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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in linda eddings (26)

Friday
Sep082017

In Which We Leave Our Loved Ones In An Enviable Position

Red Dust

by LINDA EDDINGS

Office hours begin at three. Who knows how long they'll last?

I run into my therapist at the opening of a local juice bar. She does not see me, but I notice that her hair is done in a completely different fashion than what I have come to expect. I am so shaken I have to sit down.

On a bus downtown, a man carries a thousand little parcels and packages, attached to each other by string, cord and tape. A teenager asks him if it is an exhibit or something. The man opens one of the packages and inside is a business card.

My friend Stacy is a major theme of this essay. She has a very useful test that I have sort of made my own. If she meets a new person, she has these two restaurants that are very easy to confuse and not far from each other. She shows up at one, and if he doesn't, well that's just too bad.

Instead of finding out what someone is like when they are really, truly angry, make them a little angry.

My therapist recently discovered some of the things I had written about her. She says, "Your depiction portrays me as sounding weird." She says, "Self-expression is the most innocent form of flattery," and then she rotates a mug in her hands upwards of ten times. I say, "Your hero is Kafka? Your summer palace is on the Rhine? You say you have questions for me?"

In Agata & Valentina, Emmy Rossum asks an employee for aspargus. My dad called to tell me to watch the full moon tonight. "Did you ever think there were so many types of lettuce?" he says. His version of being retired is like a bird who has had a wing repaired, but doesn't know it.

My brother is getting married in the fall. I am very happy for him, the way you go to one store in a strip mall, and another store is celebrating their grand opening. You wish and don't wish the attention was elsewhere. I am so tired of the concept of attention. It seems like a modern conceit, maybe the only modern conceit. One that demands we be observed or acknowledged.

Stacy has a boyfriend now. When she tried the restaurant trick on him, he said he doesn't like to meet women at restaurants. Stacy says that it's because he feels uncomfortable eating in front of other people, like he is a pig at the trough. Do you see the connection between this anecdote and the line about attention? Would you even notice if the moon in the sky was upside down.

Lately I have been doing a lot of whispering. Nattering quietly to myself is the function of living alone, in the apartment I am renting. It was just built, and so no one in the building expects anything to break. I'd like to own a place, but not in New York City. Maybe somewhere upstate.

My therapist wants to know my evaluation of her. "I love how available you make yourself," I begin. "Once I saw you in a juice bar... Never mind, never mind! I think that you are great at staying internally consistent. Sometimes I wonder if you are remembering what I said or remembering what you said. Then I think, what's the difference? If you hear one side of the conversation, you can probably reconstruct the other! It will be as if one person is there, and the second participant exists only as a shadow of the initial act." She says, "I'm not a shadow of you, Linda," and sips Tropicana.

Last night I walked along 60th at the bottom of Central Park. Rats sprang out of the greenery to feast upon all the leftover horse feed. They are mad to be satiated, wild with abandon. In order to start a new thought, it takes more than simply matching the taste to the palate.

Stacy thinks she is in love with her boyfriend. "He's kind of a weird guy," she confesses. I ask if it something other than his apparent eating issues. She says that when they went to the movies the other night, she found herself massaging his temples and touching his dick. I ask if he told her to do that. "It seemed implied," she says, cutting celery into the smallest possible pieces.

I want you to know that standing there is no more than an affectation.

My dad asks me to choose a color. He's painting my old room. "What goes on in there now?" I ask. "Mostly the same stuff as when you were here," he says, even though that was very long ago now. "Self-loathing. Pride. Catnaps. Sometimes I come in here when your mother is snoring." I say, "Imagine being invisible only at night." Half the shades he forces me to compare I can't manage to see any difference. I imagine that for a god, the variation between the worst human being and the best would be this kind of tiny shift in color.

For example, have you looked at the Periodic Table of the Elements lately? Has there ever been a more outright obvious scam?

I ask my therapist about Stacy's boyfriend. "They were in line at Starbucks," I say, "and someone stepped in front of them. He got all up in the guy's face and smacked down his coffee cup." She says, "So?" I say, "Isn't that kind of reckless and unwarranted?" She lets out a sigh that could inflate a balloon.

