Tag Archives: simone and the silver surfer

Interlude 2: A found fragment.

30 Aug

I’ve been revisiting some of my autobiographical pieces, which I realize is a documentation of my writerly life in my twenties. You can read them in order:

part 1: first novel blues

part 2: second novel madness

part 3: minor success

part 4: short story and a crackup

part 5: short story that goes nowhere

part 6: junket life and five stories

part 7: dreams of automatic writing

part 8: first scene from my wretched screenplay

part 9: shift in political consciousness and unfinished novel

—and I realized that most of the fiction I’ve written in my life—and there’s an assload, let me tell you—hasn’t been read by anyone. And often I didn’t intend for anyone to read it. This makes writing exhilarating, deeply weird and often untethered to the point of writing in the first place. Which is communication. And yet, knowing you’re writing something no one else will read gives the act a weird magical overlay, as if you are communicating with some unknown part of your self. It’s a liberating feeling. And akin to madness.

Anyway, I have so many little snippets of things—I write every day before I start work for five minutes with no goal or direction in mind, on top of manuscripts and ye old blog here—that I often stumble across stuff that seems to have been written by someone else. Another little bit of writing alchemy. Here’s a plot outline for something I never wrote. The file was named “Storybird for Class,” so this was probably going to be a digital picture book. Or something. I can’t imagine that was going to be the title of a short story, but as I don’t remember writing it or why that’s one more thing that is lost forever.

Anyway, here tis:

 

In a small village at the edge of a vast forest, a young girl is raised by a single mother. The mother is strong. She has short, black hair, long arms and legs, and carries around a short knife. The villagers are warriors; the forest outside is populated with ogres, dragons, demons and monsters. The mother spends her days husking corn and shelling peas, cooking stews and beating linens. Her life is hard, but so is everyone else’s. At nights, she puts her daughter to sleep and stares out at the slow red shift of the stars.

One day, the girl goes missing. The mother wanders through the dust streets and huts, but can’t find her anywhere. She can’t find any men, either.

They had left, and would not return.

 

 

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interlude 1: Simone’s favorite songs from 2013

12 Jan

Simone loves music, but she’s particular. She prefers female singers and a whimsical sound. I love that she’s developing her own tastes. My only concern is the influx of princess stories. (Pearl loves these, too.) I’ve been listening to the new National record, Trouble Will Find Me, and I love it. But both Pearl and Simone can switch the music off, which they do whenever I leave the room.

Anyway, here are Simone’s favorite songs from 2013 (most of them aren’t from 2013):

 

“A Real Hero” — College & Electric Youth

“San Francisco” — Foxygen (We belt this one out together, it’s adorable)

“Ho Hey” — Lumineers

“Girl on Fire” — Alicia Keyes

“If I had a Hammer” — Peter, Paul and Mary

“Faithful Man (bare bones version)” —Lee Fields (I love this song)

“Get Lucky” —Daft Punk

“Scarborough Fair” — Simon and Garfunkle

“Here Comes My Baby” — Cat Stevens

“Leaves that Are Green” — Simon and Garfunkle

“Royals” — Lorde

“Forever” — Haim

“Give Your Heart a Break — Demi Lovato (A guilty pleasure but I love this song, too)

“Hearts on Fire” — Cut Copy

“Don’t Sleep in the Subway” — Petulia Clark

Disney princess cds, especially Beauty and the Beast (ugh)

 

Interlude 1: Simone responds to a new cousin.

19 Dec

1.

Simone has a new baby cousin. Here’s what she said when I informed her of her cousin’s birth:

Simone (smiling): I’m really glad she didn’t die one second after she was born.

Me: Me, too. That’s morbid, though.

Simone (with an even bigger smile): Yeah, right? I know.

2.

And with Beth, she had this to say.

Simone (looking at a picture of her just-born cousin): What’s that thing?

Beth: That’s the umbilical cord clamp.

Simone: Is she a girl? Why does she have short hair? Why is she naked? She looks like Jesus.

Interlude 1: Three new lines from Simone.

31 Oct

1.

Simone: Daddy, do you know what my favorite Thanksgiving book is?

Me: Um, no.

Simone (grinning): It’s Squanto . . . and the Butt-fellow.

2.

Me: Come did Daddy a hug and a kiss, I have to go to work.

Simone: No. I won’t. Because I’m a witch, and I’m magic!

3.

Simone: Daddy, my oatmeal tastes delicious. (pause) Your oatmeal tastes like stinky, old butt-poop.

Five lines from Simone.

30 Jul

1. Beth: Why did you say that?

Simone: To make you angry and sad.

 

2. Jason: Simone, what would be a good name for our new baby?

Simone: Butts.

 

3. Simone (busting into the kitchen while Beth and I were talking): Did someone say chocolate milk?

 

4. Simone: Daddy, for breakfast could you make a soup of hotdogs and butts?

 

5. Simone: Mommy, are we going to trade Pearl in?

Simone and Pearl and the Power Cosmic!, part 6: Changelings.

