Sunday, September 11, 2011

Well, This Is A New Thing

On June 21st -- the solstice -- after twenty-five hours of labor, our daughter Peaceable True came into the world.

In the twelve weeks since then so much has changed: I can do just about anything with one hand, diapering and bathing is a breeze and Peaceable has started babbling, smiling and rolling over.

 Peaceable at 25 days

 Ten weeks old

But now its become clear that I'm not going to join the ranks of the mommy bloggers. I am documenting her babyhood through photos and journals, but I'm just not interested in posting it here. My energies are going into two long-term projects: Peaceable as well as another wordy venture. So I'm putting a button on this blog and calling it done.

Thanks for checking in! Catch you on the flip side . . . .

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thirty-Nine Weeks, Four Days

Yep, that's me. The edges of my belly-button are creeping out towards the world. It hasn't gone to full-outie just yet and as a matter of fact, I don't think its going to.

Here's another one from the Sol Lewitt exhibition at Mass Moca.

But here you get the full show: big bellied lady coming through! Toot toot! That was about ten days ago. I think I may be a little larger now but I am definitely a lot more tired.

Mom came up last Thursday to help get things going for the nursery. We drove all over the place and spent a day putting things together and rearranging furniture. I'm so glad she got here when she did because I don't think I have the energy to do all that now.

Just hanging out . . . .

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thirty-Seven Weeks

I was feeling really great up until the past few days.

Suddenly the pain in my pelvis just got too strong I couldn't walk or sit or even lie down (let alone get up or change sides) without things hurting. I called my personal midwife (ok, ok, my auntie) and she said that sometimes in late pregnancy your pelvis does fall apart. It's the separation of the pubis symphysis and it exists biologically to help make baby's pathway to the outside world a little easier. It might sound like a good idea to have looser ligaments, but the fact of the matter is that it really feels like there isn't anything holding me together and that is not such a good feeling when there is extra poundage on my frontside.

Fatigue is also raising its head again. I was so tired two nights ago that I fell asleep on the kitchen countertop while Christian was cooking dinner. I'm trying to nap whenever I get a chance but its really haphazard lately--my body just will not stick to any kind of schedule.

But the good news is that the pool is open and the water is one place I feel weightless and wonderful. Floating and kicking around is fantastic. I just have to remember not to do breaststroke because my hips hurt once I get out.

Childbirth Classes

We had childbirth classes this weekend. For me, it was one of those events that seems fantastically important and interesting when you’re signing up for it, and then you force yourself to go to it when the time comes to show up. The usual excuses, nothing interesting: getting up early on both weekend mornings to sit in a room with other expecting couples just isn’t that appealing.

There were four-and-a-half couples: one young woman, another young couple, two older and us in the middle. The two instructors (both of whom were young nurses on the Labor & Delivery floor) divided the class into men and women right away and told us to think of a word for each letter of the alphabet to describe childbirth. The women had gotten to ‘M,’ when the young woman’s other half rolled in, Red Bull in one hand, phone in the other and took a seat off to the side of the other men. He texted furiously for ten minutes, obsessively shaking his Chuck Taylor-clad feet and adjusting his Volcom cap. The men finished their A-Z listing of childbirth words and the instructor said they’d give the women a few more minutes to finish. Volcom Guy snorted and said “women are always late.” The instructor evenly replied “I noticed you were on time today.”

We ran through the exercise and moved on to the next one, still in same-sex groups. The prompt this time was “what is your dream/fantasy for your childbirth experience?” Volcom Guy’s Wife immediately said “I just want him to have the television off. And maybe not text so much.” The four other women immediately began to soothe her: oh, he won’t. He’ll realize how important it is and do what you want. “But”, VGW protested, “look at him now! He doesn’t even take this seriously.” He was texting, again, hunched over a phone, intensely focused, his body language telling the actual people he’s in the physical room with that the phantom person at the other end of the text is way more important than them.

I later learned that Volcom Guy had smarmed to the other men that his dream for the birth of his child was that his wife not scream in between the commercial breaks. Charming.

We learned that one of the older couples was in the insurance industry in the Berkshires. When we reached topic of the signs of labor, someone brought up the bag of waters breaking.  The father-in-waiting asked “how does it smell, the amniotic fluid?” yeah, we all retched a bit too. The other older couple had quiet confidence and well-developed smile lines. There was a young snowboarding couple who laughed and nodded their way through class. And us. And the Volcoms.

The charts finally got broken out and we found out about the sorts of pain levels and contraction cycles to expect in early labor, active labor, transition and pushing. Volcom Guy raised his hand. He was disturbed by the pain and contraction chart for what is known as transition. Not so much because his wife would experience this painful section of labor, but because he himself had a hard time with pain. He asked if marriage stability correlated to the length of time in transition (it does not). Finally the instructor turned the chart around. “Thank you. I feel better now. I didn’t like looking at that,” was all Volcom Guy said before he resumed texting.

The guided meditation that ended the first day was too much wussiness for Volcom Guy: he just up and left the room so he didn’t have to go to his happy place.

The next day Volcom Guy explained in detail how the hormone oxytocin works through a positive feedback loop in the body. After the class peeled its collective jaw up from the floor he said, by way of clarification, “I was in dental school.” He didn’t say he was a dentist, just that he went to dental school. Once we had this tidbit of background information I began to sing the dentist’s song from “Little Shop of Horrors”  under my breath.

