Monday, February 22, 2010


I have one foot in Missouri, and one out West. Whenever I have a trip, the days leading up to it are sort of dreamlike: I still have things to do: Feed the children. Pack. Pick up minivan from the mechanic. Drop off a contract on campus. Laundry, errands, packing. I have a list. I can't find my sunglasses. My belt is too big. My glasses are resting oddly on my face and leaving a bright red mark by my nose that alarms my youngest child, but I can't be bothered to stop and have them adjusted. I wear contacts. I can't find my sunglasses.

I am reminded of a poem that I wrote twenty years ago-- is that meta, or just narcissistic? Or just evidence that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's the last stanza that I am reminded of. I actually say these lines to myself often: (will post the entire poem separately another time).


these are my concerns     oil
on the piano       cats

who keep their claws
perfectly out stretched


durable as egg


I walked through the snow today to drop off a contract for a project that has already been completed. Chasing down my own paychecks is one of the things I avoid the most, for some reason. If I could afford it, I would hire someone to take care of my invoicing and billing, depositing checks, etc. 

Speaking of meta and narcissistic, I was speaking with young poet Kasey today. She has a life story that should be written down. The fact that she is a beautiful writer just solidifies that fact. I told her that today. She said she doesn't think it's that interesting. I told her that that is how I respond when people tell me I should write a book about my first marriage. She replied, "I think it's fascinating." I said, "That is how I feel about YOUR life."

I think to some extent, we both worry that if we write about it, it will be viewed as a cry for sympathy, as, to quote Kasey, "an invitation to the pity party."

Her favorite book has some of the same subject matter. I said, "Why does this author get to write about it, and you don't?"

She said something about loving the author, but I'm not buying it. Kasey and I dribble little bits of information to each other, and she says things like, "Did he really do that?" and I say, "Is that a joke question?"  She makes offhanded comments, and I say, "I am absolutely horrified."

We sound like a fun pair, don't we?

Last week when I was with Aaron, we were standing outside, smoking Pall Malls (Garrison Keillor describes Pall Malls as "such a lovely cigarette for a young man," or something to that effect in one of his marvelous stories; I have decided that that makes it okay for me to smoke them sometimes too). Aaron said, "Most of the people I connect with the most are broken in some ways."

I have found that to be true of me too, though I am trying to balance that also with people who are either not broken or also fixed, lol.

Aaron also told me a quote by either Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut: "The difference between smokers and non-smokers is that non-smokers know they are going to die, but smokers know what they are going to die from."

While trying to find that quote exactly, I came across a couple of other ones I like:

Thank heaven, I have given up smoking again!... God! I feel fit.  Homicidal, but fit.  A different man.  Irritable, moody, depressed, rude, nervy, perhaps; but the lungs are fine.  ~A.P. Herbert
He who doth not smoke hath either known no great griefs, or refuseth himself the softest consolation, next to that which comes from heaven.  ~Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, What Will He Do With It? 
Here is a Vonnegut quote that approximates what Aaron said:
The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide.-- Vonnegut
[By the way, you should go here to read more Vonnegut quotes. I forget how much I love him.]

Here is a Mark Twain quote, and then I'll stop:
...when they used to tell me I would shorten my life ten years by smoking, they little knew the devotee they were wasting their puerile word upon -- they little knew how trivial and valueless I would regard a decade that had no smoking in it!
- letter to Joseph Twichell, 19 Dec 1870
It's probably wrong, but most smokers I know can identify with all of these quotes. Sometimes, if I am in the midst of telling a story from my life, I feel provoked to light a cigarette. I light it, exhale, and then gesture widely with the cigarette between the fingers of my right hand and say, "When people ask me why I smoke, I tell them, 'Why don't YOU smoke? Of COURSE I smoke!'"

Where was I? 

I was wobbling between today and Wednesday, hovering between now and then, hanging in the liminal spaces.

1 comment:

  1. I love smoking. I only did it for a couple of years in grad school but I loved every cigarette I smoked.

    So yeah...had to quit when I started having seizures. Obviously, smoking doesn't cause seizures, but it was my overall health that was in the toilet...

    Now, I'm a little more healthy but even 7 or 8 years later, I crave a smoke every now and then. :)