Powell’s Bookmarks: On Leaving Portland

A few weeks ago, I re-watched the 2002 Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze movie Adaptation, which seemed to be playing at the local cinema as part of a Nicholas Cage retrospective. Cage plays the screenwriter Kaufman as he struggles to adapt Susan Orlean’s mesmerizing book The Orchid Thief into a movie. The structure of the book, described as “that sprawling, New Yorker crap that doesn’t really go anywhere,” does not lend itself easily to a film adaptation. During one of Kaufman’s attempts to start the screenplay, he describes an opening scene that stretches from the beginning of the earth to his birth in mid-twentieth century Los Angeles. Finding a plot (as a verb, to make plans; as a noun, a patch of solid ground) in this sprawling life—that does not really go anywhere—is one of those mammoth mammal tasks that appears so insurmountable that someone invented the snooze button on alarm clocks just so we could ignore this responsibility and return to sleep for a few more precious minutes. I am reminded of the thoughts of Blaise Pascal as he tried to describe this condition:

“We are floating in a medium of vast extent, always drifting uncertainly, blown to and fro; whenever we think we have a fixed point to which we can cling and hold fast, it shifts and leaves us behind; if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips away, and flees eternally before us.”

We are trapped between the infinitely large and infinitesimally small, engulfed by the impenetrable secrecy of life. I suppose it is no wonder that people like bookmarks:  to know that you have a place somewhere in the enormity of everything. Considered in this light, dog-earing the top corner of a page is forgivable. You wish to leave a trace of yourself in the copy of a book that left an impression—evanescent or indelible—on your mind and heart.

I promised my mother I would not buy any more books until I returned to England. Back in September 2015, I expected to live in Portland for no more than a year. One of the two suitcases for my first transatlantic flight to Oregon was crammed with books, and I assumed that they would easily satisfy me for a year. I was wrong.

From what I recall, I broke my promise within the first week. The irresistible temptation came from a David Shields’ novel called Dead Languages, which I bought at the famous Powell’s City of Books. When the transaction was complete, the cashier slipped a complementary Powell’s bookmark between the front cover and the title page. The bookmark bears the addresses and contact information of each Powell’s branch on one side, and, on the other, lists their “buying hours” and implores you to “sell us your books.” During my frequent visits, I have spotted several people with cardboard boxes full of books which they hope to exchange for a wallet-wad of dollars.

Art by Maskull Lasserre

I am leaving Portland soon. Every so often, I look at the messy piles of books in my apartment then glance at a nearby Powell’s bookmark to check their buying hours. You must book an appointment for an employee to sift through your books and decide whether anything is worth enough money to take off your hands and sell in the store. I think that process discourages me. I could not bear the humiliation of standing in public while someone judges my literary taste before they hand me a few dollars for two boxes of books. Walter Benjamin observed astutely in his breathtaking essay “Unpacking My Library” that “to the book collector . . . the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves,” so I am reluctant to return half of my collection to the coercion of commerce. They will become just another commodity to be repriced, reshelved, and resold.

Luckily, the other half of my collection will endure and travel with me. Unlike Benjamin, I am still in the stage of packing my library—choosing the right volumes and facing the Tetris-esque challenge of fitting them neatly into boxes. Some of them still contain their Powell’s bookmark, ready to help me find and keep my place.

The history of the bookmark takes place inside the history of the book. Before the Big Bang of the Gutenberg Galaxy, books were rare and written by a meticulous scribe. The rarity of these texts, writes A.W. Coysh in his 1974 Collecting Bookmarks, demonstrated the “need for some device to mark the place in a book . . . Without bookmarkers, finely bound volumes were at risk. To lay a book face down with pages open might cause injury to its spine, and the crease on a page that had the corner turned down remained as a lasting reproach.” One could put a bookmark between the pages and remove it without leaving a trace. Bookmarks used to be predominantly made with silk and leather, but, as the mass-publishing industry made books more available and affordable, they were made with cheaper material like thin card. The new availability of paperbacks meant that the bookmark became less of a way to protect the pages and spine of a book, and functioned more as an artificial memory aid. It anchored the reader in the text.

