KALI'S DAY excerpt
"Candice hears the sounds of birds. The last traces of light stain the cave’s entrance far from where she sits in full lotus covered only in the ashes of the dead. She drifts in and out, sometimes jolted from a vast emptiness by the grumbling of her stomach. So far she can silence hunger by simply focusing and re-focusing on her breath. But the stomach is a dumb animal and its indifference to “mind over matter” is becoming more apparent in the increasing volume of its complaint. It clenches itself like a fist and it’s all she can do to keep her eye closed, though she hears something scratching along the ground somewhere to her left. She’s conquered fear, never feared the dark until right before she conquered it. In another lifetime, there was a longing that she barely remembers. So it’s not fear or need that distracts her now. It’s the knowledge that, other than herself, something animate, something alive is within reach. Most likely it’s one of those large succulent beetles, thickly armored against what she is now in most danger of becoming—a predator, since she hasn’t really conquered appetite, has only concealed it, and despite having risen above the desire for even the simplest bowl of rice, is about to succumb to defeat for the taste of something that until now has been far from tempting or even remotely relevant to the satisfaction of any desire, let alone hunger—especially hunger.
She doesn’t open her eye. But she imagines it crawling heavily over the various obstacles in its way: pebbles and clumps of damp earth, a random search for whatever nourishment, dirt, dead insects, bits of excrement, it might stumble upon."
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The sun has finally come to Paris, though if you don't stand in the sun it feels like late March or September. I decided to go outside to work, write by hand, something I do when I can't bear another moment in front of this screen. So I went to the Jardins des Plantes to look at flowers and find a cheap place to eat a sandwich and write in my notebook. I arrived with an empty stomach and a full bladder with no bathroom in sight. I ordered a sandwich and asked where the toilets were and was told straight that way and then make a left and keep going. That seemed far so i decided to eat my sandwich first. It seemed kind of lame, though, considering there was a food concession next to a playground which was visited by children who were clearly no longer in diapers. Inconvenient is putting it mildly. So after my sandwich I trudged off following the directions. After a while it seemed too long a distance so I walked back the other way to the playground thinking I'd misunderstood, being not that proficient in aural French, which even though it may sound like it, is not a sexual technique. I asked someone in the playground, still incredulous that there wouldn't be a place for children to make doody and sissy, which is what we called it in Brooklyn where I grew up, though I do remember people holding their little kids over the gutter to pee rather than take them upstairs to do it in private. Anyway, the woman said there wasn't any in the playground, so I went back in the direction I came from and asked two old people sitting on a bench doing crossword puzzles. They pointed straight ahead and said it was just a little further next to the entrance to the zoo. I walked for what seemed like three city blocks, avoiding getting too caught up in looking at the flowers, and finally came to the PortaSan (however you spell it.) There was a red light which read: "Hors de service" meaning "Out of service." I was getting too pissed but couldn't even find a place to do that, and what's more, I hadn't even stopped to smell the roses. I went off in another direction looking for a gardener or someone who might know what's what, and found a guy digging around in the rose garden. He directed me back in the direction of the PortaSan and i told him it was out of order. He looked apologetic and told me to find the 'gardien' and ask him, perhaps he would know more...Walking further, avoiding the seductive alleys and walkways full of lush plantings, I found a bunch of beefy guys walking around in uniforms with gardening tools. Before they had a chance to send me off to the f'n PortoSan again, i explained that I'd already been there and wanted to know if there was an alternative. They said I should go into the nearby Museé de L'Homme, a complex of buildings spread over a dozen or so acres, another walk of about three blocks. So...I arrived in front of the first building and read the sign: "Fermé Mardi." Well, it just so happens it was Mardi and the museum was closed. I began considering peeing behind a bush or tree, figuring there must be some out of the way shady nook, it being a Botanical Garden and all. In the gardens of Brooklyn or the Bronx, for example, one could easily find such a place, certainly in Central Park, right? I began wishing that I had a companion with me to act as lookout--but that was not happening. French gardens are very formal with no hidden or overgrown areas, unless you go into the Labyrinth, which is populated with all kinds of people, lovers, parents and children and others you don't want to see with your pants down. But at this point I'm still trying to be optimistic. I walk around and around and...around. But, as I often try to ignore them, the facts inevitably win. I decide to ignore my need for the moment and go smell the roses. I am delighted when I discover among the rose beds an exquisitely naughty marble statue of Dionysus, with a sinister smile on his pointy-eared face looking down on the smaller, captive figure of Eros tied to his chest. Eros looks up over his shoulder at his captor with indignance, his defiant boy chest exposed to the viewer, straining wings spread. It is one of the most erotic sculptures I've ever seen. But as for the roses, most of them have been drowned by the excessive rain.
