her character? Does it have anything to do with yours? IF you can’t criticize her without bringing up her sex life, then consider this: would you like your sex life discussed by the sort of people who think that’s relevant?

Overall, while her writing has degraded somewhat for whatever reason, her perceptions and commentary are as on-target as always. She’s writing more and longer posts, and if there’s a little too much repetition and her old descriptive talent too often falls back on “interesting” and “uninteresting”, so what? You go there for her insights and her no-nonsense, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is style. The brilliant flashes of the old ginmar are a bonus.

In our last category is – who else – Raymi. Raymi the Minx changes so often and so quickly that she paradoxically becomes eternal and unchanging. Everything I said about her in the original review (here) is still true only more so. Raymi is and always will be (we hope) a true original, as honest, as goofy, as complicated as real people always are. Celebrate her. We’ll never see her like again, not in the self-conscious blogosphere we won’t. Just a taste because you really need to experience her for yourself. This is from her latest post.

yesterday’s late lunch sashimi for the infinity’th time

can someone tell me what that tongue-looking fish is? i use to be all about it but it’s too chewy and the more time i spend chewing, the more thinking i do, and then i start to think about what the mystery fish might be and looks like as it is being gutted, so i start gagging. anyway.


someone has a crush on raymi!

george ogled my face up close and said HEY YOU ARE REALLY CUTE.

i’m going against my how not to have a shitty blog code of ethics so i’ll stop there anyway he took off before i could pester him about being on the hour.

From tongue-fish to tongue-in-the-ear in a single post. Only on Raymi.




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