I took my anxiety medication today after class. I accidently saw a picture of my ex-girlfriend on my friends phone and almost puked. I got back to my room and immediately gulped down the dosage. This usually makes me pretty tired so i try not to take it on class days. I layed down and listened to music for a solid hour thinking i would fall asleep, or maybe wishing i would. It’s embrace never came. Friends knock on my door asking if i would want to join them for dinner in town. I thought this sounded like so much fun at the time. We get on a bus and arrive at the restaurant. It is here i begin to feel exhausted beyond comprehension. The meal comes and goes and i am about ready to pass out. Slumped over into a heap against the wall. Past this things start to get really fuzzy. I remember leaving and getting on the bus. i pass out again. However i wake again only to find the bus hasn’t moved. Bam asleep again this time on my friend who doesn’t tell me or do anything. Everyone’s snapchat is just me acting loopy and out of it. They all think i am wasted. Nope just tired and dehydrated unfortunately. Somehow i made it into my room and took all my clothes off, a detail which i have no recollection of.
She picked up the journal. It was a tattered old diary-like journal, lying on the cold, wet ground. Drops of rain fell onto her forehead as she opened to the first page.
“Water is important to those who have it, the same is true of control”
She turned to the next page.
“Move to the sound. Find yourself at the shore.”
Confused, she tucked the journal into her backpack and started walking, vaguely looking for the shore. Everything around her seemed amplified: the sound of the rain dripping, her shoes squishing in the dirt, even her heartbeat was sounding like a floor tom. She closed her eyes and listened intently. As she relaxed, the sound of running water became clearer; it was more in focus. She turned her head around to close in on the location from which the sound was coming from. (note: in film, audio will pan back and forth to convey this experience) She started to move toward the sound, becoming increasingly immersed in the task her new journal had assigned her.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve been facing with this project is how to structure it. I did a lot of experimenting in my journal. Here’s a sample.
A lot of us cast our eyes back to prohibition only to view it romantically. Maybe that’s because it’s so hard to break the habit of thinking about our interactions in terms of television shows and Hollywood films. The Capitol Theater throws a “Repeal Day” party every year, where people dress as flappers (even though prohibition ended in 1933 and austerity had already come back into fashion with the stock market crash) and drinks gin cocktails to “honor the past”. Film versions of The Great Gatsby and cheap Halloween costumes contribute to our perceptions of the past just as much as anything that actually happened.
It’s a weird appropriation of history, to drink cocktails from cheap plastic cups and pretend to dance the Lindy.
I suppose it’s romantic revisionism that leads us to believe that all the booze was taken away by boring religious fanatics. I mean, it was, but there’s more to it than that, I’m coming to find. There’s a bunch of factors at play- attitudes about sex (women hate it, but the men gotta release it somewhere!) So prostitution is legal in the West for way longer than a modern person would expect. But then the men are getting wasted and bringing home “V.D.” and beating their wives. So the wives and sympathetic men-folk suppose it’s about time to outlaw booze. If I was a booze-beaten wife in 1910 Olympia I’d probably call for it to be restricted, too.
Will I stick to this structure or try something else? What does prohibition have to do with this class? All these questions, and more, answered in my final project (hopefully!)
Since we watched Lise Yasui’s “A Family Gathering”, I knew I wanted to relate it to my own relationship with my grandfather and great-grandfather, but I wasn’t sure how exactly to go about it. So that’s why it’s taken me so long. I’m still not exactly sure how this is going to turn out, but I’ll do my best.
My great-grandfather, Phil, died way before I was born, and yet, oddly enough, I feel like I know him better than any of my other great-grandparents (including the one I actually knew while I was growing up). Unlike Ms. Yasui, I don’t have any false or imagined memories of Phil, yet I feel this closeness to him, as she does for her grandfather, even if there’s no concrete reason for it.
I didn’t really know anything about him when I was a kid. Then, one night at dinner, when I was eleven or twelve, I randomly asked “has anyone in our family killed themselves?” I really don’t know why I asked it. And I definitely wasn’t expecting that anyone actually had. So it was really shocking when my mom answered: “you mean, other than Grandpa Phil? Nope, no one.”
“What? What do you mean? Grandpa Phil killed himself?”
