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I Can Do the Twist

I stayed up late into the night editing photos (I even dream about Photoshop now), and I had a hard time getting started this morning. Some potentially confrontational emails arrived, and I put off reading them because I just could not face the day.

It’s weird: I’m basically a confrontational person, and while slow to anger, I’ve got irritability down to a science. For much of my life, I had no trouble telling people what I thought about them or their actions, but I’ve also been very good at withdrawing when I just can’t be bothered. Both of these skills served me in good stead growing up as one of five boys in a raucous Italian family, but I can’t seem to master their practical application in the adult world. My last relationship probably could have been saved by more constant honesty and the careful application of some knock-down drag-out explosions, but my ex-boyfriend avoided these things at all costs and had such a phobia of confrontation that he was afraid to call up and question a credit card bill. At one point, I resorted to saying with phony casualness but utter sincerity, “Let’s play a game. You say one thing you don’t like about me, and then I’ll say one thing I don’t like about you,” but he said that it would upset him too much to hear anything negative about himself, so I dropped the entire project. Rob isn’t confrontational, either, and while I have for the sake of harmony largely mirrored this approach in our relationship, I have also terrified him by unleashing a couple of furious hurricanes. (My other ex, Erich, used to say I was “stormy,” which explains that particular image.)

Since I started my business and noticed that even a casual, but honest, comment from me can cause months of consternation in people I don’t mean to offend, I realize I have more often kept things to myself in that arena, too. There have been times I’ve secretly relished the occasion to go nuclear on someone’s ass, but that has usually occurred behind closed doors or in the stark white land of email. I thought perhaps that I was losing my edge, a feeling that was confirmed this morning when I saw two potential nastygrams waiting in my box and completely avoided them.

But then I did some other work, took Goblin for a walk, and most importantly, moisturized . . . and started feeling my old self. I read the emails, classified only one as nasty, and summoned in response, from the depths of my soul, a powerfully icy indignation that has stopped traffic, demolished buildings, and inspired legions of professionals to commit ritual suicide.

Heh heh heh heh.

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Questionable Content

It seems that whenever someone tries to post a comment here these days, it gets blocked for “questionable content.” Even me. I had no idea we were all so questionable. Of course, my spam blocker still lets hundreds of real spams in per day. Just another in the long series of repairs I need to make to things in my life. I don’t have time for any of this. I’ve got a business to run. I’ve got a family to support. I’ve got a little dog who needs to be walked around and around the neighborhood every day, on what she thinks of as Squirrel Patrol. I’ve got a lung infection to recover from. I’ve got a gym habit to get back into. Oh, and I’ve got to clean my ears out.

So anyway, it looks like my web site is lurching toward completion. It is a very demanding web site, of my time and everything else. If you don’t–and everyone you know doesn’t–buy all of your holiday gifts there, it is going to come over to your house and get you. I’m serious, it’s on the loose.

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Remember November

My aunt Betty died this November. My friend Russell died two Novembers ago, and my grandmother Clara four. November is my favorite month, but this is a lot to get past.

Happy Thanksgiving. Goblin is on the windowsill, staring off into the cloudy sky. Rob is in the other room, playing the piano. I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thinking about ghosts, though. There is a little one, the color of a shadow, I keep seeing around the house. (I’m the only one.) I’m also thinking about the difference between an angel and a ghost. Everyone has said Aunt Betty has gone off to be an angel, and I hope that’s true because that would mean there are such things as angels, and it would also, I think, be the culmination of her life’s ambition.

A day or two before she died, high on morphine to dull the pain, she said she saw her dead relatives outside the second-floor window, peering in at her.

There was much talk at her funeral about her going to be with her loved ones in heaven. She was the last surviving person in her generation of my family, so there are a lot of names on that roster. But there was also talk about how she would be watching over us all, looking out for our interests. “She can do more for us now than she could while she was alive,” the priest kept saying.

