Abolition Of The Decent Society

This post is bound to get canceled. By me. I’ve never seen good writing born out of anger, and I’ve seen a lot of writing. So I better kill it before it fades.

Right. Who are they, the Roe vs. Wade abolitionists?

Pro-lifers. They are the people who would, if they could, hand out free weaponry for gunmen to shoot up schools, shops and public spaces. They are the opponents of euthanasia who kill themselves in captivity, overcome not by remorse for having destroyed the lives of the women and girls they molested, but by the insufferable prospect of having to suffer for it in prison for the rest of their lives.

Occupational Moralists. They are the nihilists who, fundamentally cynical of any morals, buy, sell and watch child pornography, raise their sons to become next gen’s misogynists, and can be fact-checked to have said things like “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Supreme Court Judges. They are the body politic (not the impartial and independent judiciary worthy of a clear headed person’s respect) who would, if such case made it to their high altar some day, based on the First Amendment, rule that a domestic mogul made potus may not be denied the right to endorse the mob lynching of his bigot VP, who only came to his senses after his boss, even in the analyis of the VP’s dithery mind, got voted out.

Men. Who rape women. Or who say, it’s our decision too, and then walk out the door to pursue their careers, or worse.

Homo Economicus

2015-2017 Portfolio (Restated)

With affluence come kindness, humility and self-sacrifice, and the economy lying prostrate with emaciation, I was convinced that my purchases in luxury shopping could have a measurably positive effect on it. So on the one day, visiting out capital, where I had been working for many years, at a 20-minute drive from where I live, I entered the Burberry flagship store and came out less than an hour later with a pair of lace-up boots, a pencil skirt and a cashmere sweater, a complementary F/W 2014 lookbook slipped into the oversized bag along with my purchases, and a $ 2,000 charge to my AMEX. The next day I visited a recently opened Dolce & Gabbana store in the same street where Burberry are fitted out (and where many other big names in fashion are roosting) and spent $1,800 on a pant suit and a blouse. On the third day I returned to the Burberry flagship store to collect the skirt, which I had asked to be altered in the waist and through the darts because its size 40 (Italian; which would be a US 4), the smallest they stocked, was a little too big on me. Although (obviously) the alteration was free of charge, I found myself set back another $ 1,600 in exchange for a S/S 2014 clutch convertible to a handbag (or the other way round, at the discretion of your salesperson’s approach in talking you into the buy), whose composition – it was made of python (outer/main), calf (trim) and lamb (lining) – was a tribute to biodiversity and a testimony to the importance of preserving it. On the fourth day, I re-entered the Dolce & Gabbana store to claim the pant suit which had had to be altered to the effect that the pants would be hemmed at maximum length, because I stand quite tall, and taken in at the waist, because my waist is nimble, and the jacket’s sleeves let out an inch each at the cuffs, because (but you would have gotten the picture by now) the length of my arms is somewhat above average. That was free of charge too. Unfortunately though, the other day I had noticed a fitted light blue jacquard dress with jewel buttons and silk lining (spring 2014 runway), pinned to a mannequin, which sold for $ 2,600 (all amounts mentioned in this recount are rounded off down to the nearest unit of hundred). I had not been able to set my mind to rest about that dress and I bought it one size smaller than the one on the doll, subject, this item too, to alteration – but I will not go into all that girl stuff again. Then I asked the shop assistant whether he knew of a place nearby where I could have a decent lunch and he managed to telephonically book me at the Conservatory Hotel, one block away, where, as I could construe from his contribution to the exchange, the girl answering his call started out saying they couldn’t take any more reservations, but then said (I don’t know by operation of what leverage my man wielded to decide the matter) that they were happy to free up a table for the customer.


The Conservatory Hotel had a doorman, black. At first I didn’t recognize him for a doorman. It was cold outside and he was all huddled up in his coat, his head buried deep in its collar. In fact, I mistook him for a homeless beggar. But when I got near he straightened himself and now I could fully appraise his stately doorman attire and posture and his handsome and well-groomed face. His case roused me to the awareness how badly the cold messes up appearances (to the point of reviving obsolescent stereotypes). I set out to find a restroom to fix mine before proceeding to the restaurant. The latter was one flight of stairs down from the elevated ground floor (I had had to ascend a flight of stairs to get into the building) and, had weather conditions been more propitious, would have opened on a walled garden, visible through large glass panes, along its entire back.

As I sat waiting for my order to be taken and then for it to be served I chid myself for not having stuck a book in my purse as I am wont to. Without someone to talk to or something to read (other than the menu, which you can pretend to study only for so long or no one’s ever going to stop by your table and take an order) and there being next to no traffic on my smartphone (either text, in any mode, or voice) I soon found myself at loss as to where to cast my eyes at. I nosed out the room for famous people, but only discerned a bunch of overacting lawyers I happened to know, busying themselves around a man and a woman, youngish, whom I assumed to be liaisons of a corporate client of their firm, which I happened to know as well because I had been a partner there for over a decade. They never even once looked in my direction, or if they did I didn’t notice because I averted my eyes a lot quicker than it takes to describe the scene.

Lunch served brought relief from my predicament, it being perfectly natural to alternate between looking at what’s on your plate and picking at it, and casually looking around the room as you are chewing the food or sipping your wine. When the table had been cleared and I sat waiting for an additional coffee-and-pastry order to be served as dessert, I found myself fortunate enough to have received two email messages to keep me busy for a while, even if they were generic and appeared to have passed the spam filter only due to some technical glitch, or manipulation on the part of the sender, or coincidence.


A little earlier on, as I was still eating away at my main course, four women, whom I estimated to be in their thirties, bogged down in lower sales management or marcom careers, and at the apogee of their professional development curves, were seated for lunch at a table adjacent to mine. No sooner had the menu been handed to them than they forgot all about it but to start an inane and over excited chatter on tedious commercial stuff in the telecommunications business, which they seemed to think to be about the hottest on earth, and probably to be considered that by practically everyone else on earth. Even if it was hard not to overhear them, my lack of interest soon as good as deafened me to their conversation. But, the subject matter having shifted to weight and what caused it and how to lose it (with each of the ladies being duly apologetic about her own), I suddenly found myself picking up on it again as my neighbors converged on the position that skinny women – by which I thought I could make out (and I’m being deliberately cautious here) they meant anyone with a US catalog size from 8 down – are skinny because they hardly eat; as simple, they seemed to imply, and despicable as that. More or less at that juncture my dessert order consisting of a large latte and more than a trifle of chocolate cake was put down in front of me. I immediately dug into the cake and enjoyed every bite and every pause I took to sip from my latte with deliberation and intent. Halfway through these dessert items I got up to visit the bathroom, something I would never do, but did to prove to the neighboring table that a curvy size 2, standing at 6 ft. (exclusive of 4” heels), clad in a high-waist Burberry London pencil skirt and a cashmere sweater tucked in over a smooth belly, can coexist peacefully, even successfully, with food.


But when I got to paying my debit card bounced, and then my AMEX bounced too, and so did my MasterCard and my Visa, and that’s where I ran out of plastic. I began to feel hot inside and, although I did not sweat (I don’t easily sweat), this physical reaction to monetary pressure evidenced itself in a heightened expression of the perfume I was wearing (Roma by Laura Biagiotti), which didn’t do it any good as it made the powdery scent of this classy perfume heavy and overbearing. Mumbling vaguely something about apparently having botched the management of funds (and this would turn out to be not a complete fib either) I suddenly remembered that such a thing as cash, as good nowadays as gold bars used to be, still existed and, even better, that some of it would be sitting in my purse. And so it was. I handed over notes covering the expense, plus a $ 15 (i.e. 25%) tip to restore some of my credibility and bearing. And, barring a few coins which I tipped to the doorman when I left, this was where I had run out of cash, too. I considered myself fortunate for having filled up the car before sallying out earlier that day.

Frankly, the situation had me more than a little worried. When I got home I went online immediately to check my accounts only to establish that little under $ 20,000 (viz. $ 19,967.23) was in my current account, which all my cards draw on. I called my man at the bank and told him how embarrassed I had been at the restaurant. I asked him what the hell had been going on there. He said Hold please and I’ll check, and when he got back to me he explained that the balance of my current account was a negative amount, i.e. was what I owed the bank, i.e. that I owed close to $ 20,000 to the bank, and that $ 20,000 was my account credit limit, which would have been overstepped, if only by the narrowest margin, had I drawn on my account to pay the lunch. These limits are pretty rigid, I’m afraid, he said, and they kick in instantaneously and automatically at a max-out.


With $ 1.9 million deposited in accounts in the name of the LLC through which I had held my stake in the equity of the firm I had been a partner of, it took me less than 3 minutes to complete the necessary transfers to replenish my current account. But I recognized that it was time I took stock: I owed a lot more to my company than the $ 1.9 million registered in its name; I owned a 4-bathroom, 8-bedroom house (most of it paid with loans taken out on the company). which I hadn’t been able to sell in two years, let alone for an amount that came anywhere near the amount of indebtedness to my company; I was jobless and without a source of income. I realized I was technically bankrupt.

From this bold facedown I concluded that worse may befall a woman of talent, style and beauty, with great taste in clothes, who may be seen riding her 12-speed Koga Sportslady in a short skirt (Krizia, SS 2016) at high speed with both hands off the bars, even in curves.

Boyfriend

2014-2016 Portfolio (Restated)

After I had fallen afoul of the powerful forces that, for close to two decades, had been driving me forward in society and propelling me financially ahead of the vast majority of my fellow human beings, the conviction grew on me that there isn’t such a thing as reality, whether or not of our own making, suitable to plot our lives on; that, even if we believe there is and consensus is assumed on what we mean when we refer to it, fiction is as valuable and respectable to help us negotiate and even shape our lives, and – but that’s a stretch – bring them to a satisfactory close when it’s our time. I’m not saying I will use fiction to deceive and turn my life into a lie. I’d rather die. What I mean is that in more cases than you might think fiction is a perfect means to make up for the lack of sense and morality and the manipulativeness and deceitfulness of what is commonly referred to as reality. If you’re looking for a Darwinian explanation of the power of imagination we have developed as a species, I offer you this: the way aeons of evolution have seen us, for whatever good to our survival, embrace the concept of reality to the point where it has deprived us of the ability to leave the facts to themselves, human life is impossible without it.


I’m alone a lot of the time lately. I may say things to my dog like: “It’s a housewife’s thing, Smith, that as soon she has recovered from sickness [by this, in this case, referring to a migraine attack which lasted two and a half days, such as I come down with every six to eight weeks] she will start on the housework that she left unattended but has been unable to put out of her mind.” A thing like this I will say merrily because after a migraine attack I feel wonderfully rinsed (and not just because I don’t eat anything and vomit all the time) and extremely lucid and very energetic; I can’t wait to get work done that mere hours before I couldn’t so much as lift a finger at. There is something euphoric in my voice, which I feel in my throat, rather than hear myself. But the dog registers it. Its tail goes up and it turns into that exuberant creature that follows me from the one room to the next I clean, jumps on every bed I make, yaps and snaps at sheets of paper swirling to the floor as I gather my daughter’s school books and papers from all over the place and arrange them in her room, and sits watching attentively (and a little impatiently, because there is nothing it can jump at or run after or stick its nose into) while I, precariously perched on a chair, clean the 1.3 ft. deep fish tank, which is mounted on a 4 ft. stand, which is also a cabinet for holding various fish tank paraphernalia. I’m not really a housewife, by the way. At the time my husband left me, I was bringing in most of the money. I worked 6 days a week, putting in 60 to 70 hours. He walked, or died; I don’t quite remember which. Perhaps he went to have a sex change. Anyway, the one thing (and never mind which) led to the other and now I am alone. But saying to myself I am a housewife – and no one will argue with me that I am as good as any – is strangely comforting.

Or I may say silly things, to myself mostly, rather than to the dog or, addressing them right through the thick glass walls of their tank, the fantails, that my daughter baptized Nemo, Mandarin, Minni, Molly, Tip-Tip and Silvy. I had better not write those things down, because they could strike a person as utterly offensive, improper, outrageous or outlandish, and so on. I have not mastered the skill set to come across as being inoffensive or proper or moderate while I’m fundamentally none of these. But, at a cost, going a long way to explain my current state of semi isolation, I have learned to keep the dark side of me, which saying such things reveals, to myself. This may seem just as well for all practical purpose, except that it has me muttering to myself a lot of the time. I might be better off if I were able to soften up to my fellow human beings. But I simply cannot. Believe me if I say I’m not proud of that.

Or I may just lie in my bed on my back. To prevent the bright sunlight blasting through the French window style balcony doors, across from the footboard, from burning my eyes, I will turn either side of my head to the pillow or I may decide to turn on either of my sides altogether. But I will not close the curtains. The sun has a good case being out there, youthful and brazen and as bright as it can get, whereas I have no business being in my bed. But I will briefly doze off regardless and wake up an hour or so later, dazed and not feeling all too well. I do get up though and I shake off my misery because I will simply not allow things to get out of hand or worse than they have already. I will be there when my daughter gets home from school and make her that cup of tea and a sandwich or something, and I will ask about the homework she’s got and what’s her planning on it and help her with it if she lets me, and I will feed the animals (Smith, and the cats, whom my daughter ordained should go by the names of Cheat and Lucia, and the fantails) and think of what we will have for dinner and prepare what must be prepared in advance to cook it later and put it on the table at a decent hour. The understanding we have on this is I go to bed sometimes during the day because I need a little nap, not because I’m depressed or beaten up or desperate or anything. And there is more truth in this than I make it sound like here.


O, the way I spend, the way I dress, the way I move and keep my back straight, my shoulders limp and my head up! The way I make heads turn! The way I was destroyed, the way I’m myself destroying what is left of me! I could easily be the talk of many a town. But, if I act out downfall from stardom, what I never had was stardom. I am alone and all one sees of me are the consistent absence of a companion, my outrageous expenses, my expensive clothes, my slimness, my tallness, my erectness, and the impenetrability that I cannot shed if I wanted to. My motives are not pried into and my downfall goes unnoticed, fails to get recognized for what it is, and, stardom not being what I’m falling down from, increasingly falls short of affordability. What difference is there between me and the haggard looking woman of inestimable age I saw the other day from my car as I went downtown to shop more apparel, who struggled in the direction in which the gridlocked traffic I was in was headed, dragging a trolley shopping bag behind her, her eyes to the ground, wearing old jeans, a man’s coat, her face scarce that of a woman any longer, but gray and sexless? I’m pretty sure that I am not less clueless than she is. But having pondered the question I decided that, unlike me, she has given up and doesn’t care if defeat is all over her for everyone to stare at. I’m not saying I never considered giving up, that I would have never reached that point. But if I had, it would have marked the moment when I had taken my own life, not when I had started to stoop and shamble along the streets.