And so, I take another tome from my shelf and decide whether it is headed toward my new home or the Powell’s on Hawthorne. Just as every bookmark belongs in a book, every book belongs on a shelf. When I was younger, I dedicated hours to arranging my bedroom library in alphabetical order. Eventually, I ran out of space to organize them into neat rows. Stacks of randomly ordered books rose to the height of my wardrobe, and, occasionally, tumbled to the floor. Benjamin explains that one’s library maintains “a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order.” Regardless of the obsessive order of your books (alphabetical, chronological, thematic), they will fall into a familiar disorder as soon as you take them off the shelf, place them in your lap, and forget to reshelve them according to their original arrangement. An excessively neat library is the mark of the unenthusiastic reader.

Right now, my library is neater than it has ever been. Two different piles for two different fates. Reflecting on his own library, Benjamin opines that the collector desires and respects singular copies of books rather than the book-in-itself. I have not possessed and read Shields’ Dead Languages, but only my own copy of that book. Each copy in these piles is a belonging that I have taken to the various houses and apartment buildings where I have lived over the past two years. Even though I paid the rent to put a roof over their spines, these tales and treatises formed a dwelling—as Benjamin put it, “with books as the building stones”—in which I found peace and purpose. It seemed that I belonged to them more than they belonged to me.

Installation by Alicia Martin

Copies of Dead Languages, Race Matters and Silent Spring that were once mine will soon fall into the hands of someone else. Like Don DeLillo writes in White Noise, “Maybe there is no death as we know it. Just documents changing hands.” Each book bears the bruises of previous owners: creases in the spine, smudges of dirty thumbs in the margins, a scribbled birthday message from a close friend on the title page. The history of the book encompasses the histories of each individual book and each individual reader. Whenever someone turns to a new page and starts to speak with that faint voice inside their head, they are alive. Maybe I will feel less remorse about taking my books to that desk in Powell’s if I understand that I am sharing the opportunity to feel alive with people I will never meet or know.

Once again, I move from one city of strangers to another. I doubt that I will make the same promise to my mother. We have both learnt that books overrule oaths. Speaking of my books, they’re all sorted into their separate boxes and addressed to different destinations. I am going to take them out tomorrow. One trip will take me to the Post Office; the other, Powell’s. I expect one last complementary bookmark. After all, I read a lot of books and I do not want to lose my place as I turn from page to page. I like to follow the plot wherever it goes in this sprawling, New Yorker-style crap of life. I fold over the corners of pages occasionally to remember where I have been and to remind myself to return there in the future. In this way, all the places I’ve been stay with me wherever I go.

Advertisements

Advertisement

OTA-Corrupted-Nadie-95

Front Album Cover of Corrupted’s 1995 Nadie

1.

Beginning one of his many books, 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard writes a preface. In the book I have in mind this is followed by another and that by yet another. This book of Kierkegaard’s is a book of them. A book of beginnings of books.

i live in san francisco.

I read. I write. I listen to Corrupted and the Melvins.

My aesthetic is the literary and the λόγος, and the zeitgeist of the longue durée–the auld lang syne. This aesthetic is the love of Des Esseintes and jewel-encrusted, murdered tortoises. Like Bernardo Soares, all I want to possess is the sensation of these words.

It’s their image—material and substantial like those scents and colors of the house of Huysmans’s protagonist—that might well be read in trace here.

I want to use them.

As Audre Lorde had said, at Harvard, “In what way do I contribute to the subjugation of any part of those who I call my people?”

As a dead white man once wrote yet another white man to have said about a clearly not altogether completely different question, that is the question, and I aim to see admonishment for infelicities.

As Grace Kyungwon Hong recently wrote, for dehumanizing disavowals.

For that Banana Republic, where all roads lead to a Rome of the worst in us all. If, in the end, there will be things leftover to use, far be it from me to discover them so. I am here to problematize the problematic. I leave it to my work elsewhere to come up with ‘positive projects’.

As Warsan Shire said, we can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should’ve already told us that.

These city lights ever the countercultural moment, I live in the bay view, beneath the avenues built during the fin de siècle of San Francisco’s golden age. Outlying these avenues, I read the books of my intellectual heritage, the west, like an appalling manifest destruction. There’s no science in such catastrophic images. There is horror and subjugation. There are lies and murders.

We’d come to California to kill and conquer—as to the New World, to the Old World—to take. In philosophy, while not at the frontlines, this is no different. Its decadence has already revealed that structures of power are structures of thought—structures of theory, belief, and conviction.

Genocidal structures of no quarter.


OTA-David-Socrates-1787

Jacques-Louis David’s 1787 The Death of Socrates (partial)

2.