You'll be a dentist
You have a talent for causin' things pain
Son, be a dentist
People will pay you to be inhumane

The polished-looking insurance-business couple didn’t come with their questions the next day and apparently Volcom Guy had humored his wife long enough as they left halfway through the class. It was really a shame too because that was when we got down to the nitty-gritty: the available pain medications and our attitudes towards them; trying out physical comfort measures for labor like massage, birthing balls and rebozo and deciding what we like best. It was easily the most informative part of class. I fell in love with rebozo sifting. I tried to find some information on it, but there oddly isn’t that much on the internet, though there is this. (I also tried finding Volcom Guy’s possible dental practice but couldn’t find anything on that at all.)

It was definitely worth getting up early on the weekend to sit in a room with other expecting couples, if not for the information on how labor unfolds and things you can do to mitigate the pain, then at least to watch men process the female side of the birds and the bees. Or, if your man can already keep a straight face when you say words like cervix, vagina, uterus and perineum, you’ll still gain a lot by listening to the questions other people have about labor and delivery. It’s rite of baby passage, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Registries and Stuff

I cannot believe that is me and yet, it is! There are four and a half pounds of baby in there.

The baby shower is next Friday, kind of a cocktail/mocktail party. I thought I'd put the registries on here as a reference.

There is the the big baby store that has almost everything. The little local neighborhood shop with its funky wares. And Fuzzi Bunz diapers too. All the registries are under my name, Hannah True.

We will happily accept second-hand and used items that are in good shape. If you have something to send from your personal baby store, please do update the registry to minimize duplicate gifts. The shipping address is below.

There is only one thing I've doubled-up on, and that's the Fuzzi Bunz: they are listed on the Fuzzi Bunz registry as well as Shima. I'll try to keep them both updated as well as my blog as I go into the last two months.

Thanks all!

PO Box 86
Pownal VT, 05261

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bed Rest and Baby Kicks

In January my pregnancy had a bad turn. Pain. Bleeding. An ultrasound showed that there was a tear in the placenta. At seventeen weeks the fetus wasn’t viable yet and the tear (also called a placental abruption) was a very bad development. If it continued to tear it could lead to the prenatal defects or hemorrhage and miscarriage. It was too early to be hospitalized or induce labor. The only option we had was to wait.

But it wasn’t simple waiting. I was on bed rest, and not a working bed rest, but strict bed rest. I could go to the bathroom. I could take a bath but not a shower. And that was it. When we first got the news, we said something along the lines of okay, I’ll cut back on cooking and maybe C can do some more cleaning. The doctor paused and said “What I’d like you to do is get a cooler to put by your bed and put drinks and food in it so you don’t have to leave the bed at all.” For some reason it was the cooler suggestion that struck me—it made me realize how serious the prescription was. Bed rest isn’t what people mean when they say take it easy. It's not a benign thing to consign someone to bed for weeks on end. I was in for a lounge arrest: I had to minimize gravity and stay horizontal.

And I did, for six weeks. I developed an elaborate routine of rotating books, music playlists, podcasts, knitting, The Sopranos and the highlight of my day, a bath. Anything I ate or drank had to be brought to me. My world, as you can imagine, shrank incredibly. I began to envy my cats because they had the ability to frolic a couple of times a day. My hips and back ached. A headache settled in and never really left. I have to say though, everyone around me was fantastic and I got such an outpouring of love that it was, frankly, an embarrassment of riches.

The side effect of bed rest that I didn’t expect was a dramatic turn inward. My impulse to document, to blog, photograph, put some aspect of private life into the public (albeit, I know, a very small public) just vanished. I wanted to get through each day without thinking of the larger world that I couldn’t be a part of. It was, I’m sure, some survival mechanism of the brain. But its hard to explain why, exactly, with all the free time I had that I didn’t spend it typing away about all the ups and downs of bed rest. 

After all, it was during this time that I first started feeling the kicks. Baby moves around constantly now but I remember the first nudge: I was reading a book, resting it partially on my stomach when the book moved up and down, jolted by baby power. It was a sweet moment, one I’d normally share but that time it felt like it was just for me. Because bed rest is all reduced back to body—is your body complying? Rebelling? Working properly? Healed? Complicated? Incompetent?—it seems only fair that the moments that mitigate the anxiety and frustration come from your body as well. The only explanation that feels right is that it was all intensely private; it took a lot of psychic energy, leaving me with very little inclination to examine the larger issues at hand.

I know how very lucky I was to have such loving people around to care for me and that being on bed rest didn’t spell financial doom. So many women are not in a position to catch complications early and correct them before they get really bad. I was on strict bed rest for six weeks and it did the trick. The placenta reattached and the baby is healthy. In the end, I felt that documenting my bed rest would be an exercise in self-pity. True, I still can’t be as active as I’d like, but at least I can move around and go outside when I want to stretch my legs. That’s a damn sight better than before.

Coming off bed rest isn’t easy either. It’s not an immediate dance party. After six weeks of lying down, just about every major system in the body changed. I had no stamina and sitting upright for more than twenty minutes made me dizzy and faint. Normally, if you’re recovering from something, you can push yourself hard and if you’re tired the next day you just rest. I didn’t have that luxury. I’m still at a higher risk for placental abruption and have strict instructions not to lift too much or exercise too hard. What is too much or too hard? Your guess is as good as mine. So I don’t push the envelope, the risks are just too high.

As I continue to take steps back to normality it seems only right that I try to tackle the subject, however poorly, so that I can move on and write and think about other things. Just eleven ten weeks until the baby’s here . . . .

