|“Does this make my Beak look big?”|
|“I Love Kurt Weill!”|
Have you ever discovered a new writer, book, or musician and fallen utterly in love (of course you have–it’s a rhetorical question)? When your enthusiasm is so intense that you become an immediate and unapologetic groupie? You think to yourself: Where have you been all my life?!
Well, I’ve been struck. I might as well just forget about whatever studying or money-generating productive activities I had planned for this weekend. I might be able to squeeze some of it in when my eyes get too tired, but I know myself–it’ll take at least 72 hours of near immersion before I knock the edge off this thing. I have an addictive personality.
I have been introduced to Mr. Ambrose Bierce.
|“I derive no joy from my studmuffin mustache or my shampoo-commercial hairdo. NOTHING MATTERS!”–Bitter Bierce|
Mr. Bierce, where have you been all my life?!
Without a doubt, he is one of the most sardonic, biting, and funny writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Insofar as cynicism is concerned, I do not think that he can be equaled, much less bested. Bierce reminds me a bit of George Orwell, only without the bourgeois good manners. Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe–I love em all, and each one could viciously and gleefully savage the object of their scorn in his own breathtaking way…but Bierce really takes the cake. His capacity for cruelty is beyond compare, but he is saved from being a common, nasty intellectual thug by virtue of his wit, hatred of hypocrisy, and what the astute will recognize as genuine empathy. He also has a keen sense of justice, and if the readings I’ve done thus far are any indication, that sense of justice is consistently and logically applied, which makes it truly moral.
Bierce had balls. The guy literally did not give a fuck. Take this piece of first-person narrative from What I Saw of Shiloh, where he served in the Civil War:
Along the sheltered strip of beach between the river bank and the water was a confused mass of humanity–several thousands of men. They were mostly unarmed; many were wounded; some dead. All the camp-following tribes were there; all the cowards; a few officers. Not one of them knew where his regiment was, nor if he had a regiment. Many had not. These men were defeated, beaten, cowed. They were deaf to duty and dead to shame. A more demented crew never drifted to the rear of broken battalions. They would have stood in their tracks and been shot down to a man by a provost-marshal’s guard, but they could not have been urged up that bank. An army’s bravest men are its cowards. The death which they would not meet at the hands of the enemy they will meet at the hands of their officers, with never a flinching.
Whenever a steamboat would land, this abominable mob had to be kept off her with bayonets; when she pulled away, they sprang on her and were pushed by scores into the water, where they were suffered to drown one another in their own way. The men disembarking insulted them, shoved them, struck them. In return they expressed their unholy delight in the certainty of our destruction by the enemy.
That wasn’t published posthumously–that was published shortly after the war itself! Imagine how well that went over with his Victorian audience–the American contemporaries of those who ruined Thomas Hardy from fiction-writing over Jude the Obscure. Bierce accomplishes the spectacular feat of making Hardy look like Jane Austin. Remember when Bill Maher derailed his career for a few years and received death threats for saying that the 911 hijackers were not cowards? Comparatively small potatoes.
Bierce also left us with The Devil’s Dictionary. Go take a look.
Some of my favorites:
ACCOUNTABILITY, n. The mother of caution.
Advice, n. The smallest current coin.
Apologize, v. To lay the foundation for a future offense.
Callous, adj. Gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another.
Conservative, n. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others.
Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.
Infancy, n. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth, ‘Heaven lies about us.’ The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
That’s enough, or else I’ll be here all day.
Look at this cartoon I found of him. I sympathize. I think he looks like he probably felt like Bill the Cat sometimes, too:
I love Craigslist. It just doesn’t get much more entertaining. If I’m going to squander blocks of time from my ever-diminishing youth, I’d rather squander it at craigslist than just about any other form of passive recreation. I like it even more than reading user reviews on Amazon, and that is saying a lot. You can find ANYTHING on Craigslist. Anything and everyone. Trust me on this.
(Matter of fact, I might be hitting CL this weekend…while I was reading the Village Voice on the subway this morning, I came across an ad for a performance at BAM that I decided instantly I must see. No question about it. Four performances only, and if I miss it, God knows when I’ll ever get the chance to see it again–it’s not commonly produced. The last time I was asleep at the switch was during BAM’s Macbeth with Patrick Stewart in 2008 (am a fan of the Bard, not Captain Picard, thank you very much), and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. That show was the toast of the town, and I missed it! Well, it’s not going to happen this time around. Somewhere out there is a ticket with Miss Margo’s name on it, and I WILL get my mitts on it, even if I have to go with Dick Cheney (bet you that he is on Craigslist).)
Anyway, while searching Craigslist for parrots (don’t ask), I came across this gem of a post. I think it is hilarious. I’ve annoyed at least half a dozen people with it already, and now I’ll foist it on you. So funny! I nominated it for “best of craigslist,” but I doubt it will make it–it got flagged and removed pretty quickly.
new york craigslist>brooklyn>community>pets
A picturesque restaurant on the water, with a views of downtown Manhattan. The perfect place for negotiation. Due to the rain and the odd hour we arrived, the dining room was more than half empty. Some people prefer not to eat in a quiet restaurant, but it’s never bothered me. I like to create a little personal space with my company.
|What’s up with the break in the clouds in this one? Weird.|
I also took this photo of flowers in Tompkins Square Park. I want to show it to my mother. She knows a lot about gardening. Does anyone know the name of this flower? I don’t know it. And look at the thick, waxy, dark green leaves!
|Purple flowers in Tompkin’s Square Park|
|These are my mother’s roses.|
|Also from my mother’s garden|
|Almost done with summer dresses this season…why can’t I see myself clearly?|
After I returned home, I spoke with family over the telephone. As I’ve said, they live very far away. My brother had a good weekend, too. He went with his dogs and his friends north into the mountains and took a deer.
