Beginning of a memoir

My wife often importunes me to finish a writing project, any writing project, so that I can bring in money and keep her in the manner into which she’s accustomed.

I have my novel, which I’ve been working on for longer than I care to remember. And I have another project which began to take shape after the Las Vegas massacre.

But, last night, I began to formulate yet another project, something a bit light, a bit jaunty, a bit devil-may-care, about a topic on which I know much: being a modern librarian.

Continue reading “Beginning of a memoir”

Bloomsday

So of course I make my return to blogging on Bloomsday.

For those who don’t know what “Bloomsday” is: June 16, 1904, the date on which the story of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” takes place, starting with plump Buck Mulligan having his morning shave and ending with Molly Bloom’s mind unfolding in wonderful, ecstatic language. In between, the main protagonists—Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom—crisscross Dublin, missing each other, until near the end they come together, our 20th century Odysseus and Telemachus.

In high school I read “Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. I held off on “Ulysses” until I took a seminar at UCLA. And then, I was hooked.

Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.

“Ulysses” is nothing short of life. The life of people. The life of a city. The life of a nation. The life of history. There had been nothing in the Western canon like it before it, and, aside from “A la recherche du temps perdu”, nothing like it since. (“Gravity’s Rainbow” comes close, but Joyce still pips Pynchon.) It is a meditation on history, destiny, the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we tell each other. It is a story of outsiders in a world made up of outsiders. (Even the people who think they are of the elect are in fact as exiled as the rest of us.) It is a story about finding your way home, or at least finding the beginning of the path towards home. It is a love story: of a love for humanity, and of a love for that other person without whom you cannot live. Its comedy is of the sort found in just living life. Its tragedy is of the same type. Continue reading “Bloomsday”

Mausoleum

Good morning/afternoon, you wonderful internet people.

Today we have another chapter from my work in progress, The Genealogies. As always, comments are welcome.

***

Every Sunday right before July 20th—or July 20th itself if it fortuitously fell on a Sunday—Marcelo and Carlos and Lexie would gather at Mamá’s house early in the morning. They would all bundle into one car and drive the few blocks to her church. There was always a debate as to who would drive. As Lexie usually had the worst car, she mercifully was excluded. Carlos preferred larger SUV’s, so the family normally decided on his car, which he took with a resigned equanimity, being used, as the oldest child, to doing the yeoman’s work in the family. Marcelo never understood why there was such a hubbub every year. Oftentimes he would offer to drive, just to keep peace; their mother, however—who had never owned a car nor in fact had ever learned how to drive—always preferred going in Carlos’ truck, both for the roominess, and because customarily he drove slowly and carefully when she was in the car, figuring that the path of least resistance led to Paradise, or at least to calm with Mamá. Marcelo, also customarily, though he never drove more speedily than normal, also never changed his driving habits simply because one person or the other was in his car. This included Mamá.

“You’re going to give me a thrombosis,” she would say almost always when she would get into the car with him. Marcelo would meet that with the frustrated grunt and the eye-roll he had perfected as a teenager.

On that day, or near about it, they had their yearly appointment to hear a Mass for the dead. Every year Mamá would arrange for Papá’s name to be mentioned in the Spanish 10 a.m. Mass when the priest asked the congregation to remember the recently and not-so-recently departed, dear or otherwise. Carlos—father, ex-husband, all-around decent fellow despite his torture of Marcelo when younger—would bow his tall, slightly stooped frame when that portion of the Mass would arrive—not so much out of religious conviction, but out of filial duty. Lexie always glanced discretely at Mamá to make sure that her eyes were cast down, and then allow her gaze to wander, taking in the parishioners, some dressed in Sunday finery, others in backwards baseball caps and shorts reaching down below their knees. Mamá would let out a phantom sob at the point in the Mass when the priest read Papá’s name. Marcelo would stare straight ahead throughout most of the service, normally not glancing left or right, his eyes fixed on the priest, the altar-servers (no longer altar boys as they had been as recently as his youth, no, girls could now serve the Mass, which, while he considered it to be commendable, he also considered it to miss the broader point of sexual politics in the Church) the altar, the looming, bloody crucifix that seemed to always exude a pain and suffering that taunted the worshipper, diminishing him or her to the kind of insignificance one sometimes feels upon considering the vastness of the universe and the paucity of the self. That morbid iconography always left an impression on him that nothing anyone ever did would quite measure up to that sacrifice on a gnarled tree, and he resented the fruitlessness it suggested. Of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? He had concluded that any religion which posited that salvation was available only through adherence to a beaten and bloodied figure was not one for him. Yet, every year, there he would be, in the pew, kneeling, sitting, standing, genuflecting, even going up to receive the Host. As with his driving, it was a hard-wired habit.

Continue reading “Mausoleum”

Tall Buildings

old la buildings

Another entry in my Fables and Dramas series. Another of my fables: “Tall Buildings”

***

A denizen of one of the bigger east-coast cities, or, indeed, of any teeming city in any part of the world not of the pristine and historically unmoored American West would no doubt be perplexed to come upon a news site that had an item which was titled “Man jumps from 12th floor in Los Angeles.”  “Twelfth floor?” this putative surfer would no doubt sputter.  “Really?  They build buildings that big out there?  Won’t they crash like stacked soda cans when the Big One ™ hits?”  To which, of course, the jumper could give the finger in the infinite moment before his body hit the pavement, and perhaps unfortunate and inattentive passers-by.

I know this from experience.  Los Angeles does indeed have many 12-story buildings—many buildings much greater than 12 stories, even!  No, they’re not all compacted together, like glass and steel and stone blades of grass sprouting from a small plot of soil.  No, in L.A. they have room to breathe, expanding outward as they rise upward, giving their tenants views of mountains and oceans (smog permitting), not of neighbors across the alley in adjacent buildings.  L.A. is truly the city of the present and the future—and even the past, of drama and fable and fable.  Look at the wide boulevards, look at the arching freeway superstructures, look at the little architectural gems littering the landscape, plopped down by someone with money and imagination.  Oh, I tell you, this is the place to be.  No place like it, no sir.  This is how America will look, eventually:  jumbled, polyglot, the past plowed under for the present and recalled—if worthy of being recalled—as myth.

Continue reading “Tall Buildings”