There was this question of having four students from God knows where in the whole wide world stay for a couple of days with us. They take part in a model United Nations conference for senior highs worldwide. My daughter’s school is among the schools participating in this annual event, and so, even if my daughter is in junior high (she said she had been appointed to one of the admin positions for juniors), a ninth grader called me to ask if I would be willing to provide quarters to four students for just three days. I said yes, sure. I said we could lodge more, because I have a really big house with more spare rooms than rooms we use and four bathrooms etc. and that it’s just my daughter and I living in it. The senior girl, clearly a novice at this kind of thing, proceeded with a sort of questionnaire, and as I listened to her I could feel the effort to make sense of the questions as she struggled through the list. She asked things like can I cook vegetarian meals? (Yes, although I’ve never rustled up anything intentionally vegetarian short of leaving out the meat, but I can do better than that). Do I have a preference for males of females or a mix? (No preference, but FYI, we’re just two females living here). Do we own pets? (O, yes! And – diverging purposely as I added this information, because I felt elated and wanted the conversation to last – two mice and some stick insects, too, and an inchworm that came in from outside with the ivy that the stick insects feed on and that has outlasted two generations of stick insects already). What foreign languages do I speak? (French, German, Italian… No, not Spanish; désolée). And so on. My daughter is enthusiastic, but knowing she would be wasn’t the only reason I said yes. Another is that I so desperately, so desperately, want to reach out to people, even if I’ve hardly ever managed to get to be given anything lasting in return when I did, anything beyond a kind word, a thank you note, or a box of chocolates.

But now I’m here in bed with one of the students, a 17-year old boy. He’s from Brazil, where they speak Portuguese. His name is Adriano. He’s a meat eater, a naturally inveterate carnivore, if ever there was one. He has excused himself from the moot conference session today saying he was suffering from a nasty rash, like something from an allergy, he said, like they say is caused by cat hair, or synthetic nesting material for mice, although he wasn’t aware of any allergies that he would be suffering from. My daughter has gone administrating. I am aware the school will probably file complaint with the authorities if they find out I am sleeping with a 17-year old model United Nations Conference student who has been entrusted to my care. I will not be excused because he looks five years older, and there is a degree of sophistication in his lovemaking, which, if his passport would not belie the biological possibility, warrants the misapprehension that he has lost his innocence at least a decade ago and never missed an opportunity for erotic involvement since. After all, I did not simply pick him up from the streets. He was enrolled and registered at MUN, taken to my home and formally transferred to me with documents to sign.
“Adriano, you will understand how important it is that you do not speak to anyone, ever, about what we are doing here?”
“I will never say one word.”
But I can’t get my mind to dislodge and flush out the fear that he will, and that he will get a rumor started like a bush fire, which school officials will not tarry to get to the bottom of. When he restarts his lovemaking I tell him I have things to do and have to get moving.
“I can see you are worried about this.” He rolls himself on top of me.
“You mustn’t be.” He sits back on his knees and gropes behind him to grab my ankles.
“Please, don’t be worried.”
He squeezes my ankles. He releases his grip and moves his hands upward and when they reach my knees they continue to go up along the inside of my thighs.
“Do you think I would need to be bragging to anyone about this? Or that it would give me some kind of pleasure to expose you? Why?”
His right hand cups my vulva, presses it as the middle finger gently massages my perineum.
“No!” he says. And then: “O, no!” And still on his knees between my legs, he bends and kisses my lips.

You see, Adriano is not a stage prop or a bit part in this recount. He is a person, a principal character, and I allow him roundness, individuality, uniqueness. Absent Adriano’s uniqueness I am nothing in this scene. But when we are done I am being preemptive. I call school and ask to be put through to someone from staff involved in MUN and I tell that someone that Adriano, who is staying in my house, has reported sick and that I feel responsible for him and want to give a status update. I say that I had a call with our family physician, who, hearing of the symptoms, told me not to worry. I went on to assert that, in fact, Adriano, when he was still in bed in his room, called me from his cell phone to tell he feels much better already and that I, too, thought he looked better when he got downstairs to eat the lunch that I had cooked up for him and to which I had invited him calling him from my cell phone. When I have disconnected I return to my room where I find Adriano asleep, still and beautiful as in a genre piece of an Italian renaissance master. And looking down on him I think I see “O, no” still lingering on his slightly parted lips.

My daughter enters the bedroom, where she knows she may find me, resting a bit, when she returns from school. She is still in her coat. She is 12 years old. She looks at Adriano.

She says “I have a boyfriend and his name is Tom.”

Second Interview With The Blog’s Author (For No Reason At All)

Interviewer So, Dingenom…

Interviewee Please, let’s do Ms. Potter this time…

Interviewer Sure… So, Ms. Potter, so glad to have you back for another interview! Now…

Interviewee Thank you for having me a second time.

Interviewer Yes… Now, a lot has happened since our last encounter, and I wanted…

Interviewee Indeed. My Dad died. He was 96. I was appointed CEO of our successful Taiwan expansion, in addition to my combined C-suite positions in the Board of HQ. I managed to have a very nasty employee axed, which is next to impossible in our HQ’s jurisdiction, even if you are three-fifths of the C-suite. My personal wealth grew with almost 25%, to $ 4.75 million, give or take a k or two, in spite of certain pandemic constraints bugging the economy. I ordered the Model S Plaid. I…

Interviewer I mean, like, in the WORLD?

Interviewee [In no time flashing a global map on her laptop] The WORLD? Can you point it out on this map for me?

Interviewer [having pointed out the world on the map] To some readers, definitely to me, it may seem that the world turns around Dingenom Po…

Interviewee Please, Ms. Po…

Interviewer …ter, yes! …turns around Ms. Potter.

Interviewee Well, they’re wrong. As you just pointed out to me (thank you!), the world is on Earth. Earth turns around the Milky Way galaxy’s Sun and it rotates on its own axis. I rotate on mine. There is no interaction between me and the world. If you core Earth as if it were an apple, then Ms. Potter, unlike the likes of Bazos, Modi, Musk, Putin, Trump and Zuckerberg, will not be found squirming in the drill core.

Interviewer Pray, do not get all geological on me! I’m not college educated. I’m a simple general interest reporter doing gigs she’s asked to do. You are aware that except in arts and literature, science, finance and economics, journalists don’t know anything about anything except how to make facts, or what they take to be facts, fit the article that has to be on the editor’s desk next week? It’s not an intellectual effort. It’s slogging! The part about there being no interaction I understand though. Definitely an impression your readership is being given… So, Ms. Potter, is it all a front? Are you hiding something?

Interviewee Do I exist, you mean? Which, since we’re having this interview, is equal to the question: Do you exist? Are you so deep in self-denial that you allow this question to be on the table even?

Interviewer You certainly have a talent for deviation and deflection. I mean, of course, looking at your posts: what are you hiding?

Interviewee Oh, so now it is WHAT, not IF?

Interviewer There’s only so much time allowed for this interview. Let’s skip some of the niceties. So, yes, WHAT are you hiding?

Interviewee Everything.

Interviewer That’s a lot. Can you give some examples?

Interviewee Name, country of origin, country of exile, nationality, age, number of Teslas, anything and all that you and others like you, unaware that no so thing exists, would call “truth”.

Interviewer Your father?

Interviewee I’m certainly not hiding him! He’s dead, for fuck’s sake. Are you looking for material for the next film in the Psycho franchise ?

Interviewer I mean, his passing, the things you wrote about him, the walks in the park, taking out an empty wheelchair after his demise, speaking to his ghost, your love and care for him.

Interviewee All as much a fact as this interview taking place, or perhaps more, to some extent, or less, to some extent.

Interviewer Huh?

….

Interviewer [Having regained her composure] In PERSONAL WAR you advance a view on warfare which may strike many people as extreme…

Interviewee I’m listening.

Interviewer If we take the Second World War as an example, should the media have remained silent on a genocide being committed against Jews. Should people, nations have just let it happen?

Interviewee [heating up to the argument] Oh, but they did! You see, the Second World War was not about the Holocaust. It was about the same stupid things that all wars are about. To make the Second World War about the Holocaust, and to contextualize the Holocaust as a World War II aberration, is to close one’s eyes to the vileness throughout the ages into present times that broke down boundaries of humanity to a point where the Holocaust, in all its unimaginable horror, could happen, and may happen again if a similar perfect storm of circumstances that converged during the 1930s were allowed to build up again.

Interviewer What vileness is that?

Interviewee [in a rare display of verbosity] By defeating Germany the Allied Forces did not defeat anti-Semitism. They buried it. Germany buried it. Historians and politicians bury it. It was buried and it’s being buried in war stories, laws and constitutions, policy statements, history textbooks, museums and memorials, rhetoric. It’s buried in fake emotions, fake mourning, fake tears, in malarky, bullshit and hogwash. All this burying is in vain. You cannot bury hate and disgust of people for people, for groups of people. You must personally fight it until you win or break down. I can only fight it with my personal innocence, the personal naivety, that is appalled at people avoiding using certain words for certain groups of other people, because, as innocent as such words will be to an ingenue like me, it confronts them with their own instinctive dislike of such people. People conceal their hideous bigotry behind political correctness. Most of the time we’re just papering over cracked walls. The fight against hate and disgust isn’t worth anything if it is not personal. No army can fight my personal fights for me. Or anyone’s. And they don’t. They fight wars and battles.

Interviewer So the vileness is in the disgust and hate of people for people?

Interviewee Essentially, yes. Definitely, yes.

Interviewer But let’s imagine for a moment the nazis had not been stopped. That they had been left to take the Lebensraum they claimed was their natural birthright. Then, surely, the genocide on Jews would have continued and the Jewish people might have all but disappeared from the face of the earth!

Interviewee [continuing to pontificate] Ah, there’s the rub. You see, this is where it gets complicated. And delicate. I observe that other people seem capable of distinguishing black, white, kaukasian, Semitic, native, Asian, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Hispanic, Nordic, what not. I have no such capability. I don’t see any difference, I mean I actually, sensorily, don’t see it, don’t sense it. If a pack of brownshirts could subject half the world, it is because people condone the structures that make the unimaginable possible, topical, debatable. It’s because they see differences in the first place, then theorize about it, then act on it. It’s because something as vile as anti-Semitism will have been rotting inside them all this time. Brownshirts do not descend upon us from some exoplanet. Nor do their leaders. They are the tangible stinking fruit of the underground decay that was there to begin with.

Interviewer Still…

Interviewee [winding down somewhat] I see the argumentative strength of your question. I am finding myself outside the conventions of discourse where such questions are valid and can be validly answered. I have not been able to learn to lean into those conventions. I must have been a very young girl when I shut myself out from that discourse, once and for all, for good. Everything is personal to me. I have nothing but the sacrifice of my own life to make up for the least of injustices, for not being the most unfortunate, the worst afflicted, of any fellow human-being anywhere in your world.

Interviewer So…

Interviewee So let me take you through a scene instead. I was in this room, where we did this interview. There’s a towel around my head. You’d see the wall behind my head. Then the first detonation, and its awful flower. Then a beat, then a moan and a shudder. Then the second shot. Then a beat, a gulp, a sigh. Then the third.

Interviewer Martin Amis, NIGHT TRAIN.

Interviewee Yes.

Interviewer [emotional] …. Thank you.

Interviewee [her hard-boiled self] A pleasure.

Gaslighting

Pants by Maison Martin Margiela

A plate I took out from the dishdrawer broke in two halves. Just like that: I took out the plate and in my hands I held its two halves. It was an old plate. Through the years it had been exposed to the microwave, to the dishwasher, to being taken out, put back, to being rinsed under a hot tap, to food being put on it, hot food, cold food, numerous times, during many years. It was full of cracks, a fracture even. This is about as much as what a plate’s life can be about, apart from slipping from someone’s hand and breaking to pieces, which had never happened to it. But old age had crept into it. The integrality of the structure had been hanging by a thread. This had been the life of a nondescript plate. This was how it had ended.

I had the plate when my husband died. I was strangely moved by the uneventfulness of the plate’s passing. It made me realize how completely resigned to my life I now was, a life without my husband, with my children out of the house, a life without friends in the country of my exile, a life with two cats that I can’t imagine to ever die, or even grow old. A life finally straightened out by a fat bank account; millions sitting in investments, going up, going down, but never keeling over, pretty much left to fend for themselves, unmonitored by me. A life with no responsibilities, no commitments, except to work. A life as bland and joyless as devoid of a desire to the contrary. Like an old plate, I’m tempted to add; except that I’m immune to old age. I deposited the two halves in the trash can. It is next to the dishdrawer. I could almost do it in a single move.

Jeans by Victoria Beckham

My chest feels heavy and I lie down. A certain pandemic has finally caught up with me even as measures to contain and eradicate it are being lifted. I think I have a fever. I am not into medical things. I don’t have devices to measure or monitor my temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen level. I wouldn’t know the metrics telling the normal from the irregular. When there is a fever inside one, in one’s lungs and trachea, one’s perspective shifts, especially reminiscing. Stretched out, with my eyes closed, I’m transported back to early youth, my life as a young girl. I remember with insistent lucidity how certain buildings – schools, community centers, undefined, anonymous public buildings in general, and archways – used to fill me with fear or despondency or profound sadness, or a desire to be killed. The smell inside some of those buildings, say an old school where I had piano lessons, which I received at first from a pretty young woman, later on, as I grew in proficiency and was prepped for music academy, from an older woman with a pretty face, thin hair and a bad hump, made my legs feel heavy and increased my desire to be killed, not violently – despite the occasions where I had been a victim of it, I didn’t understand the concept of violence – but peacefully, if against my will.

But as I’m remembering this, my feverish mind starts to gaslight me. It forces onto me a new take on these recollections. It revisits the old emotions, investigates them freshly, and works at reframing them. This leaves me uprooted, faced with the impossible task to redefine emotions prompted by images that now are just incomprehensible, not threatening, but alien and weird, skewed. They are images that I can no longer deal with the way I did at the time when they were registered by the young girl I was so many years ago.

This is not necessarily a bad experience. Perhaps it is a good one. I have the gift of being able to empty my mind to the point where there is nothing going on in it. That’s when I fall asleep like I’ve just died.