I am a philosopher. My name is Aenesidemus, for this venture into being terse. I come to be known as someone who had come to be known as a philosopher and I will be forgotten much as they have been—with the little of their work there is it’s enough to note they were a skeptic and be done with it—and there, too, is affinity. The skepsis of the Greeks slew those philosophers for their ways—wrote their treatises about ways to give up their own theories let alone having to listen to the exhortations of the preponderant and domineering acolytes of others.

fuck right the fuck off.

To repurpose something profound published last year by Sara Ahmed—with an eye to recompense by discussing her perceptive and critical thoughts later this year, as a first debt as columnist, I think: “An affinity of hammers.”

To meet hammers. In the end, as Toril Moi wrote, even feminism’s aim is to abolish itself.

To fix this fucking shit and have been fucking done with it.

As Toni Cade Bambara wrote, “The job of the writer is to make revolution irresistible.”

Sublime and profound ideas.

I work to consider myself the consummate professional, in such regard. I believe no less than Dr. Cornel West tweeted just this last Valentine’s Day: “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

I’m an actor of the university industrial complex, as I’ve heard and rather appreciate it called. I might talk the talk with the somewhat ‘best’ of them, I think, yes—I cited the references.

Power reflecting power. And, yes. Plato. It’s called a conversation. One is a part of it, and yet still it’s a thing, yes. Absurd, I know.

This column is bifurcated as a dialogue, and, so, reflects the writer’s interest in logic and the ideas of contradiction and dissent. The dialectic is pedagogical, heaving from critic-as-student to critic-as-teacher and back—helical.

In this rhetorical quality, it reflects my interests in learning and academia. I speak to learning and to teaching as Heidrun Friese spoke to the hotel and the guest, so to speak. Inasmuch as the set eye to phenomenology, existentialism, and the literary—as it is with Aristotle, the proliferation of ways of knowing goes hand-in-hand with that of the same of being.

As the laundry list, I discuss love, art, truth, justice, certainty, insanity, sovereignty, and elements of ethical persuasion. I explore literature and culture.


Digital StillCamera

Lagoa Henriques’ 1988 Fernando Pessoa statue

3.

“we’ve been devastated by the severest and deadliest drought in history — that of our profound awareness of the futility of all effort and the vanity of all plans.”

That is how Fernando Pessoa began The Education of the Stoic, which comes to us as fragments. History later found the manuscript in an old trunk. Pessoa was dead.

Seventy years earlier in 1851, Arthur Schopenhauer wrote down bleak notes on the “worthlessness and vanity” of existence, unless we strive in vain after distraction despite an abject condition, after transient impermanence, and spent the last thirty years of his life in quiet futility, alone in his house with small dogs. Pessoa drank himself to death. This drought they write of is quite the devastator.

Pessoa was an early 20th-century Portuguese poet and writer who wrote prolifically and haphazardly, and created no less than 60 distinct pseudonyms. Soares was one of them. Pessoa was an artist. He engaged in automatic writing, founded art movements, published in magazines, and held a respected position in Lisbon’s intellectual scene.

Pessoa lived a craft. Ophelia Queiroz, the love of his life, was several times greeted by the fictitious poet Álvaro de Campos instead of Pessoa during their fleeting courtship. He called his pseudonyms heteronyms, and they were identities for most of which he created whole biographies and histories.

They were ideal representatives of intimate and reflective writings.

Last year at a conference in the port city of Porto, off the coast of the continent and country of my maternal heritage, I’d discussed Pessoa’s work. At a philosophy conference, I explained the work of a writer. I described a desire to expand the philosophical canon to writers and minds that didn’t write treatises like Hume or critiques like Kant, yet exemplify those last shrieking lessons of what scholars like Wittgenstein and Feyerabend set down.

That there’s an entire world out there. That it means something, and always has and it’s all nothing new. Our ivory institution has simply ignored it, towering above like some autistic savant.

I aim to be a philosophical skeptic, as columnist. Like Aenesidemus, I will work to extrapolate on what the 20th-century thinks it found out: that finding things out is an open-ended conversation.

I am influenced, and aim to comment on all these past and westphalian goings-on. I make no secret that the relation between the west and the world today is of marked concern, as I aim to illuminate elements of pervasive and problematic ethical and political circumstances that find as their genesis the antagonisms and parasitisms of that relation.

To repurpose the name of an old skeptic from a ‘school’ contending language vicious, my thoughts will be set on the thought of conceptual and epistemic revolution.


