Friday, November 18, 2011

“A Consummate Kettle of Fish”: A Digresson

A year into blogging and illustrating Studio Nightshade: My Serial Life as it unfolds, I just yesterday discovered the Spam file. 

All the contents are certifiably Spam,  generated by a massive, promiscuous machine. To what purposes, I do not know.
This morning, I moved a few of the not so Spamobvious ones into the Comments section of the posts to which they’d been directed. I told myself: “these could be actual admirers.”  Immediately thereafter, I realized what a sad and pathetic gesture that was.  I moved them back to the Spam folder. I'm not ready to delete them, though.

A few posts in the Spampot  begin: “ololo pish pish rialni.” I’m not making this up.

Ololo pish pish rialni

When you Google “ololo pish pish rialni,” it brings up 196,000 hits. It has something to do with source codes, Pastebin (maybe), reposting information (I think). Its track leads down a cyber rabbit hole best avoided, although I might audition “ololo”  as a mantra for my wavering mindfulness meditation practice.

I'm fond of one Spam chunk in particular--about ambien and insomnia, the latter being a leitmotif of My Serial Life. 

Here it is, verbatim.  I have merely arranged it into lines and added punctuation. And a title.

Textile Tidings from Insomnia Nights

Do you fly to pieces after yourself ,
fire and persuade,
maintain in--from stem to resolute--
a right-mindedness during the night?

Or, peradventure you wake up
in the morning and you,
do not commiserate with

Or you completely smash-up into
uncover yourself,

unimpaired of vivacity
initially in the day.

If any of these (soft-pedal)
reinvigorate unreserved,
you may not be annoy.
a raise the white flag--
c sour --
all the way through up endlessly sleep!

While this is a run-of-the-mill
consummate kettle of fish
all of a add up to another full-grown,

the textile tidings is that you don't,
upon to reckon with,
with push-quality doze
in behalf of the
debris of your life.

In inadvertently—
b conceivably—

there are separate split; in spite
of that, you can—extirpation to!-- learn
how to snooze.

Preferably at night.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Who's to say

I(I appear, with Jane Austen and V.S Naipul, in the magazine, The Rumpus, Funny Women column at:

But who's to say what you might notice
If the scroll of the last few months were unrolled
On the table before you, how clear it might be
That your understanding. . 
. . . has been slowly deepening.

Carl Dennis, "Unfolding" 
    [The New Yorker, 10/24/11]

IT’S time to unroll the scroll of my own last few months--the time that has elapsed since my son Jamie took a leave of absence from his university, moved to London to live with  Biological Dad, and had stopped speaking to me as a punishment for having  lied to him about how his father came from a sperm bank in St. Petersburg, Florida. In my defense, I did finally confess the truth. And my intentions for my son had been good. Who'd want to tell their kid that his married-man father had offered college tuition (and a yet-to-be-seen Rossetti sketch) in exchange for my silence. Then he had a major stroke Jamie’s senior year of high school. Then he pulled a Lazarus and came back to life, wanting to be part of Telemachus’s life after all: apologies for the literary-allusion mixed metaphor.  [Backstory of record may be found at previous post. this one also offers good jumps off points  and here-- which offers options for back-reading my sex, lives, and serial lives. 

I said “had stopped speaking to me”  by design because on November 5, Jamie called from London. Guy Fawkes Day. I celebrated Guys Fawkes Day with Jamie until he was ten, when he came to regard the festivities—the bonfire, the effigy, the repetition of "a penny for the old guy"—embarrassing. A month later he announced he no longer believed in Santa Claus. I was in my Unitarian phase so he didn’t have Jesus to fall back on either (or Thanksgiving, for that matter: my UU congregation renamed it “Indigenous Persons Day”).

Yes, he called me last Saturday [audible sigh]. It was around 10:30 AM, and I was still in bed (maybe it had been half a bottle too much of that tinny, La Maze Shiraz accompanied by one too many solo viewings Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man).  The princess phone (you can still get them) rang. I picked it up and for reasons unknown said: “Okay--what?”  I normally answer with the widely-accepted salutation: “Hello.”

A hollow, oceanic sound was followed by the unmistakable voice I’d not heard in over two months: “Remember, remember the Fifth of November.” Pause. “Hi Momma.”

I wept. I’ll spare you. You’ll thank me.