“I hope you didn’t torture it,” I said, my voice more shrewish than I intended. It is hard for me to relate to killing an animal; I’ve never understood his enjoyment of hunting (but to be fair, I’ve never tried it–perhaps I should).
He said that he dispatched it quickly and efficiently. I believe him. He is a practiced marksman, and serious-minded about guns. So am I. We are very different from one another, but not in every way.
In my mind’s eye, I picture my young brother folded in the treestand, or sitting in the duck blind with his well-trained dog in the hour before dawn. He is long-legged and blue-eyed, like me. He is a man prepared to wait. He didn’t like college, but there is nothing wrong with his intellect. My brother is not an aggressive man, but I have to tell you–I wouldn’t fuck with him.
We exchanged recent photos. Sis, he tells me, you’re looking a little bony.
You know I don’t drink anymore; I’ve been working out, I say.
Nobody likes a quitter, he jokes, but I know that he approves (he doesn’t drink, either). You’re a rail. Knock that shit off. Five more pounds and you’re going (away).
That’s not going to happen. I’m healthy. Do you remember when (our Mother’s last husband) would bring back a deer and hang it in the garage?
And it would drive the cat and dog nuts? Yeah.
A childhood memory–the deer hanging upside down from the rafters, wrapped in a blanket to its neck. The huge black eyes, gone blank and dusty, the beautiful face, the mystical antlers almost touching the concrete floor. To my child’s eye, it looked fantastically wild and incongruous with its setting, surrounded by a car and boxes of Christmas decorations and tools. It was like he had brought back something exotic and almost fearsome–a shrunken head from Guinea, a monkey’s paw, an African mask–and hung it in the garage. I was afraid to approach it at first. It looked like it could spring, suddenly, to life, and it was so much bigger than me.
Venison steaks to eat when I go back for Thanksgiving.
Have you ever gone to a friend’s house, only to have them rip out their boring-ass family album or vacation photos? Don’t you hate that shit? While you’re there, you’re a guest, and etiquette makes you a virtually captive audience (and don’t think that they don’t know it!). You can’t really say what you think: “Well gee, Stan, I do not care to see photos of you and your rugrats at Mount Rushmore!” Or, even more accurately, “If I had known I was to be subjected to this treatment, I never would have come,” or: “I hugely resent you for this.” If you are very lucky, you will at least be able to help yourself to another glass (or two) of wine–and not feel the slightest bit badly about it, even if you finish off the bottle. After all, it’s the least he can do for you, the insensitive bastard!
Now you have been warned. By all means, go outside and smoke a cigarette. Save yourself.
I had a great weekend! I was a little reluctant to take the trip at first–I’ve been writing under a deadline, it’s a lot of flight time for just a few nights, the town did not sound particularly interesting, I would have to reschedule my Saturday appointments, blah blah–but I’m so glad that I went!
After landing, I stepped out of the airport and spent probably ten minutes just standing on the curb, luxuriating in the heat and the dry, clean air. I felt like a cactus plant finally drying out after weeks of soaking in floodwater. Is that a clumsy metaphor? I don’t care–it’s true. I am just like a cactus. Have you ever watered a cactus too much? Seen what it does to them?
The hotel was centrally located and very comfortable and it had a great fitness center and a swimming pool. My room looked out on a particularly unlovely part of downtown (which actually reminded me of the place where I grew up), mountains, and sky, sky, blue blue sky:
|Oh horizon, how I missed you! P.S. If you look closely, you can see trails of smoke rising from crystal meth labs…|
|I seized upon the potential of the desk chair immediately…oh, never mind…|
|Image classily ganked from Google Images; I do not own this…|
|Check out that white-trashy tattoo heart! IT REVOLVES!!!|
|Note the sign: “TIGER WEEKEND” This will come up later…|
This aquarium was really great. It was not as good as the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, but it was superior to the Baltimore Aquarium and much better than the New York Aquarium (the New York Aquarium is cringe-inducing…maybe it was the Beluga whale that ruined it for me).
|nice tasty friendly freshwater fish|
|some freshwater crustacean. Did you know it is related to arachnids, like spiders and scorpions? It is basically a big bug. Gross! But so delicious.|
|Look at the size of this Pleco!!! awesome|
|more ocean creatures|
|Democrats in Congress…kidding…mostly|
|“We did not mean to imply that for paying $5 extra, we would show you live tigers…far from it! HONESTLY!”|
The employee had the good grace to at least appear embarrassed. I let him go easy because he was just a teenager and obviously had no role in engineering the aquarium’s deceit. And frankly, I was too stunned by the aquarium’s audacity to be angry. I mean, it takes a lot of balls to pull a bait-and-switch like that. New Jersey, Holzer, Sharpe James, Trenton-style balls. Especially when your victims are going to be mostly parents and young kids. Even the Surgeon, at his sleaziest and most competitive Joe Pesci-in-Casino worst (more on that later), would not try to pull that off.
I was looking for one in particular—a certain fellow I’ve been dying to meet for a long time now. It was a small game I was playing to satisfy my curiosity. I am a very curious girl. I circulated for an hour, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find the person I was looking for.
I’m back from an extended weekend trip. The flights were arduous, but the travel did me well. I love NYC and expect to live here for most of my life…but it was so good to be in the mountains and breath the clean, dry air (the quality of the air in the tri-State area is absolute shit–it’s humid, it reeks of garbage..the rain from the sky is dirty. Dirty rain!).
Am planning a big update tomorrow, with lots of photos.