The Shipping News

“At last the end of the world, a wild place that seemed poised on the lip of the abyss. No human sign, nothing, no ship, no plane, no animal, no bird, no bobbing trap marker nor buoy. As though he stood alone on the planet. The immensity of sky roared at him and instinctively he raised his hands to keep it off. Translucent thirty-foot combers the color of bottles crashed onto stone, coursed bubbles into a churning lake of milk shot with cream. Even hundreds of feet above the sea the salt mist stung his eyes and beaded his face and jacket with fine droplets. Waves struck with the hollowed basso peculiar to ovens and mouseholes.

He began to work down the slant of rock. Wet and slippery. He went cautiously, excited by the violence, wondering what it would be like in a storm. The tide still on the ebb in that complex swell and fall of water against land, as though a great heart in the center of the earth beat but twice a day.

These waters, thought Quoyle, haunted by lost ships, fishermen, explorers gurgled down into sea holes as black as a dog’s throat. Bawling into salt broth. Vikings down the cracking winds, steering through fog by the polarized light of sun-stones. The Inuit in skin boats, breathing, breathing, rhythmic suck of frigid air, iced paddles dipping, spray freezing, sleek back rising, jostle, the boat tom, spiraling down. Millennial bergs from the glaciers, morbid, silent except for waves breaking on their flanks, the deceiving sound of shoreline where there was no shore. Foghorns, smothered gun reports along the coast. Ice welding land to sea. Frost smoke. Clouds mottled by reflections of water holes in the plains of ice. The glare of ice erasing dimension, distance, subjecting senses to mirage and illusion. A rare place.”

– Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

((Image: Lizzy Stewart))

The Atlantic

Crane Beach in Ipswich, to be precise.

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

~ e.e. cummings


Next week: The Pacific!

Muppet subway conductors, and also California

Listening to: “Girl in the War” – Josh Ritter

For reasons I can’t even quite understand, I had a certain amount of money to spend on plane tickets that I had to use ASAP. After briefly suckling, then abandoning, dreams of France or Guatemala, I settled on California–that great undiscovered West Coast I’ve never seen. Well, OK, technically I was in LA for a few days when I was seven; but all I remember is riding Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, getting locked in a closet by my mom’s friend’s hideous children, and a tall man yelling at me on a basketball court. Why I was on a basketball court, I’ll never know.

So really, never really seen the West Coast. I’ll spend a few days in San Diego to send off an old, great friend before she gets married (!!! I know, I flipped the fuck out). Then, LA for a day or so to appease aformentioned mother, who will be visiting aformentioned friend. I believe the aformentioned hideous children are in college now. Then, at last, San Francisco, that city I’ve meant to visit for ages. The place I’ve been having recurring dreams about lately (If there really is a craft brewery/sting operation on the highest point of the Golden Gate Bridge run by the KGB, I hope to find it). I also hope to fulfill several cheesy dreams, like driving on the Pacific Coast Highway, getting sloshed in Napa Valley, and visiting locations Jack Kerouac mentions in The Dharma Bums. Probably won’t get to climb the Matterhorn, but in case I do:

Then would come the wild lyrical drizzling rain, from the south, in the wind, and I’d say “The taste of rain, why kneel?” and I’d say “Time for hot coffee and a cigarette, boys,” addressing my imaginary bhikkus. The moon became full and huge and with came the Aurora Borealis over Mount Hozomeen (“Look at the void and it is even stiller,” Han Shan had said in in Japhy’s translation); and in fact I was so still all I had to do was shift my crossed legs in the alpine grass and I could hear the hoofs of deers running away somewhere. Standing on my head before bedtime on that rock roof of the moonlight I could indeed see that the earth was truly upsidedown and man a weird vain beetle full of strange ideas walking around upsidedown and boasting, and I could realize that man remembered why this dream of planets and plants and Plantagenets was built out of the primordial essence. Sometimes I’d get mad because things didn’t work out well, I’d spoil a flapjack, or slip in the snowfield while getting water, or one time my shovel went sailing down into the gorge, and I’d be so mad I’d want to bite the mountaintops and would come in the shack and kick the cupboard and hurt my toe. But let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious.

