Estate Sale

 

Man and woman pictured with their dog in the garden of a home in Queensland

 

She will buy your shoes
and he, my blues
albums, the whole set.
It would amuse
you, their quips on our
decor. They cruise
the round two-toned couch—
a vacant ruse
to check out that vase,
softly abuse
my “quite kitschy” taste.
We will lose
what means the least now.
The dark bruise
of life fades gently out.
Our dues are
paid, our burdens light.

 

 

 

Bluebird’s Modern Dictionary | The Ukulele and Kazoo Version

 
 

Newmarket Railway Kazoo Band, 1915
 

A kazoo band is cool.

An ironic Ukulele and Kazoo Version of a kazoo band would not be cool.

This can be scientifically proven. Any questions?

 
 

The ukulele and kazoo version

 /ˈthē/ /yü-kə-ˈlā-lē, ˌü-/ / ən(d)/ kə-ˈzü vər-zhən, -shən
 
n. phrase   An artwork that appears brilliant at first look, and middling-to-goshawful in retrospect:  Albert thought American Beauty was brilliant, until he saw All About Eve.  He then realized, to his horror, that American Beauty was the ukulele and kazoo version of a classic American film.  

{Orig.  Mod. Bluebirdian parlance, Texas-specific}
 

 

Library Appeal , 1973

 

Worn Black Coat

 
 
 

 
 
 

Becoming Continental

 
 
 
Byrd Airport terminal
 
 
 

I never thought I’d arrive again
unsure in my black gloves, pigeon-toed,
uncertain: This transition akin to states of grace—
But I have arrived to this terminal,
cross-eyed and wobble-legged—
I tried to brace myself against the truth
of that snapped inner thread, that wicked confusion
of air, sky, planes and landings.

I have learned entire continents this way,
landing hard on black asphalt—
with my empty stomach; a silly souvenir,
to wait out the gate in slumbering cities.
or shift heel to heel, almost dancing,
tired, worn and endlessly hungry.
Baggage mashed. Destined in my wrinkled suit
to board again. I have lived

For those seconds the large wheels turn
the slight bump before the sky appears.
I read Shirley Jackson for the fifth time, sip
water, soothe the sobbing child across from me—
knowing we will land again, her broken toy
mended, but transformed. By distance.

 
 
You know how I said last week that I only plan to post poems rarely? Well, I try to keep my words sweet, so that when I have to eat them, I don’t cringe. One more poem is scheduled for this week. What can I say? You all are inspiring me to go from drafts to finished poems at a faster clip than normal, and I thank you for your kindnesses.

She Spoke Highly Of You

 
 
 

 
 
 

Bluebird’s Modern Dictionary | Demi-Digital Hiatus

 
Fotograaf eet boerenkool met worst / Photographer eating hotchpot
 

When on demi-digital hiatus it is important to remove all digital devices from your person. This man demonstrates digital-hiatus behavior in extremis.


 

Demi-Digital Hiatus  ˈ/de-mē-ˈdi-jə-təl/ /hī-ˈā-təs/ n. phrase  1. An intermittent break from all digital devices and communication.  {See:  Di•gi•tal Hi•a•tus}

 
Digital Hiatus  /ˈdi-jə-təl/ /hī-ˈā-təs/ n. phrase  1.  A break from all digital devices including, but not limited to: the internet, cell phones, and most especially, Facebook.  2.  A polite term for taking a respite from the World Wide Web, as a non-Luddite exploration of the non-internet world:  Ralph had to take a Digital Hiatus when he went camping last year.  The upshot was, when he got back, he forgot how his cellphone worked and had 3,000 emails with the header:  Do you have a sparse moustache?  Make it Tom Selleck-thick using this one weird old trick! {Orig. Luddite Holiday, prob. deriv. of Normal Life.} {See also:  De•mi-Di•gi•tal Hi•a•tus.}

 
 
Library Appeal , 1973
 
 

Our Sunday Best: Unexpected Beauty

 
 
 
Velvet Painting Girl
 

Velvet Paintings: The Ne Plus Ultra of Kitsch.