Friday, February 4, 2011

What I'm Listening To Now - Mediascape/ February Bed Rest Edition

So here is the thing: my hormones are completely unleashed. I laugh until my sides hurt and I cry at absolutely nothing. In fact, I had to make a new iPod designation, two stars, to say 1) I know this is good and I like it and 2) it's much too sad to listen to right now.

Obviously, you can see the importance of listening to upbeat songs. So my favorites from this month's playlist:

My Sharona -- The Knacks

Crossing The Valley --Huong Thanh (I don't know why I adore this Vietnamese song, it just gets under my skin in the most pleasant way. I'm trying to learn the words)

Jealous Guy -- John Lennon (a two-star, but I still love it)

California Love -- 2 Pac (ft Dr Dre)

She Caught The Katy (And Left Me A Mule To Ride)-- Taj Mahal

Electric Feel -- MGMT

I think everyone should listen to Marc Maron's interview with Gallagher (yes, that Gallagher) on his wonderful podcast WTF. There is so much crazy packed into this interview I don't want to spoil any of it for you. Just listen to it.

(from WTF)

Judge John Hodgman's podcast is picking up steam, and I always enjoy the way he judges situations.

I keep hoping that one of my very favorite comedians, Paul F. Tompkins, will overcome the recent slugginess of his podcast, The Pod F. Tompkast, to recover its original glory. His impressions of Dame Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ice-T should be in play a bit more.

I'm taking the Bed Rest situation to finally get a hold on Infinite Jest, so that's what I'm reading. I find if I do a couple of books at the same time one will take over. And I don't want to do that to Infinite Jest. But I'm also reading Taming Democracy by Terry Bouton for a project.

And that is that. I'll probably have a totally different mediascape next week.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Challenge to America: Let's Create!

'Cause we can do better than snowmen, right?

Oh My Word. So Much To Catch Up On

First of all, I know that everyone loves a picture, but my camera needs some corrections before I can get snapping again, so apologies.

I spent an unexpectedly long time in England over Christmas due to the three inches of snow they got that closed Heathrow down for a week. They were clearing snow from the runways with hair dryers and a pushbroom. But I paid a very important visit to my family there after the passing of my beloved great-uncle David. It was also a slightly stinky visit as the airline lost my bag and I wound up wearing the same clothes for ten days. I did get back home in time for thirty minutes of Christmas with Christian in the car, but it was Boxing Day by the time we got home.

It snowed twenty inches on the East Coast the next day, so if I hadn't been on that Christmas Day flight I wouldn't have gotten home for ages.

It was a hard trip, in part because I was four months pregnant already.

And now, at twenty weeks, the docs have found some placental separation. It was quite scary for a while, but not its starting to look better, like it will heal itself. The baby is certainly doing fine -- flipping around and kicking and such -- but I'm on strict bedrest until the separation mends itself. And, as we have found out, bed rest is hard! Not only does it hurt your hips and joints, its hard to be dependent on other people. But I suppose its a good test of being humble and accepting all the love thats out there for me. Even at twenty weeks, though, I don't look pregnant. I've barely gained five pounds despite eating like a trucker. I suppose my baby belly will come soon enough -- I'm looking forward to it. Baby should be here in June as long as all goes according to plan (which it probably won't).

So I am on bed rest, the cats adore sleeping curled up next to me, and the weather is doing nasty things outside: snowing and sleeting. We're supposed to get something like 21 inches by the end of this storm. I wonder if our deck will hold up -- the snow was already up to the rails.

But we also have a special treat because our friends and their one-year old are visiting, so we are all snowed in together! Cue hot cider, lots of games, snowshoe trips for them and fires in the woodstove. So cozy, right? Plus, Duke is playing Maryland tonight and I'm looking forward to us crushing them again. Fear the Terp? Yeah, right.

I think that is the insta-summary. Hopefully I'll get the camera going soon and we'll be back to normal.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Blog For Politics

I love politics. My dad is a minister and my mom is a political scientist and I grew up believing that religion and politics make the best dinner conversation.

But since this blog was never supposed to fully center on politics, I've taken my projects over to my new political blog, The Political Upholsterer. I'll continue my series on fascism and the Tea Party there, as well as other commentary.

This space will rightfully return to the discoveries and joys of life.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn on the Farm

We were repainting the barn when hints of color began to show on the hill.

And the color in the meadow (about a week later) is just shockingly gorgeous.

And then there is this character to greet us when we come in. Biscuit looks like a cat doll. Ooh, I love him. He already love to cuddle, but the cooler it gets, the closer he gets. Sweet fella, him.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And Just Like That . . . She's Gone

Hannah True Jocius is no more, Hannah True lives on.

Without going into it, let me just say it is a huge burden on women to change their names, identities, personae -- from single women into someone's wife. If any of my friends ask (I do not push this on anyone), I would say keep your name. Why give up everything that you've dreamed of, worked for, everything you've been to take another name? I feel incredibly lucky to love a husband who wants me to have my own name and my own achievements.

I've been told that my previous in-law family wants to erase me from their history -- fair enough, even though you can't change history. Whatever the truth is, it's nice to not have to carry that name around with me anymore.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What I'm Listening To Now/ September Mediascape

I have to make a confession.