OTA-Sorrentino-Belleza-13.png

Screenshot of Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 La Grande Bellezza (partial)

4.

I have ideas for the coming months, though everything flows. I’ll explore Carroll and Foucault on the mad, Kant and Wittgenstein on the conversant, and Ahmed and Spivak on the political. Boris’ Amplifier Worship and Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza might feature. I’ve also got hold of a study of the lives and loves of women poets and writers of the Caribbean, by Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley. Cixous will inevitably show up in places. Los.

The involvement of the writer in culture is organic, and a part of how everything flows. If the past is gone, it is only here as the present. As you and I are. Culture is the multifarious and interpolated existence of myriad and idiosyncratic individuals—whether Deleuze lasts for days, or speculative realism dies the sudden, tragic death of the left behind, or Lorde points to the serious and deficient want of the righting of wrongs.

I want the righting of wrongs. I want the right rules. I want love and honor, not hate or fear.

Some contemporary views note that Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is leading to his Politics, yet the Philosopher—Aristotle’s medieval sobriquet—was not under the odd impression that the most important goal in Greek life—in the lives of those with which he lived—was to be politicians. To think of it as such, is to neglect historicization. The Lyceum is not San Francisco State University.

Aristotle’s point, I think, if we’re bent to give it conceptual space to breathe, is at its most charitable along the lines we heard—from consciousness-raising group to art installation, from demonstration to deliberation—during the women’s rights movement and the modern revitalization of feminism.

If eudaimonia is anything today, it is that the personal is political.

This column is personal, in such a sense. Quite like Pessoa, that I am pseudonymous does nothing to sway this. This column is Aenesidemus as the terse columnist and critic. I’m already responsible for a series of dramatic and musical compositions—tragedies and songs. A columnist, however, is something to add. There’s a sense of relevance.

there’s things to discuss.

I’m under the impression there are a staggering number of wrongs to be addressed, if not redressed, about the world. There is structural, hierarchical, and hegemonic oppression. There is something to be said.

Culture is essential—as lesson and plan. The mantra for this column is that lives are always in the balance. The personal is political. Lives are always in the balance.

We philosophers of the west love our conceptual clarity, so emphasizing that finality, of necessity, there, modally, is characteristic. Emphasizing the lives is what’s overlooked.


OTA-WingedNike_2cBCE

The Winged Nike marble statue c. 200-190 BCE

5.

lives are always in the balance.

Pessoa wrote The Education of the Stoic using a pseudonym he called The Baron of Teive.

The Baron is pure reason embodied in text and character. Due to that drought, Pessoa has the Baron writing us a suicide note.

The preeminent rationalist finding no guide for living because, the Baron writes, the first function of life is action: a wholly intellectual life is an existential contradiction.

To think is to create an interpretation of the universe, he writes, that is a mere hallucination.

There is a metaphor that illustrates what he means in a marble statue sculpted in Hellenistic Greece at the beginning of the century after Zeno began holding his school at the Stoa, and often identified as the most famous piece of the period.

One of its names is The Winged Nike. It’s a fantastical representation of the Greek deity Nike, the goddess of victory. The winged immortal stands tall and forthright, often appraised as forcing her way forward against a strong sea breeze to signal triumph.

This statue is a striking analogue because of this perceived posture and intent, which is reminiscent of the pride the Baron feels in his conquering of that Caesar of Reality by suicide, but also because the statue no longer has its head or arms.

The Baron writes of the simple egoism of the Greeks, their Protagorean man as measure of world, and that modern culture is imbued with a tragic complex of Schopenhauerian temperament.

The statue of victory today is without a head or arms.

Modern reason achieves victory over itself by its own act destroying itself, headless and senseless.

Inorganic and empty, Pessoa’s Baron commits suicide because reason describes only the reasoner.

The world is for the unreasonable and the inhumane. Reality is for the mad.

i am mad.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

I’m going to do something about it.


July’s Accompaniments

1. Corrupted’s 1995 Esclavo off EP Nadie
2. Joyce Manor’s 2010 Five Beer Plan off EP Constant Headache
3. Dæphne’s 2015 Sharpness Is the Game I Play off EP Full Circle
4. The Melvins’ 1991 Boris off LP Bullhead
5. From Monument to Masses’ 2003 Comrades and Friends off LP The Impossible Leap in One Hundred Simple Steps

 

Did you enjoy this article? Thanks! Support our writers by subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE

The University Industrial Complex

 

Currently, I am a PhD Candidate in the Humanities, which sounds more glamorous than it really is for those who inhabit these liminal places.

