Wednesday, December 31
Crap. The year's almost over. Quick, say something profound. Or witty. You can do clever, right?
i'm listening to
Music Box Christmas,
"AS PERFORMED BY
THE PORTER TWIN DISC
at first i thought it was basically crap
but a couple of songs in, it's growing on me
and the liner notes, although they've been
partially destroyed by a spill of some sort,
are fantastic stuff:
"Everybody that comes to write about Porter Music Boxes seems to say, 'Well, who's Porter? It must be Dwight Porter' They don't realize that it's not just Dwight Porter. It's everybody who works here. Without those 'everybodies,' there wouldn't be any Porter Music Boxes. I'm not selfish or inward when it comes to recognition. I am what I am because of the people around me. I try to share with them."
this is beautiful
this is a man who handbuilds machines which
produce a springdriven deterministic
automatic plinking noise
and in his own world, this man is a rock star
dwight porter is vermont's own music box answer to
bob marley in that interview with lester bangs
"Because it's not for the money, yoknow, and da big company, and a money, it's soon ovah. Because if weah brothahs da money is nothing between us."
ok, maybe not, but you see what i'm saying, right?
I got a hat, and a cast iron pan, and volume 3 of the collected Sandman, and some socks (I love socks), and a partially completed leather notebook case with a hand-tooled picture of an eagle on it.
CarolAnn got a hat, and a spider catcher, and Vegan Planet, and Richard Scarry's The Animals' Merry Christmas, from which she is reading aloud:
We'll fill up our stockings,
When Christmas Eve comes,
With the savory bits
And the wonderful crumbs;
Citron and raisins
And sugar and spice—
Oh, just before Christmas
Its NICE to be mice!
heather got a plover decoy, and a coat, and a blue frisbee, and a paperback copy of The Dispossessed.
WOODEN MATCHES / STRIKE ON BOX / 250 COUNT
half a loose handful shuffles around inside
as i tuck a glove under one arm and
open the box with a bare hand
the wind has come up steady but it only takes
three matches, shifting from a wad of newspaper
to the side of a plastic bag
before things catch
(jack london wouldn't approve
this kind of thing would never do
the dog would run off and i'd go out in
a haze of encroaching numbness and
by the time i walk away there's
plastic smoke staining the nearby drifts
a week's worth of trash blackens and
sinks into the snow
i've been gone for what feels like a long time now
but this is the life my parents still live
miles from that bright center of the universe
not as far as you can go, but
further than most people want to get
surrounded by row crops and petrochemicals
the landscape still a homicide
the crime still in progress a century on,
these counties bleeding population like some long-form
apology for all their artefacts of theft and
but just the same when the sun goes down
it goes down across the fields
the frozen ridges of the cornstalk wreckage
the gravel roads and blacktops,
and the yardlights buzzing into life
and the gathering dark
and there's something to be said for all
the garden in the summertime,
pivot irrigation leaching the well dry
pulling nails out of timber gone gray with age
still smelling like horses dead for fifty years and
pigs rooting at the foundation through decades of neglect
the woodshop in the evening, sawdust and powertools
tires on main street and car doors open
halfway in some parking lot, beercans hidden under the seat
green schoolbus vinyl and the grimy black floor
bad country radio, bad weather, the good life
all the things i never could explain
this wintertime, the roads busted open just before
we came by a neighbor with a tractor, a kid
i went to highschool with
he's got a wife now, maybe children,
and for all i know he's happy
i want to think so.
the ashes of this year are still
drifting down to settle on nearby
rooftops and windowsills
these last few weeks and days
twist and curl on the coals
that thin column of our hours
trickles skyward, lost before
it can reach the ramshackle dwelling
of whatever god still accounts
the sweetness of this sacrifice
Driven by the same unhealthy curiosity that probably animates my relationship to radio programming, I dragged a friend of mine into the stripmall's new "family sports pub" last night. It was, more or less, everything I had expected: Confused waitresses, terrible food, no local beer, that manager you don't want to talk to, and the ability to see five televisions at once without moving your head (as best I can recall: one sporting event, one infomercial, one home improvement show, and two instances of the same America's Funniest Home Videos or some analogue).
Every time I think about the way that big mediocrity is one of the dominant American modes, I wonder if it's like this everywhere — does it just feel like our culture is better at this kind of expression than anyone else's?
There's a MetaFilter thread going on education, kicked off by a post on John Gatto's latest, Weapons of Mass Instruction. And the thing that strikes me most about it is how exhausting I find the idea of having this conversation again.
I meant to write longer last night. There were a couple of pages about Thomas Merton & Pablo Neruda. Then I splattered a fresh cup of Twinings Herbal Unwind (the camomile & green apple variety) all over the place and re-re-discovered that most fountain pen ink is more than a little bit water soluble. I lost my already-wavering momentum at that point.
It's the first few days of December. I'm indoors, fighting some organism which has taken lodgings in my throat, fogging my ears and brain. Outside there're a high gray sky and fine snow in the air. People walk past with shrink-wrapped bundles of logs. On the radio, they've been talking about layoffs, mass murder in Mumbai, cutting the tops off of mountains in Appalachia, and building roads through hundreds of thousands of acres of forest in Colorado.
I'm restless. I want to go somewhere, but I can't think of anywhere to go. The movies would be all right, except I'd cough and blow my nose all through the show, driving everyone else to distraction and spreading the contagion all around. The bar has similar issues, and anyway drinking is no good. It would only furthur befog me. Ditto coffeeshops, restaurants, bookstores, and the public library, each in their own way.
You can say this for even a minor and fleeting illness: It serves to reveal the sheer contingency of the emotional life.