5 Apr

1.

Someone has kidnapped my children and replaced them with simulacra. Or little look-a-like elves.

Pearl is one. My sweet, even-tempered, calm little munchkin is gone. The new Pearl is a beast. She bounces up and down, she tries to rip the doll clothes to pieces, she slaps faces and even bit Simone right on the face. In anger. She giggles when we tell her no; she implacably attempts to get into the cleaning supplies; and she breaks as many objects as she can. She eats like some little mini pony and leaves destruction in her wake. If she doesn’t want the food she throws it on the floor.

Her favorite game to play with me is to stand by my back and hit it with both hands. I pretend to go into convulsions, which she just loves.

She loves to fiddle with the stereo. We now have two amateur djs turning the thing off and on, switching from phono to cd, and making the listening of music in our house a trying ordeal. Pearl has no discernable taste in music at this point. She likes to clap, do a little jig.

Her first word, as far as we can tell, is “No.” She draws it out in a long, sonorous bellow. “No-o-o-o-o-o.”

2.

Simone has been replaced, too. My spitfire ninja, my quicksilver mad-hatter has morphed into a fussy, fashion-conscious prima dona. She spends ten minutes a day trying on different outfits. She cries out when her socks aren’t facing the right direction. She said to Beth the other day, “I can’t handle these purple pants!” and then she changed.

She’s three and a half.

The princess phase continues. Amplified by just a touch of diva.

She’s become dramatic. Every day she says something like, “I’m having trouble breathing out,” (she wasn’t); or “I can’t clean up anymore, I’m so tired!” (after three minutes of standing around); or the now almost-daily, “I’m sick, daddy,” and after she gets what she asked for, “but I’m feeling better.” I can’t adequately convey the histrionic nature of her outbursts. Months ago she got angry and yelled, “I don’t get nothing. No cake and no whipped cream! Nothing!”

She’s a regular Tallulah Bankhead.

Her favorite movies are A Dolphin’s Tale and Cinderella. The first is a well-made, simple, old-fashioned tear-jerker about a lonely young boy who helps save a dolphin. Based on a true story, of course, and these animal young child friendship movies are a major weakness for me in the tears department. Simone handles it all with a big smile. She only asks me to fast-forward the scene where “the mommy gets angry,” which I dutifully do.

Cinderella is another matter. Simone loves this movie, and it’s easy to see why. The film is carefully balanced between the classic fairy tale and a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The malevolence in the movie is palatable to a child. It has none of the madness of Snow White, or the scary picaresque of Pinocchio. Plus it has lots of dresses, her favorite topic of conversation. The big issue with the movie is that Cinderella’s longsuffering seems to serve no purpose. She’s kind to animals, but she takes terrible abuse from her step-sisters. Worse, she appears to be waiting around for a rich husband to appear. (And he does!) It’s a far cry from the values we want to instill. But she loves it so much. Beth suggested we “lose” it, or say it got damaged, and that they don’t make it anymore. Ah, the casual cruelty, larceny and lies of the attentive parent. We’ll see.

Simone spends a lot of time in the neighborhood coffee shop, The Grind. A few weeks ago she turned to a dude at a neighboring table. “So, tell me,” she asked, “who are your favorite princesses?”

3.

Beth and I have changed, too; we’ve been in a media blackout. I’ve spent the last week without reading, listening to the radio, watching any movies. So no NPR, or any of the podcasts I listen to (Mike and Tom Eat Snacks; The Conspiracy Show; How Did This Get Made?; Sound Opinions and This American Life). No comic books or graphic novels. No novels, short stories or poetry. No New Yorker, New York Times, The Reader or The Onion. And no Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or HBOgo. No internet, besides work-related email and a one check a day on gmail. So no Facebook, no Google searches, none of the websites or blogs I check on a weekly basis. Finally, I’m only listening to orchestral music. No Spotify, Youtube, Pandora, or any of my cds or records that has words. Today I listened to Carl Stamitz. Yesterday Mozart and Bach. Tomorrow, Schubert?

Even listing the above—which is a regular week for me—makes me anxious. This is the longest I’ve gone without reading since I was seven. (I binged on comic books at an early age.) The idea was to carve out some space to write. So far it’s succeeded, but in strange ways. I feel calmer. I’m spending more time with Simone and Pearl. I’m less frustrated. My dreams have returned to the vivid horror shows of my youth. And I feel more clear-headed, more lucid about my own writing. I’m working on a novella, only longhand, blue pen on white lined paper, and I’ve almost completed a draft. I’m still submitting things, and the pain of rejection really is easing.

I’ve written some thoughts on the experience, and will post them when the whole thing is over. But the experiment has shown me that I’ve been overstimulated for a long, long time.