But I, per usual, digress. I’ve been to three concerts three weeks in a row at the Somerville Theatre which, btdubs, is a kickass venue. Not the fact that you hafta sit down, which is lame, but the acoustics are the kickass part. Saw the Eels two weeks ago, Kimya Dawson last week (plus this AWESOME French band called L’Orchidee d’Hawai whose shit I can only describe as Spy Music), and Colin Meloy (o’ the Decemberists) on Tuesday. Jameson got us these sweet tickets, but some assholes took our seats and the manager smelled far too awful to be talked to for long. Still, it was a great show. Next week, seeing Harry and the Potters (!) cause I’m a huuuuuge dork. Huge. Unapologetic, but huge. Like, the size of an Elizabethan goiter.

What else, what else? Last night, I watched the movie version of Atonement after polishing off the book last week. Joe Wright’s a great fucking director. Those long tracking shots (the ballroom one in Pride and Prejudice and the Dunkirk one in Atonement) make me hot. At the end of his commentary track, when the movie ends and the credits roll, and the “Director: Joe Wright” tag flashes across the screen, Wright just goes, ” ‘es a cunt.” Hilarious.

Oh, and I started writing a song. You don’t know what it’s about. You don’t know. Ha.

Tonight after work, at South Station, I glanced up at the Red Line train as it was pulling onto the platform. As one of the driver’s compartments was flying past, I swear that the guy driving wasn’t a guy at all. It was a Muppet. Like, a humanoid Muppet, that was wearing a Metro Boston Transit Authority uniform, but a Muppet. Felt skin, big googly eyes, floppy mouth, off-putting earnestness, the whole shebang. A Muppet. Fucking driving a subway car. It happened, motherfuckers.

Don’t look at me like that.

No come on. Cut it out.


I’ll kick your ass.

I will.

Migratory things

Listening to: “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” – Bob Dylan

Talk about yer misnomers. “Wintry mix?” What is this weather, a delightful tossed salad with a few rutabagas tossed in for seasonal flair? A delightful mix tape to listen to on the Solstice? No. No. “Wintry mix” should be called “assy hell.” “Assy hell” would be vastly more appropriate to describe March snain careening at your face as you come up from the subway into the windy gloom of Dewey Square.

I know I haven’t written in awhile, as I have been both busy and traveling. My job sent me to New York and Philadelphia, to chat up our teams of writers there. It was good times.

In Philly, I saw the greatest drag show ever at a dive bar called Bob & Barbara’s on South Street, which included a variety of glitzy queens, a stripper dangling his barely-sheathed cock along a drunken birthday girl’s face, and hunky bartenders in Speedos serving up the “special”—PBR and a shot of Jim Beam in a tiny plastic cup. I sat on a bench in Rittenhouse Square and ate street-cart cheesesteak.

A sick but kind-looking man with a bag of medications and the lump of a catheter underneath his jacket asked me for train fare. He said he’d just been released from the hospital after kidney surgery, needed to get back Lancaster, and his car had been booted. He said he had HIV and he’d asked fellow black gay men for help and none of them would help. “My own people,” he said. He could have been scamming me, but I honestly don’t think he was. I gave him $2.50. His image sticks with me.

I stayed alone in a Westin, all expenses paid. It was my first time alone in an honest-to-god hotel room. I’ve been alone in sketchy hostels plenty of times (although you’re never really alone in hostels), but never in a nice hotel room. I started laughing when I walked inside, bounced on the huge white bed, spent twenty minutes examining the minibar, the “refreshment” drawer, the dual-headed shower head, the bathrobe, the Gideon’s bible, the view into the shopping court below. I realized I could’ve done anything in there, and no one would know. It was all about discretion. I felt like I ought to order myself a fancy hooker and a room service feast.

