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Superpower Showdown

*~*~ procrastinator v. workaholic ~*~*

• Composed on

I read an excerpt of this book about just how strange eels are. The excerpt made a big impression on me. For hundreds of years, nobody had any clue where eels came from. They just thought they were kind of magic? Eels live in rivers and streams as adults but swim into the open ocean and all the way to the Sargasso Sea (the current-free middle bit of the North Atlantic) to lay their eggs and die. So that's where they're born, too, and live their young lives. Strange, toothy-grinned beasts. I want to read the whole book.

I swim like an eel through another day and another and another, the days accumulating like so much open ocean.

I love how the grocery store sells these tomatoes as "TOMATO GRAPE CHERRY".

Why not tack a few more on?


Part of me wants to work 14 hours a day, to always be going. Then there's this other part that says, No. You can't do anything else today. You are a slug. A happy slug.

Sometimes I just go lay in bed and look up at the ceiling fan, spinning around, pushing the air down, spinning too fast for me to see the blades as more than a blur, unless I blink my eyes open for just a split second. I lay there and stare up at the fan in lieu of thinking or acting or sometimes even breathing. It's very predictable.

Lately I've been writing 1,000 words in my journal every night. Which seems to me like an odd perversion or at best a compulsion. Maybe it's the weird number-counting. But then I was explaining it to my therapist, and she was like, "Wow. It's hard to get people to write, like, a paragraph." Which just reminded me how much our society codes certain things as "good" and "virtuous" and somehow my favorite things of like, reading books and writing down bullshit are now placed in the same category as other supposedly unpleasant but socially virtuous activities like exercising or eating organic or volunteering. Which I basically like all those things, too! But when they have the veneer of a certain social class, and a certain desire to be seen a certain way—it gets hard to tease out where the pleasure lies. For me, I try to approach the journal as a total indulgence, like eating ice cream from the carton or doing your eye makeup just so.

getting cranky

a style of having feelings

• Composed on

I am not someone who regularly shows other people how cranky I am. This is not because I am a saint. I think it’s more like, I’m shy. Which is to say I feel actual physical discomfort when I can’t hide my emotional discomfort. And maybe it’s that contradiction, and the possibility it creates for a spiral of self-defeating emotions, that defines being cranky. It’s why the best cure to crankiness, for me, is when someone is unconditionally nice to me.

I can’t remember who gave me my pair of socks that say, “I GOT THIS” and feature a stick figure riding a t-rex, but I used to wear them whenever I anticipated a hard day, and they did help. Now I only have one of the pair. When I’m feeling uncertain and/or scared, the two main strategies I use to cope are saying to myself, “You’ve got this, baby boy” or whistling the theme song to Indiana Jones.

Before movies were invented, people used cruder means to play with time. For instance, they made little paintings, poked ‘em full of holes, and then alternated between frontlighting and backlighting them. This created the illusion of travel from day to night to day to night, on and on as fast and long as you wanted. It’s funny, really, how such a silly trick was/is so entertaining. I think sometimes that these primitive entertainments reveal the glitchiness of our brains. It’s the same reason you can lose a weekend to slot machines or candy crush or Instagram or bothering blackheads. It’s the same as my cat chasing her ribbon, locked in, killer instinct.

For Christmas I got my partner a robot vacuum cleaner. At first I dismissed him as “that little self-driving suckbox” but as soon as he started bumping around the house I was transfixed and followed him from room to room, loving and admiring his progress. I take this as another evidence of what a simple creature I am. My partner promptly named him “Lil’ Roomby.”

A few days ago my grandpa died. Grandpa Bob. He was 93 and died at home, asleep. But I still miss him. Like Lil’ Roomby, he wanted to show you what was under his bed — that was the punchline after asking “do you want to see my ‘website.’” He claimed to have invented the Internet and when pressed on it produced a pretty culpable memo written on Westinghouse letterhead in 1972. He held a bunch of patents but was most proud of discovering a minor cave outside of Pittsburg. As the first spelunker to find it, he got naming rights, so naturally it is “Concave.” I took this picture of him a few years ago when I visited him in Maine and we walked into town and he bought us each a sandwich and a coffee. When he was with someone he loved, he could smile from ear to ear. His term of endearment for anyone under 12 years old was “hey you with the ears.” I wish I could go have another coffee and a sandwich with him right now.

Wane, Wax, Wane

a meditation on the essential character of MAN

• Composed on

There's a line from an old radio show, The Shadow.

I remember once being thirteen and standing in the alley between Colombi's Motel and their laundromat, and I imagined being in Italy, in a corner of a bustling plaza, an old man sitting to his coffee and a pastry, nearby pink geranium petals spill out of a hanging planter, a newspaper spreads before me, I am content.

Someone wrapped the persimmons in Chinese-language newsprint.

Who knows what darkness lurks in the heart of man?

At least I think so—that was before my time.

Who knows?

Where did that image come from?

When I actually did get married, we considered a spot that was just like that. But there was a pandemic on. We ended up getting married in my mom's backyard, under her apple trees.

Shadowlight, moonlight, candlelight, firelight, sodium light, twilight, spotlight, highlight, torchlight, starlight....

My whole life I've suffered—or maybe I should be less melodramatic and just say "experienced"—strong feelings about the future.

When I was 22 and in Dharamsala, too afraid to get out of bed, my room was so cold, I remember laying there and thinking I saw my future wedding, on the coastal plain of Northern California, the redwood forests to the east, the crashing surf to the west. I saw it plain as day, like I was a helicopter spinning by.

Let's call them pseudopresentiments. That's fun.

