Dream, Blue Silver

The good part of this morning’s dream: I was asked up on stage by Prince, with a few other audience members. It was a small theater, more like the wooden stage of a school auditorium. We’d been asked up to help him sing his encore, a cover of a Duran Duran song called “Set Fire to the Rain.” It sounded nothing like Adele. It sounded, rather, like a wonderful cross between “The Chauffeur” and “Ordinary World.” In those cloud-trailing moments right after waking up, I remembered the lyrics and the tune, but they evaporated quickly. I was given a microphone by a stagehand, which I held in my left hand. I cradled Emmett in my right hand. Underneath Emmett’s body, I also held a string of small glass jars. None of this was difficult. I felt blissfully happy. I has a feeling like, Well, this justifies just about everything, doesn’t it? Doing solo covers of “Take Me with U” at the Happy Ending reading series, playing “Rio” over and over again with my sophomore roommate Ethan, singing A-Ha and Madonna and Dead or Alive and Culture Club in small clubs and house parties all over Boston. Here’s the culmination. I thought: I can’t wait to tell Tory, Shay, and Tara, my former bandmates in Pommes Frites, the group we had in the nineties where we did old-timey covers of eighties synth pop. The bad part of this morning’s dream: feeling the song slipping away. The disappointing part, upon waking up, upon forgetting those words, that tune: realizing that I was forgetting a Duran Duran song that never existed.

The Flood of Is Now

Is now friends with someone you don’t know, someone you both went to high school with, someone well respected in your shared milieu, someone you chatted with briefly at a party ten years ago, and 6 other people. Is now friends with a former coworker whom you secretly despise, the enemy of a friend, a dislike for someone whom you haven’t seen in a while that doesn’t really rise to the level of hatred but also never quite dissipates, the strangeness of feeling like you have actually grown up to become someone who has enemies, the digital equivalent of crossing the street to avoid meeting someone, someone whom you find somewhat gratingly impolite but who you think might be able to help make the right connections necessary to possibly get you published in that excellent new magazine you love, someone famous who uses a code name, and 2 other possible scenarios. Is now friends with the dream of the return of hats, a crumb of matzoh under a chair in the kitchen in the shape of an isosceles triangle, the end of the idea of coolness, the smell of the edge of the fried eggplant slice that fell out of last night’s hamburger, the memory of sleeping out under the stars in Joshua Tree National Park, the particular smoothness of one side of a Jesus Christ Superstar record that was left out for too long in the hot sun, drawings of skyscrapers that will never get built, and 42 other idealized notions. Is now friends with dogs, cats, horses, cows, and 3 other domesticated species. Is now friends with rocks, trees, bugs, and 15 other outdoorsy-type things. Is now friends with a, e, i, and 2 other vowels. Is now friends with the word “friends,” the word “like,” the word “news,” the old definitions of the words “friends” and “like” and “news,” nostalgia for former meanings of words overwhelmed by the emergence of newer meanings, and 98 other things that get lost in a now in which there is nothing but the flood.

AWP, Not Chicago

I dreamed last night (in the middle of a long night of fighting-off-a-cold dreams) that the AWP Annual Conference & Book Fair had, over the years, come down significantly in its fortunes, and had been reduced to a very, very small gathering, not at some big urban hotel and conference center, but in the seventies-era glass-and-steel student center of a somewhat podunk state agricultural college in the South. AWP was now just a couple of dozen people hanging out in one of the student center’s peripheral, couch-filled lounges. Because it was so small, there was actually a modest surfeit of money, and so the conference director was handing out wads of cash to all the attendees. (He looked like Mike Czyzniejewski of the Mid-American Review; I shared a limo to the airport with Mike and his fellow editor Karen Craigo from AWP in Austin three years ago.) There was an impromptu bedroom set up in a classroom off the lounge—really just a bunch of blankets and pillows on the floor for everyone. There was work to do, and everyone had to chip in, but I was excused, and was allowed to take a nap, because I’d just arrived after a long drive. The aggie was in a small Southern city—it felt like eastern Tennessee—and it had taken a long time for me to get there, avoiding the city’s large swaths of uninhabited canyons using only a topographical map, and driving a car that, Flintstones-like, required me to run along the ground in a hole in the floor below the driver’s seat.

Israel

(Catch-up post, five of five.)

If this page is accurate, it’s incredibly difficult to change your name if you’re not going through the paperwork of getting married or getting divorced (and even then it’s incredibly difficult—and probably always has been, although I think it’s now even more difficult since the terrorist attacks seven years ago). But the easiest route (again, if wikiHow is at all dependable) seems to be the part where the page says that “[a]nyone can legally change their name ‘by use’ by simply using a new name consistently.” (I once peeked in the glove compartment of the car of the famous pop star mom of the girlfriend of a friend of mine; taking out the car’s registration, I noticed that she actually had never legally changed her name to the pop star name the world knows her by. So perhaps the thing to do is just to use your new name, and not ever bother with the DMV, IRS, SSA, etc.?) In any case, I guess that’s what I’m going to start to try to do here. I’m changing my middle name to Israel.

