a scrap of gold

He doesn't know what makes him say what he does next: Is it empathy, as he hopes, or is it a boast, an alluding aloud to the improbable and wondrous turns his life has taken over the past month? "You know, Felix," he begins, "I never had friends either, not for a very long time, not until I was much older than you." He can sense, rather than see, Felix become alert, can feel him listening. "I wanted them, too," he continues, going slowly now, because he wants to make sure his words come out right. "And I always wondered if I would ever find any, and how, and when." He traces his index finger across the dark walnut tabletop, up the spine of Felix's math textbook, down his cold glass of water. "And then I went to college, and I met people who, for whatever reason, decided to be my friends, and they taught me--everything, really. They made me, and make me, into someone better than I really am.
"You won't understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are--not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving--and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad--or good--it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well."
They're both quiet for a long time, listening to the click of the metronome, which is faulty and sometimes starts ticking spontaneously, even after he's stopped it. "You're going to make friends, Felix," he says finally. "You will. You won't have to work as hard at finding them as you will at keeping them, but I promise, it'll be work worth doing."
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life
a book which, it turns out, I'm not all that fond of, but which has some truth in it

for you

November did spawn a monster; it was a good thing to call this project thus instead of going with a portmanteau. I have so little to say these past few days; my brain is a little island in a fog and all the idea-boats sail right past it. I'm uncreative and I'm craving stimuli--feta and gorgonzola, viscous port, even the cold on my arms. Sensation feels good right now. I couldn't find enough of it to write anything last night, which is ridiculous because have you seen these posts? They are not exactly deathless prose here. It's not like I have to meet some high standard. Still, it's more writing than I've done in this space in a year and if I've missed a few days, well, I've missed them. Today the monster has a thousand tentacles and no head to speak of.

The thing I have thought about today, in between every other passing non-thought, is the article that went wide yesterday, Claire Vaye Watkins' essay at Tin House called "On Pandering"--it is, I have to say, required reading for everyone, whether you write or not. Even if you do not write, you have a voice and you interact in the world and you shape your own experience--the telling of it to yourself, your own memory--both purposefully and accidentally, you shape it. And if you do not write, you read (or I would probably not know you), and you should know how the sausage of our current literary world is made.

(I write this, knowing that there is practically a 100% chance that if you are reading this, you are a woman, that I cannot imagine even now, while I am thinking generously about myself and my writing, a man arriving at this space and giving it more than the most cursory glance. It makes me feel vapid and insignificant, even after reading the article.)

The reading of this made me think of so many things, not least of which is the question of whom I write toward, whom I expect to read my writing. I am not talking about the blog, which is a weird hybrid thing that has both all audience and no audience, an echo chamber and a stage and the little closet in my childhood bedroom that was all of about two feet wide. I am talking about the writing I do that goes nowhere at the moment but into Scrivener and to a couple of beta readers. I once wrote toward a short man with an epic beard and cowboy boots, the man who first treated me like my writing was work and not a pastime. (I haven't done his memory honor; I haven't written enough or hard enough or carefully enough.) There was a time I thought I wrote for Annie Dillard, but I was wrong; I could not see enough of her to know where to aim these words even though I have read as much of her writing as I could find. (She knows how to keep secrets, Annie Dillard, and I respect her for it.)

I cannot write for everyone. I have to choose. In my heart, I may have done so, invented a mental reader who would get it the way I want her to, who would be generous where I find flaws and critical where I'm indulgent. That ideal reader will only take me so far, and so I widen my view and put you in there, you who have reading desires I cannot fathom, you who will pick up a book for any one of a thousand reasons and give me the benefit of the doubt for a few pages, weigh her engagement, and read on or close the cover and walk away. I am rolling dice when I think of what might please you, and I have spent all my luck on being born in the first world in a healthy time with white skin, with parents who didn't damage me to excess. But how incredible will it be to please you, if I can? This is a thought that makes me want to work.

And now the music:

cin cin

It's so late at night and I wanted to post before midnight, and to do that means to do no justice to the wonderful people and wines from tonight's tasting. It means I can't do justice to the woman at the bus stop downtown at my transfer, whose bus wasn't running that late on a Sunday night, who let me look up an alternate route for her on my phone but then raged when I told her that route required her to walk eleven minutes to her destination, who flailed and lay down in the street amid slush and lumps of snow, a woman whose death I thought I might witness. I can't do justice to how it felt when two bus drivers slammed doors in her face and told her to take that bus that doesn't run so late on a Sunday, one of whom did it smugly and the other did it almost gleefully. It means that I'm home and I'm hoping for sleep, flipping through my photos from the night and looking deeply into the eyes on this bottle, thinking it's good enough with its drip-stain and wool cap to be an anchor photo for a post like this. 



There is no grand message today. There was just waking up at a decent hour instead of sleeping away the morning, and wonderful coffee, and a good vibe in the house during breakfast. There was an hour while Myron skyped with his Ukrainian relatives, and I thought again about that post I linked to the other day, how much I love to hear him speak a language I can't understand. There was a very simple carrot-potato soup for Myron's dad, which is not low-carb in the slightest but it's one of the only things he reliably eats, so I make it and remind myself that I'm glad he's eating something. 

There was cold weather but no wind, so I didn't have to regret skipping the legging-layer beneath my jeans. There was a bus that showed up on time and a seat free for me. There was tea at Fools & Horses and then there were lunch meatballs at This Little Place. There was a horde at the holiday craft show--no admission fee! This would never happen in Ottawa. (Confidential to Allison and Lynn: that guy with the giant animal ottomans was there, but there is no cookie lady and I felt her absence. I feel like there always ought to be a [meanish] cookie lady! REAL BUTTER.) There was another candle from Coal and Canary. Oh, was there ever; I may need Coal and Canary rehab. Then another tea and still no wind and another bus and Myron at home to listen to me chatter about it all without ever sending a signal that he had something he'd rather be doing. 

For a day without a grand message, it sure didn't suck.

2 T butter, 1/4 c onion, 2 t herbes de provence, 1 t cumin, s&p=saute. add 600 g carrots, 400 g potato=saute a few minutes. 1 c strong chicken stock and water to cover=simmer until soft enough to puree. thin with extra water as needed, but puree as smoothly as possible. If you aren't feeding a person who is sensitive to spices, you can season it a lot more intensely.

beef/pork/arrabbiata/mozzarella perfection

beef/pork/arrabbiata/mozzarella perfection

FIR XMAS get it get it

the illustrated post

I almost wrote a post about my hands, the way they fall apart when the furnace comes on, but then I realized that my hands have been shit for the entire year. (Home DIY is not what you call easy on the cuticles, especially not as much paint stripping as I did this year.) I almost dug up a dozen links to products that work on my hands, especially the cuticles, as if you were waiting for just this kind of recommendation. I took a fucking photo of these products and immediately trashed it and came to my senses. I am just not that kind of person; this is just not that kind of blog.

I took a picture of dinner, too, and trashed it. Dinner was red Thai curry, gang pet, and lemongrass broth. It was beautiful, really, but not well lit, and the picture sucked. There came the question of whether I should futz around with the lighting and take another photo or eat my dinner, and, well, there is no picture of dinner here. 

What I can give you is this: It's Friday night, and we sat down with South Park beneath this brown blanket, even though the furnace is going. Flannel pants and house-sweaters are at the ready. I'm glad that South Park still hasn't gotten old and sick of itself, that it remains abrasive and rude. I'm glad that Friday nights are like this sometimes and that for twenty minutes I could sit still, let the cuticle oil sink in, and think about something that didn't have anything at all to do with my life, and laugh at it.