Full moon tonight. I whisper it and text everyone I know (the list is not long – as I get older it is more difficult to meet new people, and even when I find someone I like, the context is always wrong). In my text I detail how much more fun it will be when we are all wolves. Imagine the licking alone! I crow and cackle. Feeling like I could run up the face of a mountain, I start crumpling up all the useless pieces of paper I keep around here. Everything made or unmade was with my hands.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Tuesday
Aug152017

In Which Kathy Acker Eliminates Our Need For Other Sustenance

Saint Kathy

by LINDA EDDINGS

Bangled and sewn up, it's just hair. 

Oakland, 1999. I meet Kathy for the first time. She tells everyone else she is a novelist, but she tells me another word for it. She is gone but still around someplace. 

When she used to live in San Diego, she knew a bald man with different colored eyes. It took me a long time to realize her descriptions of this man matched her almost completely.

Before we are about to die, Kathy says, we see ourselves completely different from how we were before. Worse. "Cancer is big business," she wrote. There is a lot that she put down that I do not believe. 

I read Kathy to keep my spirits up. I don't have access to her most depressing texts. In her novel about high school, Kathy writes of a woman having sex with a man, but it is a man having sex with a woman more so. The accompanying pictures of penises illustrate the point. 

"Language begins with desire," she has Colette explain. OK. 

Kathy wakes up. It is 1984. Her mornings always take place at Gold's Gym. Is it possible she is there now? She was a woman who desired men sexually, and then wrote of them as they were. What is so wrong with that?

There is this old story about when Saul Bellow went to interview for a job with Time. I'll tell you later. 

When she was a stripper, she found that tattoos suited her lithe, semi-nude form. Take any behavior in private and make it public. Then sell it, trade on it. I know why people do not like pornography - it is not the same as hard drugs, or the murder of animals. It is something they themselves have to address when they robe and disrobe, and they are ashamed. 

What would Kathy be now I wonder? She wrote the movement, was the movement, transcended any movement. It still would have been difficult to be her. Her mother was an awful woman, you understand, and when she fled this country for Germany, it was partly to rid herself of nasty associations. 

It is painful to read any more about Kathy. I want to ride the motorcycle of someone I respect. I don't give two shits about their influences. 

1918: Mankind emerges from the shadows. Womankind follows afterwards, a picture of resentment. There is a general conclusion that before now, nothing really counted. In a quarter-century, Kathy will be born to confirm this view.  

She never knew her father, and I have met people like that. They think about what might have been a lot, and I don't blame them, only I wish they wouldn't. 

Try writing like Kathy instead. Try working into every conversation that you have emerged from a literary fatalism. It is intellectual fear-mongering, primarily. I don't know what to think about what to think. 

There is this old story about when Saul Bellow went to interview for a job with Time. I'll tell you later. 

Kathy wakes up, goes to the gym. Now it is time to write, so instead of formulating a plan, she is astride a chair the way a bat looms on some fucking stalagmite. I'm so empty in the morning. 

I love you. 

I know a friend who puts together her syllabus, and she thinks of what her students will hate the most, and she makes it 40 percent of their grade. When the papers come in, she shudders, because she hates it too. 

Kathy wouldn't understand that. She did not need to manufacture this feeling of displacement. It was like, in your computer, sometimes you have a separate graphics card, and other times there are just integrated graphics which use a portion of the existing memory. For Kathy, there was no separate angst. She was the angst; the feeling was integrated. 

Kathy leaves Brandeis for San Diego. She takes a plane or she drives. She has to get far away. 

I love you so much that I can't think of anything else besides your lipstick on my towels, Kathy Acker

Render the future meaningless, like the past always was. There is no memory of the dead, just the imposition of the present on everything, drowning the rest out. A principle of natural selection. 

Portland, 2003. Every single person on the street is writing their own memoir. The titles of the memoirs are as follows: The Restitution, Tits and Grits, My Banana Pancakes, Bats in Stalactites, Kathy's Braided Hairstyles, Way of the Nomad Prince. The dedications are to the same person: she is not the son of God. I mean he might have had a daughter, but not mentioned her out of respect. 

Kathy writes: "I used to ask, 'Do you love me?' Well, I asked him once and learned better. He replied, good old journalist that he was, what I feel about you is my business and what you feel about me is your business. Pay attention to your own business. I learned a lot from that one. If you want to get fucked up the ass, go do it. (I’m sure you do.) It’s not your problem, is it? Me, straight queer gay whatever and where do nut cakes like me fit in who like getting fistfucked whacked and told what to do?—the only things that appall me are babies."

