Tuesday, March 30th, 2004
I ran into Maurice while walking down Eighth or Ninth Avenue in midtown -- I was taken aback as he is one of the last people I would expect to run into on the streets of New York; he has been sojourning in Perth for a few years now. I asked "Are you Maurice McGinley?" and he replied with a congenial grin, "I'm Patrick Conley!" (No idea.) He wasn't saying much as I walked east with him -- on Seventh Avenue was an abandoned construction site, where he was now living. I watched as with each step he took into his grotto, his veneer of a functioning member of society came away; when he reached the bottom his clothing was in tatters and leprous scabs around his waste were oozing pus. I was gripped by dread as I tried to resolve myself to follow him but before I could act, I woke up.
Monday, March 29th, 2004
One of Sylvia's standard games is "ice cream shop". Here is how it works: she finds a place to stand behind which will function as the counter, and asks "What do you want for ice cream?" You say what (my preference is usually pistachio), she turns away and spends a minute pantomiming the preparation of a dish of ice cream, then turns back and says "Here you go!" -- your part then is to make appreciative sounds and say "Thank you", sometimes there is an exchange of "money" as well. Variations -- sometimes the roles are reversed, there may be a "menu", the preparation step may be longer or may be split into a couple of steps. Maybe you'll ask for a more complicated dish, or for a beverage as well.
This afternoon we were taking turns being the customer, and also had some turns of "sandwich shop" and "dinner shop". Then I started getting bored with the whole food thing so I suggested, let's try "book shop" this time. And it turned out to be a great suggestion!
She was playing the proprietor of the shop, and she asked me "What do you want for a book?" I said "I'd like a... dinosaur book -- what kind of dinosaur books do you have?" So she started pointing at the shelves in her shop and naming the titles -- she came up with a title/subtitle formula of "X's: why they Y" where X is the dinosaur and Y is an action it performs. A few I remember are "Dinosaurs: Why They are Big"; "T. Rex: Why They Eat Things"; "Stegosaurus: Why They Have Spiky Tails"... I asked for the book about stegosauri, and when I asked how much it costs she said "No, this is a library."
So I thought, this seems like a pretty successful game, let's try and keep it going. So I said "Ok, I'm taking it home now..." and pantomimed driving home with the book, and Sylvia was into that, and when we got out of the car, I asked if she would read the book to me. And she did! I don't remember the text of it but there were a couple of loosely organized paragraphs about stegosaurus fighting with other dinosaurs -- and the illusion of there being a book was maintained -- she was looking at the book instead of at me as she narrated, and cooed "turn the page" when she got to the end of a page.
As the book came to an end she ran back to her shop and said "Now let's do [video] tape store! What do you want for a tape?" "Hmm... do you have any tapes about animals?" Again, she pointed to the shelves and named the titles... two I remember are "Doggies: Why They Woof" and "Dolphins: Why They Swim", which is the one I asked for; and we drove home, and after some negotiation as to the location of the T.V. and where we were going to sit, we sat down to watch it. She loaded up the tape and pressed start. I was not sure where to go from here (watching video is less interactive than reading a story) -- but I asked her, "can you tell me what is going on in the movie?" -- This was stepping outside the world of the game a bit more explicitly than I think I really had during the book game; I was admitting that my only line into the game world is through her narrative. She took it in stride -- she said "I will press stop so I can tell you about the movie" -- and she told me that the titles were playing over a song, which she proceeded to sing (with dancing of course):
Dolphins, dolphins, why do they swim?
Dolphins, dolphins, why do they swim?
They swim and swim.
Like otters, and sea horses, and fishes.
It went on for a little while; and my quoting is needless to say from memory and inexact. I reckon we were ready to push start again and watch another segment, but at this point it was time to go and visit her friend Alyssandra.
