Four reasons I love my cats

• Not feeling like getting out of bed?  No problem.  At least one cat is always glad to justify my abject laziness by cuddling with me, purring gently for hours.

• I like to randomly bust in on them while they are sleeping or licking their butts or indulging in other feline activities and say, “You guys are behaving like ANIMALS!”  Then I laugh when they look confused.  Then I pet them.  I’m also partial to using a 1930s Chicago movie cop voice: “Scuttlebutt around the precinct has it you’re a kitty, see?”  With cats in the house, this behavior makes me charmingly eccentric.  Without them, it would make me diagnosable.

• When I am startled by a weird noise upstairs, I can tell myself it’s the cats messing around rather than freak out that a foamy-mouthed madman has just bashed his way into my apartment to axe me into quivering meat cubes.

• They like to sleep like this:

One is cuddling with my jammies, the other is sleeping in the wreckage of a fuzzy blanket.  This makes the fact that I never make my bed a public service.  Seriously, if you’re looking for ways to vindicate your natural tendencies toward inertia, you can’t do better than get a couple of cats.

a new hope

Introducing a bold and visionary new presidential candidate

into the Republican field:

Ham Sandwich 2012

  • tough on crime
  • best foreign policy experience
  • delicious
  • cannot make the economy any worse
  • endorsed by a wincing John McCain, and Ficus.

Just substitute “Ham Sandwich” for “Ficus.”  Thank you, America.

the glass delusion

Happy 2012!

I started this blog two years ago, a year before 13 rue Thérèse came out.  It is still put-putting along to record some of the random firings that sometimes occur in my braincase.  Yay me!  Speaking of random firings, In the Red was horribly stuck for a long time.  Then I started spending all my time thinking about this weird religious ecstatic from late medieval France who’s occasionally made appearances in my head.  I was planning on making her my next book, but I was like, fuck it, since I’m not writing anything, I might as well work on this.  I wrote a few pages in her wigged-out voice.  Then I did a whole bunch of research about random late medieval stuff.  They had the most fascinating mental illnesses back then.  There was about a 200 year span from the 15th to the 17th century where it was fairly common for people who were probably schizophrenics to suffer from something called The Glass Delusion.  They believed they were literally made of glass, which made them terrified they would break, and also that people could see through them to their very souls.  A pretty awesome allegory for the human condition, if you ask me.  Apparently, King Charles VI of France suffered from this ailment and wore protective padded clothing during his psychotic breaks to keep from getting shattered.  (And then the English were like, hey, the French king is fucking nuts!  Let’s invade and take his country.  And thus began the Hundred Years War.)  For a completely fascinating take on the glass delusion, check out this article.

Speaking of madness and the Hundred Years War, did you know that Joan of Arc’s field marshal was a child-raping serial killer?  What.  The.  Fuck.  Well, um, at least it’s reassuring to know that murderous sexual predators are not an innovation of the modern world.

History is so fascinating when you begin to delve into the fucked up personalities of the seemingly sterile actors in your textbooks.  Anyway, this was an interesting little side trip that had the additional benefit of getting me unstuck: I wrote a few pages of In The Red today.  So maybe the answer is to toggle back and forth between two novels while working.  Either this will keep me from losing the rest of my fraying wits, or it will completely finish the job.  Stay tuned.

Let us close with a public service announcement for my fellow Americans: If you’ve been watching the electoral process lately and thinking, Jesus, I would vote for a ham sandwich over any of these dudes, I recommend googling some of the hunchbacked insane homicidal venereally-diseased kings that used to run things in Europe and reflecting that democracy is indeed the worst form of government, except for all the other ones.

Apparently, sending your kids to sleep over at his house was somewhat ill-advised.