In New York, I spent most of the weekend wandering around Williamsburg with Rachel. We walked down to the East River, where real estate junkies had suddenly realized they could build condos that looked out on a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline. At the moment, it’s a big stretch of flattened grass. We stopped in a garden variety of trendy restaurants and bars and stretched out the day with wine and beer. I think if I move there eventually, Tucker will be alright. Lots of dogs, lots of green spaces.

And back in Boston now, busier than ever, wasting time that I don’t have on this blog. I saw My Name is Rachel Corrie a few weeks ago at the New Rep, and it’s really stuck with me. Not just in that it made me want to look further into the Israel-Palestine awfulness, but that Rachel Corrie was a very good writer. Also, that she really dedicated herself to changing the world as best she could and as best she understood it.

The part of the night that really sent me over the edge, though, was that Rachel Corrie’s actual parents were there. They joined in the talkback after the show, and the actress who played Rachel sat next to them, looking at them in awe, red-eyed, humbled.

I started reading her journals this week. She kept them for years–these go from when she was ten right up until her death by Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 when she was 23. Though some of it is very teen-angsty (albeit extremely articulate teen angst), a lot of what she wrote really feels like I’m hearing someone else rephrasing my own thoughts. If she hadn’t ended up becoming an accidental martyr, I think she could have gone on to be a very fine author.

Written when she was 18:

“I think my soul is nomadic. I’ve always stared upward at airplanes cutting white paths through the sky and wondered where they’re going. I’ve always turned my head a little to listen out of one ear to the people speaking in Spanish behind me on the bus. I’ve always stayed awake all night on the log silent car rides across Montana and Wyoming, watching the muscles of hills in the moonlight, watching the lights of small towns fade into darkness behind me, watching the infinite bald stripe of highway connect eastern horizons to western horizons. I’ve always been jealous of migratory birds.”

Which, in turn, makes me think of Angels in America:

“The oboe. The official instrument of the Order of Travel Agents. If the duck was a song bird, it would sound like this: nasal, desolate, the call of migratory things.”

O, pity us poor, poor privileged white folk, trying to do good in the world and always sinking back into useless self-reflection.

… got that that was sarcastic, right?

PS: You all failed my movie quotes quiz by not answering it. Failed. Shame. Shame heaped upon your heads. Tangental pseudo-religious shame.

Fun with movie quotes

Listening to: “The Way We Get By” – Spoon

OK, so I usually don’t go in for this meme shit, but this one was just too up my alley to pass up. Happy guessing! I added 5 more for good measure.
Look up 15 of your favorite films on IMDb and take a quote from each. List them below. When someone guesses the quote correctly, I cross it off the list. (Mark it in red) NO CHEATING.

1. “If there’s an empty space, just fill it with a line, that’s what I like to do. Even if it’s from another show.”

2. “If the sky were to suddenly open up, there would be no law, there would be no rule. There would only be you and your memories.”

3. “Why, I make more money than – than – than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!”

4. “So whatever you do, don’t be bored, this is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive.”

5. “I cannot fiddle, but I can make a great state of a small city.”

6. “Why would a reviewer make the point of saying someone’s *not* a genius? Do you especially think I’m *not* a genius?”

7. “I got kicked out of university after delivering a brilliant lecture on the aggressive influence of German philosophy on rock and roll entitled “You, Kant, Always Get What You Want”.”

8. “One scoop of creamed potatoes. A slice of butter. Four peas. And as much ice cream as you’d like to eat.”

9. “Young, young man. Did anyone ever tell you you look like a young prince out of the ‘Arabian Nights’?”

10. “Ann Bowman invented luaus! Ann Bowman invented orgies! Ann Bowman invented…revenge.”

11. “Thursday! It can’t be! It’s too gruesome!”

12. “Snookums prefers the rubber Wall Street Journal to the rubber Washington Post.”

13. “Was that the first time someone sang the National Anthem into your ass?”

14. “Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins… And I will never see you again if you do.”

15. “You know, I don’t think I’ve got it in me to shoot my flatmate, my mum, and my girlfriend all in the same night.”

16. “Wouldn’t it have been lovely if we’d met before?”

17. “You do that, you’d best make peace with your dear and fluffy lord.”