Friday, March 26th, 2004
It's hard working out what to do at the end of the week, to make the transition to weekend smooth and pleasant. This evening we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- Ellen and Sylvia went up there in the afternoon and spent some time in the playground near there, and I walked up to meet them after work. This was sort of an experiment, to see if we could do something as a family Friday evening outside of the house. It went pretty well, I think; we didn't really spend that much time at the museum because by the time I got there, Sylvia was hungry, so we had an early dinner (early and bad! I need to figure out where one can eat well on the upper east side before we go there again), and then went back to the museum, and we only got about a half hour's worth of looking around before Sylvia was tired out and ready to go.
But all the moving around felt good -- like I was giving energy to the world in a way that I don't most of the time on a Friday night at home. One thing I would be really glad to do as the weather warms up, is meet them in Sheep Meadow or thereabouts and enjoy the park.
Sylvia is riding her scooter real well now, Ellen said she rode it nearly a half mile from where they parked the car to the playground. I watched her riding it a little bit later in the evening but not so much since as stated, she was getting tired.
Apologies to anyone comming here from Ralph Luker's Invisibe Adjunct farewell roundup. -- My farewell to Ms. IA was an ephemeral thing, which passed away the day after it was posted and will not be seen anymore. I do still miss her though.
Thursday, March 25th, 2004
What fun! this evening Sylvia and I planted some forsythias, she with her trowel and I with my spade. When I came home I asked if she would like to help me do it and she quickly said, "No." Then a few more "no"s while I was putting on jeans and work shoes and walking downstairs, followed by a sudden "I want to help!" as I opened the door. So we went outside (very warm today, I think in the 60's) and dug up some holes, and filled them with plants and soil.
This weekend I will be acquiring my next big power tool; it is a 6" jointer, which I am buying from Matt Prusik (a former president of CJWA). The weekend is busy -- on Saturday morning we are going to the nursery to get bushes and trees, and in the afternoon getting a start on cleaning the garage; on Sunday morning I will drive down to South Amboy where Matt lives and back, and in the afternoon I'll be trying to set it up. The jointer may not be usable immediately as I think the power supply to the garage might be too small and need rewiring.
Anyone know of a verb to describe the way of speaking where someone can't contain his hilarity and the words come out mixed with laughter? I am thinking one could use a laughing verb -- like "'that taught her a lesson,' he sniggered" or something of the sort -- I am wondering if there is a verb to do it that does not also mean "to laugh".
Monday, March 22nd, 2004
I finished Tender is the Night this afternoon. I was amused to see Dick ordering Black & White and water when he is with Nicole and Michael -- this is what Kurt Vonnegut ordered when he made his cameo appearance in Breakfast of Champions. And it is -- for that reason -- what I ordered the first time I was ever drinking in a bar, in Montréal, in January of 1988. I got the same response from the bartender that Dick gets -- I'm sorry, we don't have that Scotch, maybe I could fix you up with a Johnny Walker? To this day I have never drunk Black & White, after years of thinking based on one scene from one book that it was what the cool guys drink. I believe this evening marks the second reference to it that I have ever seen.
Sunday, March 21st, 2004
Today the garden started erupting. The crocuses have been up for a week or so -- some of them were crushed a bit by the snowstorm but others are in good shape. We did not really plant enough crocus bulbs for them to make a real impression of bloom. Tulip and daffodil greenery has been visible through the snow for a few days and after the rain yesterday that is the dominant thing in the garden. But many other bits of greenery are visible!
We spent this morning doing yard work -- raked up remaining leaves from the fall -- aerated the lawn and put some new seed on it and some fertilizer -- turned the compost which I have not touched since the fall, there is some stuff in there we will be able to use immediately. The idea was to start cleaning the garage out, which I want to convert to a work space (from a storage space), but that did not happen. (The plan for the garage is to put a long table against both side walls, and to put a door in the yard side. And possibly to insulate and sheet rock the walls.)
Saturday, March 20th, 2004
Ellen has written a new entry in Lola's Diary; go check it out!
Friday, March 19th, 2004
I'm really liking Tender is the Night. The story of Dick's night in Rome (chapter xxii of part 2) just hit me really hard -- it's like Fitzgerald had identified and dissected all of my pretensions to originality, 40 years before I was born.
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Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.