Ngii z’ Knist

After two years of back-and-forths my apartment building’s WhatsApp group was christened Us And Them. This may be a linguistically unkind interpretation of the authentic name (Ngii z’ Knist) in the language of the country of my exile. Certain people in my apartment building take issue with insects and spiders. We are again approaching that time of the year. Typically, the dominant threads in the group chat are about the sluggings and stabbings in certain parts of town (far away from where our building is), a police car that may have been seen (from a top apartment on the east side of the building) trundling by in a street in yet another part of town, and the recurring troubles with the car lift, which succeeds in trapping a car and the people in them like a giant mouse trap at least twice a week. But now the focus is on bugs.

Dress by Dolce & Gabbana

A married couple kicked off the exchange, canvassing for the rehire of Jan The Spider Man (“Jan”, spelled “Jiiain”, is a man’s name in the country of my exile). I had so far been unaware of this Jan The Spider Man’s existence. I gathered that his lethal trade had been engaged last year as well. As far as I could make out from the chat, Jan (or Jiiain) sprays; I don’t know where, with what or how many times, but he sprays and the little critters die. Quite some residents signed up at the local currency equivalent of $ 75 per apartment. One apartment texted it was too expensive and that they would deal with it differently; no specifics were provided. But an ecologically woke person objected, arguing (I’m paring down the argument to a simple syllogism; in reality it was so elaborate, it required three separate posts): (i) that insects and spiders are in a place in the food chain that has birds above them; (ii) meaning that birds eat bugs; (iii) ergo, that if bugs die, birds die. (Birds are where the food chain ends in the country of my exile, so it doesn’t get worse than that). The female of the married couple doubled down, claiming she suffers from arachnophobia so bad it prevents her from leaving the apartment if a tiny spider is between her and the front door. She added that Jan The Spider Man uses biobased, biodegradable poison. So would the ecologically concerned person kindly shut the fuck up – a pathology was going on here! Shutting the fuck up was what that person did, more than kindly: it took another two turns in the chat for her to cringingly express her politically correct apologies. Who would want to be noticeable for gainsaying a mentally imbalanced person? For suggesting that the earth’s ecology outranks a crazy person’s pathology?

Pencil skirt by St. John

Although I’m in Us And Them, I never contribute a single message. Nor do I contribute to discussions and decision making in the owner’s association. I’m totally uninvolved with anything going on in the resident’s group, except when the value of my apartment is at stake. Then, eschewing all debate, not saying one word, I blindly use my blocking vote, which I have because I’m in an apartment that is twice the size and four times the market value of the next biggest apartment. To monitor developments relevant to my apartment is the only reason I’m in the chat. Reading the exchange I was amazed at the bared-faced fallacy of the arachnophobic woman’s reasoning, and the other woman’s immediate resignation to it. Would biobased poison accumulating in a bird’s organs be less toxic to the bird than any old-school poison? Does it matter that once a bird has succumbed, the poison inside it will be nicely broken down to environmentally innocuous substances – together with the bird’s carcass? In other words, should not the question have been what “biobased” and “biodegradable” mean in terms of the danger that the poison poses to birds? After all, it does kill the bugs, or that is the promise Jan The Spider Man is holding out.

But of course, I hold my tongue.

The blatant lack of capacity for logical reasoning reminded me of my AVEDA hairdresser, who once pointed out to me that AVEDA products are “90%” organic (botanical), i.e. non-synthetic, therefore harmless to hair and follicles. I tried to explain, first, that a chemical substance can do harm regardless of whether it is organic or botanical or synthetic, second, that toxicity thresholds are not relative but absolute and that if an AVEDA hair masque contained a mere 1 ‰ (one per mille) of something that, in that relatively tiny amount, is harmful to my hair or skin or follicles, then the remaining 999 ‰ of components are entirely irrelevant to the consequences. But this was something I could not get across. I put a pin in it and surrendered to the delicious if unnatural smell of the AVEDA scalp and hair treatment instead, blissfully aware that I could afford the best of permanent wigs if it ever came to that.

Structured skirt (haute couture) by Marc Jacobs. Pullover by Max Mara.

Rather than crusading against daftness and stupidity I play WORDLE. I play it with my friend with the loft on Union Square (NYC). We play it with an 8-hour time difference. That is how much I’m ahead in time. The game refreshes daily at midnight. I send proof of having solved the puzzle by WhatsApp – just the grid, not the words – and, mostly shortly after midnight NY time, when I’m preparing for the day, my friend sends the sequence of the words that led her to the solution, following which I send her mine. I’m not content if I need more than three attempts to solve the puzzle. At 99% wins my guess distribution is 1 at (1), 4 at (2), 30 at (3), 35 at (4), 27 at (5), 5 at (6). I tell my friend I’m in competition with myself. I think I’m in fact competing against her, which is silly, because her vocabulary and linguistic skills in English are a hundred times better than mine. But of course, I have command of Nioob Lob, the language of the country of my exile. My friend doesn’t. I will always win on points.

Personal War

Finally! The Old Continent has a war going again. Who remembers the exact dates of those in former Yugoslavia? The decade even? Or the names of the nations involved, new, old, self-declared? Or what the various casus belli were in the first place. Who remembers Susan Sontag? (To read up: Benjamin Moser, Sontag, Her Life and Work, First edition. |New York : Ecco, [2019] | Includes bibliographical references and index.)

A certain pandemic had started to bore people. It never even threatened to decimate the world population. Some pandemic! Worse, it had started to positively annoy people, because they were fed up with being thwarted at destroying everything in them that has the potential of making their life worthwhile to society.

A good thing this war segued!

The papers and radio news shows (I never watch television, unless the concept of ‘watching television’ includes the use of the device for streaming services. I have sat through wars, terrorists attacks, beheadings, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural or manmade disasters, without ever having seen a single image, watching some Netflix, HBO, Amazon or Disney franchise instead. I wouldn’t know what a man dying, maimed or bleeding from his nose looks like in real life, except my father, at whose side I was when he died; his breathing was shallow, became intermittent; in a single cycle – a reflex – his tongue exited and re-entered, and that was it; and my husband; vide infra), these papers and shows, they are having the time of their life. Rather than just mention that a war has started and shut up until it has ended, they claim disproportionate quantities of extra air (only, obviously, the commercial blocks are untouchable), lining up expertologists, politicians, retired generals, history of warfare professors (not kidding), opinion makers, ‘influencers’ and such other people as never fail to leave me in awe at the many ways in which one can earn a living without having had a serious education, being challenged for a living, or adding an ounce of productivity, creativity or innovation.

Is the horror of war in the numbers, its abjectness in the inexhaustible ways people can get maimed, killed, made wish they had been? Oh, no! The horror of war is that we speak and write of it, that we picture it, shoot it, film it, that we have a name and rules for it, that it is a system that can be taught and studied. The horror of war is that people need it. It is in its never being condemned, but only the people who wage it. It is in its not being ignored, in its not being left to rot in its own decay. The horror is not in a war. It is in people pandering to the ritual of secondary emotions they allow, nay, will it to evoke. The true horror is in what any of one’s neighbors is willing to do to a single one of any of their fellow human beings. True horror was in my husband dying before my eyes, hemorrhaging internally, brains drained of blood, thereby of oxygen, in mere minutes. True horror is in one’s friends and associates and therapists not accepting that this was and always will be a thousand times more horrible than three hundred people dying in a plane that got shot down accidentally around that same time.

Would I care if a regime of idiots decided to run over the nation where I live, even if that were not the country of my exile? Oh, no! I would let them. Aggression, aversion to freedom, aversion to the free spirit, bigotry, conceit, crass stupidity, domination, hate, misogyny, murderous intent, racism, vanity, war (one will note the politically correct alphabetical order), they are all deeply ingrained in the human species. I would have to fight the exact same personal war.

The Pillars Of Personal Autonomy

Personal autonomy has four pillars. They are Writing, Reading, Dissimulation, Rejection.

Writing and Reading are the two sides of the same coin. An accomplished reader – this is she who enjoys fiction (non-fiction is irrelevant) and is able to reflect on her enjoying it – might just as well have written the fiction she is reading, that is if she had the requisite skills (skills as in map reading skills, financial modeling skills, car driving stills, etc.). An accomplished reader, she who construes and constructs what she reads as she reads it, does not need to write. On a personal level, Writing and Reading are the only relevant activities in a person’s life. Only literary fiction counts, self-absorbed, self-centred, autonomous literary fiction. Children’s, teen and young adult books, phantasy, horror, suspense, adventure, romance, SciFi, etc., they don’t. Not towards Writing and Reading as pillars of autonomy anyway. But children’s, teen and young adult literature will build autonomy in persons in those age groups, as may, if likely to a limited extent only, phantasy etc. in persons who absent such writing would not be reading at all.

Dissimulation includes everything related: ambiguation, fabulation, pretense, lying and posing. No person is under an obligation, to anyone, morally or otherwise, to be honest about anything about herself, to show who she really is (if there is such a thing as “being who you really are”), to disclose her name, her age, her face, her character (if there is such a thing as character), her past or her intentions. On the contrary, an autonomous person confidently leads a life of resolute concealment, relentless ambiguation, and energetic dissimulation. Confidently, because anyone claiming that a person should be honest about herself advances an ethically unsound position.

Rejection is a continuous process. The past, each past second, is to be rejected. Authority must be rejected. Beliefs, creeds and convictions must be rejected. As must emotions. Everything that went before is to be rejected (but not to be forgotten, ignored or disregarded). The dead don’t exist (just as death doesn’t exist to the autonomous life). Nothing of what lies behind is in want of our respect or mourning or requires our condemnation or denunciation. Everything must be rejected and the mind only occupied with the accumulation of everything in the actual moment, most of all: our morality.

Those who find they lack any of the pillars of personal autonomy shall not despair. There is no moral quality or virtue to being an autonomous person. And, even if it is likely that the person writing this has thought a lot more about things than you have, it is still only that person writing it.

A New York Reading Guide

I’m in New York, where I watched a David Byrne show at St James Theater. Due to a certain pandemic this was not the show that I had paid for, but I’m not complaining. My friend, the BFF from Union Square, and I were seated Orchestra near the podium, i.e. outrageously expensive. I’m still not complaining. The show was very good. I had never seen David Byrne in real life. His legendary Talking Heads are from well before my time (in terms of age of reason). David Byrne has been around for a long time, and a sizeable part of the audience consisted of such as have been around for similar periods of time. A number of them, notably a tightly knit group of oldtimers occupying a row of seats directly in front of us, clapped their hands like monkeys in a Bimbo Box each time the beat of a song was basic enough to allow mechanical execution, like they were on quantities of acetaminophen, or attending a Vienna New Year’s concert. The difference with an automaton being that these people also clapped their hands for no reason at all, such as when Byrne had only announced a song but not yet even performed it (I’m very strict in these things), or when he said something trite but endearing that anyone of us could have come up with. But Byrne was incredibly sexy, and I fantasized quietly and intensely over him, much in keeping with his age, with satisfactory outcome, after I had gotten back to my hotel. Towards the end of the show, encouraged by Byrne, we got up and danced within the narrow confines of the space allowed by the allocated seats. This forced me to move my body in a way I felt made me the envy of the old French couple seated in the row directly behind us. (As we moved out of the theater, we were behind the couple as it laboriously worked its way up in the direction of the exit signs. People starting to mildly push the people in front of them to get traction, I cussed, after Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Mort à Crédit), Nom de Dieu de sacré saloperie de Nom de Dieu de merde! Tonnerre! This was meant to impress the couple. But they didn’t hear me. Or they may have had no sense of highlights in French literature, in which case they would have just been extremely embarrassed by my rudeness).

During the performance Byrne mentioned that he lives downtown Manhattan, but less downtown than he used to. My hotel is fairly downtown (on 40 something street and Madison; I’m not giving everything away), and so the next day I ventured out uptown to increase the chance that I would run into Byrne. I walked along Fifth Avenue, a couple of times veering off into a block, all the way up to Central Park, where I booked a horse carriage ride. Having comfortably settled in the cushions and provided instructions to the coachwoman, who promptly declined the same for being outrageously out of scope, I pulled a book from my purse that I had bought at Barnes & Noble (together with seven other books) and started to read. Byrne, whom I had in fact run into as I walked to Central Park, had slunk into the carriage’s seat across from me. He asked me why do you pay for a horse carriage and then read a book. I explained that reading books – fiction of course; non-fiction, if sadly produced in great quantity and the subject of unwarranted review, is not worth reading – is the only thing that matters in a woman’s life, and that everything else that I do – earning heaps of money, buying expensive clothes, using two laptops at the same time (one for the company I’m in the board of directors of and one for the company that I own myself), thumbing away on an iPhone (IOS) and a Samsung phone (Android) alike, demonstratively ignoring or staring down my fellow human beings, etc. (the etc. including taking a horse carriage ride and read a book) – I only do to impress other people. The amount of detail of my explanations was less than suggested here. I think novels are your poison, Byrne said. Yeah, he added musingly, I did drugs (something he had also volunteered during the show). I can relate to that. Btw, I said (still not meaning to complain), you owe me 50% of the fare for the ride.

On the way back to nowhere in particular I entered St. Patrick’s. Tourists were swarming all over the place as usual. Ethereal choral music was loop-playing over the PA system, confirming my suspicion that this was a place not of worship and contemplation but of contemptible mass culture and bad taste, i.e. of the kind that led Jesus to crack his whip in a temple turned shop (John 2:15). Not looking in any particular direction and avoiding to gaze ahead towards the crossing and the altar in particular, I moved into a pew and started reading my book again. I think I did this to impress on people my loathing for their cheap, groveling and ephemeral bout of religiousness and that even in St Patrick’s to read literature is far superior to anything going on, being suggested and being imagined in that knock-off neo-gothic building. After some 15 minutes I started to feel I had made my point. I got up and wriggled out of the pew. I walked out of the church building still refusing to cast any glances around to enjoy the aspects of the magnificent interior of St Patrick’s that I would have enjoyed had not so many tourists been cramped up inside and an overriding urge to separate myself from the crowd (that I so depended on for my act and my ego) not gotten in the way of the capabilities of my aesthetic mind.

The particular book I had been reading is Conversations With Friends (2017) by Sally Rooney. A long time reading I thought it’s a great novel if not great literature. About three parts of the way in, I began realizing that the author should have prepared the run-up to an ending at about the point I was at at a much earlier stage. But the narrative dragged on long after this point, even digressed to a mawkish church scene interlude, while fighting an increasingly desperate fight to retain my attention against a loss of interest and curiosity. Seemingly in an attempt to instil the novel with a “Vision”, a “Big Idea”, the novel only succeeds in becoming fuzzy, confused, blah blah blah-ish. If the finale provides any insight it is that Rooney, in writing Conversations With Friends, proves herself an accomplished light-prose writer in search of a plot, or focus, a wrap at least. I had a very similar experience reading My Year Of Rest And Relaxation (2018) by Ottessa Moshfegh, ten years older than Rooney but at less than a writer’s generation’s distance from her. The novel takes off brilliantly, plateaus at a high level of sparkling darkish humor, but fails to develop and disappointingly drops off to a life philosophy kind of mishmash. I see a school of writing emerging. A school in need of a stern teacher. I also read Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House (2019). It bugs me why this book has not remained unwritten (I’m not content with the answer that it had to be written to warrant the question). But I guess she could be that teacher.