I don’t remember very much after that of that particular conversation. Family members exchanged glances, not speaking, but I imagine they were thinking something along the lines of: “I guess she didn’t know. Oops.” And then I got the bare bones story of why and how. It would be several years later when I’d learn the details of Grandpa Phil’s death.
Philip Prince was an Eastern European Jewish immigrant who for a long time was a Communist and an active labor activist in his community in Newark, NJ. Later on he owned a plumbing supply store. At the time, bipolar disorder was not well known or diagnosed, but my family is fairly sure that he had it.
All of his life, my grandfather, Carl, had a difficult, complicated, and often antagonistic relationship with his father. I don’t doubt that Phil loved my grandfather in his own way, but, from what I’ve heard, he could be very cruel to his son.
Grandpa Phil killed himself in 1971. He hung himself in the upstairs bedroom of his and my great-grandmother Anne’s house, while she was out playing bridge with her friends. He left a note telling her not to go upstairs, and to call Carl to come over and go into the bedroom, which she did.
My grandfather was the one who found my Grandpa Phil hanging, he was the one who cut him down, and he was the one who was left to deal with Grandpa Phil’s affairs, including paying off creditors, reading the letters he left to family members, including his young grandchildren, and deciding whether or not to share them with their intended recipient, because some of the letters were also judgmental, cruel, and blaming.
I’m fairly certain that that was the worst and most difficult time in my grandfather’s life. Not many of us can imagine what it would be like to be in that situation, how we would feel, and how to possibly go forward. Learning about Grandpa Phil has both made me feel as if I have some understanding and connection to him, ambiguous though it may be, and has also given my relationship with my grandfather a new level.
I don’t pretend to know Grandpa Phil and all that he was as a person, and I’m the first to admit that I’m judgmental and negative towards him more than maybe I should be. After all, I‘ve never met him, never had the chance to speak with him, and I never will. But at the same time, I do feel a certain closeness to him that I don’t feel with my other great-grandparents. And it might sound odd, maybe even inappropriate, but I feel a kind of gratitude for learning about his story, because I have a deeper understanding, respect, and admiration for own grandfather, which I will always be grateful for.
After a tense ride to the airport and an even more intense parking debacle at an inaccessible airport hotel, we finally settled into our room, drank and ate, and put ourselves to bed. Shortly before this, the girls got to reminiscing about Peder some. Julie told a story about the time that the two of them almost burned down the woodshop of the art department. I was too spaced to get my recording up and running in time to capture their talk and as soon as I got it running they changed the subject to other people more loosely connected. I may need a different device for recording, something smaller, less obtrusive and easier to conceal. It’s been my experience that people who know they’re being recorded tend to pull their punches and generally aren’t as natural in their speech. It’s something to be aware of: conversations start fast. In some situations I’ll need to keep my finger on the trigger, so to speak.
In places like these, cars, asphalt, chewing gum are natural. These stunted, misshapen, wayward trees that have persisted between parking lots are the aliens, intruders, breaking up what would otherwise be unadulterated open space for street combustion and locomotion. The smooth part of locality, ringed on all sides by the comforting presence of chainlink., is broken jarringly by a giant, wizened cedar, its lower trunk curving toward the fence and up, as if in defiance, then rueful acceptance.
The god of rapid travel is served at this concrete altar, the pooling motor oil libations to a god of death whose own existence is as much a mystery to himself as it is to me.
One day, we’ll all fight about what the actual import of this particular moment was, and yet, somehow, we will all necessarily agree…
A conversation between two sides – between passion consuming and love sustaining.
Life as a Caregiver
3 days away from home, surgery, and morning release from the hospital, afternoon school speaker. I feel like I can hardly stand as I walk in the door, holding on the door frame for support. “Hi, I’m home.” I call in greeting, looking for the substitute caregiver that is supposed to be taking care of Jim, my husband.
Jim responds: “ Suz had to leave, What’s for dinner?” Instantly I’m back on full caregiving duty. I can’t eat yet, so look in the freezer to see what I can cook fast. Put fish in the oven.
