Friday, July 20, 2007


Life sucks, but a person can suck it back.

I've been out of writing commission for a few weeks for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we were dealing with 1) the death of David's beloved 87 year-oldgrandfather , 2) a broken air conditioner -- for the fourth
time -- and 3) a sudden swell of fleas in the apartment. Which caused
us to have to 1) move out to a friend's house (thank you, Diana) for a
week, after having just moved in one month before 2) purchase a new
vacuum cleaner, one with a bag so that we could remove it, full of
fleas, after every vacuuming session and take it directly to the trash
and 3) deal with how unpredictable life is overall.

We have been living in the wreck of reality -- without our routines to smooth
over the jagged edges of the way the world falls down around us, every
day. Living this way, there is no other option but to choose to see the
wreck differently, because it's not going to stop changing
catastrophically all the time. Catastrophe is the nature of life.

We have dealt with fleas before
, and upon seeing the first baby one hop[e] onto my leg, I spiraled into PTSD so hard, I got the wind knocked out of me when I hit the carpet. My dejection nearly got the best of me. Nevertheless, at 7:45 a.m., I got
online and googled "pest control in Houston."

Which is how I found The Pest King, Mr. Miles Self.

Mr. Self listened to my qualms about using chemicals to combat the fleas,
and he agreed with me. "Chemicals won't work for your problem. I hate
chemicals, and I use them everyday," he said. "What you need to do is
get yourself a good vacuum with a bag, and vacuum every inch of your
house. Move the furniture, lift the bookcases away from the wall, get a
crack 'n crevice tool. The fleas love to hide in the floor boards and
the cracks in the baseboards. Vacuum every inch; and then two days from
now, do it again. Then two days after that, do it again. If you do
that, I think you'll be miles ahead of the game."

"What vacuum cleaners would you recommend?" I asked. I have a Dirt Devil the size of a camper van; it has no bag. I don't mention this to the Pest King. I'm talking to a professional! here.

"Oh, Kirby. Or Electrolux. They're gonna run you a lot of money. It's not going to be cheap. But if I come over there, I'm gonna have to use chemicals and I'm telling
you that's not even gonna work.Chemicals'll only kill the fleas where the substance hits the surface. That's it. There're no residuals in these things anymore. Which is a good thing, but this is why I hate treating for fleas. I'd rather not do it. But I'll come over there for twenty bucks, and if you decide you need me to use
chemicals, we can apply the $20 to the cost, which isn't cheap either."

"Hmmmm," I say. "So the vacuuming -- "

"I have an Oreck, he says. "It's professional, what I use. It's a good machine. It'll cost you a lot, but it's worth it."

So I went to the Oreck store right around the corner from my new apartment. I tried to talk the salesmen into giving me a bunch of free stuff with my purchase. I
told him "my friend told me to come here because you guys would give me
a bunch of free stuff."

"No, you have to pay for the stuff," they said.

I acted perplexed. Diego crawled through the forest of Oreck uprights, set up on the clean, ultra-Hunter green carpet. I looked skeptical.

"We do have one that we're selling for half-price --"

"What's that one?" I said.

"The Teal Edition. It's being discontinued."

"What's the difference? Besides $200?"

"It's teal."

"That's the one I want."

Turns out when I bought the vacuum, they DID throw in some free stuff. Not enough, but whatever.

And as expensive as it was, it was a much better investment, certainly,
than my "free" car, which bled money from me for over 5 years.

And what was my alternative, in any case, to the Oreck? It was either Oreck, or wreck.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Do It Yourself

So much of writing is about writing, until the writer finds her subject.

For most of my life, my father has been my subject, a premise to which this blog attests. He takes up an enormous amount of space in my consciousness, always has. Now that he's dead, I'll bet he takes up even more.

His number one desire, at least the one he projected to me, was to live a meaningful life. Meaningful to himself, yes, but more importantly meaningful to others. More importantly to him. Or, I don't know....I used to think the latter was more important to him; i.e., the image he portrayed to others. And can we talk about his image for just one second? -- he reveled in it. This portrait of him, done by his Russian painter friend Alexi, occupied the space right beneath the ancestral portrait of Don Juan Forster, hanging above the fireplace.

As you can see by my brother's expressions, we all have our interpretations of my dad's image.

I propose that I hardly knew my father. I only knew him as a dad. Towards the latter part of his life, I was able to see him more as a human being, with parents and children, a man with 100,000 desires, living his best to sate every last one of them before his death.

He was not modest.

But he was honest. That is something I know we all can be proud of about my father. It's a gift to know that no matter the faults of the parent, that same parent is a human being, perfectly flawed because that is the number one condition of "being human." Yet even with the flaw, the parent earns his children's honor.

My father-in-law and I today talked about Coleridge, about Fancy, and threw lines from poems of ours back and forth with one another while sitting on his kitchen floor, with Diego and Clara circling the kitchen table. How perfect that the one thing I could NEVER talk to my father about -- my poetry; for reasons I can only begin to iron out -- is one of the deepest connections I have with my father-in-law: we are both writers, poets primarily. My father-in-law liked my line about "the small wings of speech" from my poem "Chaos Theories". I liked his line from the poem he's working on currently, "So I begin in memory, twisting scraps of [...] into facts" or something near to that.

We talked about how neither of us has read the entire Biographia Literaria, how both of us were obsessed with Coleridge at one point, still are in ways differently than we were before. I explained how I choose a genre in which to write: blog entries are about turning the daily into the daily bread. Fiction is about crafting art from an experience that seems ripe with symbolism. Poetry is about turning to the ether, pulling something from it, and through the imagination, creating something "Fanciful" from the sheer air: A rarity of the imagination, so rare that it makes the indecipherable plain. Poetry clears the mind's eye with all its glorious confusion. And there are no resolutions in poetry, only pauses.

There is a poem of mine that sits in my father's guest bedroom on the floor. It was never hung up on his wall, never fully committed to by either of us. Nevertheless, he'd surprised me with it Christmas 1994, secretly commissioning it through my boyfriend Charlie. Christmas day when I opened up the present in my father's living room, saw this 2'x3' frame of my poem "Mexican Hibiscus" calligraphied on parchment, I gagged. "I thought you'd like to hang that on your wall," he said.

"As if," I thought, choking on my own words as I re-read them silently in front of everyone else around the Christmas tree; the poem was broadcast, you might say.

My father's gesture horrified me at the time: Now I understand the gesture a little more. It was his way of saying "I care," although he honestly didn't care enough to hang it next to his portrait. Of course, I would not have expected him to hang it there. I couldn't hang it in my house, how could I expect him to hang it in his?

His message, as I see it now was "do it yourself." That is, if you want to write poetry that is admired, you have to admire it yourself first. I can trust that message. I've learned it's true over time.