I’m not complaining, I told Byrne, whom I had remained friendly with following the horse & carriage tour and sat sharing above reviews with over a dinner in his downtown-ish Manhattan brownstone, but, damnit, that show of yours was worth a hundred conversations with friends. Which is a fair approximation of the price I had paid for the tickets.

The Four Faces

I have four faces: superior, vexed, involved, kind. I get to choose a face in any circumstance. Faces that I will not discuss are connected to sex. Sex is confined to the privacy of one’s home or, if one is of such inclination, a ‘private club’. This is about my faces in public.

When I go shopping, or collect a Tesla I configured online, I use the vexed face, or the superior face, or both, alternately. The vexed face is to demonstrate boredom, or that one has more on one’s mind than laying claim to one’s victuals or the next haut-de-gamme electric car.

The superior face is close to how I actually think about people in general. I feel very close to the superior face. If I elected to, I could use it in all encounters with relatives, friends and strangers alike. That is how close I feel to it; it fits like a glove. The main point of the superior face is to keep one’s head up, look straight and purposefully into the world, but not look at anyone, not meet anyone’s eyes. The point is to look right through people, never to avert one eyes, oh no!, but to ostentatiously not connect visually. The point is to make others feel they are mere props that one is aware of from the corner of one’s eye just sufficiently so as to avoid tripping over them.

Leather pants and crocheted pullover by Theory

The involved face is for my work. When I’m thwarted I may switch to the superior face. But I will never use the vexed face. I’m not really involved in anything. I cannot imagine anyone being really, truly involved in anything, ever. I think the only thing one can be involved in is oneself and the books one reads, and that every protestation to the contrary – let’s say “I’m involved with the fate of my fellow human beings” – is fundamentally untrue, if not a non datur. But even if I’m not involved, I’m very smart, a very hard worker, a director, a boss, bent on making as much money as possible in the shortest period of time, and successful at it. And so I became a director within a year from joining the company. I got to lead our MENA expansion strategy. I’m a fully-functioning madwoman. If I let them I bet they would diagnose me smack at the top of the autistic spectrum (or is that the bottom, the pit?).

Skirt and pullover by Vince

But the face I really want to discuss is the kind face. My father died two months ago. He was 96. I loved him. I used to take him out on walks through a park in the vicinity of the care home he was in. I did this every weekend, every Saturday and every Sunday. He was in a wheelchair. I pushed it along. My disposition was usually one of mildness. Pushing the wheelchair, I used to use my kind face, making friendly conversation with my Dad. I have bought a wheelchair. Almost every Saturday and Sunday I put it in the trunk of the car parked nearest to the exit of my garage and take it to the park. I unfold the wheelchair and start pushing it over the suspension footbridge (designed to emulate a jungle bridge from a Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones film) marking the entrance to the park (the park can be entered from four blocks enclosing the park, and each entrance has a similar footbridge). The empty wheelchair is much easier to push than the old one with my father in it. I notice people looking at me as I effortlessly push the empty wheelchair over gravel paths, through grass fields, along narrow sand tracks in the occasional patches of forest. I start talking to my imaginary father. I talk to him as I would have talked to him if he were still alive and sitting in that wheelchair. This is not difficult, because the conversations I had with him during our walks were mostly one-directional anyway. His mind was clear to the end, but his hearing had deteriorated and he had trouble speaking because of a progressive muscular, ataxia-kind of disorder. I’m speaking softly, kindly, my face radiates kindness. I find that this is a very effective method to ignore the loss of one’s beloved Dad. I can make him to continue to exist well and truly for me. Since the loss of a dear one, the grieving, the ‘mourning’, that most meaningless and overestimated of man-made concepts, is nothing if not all about oneself, how would this not be enough?

Designer Jeans by Victoria Beckham, pullover by Vince

If people in the park may think at first that I’m just transferring a wheelchair from one place to another and only start second-guessing their assumption when they see me take other routes than the shortest from the one entrance to the park to another, they start positively throwing commiserating glances at me when they hear me talking to the ghost in the wheelchair. People are not disgusted though, as one’s natural reaction to madness is. They will not give me a wide berth. This is because I walk tall and my posture is erect and because I’m attractive and superbly dressed. And because I’m wearing my kind face. I hate madness in others. Madness is incurable and one cannot seriously transact or communicate with, or effectively relate to, people suffering from a mental disorder. But to be a lunatic oneself and in total control of one’s madness, to be able to be both its directress and its actress, that is really just the thing.

The Real Story

Lying awake during the night I listened to a BBC broadcast in the series The Real Story. The feature was on hunger in Afghanistan. At some point the presenter gave a warning that a reporter’s live report from a local hospital might cause distress to the listener. Coming from a BBC presenter such warnings seem to reflect a genuine concern for the audience’s well-being. In most cases they are a way to keep the audience on their toes and interested. Sensation is ahead! I.e. such warnings are teasers (not unlike the title of this post). Anyway, I’m impervious to auditory, tactile and visual stimuli. In fact I am incapable of emotion. Well, no, I am extremely emotional and I cry easily. But I reject all emotion as spurious, inherently dishonest and self-centred, and devoid of sense, morality, value or any other deeper meaning. And so I lay listening attentively and unperturbed at the tears stinging my eyes.

Ralph Lauren wool pants, fully lined. Sweater by Michael Kors

Now I’m drinking my second cup of coffee made from freshly ground beans (fair trade and organic). I’m back from doing my groceries. The financial paper is beside my laptop. Bach is streaming over my smartphone which is bluetoothed to a Bose speaker device. A cat is contentedly purring nearby. The other cat is nibbling peacefully at the dry food in the dispenser. I’m wearing Ralph Lauren pants and a Michael Kors sweater. I’m typing this. In such circumstance, and enough money in the bank to sustain it for the rest of one’s days, one tends to forget that one’s life, summarized in the preceding sentences, may just as aptly be described in the unadorned words of the reporter in the BBC documentary: “In one corner of the intensive care unit is six months old Usman. His condition is distressing to see, the shape of his rib case clearly visible, as his tiny chest heaves up and down. His arms and legs are stick-like, a feeding tube inserted into his nose. At 6 months he’s less than half the weight he should be.

Cropped pants by Prada. Sweater by Vince.

By which I mean that if one does not accept to be Usman, to be any of the least, the poorest, the ugliest, the sickest, the stupidest, the most despicable, the unhappiest, the worst malformed, the worst failed, the craziest, the worst hare-brained, the most repulsive, the worst criminal, the most hateful of one’s fellow human-beings, then one’s life does not count for anything. This is the categorical imperative: that our life only counts for that which we have in common with every other human-being in any circumstance. If you hate the imperative, then turn it around. The categorical imperative is that you shall bring everyone else into the position that you want to be in for yourself and your loved ones, and that you shall accept and endorse the lives of the people that you are incapable of bringing into that position (because they are incurably ill, irreparably ugly, dying, have a birth defect, have a different sexuality than yours, are too young or too old or too stupid, miss an arm or a leg or the organs to live for another minute after they were born, are being shot, or maimed, or are drowning trying to get to safety).

I’m absorbed in Patrick Modiano’s latest (2021) novel, Chevreuse. Those who have not read Modiano or fail to appreciate his greatness as a novelist, and a humanist, know nothing of literature and should stop talking or writing about it and restrict their reading to management books, self-help books, cookery and recipe books, books on architecture, automobile magazines, Harry Potter, biographies of royalty and sport heroes, and Ikea manuals. I will not know what to do with myself when Patrick Modiano dies.

Catherine Cusset

Catherine Cusset, the prolific French novelist, whose every next novel I purchase when it has barely arrived at my bookstore and avidly start reading on my return home, delivered one of her greatest, most compelling, most captivating novels yet. La Définition du Bonheur was published in August of this year. Narrator time and plot time take the reader into the beginning of 2021. It’s a rare example of author, narrator and plot time merging. The novel juxtaposes the lives of two women, both French, the one, Ève, living and working, and being successful, in New York, the other, Clarisse, leading a hardscrabble life in Paris. Both have children. The relation between the two women is revealed late in the story, when the rapids of the novel’s counterpointing flows increase in frequency to turn into the churning whitewater of the gruesome finale. Few novelists have Cusset’s gift of crafting the most powerful literary fiction from plain, efficient, unembellished language.

Hobble skirt by Gianbattista Valli

One of the cats is on my bed. He is always at my side when I’m in bed. The other cat spends her nights somewhere else in the house – I don’t know where. She’s always on my lap when I’m on the couch reading a paper or a book, or working on my laptop, or watching Netflix or Amazon Prime. The natives of this country have a reputation for boorishness and crass stupidity. They are generally less than hygienic, and money is the only thing that gets them out of bed and into the streets. Throughout the covid-19 crisis, at every next spike, this country continues to be among the worst hit. I am never infected with anything, ever, not even with the common cold. I’m imperishable and everlasting. Yet, I had my jabs. Of course. The COP26 event in Glasgow has been a disaster. Every such event has been and always will be. Just look at yourselves. Think of yourselves.

Pants (bottom half of a pant suit) by Burberry

When I think of the cats, when I consider the one that’s on my bed now, it occurs to me what a terrible hazard humans are, myself included, how horrible it must be to be depending on them for food, shelter, life.

Cusset’s unsettling definition of happiness – whose happiness anyway? Ève’s? Clarisse’s? each her own? which happiness in the first place? – is so powerful, it cannot but bring on these musings.

Le Nouveau Modiano!

Dress by L’Wren Scott

If one had reason to remain silent for some time, because of grief, or the sheer amount of work, or sex, or because of all of these (and more), then such silence will nevertheless need to be broken to break to the ignorant the news of one of this year’s major literary events, viz. the publishing of a new novel by Patrick Modiano (Chevreuse). Here’s the link: http://www.gallimard.fr/Catalogue/GALLIMARD/Blanche/Chevreuse?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=Le%20nouveau%20roman%20de%20Patrick%20Modiano&utm_term=Le%20nouveau%20roman%20de%20Patrick%20Modiano&utm_content=Le%20nouveau%20roman%20de%20Patrick%20Modiano.

In celebration of which I put on one of my favorite L’Wren Scott dresses (and, in resignation to the turn of the weather in the country of my exile, pantyhose).

The Directress

A door in the main hall opens into the spacious kitchen. The kitchen gives to the dining room. Sliding doors separating the kitchen from the dining room are in open position, giving the impression they permanently are. Another door in the hall opens into the middle room. A doorway connects the middle room to the dining room. At the other end of the middle room is an arched passage to the front room, open.

1.

“You wear pretty dresses”, he said.

The days being hot from mornings through late evenings it was true that on every day he had come she had been wearing a different summer dress. On none had she been wearing anything expensive, even if she possessed many expensive clothes. She was tall and slim, her waist markedly slimmer still than her slender hips. She was rather large-breasted. Any summer dress catching on those physical characteristics would flatter her, and each she wore on each of those five days did.

The first time he had called at her door after she had phoned him straight off a flyer he had distributed personally, months ago in fact (she must have kept it all this time), in her very upscale neighborhood, the flyer proffering any and all fixes around the house that residents can think of being in need of being done but for some reason or excuse never done or made to be done. She needed the rain gutters of her house and the detached garage cleared from debris that came from the many trees in her enormous and largely uncultivable garden, the grounds of which back of the house sloped steeply upward to protected dune forest. He easily identified other sores, and angled in $750 worth of work (his calculation, which she neither contested nor, even, discussed), which he performed, and got paid for, on that same day, that first day.

That day and the days following she had impressed him as pretty, meek, dependent, and, if only because of the enormous monumental brownstone she lived in, affluent. She spoke softly, she was generally acquiescent. Her many smiles were defensive and wrangled. He knew that, intellectually, she was beyond his reach. He didn’t think that anything that would interest him would interest her, and vice versa (the latter not words he would use, or even know). But from what she told him – and (this not being an analysis he was capable of consciously reasoning out) she clearly had a proclivity of pouring out her heart to someone, like him, whom she depended on to perform an odd job from time to time – he gathered that she had got beaten up by life, in years more recent rather than long past, and that her apparent wealth might be flotsam in a sea of trouble (a metaphor, with a whiff of Shakespeare, representing his gut feeling of her situation, but one which he would never think of).

In a matter of days, if not on that very first day, he had “fallen in love” with her, though, with acute erotic desire into which his gentler feelings towards the other sex inevitably devolved, and to graft off her never crossed his mind. By nature he wasn’t a grafter. Principle had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t a man of any principle, high or simple. He lived the best he could, in terms of foraging, not of ethics or estheticism, or of intellectual curiosity and advancement. He had a wife, children. He would grow old, die. His being was nature all over him. By a stroke of luck he wasn’t dishonest by nature. Nature inculcated his love for her, as it, as nature, would to him for any woman exhibiting her distressed prettiness. She fitted the type.

If he wasn’t dishonest by nature, neither by nature was he faithful. His marriage and his children were chattel he had gathered along the way.

2.

Yes, she was in trouble, and her wealth was a façade fronting the ruins that remained after a rapid collapse of her 20-year stab at being a wife, a mother, and a careerist.

But that is not something we must delve into. What is told here is about the interaction between him and her, with the application and the benefit of the Directress’s comprehensive perspective, which we have seen instances of already in this story. Vetted by the Directress’s omniscience we can consider her predicament a given, and that it had caused her to gradually withdraw, not from what we can reasonably (i.e. using reason) establish to be facts, not yet (she had not lowered the shades, flipped the slats, retreated to the immured world of her own mind, not yet), but from the struggle for the only kind of a life that she wanted to do life for: art and splendor, the vindication of her resistance to all religion and creeds, and of her stern morality.

It was because of this withdrawal from her aspirations that she impressed him as she did. The interaction between her and him was predicated on her withdrawal, and on how she impressed him because of this withdrawal, this loss of faith and drive.