The past few months have been rough to talk about.

I didn’t tell any of my colleagues that Jamie had taken a leave from his university to go meet and stay with his Biological Dad. Mostly because I’d been pedaling the Sperm Bank Dad story with them too.

When I couldn’t face the prospect of meeting happy nuclear families during the two-hour “Meet the Profs” office session at my university’s Family Weekend in October,  I went to New York City and told everyone I was going to Jamie’s University’s Parents Weekend. It used to be called “Parents’ Weekend” at my college too, until 1999, when a collective of students—10 or 12, if memory serves—launched a successful campaign to change the name on the grounds that “Parents Weekend” alienated students from non-traditional families. Their proposed title was “Family & Friends’ Weekend.” I refused to sign their petition on the grounds that it sounded like a Sprint calling plan.

I suggested: "Parents and Sperm Bank Donors Weekend.”

Lies beget lies, the Old Testament tells us, and the parchment paper of my past few months are  covered with them. I’ll unscroll more of JF’s past few months in upcoming screens of My Serial Life over time

I leave you for now with a very large, and very obvious change in my life

When I went to the Not Really Parents Weekend in NYC, I was so down hearted about Jamie (and I had a big uncomfortable wad of money from Geoff’s [Bio Dad] reimbursement for Jamie’s freshman year tuition) that I had:  A Makeover. I had that Japanese heat-and-iron, four-hour hair straightening process. And I had my lips—which seemed to be waning into two opposing crescent moons—plumped. And I got contacts. It was expensive.

I now bear an unfortunate--but unmistakable--resemblance to deKooning’s ground-breaking painting, “Woman.”

Or perhaps I simply have deKooning on the brain. The Morning After The Makeover I went to the deKooining exhibit where I ran into Richard, the man with [diminishing] fringe benefits, he of the wretchedly cross bred Schnauzer and Chihuahua [] . Correction: by "ran into Richard" I mean to say "I saw Richard but he did not see me." I spotted across the second to last gallery of the exhibition. He glanced at me, and I tilted my head and offered up a "hi there, good time for a hug and hello?"  smile. He looked behind himself--a "what me?" gesture--then looked quickly back at me before turning back to contemplate the painting. 

He didn't recognize me.  I couldn't muster the bravura to introduce the newer version of me.
When I returned to campus the following Monday morning--and every morning since--I pulled my hair up  in a tightly wrapped bun of sorts, scrunched up my bangs [which I'd set in pin curls before bedtime], covered my lips with foundation and pencilled in lips smaller than these temporary marshmallows I'm sporting. I wore my glasses. 

I'm pretty sure the trompe l'oeil has worked: no one at the university has made a single comment on my appearance. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pieces of the Sky Are Falling

Did I cause Hurricane Irene, too?
Summer season is taken over,
it's quiet, like new fallen snow.
I told you summer stories
but outside it's getting mighty cold.

I told you everything I could about me,
Told you everything I could.

How would you feel if the world
was falling apart all around you,  
if pieces of the sky were falling…

Been a month since I’ve written. Inside my head I keep hearing that old song, “Before Believing,” covered by Emmylou Harris on her Pieces of the Sky album given to me back in the day by my first cousin, Marianne--born “Marion”-- who rechristened herself Marianne, in homage to Marianne Faithfull [her real name; some people just get born lucky, name-wise anyway]. Cousin Marion/Marianne was my epitome of savoir faire;  in fact, she taught me the phrase, savoir faire. Back in the aforementioned day,  I played “Before Believing” so many times it wore trenches into the vinyl’s grooves.

I've been singing "Before Believing" since the sky starting falling when I told Jamie the truth: that his real father was not from a sperm bank but rather is a married older [than me; I feel old enough] art dealer living in London who, upon partial recovery from his stroke and re-committing to making good on his old promise to pay Jamie's college tuition,  expressed his longing to meet his son. []

It didn't go well.

It went unwell.

Badly, proceedeth it.

After finishing up from dog and house sitting for his art professor [], Jamie returned home, brimming over with creative energies and a palpable excitement--and insistence upon--my making good on my promise to help locate his sperm bank dad. [Goddamn that movie, The Kids Are Alright.

It was time for the truth, as I have known for the past, oh, 51 blog posts. 