 
 
In the spirit
of not wanting to inundate you with even more holiday hoo-ha, I’ve decided to focus on unexpected beauty today. That’s my favorite kind of beauty.
 

Ready? Here we go!
 

Earlier this week, I wrote a MASH NOTE about one of my favorite writers/artists Lynda Barry (which you can read here).

Lynda Barry now maintains a Tumblr blog called “The Near-Sighted Monkey” that I highly recommend. It is beautiful and charming, and full of the joie de vivre that all of her work contains.
 
 
 

My mother says that my love of kitsch is not genetic nor environmental. Every time I pick up another bodacious glittery geegaw, she merely sighs and smiles. I am my own woman. But, I am not alone. Kitschy Living is a tumblr blog that provides a feast for the eye and a little kitsch for your heart.
 
 
 

Street fashion blogs have become the norm these days, but some are clearly more evocative than others. StyleLikeU is an unusual blog in that it really looks at a wide variety of people of all ages and backgrounds who happen to share a love of style instead of surly, but beautiful 20-year olds with bottomless wardrobes. StyleLikeU’s closet features especially put a smile on my face.
 
 
 

One of the best expressions of unexpected beauty is language, a subject we’ve been discussing a lot in our household this week. (I confused my husband with a language discussion here.)

In truth, one of our common interests this year is dying and rare languages. We found Omniglot last winter, and it evokes the beauty and the rarity of the spoken, or gestured word.
 
 
 

Natural beauty is generally unexpected in its brilliance. I know both of these bloggers personally, having studied with them while at university and in graduate school.

Gordon Grice discusses the curious and the dangerous in the natural world on his blog Deadly Kingdom, named after his recent bestseller of the same name.

Donald Ewers photographs and writes about a broad, but narrow, scope of the natural world. His current focus is a five-day-a-week blog in which he posts photographs (with writing) from his walks in native South Texas settings. It is called, aptly, While On A Walk.

To put it more plainly, Ewers has posted 2,538 photographs since May 15th of 2011. He is a master photographer, and it is my pleasure to say that he continues to be a mentor, a friend, and one of my greatest inspirations.
 
 


At the time of this writing, it is Christmas Day and I would like to wish all of you the happiest gifts of the holiday season.

I hope everything that surrounds you today is both merry and bright, and if it is not, I hope that, like me, you’re near-sighted enough to believe it is beautiful, if a bit out-of-focus. Happy holidays!

 
 

Merry; Not So Bright

 

Lecon_de_Cake-Walk

The last one standing wins.


 
 
This list/ list-poem is an homage to one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Michael Ondaatje.

His poem is called “Elimination Dance,”** and is based on a game (that I think he made up) in which something is called out that could happen, and anyone who has experienced the scenario must sit down.

The last one standing wins.

Anyone who has recently plugged in a set of ancient Christmas lights only to experience an electric shock so bad, it resets your clock.

Anyone that is a family member of the shocked Christmas light-checker who spent the rest of the day reminding your stunned relative that it hasn’t been 1981 for at least ten years.

Anyone who drinks eggnog straight from the carton every year without fail, and who also unwittingly walks around for an afternoon with a creamy mustache that smells like nutmeg.

Anyone who has ever laughed inappropriately at a very sad rendition of a popular Christmas song by Ernest Tubb.

Anyone who has sung a terrible version of this song.

Anyone who, in a fit of pique, roughly Scotch-taped a holiday present into an ugly red and green hobo baggie from the last of the holiday wrapping paper and then immediately regretted it.

Anyone whose last name sounds like a play on a holiday word, such as Merry, Kringle, or Bright.

Anyone whose witty parents thought it would be hilarious to name you something festive to go with your Christmassy last name— (e.g.– Holiday Merry; Christian Kringle; Light Bright).

Anyone who once undercooked or overcooked the Christmas dinner because you were exhausted from dealing with the relative who plugged in the set of crummy Christmas lights, a relative that tried to eat the children’s homemade ornaments, twice the night before, and once, today.

Anyone who has cried over the tree the cat knocked over the night before your family is due to arrive.

Anyone who has yelled at a cat for playing with the Christmas ornaments, and then felt awful about it.

Anyone who isn’t sure whether marzipan is for eating or for caulking.

Anyone who has told an embarrassing holiday story at the dinner table, only to discover that the person being talked about has walked in the room.

Anyone who has walked in the room while a relative is relating your worst childhood blunder.

Anyone who has ever witnessed a Christmas fistfight.

Anyone who started the family Christmas fistfight, but was restrained because your hand-knitted Christmas sweater from Auntie Tony turned out to be perfect for yanking over your head before you managed to really get going.

Anyone who isn’t sure if you mislabeled all the presents, or merely thought you did because you were so tired.

Anyone with an unnatural fear of tinsel.

Anyone who has ever had a terrible Christmas, Chanukah, Solstice or winter holiday, specific or unlisted.

Anyone who has ever experienced incredible joy or extreme pain.
 
 
 
Although this poem has the feel of a list, I have tagged it primarily as poetry.

(Once again, it is an homage, so keep in mind that Michael Ondaatje originated the idea.)

My foundation is in poetry, which I will only be posting periodically, as it takes a long time to craft what I feel is a “real” poem. That said, I have posted one here.

Additional writing about poetic list-making for your reading pleasure: Bluebird Pillow Book List.

To see my last two lists, go here or here.

And one more thing… Happy Holidays. All of them. And I mean that, sincerely.
 
 

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 10)

 
 
Percepto
 
 

In every marriage, a few bad movies will appear. The Room beats all of them.

 

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  Normally, I wouldn’t do two Marriage Interpreters in a row, but the ongoing conversation about The Room has been a fertile area for our conversational idiocy.  For more on that subject see The Marriage Interpreter (No. 9)  Thank you.]

 

Bluebird is sitting on one of two yellow wing back chairs across from The Husband.  It is morning.

 

Bluebird:  Okay, you know how when someone is learning a language, they eventually get to the point where they stop translating from their native language into their new language when they are conversing with a native speaker?
 

The Husband:  Um, all right?
 

Bluebird:  Well, this is what I read anyway.  From accounts of people learning languages as an adult, like a total immersion situation?  You know— serious language learners.  And you know how they always say that the breakthrough point is when they start to dream in their new language?
 

The Husband:  (Realizing the Bluebird isn’t making sense, but proceeding carefully)   Okay….
 

Bluebird:  Well, did that happen to you when you were studying new languages?
 

The Husband:  Which part?
 

Bluebird:  All of it.  But I wouldn’t know because I don’t have that natural knack for languages.  But that’s what I read from accounts where people learned a new language as an adult.
 

The Husband:  (Polite, but cautious tone.)   I guess so?  You just… you know, speak it.  That’s it.
 

Bluebird:  I think I need to go back to bed for a little while.
 

The Husband:  I think that would be best.
 

(The Bluebird rises and walks out of the room, muddled more than usual.)
 

The Husband:  (Shouting lines from The Room to Bluebird as she retreats down the hallway)  “Oh, haylo, Dhoog!  Ai trit u lhike eh prenzess, Lissa! ”
 

Bluebird:  (From the bedroom)  I heard that!  You need to stop watching clips from that movie!  It’s gonna damage your brain!  And then you’re not even gonna speak one language!
 

The Husband:  “Ur tehrring me ehpart, Lissa!”
 

Bluebird:  (Groans.  It is the universal language for annoyance.)

 
 

Because This Word Should Be In The Dictionary— theoretical husband


A bridesmaid looks at the bridal couple in a formal photograph.

After the wedding, the future theoretical husband learns to blend in with his surroundings much like a chameleon. (Seen here in black.)


Theoretical Husband  

thē-ə-ˈre-ti-kəl, thir-ˈe-  ˈhəz-bənd  n. 1. A real spouse that no one ever sees at public gatherings, but is known to exist by the evidence of verifiable anecdotes and photographs. 2. A real spouse who has never been seen by any one person in a given social group, whom now is suspected to be a figment of your friend’s imagination.  3. A spouse that actually does not exist, but lives fully in the imagination of someone who has watched one too many telenovelas and/or soap operas: “Oh, girl!  I know Alberta keeps talking about her theoretical husband Virgil, but I have never seen hide nor hair of that man.  (Whispering)  You don’t think she made him up did she?  I mean, what else could have made that butt-dent in her couch?  A yeti?”

 

{Orig.:  Neo-classical Bluebirdian, nor-southern dialect, early usage teeritikal hoosbend.} 

  

{See also: n.  TheŸ• oŸ• retŸ• icŸ• al Wife; n. SuŸ• per SeŸ• cret Girl/BoyŸ• friend.}


<img class="aligncenter" alt="Library Appeal , 1973" src="http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2609/

Innocent When You Dream

 
 
 

 
 

This is a preliminary sketch for larger drawing.  The working title is a reference to a Tom Waits song that I love.

 
 
 

Night Owl And Early Bird, Wrassling

 
 
 
Two women boxing
 
 
 

For the last month, I’ve been waking up between 5 and 6 a.m. — on my own, without an alarm clock, or a dog in my face. (Monkey and Ilsa would never try to wake me because I am an arm-waver in my sleep.  The Husband, however, is fair game.) 

This waking-up-early phenomenon has been happening for the last few years when the weather in Texas drops down to what I call “the bearable region” (under 85 degrees).

To compensate for the change, I go to bed between 9 and 10 p.m., and no one phones me after 8 p.m. because I’m cranky when I’m tired.  The rest of the year (also known as “why is it so #*$%ing hot?”), I wake up at about 7 a.m.   No matter what the Texas weather does, I am a person who needs my straight eight (hours of sleep), without which I am, frankly, awful to know.
 
 
 

Waking up early after eight hours of sleep has not always been an option for me.  I have chronic insomnia.  I have always had a touch of it, even before I was old enough to drink real coffee.  My experience with insomnia ranges from the light sleeping with periodic waking in a startle, to not being able to sleep, to only being able to sleep after 2 a.m., to a mixture of the above phenomena, to waking up at four a.m. and not being able to fall back asleep, plus a few other things I’ve managed to forget.

For years, I had intermittent chronic insomnia, which means that I might sleep for a month, and then have all these problems sleeping for a couple of months, and then back to fine.  A few years back, the insomnia stopped being intermittent, and essentially, I wandered around in the middle of the night trying to go to sleep and trying not to flip out that I couldn’t sleep.  It was awful and I dealt with it, but I would rather clean my bathroom with an old nasty toothbrush than ever go through that again.
 
 
 

If you’ve ever had insomnia, you know that professionals and friends and perfect strangers will offer you a range of advice.   You will learn everything conventional wisdom and science has to provide about circadian rhythms and proper sleep hygiene.  You will be offered many, many glasses of warm milk.  And, even if you follow this advice to the last letter, you may not be able to find sleep, at least, not the good nourishing, deep-in-your-bones kind that makes you feel refreshed in the morning.

You may also find, as I did, that professionals and friends may make judgment calls about your character based on your sleep, or lack thereof.  Insomnia is not a character flaw.  This is what I found myself thinking about yesterday morning after a night of pretty blissful sleep.  (How did I finally manage to kick insomnia?  A combination of good sleep hygiene and prescription medication.  That combo works for me and that’s all there is to it.)
 
 
 

Having gotten to the place where I can sleep like a normal person most nights, here’s what I considered as I watched the sun rise yesterday morning:  if a person gets the same things done at 2 a.m. as s/he would at 6 a.m., is there any difference?  For instance, if I wash dishes at 2 a.m. (ugh) versus 6 a.m. (ugh), does one or the other confer a sense of moral superiority, especially for Americans?

Americans are really big on hard workers.  What we really like to talk about, though, are people who do things we cannot, or will not, do, such as waking up at three a.m. every morning to work on a novel (but only if it becomes a best seller), or training for an Iron Man thingy (but only if you place in the top ten), or keeping a clean house (but only if you’re telegenic and photogenic).
 
 
 

The Happiness Project writer Gretchen Rubin talks about getting up early and the conventional wisdom of 18th century philosophers, and yes, a certain kind of moral superiority arises from people like Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Pepys about getting up early versus going to bed late.  (Remember, Franklin was the one who coined the phrase, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”)  (Which in my head, got turned around to “Getting up early, staying up late, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and… Wait, that’s not right.”)

We even ascribe animal characteristics to sleep habits.  A “night owl” is someone who stays up late, right?  But, consider this:  when I call someone a “night owl,” I’m also conferring a host of traits that may, or may not apply:  I’m unintentionally saying that you stay up late on purpose, that you prefer to do things in the middle of the night when most people are asleep, that you live on the wild side, and that you may even eat dead mice.  Ew.
 
 
 

Okay, let’s do the same for “early bird.”  An “early bird” is someone who is chipper, up early, probably has a house cleaner than yours, potentially ex-military (at least that’s where my husband’s head went when we talked about this), and definitely means you get the first worms (a metaphor for the best part of the day).

So, try thinking about people you know who goes to bed late or wake up early, and try not to think about these habits or traits we append to folks based on their sleep preferences, or insomnia— a condition that is either intermittent or continuous, which has nothing to do with sleep preference, personality flaws, stress, or housekeeping skills.  Having woken up (or stayed up) on both sides of 6 a.m., I can say with some authority that people in general tend to respond better to an early-riser-writing-at-six-a.m. story versus an insomnia-I-worked-in-the-middle-of-the-night tale.
 
 
 

People also don’t really understand what insomnia is.  Everyone you know will probably go through a period of disrupted or no sleep.  (It’s called “having a baby.”)  Not everyone you know will suffer through years and years of not being able to sleep to the point where it feels as though your soul is being sucked out through your left nostril and no matter what you do or how tired you are, you cannot seem to find the magic route to dreamland.

I have two friends in the midst of horrible illness-related insomnia right now, and I can’t imagine saying (in a chipper, upbraiding tone):  “Have you ever thought of turning off your television set at 9 p.m.?  Flickering light from TVs and computers can especially disrupt your circadian rhythm.”  Chances are, when someone you know is telling you about his/her insomnia, his/her doctor has already covered these bases.  (Not that I haven’t ever offered unsolicited and redundant advice to someone I care about, because I have done that and will do it again.  I love my friends and I am socially awkward.  Those two traits can produce some pretty funky results.)
 
 
 

What I will tell you about chronic insomnia seen from the other side is this (the unsolicited advice portion of this story.  See?  I told you I’d do it again.):
 
Sleep is like food— you don’t merely need the basics, you need enough to nourish you body and soul.
 
Sleep medication doesn’t always work.  I usually have a couple of nights per month of breakthrough insomnia, which is just enough to remind me to be grateful that I no longer have long-term insomnia.  It sucks, but I can deal with it.
 
Going to bed at the same time every night helps.  So does ceasing your caffeine intake after 4 p.m.  The same goes for turning off and turning down all electronic devices (including covering my super-bright clock).
 
If you can’t sleep, read or do something boring and repetitive.  The television and the computer will keep you awake due to rapid light cycles that you can’t even consciously register.
 
And, if you can’t sleep, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Insomnia is insomnia.  It’s not a character flaw, and it is not something you are doing on purpose.  No one would deprive herself of sleep on purpose in the long-term.  Sleep-deprivation is physically painful and mentally disorienting.  That’s why it is used as a torture method.
 
Finally, if you know someone who has insomnia, and you’ve never understood it or accidentally said something stupid about it— do me a favor and give him/her a call to let him/her know how well you think of him/her.  It will make you both feel good, and when your friend cannot sleep tonight, do you know what s/he’ll be thinking about?  What a nice friend you are for calling today.  And maybe s/he’ll get a good night’s sleep.  Probably not.  But, at least s/he’ll be thinking happy thoughts and that helps.
 
Every little bit helps.  Except warm milk.  Which may have tryptophan, but never did a thing for me, personally.  And it smells like boiled socks. I don’t think you can develop a taste for boiled sock, can you?
 
 
 

*Photograph courtesy of the archives of The Powerhouse Museum