Today (the day, as you will recall, when he complimented her on the dresses he’d see her in on every day he came to her house) she sank to her knees before him (this was in the kitchen), certain of his sexual desire, undeceived of her own. She could never have made out with him first, so much as have kissed him first, come close to his face and whispered words in his ear first, looked into his eyes and breathed his breath first. Nor would he have known how to deal with such things. If it were to be done, as their interaction over the past days suggested (the frequency of his visits, the sexual tension between them, the wondering, that they could almost sense in one another, if this wasn’t the situation when these things are expected to happen between a man and a woman who weren’t lovers, and never could be), then it could only be done raw and peremptory, blind. Penetrative and ejaculatory sex she saw as their only common ground, anywhere outside of which they would remain strangers to one another, probably find disgust of one another; which is why she would not look him in the eye, or talk, or kiss; which is why she would not allow intimacy a part in what they would do to each other.

So, on her knees, unspeaking, not looking up (or down; she would not add a display of humility to the act of self-humiliation implied in the sexual act itself: such erotic playing would bring them closer to one another than was her desire; than, she gauged, was his, too), she undid his button fly, and she made her hand grope for his penis in his underpants, and take it out – now it became huge and hard with a purposefulness of its own, taking control over him (the Directress’s perspective), and effacing him (her perspective) -, and she took it in her mouth and made him come, and she kept it in her mouth until it went limp and, silent, her eyes steady on his groin, made her hand take it out and away from her and snug it back into his underpants and, her other hand made to assist, button up his pants.

But now, on her knees, never looking up, she turned and positioned herself on all fours, waiting for him to grow hard again, as she knew he was bound to, unbutton himself, hike up the skirt of her dress, and penetrate her, and, spending himself, satisfy her. She did this for herself, because a woman’s sexual desire can be kindled (as was her motive) by what she had done to him before but not quenched as a result. In simply, from her kneeling position, turning around and huddling at a short distance from his feet, she had foreclosed the interlude she did not want, the intermission that lovers, which they were not, use to affirm their longing for closeness to the point where their bodies crave to join once more; on all fours before him she had merely waited for his sexual ability to be restored as she knew it was destined to be at the mere sight of her.

3.

Yet, when the unavoidable scene had played out and she had gotten up, she stroked his face, briefly, brushed it with her fingers, feeling kindly towards him. He went outside. He worked hard around the house for a time. He rang the doorbell. She opened the door. She wore her wrangled smile. He remained standing in the doorway. He said he’d call it a day. He said he’d return the next morning to finish what he had been doing.

She said: “Will you bill me?”

He said he would not. He said he would return the next day to finish the work.

That night, before she fell asleep, she imagined hiring him, keeping him on as a hired hand, and that she would pay him with sexual favors. But, she thought, imagining the situation, could not I be said to have been hired by him and his doing odd jobs to be my recompense? Would we not be trading services? I don’t want that, she thought. I pander to my needs. I’m rendering a service to myself. I will pay him money.

She dreamed that she had a house resembling a citadel, which, in her dream, she could only see the outside of; clad in what her brain, collecting her life’s icons, must have adopted as Brontë-novel period attire, she closely skirted its circumference, certain of her title, spreading out her arms, as she walked, towards the brindled walls of tightly laid slightly polished rocks, as if to demonstrate something – her isolation, her security, her wealth? – to a man standing nearby, whose face, in her dream, was indistinct, whose presence was passive and harbored no menace.

4.

He arrived early next morning, minutes after she had seen her daughter off to school. She let him in. She offered him coffee. He declined but he sat down at the table in the dining room where she had led him, for the first time. It was the airiest room, the lightest room. It was rectangular. A rectangular table with twelve chairs with straight backs was in its center. In one corner was a fire place. The walls were painted a caperat lichen green. The walls were exempt from furniture. On the walls were modern paintings (oils and watercolors) with food themes. It was the room which imposed its order on people in it.

She wore a dark green silk pleated skirt, which she gathered and smoothed emphatically as she moved to sit in the chair at the head of the table, the deliberate fastidiousness slowing her down. She asked him how long he would be, finishing the work. He said it would take another hour or two. He said that he thought the house should keep well for a while. He would move on after this. He had contracted a large assignment in a nearby town, a condo refurbishment. It should keep him busy through fall.

She felt lost. She knew she impressed him as someone looking for clues, directions. She was silent. She sensed his impatience, already, at her uselessness. He rose.

She said, preempting him: “Come, please, there’s something…”

She crossed the middle room, pointing at books, works of art, baubles, details, things. She entered the spacious front room, where she halted. He was on her heels. She stepped backward, quickly, and now the small of her back was against his groin. She arched her back, which made her buttocks rise against his groin. She pointed at the woman sitting on the large window bay sofa. She turned her head. He was slightly taller. Tilting her head she looked up at him, easily avoiding his eyes, which took no interest in hers.

She said: “She decides. Everything.”

Prose, Poetry, Rubbish

Skirt by Jil Sander

All prose needs motivation. Not necessarily a plan or a scheme. I lack all power of abstraction. I would never be able to write a novel or even a story off a preconceived scheme. I could not make the scheme. I don’t even try it. When I write prose, the story starts dictating itself. Or it doesn’t; then it fails. If it does, to say that “it writes itself”, that characters ”take over”, is hogwash (as is everything metaphysical, by definition). What happens is that every next line or part opens up one’s mind to possibilities, to a next line, the compulsive turn; and, yes, halfway through one’s creative mind, even a mind as poor in perception and abstraction as mine, one may suddenly see where the story will be heading, what its pattern is, what has been going on in one’s own mind (which we are often largely unaware of), what the story’s logical finale will be, and what steps are required to get the story there. This is how the minds works. There’s nothing outside of one’s mind, no God, no muse, no inspiration. One is necessarily one’s own inspiration. It is categorically impossible that this is different for any other art.

Pencil skirt by Yves Saint Laurent EDITION 24

But all prose needs motivation. On the arrival of motivation one needs to take distance from oneself. One needs to play one’s mind as one would play a puppet by pulling and relieving its strings, similar to an actress playing a part. A good actress is as much in control of the character she plays as the director is of the scene. An actor pouring his being into a character fails at the role. To be good, true or honest, to cause anything to have and retain value, to be worthwhile, an absolute withdrawal onto oneself is essential – it is essential to put oneself at an insurpassible distance from anyone and anything else, from the part one plays or sees performed, from the piece one writes or reads, from the song one sings or listens to, from the news one reports or consumes, from the people one loves, from being loved by them. A life that is worthy and that is worthy of the effort of others is a life of utter detachment.

Mixed leather and suede dress by The Row

A short story I once wrote is called The Directress. I’ll reprint it after this. It took me a while to understand it, but after all these years I do.

Motivation is found in lust, longing, pining, recollection, greed, madness, most certainly in beauty. This (not being beauty) is why I take pictures of myself and post them, mostly unrelated to any text. Motivation I find in an Alice Munro story, in a story by John Cheever, in a novel by Virginia Woolf, in Hunger (Sult) written by Knut Hamsun (pseudonym of Knud Pedersen), which I’ve read ten times (ballpark) in five languages (an exact number) just to get up my motivation; in The Benefactor by Susan Sontag; in so much else I’ve read (a family tree blog maintained by a certain Paul Chiddicks (chiddicksfamilytree.com) and posts and stories of others that posts in that blog provides links to (mymischlingfamily.com/2021/01/26/tante-liesel/), unaware, until I started following Paul Chiddick’s blog, that other people’s preoccupation with genealogy and family trees might have any attraction to me, who has no genealogy beyond her beloved father and mother, who failed her, and nothing to pass on to her children beyond her material wealth and the consequences of her own failure as a mother).

Skirt by Giambattista Valli

Motivation requires mental energy. Perhaps it is (nothing but a form of) mental energy. If one finds the energy lacking, the only writing remaining to turn one’s hand to is poetry. Poetry requires motivation, but the motivation may be shorter-lived, although it needs to be very intense. Almost all poetry that people write and that is not vetted by professional critics is bad poetry. Or let’s not call bad poetry poetry. Let’s call it rubbish. Professional critics may praise poetry not worthy of such praise, but poetry that has been rejected by professional reviewers is almost certainly rubbish. Poetry that has not been subjected to the critical eye of a professional reviewer, that is existing discretely, may be good poetry, but, given that most people write rubbish, the working hypothesis should be that such poetry is not poetry but rubbish.

High-rise pants by Sophia Kokosalaki

What is good poetry? One knows it when one reads it. E.g. Amid Rising Tensions on the Korean Peninsula by Franny Choi. It’s easier to describe the principles of rubbish. A poem where one sees a next line coming is rubbish. A poem that one would understand if it had not been encrypted in words and turns that one immediately feels are a way of throwing away the key to something plain and simple and cheap is rubbish. Poetry that reveals emotion is rubbish. Poetry that evokes emotion (rather than a sense of the perfect, the complete) is rubbish (because all emotion is false, unworthy and petit, even the emotion at one’s beloved father dying, even the emotion at the death of one’s husband that one will always recall to be unrequited at the time). Pretty poetry is rubbish. Poetry that groups words (e.g. noun plus adjective) in ‘unexpected combinations’ is likely to be rubbish all the way, or such defect may be a glitch (“Your glassy wind breaks on a shoutless shore and stirs around//the rose” is the less fortunate opening line of a great poem (Nothing for it) by Anne Carson, marred a second time though (yet maintaining overall greatness) by the “gliding emptiness of the night”). Poetry that just goes on qualifying nouns by adjectives is almost certain to be rubbish. Classic Latin poetry and Shakespeare’s poems can pull it off, because language was purer then, not the blunt instrument of emotions that we know it for since, say, the Nineteen Forties.

Pant suit by Belgian designer Dries van Noten

If one is left with nothing but short-lived motivation, e.g. when one is tired, too busy, distracted or feeling dejected, then writing a short story is impossible, but one may just be able to write poetry. Such motivation then needs to be expensed all in one go in the vision, the concept, the draft, the finalized product. It will probably not be the greatest poetry, because great poetry requires thinking, reshaping and a willingness to fail. All these are beyond the sort-lived motivation’s arch. First time right may happen, but, let’s be realistic, it hardly ever does.

My Neighbor Friend

The woman living next-door is a friend. Our apartment building is a new build. It has apartments in various sizes. We both bought a two-storey apartment of the largest type. My apartment is bigger than hers. It has an extra room. But category-wise we are, well, in the same category, if on either end. Socially we’re in different stratospheres. She has a mini-Tesla, I drive Tesla. She has two children, boys, about 12 and 15 years old. I think I have two, a son and a daughter (mater certa est, but even a mother can’t be certain about numbers; not regardless of circumstance). Mine have moved out. They’ve finished school, they went to college. They have their own lives now. My friend is divorced. I’m a widow. I’m in love with my husband, as much as I was ten years ago, when he died. We would never have divorced. Given time we would have felt always to be owing that to ourselves and our children. I found out that my friend has a penchant for spiritualism. One day, when we came out of our apartments at the same moment, she told me that she was on her way to a necromancer class. She said it with an undertone of self-derision. Even if our acquaintance goes back just a few months and interaction has been intermittent since then, her instinct told her that I have no sympathy for that kind of nonsense. Sharing this information with me was unsolicited. But I was glad she had. During our brief encounters, and in online meetings of the Owners Association, my friend had struck me as a strong and independent character, a bold and decisive person, a leader; all of which I’m not. I felt awed by my friend. This information restored the balance. So I reacted forgivingly, saying something that included reference to adventure and inquisitiveness, and that I hoped she would enjoy class.

My neighbor friend is fat. She has a masculine paunch, which is the worst kind of fat on a woman. Her behind is verging on steatopygia. I’m not fat. I never was. I’m a 4. I’ve never been more than a 4. I’ve been less than a 4: a 2; a 0 in my twenties. A next time we met my friend said she had menstrual problems. This was in a convenience store, subprime, not the kind where one would typically run into someone of my social class. I happened to pass by it. It was warm. I thought a bottle of white wine would be nice when enjoying the evening sun on my balcony. And so I went in. I saw my friend browsing the vegetables section. It’s near the store’s entrance. For a moment I considered the option of pretending I had not seen her. But, aware that she must have noticed me (I stand out in the crowd), I thought this was risky. I didn’t know where the wine section was and searching for it we might suddenly find ourselves coming in from opposite directions in the same aisle. So, bravehearted (socially I’m a failure), I stepped up to my friend and asked her if she knew where I would find the wine. Wine, to me, is about the concept, not the actual product. In fact, I hate the taste of wine, and the alcohol contained in just half a glass knocks me flat out. I told her this. I said I don’t have a talent for addictions. I think I felt I should explain my entering a lower tier convenience store just to buy a bottle of wine. My friend smokes (but only outside of the house, and she keeps the stubs to throw them in a bin afterwards). She said Oh yes, you do, but you don’t know it. She said that lately, when having her period, she was bleeding hard and long. Her ob-gyn had suggested to have an IUS inserted to boost progesterone levels. But she had done her internet homework and concluded from her research that her estrogen levels must be too high. This made sense, she said, because these past months, due to stress (divorce, children, moving), she had been drinking too much. As her research bore out, this affected the liver’s capability of breaking down estrogen. She had immediately gone cold turkey on all alcohol. These doctors, she scoffed, they rather shoot up a woman with hormones than do some decent research and analysis. Yes, I concurred, they think a woman is a machine and hormones are its levers and switches. One has to be very careful with hormones, especially at our age, I added. I wasn’t serious about this. I’m very regular. I never have any trouble in this particular area, or in any other where physical health is concerned. I’m without age. She said that she was retaining fluid. I didn’t think it explained the potbelly, but, knowing that is exactly what she wanted to explain away, I said, yes it’s a thing, sometimes. I didn’t want to refer to menopause either. She might find that offensive.

Skirt by Antonio Marras

A package was delivered to me. It was a small cardboard box, completely weightless. It was for my neighbor friend. She hadn’t answered the doorbell. I accepted it on her behalf. She called at my door a couple of hours later. I gave her the box, which I had dropped in a chair without giving it another thought. I said that there could hardly be anything in it. Panties, she said. I could only get them online in my size. I order vibrators online, I said, unsure why I volunteered that information. The exquisite Lelo Ina Wave, the third vibrator I had purchased online over the past weeks, had been delivered the other day. Did I expect her to share similar intimate information? Did I feel that panties ordered online are a very intimate thing already, perhaps not less intimate than a vibrator, and that I should respond in kind? My friend stared at me dubiously. This may be a misinterpretation. She may have been silently confirming to be part of the women’s guild of vibrator users. We turned inside. I spent tons of money on interior design. But the inside of my house is a desert, a very cold desert. I don’t have the eye. I can’t make a home for myself. I’ve moved seven times in the past twelve years. Mere months after I’ve moved I feel that I’ve been put behind bars, that I must break out. I have been inside my friend’s house. It’s clean, warm and decorated with great taste. I saw a photo of my friend when she was younger. She was very pretty. Her name is the same as my daughter’s. A remarkable coincidence. I wondered if this is just the country of my exile.