The Humanities has always been considered the alternative intellectual arena for those who do not deal with the natural sciences. The sciences are labeled as “dealing with the world as it is,” and the Humanities as a “safe space” for those who don’t do too much thinking: socially viewed as a place for people who love books. Unfortunately, the Humanities does not “rake in” the money the way that STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) Nursing, Sports or Business does for universities. Therefore, Humanities programs do not receive the same amount of funding for undergraduate and graduate programs.

Far too often, students who are admitted into PhD programs in the Liberal Arts and Social Sciences are partially or not funded at all. If they do receive funding it is usually to cover coursework, they may be responsible for fees, and are (most always) responsible for finding ways to support themselves during the summer months. Consequently, when the PhD student reaches their candidacy and are only left to write and defend their dissertation that is “original research” they are forced to work as adjuncts or find other means of support. These stipulations force the PhD candidate to make harsh decisions, often related to not being able to devote the required amount of time to write a decent dissertation.

The politics of survival and thriving are not taken into consideration when universities want the prestige of being a doctoral degree granting institution, completely ignoring the timeline to complete Humanities PhD Dissertations– which are supposed to contain original research conducted by the candidate.

Original dissertations require extensive research, and, in some disciplines, data collection must be funded in order to conduct. That means it will take time and money.

Institutions do not consider the amount of physical and psychological toll that PhD programs require of candidates. Instead, the institution only wants the numbers and the recognition, but they do not provide adequate support for their students. A PhD student will not fill the seats of a sports arena, secure funding from a fortune 500 company, gain employment before graduation at the rate of a Nursing, Business, or STEM candidate. Yet, they are expected to dedicate 5-7 years of their life conducting research and teach undergraduate classes that are far too often overcrowded and under-resourced. Courses which are essential building blocks of undergraduate development and success in all fields.

Many institutions in the United States only focus on what brings in money, not what sustains and strengthens the institution.

Humanities students are asked to be interdisciplinary, strengthen deficiencies in the students they teach, publish peer-reviewed articles before graduation, secure external funding, and land a Research 1 job while working 60+ hours a week. It is no wonder that many students that pursue a PhD in the Humanities:

A) don’t graduate

B) don’t pursue jobs in Academe if they do graduate

C) take more than 5 years to graduate

D) suffer multiple health issues

E) Don’t seek medical or mental health services

F) suffer trauma correlated with their programs.

The home department of the candidate and the institution would rather place blame on the current political administration in Washington, D.C. or the local and state government instead of looking at the unjust and inhumane labor practices of the institution. Despite New York State recently granting free tuition to residents to four year institutions, it is only for those that will attend the SUNY (State University of New York School) system. Meaning: only those that will attend SUNY institutions will be supported post graduation, which will only work to serve those who are fiscally, politically and culturally “superior.” There is a 2 and in some cases 4 year, state residency requirement and you must find employment with in 12 months of graduation. It does not grant the same protection and benefits to those who are in graduate programs. Nor does it grant fiscal protection for the adjunct laborer, the backbone to 90% of these institutions. It is the equivalent of placing a Band Aid on a gunshot wound.

It is no wonder that many of those who are in graduate programs, in New York and elsewhere, are considering the dilemma: “why am I doing this?” Many students in doctoral programs are finding alternative careers and ways to market themselves as not being too educated. Candidates in Humanities PhD programs are finding it more lucrative to omit that they have graduate degrees on resumes and CVs and are landing jobs that will help them with their debt and gain a consistent income.

The CEO/PhD is the state of the academy, and the corporatization of intellectual capital that forces those who want to stay within disciplinary strictures of “first comes degree then comes tenure track” left out in the cold. Now, candidates are finding it much more viable to blog and then apply to programs because they get better funding packages. Those who begin while in a program are doing workshops to learn how to become content writers, playwrights, or seeking jobs in corporate because the poverty narrative is too high. The amount of debt that was accrued while on the road to the PhD can be outrageous.

This is not to deter people from entering PhD programs completely. It is to say the system is designed to create an illusion of a surge of PhD degree holders versus the number of jobs available for the number of PhD degrees that are annually produced.