So now I’m paranoid about being watched at all times. Believe me, the last thing I need is another paranoia to add to the list; if I was worried before that a stranger was going to walk into a public bathroom while I am using it, imagine how I feel now about dead people watching me in there. I hope, if there are angels, that they have better things to do. There are probably a lot of books they’ve been meaning to catch up on now that they have time.

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My Best Girl

My aunt Betty died yesterday. Actually, my great-aunt: my father’s mother’s sister. I feel sad, not really that she died, but that she never seemed to have lived. For my entire life, Aunt Betty was a semi-tragic figure on the periphery of our family, an Eleanor Rigby whose hobbies were saying the rosary, going to mass, and watching syndicated sitcoms. She never got married or was ever even in love, for all I know. I’ve heard a rumor that at one point her decision to become a nun was blocked by various family members; I don’t know the details surrounding that, but I find it unusual, as that was the career that best suited her skills and interests.

If you looked closely, you would see that Aunt Betty had the most startling blue-grey eyes. They didn’t even look like eyes at all, but like smoky, faceted jewels. I want to paint that color on a wall. If you hugged Aunt Betty, you got an imprint of her makeup on your shirt. She called herself my best girl. “Tell everyone I’m your best girl,” she would say. She thought everything was “swell.” She called every so often on the phone but wouldn’t want to talk for more than a minute. “Come see me when you can,” she would end each conversation. If I told her I’d been traveling, she said, “I don’t know how you can do that. I just like to stay home.” When my grandmother was dying of lung cancer, Aunt Betty moved in to take care of her. She had been living in a rooming house in Baltimore and didn’t have much to pack. When my grandmother died, she took over her apartment and possessions.

Last night, I had a dream that I went to that apartment, and my grandmother was there. “Help me with something in my storage space,” she asked me. The storage room in the basement was filled with her stuff, but there was evidence also that a homeless person was sleeping in there among it. We quickly retreated, about to call the police, when Michael Scott, the boss from “The Office” came in. “That’s Aunt Betty’s stuff,” he said. He started rolling around on the floor, prostrate with genuine grief, crying, “Be sad for Aunt Betty. It’s okay to mourn Aunt Betty.”

I do mourn her. But I didn’t see her often or know her well. For me, the world without her in it is much the same as the world with her in it.

But it is a world with one fewer gentle soul signaling her unconditional love and endless devotion through the soft clacking of rosary beads.

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Ask Santa for a New Habitrail

Good morning, my little guinea pigs, guess what you get to do today! If you guessed “go to David’s web store and test it out before he unleashes it on the world,” you win a gold star for clairvoyance.

The site is fully active, and you can buy anything you see there if the mood strikes you. The only known issues to date are some missing photos and product measurements (coming soon!) and the shipping calculator’s occasional tendency to charge full shipping price for the very lightest of items (being worked on). Also: lots more cool stuff being uploaded almost every day.

Not that I’m necessarily suggesting that you buy something. Or your entire Christmas list. Or that you pass the URL along to all of your friends, and have them do all of their shopping there. And so on, and so on, and so on.

No, your emotional support is enough.

Yeah, right. Buy something.

bluehouse

Update: Disappointing at least one of you reading this, we can currently only ship to the continental U.S. Other shipping options coming soon.

Also: If you come across something REALLY terrible, please email me about it. I already know about most of the missing photos, etc.

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Origins

My great-grandmother was a Sicilian immigrant to Brooklyn who used the time she could have spent learning English experimenting with healing oils and holding séances that sent tables rocketing to the four corners the room. My grandmother, Clara, charged at a young age with monitoring her eccentric mother, would come home from school and find her in the clutches of a coven of spiritualists, whom she threw out to the street with the strength of a lioness. She often had to battle the table, as well, which chased her around corners and down stairs until she managed to get the upper hand and restore the semblance of order to that madhouse.

