Big Boy David recently informed me of two fascinating things.
1) Apparently I can get paid if I let people advertise on my blog. This would subsidize cigarettes and thrift store clothing.
2) Sandwiches are rectangles.
So, let’s talk sandwiches today.
The PBJ is an iconic American sandwich.
Apparently, its convenience and popularity stem from one very important aspect. It is so simple, yet so beautiful.
The PBJ contains no perishable ingredients. This makes it great for summer-camp brown bags, long road trips, or hospital visits.
Wikipedia told me that the average American will eat 1500 PBJ sandwiches before graduating from High School. That sounds like a lot of PBJ’s, but let’s investigate the math.
1500/18 = 83 1/3 PBJ’s a year (I assume the 1/3 comes from “Can I just have one quick bite?”)
83 1/3 / 12 = 6.9 PBJ’s a month
That’s barely two PBJ’s a week! That’s nothing, especially when you consider those big, strapping boys from Iowa who probably down 6 sandwiches in one noon-time meal.
So the numbers aren’t as shocking as one might think. But this is definitely an American trend that cannot be ignored.
My friend, Phil-I-Am, was born in Russia and moved to America as a small child. He hates peanut butter and cannot understand the PBJ experience. In fact, he is completely repulsed by it. Look at that cultural divide. Poor Phil needs some American lessons.
A close relation of the PBJ is, of course, the Fluffernutter, but that’s another rectangle for another time.
As I think most of my readers know, I just checked myself out of the psych ward at Georgetown Hospital. After two exhilarating, exciting days in 5 West, for some reason, I was ready to leave. I learned a few choice tidbits. Apparently, you can harm yourself with a lot of things. So I got my shoes taken away (they had shoelaces), and I had to take off my street clothes in exchange for two hospital robes – “One in front, one in back.” They took my rings, my cell phone, my birth control pills. No one was fucking around.
In my downtime at this glorious place, which was 99% of always, I had to find some way to entertain myself. The TV channel was not under my control (a sign beneath it said, “Please do not change the channel on this TV. Ask the community first.”
I happily discovered that I am somewhat of an artistic prodigy in crayon and soft pastel.
Here are my masterpieces. All are for sale. My comrades in 5 West suggested that I submit my work to the National Gallery – but first I will submit them to you, my blog readers.
“Study of a Swedish Fish in Aquamarine,” soft pastel on paper, $500.
“The Beach at Sunset,” soft pastel on paper, $425.
“Nighttime with Field,” soft pastel on paper, $250.
“Slug In Meadow,” crayon on paper, $475.
Here I would like to note that I was forced to switch to crayon when the bitch-lady who ran Group Therapy locked the pastels away after we had a bit of a tiff. Luckily, I had the nursing staff on my side, and my main man Leul opened the closet for me when I asked for something to draw with. Now, I thank the bitch-lady for pushing my boundaries by changing my medium.
“Butterfly Over Flowers,” crayon on paper, $675.
“Large-Headed Squirrel Under Birds’ Nest,” crayon on paper, $500.
“Untitled No. 1,” crayon on paper, $750.
I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And I intended to write this blog post about that novel – a beautifully carved work of fiction, bringing fantasy and reality together in a way that doesn’t reek of fairies or dragons, but instead feels plausible. Real. It’s an exploration of mortality and the space that is filled with thoughts, legends and stories – a space left for the intangible that often feels as close to touch as the lamp beside my bed or the cigarette in my mouth. (It reminds me a lot of my brilliant writer friend Aaron Franklin‘s work. Look out for The Desert and The Darkness in the next few years.)
But this morning, as Big D slept, I went downstairs to read a bit and eat some breakfast. I picked up Fragile Things, a book of short stories by Gaiman, and I read a few. And it hit me – the book, the perfect novel, is not a rectangle. Sure, it may be bound in a rectangular fashion, and in our hands, it might feel as rectangular as a brick or a postcard or a pack of cigarettes. But a book is circular. The beauty of the novel is that it returns, many times, to touch upon ideas that it’s brought up earlier. It draws back and forth and completes itself in a circular route through the seasons, the moods. And American Gods, a particularly good novel, is certainly a circle.
The short story, however, is a rectangle. It is a delicate snapshot into life, a moment represented in a brief square of time – a day, an hour – but it leaves the reader subtly disconcerted. A polaroid picture snapped carelessly and left to develop on the floor of a raucous party, the short story is not complete. The best of them are unsatisfying, leaving the reader with ideas and images in his head to contemplate on and dream about the next night. A good short story requires a pause, a long moment with parallel sides, to process and complete it before the reader can move on.