Epic story short: Jamie decided to take a leave of absence from university. At the invitation of his father, Geoff--who confessed to his now-estranged wife the existence of his American son--Jamie's spending the fall in London. With Geoff. 

Jamie was supposed to leave Sept 1, but, with all the hub-bubery about hurricane Irene, left last night. Geoff pulled some strings and got him onto a British Air flight. Business class. 

I'm not adopting the victim's role here. I lied. For a long time. But I mothered for a long time too. I didn't expect to become the Villain.

"Give it time. The noise will quiet down. You and Jamie are the most bonded mom and son combo I know. Jeff and Jamie." That's what Miriam told me this morning on the phone.

I replied, "And Geoff makes three," and hung up on her.

Jamie's best friend's mother drove Jamie to the airport. I wasn't invited. 

Maybe the noise will quiet down soon. 

Maybe I could adopt a few Hurricane Irene evacuees so that it's not so quiet up here. 

Maybe that would move the stylus from the scratch in the record where it's gotten stuck:

    I told you everything I could . . .

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hunting the God Particle: Or, why Jamie now calls spermbank dad "Higgs"

Somewhere in there lies
the secret of Jamie's pater noster
Well, D-Day approaches. Jamie returns on August 1, and I will tell him [deep breath] the truth:  that his father was not an anonymous sperm bank donor, but rather is an art dealer and a married man in London with whom I had an affair 20 years ago. [

I have other tales I might post here: 

1. of my email correspondence with parenthetical man: v nice but then, online I tend not to fixate on his hair plugs [

2. of dating Richard, in whose shower drain appeared a clump of long strands of [straight] black hair, definitely not those of his hideous dog []. 

3. of deliberations on my screenplay, which make walking over hot coals appear fun by comparison []. 

However,  Trending Now at #1 is: telling my son the truth. 

Yesterday Jamie emailed me a photo of a massive canvas he completed, a magnificent piece of abstraction done in oil, and titled: "The Father Particle." When I asked about it, he told me it was his rendition of the Hadron Converter, and added:  "It's a metaphor." He included a link to a July 25 article in the British paper, the Telegraph: "Existence of God Particle to Be Decided By Next Year." It begins:

"It has been speculated upon for decades and at the weekend there were hints that the existence of the highly sought-after 'God particle' had finally been confirmed.

But the physicists in charge of the large Hadron Converter said that they had only established where the Higgs boson [nicknamed the God Particle] was not to be found and that its location continues to elude them.

However, they added that as the amount of data created by the atom-smashing experiments increases, they now expect to know whether or not the most-wanted particle exists within 18 months."

Jamie had been working on the canvas for three weeks, and he sees in this recent news flash a good omen--that within the next 18 months he will find his, if you will, Father Particle, now that I have signed on to helping him locate the mythical records from the fictional sperm bank. 

Okay, I couldn't tell him the whole truth back in late May, as he was heading off to house sit for his art professor and take care of the prof's dog, Peyote []. So I said I'd start the process for him, and on his return, work with him. My notion was to ease into it. 

Thus, although he doesn't know it, Jamie's light-years closer than 18 months to uncovering the existence and identity his Particle Father, whose real name is Geoff, not Higgs.

I hugely don't get physics: Hadron Converter, Big Bang, subatomic theory. I don't get why some physicists believe in the existence of a Higgs boson deity and other don't. I don't even know what a "boson" is and why Higgs--if s/he exist--would be the god of all bosons.

All I know is the story I've waited too long to tell my son. The real one. The one he's going to hear in a few days. 

It's the story of Geoff and JF--a smart but dumb graduate student a long way from home, who became a mother because she chose to but who smashed a lot of truth atoms in a misguided attempt to convert them into love and security for her son.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bowling Alley Backstory: A Lesson in Ethics

Or not.....

Spoiler Warning: the remembered events I recount below spoiled some portion of my adolescence. Be forewarned that not all backstory is happy. Backstory is, however, always meaningful.

But first, the present tense, and in ascending order of importance:

--Parenthetical Man contacted me because he was passing through (no one really passes through where I live but whatever) on his way to Canada, and we had dinner. I finally told him my name was not Mary Gordon  and he said: “yeah, the bartender at L’Express told me.” [] He has legal tangles, and I think it has something to do with Bernie Medoff.  Despite the hair plugs [], he’s nice, but it’s Richard I really like [I wrote “I really like” because I’ve been retreating to memories of adolescence  lately; see below].