Finally, Beth and I got some type of stomach flu again. She recovered faster than I did. My diet for almost seven days has consisted of rice, toast, potatoes, Jello and Gatorade. When I deviated from this, I was punished. With my unkempt beard, I have returned to my half-starved Danish peasant phase, where I look like some abandoned, busted out berserk eking out a living on tubers and spiders beneath a pitiless Scandinavian sun. I only need a tattered cloak and a blunt axe to complete the picture.

I’ve gone six days without coffee and feel calm and at peace. My legs don’t bounce. My kidneys don’t ache. My vision doesn’t telescope onto odd details. It’s been nice. I plan to get back to the dark bean as quickly as possible.

More to come dear friends and neighbors, fellow citizens of the world.

Simone and Pearl and the Power Cosmic!, part 4: The Princess Affair.

28 Jan

 

1.

For the past few months, Simone has obsessed over princesses and the accompanying accoutrements. Her favorite outfit is violet “up-shoes” (heels with faux opal baubles); a Disney princess lavender dress; and an amaranth hooded cowl that fastens in the front. When she’s dolled up, she clomps around the apartment like some fairy tale runaway dipped in amethyst.

She only wants to wear purple. For Christmas she asked Santa for “maybe purple jackets and purple sparkly boots and purple dresses . . . anything purple really.”

Her other mode is nakedness. At random times during the day she’ll shed all her clothes and sit by the heating vent. She vacillates between the princess and the pauper. I’m not crazy about either extreme.

Her favorite books are Cinderella and the Knuffle Bunny books. She looks for signs of princesses everywhere. She’s also made a habit out of leafing through a Spider-man guidebook I have. She’s (mostly) her father’s daughter.

She’s taken to playing games and building “princess and candy” castles with the pastel-colored legos. Yesterday Pearl kept trying to destroy what Simone was building and she said to Beth, “Mama, this is ridiculous.”

Her favorite game is a princess matching game. She understands the rules, but wants to collect all the purple princesses anyway, despite whose turn.

Her favorite movie is My Fair Lady. She wants us to fast forward to the dresses. She likes Oklahoma, too, but feels like there isn’t enough dancing. The Music Man has been making the rounds as well, but this too gets the fast-forward treatment. She has little patience for romance, longing or slow songs.

Her favorite musician is Elizabeth Mitchell, a folk singer Beth discovered who makes records for children. In-between I’ve returned to rotation Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone and some mix cds I made years ago. Simone has mostly stopped turning the music off when loses interest. Pearl, however, has taken up the gauntlet, now that she can reach the buttons.

2.

The princess thing is complicated. I want her to pursue the things she likes, but I don’t want her to fall into a clichéd (and hackneyed and potentially damaging) cultural trap. When she was a baby, we dressed her in blue and black and brown. My favorite outfits for her made her look like a ninja, or an assassin. We roughhouse. We goof off. We watch football. (This isn’t true.) We hunt. (This isn’t true either.) Beth bought her blocks and worker’s tools, and yet here we are. Surrounded by gaudy purple finery and a mindset somewhere between Audrey Hepburn and Honey Boo Boo.

Perhaps the cultural programming is inescapable.

This morning she said to me, “Daddy, when I get married? Maybe I have to kiss somebody?” I said she didn’t need to get married for a long time, after she had figured out what she wanted to do with her life and succeeded in various things. She ignored all of this, saying, “I think I have to kiss somebody.”

She remains a spitfire nutcase. She’s adopted a new horse-inspired gallop, where she trots along at great speed and clamor.

3.

Pearl is ten months old. She has eight teeth, all in the front. Her hair remains thin, her eyes large and multi-colored. She looks like some glinty-eyed old man in miniature. She’s mischievous, too. She loves to knock cds out of the case and then look at Beth and me, waiting for us to run over and say no. She sometimes crawls away, as if engaged in a game of chase.

She makes hilarious faces when Simone snatches a toy away, or hugs her too tight. She bares her teeth and scrunches up her nose. Or she’ll glare at the adults in the room with a sign of immense indignation as if to say, why are you letting this happen to me?

Pearl took a step yesterday and often scoots along furniture. She’s poised to be just as destructive as her sister.

She and Simone now share a room. They seem to like it, although Simone gets up a few times each night and in her peripatetic wanderings often awakens Pearl. They both get up around 6, Simone usually earlier, so finding time to write has become an even bigger challenge.

I’ve been editing and rewriting my latest manuscript and it’s good[1]. I had a not-so-brief session of fear and trembling, considering scrapping the fiction thing once and for all. But I persevered—although the angst and worry and existential despair gets harder to overcome as I get older, not easier. The idea of quitting instills panic attacks, shortness of breath, cosmic rage. So I continue.

And now it’s time to re-gird my loins for the submission process.


[1] This is why I’ve been posting less frequently.