I decide that since I'm not far, more or less, from La Mosquée, which has an incredible hammam with a tea garden and restaurant, I'll go there for tea and use the bathroom. I walk about a half mile since I've come out from the exit furthest from the mosque.
After I use the bathroom I take a table inside one of my favorite rooms in the world, a Morrocan paradise where sparrows flit in and out of the open windows, landing on the brass tables foraging for crumbs of almond, rosewater and pistachio soaked in too much honey, though sparrows have no teeth and don't have to worry about cavities, and flit around so much they can probably eat 1000 times their weight. The voice of Oum Kalsoum and the sweet smell of tobacco being smoked in hookahs fills the room. So in the end, tout va bien--the simple pleasures of a pee and tea.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I'll miss seeing her occasional visits to the Bowery Poetry Club, lighting up the dark corner at the end of the bar. She emanated a unique glow from her blue eyes, cloud of white hair, and neon smile. I think the last time I saw her there, a couple of years ago, she and Bob were making out like a couple of teenagers. It was an image of love that lasts, and that's the way I'll always think of her.
----Original Message Follows----
From: "L--- P---"
Subject: Please, I need your Help Urgently
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 09:49:32 +0200
How are you doing today? I am sorry i didn't inform you about my traveling to Africa for a program called "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education, the program is taking place in three major countries in Africa which is Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria. It as been a very sad and bad moment for me, the present condition that i found myself is very hard for me to explain.
I am really stranded in Nigeria because I forgot my little bag in the Taxi where my money, passport, documents and other valuable things were kept on my way to the Hotel am staying, I am facing a hard time here because i have no money on me. I am now owning a hotel bill of $ 1550 and they wanted me to pay the bill soon else they will have to seize my bag and hand me over to the Hotel Management., I need this help from you urgently to help me back home, I need you to help me with the hotel bill and i will also need $1600 to feed and help myself back home so please can you help me with a sum of $3500 to sort out my problems here? I need this help so much and on time because i am in a terrible and tight situation here, I don't even have money to feed myself for a day which means i had been starving so please understand how urgent i needed your help.
I am sending you this e-mail from the city Library and I only have 30 min, I will appreciate what so ever you can afford to send me for now and I promise to pay back your money as soon as i return home so please let me know on time so that i can forward you the details you need to transfer the money through Money Gram or Western Union.
Dr. L--- P---
I am so sorry for your discomfort and i understand why you would write me for help, being that we are like sisters and you have been such an integral part of my life. I am buying a lottery ticket and sister--if it's the winning ticket it's got your name on it.
Love, your sister and best friend, Lana Turner
As a footnote, I actually googled Dr. L--- P--- and she does exist. She's a professor at an East Coast university and has also published a book on global public health policy and administration. Apparently the spammer has been doing her/his homework. Who knows, there might be someone out there claiming to be me and trying to get a $20,000 stipend to finish her novel in a shack somewhere in Mozambique.
Monday, August 13, 2007
I'm trying to keep it together but disintegration is always at my heels. For a moment I considered re-titling this "The Daily Flog," but I spend so much time battling my tendency to complain that i decided against it. Anyway, I googled it and it's already taken. I will forge ahead with "the path of least resistance" if it kills me.