Neon, Cat, Cold

Composed on

There is beautiful neon just up the street at this wine shop on Sunset. And a good marquee to boot. A true double threat. (Inside they have special ice cream, too.)

There is something sweet about winter in Los Angeles, the cold playing against type, the late afternoon sunsets, the feel of hibernation. Of course there’s much suffering too, not least the many people sleeping rough through rain and cold. But living close to other people has to mean living close to all sorts of experiences, all sorts of lives. How else would I know what needs fighting for?

It’s time for an early bed. The cat will follow, if only to perform her nightly ritual of rubbing the corners of her mouth against the bedtime book (I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita, a San Francisco book) before she skulks off to sleep on the window ledge. And then I will throw my mountain of pillows to the floor and join her in the rilling rivers of sleep.

She’s ten years old as of Christmas, at least that’s what I estimate. She was a little kitten in the Boston snow in mid-January when she curled into my life.

Now she’s gotten up, looked around, and curled up at my feet. There’s something about cats, in their pickiness, that is delectable.

I’m laying on the couch with my cat. She is happy I’m home. First we played with ribbon and then I pet her, which mainly means letting her rub her face against my fingers. Now we are laying here, her pressed against my legs. It feels nice, cozy, hangin’ with my old friend.

Composed on

A few weeks ago, I went to Hawaii for the first time in my life. It was way more intense than I expected. Such beauty, such wonderful people, so much history and sorrow and joy.

This is the Kalalau Valley, on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai.

Today I am feeling tired again, perhaps because the days are getting shorter. I have many things I need to be doing. But I've learned to know when I'm not going to be able to do them. I try to use that time to do something else. Like come over here and put a thing up. On the Multiverse.

It's nice to be home, too, though. Being away made me miss my potions, my cauldrons, my daggers, my boards.

I already miss being there.

Anantjeet's Book

Composed on

Eight years ago, I stepped off a plane in Delhi and took a taxi to the home of my dad's friend TP Singh. When I got there, TP came out to greet me—and promptly renegotiated my fare with the cabbie so that I wasn't getting a raw deal.

It was the beginning of a wonderful (and wonderfully generous) two-week-long stay, during which time I became good friends with TP, with his partner Baby, and with their brilliant daughter Anantjeet.

When I arrived in India, Anantjeet had recently graduated from design school and now was working at a design studio. This studio, as a side project, was making the most marvelous maps of historical sites around Delhi: the Qutb Minar, Hauz Khas Madrasa, Jantar Mantar.

(Here are some low-res scans I found on the internet.)

Anantjeet loaned me early copies of the maps, and every morning Baby packed a tiffin with various foods, wrapped some fresh roti in a paper towel—and I would set out for these ruins. Is there a better way to visit a city than to stay with a local cartographer?

This story is going somewhere! But first, more relevant back-story: Anantjeet and her family are Sikh (as you might guess from their last names: Singh and Kaur). But Sikhism is a big religion, I learned. Their smaller spiritual community especially emphasized music.

Almost every night we'd go to a different gurdwara and listen to / participate in kirtan—ecstatic songs of praise often sung to the tunes of ragas and accompanied always by a harmonium, often by drums, and sometimes by other instruments. A few people led, but everyone sang.

Here's some singing posted on Youtube that's like this singing, but it's too focused on the great singer up front. : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXfB_1CQbCU This, though, was more collective, organic, embodied. Eventually I got brave enough to sing along, too. Joining all these voices in song felt *good*.

At the end of my time in India, I'd linked up with my partner at the time, and we came back and stayed with the Singhs again. Our last night, we sang kirtan in their living room. Here's a picture of that night: me and Virginia with Anantjeet, her parents, and lots of relatives.

When I left, TP and Baby and Anantjeet gave me several books about the history of Sikhism and the content of its spiritual teachings. I brought them back to the US, read them, and they've ever since had a proud place on my bookshelf.

Partly, I love these books because they remind me of my friends. But also, before I met these kind people, I knew so little about this fascinating and beautiful religion. And I feel like few Americans know much at all about Sikhism.

For instance, I had no idea that after ten human gurus, the eleventh and final guru is the written collection of the previous gurus' teachings. Named Guru Granth Sahib, this book has pride of place in all gurdwaras, often on a beautiful, cushioned, roofed palanquin.

I share this detail because as a lover of books, it's profoundly moving. But of course Sikhism is a whole religion, and I'm neither expert nor believer. I don't want to attempt to summarize what makes it great.

And really, it was TP and Baby and Anantjeet who shared its greatness with me. They helped me understand it, and they embodied its virtues. Maybe this is obvious: it's the faithful who define a religion and not vice versa.

Which is ~maybe~ the whole point of Anantjeet's new book, One Amazing Sikh at a Time, which I got in the mail today! It's a collection of 51 one-page biographies of historical and contemporary Sikh people—each accompanied by a beautiful illustration.

The little biographies are written by Seerat Kaur Gill; Anantjeet did the illustrations. These paintings are beautiful and varied—each capturing something essential about the subject. Here's one I love: of Mata Khivi, the 16th-c. inventor of langar, the Sikh food-serving practice.

But then here's Harnaam Kaur, a contemporary primary school teacher with a syndrome that causes her to grow lots of body hair—a onetime cause of shame that is now "a source of inspiration for men and women to accept and love themselves." Look at this amazing woman!

It's a beautiful book. I'm so proud of my friend Anantjeet for making it—and how great it is that I get to have another book about Sikhism in my collection. Please consider adding it to yours! (I think it could be especially interesting for kids.) I think it's available only on Amazon for now: https://www.amazon.com/One-Amazing-Sikh-at-Time/dp/8194954258/