This Year’s Race

me at the finish line

There’s a lot going on in this picture Emily took at the Albany Race for the Cure way back on the first Saturday in October (where the hell does the time go? oh right, yes, we keep being ridiculously damn busy, I mean, just as a for example, who knew one lawn could collect that many leaves?). So many questions, like: Is orange-shirt guy sporting the biggest messenger bag ever? Also, is that a Tintin haircut? Did the white van’s wooden trailer haul up a load of blank placards for writing messages for cheering on runners, and those two or three leaning up against it were the only ones left unused at the end of the day? Who abandoned that coffee?

The important things for my purposes here, though, I’ve somewhat clumsily highlighted with these two white circles. Inside the one on the right is me, amazed that I’ve actually crossed the finish line after not going for a run even once since the 2006 Komen NYC Race for the Cure. And inside the one on the left is my totally awesome time. (I think it translates to like a five- or six-hour marathon.) As you can see on this page, a time of 34:58 (pace: 11:16) means I came in 442nd in the Men’s 5k results—out of a field of 510. Yeah!

Much more importantly, I was able to raise $528 for Komen Northeastern New York. So far! I think you can still donate if you want to, maybe? I have no idea when they’ll shut down the donations pages; anyway, give it a shot!

And thanks!

And huge thanks again to everyone who’s already pledged to support my run this year, and in the Komen NYC races I’ve participated in the past few years as well—you rock!

Shomer Shabbos and the Spider Robots

I have a three-ring binder next to my desk that says “blogging to do” on it. It’s full of completely fascinating and/or useless and/or totally half-baked ideas (for example: how is it possible that “CamelCase” and “midcap,” although synonymous in the senses defined on the pages I’ve just linked to, never appear anywhere together? Is this a kind of etymological Ladyhawke?). And I worry that if Johnson was right with that business about blockheads and writing and money, then I’m in danger of slipping into a deep well of threefold blockheaditude here (by which I mean 1) not writing 2) occasional squibs 3) for free). And I worry that a sardonic Web site tag line (see above) has the potential to devolve from self-deprecation to self-fulfilling prophecy. But really, what’s left this space to the silence of the tumbleweeds and the night cries of the robot spiders for the last four weeks (Speaking of spider robots, that not-blogging apology compilation? Here. Via.) are the mundane and and humbling and time-consuming details of looking for a house to buy. (Hence the title, since I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about the things we do or don’t do because of other things we have to do or not do, and how we are transformed by those decisions; see also, perhaps, Emerson’s intercalated heavenly days.)

(Other recent preoccupations: Is it possible that we might someday actually directly vote for the President? That we might all stop beating the shit out of each other? That we might save the world? Or at least, in the attempt, make it more freaky beautiful?)

But: the upshot: we think we might have found a place. (Fingers crossed.) And so, with any luck, I can safely say: more soon.

Radio Silence and the Spider Robots

We are both under the weather (or rather, she’s sick, and I’m feeling dangerously on that post-nasal-drip, wheezing, sneezing, sinus-that’s-really-a-pip verge of sick), and there’s still a million things to do, not to mention a holiday in between here and there, and I am as reluctant to write one of these notes as I usually am sad to read them, but until a week and a half from now, when we get back from putting money down on some ponies (yes, there’s still ponies running this late in the year), I will most likely not have a chance to write anything new in this space (recently I saw something somewhere about someone having compiled a list of excuses in the “sorry I haven’t had anything to say lately” vein; but I can’t recall where I saw this, and what magical combination of words could I possibly drop into the Google tubes to find it again, and don’t you hate that feeling?), and will leave it, for the time being, to the sleepless investigations of the robot spiders. Or something. Happy Pilgrims and Indians, friends and robots! And see you soon.

The Portmanteau Option

The Frequently Asked Questions page of the Web site of the New York City Marriage Bureau offers many delights, not the least of which is the answer to the question “Can two first cousins marry?” The answer in the state of New York is “yes,” but the Office of the City Clerk takes a more oblique approach, telling readers first that “[a] marriage may not take place […] between an ancestor and descendant (that is, a parent, grandparent, etc. and an offspring (child)), a brother and sister (full or half blood), an uncle and niece or an aunt and nephew, regardless of whether or not these persons are legitimate or illegitimate offspring.” The purpose of this preamble, I’m guessing, is to let us know that although we may not be living in one of those unsophisticated states—you know, the ones where you’re permitted to inbreed with your sibling’s bastard child!—the fact remains that “[t]here is no legal bar against marriage between cousins.” Or maybe the answer is phrased in this way in order to say that, although it may be technically legal, it’s not like the Marriage Bureau condones this sort of behavior? (Another thing I’m wondering: Is that question really asked of the City Clerk frequently?) Similarly surprising, at least in terms of taboos being crossed in a way that might differ from a reader’s expectations regarding the laws of a state in the Northeast, are the hurdles faced by New Yorkers getting married in their teenage years (there are many when you’re fourteen; things get a little easier at the age of sixteen).