Every month Christian steals my ipod and puts a new mix on it so I have a new mix every month for the past two years. I love it. It's a labor of love (my friend Sheila says if it's not a labor of love it's just labor) but it's also the only way I hear a full spectrum of tons of different songs. Left to my own devices I would latch onto a handful of albums and listen to them over and over. But these mixes give me lots of different songs to listen to over and over and over. I think the term for people like me are "latchers:" we find songs we love and work the tar out of them. That being said, here are the songs I'm lovin' on now:

Sleigh Bells -- Rill Rill

Quasi -- Rockabilly Party

The Hold Steady -- Hurricane J

Karen O and The Kids -- Hideaway (Oh man, it makes me cry)

Buffy Sainte-Marie -- Helpless

The Roots -- How I Got Over

Podcasts (available for free on iTunes)

The Bugle (From Times -- The Daily Show's John Oliver and his comedy partner Andy Szaltzman give the rundown on world news. Be prepared for Andy's puns (they are horrible).

The Pod F. Tompkast -- Paul F. Tompkins plays the (thin) conceit that it is nighttime on the internet and anything can happen. And if you are at all interested in what might happen in a creative collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Weber and Ice-T, take a listen. He's a comedian at the top of his game.


We've just wrapped up True Blood Season 2. (I don't want to hear anything about season three -- yet.) We've got other shows lined up: Season Five of The Wire, Weeds and Big Love.


I'm into The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillian and Mark Twain. I'm trying to figure out different techniques of local writing. Christian and I are reading Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon together (okay, he reads while I do bake or do yoga) and I love Pynchon's take on those two. Or rather, I love Christian's take on Pynchon's writing.

Last and most importantly, there is a review of Christian's book! And on a pop-culture site, no less! Very cool indeed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book: Tokyo Year Zero

            It’s no secret that I am intensely connected with Japan. I lived there for three years, and that experience imprinted on me a love for and unending questions about the place. It is one country about which Westerners feel comfortable making gross generalizations. These are usually along the lines of “Japan is such a crazy/zany/weird place” and suggest that all Japanese people have agreed to abandon good taste and morality. How else to explain a video clip where the young members of girl group Morning Musume (Morning’s Daughter) strap ham to the tops of their heads and poke their noggins through holes in a wooden platform where a hungry gila monster runs loose? The girls, of course, deliver cochlea-shredding screams before they duck away; the last girl standing is the winner. This, like the many other such clips, leaves me a bit empty. It’s not that I don’t laugh; on the contrary, I’ve heard Morning Musume and I’m rooting for the gila monster.  What bothers me, rather, is how this clip and its ham-headed hi-jinx fit in to the American conception of Japan.

            Upon hearing that I lived in Japan, I get the usual questions. Do you speak Japanese? Did you speak it before you went? Did you ever see a vending machine selling girls’ underwear? Isn’t it really crazy there? (Yes. No. No. Not really.) What gets me is that by the third or fourth question we are already in Wacky Japan, land of Beer-o-mats and ass-warming toilets, and perhaps, for the historically minded, sumo-wrestling geishas. Wacky Japan, well, it just isn’t as wacky as most people would like it to be. Japan is, in short, a foreign country.  They do things differently there. The Wacky Japan line only dumbs the place down, brackets out its history and the intricacies of it culture: the nation as carnival sideshow. I mean, have you seen those rockabilly haircuts? Compensated dating???!!!

            So it will be no great surprise that I have been disappointed by books I’ve read that have been set in Japan. The Japanese characters are flat, or the whole cast is imported from America. Movies don’t handle a Japanese setting much better: while I love Lost in Translation, Japan is only a backdrop, a place where Americans discover themselves while Tokyo and her citizens are merely background – an entire city relegated to white noise.

            When my husband quietly put Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace in my reading pile I was a bit apprehensive. An English author writing about immediate post-war Tokyo? There was a lot of room for disappointment; these waters have plenty of shipwrecks in them.

            Tokyo Year Zero is, at heart, a murder mystery based on the very real serial murderer Yoshio Kodaira. But it cannot really be called a mystery  or even thriller because the reader is too far inside Detective Minami’s head to create adequate cat-and-mouse tension. Peace deploys his skills as a novelist quite nimbly: the very first thing you read is a stream of consciousness flashback from a soldier roughly outlining his departure for Manchuria with fragments of other memories mixed in. Peace’s choice of names (there are detectives named for all points of the compass except East) and locations (the main police stations are near the Imperial Palace – the empty heart of Tokyo, off-limits to the common Japanese) are all carefully chosen.

            For the most part, the reader follows Detective Minami as he stumbles through a murder investigation. At the same time, the reader sees Detective Minami’s mind as he stumbles towards a psychotic break. Peace employs the best use of repetition that I’ve ever seen: the ton-ton hammering of post-war Tokyo rebuilding, an entire city as a building zone with noise spilling everywhere; the scenes that Minami replays in his head, trying to make the ending come out right; the omnipresent loss of family, home, identity, structure, jobs, food. It’s remarkable how much Peace achieves with technique alone. I guarantee at some point you will attempt to bracket out the noise markers, and that will put you in the same frame of mind as Detective Minami, our mentally disintegrating anti-hero.

            Something else Tokyo Year Zero does especially well is address Japanese atrocities in China. Kodaira and Minami are both veterans who served time in China; both are confused at how their brutal behavior on the mainland earned them medals while U.S.-occupied Japan wants nothing to do with them. Peace does not spare his characters from reckoning with their deeds and the reader is not spared the details of those atrocities. The characters deal with their pasts in different ways, to be sure, but the consequences of their acts remain with them. While Peace doesn’t linger on the Chinese survivors, he does hint at their outcomes by setting up a parallel structure with a Japanese brothel where abandoned women try to eke out an existence stripped of any human dignity. Peace does not put Japan in the zany box, but treats both wartime imperial savagery as well as post-war turmoil with careful regard. I have to say again that he delivers a master class in repetition, elevating it beyond gimmick into something new altogether.