For example, an institution that has an annual endowment of 600 million dollars per year spends it on AstroTurf for the athletic fields and the iconography of the institution. Yet, the library is only two floors. In addition to that, most institutions admit too many students per year which leaves the students that are admitted highly underfunded. Ironically, these students defeat the odds and finish their degree and are now faced with having to enter a market where jobs are often absorbed by administrative cuts and their jobs being done by two faculty members or the real laborers: the adjuncts.

Why? Because it is cheaper to have temporary labor. Administration will not release their annual or semi-annual bonus to support the temporary labor of the student or adjunct. Instead, Freire and other critical pedagogues have highlighted the far too real reality of the University Industrial Complex.

The problem isn’t the student that wants a degree, or in this case an advanced degree, it is the institutions that allow this form of abuse and exploitation to persist.

 

 

Resources for further reading:

https://versatilephd.com/
https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/83693/academic-alternatives-to-a-ph-d
https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/03/what-can-you-do-with-a-humanities-phd-anyway/359927/
https://www.findaphd.com/advice/doing/phd-non-academic-careers.aspx
https://qz.com/174811/enroll-in-a-phd-program-but-leave-academia-as-soon-as-you-graduate/
https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/01/adjunct-professors-and-grad-students-are-the-worki.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/07/why-do-so-many-graduate-students-quit/490094/

 

Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE.

The Phantoms of Culpability

“The sensation of the eerie occurs when there is something present where there should be nothing, or there is nothing present when there should be something….In the case of the failure of absence, the question concerns the particular nature of the agent at work. We know that Stonehenge has been erected, so the questions of whether there was an agent behind its construction or not does not arise; what we have to reckon with are the traces of a departed agent whose purposes are unknown.” Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie

 

Your DropBox is closing in 30 days unless you take action.

 

“The internet does not have room for my 300 pictures,” I joked to everyone and no one on the internet as I shared a screen shot of DropBox’s threatening automatic e-mail to Twitter.

Last year the laptop I used for 4 years died during the August Mercury retrograde. I lost 10 years of work I failed to back up. Now there is a liminality in my mind: there is work I have done, but it will never re-materialize. Short stories, an old manuscript, research papers from college. Now all I can do is create something new from the lessons of previous experience. Unfortunately, I did not have my writings backed up on my DropBox; only extraneous pictures.

A photo in my DropBox entitled “Colorado (864).” Yes, I took over 864 pictures of just Colorado scenery.

Browsing through my DropBox account, I found folders from 2007 and 2008. Reflecting on these I realize: I don’t think I’ll ever have a desire to delete these pictures. No one is holding me accountable: I’m not planning to reconcile with either of my exes (who are in or implied in both folders), they certainly wouldn’t care if I deleted the pictures. If I deleted the pictures, I’d be less likely to drudge up what I should like to forget about the past.

“California 608”
“California 611”

Like how I was engaged to someone at 20. Like when I went on a trip across the country with another ex and a random stranger asked if we were on our honeymoon so my ex told them it was a “warm-up honeymoon.” That will probably embarrass him if he reads this, but good because it embarrassed me too. “Warm-up honeymoon”? I did not sign up for that.

“Nevada 107”

Ultimately, all the reader needs to know is those relationships did not fit my standard of mutual respect, so I left. In retrospect, I knew early on the relationships were not for me, but I stayed. Those choices rest on me, were enforced by my conditioning, and directly relate to my self-worth as I knew it at the time I entered into those relationships. Culpability is a mixture of all those things.

We have learned opinions and ignorance—blind spots or places we’ve refused to look within ourselves. I have learned a lot over the years, especially since I’ve been writing online. Some of things I’ve learned right out in public.

 

***

 

“Who’s this, Edith?” I asked my great grandmother, who, I mentioned in my last post, I’ve only recently met. We sat at Edith’s kitchen table looking at family pictures. I noticed in this picture Edith was with a man her age who I hadn’t seen in other photographs. My mother took the photo out of my hand before Edith could see it.

“Oh that’s Ralph,” Mom told me.

“Who is Ralph?” I asked.

“Oh, Ralph was her boyfriend.”

“That was your boyfriend, Edith?”

“Hm, yes,” Edith said.

“That’s nice you had a companion to keep you company,” I said to Edith.

My great Aunt Yvonne was in the room and blurted out, ”Yeah, that was after he got divorced from Carlotta.” I was beset with confusion. Carlotta? Carlotta was my other great aunt, which would make Edith her mother. You’ve probably figured out: Edith dated her daughter’s ex-husband.