So Saul Bellow goes to interview with Whittaker Chambers. They wanted someone on book reviews at Time magazine. (Is there still a Time magazine?) And Whittaker, Kathy bless him, well he asks this stolid Jewish man-in-training what he thinks of Wordsworth. And Saul says, "I always thought he was a romantic poet." And Chambers just shakes his head like this is a dogshit answer and the man is not fit to breathe the same air as him. 

When someone dies there is this profoundly unappealing saga of remembrance. "Everyone dies of something," a doctor once explained to Kathy, which she could only fathom in one way: she had been given a sentence, only not the kind she usually wished for. She had, weeks previously, begun to feel small dense packets of tissues in her charming breasts. 

The year 2043 is paved with good intentions. 

When I die tell someone else you miss me. Don't tell me that because I already know. Don't tell my mother. 

2019, I am still reading My Mother: A Demonology. She could not let go of the woman. "My parents were horrible," she writes, by which I intuit they used a lot of homonyms, smoked clove cigarettes, and read the nautical novels of Patrick O' Brian. In some cases — and I believe this is one of them — you heartily desire to put the past behind you but you are smart enough to know you never will. 

Saul Bellow was right, about this and so many other things. (What Whittaker wanted to hear, though, was that Wordsworth was a former revolutionary turned monarchist.) Do you feel divorced from literature? Do you feel like the only thing it has to say anymore is its age?

I miss Kathy, but I still have her books. I miss you. I miss you a lot but I don't have any of your things, maybe a few cards you sent me and the gifts I bought for you but never delivered. I would give them to Goodwill but I can't stand seeing all the clothing grouped by the same color. Some part of me knows that's wrong. 

I wake up and I go to the gym.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her writing here.

Thursday
Jul132017

In Which We Leave Or Return To New York

This is the first in a two part series.

photograph by stephen wilkes

Summer Diary

by LINDA EDDINGS

May 4th

The boys and girls dominate a playground, flags wave at them, perilously, calling. My friend Mary was supposed to come into town this week until she saw the temperatures. She called me from her boyfriend's place in the country.

"You wouldn't believe how nice it is here."

"I wouldn't," I said. I asked, what kinds of animals are there? She thought for a second.

"There are loads of bats in the barn," she said, "but you can't see them. They feast on the mosquitos. And I saw a yellow lab puppy. It was eating jello."

May 12th

Bats are not generally friendly to human beings, but it is a lot more acceptance than you can find walking along the East River. Yesterday I saw boys sliding across the wake of a container ship on colored jetskis. I read in the paper that one of them died next to the Statue of Liberty. Mary seemed nonplussed by the news. "I would want to go in an ironic way also, like choking to death in San Simeon." She had to get off the phone because they were going to a farmer's market.

Nothing holds my attention for very long, so I try to think of what would manage to occupy me for more than the moment it would take to make me think of something better. It's not writing.

May 20th

Running is difficult, but not as difficult as walking very quickly. I try to keep a more measured pace. On the way to the mayor's mansion I spotted a homeless gay Indian couple sleeping back to back under the bridge. The amount of costume jewelry on hand is staggering. Even the dog park radiates echoes of disappointment, but I am not prepared to concede I should never come here while I am single.

photograph by stephen wilkes

May 23rd

I finished an autobiography by a woman who was a well-paid actor. She married a man twelve years her senior, I think he was a doctor but of economics, or some other social science. After she marries him, she never mentions him again.

It is hard to be reminded of places in the city that are familiar from another time, like the fake castle or the hollowed out church where we did spin. It makes me want to go to the country to avoid them. Mary said, sure! Come up. I take the worst train on the continent and I was still forty minutes from where she's staying.

Her boyfriend's name is Sam, and he has a relevant anecdote about almost everything. Here is an example: I couldn't find my phone. "Oh, Sam used to work for Apple," she said, "he'll find it for you." It turns up in the car, which is a BMW.

I asked what Sam does for a job now. Mary explained that he had invented a certain type of software that made it easier to develop other kinds of software. I asked what kind of software that was. Sam said, "Mostly security." At the first opportunity, he bought seven eggplants. I thought, for what?!