So instead of American Gods, I’m going to write about another of Gaiman’s works. Fragile Things is a collection of poems, stories and whimsies that is just an unbelievable showing of one man’s gift. His stories range from the months of the year, sitting around a campfire, telling tales to Holmesian detective romps – all leaving the reader with a sense of unease, a sense that he needs to develop one more frame to figure out what’s really going on. Brief, rectangular nuggets of enviable prose that manage, in fifteen pages, to make an impression. Sucking candies or sticks of gum or postcards. These are the short story.
I once took a writing class in which we had to come up with twenty first sentences for stories in one hour. We didn’t develop them until later, and then we took them wherever they led us. I feel like Gaiman, a true wizard with language, did the same exercise to write this book of tales. One starts, “Somewhere in the night, someone was writing.” Another begins, “They were a rich and a rowdy bunch at the Epicurean Club in those days.” Every story in this collection winds off and away into a glorious romp of words. Characters begin to build and events sort of happen and then – the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.
One of my personal favorites in this collection is “Bitter Grounds,” a story about zombies (sort of), but really about professors and life and death, equality and inequality and convention that stacks up for decades. It includes this line, scrawled on the back of a plain sheet of paper:
“‘In a perfect perfect world you could fuck people without giving them a piece of your heart. And every glittering kiss and every touch of flesh is another shard of heart you’ll never see again.
Until walking (waking? calling?) on your own is unsupportable.’”
Gaiman is not afraid to make fun of himself. The collection includes a story about a writer, trying to “create a slice of life…an accurate representation of the world as it is, and of the human condition” who finds himself in situations that are far more absurd and unreal than the unrealities he hates in his stories. (Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves is the title of this work).
“Strange Little Girls” is a mass of microfictions blended together – paragraphs, each with a title and a strong character, that tell a story. One is entitled “Time“, and goes:
“She is not waiting. Not quite. It is more that the years mean nothing to her anymore, that the dreams and the street cannot touch her.
She remains on the edges of time, implacable, unhurt, beyond, and one day you will open your eyes and see her; and after that, the dark.
It is not a reaping. Instead, she will pluck you, gently, like a feather, or a flower for her hair.”
And that’s it.
Gaiman’s way with words always makes me incredibly jealous. I like to think of gifts – true gifts, like Bach’s skill with musical notes, or Einstein’s tact with numbers, or Hemingway’s ability to make me cry in a page – as a Listerine strip that God places on a child’s tongue at birth. And as it dissolves, the recipient receives their Gift. And receives baggage, of course, the baggage that seems to be inherent with genius. Gaiman got the Listerine strip. One more rectangle. And it shows.
My dog, Sugar, started sleeping on my bed the summer after I broke up with my high school boyfriend. I was heartbroken, and my sweet little girl came to take care of me. Ever since, Sugar and I have shared a bed. I’ll wander upstairs at 1 am, and Sugar will get up off the floor in the hallway and follow me up the long stairs to my room in the attic. When I went away to college, Sugar slept on Sam’s bed. But every time I came home, for breaks or weekends or holidays, Sugar would come right back to hogging my full-size bed.
Every night I have to pick her up and move her from the place where my legs should fit to a more convenient place. Sometimes in the morning she’ll wake me up – by stepping on me and digging her cold, wet nose into my face. Even so, I love snuggling with her and she is great company when I’m lonely.
Since the renaissance of Big Boy David, however, Sugar’s been relegated to the floor. Luckily, when I redecorated my room this fall, I picked up a little Muslim prayer rug from Unique Thrift. Sugar loves her prayer rug. She immediately took to it, and now she sleeps on it every night when there is no room for her in the bed. I always keep the prayer rug clean for her, and make sure it’s not covered with uncomfortable things to sleep on. I put it in front of the fan, so she can be comfortable, and in a convenient place where she can still watch over me while I sleep.
The deep irony of this situation was illuminated to me by Big D. Apparently, Muslims find dogs unholy, filthy and impure. Muhammed really didn’t like dogs. Angels, apparently, didn’t either. But Sugarbear just loves her prayer rug. Uh oh. I’m going to Muslim Hell.