The fans of Wacky Japan, who celebrate the Naked Festival and Engrish, bring a certain post-modern ironic humor to the table, but precious little else. There are plenty of websites that chronicle craziest things about Japan from a Westerner’s point of view, but these are purely anecdotal – good for a chuckle but not much more. What adds to the conversation is an understanding that Japan is yes, at times, weird, but also serious. Light and dark. Horrific perpetrator and nuclear victim. Peace seeks out one of the hardest, saddest moments in history and somehow draws out a novel, and an exceptionally well-written one at that. No ham hats required.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Weddin' Story

Oh, happiness! Yesterday was our one-year anniversary.

I had told Christian, way back in early days of our relationship, that if I ever got married again, the fella would have to pull out all the stops, every bell and whistle, and surprise me. I didn’t really think of it again.

I should have known something was up. He started the day with something men usually never say: "let's wear our favorite clothes today!" He was so excited and convincing that I totally fell for it. Our friend Vivasvan was visiting and we decided to take a drive upstate and have lunch at the lovely Dorset Inn. I did think a proposal was a possibility, but usually people get proposals when its just the two of them and we had our friend with us. So the whole drive up I’m chatting away to Viv about Vermont and the scenery and all that.

When we finally get to Dorset, Christian gets out of the car and says "Hey, I need to talk to you," and he shows me a marriage certificate. Unbeknownst to me, he arranged all the paperwork, a pretense to be dressed up and a justice of the peace named Mr. Squire to meet us at the Inn. 

Christian looks at me and says "you want to go do this now?"
Stunned! He pulled off the biggest surprise by totally skipping the proposal that we both knew the answer to and going straight to the wedding.

We stood on the village green, in-between the Dorset General Store and the Inn. Local carpenters and workers on their lunch break could see us and when it was clear we were getting situated for a wedding ceremony, someone cued up music:
Just a small time girl livin' in a lonely world
She took
 the midnight train goin' anywhere . . . .

"Don't Stop Believing" by Journey blared out from a truck and became our wedding song. I’m not a big fan of that particular song but I love that it came to us unbidden and unplanned. After we kissed, people watching from both sides of the green whooped and hollered and came over to wish us congratulations.

Me, Christian and Mr. Squires.

Christian even got rings. He took a page from our friends Andy and Lauran and got a retaining ring and a locking washer from the local hardware store. Even though I now have an antique sapphire and diamond ring, I still sometimes slip on the retaining ring. Christian has gotten lots of compliments on his ring over the past year.

The three of us had lunch at the Inn, and decided that the only difficult bit of eloping is telling all your friends and family. 

So we dressed up, drove a piece north and got hitched. It was a beautiful day. And a complete surprise. 

And that is that.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Bill Murray

I think you are going to have a good weekend . . . .
Also, I think I may have found a kindred internet soul in our love of Bill. Where is Bill Murray Hiding? is a blog that attempts to chart Bill's habit of turning up in expected places.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ears and Eyes

What I’m Listening To Now


Honey Dove (2002 Version) – Lee Fields

25 to Life – Zola

Shadow People – Dr. Dog

FFunny FFriends – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

The Fire Thief – Hem

Fried Chicken – Rufus Thomas

Soul Street – Eddie Floyd

(Comedy Podcasts -- available for free on iTunes)

You Look Nice Today -- OPNWDE

Kasper Hauser – This American Life 1 & 2

What I'm Watching Now


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Have You Ever Noticed That A Moose Can Look Like A Retarded Horse? (Part 3)

8/5/10 1325h

Arrive at Orgonon, Wilhelm Reich’s estate and museum.

I suppose since I’ve done the reader a disservice by alternating sleeping and claiming wakefulness through WR that I should take a moment now to explain about Reich.

This is the second part of what Laura calls the Equal and Opposite Sexual Utopias Tour Summer 2010. The first part was Sabbathday Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. Shakers believed—believe, I guess, since there are still three of them—that each human could find God within him- or herself; they were—sorry, are—celibate to the point of separating the sexes; women worked inside and men worked on the farm, they bedded down in gender-segregated dormitories, and ate and worshiped on different sides of the room, as though church leadership thought there was a serious case of The-Cooties-On-The-Loose. Within the church hierarchy men and women were equals; as one ascends the ladder of religious hierarchy in the United Society of Believers – the actual name of the Shaker religion – one cleanses oneself of the Cooties. Other Shaker things they had to do included: confessing sins, striving towards perfection, separating themselves from the non-Shaker world. Their no-procreation policy goes a long way towards explaining why there are only three of them left. The other source of possible converts – orphans – dried up in 1960 when Federal laws prohibiting adoption of orphans by religious groups forced Shakers to stop plucking the low-hanging fruit.

