Sometimes I think about reinventing, starting from scratch — remember freshman year of whatever, when you thought for a second that you could be anyone, ANYONE and no one would know different? I saw the NU kids for homecoming weekend and was struck by how we seemed like a filmstrip scrolled forward by accident. Nate and Liz are about to have a baby, which does not compute with my vivid but long-ago memory — them holding hands on the sidewalk in the humid sunset outside that concert. Adam and Mark and Eliina are people of The Law. They could get a person out of trouble. Or into it.

I remember being in charge of dorm New Student Week activities and knocking on each new freshman’s door to take a photo for the bulletin board. Mark leaned backwards off the top bunk and made a goofy face at the last second, like this would not be the photo where he made a normal smile-face because everything was different now and he was starting from scratch.

I’ve never been able to do it, starting from scratch would take too much energy. I like what I like. Arm warmers and other non-traditional outer layers. Seasonal foods and beverages. Learning new forms of transportation. Maybe some day.

Daydreams, despair, delicious

Random Friday thoughts:

–I daydream. My most productive and inspired thoughts come from daydreaming on purpose by taking long walks without a destination or a taking a hot shower until the water runs cold. (Whatever, water conservation!) I’ve been criticized for this. Too daydreamy. Unfocused. Wired magazine explains the power of the daydream.

–Kirkegaard’s ideas of despair are dissected in the New York Times. Kirkegaard was the only philosopher who made real sense to me, probably because that class was taught by a black turtleneck-wearing prof who opened glass bottles of orange soda on the edge of his wooden desk.

–My friend Samantha stayed up until 2am with me on the night before my birthday. We made a huge pot of spaghetti sauce from my grandmother’s recipe and rolled meatballs, 40 in all, for my dinner guests the next day. Samantha sometimes says the phrase “a little more delicious”; as in, “if we fry the onions first, they’re a little more delicious.” Or “Let this sit overnight. Makes them a little more delicious.” I love the phrase because it means delicious can be quantified but not in any numerical, concrete way; not by taste alone, some combo of taste plus intuition, a sixth, delicious-oriented sense.

Quote, Hopper

Everything terrible you’ve ever thought up or saw or read in the paper…eventually everything terrible happens to you. To everyone. You’ll know loneliness. You’ll know hunger. If the Indian doesn’t tear off your scalp, eventually the worms and the alley rats will.

That’s it?

Yes. Sometimes lonely. Sometimes bored. Except every other Friday night.

A new picture?

Yes. Till then it’s avoidance, anxiety, fear…but in the movie house we are all looking at the same thing. That gives me…something


Maybe. I don’t know.

–Bob Fisher, excerpt of script draft for The (edward) Hopper Project [via]

Last week I was in the audience for a reading of a new play created by 10 writers with the starting point of Edward Hopper’s paintings. When I lived in D.C., age 23 and working at Turning the Page, we took kids from public schools to the Phillips Collection, which showed a selection of Hopper’s work. Back then the paintings resonated — I was feeling the cold alienation and disorientation of vaulting from a college-town bubble into a real live job in a real live city. Hearing the play reminded me that this feeling is past and present all at once.

A day at the beach

I guess the ocean is what I have been missing. The ocean, and family. Last weekend my sisters and I went to the beach on Isle of Palms off the coast of South Carolina, where my mother was attending a conference for work. I don’t really see my family very often. I forget what it’s like, to have other humans with similar traits puzzling through the same problems. Especially my sisters, who are A+ examples of how to survive with the Muscato DNA. Our anxiety-addled brains. The tide lapped around our ankles while we debated about whether or not to go further out into the warm water with the low, rolling waves on a perfectly sunny 70-degree day.

Staring into the middle distance, like she’s about to make some poetic comment, my mom says: Do you know what a riptide is?

No, no we don’t.

It’ll kill you. If it starts pulling you under, swim parallel to the beach.

I kind of wanted to go out more, chase a few bigger waves. Hope my bikini top stayed tied. Leave the ocean floor for a moment. But then, the riptide.

Christina and I hung back. Lisa waded out farther. The sand was so high underneath the tide that it looked like she was walking on water. We followed, gentle surf, no rocks, wanting to get hit with a really big wave to feel it sweep me off my feet, not wanting to find out if this sand dropped off into nothing, and we’d have to swim, and maybe get swept up by a riptide. Our mother went back to the beach and stood stiffly by the towels, watching us wade away from shore.

MFK Fisher Says: Follow That Want

Sometimes I don’t know what I like. Sometimes I lose touch with what I want, more specifically. Sometimes I go along to get along; the evaluation mechanism that makes choice A over choice B just numbs itself out into a phantom limb and I don’t know — you pick. Things get stressful. And busy. It’s easier to ride on autopilot, to not think too hard, to take what comes along.

MFK Fisher, in How to Cook a Wolf,reminds me why it’s important to follow your hungers, whatever they may be.

There are too many of us, otherwise in proper focus, who feel an impatience for the demands of our bodies, and who try throughout our whole lives, none too successfully, to deafen ourselves to the voices of our various hungers. Some stuff the wax of religious solace in our ears. Others practice a Spartan if somewhat pretentious disinterest in the pleasures of the flesh, or pretend that if we do not admit our sensual delight in a ripe nectarine we are not guilty… of even that tiny lust! I believe one of the most dignified ways we are capable of, to assert and then reassert our dignity in the face of poverty and war’s fears and pains, is to nourish ourselves with all possible skill, delicacy, and ever-increasing enjoyment. And with our gastronomical growth will come, inevitably, knowledge and perception of a hundred other things, but mainly of ourselves. Then Fate, even tangled as it is with cold wars as well as hot, cannot harm us.

This weekend’s tiny lusts: breakfast for dinner, apple beer, long walks for cider and records, rummage-sale hunting, old love notes, hanging pictures on the wall, lying in bed after a hot shower with the covers piled on, new songs.