18. “Do you realize you’ve had three names in the past two days? I don’t even know who I’m talking to any more!”

19. “Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear.”

20. “You were right Johnny, you can’t win no matter what you do!”

More Gaiman

I don’t mean to keep quoting Neil Gaiman, but… I’m gonna do it again. Sorry.

From The Sandman: The Wake–the last book of the series. This is William Shakespeare–not the real Shakespeare, Gaiman’s characterization of Shakespeare–talking about going through life as a writer (bolds included–this is from a graphic novel, after all):

I wonder… I wonder if it was worth it. Whatever happened to me in my life, happened to me as a writer of plays. I’d fall in love, or fall in lust. And at the height of my passion, I would think, “So this is how it feels,” and I would tie it up in pretty words.

I watched my life as if it were happening to someone else. My son died. And I was hurt; but I watched my hurt, and even relished it, a little, for now I could write a real death, a true loss.

My heart was broken by my dark lady, and I wept, in my room, alone; but while I wept, somewhere inside I smiled. For I knew I could take my broken heart and place it on the stage of the Globe, and make the pit cry tears of their own.

And now… I am no longer young. My health is not good, and my daughter consorts with a lecherous ape, which her fancy amends to a gallant prince. My wife sleeps in her father’s bed, far from me; and she treats me like a foolish child.

And Prospero and Miranda, Caliban and Gonzalo, aethereal Ariel silent Antonio, all of them are more real to me than silly, wise Ben Jonson; Susanna and Judith; the good citizens of Stratford; the whores and oyster-women of London Town

Random quotalicious!

Listening to: “Your Rocky Spine” – Great Lake Swimmers

Just a collection of quotes I’ve heard/read recently. No particular order, no particular theme. Figured I’d fling them out into the Blogoverse for the pigeons and such to peck at.


Our existence deforms the universe. That’s responsibility.
~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones


If or when I do start going to an analyst, I hope to God he has the foresight to let a dermatologist sit in on consultation. A hand specialist. I have scars on my hands from touching certain people. Once, in the park, when Franny was still in the carriage, I put my hand on the downy pate of her head and left it there too long. Another time, at Loew’s Seventy-second Street, with Zooey during a spooky movie. He was about six or seven, and he went under the seat to avoid watching a scary scene. I put my hand on his head. Certain heads, certain colors and textures of human hair leave permanent marks on me. Other things, too. Charlotte once ran away from me, outside the studio, and I grabbed her dress to stop her, to keep her near me. A yellow cotton dress I loved because it was too long for her. I still have a lemon-yellow mark on the palm of my right hand. Oh, God, if I’m anything by a clinical name, I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.
~ J.D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters


Can I take you to a restaurant
That’s got
glass tables?
You can watch yourself
While you are eating.

~ The English Beat, “Mirror in the Bathroom”


I don’t like to think of myself as depressed so much as paralyzed by hope.
~ Maria Bamford


Outside Bagel Rising in Allston:
GUY: Are you interested in food?
GIRL: Yeah, but not fucking hipster fucking bagels.


Motion is not a condition
but a desire
to be outside of one’s self
and all desire must be swept away

~ August Kleinzahler, The Strange Hours Travelers Keep


Spending warm Summer days indoors
Writing frightening verse
To a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg…

~ The Smiths, “Ask”


Can you pour me more… mac-a-toasted flakes?
~ my roommate, attempting to request Frosted Mini Wheats


The worst imaginable kind of fascism would be
if the soul belonged only to the living,
and not to the dust and stones!

~ Tomaz Salamun


It falls into the sea
minutely, vermilion.
And the fish and shrimp
moving near the surface turn pink
under its glow, and the glimmer of flashbulbs
from the balconies.

There must be a signature somewhere,
some identifying technique, a puzzle
for us on the balconies to see pink and distorted
through our drinks.

The light is pulling away from us, its colors
becoming classical, our rooms becoming more important.
The trees are sighing.
In the summer they might have been whistling, cooing,
but tonight they’re sighing.

~ Matthew Rohrer, “What Light Does in the Fall”