--I’m pretty sure I like Richard more than he likes me [sorry, it’s hard to fast forward out of sojourns into adolescence]. But I’ll see Richard in NYC next week, and without his dog, who suffers from a borderline personality disorder []. Next week, I’m going to squat, yet again, in the coop of Thomas who’s going to Sag Harbor with his BF. I’d like to go to the Hamptons too because….

--discussions have resumed about my screenplay adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd with producer Helen, who is in Southampton with women friends. [].  She’s testing out endings of FFMC on them. I am doing a lot of revisions, some of them crazy-assed. And gratis. I hinted that the process would be more productive were I ensconced in her guest house, from which I could emerge at the cocktail hour to discuss the endings with the girls. Helen ignored the suggestion. Next week, we’re meeting. In Manhattan.

--I have about three weeks to figure out how I’m going to tell my son Jamie the truth about his father. [].  I have agreed to let Jamie decide for himself if he’d like to meet Biological Dad [who is desperate now to meet his progeny]. This would be easier if Jamie knew he had an identifiable, not a sperm bank, father. If I were the Julianne Moore mom [in The Kids Are All Right” I’d be better at this:

Now, back to the past:

Some people hate Thanksgiving.  Some hate Xmas. Some hate Arbor Day. 

I hate Independence Day. That was the day Mr. Noonan, the local high school’s shop teacher,  destroyed his right arm at the Bowl-O-Rama. The bowling alley my parents managed. It happened because of what JD, my oldest brother,  did to the bowling ball. Which he learned to do in shop class, which is how I apprehended viscerally the meaning of the term “irony.”

I was 13, and JD was 17.  JD wasn’t targeting Mr. Noonan when he hollowed out that luminous, blue marble bowling ball and filled it with lead. I caught JD doing it out in the garage. We used to call boys like JD  “hoods.”  When I threatened to tell our parents, his look said to me:  as if. Go look up “hood” if you’re unclear about the connection between “hood” and  “as if.”

Then I forgot about it. I was reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles at the time, and southern England was more real to me than northern Vermont. My eighth- grade teacher was a displaced poet who recognized me as a changeling and had given me nine old paperbacks—“essential to your salvation” she said-- to read over the summer. I’d just finished Jane Eyre and, frankly, hadn’t liked it, but I took salvation seriously so had just started Tess.

Anyway, it was the Fourth of July. My parents had for several years  made all bowling free [not shoe rental or food or Pabst Blue Ribbon, of course]  on the July Fourth. Mr. Noonan was standing at the ball rack, contemplating. I saw the blue marble ball, which I’d not seen since JD had it in the garage. I went to the rack with the intention of telling Mr. Noonan to use the black ball in the center. Then things changed.

“Well, little missy, when did you grow up?"

It was the first time I wore my new hip-hugging bell bottoms with a big buckled belt. I’d just learned about ironing my hair straight, so for the first time ever I went out in public with my hair down, not in a ponytail. My mom had let me put on a little of her lipstick.

I didn’t know what to say to Mr. Noonan. He was very tall man whose gray hair looked like it was cut with a lawn mower. He was looking right at me, but not exactly at me either. 

“I don’t know which of these to use, sweetheart. How about you kiss these nice, big balls here to help Mr. Noonan decide.”

I was dumb about a lot of things when I was 13, but I’d grown up with three brothers. I looked at Mr. Noonan. He looked back at me, unflinching. I looked around for JD who was on the other side of the snack bar, playing pinball as if for his life, humping and smacking the machine. I headed to the shoe island where my dad was spraying germ killer into promiscuous shoes.

Ten seconds later everyone and everything in the free day o’ bowling at the Bowl-O-Rama went into freeze frame when Mr. Noonan howled in agony. At the hospital they diagnosed a torn rotator cuff. He had surgery but, you know, it was northern Vermont. And another era. His right arm dangled around after that, and Mr. Noonan went on disability; you couldn’t have him teaching teenaged boys welding and table saws.

There was some kind of investigation; I’m fuzzy on the details now. I was asked if I knew anything about a rigged bowling ball. “No,” I said, and since I was the girl genius in town, it was a gospel-truth “no.”

It was my first run-in with the proposition that the truth’s a complicated thing.