Imaginary Boyfriend #5: Ambrose Bierce

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      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:

ACCOUNTABILITYn. The mother of caution.

Advicen. The smallest current coin.

Apologizev. To lay the foundation for a future offense.

Callousadj. Gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another.

Conservativen. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others.

Corporationn. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

Cynicn. 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.

Infancyn. 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

      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

please flag with care: [?]

baby gator??? (brooklyn )

Date: 2011, 3:11PM EDT
Reply to:  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@craigslist
Some guy sold my son a gator for a $120 bucks………stop selling kids gators he was suppose to get clothes with that money so call me back….or at least give me 65 back
  • Location: brooklyn
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

A Late Lunch in Brooklyn

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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? 

Good Hunting

    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. 

Weekend Vacation

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     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?

Miss Margo

       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…
      The Surgeon was stuck in stultifying presentations the first full day I was there, so I put on my sneakers and some sunscreen and hit the bricks.  I’d passed through the town years before, but never dallied.  I ended up liking it quite a bit.  It was very familiar to me, and because I knew that I didn’t have to stay there, I could enjoy it (I despised my childhood town and focused single-mindedly on getting the hell out from the time I was twelve years old.  After I’d finally and utterly broken free—and after about two years spent making sure it was in my rearview mirror—I could finally relax and appreciate its charms and pleasures).
     Anyway, there were a lot of white people.  Not Tri-State Area white, either.  More like Miss Margo white.  Whitey McWhitebread white.  I went to the civic center park area, which was beautiful—I left that SD card in my gym locker, but I’ll try to post photos later—and I recognized the trees and flowers used in the landscaping.  There were teenagers playing hackey sack (for real!!!) and old dudes with bolo neckties and silver jewelry sitting in the park.  I saw head shops and Mexican food places and signs offering sales discounts for anyone with military ID.  I stayed out of the bars, but in passing them I heard a lot of hard rock.  Lynyrd Skynyrd in the 7-11 (for real!!!), where I bought a Super Big Gulp of Diet Coke and put a cherry flavor shot in it:
Image classily ganked from Google Images; I do not own this…
      Oh, Super Big Gulp, how I have missed you!  Now, to the foreigners who cruise this blog—especially my mysterious reader from Iran—do you realize how big a Super Big Gulp is?  It is well over A LITER of cola!  So large that my hand cannot remotely wrap around it.  It does not fit in many car drink cup holders.  It is basically a bucket of sugar water that rots your teeth and promotes diabetes (or in my case, NutraSweet and saccharine).  There is something very macho about carrying around an icy bucket of soft drink.  The ice makes a big noise when you rattle it. 

          But I digress.  Bucket of Diet Coke in one hand, and camera in the other, I trekked back through downtown  to the city’s museum of modern art:   
Check out that white-trashy tattoo heart!  IT REVOLVES!!!
            Then I crossed the feeble, shallow river and made my way to the aquarium.  I just had to go.  If I am ever in a city with an aquarium, I go.  I love fish!  Zoos can be depressing, but not aquariums (as long as they don’t have dolphins..or whales).  
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).

       The awesome thing about this aquarium is that has many exhibits devoted to freshwater fishes!  Freshwater fishes are the best kind of fishes.  They look normal and wholesome, the way fishes ought to look.  Fresh water is clean and safe, unlike the sea. 

nice tasty friendly freshwater fish

another one
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


            Saltwater fish are generally more colorful and fantastical, but they also look weird and sometimes frightening.  I like to look at them, but I wouldn’t want to have them in my house (usually I don’t tell people about this prejudice of mine, because it makes me sound…insane.  Though I think provincial is a kinder description.)

more ocean creatures

Democrats in Congress…kidding…mostly
            I spent a few hours in the aquarium, and at the end, I asked an employee where I could see the tigers that I had paid an extra five bucks to look at.  He told me that there were, in fact, no live tigers to be seen at the aquarium itself.  “Isn’t that sign outside rather disingenuous?”  I asked—although I had to admit, the sign did not expressly state that live tigers were on display. 

“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. 

      Then I went back to the hotel, scrubbed up, and went swimming with the sharks in the hotel lounge. 