Paper towels all over the kitchen floor, full of pee. House stinks. Pee Towels picked up, garbage taken out. Dogs let outside and food bowls filled. Go in and greet Jim in person, make tartar sauce, cook rice, empty the dryer, scrub the pee off the kitchen floor- sanitize, get the stink out. Empty the dishwasher, load, and clean the puke up off the hallway floor. Jims dinner on the table, go outside and collect eggs while it is still light. Wash the eggs, feed and water the chickens. Let the dogs’ in. “Maggie needs a bath”, give Maggie a bath- she stinks. Gather Jims dirty clothes and start the washer, clear the table from Jim’s dinner and put away the extra tartar sauce. Wash the dishes; put bags in the garbage can.
Vacuum Jims floor, clean his bathroom, change his bedding, fold clothes and put them away, fix lunch for tomorrow and package it so he knows to eat it. Change out the laundry and start the bedding. Blow dry Maggie :”she’s cold.”
“Jim, I need to sit down for a few min”
“ok; did you make my lunch? Where’s my bedding? when will it be done? Where’s the tartar sauce? Look, I’m giving the dogs food now (I already fed them, but they don’t mind a second dinner). I’m letting them out (I just brought them in for the night): what’s this spot on the floor ( I missed something); Sumo’s tonight, I need to get up at 1, set the alarm so I can watch.
Spot cleaned off the floor, Jims bed made, Dishes put away, sign on lunch to identify it for Jim, Show Jim the tartar sauce, Dogs in, Alarm set for 1am sumo. Jim showered and dressed, tucked into bed.
My turn, I sit. Oops, I didn’t eat anything yet. I’ll sit for a few minutes and find something; I didn’t fix my lunch, oh well. I’m too tired now. I didn’t take my meds, gotta get that done- in a few minutes, tired, hurting, can’t move.
Oh shit: The alarm is ringing, School time.
A room needs to be lived in to survive. Etymologies aside, most especially is this the case with the living room. It is the modern hearth of the house where we keep our living shrines: the television, the fireplace, the family photos, the company of loved ones.
The living room in my house is dark and quiet now. It sits just to the right of the front door but lies distant and crippled, resigned because of us. We don’t use this room anymore. In fact, it was the same person who once inspired life in this room also came, however unintentionally, to stamp our its smoldering potential as a hub of our disjointed house.
She first moved in as a subletter of an upstairs bedroom. Well actually all of the bedrooms are upstairs. But with her, among the many other things (things!) she brought that found a home of their own in the garage, came a cushy love seat, the kind that almost east you up entirely. It’s so over stuffed that in my mind I am a kitten and it is a bear. She also brought a few hours of unanimous motivation that swept through our bodies and rooms to actually take pride in the shape of this house. In other words, we cleaned. We arranged and rearranged. Ship-shaping.
And so our living room came together and swelled with people and joy. This room alive, so too it seemed was the entire house and its residents.
Returning from Winter Break, I found what looked like a blanket fort for adults that had colonized the back corners of the living room. In an architectural amputation of sorts, the living room was split in two. The housemate-on-hiatus had returned and Ms. Subletter began occupation in the blanket lair with nails freshly hammered into the plaster.
Half of the living room remains but it has not been the same. Half of a room. Not the same. To do what it does, a room relies so dependently on its space and the peoples’ relationship to it.
What was once just blooming became so cold and so barren almost overnight. Neglect found a home. Us residents found seclusion in the sterility of our own rooms where there is now flow from you to me.
A room lies silent in our house, maybe only to find a wandering soul now and again. But for what? Our living room is dead.
You first wore my sunglasses—ya know, the half-frame tortoise-shell wayfarers—not even a month after my 22nd birthday. They look better on you than they do me, especially when I handed them to you and the sun caught you mid-step, bleeding into your lazily brushed hair and handmade wind chime earrings. That’s the image in my mind I’ll have of you forever. Forever is a long time: it takes all day and into tomorrow to get there. And I’ve always wanted to go, but never had the time. But, never never lasts. I’ll be forever soon. I’ll find you there between the lavender bushes and black bees. Or, among the pebbles of the hot concrete, observing the synchronous repeated slaps of sneakers that are forever, too. A breath lifts the wind of this place with leaves and things; the sun is multiplied by metal and plastic. The door knobs to our houses are almost too hot to open. But, I manage one of them ajar and ask for my sunglasses back.