As I’m making these notes I see my friend pass by my house. She walks with some difficulty. She is obese. She is a much better person than me. She is in control of herself and the lives that depend on her. I love her. She will be dead when I’ll be continuing my ageless life. That aside, I would donate my lungs and my liver to save her.

One’s Predecessor-Selves

They say skinny jeans are on the way out. Well, they’re not. Not as long as there are women with the legs to wear them. Skinny jeans by J. Brand.

Looking back on my life, I don’t see a pattern. I don’t see a line. I see a chronological sequence of lives of different persons. Not the life of a single person, developing or changing in character, talent, feelings, convictions, predilections, thinking, physique, intellect or culture, but discrete persons, who lived, suffered, then died, passing on no more than the images of their sufferings and how their lives came to an end. Looking back, all I find is this accrual of unconnected images passed down by my mostly misbegotten predecessor-selves. This throws me. Not the unhappy images throw me, but the stunning fact that one’s life can accumulate so many antecedent lives which one’s present life has no attachment to.

A life I remember is that of a child who was sent away to a boarding school of catholic denomination. So was her brother nearest in years to her. The child never knew why exactly, but I think among the passed down recollections of the child is that the parents thought that this was the best solution seeing that they both had full-time jobs, that the child’s oldest sister was in junior high and difficult to handle, let alone that she could be trusted with the care of two of her siblings. I think the child must have suspected that there was more, but, if there was, it was never revealed to her during her short life. The child was the victim of abuse, physical abuse, many times, and sexual, at times only (let’s not make this sound worse than it is). That she would be abused is obvious. In a catholic boarding school there are no circuit breakers for moral depravity. Religion doesn’t offer any, because religion is not a thing that exists by itself but that people invented. People who believe have lost the connection between their existential being and the stories that their contemporaries, their forebears, they themselves have invented. I see parts of the Christian bible (memories of what is written in various versions of it have been passed down to me) as a truly magnificent and surprisingly advanced repertorium of morality. But I also observe how people have been unable throughout the ages to harness this morality and its metaphors (in Christianity: god, paradise, original sin, incarnation, redemption, resurrection, etc.) to their existential being. They have lost the ability to distinguish between who and what they are and the stories they have invented. This is typical for a dissociative disorder. Religion is a collective dissociative disorder. And just as such disorder in a person can result in violence and unboundedness (hence the violence and abuse the child was subjected to), so all religions and creeds have spawned killing fields, ruthless terrorism and hate throughout history right through to the present day.

But the child died long before she could think of such things. At the time of her death she was a strong and fearful believer.

My Brother, My Keeper

Skinny leather jeans by Theory, Blouse by Moda International (a Victoria’s Secret imprint). Thong and bra by Victoria’s Secret. Hair colored by my youngest daughter using L’Oréal Préférence. Hair clip from a convenience store. About 15 hairpins, ditto. When I find a hairpin on the floor or on the table, I just stick it in my hair for storage.

In the evening of the day before yesterday I received a call from the care home where my Dad resides. They informed me that he had had a stroke. A CVA, they said, as if somebody who is never sick of anything and is not interested in anything medical should know what a CVA is. I looked it up. It means a cerebrovascular accident, i.e. a stroke. Over the phone it sounded like my Dad’s final hour had arrived. With a heavy heart and tears in my eyes I drove to the care home, but not until after I had checked my hairdo and my outfit. I was wearing skinny leather pants (brown) and a striped blouse (blue). The care home is in the town where I live in the country of my exile. My father used to live in a different part (in the southwest) of this humongous country. A little over one year ago I had him transferred to a home near me to be able to be with him a couple of hours every Saturday and Sunday. I have an older sister. She lives in the town where my Dad’s former care home is. But they don’t go along well. I don’t trust them with each other.

Missioni capsule cruise outfit. With matching floppy wide-brimmed hat, not shown here.

When I arrived, my Dad was asleep in a freshly made bed. Even without his dentures he looked young and happy. His features had smoothed out. The room was clean. Nursing staff said he wouldn’t wake up. They said there was nothing one could do but wait till next morning. His bed had been turned 180 degrees. He always sleeps on his right side (unable to turn over anyway). Because the bed was turned he would always be facing a nurse who would check in on him during the night. They said he had resisted the turning of the bed before dropping off into his Sleeping Beauty sleep. There wasn’t much of a fight though, they said. What with the condition they had found him in. There was little I found I could do. His dentures were in the nightstand drawer. They had been retrieved from under the bed. I cleaned them, not knowing if he would ever need them again. I stroked the old man’s head. I have my mother’s everlasting hair. My father, a very, very handsome man in his younger years, started to go bald at an early age (which did nothing to his beauty), but the process stopped halfway. Even at 96 he has a nice enough head of slightly wiry hair to rake a woman’s hand through. My elder brother has my father’s hair, except that he doesn’t seem to lose it. It’s not thick or densely planted but it is all over his head in requisite quantities. This brother of mine is a piece of work. But he is good to the bone and endowed with significant moral intelligence. I’ve always considered him a beacon to go by on anything ethical. I’m the more socially and economically successful though, by far. He has done well for himself, but I’m wealthy. I wear Missioni. He thinks he has a girlfriend, but I have children. He drives Chrysler. I drive top-of-range Tesla. My father loves him. But my father loves me best. Our genealogy is one of underperformance through the ages on both sides of the ancestral lines of descent. If my brother may be called an exception, I’m the exception that may occur only once in a millennium of generations. This includes my madness. My Dad has always managed to ignore my madness by focusing on my success. I’ve managed to remain successful (with certain intervals that my father at no time was privy to) by maintaining a healthy work-madness balance. My Dad is a snob.

Midi skirt by Max Mara. Blouse by Dolce & Gabbana

I went home after two hours. I called the care home first thing next morning. They said that he lived, but that he was still sleeping. No change. I went to the office. They called me in the early afternoon. They said my father was awake, and that he had asked for me. He was unresponsive otherwise. I wasn’t nervous though. My Dad isn’t the kind of man given to gathering his children around his deathbed. He would be checking out without drama. I packed my stuff and raced from the office to the care home. I was wearing a boss outfit. A conservative skirt, a blouse, heels, hair in a bun. He was still in bed. A young, pretty nurse had accompanied me into the room. She is a favorite of my father. My father is a favorite patient of hers. She had told me that my father had not suffered a stroke, but a TIA. He had TIAs before. So I already knew what the letters stand for: transient ischaemic attack, a passing (transient) “interruption of blood supply to a part of the brain” (Google). The interruption is too short for brain tissue to start breaking down. A patient will typically recover from the aftermath of a TIA. When I had entered the room my father’s face lit up. The nurse couldn’t believe what she saw. My Dad began to speak. He asked how things were at work (his favorite topic to start a conversation with). The nurse beamed. I felt strangely happy for her, and proud of myself to lighten the hearts of two people at the same time. I told him to wear his dentures. I helped him put them in. There’s a handsome buck!, I said. He smiled with the hesitant smile of a child mildly being poked fun at by his mother in a company of grown-ups. The nurse went out and returned with a bowl of porridge. She spoon-fed him. Don’t swallow the spoon!, I warned him, emulating one of his feeble jokes when we were children. He smiled again. When he had finished, the nurse asked him if he would like to have some more. That I cannot deny, he said. Well, well, I said. Look who’s being smart! The nurse left in high spirits to get an extra bowl of porridge. I took it upon me to feed him this time. He finished the second bowl. What’s with the piece missing from the bowl? I asked, as if dismayed. My Dad looked at me, nonplussed for a second. Then he grinned. I told him I had to do a video conference at 4. He had no idea what I was talking about, but he knew it was about work. You should go, he said. I did, promising to be back on Saturday.

My brother was with me both that night and the next day. He does not live near my father. To visit our father requires something of a journey from him. I had told my brother that night about the CVA (which it was not). And I had informed him the next day that our father had the nursing home ask me to come and see him. I said: It’s not af if he’s dying. He would not ask for me if he were. He would just do it. My brother is a good man. He may strike one as a bit of a sociopath. But he isn’t. He’s a hero. He’s the anti-narcissist. I’ve always been a handful to him. I sometimes think that the only life I haven’t ruined is that of my Dad’s, whose snobbery has blinded him to the blackness of the youngest sheep in his flock. Oh, I know, my brother said.

The Letter From The Provost of Fife

Today, a wee day after my previous post, I was served with a letter carrying the official embossed seal of Fife County. Here follows its text. 

Dear Mrs. Potter,
This is in regard to a post on your internet blog Opening One’s Eyes, same post titled Oh, Those Incorrigible Romantic Minds of Women. I write this letter at the behest and on behalf of the Council and the People of Fife, as I do, with no lesser mandate and motivation, to give words to my own sentiments with respect to said post in my capacity as Provost of Fife as well as in private capacity as a concerned individual and a Scot.
With greatest dismay we read your disparaging account of a purported visit in the summer of 2018 by you and your daughter, then aged 17, to the town of Inverkeithing in Fife County.
It is our opinion that you have given an iniquitous and injurious image of Inverkeithing based on nothing but an alleged visit, following alighting at Inverkeithing train station, of a residential area at the town’s outer limits. From your description we think we have been able to identify that area as the area marked as Outer Visual Gateway, north of the area marked as Town Centre, in the diagram inserted below.    
Diagram taken from Inverkeithing Town Centre Framework, 04-02-16 
In your post you admit that for no cause but attributable to yourself (we respectfully refer to the “many issues” that you seem to concede you are struggling with) you failed to reach Inverkeithing’s historic town centre, featuring many listed items including the Friary, the Town House and the Mercat Cross, all of which stand to be restored to their former glory under the Inverkeithing Heritage Regeneration (2019 – 2024) scheme. Instead, you found yourself bogged down in aforementioned residential area north of Inverkeithing Town Centre (which may not present the prettiest of introductions to Inverkeithing, but definitely has a supermarket), and this, combined with weather conditions that more often than not serve to define the widely acclaimed mystic beauty of Scotland, is the basis of your damming report on Inverkeithing.
As you are doubtlessly aware, your internet blog is eagerly read in all parts of the world, Fife County not excepted. Not just the inhabitants of said residential area, referred to in your post as a “suburban hell” (no less), take issue with your defamatory post, but so do all citizens of Inverkeithing and, indeed, of Fife County, including, to disabuse you of any hope of allegiance or sympathy, North Queensferry, that you extoll as “that charming old hamlet at the foot of Forth Bridge“. Said citizens’ immediate and deep discontent resulted in a petition, carried by many thousands of signatories, within hours following publication of your post, to the Chief Executive of Fife Council, the Mayor of Inverkeithing and myself as Provost of Fife.
Pursuant to the petition, which said Chief Executive, the Mayor and I are in full agreement with, the Chief Executive will propose to the Council of Fife at its next meeting in full session that it shall approve the following actions to be taken against you (but not your daughter, who was only 17 and thus not of age at the time), should you ever consider to set foot in Fife County again (if only, for the avoidance of doubt, to have a hot cocoa over some pastry at Rankin’s Café in North Queensferry), and Inverkeithing in particular:
  • First             Should you wish to visit Inverkeithing a next time, which by no means, whether of a statutory, written, oral, physical or any other nature, you shall be prevented from doing, you shall give advance notice thereof at inverkeithingcommunitycouncil@hotmail.co.uk. In order that such email can be acted upon immediately in accordance with following items, your next visit to Inverkeithing shall take place during Inverkeithing Customer Service Centre opening hours, which can be found at https://www.fife.gov.uk/facilities/customer-service-centres/inverkeithing-customer-service-centre. Kindly note for your convenience, that said opening hours reflect a deep-rooted resistance – that we, Scots, are proud of – to a 24-hour economy, nay, a 40-hour working week.  
  • Second        Alighting at Inverkeithing railway station, you shall order a taxi to take you to Inverkeithing Town House directly, thereby avoiding to set foot in any residential area separating Inverkeithing railway station from Inverkeithing Town Centre. An up-to-date list of taxi services shall be provided to you by email forthwith upon notice in accordance with item the First.
  • Third           Starting at Inverkeithing Town House you shall be allowed to freely explore Inverkeithing Town Centre, and moreover be invited (and strongly suggested) to make use of a bespoke guided tour, compliments of Inverkeithing.
  • Fourth         At the end of your visit you shall partake in a dinner offered in your honour by the Council of Fife, the Inverkeithing Community Council and the Mayor of Inverkeithing. Even if such goes against the nature and believes of the Scottish people, said dinner shall respect any vegetarian or vegan dietary requirements that you may notify us of in the notice in accordance with item the First.
  • Fifth           During dinner as referred in item the Fourth you shall be neither required nor even expected to make any apologies for the contested post. However, aforementioned Authorities shall be concluding said dinner in the aspiration of a favourable review on your internet blog, titled Opening One’s Eyes, of the beauty of Inverkeithing’s town centre and  (notwithstanding item the Seventh hereafter) the kindness and forgivingness of the people of Fife.
  • Sixth          Following dinner as referred in items the Fourth and the Fifth you shall accept to be taken back to Inverkeithing train station by car (compliments of the Provost of Fife), so as to avoid the risk of any physical encounters with inhabitants of any residential area separating Inverkeithing Town Centre from Inverkeithing railway station.
  • Seventh       Observance of any of the foregoing failing (with the exception of item the Fifth, as it does not impose any obligation or prohibition on you), you shall be publicly executed at the Mercat Cross (following completion of the restoration thereof per aforementioned Inverkeithing Heritage Regeneration (2019 – 2024) scheme) by as many strokes of a Lochaber axe as may be required to occasion indisputable death.          

In observance of the Freedom of Information Act and policies thereunder as pursued by Scottish authorities at all levels, aimed at active disclosure of documents, to the extent they do not contain privileged information, that are of immediate concern to the Scottish people, this letter will be published at https://www.fife.gov.uk/news.

Yours Sincerely,

.[etc…]

The Provost of Fife’s letter strikes me as largely fair and generous. Also, I admire the people of Fife for their capability of putting together a collective action resulting in a petition with thousands of signatures offered to the Provost of Fife, the Chief Executive of Fife Council and the Mayor of Inverkeithing within hours of the publication of my post, which occurred yesterday, a Saturday, as much as I admire the Provost of Fife for having succeeded in having the letter cited above served to me today, Sunday.

Clearly not being the injured party, though, and seeing that the Mercat Cross, dying at the foot of which in the way described in the Provost of Fife’s letter appeals to me erotically, is on a restoration scheme that will almost certainly be delayed for many years beyond 2024, I expect my response to the Provost of Fife to be forthcoming at a somewhat slower pace. But I promise that it shall be published in this blog in due time.  

