Today we drove west to Manhattan, Kansas, to attend a brunch in honor of my sister’s graduation. She’s the last of my siblings to finish college, which makes us six for six. After brunch my grandparents had an open house for Lois’s friends, teachers and family. When the punch ran low, my grandmother sent me into the kitchen to find more Southern Comfort, which she emptied into the punch bowl without bothering to add more orange juice. While in the kitchen I met a couple of my grandfather’s colleagues in the chemistry department. We opened the liquor cabinet, which was also stocked with bottles of elements like magnesium and copper sulfate. “Your grandfather is a true chemist,” one of them said, removing the bottle of Metaxa that he’d bought in Greece last summer as a gift for my grandpa. We couldn’t find any proper shot glasses, so we drank the Metaxa out of miniature beakers.
Tonight was our Open Studios event hosted by the Charlotte Street Foundation. In preparation, I printed out a curated selection of excerpts from my typewriter rambles and set up the Participatory Poetry Pedestal — an Olympia SM9 typewriter mounted on an old garden column in the hallway. The only person I saw using it was a 10-year-old girl whose mother instructed her on how to hit the keys strongly enough to make an inked impression. While installing my new dream catcher earlier in the day, I accidentally knocked down the wall clock, which wouldn’t start back up even after I reinstalled the battery. It’s the second clock I’ve broken since this blog cycle began last month. To remind myself it wasn’t working, I hung it upside-down. I was worried it would look like a bad attempt at art by an obvious non-artist, but its subtlety and value as an installation grew on me over time. Because it looked the same as the clocks that hang in offices and classrooms everywhere, you don’t notice at first that it’s upside-down with the second hand frozen in place. When you do, you start to question the legitimacy of the rest of the environment — the fluorescent lights, the furniture, the papers on the desk. Closer inspection reveals that this is not a normal American workplace but a laboratory of whimsy and superfluous creation, something you might not realize without the clue of the inverted timepiece. At least that was my read — I don’t think anyone else noticed. In preparation for the event, I spent the week working on an “exquisite corpse” booklet with the other Charlotte Street writers-in-residence. We wrote a collaborative story and a sestina, which is a complicated but seductive style of poem in which the last words of each line are repeated in a prescribed order throughout the six stanzas. Toward the end of the night, we gave a spontaneous reading for some of the artists, dancers and a handful of guests who had stayed around to hang out and drink. Sitting in the windowsill trading stanzas with the other writers and volunteer readers, I felt like I was in one of those snapshots from past Kansas City art events that I’ve seen in retrospective shows and publications. Not a moment of great significance by any means, but one of the little events that make up the larger narrative of art and literature in a constantly evolving city. When I got back to my studio to clean up the wine cups and cookie crumbs, I looked at the typewriter to see what the girl had written. At the top of the page were two faint but legible lines: This castle is like a sad castle with no waffles. This castle is like a sad castle with no waffles for my dumptruck. If anything better is composed in my studio during the length of my residency, I will be surprised.
Today I bought a dream catcher from the teenage daughter of one of my coworkers. She was selling them at our company’s annual craft fair, along with handmade purple scarves and paintings of wolves in a Southwestern setting. The dream catcher had pretty bead work and lovely brown feathers, and $15 seemed like the right price. As I counted out the money, I asked if it would still work if I hung it up some place where I didn’t usually sleep. She didn’t seem to know whether I was kidding, and her tiny hint of a smile seemed more one of incredulity than amusement. But after either catching on or just deciding she didn’t want to miss out on a sale, she said it would still work just fine.
I was wrong. The weather today was exactly the same as the weather yesterday.
In the elevator yesterday, an older guy in canvas work overalls said something I didn’t catch because of the smooth salsa music and because he was still breathing heavily from the effort of boarding the elevator, retrieving his security badge, and selecting the proper floor. He repeated, much louder this time, “The weather today is different than the weather yesterday.” The way he said it, not emphasizing any particular syllable, was so matter of fact that I could think of absolutely nothing to say in response. After what felt like several long moments, I said, “And it will be different again tomorrow.” He acted as if he found this very interesting, but before I could reveal the source or the particulars of my knowledge, it was time for me to exit.
Tonight I drove to the studio to try and fashion a light sculpture out of a glass head, a pile of books, and the electrical fixture that had once belonged to a folding paper lantern. The sculpture was a failure, of course, so I wound up going home just after midnight. On the entrance ramp to I-35, I came scarily close to getting cut off. But fortunately the fat old raccoon managed to scuttle back into the parking lot shrubbery from which it came.
Sometimes when I drink a beer or something sugary too close to bedtime, I wind up being dehydrated, which leads to bizarre and often terrifying dreams. This morning I woke up mourning the loss of an estranged friend who, to the best of my knowledge, is still alive and fine somewhere near New Jersey, but who nonetheless seemed in grave danger after my dream that he had leapt to his death from the top of the Kansas Spillway. The Kansas Spillway is a giant cave/waterfall/cliff that does not exist in real life, but which kept ominously showing up in my dream in people’s Facebook feeds. Some posted angrily that they hoped one person’s reckless actions wouldn’t result in the Spillway Trail’s being closed to all visitors. Another just shared a broken heart emoticon. Eventually someone sent me a link to an article about the tragedy with the message “Wasn’t this your friend?” Sure enough, there was a picture of W, whom I’ve barely spoken to in years. The article/obituary mentioned the victim’s loyalty to student senate and Royals baseball, showing him smiling and wearing a jersey, but made no mention of his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz or his passion for American poetry. Even upon waking, I felt the kind of loss and responsibility that must overwhelm people when this kind of thing happens in real life. The sensations have since faded a bit, the way they do, but I still hope to talk to him soon.