        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 shared a lovely dinner with the Surgeon.  As we ate, we discussed the recent scandal at the attorney general’s office (gossip is unkind, but that was just too juicy to pass up).  Later, I learned the clinical name for the pinprick hematoma around the eyes: petechiae. (I will spare you the photos.  Don’t google it unless you really want to know).
          “You’re so smart, baby!”  I cooed.  
        He smiled, obviously pleased with himself, as he laced the terrycloth belt back around the waist of his bathrobe.  
       (I did feel a twinge of guilt later, remembering all the people I’d told specifically not to fool around with that shit—but what the hell, I told myself, I’m with a professional physician!)
        The next day I went to the university district and walked around.  It was mostly closed, but I still had a pleasant time.  This college was fine with me.  I’m carrying a grudge towards another one, father outside town,  that once rejected me from their grad program.  Assholes!  You’ll be sorry!
        I made it back in time to change into a suit and watch the Surgeon serve as a panel discussant.  By this late date, you should be able to imagine how he performed, good reader (hint: one time, for a joke, I bought him a t-shirt that said ‘Hug Me! I Fatally Mauled a Competitor!’ Café Press sells everything).  It was very exciting to watch—definitely worth the price of admission—but I have to admit that I felt a little sorry for her.  She was young.  Almost as young as me.  
        In any event, it definitely set the tone for the rest of the evening, which was just fine with me!  The Surgeon is not an emotionally complex creature; he basically has two moods: charming and hostile.  He is at his best when he is at both simultaneously.  
         I was thinking about that on the flight back, when I had the misfortune of sitting next to a woman who was profoundly obnoxious.  She had one thing going for her: she did not smell bad.  Every other way she could have been irritating, she was: she complained to the stewardess, loudly and at length, about things that the stewardess had zero control over; she removed her shoes and put her socked feet on the bulkhead in front of us; she complained that she should get a free drink because she’d paid for “priority seating” in the exit row; she kept jabbing me with her elbows and getting up to take breathmits out of her purse (and she was an overhead bin hog, which always makes me homicidal); she kept trying to speak to me.  She was restless as a squirrel, but not as cute.  I seriously wonder about people who cannot keep still.  It was a long four and a half hours.  Flying is miserable anyway—like being in a crowded Greyhound bus at 35,000 feet, with the panic-inducing bonus of knowing you are hurtling through the air at 600 mph in an aluminum tube. 
       Hell, I’m out of time.  I’ll try to finish this up tonight if I get home before it’s too late.   

Back from the West

  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.

Instant Intimacy

        One of the surest and fastest ways to get to know a person is to slap them across the face.  The way they react will reveal a great deal about their personality.  Whatever emotions the slap elicits—and there are usually at least two or three, either simultaneously or in rapid succession—are strong and invariably authentic.  It’s the psychological equivalent of snatching back the covers.  A VIP all-access backstage pass to the psyche, as it were. It is one of the most intimate things you can do with someone.  And make no mistake—you are doing it with them, rather than to them.  The exposure runs both ways; you will reveal part of yourself in your violence.  They will remember the look in your eyes long after the fact.  It creates a bond.  Instant intimacy.  The only experience remotely comparable is sex, and that is why the thrill you get from slapping someone lends itself so readily to arousal (and why sports like boxing and wrestling are so erotically charged—and so universally popular).
        The last time I got a shot was when I tried to touch Heinrich without his permission. He belted me a good one right upside the head; with his leather glove on, it made quite a noise.  It was a complete surprise—I never saw it coming.
        Interestingly, it ended up making access to his touch—his body—that much more desirable.