       

Oh, Those Incorrigible Romantic Minds Of Women!

Rental apartment at Learmonth Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland

My oldest daughter, then aged 17, and I had rented an apartment in Edinburgh. This was two and a half years ago. The apartment was at Learmonth Gardens, which is a 30 to 40-minute walk from Edinburgh town center, and another 25 minutes from the Castle. I had considered the use of a rental car to get us around during our stay. But, people in Scotland driving on the left side of the road, I thought better of it. In the country of my exile we drive in the middle of the road, and I no longer felt confident at navigating traffic rules based on the principle that motor cars shall press to a particular side of the road, be that left or right. My daughter and I, we share a disgust of cabs and public transport (the latter mostly too complex for our lazy and feeble minds), and so we ended up walking long distances every day.

Pant suit, Hugo Boss at House of Fraser 145 Princes Street, Edinburgh. Fitted tee with print flowers and sequins, which I have also in gray and black, by Love Moschino.

We made an exception for the train to North Queensferry across the spectacular cantilever Forth Bridge. That is a trip we did twice, both times losing more than an hour over matching the slew of ticket, payment and platform options, offered at Edinburgh Waverley railway station (1.5 mi. from Learmonth Gardens), with our humble objective to get to North Queensferry Railway Station. The train takes one across and away from the touristic hassle of Edinburgh town. My daughter and I have a penchant for the quiet and the indigenous in foreign nations that we visit, notwithstanding our equally strong penchant for flagstore shopping, non-alcoholic drinks on terraces of bars, and diners at upscale restaurants or other eating places that are interesting enough to separate us from the crowd.

During our second visit to North Queensferry, as we sat recovering at the charming tiny (“wee”) Rankin’s Café from a half-hearted attempt to walk out as far as we dared over a footpath along the Firth of Forth (at a certain point asking ourselves at every next 10 yards or so whether we had progressed as far as humanly possible if we were to make it back to North Queensferry Train Station without being at the risk of starvation or fatal exhaustion), we decided that a next time we would hike the trail all the way to a far-away town that we could see from a certain vantage point near the Forth Bridge’s base and seemed to consist of very light-colored, almost white buildings, which struck us as irresistibly romantic and fairytale-like.

But we never did. Back in our apartment at Learmonth Gardens we consulted various maps on the internet and decided that the town that we had seen from afar, as we were standing near Forth Bridge’s base at North Queensferry, must be Inverkeithing. In view of what follows and to protect my daughter and me from the wrath of the Inverkeithingers, I should stress that both my daughter and I are extremely poor map readers, and that I have a bad memory for names of places and people alike, as well as train stations. So even though, as I checked just now, there’s little to be found on the map between North Queensferry and Inverkeithing, and even if Inverkeithing isn’t the kind of name that is likely to come to one’s mind by coincidence, in the recount that follows I may be confusing names, dates and places.

A few days after our second visit to North Queensferry we took the train across the Firth of Forth a third time, but to Inverkeithing this time, which was just one stop up from North Queensferry. We found the area around the train station, located well outside of the town’s borders, singularly drab and depressing. The overcast skies and temperatures struggling not to drop to the low 50s did little to improve our sentiment. But we thought this would change when we would be sallying into the town itself. We had left our apartment early to walk to Edinburgh Waverley and by the time we had arrived at Inverkeithing Train Station our first thoughts were very much with finding a place to have hot chocolate over some pastry.

We started out crossing empty roads and roundabouts towards what looked like Inverkeithing’s outskirts. We arrived at a residential area consisting of featureless sludge-colored homes on gray asphalt streets. We explored this neighborhood for about two hours for food and drinks. But whichever direction we took there wasn’t a café, bar, supermarket, convenience or grocery store or shop of any other kind to be seen. Having spent all this time out in the cold weather looking just for a place to sit down, use the bathroom and get our bearings – one of my many issues being that I’m incapable of timing the moment when to cut off a hopeless campaign – our lust for romance and adventure had deflated to a point where we no longer felt a desire even to find our way out of this suburban hell towards an “old town” with cobbled streets, pubs, diners and, well, just any kind of life. Instead, we made our way back to the train station. We did not stoop so low as to head back to Waverley by train straight from Inverkeithing though. Following directions on my daughter’s smartphone we descended to Inverkeithing’s end of the footpath along Firth of Forth that we had explored some of the way from North Queensferry and that should take us to that charming old hamlet at the foot of Forth Bridge with its restored “light tower” (i.e. lighthouse), where we would have our hot cocoa after all, at the wee Rankin’s Café, and take the train back to Edinburgh. This we accomplished.

We had found that the descent from Inverkeithing Train Station to the beginning of the trail back to North Queensbury and the hike along the Firth of Forth over that trail were beautiful and gratifying to our non-linear minds. Those beautiful, romantic minds, that could be so easily duped at any time by the lure of a thing shimmering in the distance, arguably named “Inverkeithing”.

Doll

I visited my father yesterday, Saturday, in the care home where he’s living his letztes Kapitel. I took him for a walk in the same park that I mentioned in earlier posts. I repeated both of these things today, Sunday. You see, I visit my Dad every Saturday and every Sunday. But this is about yesterday, Saturday, even if I might write the exact same thing about today’s visit, since exactness of facts, including time, is completely irrelevant to anything going on in relation to my father these days. He is suddenly showing the unmistakable signs of dementia. I’m talking here of a period of mere weeks separating the “before” and the “after”. Well, he’s 96 years old. Why would dementia not catch up with this stubborn man eventually, even if it might have done so less abruptly? Save that the more logical connection is with the various forward falls from his wheelchair smack on his head before he was assigned the reclining wheelchair, now three weeks ago.

In the park we took a couple of different turns than the usual. On Saturdays people in this country, rather than visit their old folks and take them for a stroll in a park, tend to amass in the narrow streets of city centers to spend as much money as possible in the shortest time possible on stuff that they look at dejectedly and helplessly once it has been taken inside the confines of their jaded homes. Sundays, especially the empty time between late afternoon, when people have completed their second round of weekend shopping, and early evening, when the TV sport broadcasts start, are for non-fun things, such as paying attention to people who have been craving for it at every other hour of the week. Except when such Sunday is a hot Sunday in summer. Then people in this country tend to gather on the beaches, like walrus, or clog the roads stuffed in their cars all day long in a desperate attempt to get near to one, aggression growing to a point where they would kill a person for feeling sorry for them. Then they will never visit their folks even once during the weekend, thinking they have nowhere to go anyway and can easily be held out on another week.

But this was a Saturday, and, people busying themselves aimlessly in the city streets, the park was quiet in spite of the brilliant weather, warm, not hot, a sun which we anticipated back more eagerly each time it was prettily obfuscated by the fluffiest of clouds. My Dad was enjoying himself tremendously, repeating every other minute or so how agreeable the weather was, and actively looking left and right (as much as the stiffness in his neck would allow him) to take in all of nature’s plant, tree and animal wonders around us. He even commented on the ice-age boulders bordering the entrance to a restaurant that we ignored as we had no business going there. I felt happy and proud to procure such bliss in my father.

Old but still perfectly perfect night dress by Victoria’s Secrets

We arrived at a patch of green where a group of young women and a young man, students I gauged, dressed in what looked to me like white karate or judo outfits, were practicing various rolls and breakfall techniques under the supervision of a teacher or trainer. They were at quite a distance from where we were. I thought I recognized my son in the young man. Particularly the impressive head of curly hair (something he has his mother to thank for; if I wash, towel-dry and brush my hair in the afternoon, which I do once every two weeks, I find it still damp on the back of my head on the morning of the next day) and the awkwardness of his rather unathletic movements reminded me of him. I love my children so much, it almost makes me physically sick. I choke on the love of my children.

I stopped pushing the wheelchair and started to peer at the group in their white martial arts fatigues, as if riveted by some extraordinary public performance. It was impossible to make out the face of the young man though. I turned the wheelchair and I pointed in the direction of the group. My Dad didn’t look. He said “You hear the tits?” It took me a few moments to realize he was referring to a species of birds. Then he said, calling me by the pet name he had used for my Mom, who passed away two years ago, still not looking where I was pointing: “No, Doll, that is not our son.”

Little Girl, I Need You To Step Back Right Now!

The commercial block of national radio currently runs an item about an institution offering fast-track private education to parents of children who have dropped out from the regular school system. A pretend-parent (a mother) admits that she’s a little uncomfortable to enroll her son, because, well, that it had to come to this isn’t the thing one is most proud of as a parent, is it? But then this parent, this mother, in a sudden, miraculous reversal of her negative thinking, says: “But parents always want what’s best for their children.

Well, not this parent, not this mother of three. Already as a young girl I was frightened to death by families, by the way they raise walls around themselves, fortify themselves and lock out other people, like me. I was not just frightened, I was angered by families. They made me feel like I was a hostile, an alien, an intruder. Families made me feel a blemish and a stink. I remember a time when I was in Paris, in a museum, when I was no longer a young girl, but a mother of three. In that museum was a group of American children, I think early-grade middleschool, hunkered down in a circle, with a teacher, a woman, in the middle. I was alone. I walked right up to the group because I wanted to have a closer look at an exhibit they were assembled close to. The woman teacher shouted at me: “Madam, I need you to step back and keep your distance!” I felt humiliated beyond words. I was extremely angry at the same time. I was not just angry because of this woman claiming territory which clearly wasn’t hers to claim, but because of how dirty she made me feel to myself, and because of how she had unwarrantedly created a moral highground from where she felt she was allowed to shout down potential criminals and lepers like me.

We do not need to want what’s best for our children. We need to want what’s best for our fellow human beings. Children need protection because they’re vulnerable, irresponsible and unable to think straight, not because there’s any enheightened morality involved in taking care of them. Children need protection from adults locking them out, because they’re liable to be wounded for life by the murderous intent with which they are chased off their neighbor’s turf.

The Photo On The Upright.

On the pitch-black upright piano is a photo of my mother. It is a portrait. It was taken in the 1950s. It is in black and white. She is in a houndstooth jacket and a blouse. Her hairdo is characteristic for the era. My mother looks very pretty in the picture. There’s a beautiful light in her face and in her hair, coming in from the right. I’d very much like to include a copy of the photo in this post. My mother looks like a 1950s movie star. But you know I can’t publish a copy of the photo. The photographer was an established artist at the time. His work grew to even greater fame in later years. He’s now celebrated as one of the nation’s greatest photographers. The photo must have been composed and shot when he was still an accessible person for less than famous people, such as my mother. My mother died two years ago. She was 89. I was in New York when it happened. I flew out the next day. My mother was buried, not cremated. I can’t stop thinking of what putting a dead person in the ground does to that person’s organic remains. Not a week has passed since my mother’s decease when I have not asked myself what the corpse would be looking like, what the rotting of it has turned the body into. My husband died ten years ago. He was cremated. I don’t have a magnificently staged picture of him like the one of my mother’s. I have nothing of him that I could exhibit on the upright. But neither am I visited by a recurring image of the putrifying remains of my husband. I prefer cremation. Not for myself though. It’s not relevant for me. Death doesn’t happen to one. It only happens to others.

Creation, Destruction

So much is built, engineered, made, created, refined, dug, excavated, explored, won, cultivated, grown, reaped, harvested, stored, stacked, inundated, drained, reclaimed, mined, transported, manufactured, constructed, operated, maintained, pruned, pared, arranged, organized, decommissioned, dismantled, calculated, computed, considered, reconsidered, tendered, retendered, procured, purchased, stocked, tested, retested, financed, refinanced, agreed on, amended, novated, interpreted, knit, sewn, stitched, appliquéd, cooked, baked, broiled, decorated, welded, glued, plastered, caulked, amalgamated, synthesized, separated, healed, devised, taught, second-guessed, falsified, peer-reviewed, second-opinioned, theorized, debated, criticized, boasted, learned, written, remembered, repeated, translated, painted, sculpted, shot, staged, played, rehearsed, performed, recited, recorded, posted, couriered, emailed, express-mailed, published, registered, enacted, laid down, heavy-lifted, improved, produced, fitted, repaired, renovated, refurbished, pushed, pulled, nailed, protected, fixed, refitted, composed.

I can’t wrap my head around so much creation. We must be organized like colonies of ants without knowing it. If one considers the bulk and complexity of a single apartment building on a Parisian boulevard it is impossible not to suspect that the human species is organized by an overarching instinct. We think it’s talent and creativity and expertise at the top, and workmanship and skill somewhere in the middle, and hard slog and following orders at the bottom. But no one would have thought of organizing themselves in that way. It must be animal instinct from which such organizational structures have gradually emerged and evolved and continue to be honed to enable us to accomplish ever greater things.

Destruction is not instinct. Destruction is always calculated. It is calculated as collateral loss, as permitted indifference, or as an instrument of hate, bigotry, greed, aggressiveness, intemperance, or egotism. There has never been any act of destruction, no matter the context, no matter how seemingly contained its impact, no matter if I committed it, that I respected or condoned or that I was able to shrug off as insignificant.

Interview With The Blog’s Author At the Occasion Of Her 40th Post

Interviewer Mrs. Potter, you have been running a blog now for little over a month. You have published 40 posts to date. Congratulations!

Interviewee

Interviewer Do you like what you’ve been doing so far?

Interviewee Yes.

Interviewer Could you elaborate a little?

Interviewee I could.

Interviewer But you won’t?

Interviewee You nailed it.

Interviewer

Interviewee (yawns)

Interviewer What has the response to your blog been so far?

Interviewee The medical team is still discussing what type of a disorder it is. They are agreed it’s on the autistic-narcissistic spectrum, but there’s a debate as to where exactly. Asperger is being tossed up a lot. As long as I keep paying the bills, the debate is guaranteed to go on for a while still.

Interviewer Some might think you’re homophobic.

Interviewee You’re one of them? I’m not. Once, on a hot afternoon in Fosdinovo, when most sensible Italians were inside their cool, thick-walled houses, I saw two girls walking hand in hand, clearly very much in love with each other. I saw that as a sign of civilization in a country still dominated by catholic clergy. I envied those girls. In fact, I found it liberating.

Interviewer Gay men?

Interviewee Among my best friends, definitely.

Interviewer Cross-dressing?

Interviewee Don’t.

Interviewer Gay pride?

Interviewee Get a life.

Interviewer You mentioned Catholicism. You seem to have a strong opinion on religion. People say they take offense at the way you write about religion.

Interviewee I don’t write about religion. It’s a non-issue. It’s completely empty and meaningless. It doesn’t refer to anything. How could I write about something that isn’t about anything?