By the time I knew her, my great-grandmother was a depressive old woman with a white bun, who lived in my grandparents’ basement and shuffled when she walked. She never spoke a word of English, but we managed to communicate with gestures and rudimentary Italian, which I learned as a toddler and promptly forgot when that entire branch of my family moved to Florida. Years later, when I saw her again, she became upset when I could no longer understand her, but this was the least of her worries. Her petulant, incomprehensible battles with my grandparents had grown so fierce by that time that she moved in with my aunt’s family, and she was only there for a short while before another round of combat caused her to retreat to a nearby nursing home. I remember visiting her there one day, struck almost to tears by its bleak neglect, or perhaps that was only the emotion projected by my great-grandmother. I found a pretty rock on the ground outside and gave it to her, a tiny gesture she accepted with an outsized enthusiasm that warmed my heart, although I subsequently had a nightmare that she beat someone to death with it. She, herself, died not long after that. I can’t remember where she is buried.

Recently, my brother retraced her steps back to Sicily, where he met her relatives and compared divergent family histories. There are photos of him with those third and fourth cousins, whose eyes shine with warmth and welcome but who otherwise look perfectly ordinary. I could see them on the street and never guess that we shared the powerful bond of blood. A microscope, I suppose, could pierce the mysteries of our atoms and sort out the question of DNA, but nothing but a fragile thread of memory could link us all to those distant days of ectoplasm and floating tables whose messages spanned the worlds.

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San Francisco Values

Last night was so glorious: I spent it alternately checking on election returns and hacking up bits of lung. I can’t decide if Joe Lieberman or George Allen is more hateful, but it’s probably George Allen, so if I had to pick between the two, I would say that this turn of events is acceptable. Of course, Joe Lieberman would think so as well, for a number of reasons, one certainly being that he is now perfectly positioned between the Democrats and Republicans and has them all by the short hairs. Speaking of short hairs, Goblin got a new toy last week, a stuffed raccoon that in a flash of optimism we named Speaker Pelosi but then instantly rechristened Squeaker Pelosi due to the piercing squawk she emits whenever Goblin clamps down on her nose. Thus far, Squeaker Pelosi has been very vocal, and I think she will run a tight ship, although she is caucusing with a stuffed lamb named Clarice and a stuffed squirrel named Thrombosis and a stuffed hippo named Hippoo, all of whom have been through the ringer and are leaking stuffing in the oddest places.

The funny thing about the elections is all of the emails I got in the days before saying, “It’s all up to you!” and all of the emails I’m getting the day after that say, “You did it!” Yes, it was all up to me, and yes, I did it. And boy are my arms tired.

UPDATE: SQUEAKER PELOSI TAKES THE STAGE

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Dark David

If I were a mutant, there are times when energy would blast out of my body and incinerate everything in the vicinity, but mostly you would see the great jaw-clenching effort it takes to hold this in check. A camera would zoom in to my face and reveal my irises dancing with fire, not the happy flames of aromatherapy candles but the devastating inferno of a nuclear explosion. We can look forward to the day I lose control for good and fly through the universe to a solar system where aliens who look like asparagus frolic innocently in their cities, oblivious to the fact that I have penetrated the heart of their sun and it is about to flash out of existence.

Until then, I will just twist my body into painful contortions in a misguided effort to protect you all from me and yourselves.

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Autumnal

Good Friday evening, Internetlandia. How are you? I am fine. I am almost fine. I am still coughing a bit. I have sinuses. I only wrote one point two pages today when I was going to write four. I finally finished updating prices for hardwood flooring in my inventory management system, a process that is like nails on the blackboard of my soul.

I also met with my old friend Townes today, and among other things, we discussed what our lives would be like if we fell into the demographic targeted by email spammers: overweight, depressed, impotent men with micropenises, addictions to porn and gambling, and a fetish for replica watches. In other words, Rush Limbo.

Rush Limbo, if you are reading this, there is help for your many woes. Just check your email.