Not just a few casual dates. They lived together.

When I learned that about Edith I thought “Well what kind of trashy nonsense is this?”

Because of the love I am developing for her I made myself think “When have you also made a mistake? You have made mistakes. You have made mistakes.”

93 year-old Edith said, ”I should have never done that.”

After I left Edith’s house that day I didn’t get over it. It’s a callous disregard for the feelings of her daughter. These stories I’d been hearing about how Carlotta was an antagonist made sense now. I wondered what her other daughter, my grandmother (the eldest sibling), went through if her mom was willing to date her daughter’s ex-husband. It’s a moral quandary I tried to justify because my great grandmother also went through considerable trauma, but I still could not reconcile it in my mind: just because you were abused doesn’t mean you need to turn into an ignominious parent.

“What the hell was Edith thinking?” No transits of malefic planets or quotidian explanation would make me feel better about it.

If I hadn’t asked about that picture, I wouldn’t have known. If the picture wasn’t included with the rest in the photo box, I also wouldn’t have known. But now I do.

After we looked at the pictures we took Edith to Barnes & Noble to get out of the house. She doesn’t get many visitors. We got her a regular coffee with milk and sugar at the Starbucks. She told us it was the best coffee she ever had.

 

***

 

We’d all love to paint ourselves in the most flattering light, and on social media, we often, if not always, do. Why not? If we have the choice between showing the times where we fuck up versus the times we do something good, why not show the good stuff? But the fact is sometimes what we think is good is actually not and we’re going to get called out on it. We might hurt people’s feelings and make them question everything about our character.

It might embarrass us, and we’re going to have to sit with that.

There is an online footprint we leave, James Carraghan references this in his post “Living InFinite Museums,” and I believe we are approaching an era where privacy will completely dissolve. “Keeps ‘em honest” is a phrase that pops in my head. So: what happens when we make mistakes?

As someone who writes and teaches writing, to encourage the writing process (brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, revisit) I gladly volunteer that I’ve published work that I would now revise but am unable to.

Right now we’re going through a Pluto retrograde, which has me reflecting on self-transformation. It’s a time where we look at our shadows, our fragmented self that we must heal. A time where we change.

I believe people can change. It’s not always easy to admit when we are wrong, as Ijeoma Oluo writes in her article “How To Be Wrong.” Oluo points out, if nobody tells you you’re wrong you won’t have the agency to make anything right. Maybe someone can also tell you you’re wrong and be a little wrong too. I know in my own relationships I’ve seen the faults of others while also holding culpability. But damn if by pointing out mistakes we both learned something was it ever worth it.

It’s too whimsical to say “I would never take anything back.” I would love to take some things back. LOVE. But I can’t. All I can do is reflect on what I’ve done, amend, and change. Even that will not be enough to keep people in your life you may have hurt, whether intentional or not.

My DropBox, with all the photographic vestiges, is active. Though I’ve decided to leave the relationships I was in, I won’t forget passing through those times in my history so I can be better—for myself, for everyone.

We will make mistakes, and perhaps, due to increasing transparency, we won’t be able to escape them. Much of the fear of transparency comes in recognizing the fallibility in human reasoning. But if we agree to learn from missteps, we can be better, for ourselves, for everyone.

Doing art history homework in 2005.

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE.

On Sleep, Kites, and Trying.

Watercolor on Paper by Julie Corredato

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

― Anaïs Nin

On our fourth date, after returning to town after an exhilarating spring hike to the Pinnacle in Berks County, we grabbed a bite to eat at Hometown Heroes, a local eatery that features homemade mutz (mozzarella) on salads and sandwiches. As we washed down our meals with rounds of fresh IPA, a naïve sense of trust rose in my crooked little heart, which led to a rushed confession to my new suitor: I wished to be a paid writer instead of a support staff professional at a private university.

“You could be a writer if you really wanted to. You’re just not trying hard enough.”

His deadpan response caught me off guard, and tears welled up in my eyes as I choked down a forkful of crunchy romaine. I specifically remember the sound of my munching because it was the only realistic part of what could’ve been a scene from a shitty sitcom;  it seemed asinine that I was being called out like this in real life.

Thoughts raced in my head before I formulated a response; my first reaction was to flip my unfinished salad over on the checkerboard tablecloth and tell him to kindly F off.

Chomp, chomp, swallow.