At least it’s oriented toward the east…
Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but I’m pretty sure that most of us get The Company Store catalog at least twice a week, curled up in a mailbox or slipped through a mail slot. I know that I am no stranger to the linens and towels that it has to offer. One might think that there was nothing redeeming about this so-called “junk mail.” But my dear friend Dylan and I discovered a wonderful game to play with TCS’ catalog. We discovered it sober. It’s still fun sober. It’s more fun stoned.
Colors, my friends! Oh, my, do those creative brains at TCS have a talent! They come up with the best bougie names for the all-too-common ROYGBIV.
For example, the June 2009 catalog that I hold in my hand offers over 60 different shades of blue sheets:
Light Celestial Blue
Holy Shit!!! I gave myself a headache just looking through the pages and focusing on all of the blues. I didn’t even begin to address all the different names those crazy fuckers came up with for “Beige” or “Pink.”
Try it sometime, if you’re bored. It’s a blast.
No stretching here, folks. This land mass is a rectangle. And a rectangle full of history – home to wars, revolutions, colonists and lots of great culture.
So, the Iberian peninsula is made up of Spain and Portugal. Countries that, today, may churn out decent soccer players and ceramica, but not much else.
The Moors occupied the peninsula in the 8th century, offering much of the diversity and Muslim influence that touches the Iberian peninsula today. Coming from Northern Africa, these people tried to expand the Umayyad Empire. In 1100, Iberia banded up and launched a “reconquista,” pushing out the Moors and moving onto independent self-rule.
Interestingly, the roots of colonization live in this cute lil’ chunk-o’-rectangle. In 1415 Portugal conquered Madeira and the Azores in America, sending off thousands of ships, navigators and explorers. The most famous of those also came from the peninsula. Once upon a time, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand sent an explorer off to the New World, with three ships and a saga that lives on through holidays and schoolbooks forever. Christopher Columbus, as we know, sailed the ocean blue in 1492. In that same year, the Spanish Inquisition began, forcing all citizens to convert to Catholicism or face death.
Iberia managed to conquer most of South and Central America, including Brazil (Portuguese), Mexico and Colombia (Spanish). Many choose to call this group of countries “Iberian America” or “Ibero-America.”
I’d like to remind my readers that Iberia is not simply home to harsh rulers, brave conquistadors and rich Muslim-influenced art. It is also home to Ferdinand the Bull. A famous pacifist and a fellow lover of flowers, I would like to leave you with his image, and some inspiring words:
“Once upon a time in Spain, there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand. All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their heads together, but not Ferdinand. He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers. He had a favorite spot out in the pasture under a cork tree. It was his favorite tree and he would sit in its shade all day and smell the flowers. Sometimes his mother, who was a cow, would worry about him. She was afraid he would be lonesome all by himself.
‘Why don’t you run and play with the other little bulls and skip and butt your head?’ she would say.
But Ferdinand would shake his head. ‘I like it better here where I can sit just quietly and smell the flowers.’”
As in the throw, not the dog or the people.
I’m currently crocheting an afghan to pass the time and be creative! Right now, it is an elongated rectangle, but I’m hoping that, someday, by the end of the summer perhaps, it’ll be the right size to fit on a full or queen sized bed.
I’ve been working in fine cotton yarn, and it’s actually really nice and soft. And pretty! I can only do stripes, but these are damn nice stripes.
Normally, I’m pretentious as hell about compilation albums. I don’t like that they disturb the artistic and musical vision of the initial album, and I tend to be obnoxiously into listening to music in the proper “holistic” order. (Seriously. I recognize that it’s awful. I try to keep it to myself.)
However, one evening, after watching Annie Hall and crying through the last hour, I wanted to hear “It Had To Be You.” I would’ve preferred the Diane Keaton version, at the time, but since that’s unavailable, I “settled” for Billie. And I got hooked. And, like most people who finally discover something that makes them feel great with very little effort – like crack, or Lily of the Valley Bubble Bath – I wanted more. And more. And more. So this compilation has been a-spinning on my Itunes for the past four days – nonstop.
The track that I bought it for, It Had To Be You, is beautiful. Billie’s sultry voice makes me feel like smoking just might be the best choice, after all. The lyrics break my heart and seem poignant every time I listen to it. But I discovered some great treats for myself in listening to the rest of the album. “Ill Wind,” “You Go To My Head,” and “You Turned the Tables on Me” are standouts, but really - the whole album is way more than worth listening to. Especially after a floral scented bubble bath, with a splash of lavender water, a spritz of perfume, and nails painted a pale, ladylike color. Nothing makes me feel sexier or more like a lady. Throw in a silk(y) nightgown and I feel like Liz Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Think about it. The face of one of the most (in)famous mustachioed men of modern times is graced with a rectangle. Now let’s focus on the man, the mustache, the rectangle.