You may be surprised to hear that there are any Shakers still, such are the archaic notions  attached to them. They belong to a time before Gore-Tex and cup noodles, a time when cutting-edge technology was germ-free milk. But three are alive and they are kicking back at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village. The ladies that do the tours and manage the gift shop make it clear that YOU WILL NOT MEET THE SHAKERS during your visit at  Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, while at the same time repeating, insisting, really, that it is a working village even though the Shakers are too old to do the work, because the Shakers have always hired out help from the community to do the work that they cannot perform. There are hired hands performing farm labor, ergo it is still a functioning farm. If you are really determined to Shaker-gawk, the meetings are open to the public, so you could worship with them on Sundays, but you cannot say hello to them on the tour. Both Christian and I are surprised that there aren’t more aging hippie divorcĂ©es joining up, since it’s all like communal and pastoral and everything. Kids had their own dormitory and their own work where they grew flowers and made bouquets and stuff.

Shakers were into equality and having their primary relationship be with God. They weren’t into getting down and dirty with each other; Reich on the other hand, was into equality and super-way into getting down.

The first thing you need to know about Reich is that he is out there. A look at the local promotional materials in the cabin’s Welcome To Rangeley three-ring binder, you’ll learn Reich was a “researcher” who was doing “energy experiments.” This leads one to wonder whether he perhaps invented the electric car. What it means, in fact, is that he thought he had discovered the primal life force—seriously—the cosmic energies of all life, which he called orgone. Much like the midi-chlorians that make a Jedi, orgone charges all organic matter and is present in the very atmosphere. Reich fled Europe in 1939 and moved to Maine in 1942, which is when he built Orgonon, an observatory, library and lab on 160 acres amidst Rangeley’s lakes to study the cosmic life energy. He also started building orgone accumulators—to collect the stuff—boxes that layered metal against organic matter, with wood on the outside and metal on the inside. The accumulators could pull down orgone from the atmosphere and, well, accumulate it into concentrated  energy, like a bullion. The idea is that if a person sat in an orgone accumulator everyday for a certain amount of time they would be cured from cancer, illness and become generally more healthy and revitalized.[1] When we showed up the next day and asked to sit in some accumulators the staff member who greeted us told us that the orgone accumulator is not a magic box, you have to sit in it every day, thirty minutes to an hour for weeks at a time to see results and that everyone thinks they will sit in the accumulators for a long time but they always leave after five minutes. The four of us scoffed at such lackadaisical treatment of the orgone accumulators. He left, we sat in some accumulators and after about five minutes of sitting in silence all of us left our boxes. While we tried to exit quietly, we were stopped by the same staff member who turned out to be the assistant director of The Wilhelm Reich Museum and Infant Trust. What followed was an intense conversation, where we first convinced him of our genuine interest in Reich, after which he admitted that he didn’t use his box, he made a blanket that he sleeps under, using steel wool and sheepskin for the layers of metal/organic material., it would boost the immune system, cure illnesses like cancer and stream the positive life force directly into the body.

The other thing you need to know about Reich is that he is really important. W. Reich worked with Sigmund Freud and was a well-respected psychoanalyst in his early working years in Austria. He hightailed it out of Germany in 1933[2] to Scandinavia, settling in Oslo until 1939, when he came to the U.S. Reich connected Freud and Karl Marx, postulating that a person’s neurosis came from not just their relationships with their mothers, but from all aspects of their life – the physical, sexual, economic and social conditions that shape the lives of individuals. Essentially, a poor rural fisherman is going to have a different set of living conditions and neuroses than a city-dwelling wealthy shipping merchant.

Then there is transference. Freud’s description of a psychoanalyst is someone who acts as a blank slate so that, ideally, the patient will project their own neuroses onto the analyst, shedding light on the therapy that needs to be done. At the same time, this dynamic fosters patients to transfer strong emotions – from a relationship with a significant person – towards the therapist: the patient falls in love with their therapist. Freud thought he could make use of this phenomenon by analyzing the transference. Reich came along and said Hey, if we are getting love transference from our patients, we’re also going to get hate transference, as well. Our patients friggin’ hate us. No one had considered that yet.

See? This was a really smart guy. He influenced lots of people like Saul Bellow and Yoko Ono[3] and psychological developments like primal therapy.

OK, so maybe even his important ideas were way out. Reich’s work had always been concerned with human sexuality and he believed that good sex was a fundamental part of the healthy life. That’s not a mind-blowing statement today, it’s a generally accepted truth. But to get specific: Reich thought that pent-up sexual energy could cause physical blockages in the body – in muscle fiber and organ tissue – and he called these blockages “body armor.” Of course, a super-strong orgasm could shatter body armor because it would release lots of sexual energy. Theoretically, a person that could regularly release enough sexual energy through orgasms could keep themselves healthy. On the other hand, if a person denied themselves orgasms, the armor would become hard and stiffen, causing neurotic and physical illnesses. Reich isn’t talking about your workaday orgasm here, he’s talking about skin-meltingly transcendent orgasms that pulse throughout the entire body. He sets the bar pretty high for pleasurable orgasms.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Reich’s enthusiastic praise of orgasms is addressing only the ladies. After all, women and their desires – or lack of them – did capture the interest of psychoanalysts from early on. The tumescent penis seems to take care of itself, its demands are simple, and ejaculation, even in the most unpracticed of hands, is all but guaranteed. Reich flipped the concept of frigidity on its ear by saying that what passes for the male orgasm – ejaculation – is a pale version of what men could have. Sure, Reich thought that most women were frigid, but that wasn’t exactly news since most Freudians took that as given. But Reich thought that most men were frigid, too, and this mind-fucked his male colleagues, who thought they had one up on the ladies.