Love Letter

       If you are astute and perceptive—and I would not be here if you were not—you will realize very quickly just how well I understand you.  Or at least, this part of you, this most pertinent part: the part that drew you to me or that inspired me to select you.
        You are here with me because you want to be controlled.  I will control you.  I will consume you the way an expanding supernova devours the bodies within its orbit: spectacularly and completely.  This is a reciprocal relationship, however.  I want you to find our mutual interaction beautiful, even if you only find it so upon reflection at a later date, when you are alone again, and calm; dressed once more in the clothing of your everyday life, and no longer sweating and shaking in pain.  And there will be pain, I assure you.  You will suffer for me. You will suffer as you have always longed to suffer.  You will suffer in multitudinous and novel ways.  But you have my guarantee that the tests and pain I offer you will be of the best, most personalized sort that I can administer.  I intend that you find the pain to be exquisite.  My personal and professional vanity demands it.   I have acquired the requisite skills and cultivated them.  The tools themselves were selected for their efficacy, quality, and their appeal to my aesthetics.   I am a scholar by nature and vocation, and I have been studying what I am going to do to you for a long time.  In fact, I am studying you as well.  No botanist, no biologist ever observed his subject as intensely as I study you.  You must realize that this is what I am doing when I stare at you, silent and unblinking. You find my attention almost painfully exhilarating; both validating and frightening.  You will feel very cared about.  And I will not let you be anything less than perfect for me. 
        I want to break you open, the way a frozen stream of water bursts open a crack in a stone.  You will reveal yourself to me, this part of you that I want.  And you want me to see it, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.  While I hold you in my hands, my greed for you is relentless, pitiless.  You shall relinquish yourself to me.  What’s more, I insist that you relinquish yourself with pleasure and gratitude.  If you are bottled up or don’t know how, then you must be willing for me to pull you out of yourself, like a long string.  Like a never-ending scarf from a magician’s hat.  Or, if you’re an especially hard case, like a Guinea Worm.  It can be very painful, for you, at least, but I am happy to do it if you are willing.  I am voracious and I like to eat another piece of you.  I am intellectually vain and I love it when my intuition is right about someone like you; when my suspicion about your weakness or obsession is confirmed.  It feels like I ripped out your heart and am holding it in front of your very eyes.  Look at it.  I will not allow you to avert your eyes from what you are.  We will examine this piece of your nature now, together, in the open light.  I am here with you, experiencing this with you.  I support you, and I am as unyielding as an oak.  You cannot fail; you cannot fall.  For now, you can only exist as you are, feeling what I want you to feel.  I am defining your identity.  And because you feel possessed, you also feel safe and protected.  And because you feel desired, you also feel special and beautiful.  I find that the pain you endure for me, the stunts I make you perform, are heroic and admirable.  (In truth, you suffer mostly for yourself—because you simply enjoy it—but the fiction of enduring pain for another is so much more romantic).   This part of you is what gives you value to me.  I like to scrutinize it, play with it, in ways that may make you uncomfortable at first.  And you will find that I provoke within you a strong desire to please.  You will want to make me do more of it to you.  When I control you, you crave my approval.  This is crucial.  You will feel the delicious sensation of falling in love. You want to be a Good Boy for Miss Margo Adler. 
        When I release you, you will take pride in what you have endured.  You will have a sense of accomplishment, as if you had climbed a mountain or run a marathon.  Nobody around you will know, and they would not understand if they did, but you will know that you have courage and fortitude and valor.  You will press on the marks on your skin in the shower, and your eyes will slit closed in remembrance and satisfaction.  Even after your body is healed, you will be able to recall what we have done together.  What it feels like to be mine, where you are accepted and beloved. 

I Wish I Had an App Like That

        I just got back from a rooftop party in the West Village.  I had a lovely time, though I wish I’d known beforehand that virtually no heterosexual males would be in attendance—I would have worn less painful shoes.  Probably wouldn’t have taken the time to put Velcro rollers in my hair, either.
        I’ve always found gay men sort of fascinating.  If gender is a conceptualized as a spectrum, gay men display a much more diverse range of both masculine and feminine traits than straight men.  I’m curious about their mannerisms, their perspectives.   They are a lot of fun to watch. 
          I must admit that I identify with them in certain ways.  I am very impressed with their embrace of sexuality (I am speaking in generalities, of course).  These dudes are serious as a heart attack about sex.  They are not kidding around.
          Let me provide an example of what I mean:
         One day last summer, I was visiting a female friend at her apartment.  We were sitting on that patio while she smoked cigarettes.  This girl is a writer and an artist—rather bohemian, in fact, especially in comparison to me.  I assure you, gentle reader, if you met me, the word “bohemian” would not spring to mind.
         We were talking about her roommate, whom I’d never met.  He was also our age, and a grad student.  He was gay.  I asked her how she liked having a male roommate.  So far they were getting along great, but–
        She reached over and plucked on my shirtsleeve, her eyes suddenly big and round.  “Have I told you about….THE APP?!”  She said it just like that, too. 
         Apparently, there is an app for iphones or smartphones or something that is very popular among some members of the gay community.  You can get this app on your phone, and it can tell you where all the other guys who have the same app are in your surrounding geographic area.  You could see pictures of the guys, and browse their profiles. You could start texting these guys or call them right then and there. You could suggest a spontaneous blind date with them at the corner Starbucks.  Hypothetically, you could suggest anything.  Anything at all.
        “I have seen him sit on the couch and text some guy on THE APP for a few minutes, and then run upstairs, change his clothes, and then run out the door to go meet him!  Just like that!  I mean, he thinks it’s no big deal!  He’s a great roommate so far, but I had to tell him that it was not okay for him to bring any APP guys to the apartment until he’d gotten to know them a little better.  I mean, they could be scary psychos, right?”  Her voice was a little screechy, she was a little agitated.  “That is some scary shit!  I can’t believe he does that.  It’s crazy.”
       “Yeah. Crazy,” I muttered.  In my mind I thought:  I wish I had an App like that!  WHAT A GREAT IDEA!