Apparently this specific mustache (out of fashion, mysteriously, since 1945 or so) is officially called the Toothbrush Mustache. However, I also learned – in my extensive research – that Hitler didn’t choose the rectangle himself! No! In fact, young Adolph preferred the classic Prussian swoosh until his commanding officers told him to trim it into the more fashionable and functional rectangle of a Toothbrush.
Now, I know this is a cop-out, but there is an ENTIRE BLOG dedicated to Hitler’s Mustache. So I’m just gonna post the link here and leave you to your explorations and your (rectangular) thoughts.
Additionally, a book of poems has been published entitled “Hitler’s Mustache” – by Peter Davis.
Here you can find the full Hitler Sestina, by Peter Davis, initially published in McSweeney’s. But, on my personal rectangular blog, I prefer this poem of sorts that refers more to the rectangular aspects of the ‘stache:
Mustache: Of All the Possible Face Fur
by Peter Davis
One idea is this. When you begin discussing the finer details in place of Every important mustache you substitute the word, mustache. This mustache Becomes the game to the extent that discussing some other mustache thought Or mustache idea is obviously now mustache. For instance, as I’m writing here Now I move along, forward so to speak in a triangular motion until mustache. It’s as simple as that. When one mustache ends, a new mustache begins and thus All mustache is the same mustache. For the purposes of this moment, I’m speaking Of mustache’s mustache. Whose name I would whisper were it not for the mustache Which holds my belt in place. That one lynch pen that directs the complete Mustache or arches an eyebrow over a dictator’s mustache.
In the second place, we must consider the square that is square. Of course, a lined Square, lined with the very hair of mustache. Suppose this is step two and the covers Of your bed become square and your dreams get square and your square becomes square. Let’s think about all of this for a moment. A square mustache is the place you Put the pit of your stomach. A square pail of water is the square mustache you put the pit Of your stomach. On square knees, square. And at night.
Which precedes the argument black. Black is the black that replaces all black. Black Is the armband. Black is the government. Black is the black in the back of our blackened Black. This idea, coupled with various instances of facial hair (mainly, the mustache) and Squareness, configured or, if you like, watered on an upper black. Apparently, even If we were to arrive at the end of language we’d find the relatively small area below The black. We could nearly black the black and nearly smell it too. Under these circumstances, given the century’s attention to black and blackness and all of the various Possibilities of black. In one instance, on one occasion, we experienced the particular Configuration of black square black. Of black, square, mustache.
So, there you go. Hitler ‘stache. Hitler poems. Of black, square, mustache. Peace out.
This is a mind-blower, folks. Today’s rectangular object is a square (a.k.a., rectangular) scarf with a design made up of circles and ellipses. These shapes are most definitely not rectangles! Not only are they four whole sides short of four sides, but they don’t even have any right angles. Not one. Basically, they’re freaks. So try to stay with me on this one. I know there are a lot of different concepts to keep track of, but – just give it a try.
The Circle Game is a complex pattern/game that I invented around 6 am after I had stayed up all night with Big Boy and our friend Dylan. It has rules that I’m not completely sure of now, but I know it has something to do with circles only being able to overlap sometimes and filling in certain empty spaces. I’ve played with different thickness of line, different size circles – but mostly only on the computer program Paint. Many of you probably remember making great works of art on Microsoft Paint in kindergarten or first grade. I never quit. (Props to Eric Anderson, by the way, for downloading the joy of Paint to my computer). The best part is, it’s still fun to play sober, or if you’ve gotten enough hours of sleep! If you can figure out the rules, please, by all means, play away.
Anyway, this is the first time that I’ve translated it to a hand-drawn medium. To make this scarf, I took a blank white bandana (50/50 cotton/polyester blend) and six different colored fabric markers. AND THEN I JUST DOVE RIGHT IN.
Here is my finished product:
A close up of the pattern can be found at the top of the post, but I also thought I’d feature some of my previous circle-game-related masterpieces.
Anyway, I think these are SWEET and I could probably work for Ikea. Stay tuned for a circle game themed dress? Who knows what could happen with all these shapes. Phew.