What Reich really wanted was for all people to be free, non-conformist, totally in touch with their genitals (sorry), able to have teeth-knocking, eye-crossing, body-throbbing orgasms that kept them healthy and happy. (He totally preferred the boning cure to the talking cure.) Reich started tracing sources of repression and realized that repression starts in infancy and childhood. While he could coach an adult into therapeutic sex as a kind of analysis on the fast-track, W.R. really wanted to find ways to not repress children to begin with, to prevent the initial body armoring that laid down the pathways to neurosis.

Reich left Europe because at some point it became a less than welcoming place for Jews, even less for horndog Jewish psychiatrists. The road through Rangeley has signs for the turnoff to The Wilhelm Reich Museum and Infant Trust, the symbol for which deserves a dedicated page on, but wouldn’t get it because the symbol is purposefully phallic and to date there is no

8/5/10 1335h

Tour begins. Tour guide takes us to a small room to watch a film on Reich. I fall asleep as soon as the room darkens and the electric waves of the television roll over me.

8/5/10 1336h

Christian presses his leg against mine to wake me up. I nod vigorously to show I am alert.

8/5/10 1337h

I fall asleep again. Repeat the above entry.

8/5/10 1338h

Christian gives up trying to keep me awake.

8/5/10 1400h

Video ends. I feel the damp spot on my shirt where I drooled and become embarrassed.  Tour guide collects us to go into the house.

8/5/10 1615h

We’ve seen the observatory, office, nap room, library, the paintings that Reich made as well as his paints and brushes. We’ve heard about his efforts at cloud-busting, by which the Wilhelm Reich Museum and Infant Trust actually mean rain-making, and have seen some of the cloud-busting equipment, which employ orgone energy to work. Reich saved the Maine blueberry crop of 1953 with his cloud-busting technology.

The tour has ended but we dither still. I ask one of the tour guides if there is an orgone accumulator we can sit in. She says that there are some boxes down in the Student Laboratory, which is now used for staff offices. If we go there tomorrow at ten am and ask nicely, someone will let us in and we can sit in the accumulators. We drift over to the W.R. gift shop where a woman who must have been past retirement manned the cash register. I ask her what she thinks about W.R. She smiles shyly and says “oh, he was before his time. He was right about a lot of things.” I nod and she nods. After ten seconds of nodding she adds “like about cancer and cloud-busting and all.” Christian buys a book and a postcard. When he hands the cashier his credit card she smiles (again, shyly) and says “sometimes I steal these by mistake.” He signs the slip and after a small hike to WR’s tomb we all pile in the car to head back to the cabin.

8/5/10 1705h

As we turn out of Orgonon Laura spots berries. We pull over and the four of us practically run to pick wild blackberries and blueberries. The hills around Orgonon are loaded with berries, and no one minded us there, picking and eating until our tongues turned blue. I had a Feeling I’d never had before, some simple happiness in the serendipity between our human needs and the lands’ offering in a place that still feels wild. Because that part of Maine is an Old New England, all forests and beasts and witches. It feels unknown by man¸ unknowable. And still, there is this happy moment.

We pick almost a quart of blackberries and blueberries. We stop at the Rangeley I.G.A. to buy Grape Nuts ice cream on the way home.

8/5/10 1745h

Arrive back at cabin. We all change into bathing costumes to swim in the lake. Except I do not swim in the lake as I had been recently tattooed and fear there might be something in the water that could make the tattoo infected. I tend to err on the hypochondriac side of health issues, suffering from the variant of hypochondria that causes me to think I may have horrible diseases but will never admit when I am actually ill.

The three swimmers report that Rangeley Lake is dark but clear and warm. I take some notes on the porch and wave at them from time to time. We drink some cold beer and watch the sun go down. The Ducks return for their evening visit but leave quickly. I suppose we are more of a morning spot for them.

8/5/10 1955h

Chowder-making begins. Christian does some culinary magic and produces one of the best fish chowders of all time. We all agree: it is awesome. 

8/5/10 2230h

After a lengthy discussion to decide the evening’s movie, we watch “Wanted,” mostly because I told everyone I really wanted to watch it.

Despite my best intentions and after thirty minutes of demonstrating my commitment to watching the full film, I fall asleep.

[1] As in, every day for an hour for six months.
[2] In a truly impressive move, Reich left in March 1933, just two months after Hitler took power as Chancellor. What was it that prompted this sibylic fleeing of fascism? He read the newspaper. More specifically, Reich read a newspaper that published a scorcher of a critique on his book The Sexual Struggle of Youth, in which he was vilified for being a Jew and a communist as well as being a ladies’ man (true – though he was not raised in the faith – true and true). After reading the excoriation, he put the paper down, called for his mistress and their suitcases, packed and they rolled up north the next day. In this act, Reich confirms what all writers fear: negative reviews do mean that They are out for you and you should leave the country.
[3] He is not, however, the one to blame for breaking up the Beatles.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Bill Murray

He sets you up to knock 'em down. Yes, even here I still have my crush on Bill Murray. Commitment to silliness ranks high with me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Have You Ever Noticed That A Moose Can Look Like A Special-Needs* Horse? (Part Two) (*Thanks to Heather for the correction)

8/4/10 1900h

We meet our friends Laura and Andy at the previously agreed-upon location on Main Street in Rangeley. They are just as concerned about food as Christian and I are. The four of us could be described as food and drink enthusiasts, chowhounds. We walk the handful of blocks on Main Street to pick out the restaurants we would consider for dinner. There seemed to be three kinds of dining establishments in Rangeley: sports bar & grill, established older local restaurants – a pizza joint and a diner – and new eateries. Correction: one new eatery.