I decided to try to go against another natural preference of working at night when it's dark outside and I can control the light inside, and most people are home doing god-knows-what and I don't really want to know about it. I tried it and after a week of working in the daytime began to feel as if a gray muck was settling over my soul. Daylight is best for outside activity and I was slipping into a werewolf mentality. To remedy this I decided to go for an afternoon swim at the public pool and ride there on one of the new free for the 1st 1/2 hour bikes that the mayor of Paris had installed in mid-July, a system called VELIB. I used one once coming home late from a friend's and it was super convenient.
I packed my gear and went to the conveniently located bike station across the street from my apartment. There were no bikes. Ok, there's another one not too far, even though it's in the wrong direction. I get there and the computer screen tells me i can't get a one-day pass with my bank card. Ok, there's another one, this time closer to where I'm headed, but not so close to the pool to make me want to walk. I get there and there's one lonely bike left whose red light I foolishly ignore. I go through the registration process. It registers my bank card and charges me the one euro fee plus 150 euro deposit. I couldn't get the bike to release from the parking station, but ok, I should have paid attention to the red light, should have known better. Now that i've been charged, though, I'm determined to get on a bike, damn it. There's another station further along, almost all the way to where i'm going. It's out of order. I end up walking to the pool--I can always get on a bike to come home. There's a man outside the pool who tells me it's closed due to "technical difficulties." This is not the first time this has happened and i sometimes wonder if it's just a sneaky way for the staff to get a day to themselves. I know there's a bike station, not that close, in the opposite direction of home, but hey--i paid my one euro.
So i trudge over there and finally get a bike assigned to me by the computer--Number 6. I straddle Number 6, lower the seat and slowly find my balance with my heavy bag on my shoulder since if i put it in the basket i'm afraid the badly balanced bike will start wavering into traffic. I stay on the sidewalk just to be sure I make it home without being creamed by the Alain Delon wannabes on motos. I seem to be going over speed bumps, but i'm on the sidewalk and can't figure out why there'd be speed bumps on the sidewalk. I look down and it all looks like normal pavement so i get off the bike and give a look. My rear tire is flat. The question now is--where do i dump this thing? First i try the station that was out of order, thinking maybe I can drop off a bike even if i can't take one. Nope. I go back to the one that wouldn't take my bank card, but YES! it takes my bike. I apply a well-made chestnut cream crepe to my frustrated intentions and walk home.
In total, I spent an hour and a half within a half mile radius that I could have spent at the Louvre, or walking through the Luxembourg Gardens but let's look at it this way--there was a three point payoff: Even though I didn't get to swim, I got a major workout walking from station to station and then pedalling uphill on a one ton bike with a flat rear tire. The crepe was really good. I think i'm making progress with my attitude problem.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
If you've landed here, you are on top of the Eiffel Tower, and maybe you'd rather be in Brooklyn. If so, I recommend you take one of the rides in ASTROLAND before they tear it down as this will be its last season before the raptors come and change Coney Island into another shiny corporate feedbag (the CYCLONE and the WONDER WHEEL will stay, as they are owned by New York City and have landmark status.) But they will never tear down the Eiffel Tower because it would be like tearing down the Chrysler Building which would be like tearing down the Eiffel Tower.
I was here, on the top of the E.T., for the third and hopefully last time for awhile, because my dear sister and brother-in-law were visiting and I would basically do anything to make them happy, especially on their first trip to Paris--even stand in line in the cold rain for two hours to get to the top and look around at the magnificence of this city for about 20 minutes, take pictures, and then, thankfully, go get a beer.
I am leaving my Montmartre paradise for New York Shitty in seven weeks and will be glad to see my son, sisters and ooooold friends again. The Parisians are good at complaining and there's lots to complain about everywhere, but I must admit I miss New York style kvetching. I'm sure the charm will wear off quickly, but Murray's Bagels and Hudson River here I come. Seven more weeks....I hope I find someone to stay here that loves plants. Writing is a solitary activity and sometimes the only living thing i touch for days at a time are my flowers and fragrant green friends on the balcony.Stay tuned....