No one had the right to call me a failure, and especially not this dude, whom I was already quite smitten with on many levels.  As indignation suffocated my pragmatism, I ended up spouting off an impetuous diatribe about the struggle to be a decent mom while remaining focused on a challenging job, not to mention the additional stress of taking accelerated college courses to finish a degree so that I could obtain a sense of financial stability. I was putting food on the table and maintaining a 3.93 GPA while earning a salary that straddled the line of federal poverty definitions; please forgive me if I’m not trying hard enough, buddy.

My response, which was a genuine plea to gain some empathy, or at least a smidgen of understanding, was met with disdain, and this person ended up dropping me off on my front stoop, with nothing more than a slam of his car door and a bit of hairy eyeball-rolling at my outburst.  I had handed him a few ounces of my heart, and he pulverized it into a lump of grey, discarded meat.  I imagined it sitting in a cold Styrofoam tray, resplendent with a discount sticker, slowly rotting under the fluorescent lights at Sim’s Quality Market.

In hindsight, there was a sliver of decent intent behind his flippant remark. During the first few months of getting to know each other, we exchanged novel-length emails that were ripe with creativity, and he complimented me on my prose and verse, stating that my style was “verbose and effortless at the same time with an inventiveness that reminds me of Anthony Burgess and Lewis Carroll.” Maybe he genuinely believed that my failure at being a professional writer was due to a lack of trying; it was all just a misunderstanding, you see.  Maybe he was attempting to inspire me, Yoda-style (Do or do not, there is no try….)  

The Hometown Heroes scene took place three years ago; I eventually forgave my stalwart muse for his unsolicited criticisms about my life choices. We ended up in a dysfunctional yet meaningful friendship/relationship, and I continue to appreciate his presence as a reliable sounding board and a constant confidante.

_____________

Reconciliation. In the business world, the term refers to an accounting process that compares separate records to ensure accurate figures at the end of a given time period. In my personal life, reconciliation implies the constant attempt to harmonize my dreams with reality. I’d love to stay up all night and pore over drafts of Ruth & Ravel, editing the riffraff and revising clunky passages into a manageable plot.

That was my dream: to produce alluring folklore that captures the essence of my beloved fictional characters, and to eventual publish said musings into a full-length young adult novel that would be critically acclaimed, and more importantly, serve as a inspiring tale that allowed outsiders to believe in themselves.

Reality has other plans, which include a healthy night of sleep.

______________

The alarm will sound tomorrow at exactly 5:12 am, which is when I begin my morning routine that allows me to arrive to my stable job by 6:58 am. That degree I finally earned last October has placed me in a demanding role at a bustling manufacturer company, and I am grateful for the opportunity to thrive in an inventive and dynamic environment. The cognitive load of learning the ins and outs of a new industry has taxed my working memory, as it should, according to modern psychology.  Sleep is crucial to my survival and success. I’m just now understanding how detrimental my insomnia has been during the last 20 years of my life.

“Sleep is defined as a natural and reversible state of reduced responsiveness to external stimuli and relative inactivity, accompanied by a loss of consciousness. Sleep occurs in regular intervals and is homeostatically regulated, i.e., a loss or delay of sleep results in subsequently prolonged sleep. Sleep deprivation and sleep disruptions cause severe cognitive and emotional problems.”

Check out this source if you want to read more. Stay awake and keep reading, please.

“Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.”

― Edgar Allan Poe

 To an insomniac, sleep is both euphoric and paralyzing. I want those extra hours of consciousness and responsiveness to pursue my cultivated ambitions.

When I finally convince myself to turn off the thoughts and dive headfirst into the reversible state of reduced responsiveness, my mind panics and retaliates. Hell no, Julie, you can’t shut this train down! We’re barreling toward breaking past the mundane, into the profound!

Dreams versus Reality: It’s a reconciliation nightmare. It’s two animals trapped in this cage called Julie. The dreams snarl from every corner of my brain, ready to rip reality a new one. Reality puts up a good fight by reminding the dreams to tame themselves.

 

Reconciliation, indeed. Little slices of death, in true Poe fashion. Is there a way for our dreams to finally jive with our reality? Can we call a truce and find a balance between must-do and trying-to-do? Can I enjoy the break from reality by enjoying the requisite sleep requirement that allows my brain to function at full capacity?

Let us creatives remember this: the mere existence of a new idea is the root of trying.

Throw those dreams into space like a kite…

 

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE