[narcissism, vanity, exhibitionism, ambition, vanity, vanity, vanity]


A Londonish Day

from a John Virtue painting
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
Why is a fire truck parked outside my window? I am quite sure the house is not on fire, although now that the coffee maker has stopped glugging, I really should pour myself a cup before I manage to turn the stuff into wormwood as usual. And then I should turn off the heating element. No fires here.

Everything seems so strange today, odd but uninteresting. I ought to go see about the fire truck, but instead I sit and type at the window. It's one of those days.

One of my favorite London poets, Aidan Dun, now has a website. He also wrote a wonderfully wry, elaborate, and pleasingly though not intrusively Derridean "Ode to a Postbox".

The world shall write a love letter to itself and entrust it to the poet
who will place it in the postal system at the earliest visitation of his
first class muse.

The black and white picture is a detail from a painting by John Virtue, part of his London series. Saw the real thing three years ago in London -- the paintings at the Tate, drawings at the Courtauld -- last time I was there. I think of Virtue as a depressive's painter par excellence -- he uses only black, white, and shellac. Color, he says, is a distraction. From what? Let me tell you: seeing the world as it is. Realistically.

Overstatement? Maybe. But if you walk out of the National Gallery on any bog-standard cloudy London day and stare at the sky, I think you'll agree that Virtue's urban landscapes, postmodern as they are, partake of a certain realism.

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"The truth is that I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouses because in them I am always confronted with people like myself, and naturally I do not wish to be confronted with people like myself, and certainly not in a coffeehouse, where I go to escape myself. " -- Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein's Nephew

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My "Day"

1. Sometime in the AM: Husband removes self from bed, replaces self with kicking child.
2. Sometime later: My eye begins to itch.
3. Later still: I fall asleep.
4. 6 AM: MJ leaves for someplace. Child asleep in bed. Eye not so itchy. "Bye."
5. 8 AM: I wake up. Child is still asleep. We are late for school. Eye itching outrageously.
6. 8:05, child wakes up: "You have pinkeye, Mommy!" Indeed, I do.
7. Guess who still doesn't have a doctor.
8. 8:10 AM: I dribble Jane's old tobrimicin drops in my eye. Itching stops.
9. 8:15 AM: By mistake, I pour too much milk into Jane's pancake mix. Now there are pancakes for six, and no milk for coffee. Peering out the window, I notice there are two cars parking me in. I swallow my vitamins & anti-depressant, then I make an executive decision: We are not going to school today.
10. We do, however, need to get to the grocery store. Because there is no milk for coffee.
11. 9:15 AM: There are still two cars parking me in.
12. 10 AM: Jane finishes her breakfast. We are showered, dressed, and ready to go. The cars haven't moved. I park Jane in her car seat, leave the engine running, heat on, window cracked. Despite these precautions, I am sure the car will burst into flames or something while I am moving the two cars parking me in. I can't decide if this is a crazy thought or a normal one, probably because I still haven't had any coffee.
13. 10:05 AM: Cars are moved. We are ready to go. I put the car in reverse and...
14. 10:06 AM: Oops.

15. 10:15 AM: I am tempted to jump off the roof. Instead, I go back upstairs and get some tools

and then I employ an assistant

to help me "fix" the car, meaning "affix" the broken mirror to the car door with duct tape, like this

16. 10:45 AM: We finish our shopping with no new mishaps. That is, until I load the groceries into the trunk, whereupon I drop a cardboard box full of chocolate milk boxes onto the bag containing the bread. Now we have pitas.
17. 11:00 AM: Coffee break.

Day is not even half over yet. Excuse me while I put some more drops in my eye.

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Only the Coffee Counted

"'Bring on the lions!' I cried.

"But there were no lions. I spent every day in the company of one dog and one cat whose every gesture emphasized that this was a day throughout whose duration intelligent creatures intended to sleep. I would have to crank myself up.

"To crank myself up, I stood on a jack and ran myself up. I tightened myself like a bolt. I inserted myself in a vise clamp and wound the handle until the pressure built. I drank coffee in titrated doses. It was a tricky business, requiring the finely tuned judgement of a skilled anesthesiologist. There was a tiny range within which coffee was effective, short of which it was useless, and beyond which, fatal.

"I pointed myself, I walked to the water. I played the hateful recorder, washed dishes, drank coffee, stood on a beach log, watched a bird. That was the first part; it could take all morning, or all month. Only the coffee counted, and I knew it. It was boiled Columbian coffee: raw grounds brought just to boiling in cold water and stirred. Now I smoked a cigarette or two and read what I wrote yesterday. What I wrote yesterday needed to be slowed down. I inserted words in one sentence and hazarded a new sentence. At once I noticed that I was writing -- which, as the novelist Friedrich Buechner noted, called for a break, if not a celebration."

-- Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

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