The four of us decide to go the rental cabin first and come back for dinner. The cabin perches on a steep hill over Lake Rangeley and is quite charming. It has the right amount of lakeside Maine hokiness: wildlife-themed upholstery, sturdy wood furniture, wallpaper featuring a family of black bears playing in front of a log cabin without tipping over into campiness. After the business of deciding bedrooms, unpacking cars, opening windows, and a general freshening up, we head back to Rangeley ready to eat.

8/4/10 2015h

This is a pleasure: going down the blocks, reading menus one by one , deciding where to have dinner. The pleasure is in weighing the options, seeing how creative or uniform the menu is, whether a restaurant can re-invent a dish. Duck Fat (in Portland, Maine), for example, uses duck fat to fry their fries. A staple of the menu redone, and so delicious too. All of us hope that there will be a culinary revelation at the next place. Or the next place. Or the next. We even have a phrase for a menu that looks promising: “There are a few things here I wouldn’t mind putting in my mouth.” (yes, really.) We decide that the new place looks the best.

The new place was very new. So new that the staff didn’t seem sure of what to do. For example, we ordered olive bruschetta and received brie and anchovy bruschetta.  The food and drinks were all fine nonetheless. I didn’t mind putting a few dishes from there in my mouth.

8/4/10 2200h

Arrive back at cabin. Since we have come to Rangeley to visit the Wilhelm Reich estate, Christian proposes that we prep ourselves by watching a film he brought named WR. We all agree and, after reading some byzantine instructions posted on the refrigerator regarding various remote controls, the DVD begins.

I fall asleep almost immediately in a padded arm chair whilst sitting up, head drooping.

I was informed the next day that Christian walked behind me and quietly suggested that I might be more comfortable stretched out on a bed. I apparently turned my head, Exorcist-like, and said “I’m fine” and promptly resumed snoozing. Why is it when one is caught dozing one protests no no no, I’m not sleeping? As far back as I can remember, I’ve never heard anyone cop to it, Yeah I’m sleeping and it’s awesome! I’ve tried to tell myself that I should just be an adult about it and not pretend to be in a conscious state when I’m like unconscious. That is, if one is capable of pretending while sleeping. I don’t claim superpowers of consciousness, I just wonder how much the dozing mind is connected to the part of the brain that tells the mouth to say I’m awake, I’m awake.

8/5/10 0745h

I drive to I.G.A. Rangeley. I buy: 1 gallon milk, 1 bunch (5) bananas, 1 lb strawberries, 1 pint Maine blueberries (placed next to the California blueberries, absolutely insane, I know), 4 single-serving size yogurts – 2 peach, 2 pomegranate.

8/5/10 0825h

Coffee making begins, press-pot style. We've figured out that the press pot is really the best way to get the full flavor of the coffee bean. But you have to start with a decent coffee bean to really enjoy it. I like something along the lines of a cafĂ© au lait, and I probably drink the equivalent of four cups of coffee in a long morning, two in a regular morning. But this is vacation, so this is a long morning. Christian and I drink our first cups in weathered Adirondack chairs on the lake’s edge.

Then, quite suddenly our first meeting with the Ducks. Ducks do not get enough credit in general for how fast they can move when they want to move. There is a Mother Duck and five almost-adult ducklings. They are different shades of brown: light and dark, very pretty. The Mother Duck has some kind of algae hanging down from her bill and the Almost Grown Ducklings try to eat the algae off her bill. It gives the strange appearance that the A.G.D. are wrestling with the M.D. The Ducks storm the banks, squawking, toddling around our chairs and close to us – they are not scared of humans– and scavenge around for a while before plunging back into the lake swimming on. I wonder how the Ducks schedule their days.

More coffee. Breakfast: fruit, yogurt, homemade granola that we brought. Andy and Laura wake up. The four of us effortlessly manage a sweet harmonious state of slowly getting ready for the day and doing other stuff -- reading, talking -- both solo and in pairs and trios. More coffee, some nibbles.  

The decision is made to go to lunch, buy groceries and then to Wilhelm Reich’s estate. Since the shops closed early and we might dither at the estate at the end of the day, we thought it best to get all the groceries needed before we went to the estate/museum.

8/5/10 1145h

As we come into Rangeley proper, we see there is a craft fair on Lake Street, just off Main Street in the middle of town. It stops us all in our tracks. We instantly move dithering to the top of the day’s agenda. It may be a small craft fair, but just the same all four of us drift towards it, as though the beaded toe rings and wooden wind chimes were singing sirens.

In the very back corner of this craft fair I found something I have wanted for at least two years and have never seen: a foraging basket. Picture a basket more tall than wide with a sturdy base, the top an open oval, with backpack straps. Some might call it a papoose, but to me it’s a foraging basket for fiddleheads, ramps, kindling, the sorts of things I find deep in the woods behind the farmhouse.

Foraging basket purchased and wearing said item, we leave the craft fair and do some shopping. There is a fancy-pants grocery store on Main Street where we buy a few foodstuffs. Over to the fishmonger’s for fresh haddock, back to the cabin to drop off, everything. We stop at a small barbecue stand for lunch (because revelatory cuisine can be anywhere and this place had very good hamburgers -- he put bacon in with the ground beef), and, finally to Wilhelm Reich’s estate.

general specific

I am the unreliable witness to my own existence