201(1-2)

Whoa.  Today is the last day of 2011.  That went by fast.  What have I accomplished this year?  I have:

  • gained some weight
  • lost some hair
  • broken a bone
  • passed a kidney stone

From this we can infer that the human body is indeed God’s finest joke.  Also I have:

  • published a novel
  • and some stories
  • had a host of adventures

So, not too bad.  Next year I am starting a new job teaching humanities at my local community college.  Next year I also hope to:

  • finish my next novel
  • and some stories
  • have a host more adventures
  • not break any bones
  • not pass any kidney stones
  • maybe reproduce.  I’ll pencil that in.

We’re also going to have to move.  Moving sucks.  Nothing like moving to make you ponder burning all your books.  Because–things that are dense:

  • bricks
  • black holes
  • books

So, 2012 resolutions:

  • collect plush animals
  • take up pillow making
  • basically, a light-weight hobby, is what I’m saying.

Happy new year, everybody!

Passing the Stone: Adventures in Pee

It all started with a rather noticeable, if not earth-shattering, discomfort in my abdomen.  Then the need to pee every twelve seconds even though nothing came out.  Then the realization that hey, I sure have been urinating a whole lot of blood these past couple of weeks.  Then a phone call to my HMO, followed by a course of antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.  Then increasing pain, becoming more localized in the right side of my back.  Then a slow but unmistakable drip.  It was very sad.  Seriously.

Things that are sad:

  1. war
  2. cancer
  3. smelling like pee

One evening, as the pain was turning rather vicious, it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t have a urinary tract infection, maybe I had a kidney stone.  When I spoke the words “kidney stone,” it was as if I had summoned a demon.  My entire urinary tract went into spasms for the whole night that felt like I might give birth out of my pee hole.  It felt very, very wrong.  Not only the intensity of the pain, but also the fact that it was entirely the wrong aperture for this sort of business.  My vagina was like, somebody call the police.

Followed, the next morning, an excursion to my trusty HMO facility.  A doctor gently tapping over my right kidney and asking, “does this hurt?”  Then, once they had peeled me off the ceiling and administered sedatives, a meditative sojourn inside a CAT scan machine, watching it spin up around me like a giant hard drive.  “It is about the size of a pea,” they told me.  “You should be able to pass it.”  Then they sent me home with some really, really good drugs.

Followed a blurry series of days that I spent mostly unconscious, being woken up by peaks in the pain.  The occasional change of pajama bottoms to accommodate the unfortunate drip.  Taking a lot of awkward pees into a strainer.  Somewhere in there, a field trip to a job interview.  (I am teaching humanities at my local community college next semester!)  (Really.)  (Tip for an outstanding job interview: percocet.  It will mellow you right out.)  More pain.  Bizarre opiate dreams.  Then a sad phone call to my urologist to tell her that it has been days of unrelenting ouchiness without progress, that I was fairly convinced it wouldn’t pass, that I might need “The Procedure” she had mentioned earlier.

The urologist described The Procedure.  I would be thankfully anesthetized.  They would put a scope up my pee hole and through my bladder, all the way into my poor galvanized little ureter.  Then they would laser the stone into a bunch of bitty fragments that they would then extract.  This all sounded kind of awesome and Star Trek to me, until she told me about The Shunt.  Because the ureter was likely to swell up at being so invaded, they would have to leave a little shunt in there post procedure to make sure it could drain.  At which point I queried, “so wait, I would wake up with this device still in my body?”  “Yes.”  “And how does said device come out, exactly?”  “Well, we tie it to a little string that we’d leave trailing out of your urethra, and after about three days you would pull it out of there like a tampon.”

Had I not been so extremely sedated when I heard that, I likely would have never stopped throwing up.  Instead I said, “huh, that’s festive,” and proceeded with scheduling The Procedure.  Fortunately, if my upper brain hadn’t quite registered The Shunt and what it would likely feel like, my urinary tract had received the message.  It spasmed with such terror that I had to run to the loo and once again grunt over a strainer pondering the absurdities of the human body.  But lo, when I checked the strainer, I saw that I had indeed been delivered: I had urinated a small mineral accretion that looked like sandy gravel coated with some kind of ichor (kidney juice?).  After all the drama my body underwent extruding this thing, its appearance was somewhat anticlimactic.  Actually, it was even sort of cute.  It looked like a bitty mollusk, gritty from the ocean floor.