But the most interesting information here, to my mind, is the complicated answer to the question “What are my surname options?” If I’m understanding this right, you can change your last name to anything you want at any time—but it’s not easy. However, matters are slightly simplified, in terms of letting the Social Security Administration know what you’re up to, if you begin the process of changing your name with your marriage license; but if you do choose this route, your options are limited to the following: 1) your name or the name of the person you’re marrying, 2) either of your maiden names or previous married names, 3) a hyphenation of any of those names, or (and this is the kooky part) 4) some hybrid of some selection of syllables from any of those names. So if the surnames of you and your intended were, say, “Newton-John” and “Travolta,” it would be somewhat difficult to choose a new last name of “McQueen” or “Surreptitious” or “Vermont” or “Murfrangalimöot”—but if, on the other hand, you wanted to be “the Newvoltas” or “the Trohn family” or “Mr. and Mrs. Johvo,” that would be much, much easier.

Does this mean that the portmanteau-word option is that much more popular than the brand-new word option? I’m not terribly enamored of either; both seem better suited to the marriages of banks and consulting firms than to those of human beings. (I mean, if pursuing the neologistic route, why not take it all the way to Roz Chast territory, and call yourselves Mr. and Mrs. Vvv?) But then, it also seems anomalous that “less than 5 percent of American women keep or hyphenate their name after marrying.

No matter what you end up doing, the City Clerk adds (in bolded text), the marriage records will stay that way forever. But surely no one needs a further reminder, at this stage, of the enormity of their undertaking?

Deadline: October 31

I’ve neglected to mention, in the three weeks since I asked for your support, and the two weeks since the race itself, that:

1) I not only ran the whole five kilometers in the Komen NYC Race for the Cure on Sunday, September 10, but finished in time to make it to the fiction-writing class I’ve been teaching on Sunday mornings;

2) Sherri and I ran together, and had a very nice time catching up as we did;

3) it was a beautiful morning for a run, and Central Park was the same odd fusion of private remembrance and corporate sponsorship as last year, and the year before that;

4) the race seemed to go smoothly (the only mention-worthy details I noted being Semisonic’s not-exactly-appropriate “Closing Time” blasting through the PA system right before the start of the race, a very poorly thought-out port-a-potty line that ran straight out into the race course itself on Central Park West, and an obnoxious mustachioed older fellow on a bicycle, angrily trying to weave his way through a mostly female crowd of tens of thousands, yelling at all of us, demanding that we let him by, seeming, to me, to be seeking the fate of Pentheus at the end of The Bacchae); and finally,

5) thanks to all of you who sponsored my run—and if you haven’t yet, but would like to, you have until October 31!

Where I’ve Been

…and what I was doing, and how I got there and back, for the past week (an omnium gatherum): The Mac fired up at midnight on top of the Honda at the Thornton’s in West Virginia. Enough homemade tamales to feed an army; if everyone in the world could spend a week visiting with each other, bringing with them food their moms made, could there ever be any more war? The DQ and Jones’ Restaurant, Men’s Warehouse and Levy’s, the seemingly complete miscommunication of the whiskey distribution question, the inescapability of Wal-Mart, etc.: if prizing the local and independent over the national and corporate isn’t entirely universal, where do the boundaries of the divide lie? A dry county, but fireworks are perfectly fine, and totally awesome, and didn’t actually hit the bride and groom. The abstinence-until-marriage billboard: “Let’s talk dirty! Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Herpes: Dirty enough?” Paid for by the federal government. How soon until the next Ten Commandments? Ubiquitous Jesus-is-coming-in-five-minutes billboards. America repent! Homemade sassafras tea. Luna moths every night on the porch windows. When the vacuum cleaner is in the refrigerator, then we’ll know we’re having a good time. Facial fuel? How about pecker fuel? “Honey, it’s not a place. The information superhighway isn’t an actual highway, it’s an idea.” Run-through, call time, stage manager, the right person to be in charge of telling over a hundred people what to do next. “You don’t know how lucky you are to be… that age, and have your health, and to be starting out on that journey. It’s like a great… bank account, and you got the rest of your life to spend on it.” The sacraments, the liturgy. The Mennonite girls from down the road, just wanting to help. The whole week a barn-raising. When we carried the geodesic dome across the field, it was ouija-board effortless. “This is a song about what it’s like to be Ben Affleck, and to be in love with Liv Tyler, whose dad is Bruce Willis, and there’s a giant asteroid hurtling toward Earth, and you and Bruce have to go into outer space, because you’re both deep drillers, so that you can plant a nuclear device inside the rock, and this song is about what love is like under such conditions.” How badly did he cut himself when the saw fell off his nose? Having been given the secret of the inside-out underpants, was it the backwards underpants, or the mantra for the removal of obstacles chanted hundreds of times, or both, that got us to the airport with only five minutes to spare? “That’s pretty weird. The sun set behind us, went all the way around the Earth, and is coming up in front of us. I mean, it does that every day, but not while you’re driving the whole time.” When in Maryland at two in the morning, crab seasoning-flavored potato chips. “Tom, when are you getting married?” I can’t describe, or even think about, her epithalamium without crying.