May 24th

Some of Sam's friends came over and they all gathered around a fire. It was like parties at my high school, hiding behind the largest rock we could find to smoke, only there are only two subjects permitted as topics of conversation: Donald Trump, and the destructive elements of technological advancement. Deja vu reigns supreme.

Sam seemed to notice how bored Mary and I are and he details a game he sometimes plays to pass the time. The game is designed to encourage confessions from introverted or reticent people. It involves suggesting that you are, if only for a brief second, someone else.

It gives me an idea. Pretending to be a different Linda might hold my attention. Here are some fortunate qualities this other me might embody:

– she could outlast anyone at anything, even sex
– she could recall how often and well she hula-hooped in her childhood
– she could develop an everlasting appreciation for the opera and Cicely Tyson
– she could eat gluten
– she could be friend to man and beast, leaving her anxiety behind in the cold morass of dawn on the lilies

Gardening is a wonderful hobby. It's simply not my hobby.

photograph by stephen wilkes

June 2

I decided to return to New York the second I saw it in the background of a movie about a woman who compared it, unfavorably, to wine country.

It stunned me to think I have suddenly become homesick for the place, especially when it is summer and the default condition of the air is exhaust. At my favorite park, it is best not to hang around at dusk because the rats prance out of their nests. A well-informed woman once told me they have no real fear of strollers, which is more than I can say for myself.

Maybe I should be thinking that I could be like these mothers, that I had someone in my life who would have made a placid, yet assertive sort of father. New York is not the place to try to find that type of man again, I'm afraid. It keeps you young, very young, much more youthful than your listed age until it suddenly catches up to you in one prophetic gasp.

I went to eat some blueberries in my fridge, and they were covered with fuzzy moss.

June 11

Mary finally came to visit. When she arrived, I forced her to admit she only made the time since Sam was in San Diego for a conference. It does not make me feel great, but it does not bother the other Linda as much as me.

June 12

After 24 hours, we have fully exhausted the conversation about Sam, examining the relationship from every conceivable angle. Mary's chief worry, and possibly a valid one, was that Sam would prefer to be with someone more technically adept in his field. "You know what they do at these conferences," she said, cutting an apple in half with my largest knife like William Tell with dementia.

"I have no idea what they do," I said.

"Sex!" she said, "it's just an excuse to have human contact with others outside the boundaries of marriage. Haven't you heard of Sergey Brin?"

"No," I said. "Does he know Sheryl Sandberg?" She holds my hips and stares at me like I was silly for playing dumb.

We devise a plan to confirm or deny Mary's suspicions. It involves calling Sam at his hotel a number of times but never saying anything, just listening at the phone. Eventually he picks up, but we just sit there quietly, confirming or invalidating our worst fears.

June 14th

Mary had her mother in the city for the day. Her mom's name is Jeanne and she will not remarry, and she has been asked to do so very often. "It must be flattering," I said, "that so many people want you for their wife."

"Men get to the point where it is the only thing they want," she explained, "if they have any sense." I asked her if she was ever tempted to say yes. She touched my face and giggled like I was the most naive person on the planet.

You can get fruits or vegetables, any kind, cheapest in the summer in the right places. If you know where it is all coming in, which I have learned by now.

You might want to eat the fruit the second you handle it, especially if you have not had breakfast that morning. But wash it first, in your home, because I know a guy who ate a grapefruit he saw and the left side of his face looked like it was on fire.

photograph by stephen wilkes

June 27th

I saw Mary's number on my phone, but when I answered, it was Sam. He inquired for my advice about what to get Mary as a gift. He apologized that his friends talked about politics all night. "It's the only thing that makes them feel alive," he said. I suggested a pet.

Talking to anyone on the phone feels excessively intimate in these times, even when it is Jeanne. She wanted to know what perfume I was wearing that day two weeks ago. I am stunned into silence that so much time has passed. "I wasn't wearing any perfume," I said. "Mary was."

July 1st

In order to develop the kind of attention span that will suit me well in the years to come, I practiced standing completely still, especially while waiting for something to happen.

Mary announced that she does not care what happened in San Diego. I told her I was sorry. She said, "No, no, it's not that."

I said, "You know better than me. You've been through this before. I don't know if there is a real chance of gaining that trust. But in order to do so, you have to be open to it." I relate the phone call Sam had made to me the previous month and that it was innocent and sweet. But when you think about it for long enough, nothing in New York is really either one.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.