Now I get to take my spiky mollusk to a lab and find out what it’s made of.  Meanwhile, I gave my cat the paper bag my pee strainer came in and the glee with which she’s been tearing it to pieces is truly adorable.  I’ve been finding bits of it all over the apartment.  My cat thinks kidney stones are awesome.  She gets me to cuddle her in bed for days on end AND she gets a new toy to shred.  Me, I’m just happy the drip has stopped.

Trust me when I say you would rather not have this object in your life.

The fallacy of authorial intent

I had three speaking engagements about my book in the past week!  The audiences were: (1) lovely elder book club afternoon tea ladies (2) rowdy night crowd in a dim bar, and (3) sleepy community college students at eight in the morning.  They were all completely huggable, in their extremely varied ways.  The community college students had some kind of test coming up about my book (still trying to wrap my brain around this concept!), and one of them quipped that I might be kind enough to give them the answers.  I laughed and asked the instructor, “Now, didn’t you tell them about the fallacy of authorial intent?”

The next day I had a chat with a fellow novelist about my time in academia.  He wanted to know how I could stomach it as an artist.  I said I loved the teaching.  “But the writing you have to do there!” he said, “what about the spiritually bankrupt rape of art that is literary theory?’

Oh yeah, that.  I said I viewed it as a game, a challenge to speak their language and pass as one of them.  I would try to be the author while also obliterating the author, there was a sort of fun in that.  Then I thought about it some more, and wrote him the following after I got home:

I was just thinking of our discussion re: academics on my ride home, whilst listening to angry Germans shout incomprehensibly over industrial guitars.  It was not only the game-like qualities of their tortured prose that allowed me to write it, but also the very pain it induced.  I did it with the same sort of wincing glee as a flagellant.  It’s always good to remind yourself that what you pour your soul into doesn’t actually mean anything.  Plus if you want to get the taste of God in your mouth, there’s no more efficient way than totally believing two contradictory things at the same time.  Ooooooh tasty paradox–fanning my toes out just thinking about it.

Back when I spent much time in journal archives (JSTOR, we were lovers once, you and I), sometimes I would come upon a very old article.  Some 1935 treatise about Baudelaire by some long-dead white dude whose pipe smoke I could smell right through the computer, written with such utter devotion to Literature that it was frankly a little embarrassing.  The doggish eagerness with which they used to lick us!  Now they cannot study us without also killing us.  Aren’t they so much sexier now that they hate us?  Don’t you just want to fuck them all?!  So adorable.

Eros and Thanatos, how inseparable are you?

In which metaphors start off okay, then start to go wrong.

Ahoy fine people!  So, I went to Davis.  I am super proud of the Aggie students and faculty.  At the protest, the kids were so cute and polite and respectful it was almost wrong.  (Come on!  Get MAD!)  But there sure were a whole lot of us.  Thousands upon thousands.

Yay us!

Would you like to see a whole bunch of me?  If so, please come to the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley this Thursday at 1 PM to watch me shower the audience with history, romance, and my dazzling personality.  If you would like to see a little less of me–like maybe have a little amuse-bouche of me rather than the full-on Elena platter–please come to the Babylon Salon Reading Series at the Cantina in San Francisco this Saturday at 7 PM.  I will be part of a varied tasting menu of delicious authors.

This week, I have submitted to my ongoing obsession with this whole Titanic thing and written a short, hopefully polished piece about it.  I also got feedback from my agent about the perfume nose story, so that one’s back on the table.  Short stories are good: it’s kind of a relief to suck over the course of fifteen pages rather than suck over the course of three hundred.  To stay fit, you have to vary your training in sucking: even if a suckage marathon is the goal, sometimes you have to do a suckage sprint to keep your prose muscles spry at sucking.  Wow.  I apologize for the last two sentences.  But, clearly I am not ashamed enough of myself, because I did not delete them.