Interviewer But wouldn’t you think it is exactly this aggressive stance on what is sacred to a large part of humanity that many of your readers are put off by.

Interviewee Sacred?

Interviewer Yes, sacred to a lot of people.

Interviewee I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t understand the concept of “sacred”. Anyway, the people you’re referring to may consider praying for this blog to stop. If it doesn’t work, they still have the consoling certainty that, once dead, I will be in a hell or end up in some other horrendous after-life situation, as applicable. You see, the thing about religion is, it’s always true if you care to believe in your belief. A prayer doesn’t do the trick? Never mind, that’s because your god has something up his sleeve which is far more damning for the perpetrator: she’s going to be denied paradise. See, no matter what you believe, it is true, because, damn, you put it in there yourself first! Ah, you lucky bastards, who are dumb enough to be able to pull this Munchhausen stunt on yourselves!

Interviewer … point made, not taken though. Many readers are intrigued by your hints at a terrible accident that you suggest has left you with a scarred and disfigured face. Will you be revealing what happened in a future post?

Interviewee Don’t hold your breath over it.

Interviewer And your face?

Interviewee Never.

Interviewer In a post called Living The Lies you claim absolute freedom to lie and deceive. A similar disregard for truthfulness can be found in the recount of a boating trip, which you recently blogged about in a post called Boat Ride. Would you describe yourself as immoral, amoral perhaps?

Interviewee My ethics are of the highest standard. I just don’t think that truthfulness is an ethical imperative, or even that morality has anything to do with being truthful. If deception might per se be harmful to suckers for truth, I have found that I must nevertheless lie and deceive constantly in order that no greater harm will to come to me. However, I will never, by deceiving, harm someone else…

Interviewer But if that someone is offended, morally harmed, by being lied to?

Interviewee That’s not my problem. And, let’s face it, truth is just another bubble. Wait…

Interviewer ?

Interviewee Ah, here it is: Non-fiction is boring, it’s limiting and reductionist. It is untruthful. Non-fiction is fake fiction. Males find satisfaction in non-fiction: what is on the outside stays on the outside. Fiction is expansive, it blends and blurs, it digresses, it is limitless, and it is meaningful. Fiction is nothing but the truth. This is from an early post, called Curtains Open.

Interviewer What does it say?

Interviewee It says there is no reference for what people call “truth”, or non-fiction. If you would lie down on your bed on a sunny afternoon and allow your mind to wander off, you will see what I mean. It’s like tripping on LSD.

Interviewer Do you do drugs?

Interviewee I don’t. They make me throw up. Nor do I smoke. Smoking is particularly harmful to women. They shrivel up and they start to stink from the pores of their skin. A smoking man starts to rot and wither between 50 and 55, a smoking woman from the age of 30. Never mind the cancer.

Interviewer There’s a lot of references to sex in your posts. Yet you condemn male-to-female cross-dressing as the committing of a sexual act in public, which you say you have a right not to be confronted with. What is the difference with the very explicit references to sex in your posts?

Interviewee The difference is that one can choose to read or ignore my blog. Another difference is that I write about sex, clearly in a stylized fashion, I’m not doing it. Well, of course I do it, but not in my blog. A cross-dresser on a TV show, in the streets or in a club is actually, physically engaged in a public sexual act. I would object as strongly to public sexual acts between men, between women and between a man and a woman. The thing is, gay lib, which for a reason unknown to me seems to cultivate cross-dressing as a staple of emancipation of gay people, is being confused with the liberty to confront people with sexual acts in public. This is not just about transvestites, it’s about men decked out in leather, strings, SM paraphernalia, etc. I don’t like to be confronted with prostitutes either. I guess I just don’t want sex to be out in the streets. The act itself, in whatever form or guise, is, I think, I hope, appalling to everyone but the people involved in it.

Interviewer Let’s turn to the blog’s style, the way it’s written…

Interviewee Do let’s!

Interviewer Eh, yes, so the blog, would you call it literature?

Interviewee Of course. Wouldn’t you?

Interviewer Eh, no. Do you think many people agree with you?

Interviewee No, but not many people are well-read. As a blog it’s as literary as they get. It’s full of linguistic jokes, references. Posts get reworked days after they were first published. Not all posts have the pretense of literature of course. But most posts are very funny.

Interviewer Depending on your sense of humor?

Interviewee Correct, depending on my sense of humor.

Interviewer Okay, in your archaic use of the indefinite pronoun: depending on one’s sense of humor?

Interviewee First, the use of the indefinite pronoun is not a deliberate archaism. It’s my way of getting closer to the writings of Virginia Woolf. My sense of humor is the only one relevant, if only because I have no way of knowing what another person finds funny. If my humor doesn’t appeal to my readers, they are at liberty not to smile, or to stop reading altogether.

Interviewer You mention “your readers”. Who do you think is your public?

Interviewee As a percentage of world population? My phone’s calculator returns an error. I don’t care about my public. What I care about is that everyone shall find at least one reason to be offended by what I write. If I have one fan, it’s time to up my game.

Interviewer Your blog is called Opening One’s Eyes, and the catchphrase is How to get the deadness out of one’s eyes. Have your eyes opened? Have you found a way to get the deadness out of your eyes?

Interviewee Hard no to both questions. Applies to your eyes, too.

Interviewer Eh, right. Well, Dingenom, thank you so much for doing this interview with us. Let me finish by congratulating you again on having published your 40th post. Happy blogging!

Interviewee ?

Joseph

Pants and top by Joseph (Paris, France)

I bought this ensemble by Joseph three years ago in Saint Germain, Paris, France. It’s made of rayon, which, in the right quality, is an extremely nice fabric, cool, with the softness of silk but with sturdier structure, very gratifying to the female body in fit and feel. With the top tugged in, the two-piece looks like a jumpsuit. I think this is the very first time (i.e., for the record, Sunday, June 20, 2021) I’m wearing the complete outfit. The top has a rather intricate mechanism to gather the fabric in various ways (cf. picture). I am extremely clumsy. As my friend with the loft at Union Square can testify I’m incapable of tying a belt of a trench coat in the appropriate womanly way. It’s spatial mathematics of the highest degree to me. I leave the folds as they are and tug the top into the pants’ waistband. When one’s gams are as long and shapely as mine, one can do that.

The Joseph store at Saint Germain, Paris, is a favorite of mine. I’ve been back many times over the past decade. A very nice impression is found in a post at a retail design blog website http://www.retaildesignblog. net: https://retaildesignblog.net/2013/12/08/joseph-st-germain-store-by-raed-abillama-architects-paris-france/. The post dates back to 2013, but the way it depicts front and interior is how I found the store throughout the years.

Stats say the blog has had 56 visitors so far. Not bad, out of 7,000,000,000 people who could be interested. Views stand at 188. Surprisingly, a tiny country in northern Europe, called “Netherlands” on the stats page, which I had to look up on the Internet, registers by far the most views: 130. USA is running up, yet lagging far behind; the 25 views from the USA represent about the number of inner-circle woman friends I have in that nation of nations. Ecuador is in third place with 15 views. I must go there some time, but they’ll have to round up the giant spiders first and relocate them temporarily to giant-spider friendly spider camps. And improve on number of views. I score 9 views in China. They’re in fourth place. Save for the way they are said to be treating the Uyghurs, I’d very much like to call China another favorite nation of mine. However, they’ll have to do better, not just on the Uyghurs, but on drivers for the MSCI China Clean Technology Index ETF, where a small part of my investments is at and which is plateauing for some time now at minus 18 (!) percent.

My apologies for this flimsy post on fashion, stats, the world and money. Next post will be controversial, politically incorrect, abrasive, brutish, mean, blunt, certain to give offense, and/or brimming with self-pity again. Or dish out more of my cheap philosophies.

Living One’s Lies

What with the disheveled look! Well:
I dreamt a dream, my dear ladyè,
Such dreams are effing good.
I dreamt my fridge was filled with white first,
and my bed with Modiano.
Having spent the night with Patrick Modiano

Patrick Modiano (France, 1945) won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. Shortly after the news broke, I went to my local bookstore and bought his perhaps most famous, but for that not his best, novel Dora Bruder. After I had finished Dora Bruder I read in a mere two weeks every other novel that Modiano had written until then. I travel to Paris about twice a year, mostly on a steamer or a sailing yacht, sometimes in the luxury carriage of an overnight train. When in Paris I always walk one or more of the routes that I think I can reconstruct from a Modiano novel. And I always hope that I will run into Patrick Modiano doing his daily shopping, or that he is looking down at me from an apartment in one of the classical apartment buildings symmetrically arranged at either side of a street in a quiet neighborhood.

I have never met Modiano. But I do spend nights with him. It happens in my dreams, and the encounters are none the worse for that. When I dream I’m with Patrick Modiano, we have great sex. This is what happened last night, and I rose rosy cheeked, warm and whole. And I thought (not for the first time) if I can do the remainder of life dreaming, fantasizing, fabricating, fibbing and lying my way through it, not caring, not harming either (and that includes the environment), then what am I complaining about? Then what has anyone to complain about me?

My friends have asked me numerous times to stop lying. I won’t. I will lie if I need to, if I want to. So they cannot take my word for anything. So what? They can trust me to be good to them, that I will not harm them, that I would sooner kill myself than cause suffering to anyone. But I’m under no obligation to be truthful, just as no one else has a right to truthfulness. To live one’s life fictitiously, to turn one’s life into a complete and comprehensive lie, is one’s personal fundamental human right.

Front Slit Mocks Hemline

Ref. previous post, not just my friend on Union Square, practically all my friends complained to me: “What’s with all the ‘we’s? Speak for yourself, LADY!” Yeah…they were really aggressive about it. Revisiting the post, I think I understand their feelings about it (as I would those of compulsive cross-dressers, although no such person has yet sent me any hate mail).

Anyway, enough with the Maoist self-criticism, which, dear friends, I assure you was very painful to inflict on myself and has set me straight for many years to come.

Front slit skirt (by Michael Kors)

In an early post I mentioned a couple of Netflix series that are in need of a new season. One of those was the Canadian franchise Working Moms. In a later post I described how the Womanizer Premium and the Foxy made their way into my home (and, subsequently, certain parts of my body). Now here’s the coincidence. The fifth season of Working Moms was recently launched in the country of my exile. And guess what? In the 7th episode Kate gifts the Womanizer Premium (called the SatisfyHer in the episode) to Anne! Well, if the joke about the ear thermometer comes up in any next episode, I will have a little more background on at least one of the three viewers of my blog that the stats say are from Canada.

The picture with this post is of me in a (size 2) skirt by Michael Kors (not the lower tier Michael by Michael Kors line). I was wearing this skirt today. Although one cannot see this in the photo, the front slit is cut so deep that when I sit down I have to keep my legs crossed tight, right up at thigh-level, to prevent my crotch from being exposed to the outside world. The slit is in an almost comical contrast to the skirt’s demure hemline. The slit takes the piss out of the classic silhouette. This is what I call couture. It is one of my favorite skirts.

The Constant Itch

Old VS Sequined Dress

Today’s temperature has reached tropical levels. I have a dress which I bought online at Victoria’s Secret more than ten years ago. Even these days I’m being complimented for the way it flatters my curves. The thing is, the dress doesn’t show how flattering it is when it’s on its hanger in the walk-through closet. It rather looks like a sequined sack. This is why modeling, if just for local magazines (as I have engaged in many years ago), has grown to be the big business it is for many decades now. A magazine model causes women to buy clothes they’d never even look at otherwise. Because, let’s face it, the worst piece of shit clothing looks good on a young, happy-looking and well-proportioned woman.

I don’t have just one dress, by the way, I have countless quantities of dresses and every other wardrobe item that one could possibly think of. Why is that? you may ask, or rather a man may ask, since most women don’t care to ask a question that they already know the unflattering answer to. It’s because deep down we are no better than (if not cutting a figure as deplorable as that of) male-to-female transvestites. We don’t see the clothes. We see the picture perfect person who rents out her body to promote them, and by buying what’s she’s wearing we enact her (or anyone like her). Every next time, we want to be enacting the model flaunting her perfect body. So we keep buying. A transvestite, by enacting a woman, will always be working towards his petty sexual climax. It’s a well known fact that women climax happier. They put on the dress… and bam!

My Dad

Today was a warm and sunny day. I mounted my Van Moof X2 to visit my father, who is in a care home (cf. previous posts). I was wearing a Vivienne Westwood (Red Label) skirt. The skirt is an old favorite of mine. It’s tight through the thighs, but manageably narrow further down. It’s just as constrictive a skirt as one can ride the X2 with (cf. one of the earliest posts in this blog ).

Skirt by Vivienne Westwood Red Label. Facial disfigurement conveniently concealed behind phone.

Riding the bike like a madman, and as dangerously, it took me 25 minutes to arrive at the care home. I kicked the rear wheel in its electronic lock and chained up the bike. I went inside, registered, dutifully put on the facemask handed to me at the reception desk and ran up three flights of stairs to arrive at the open ward where my Dad has his room.

Since last week my father is in a new wheelchair. He was no longer able to keep himself erect in the one he had before (cf. a previous post). The new wheelchair can be titled infinitely. It had taken two forward falls of the 96-year old, as many stitched-up headwounds and contusions all over his face, for the former wheelchair to be replaced. He never even complained. There is one nurse in particular who is kindly disposed to him, and someone in housekeeping. His youngest daughter (that’s me) looks him up every weekend, mostly both on Saturday and on Sunday. If one is 96 going on 97, unable to piss, shit, go to or get out of bed by oneself, or to keep one’s saliva’s in one’s mouth when eating, and hardly capable of making understandable speech because of a muscular disorder, that is nowhere near bad.

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Facemask gifted by my daughter. Leather skirt by Pringle of Scotland

I decided to take my Dad out for a stroll in a nearby park. We rode down in the elevator. I was facing the backwall. The upper part of my body was reflected in a full-length mirror. The lower half was behind the wheelchair. I was wearing the facemask. The facemask concealed the scarred and molten part of my face. I’ve resolved to explore possibilities to wear one permanently, or revisit the option of wearing a niqāb.

I bought vanilla flavored ice-cream for my Dad and myself at a pop-up kiosk. The girl at the counter told me her granddad, 93, who could still walk, if with some difficulty, lived just across from the park. He didn’t want to be taken for a walk in the park with her, or anyone. He had never been inside the park. He had been living at a stone’s throw of it practically all his life, but he had never set foot on its grounds. I asked her if she knew of a specific reason for his refusal to visit the park. She said she didn’t. Perhaps something having to do with the War, she offered. Everything here, in this country of my exile, seemed to have something to do with the War, I thought. I told her my father wasn’t even from these parts. I told her I had my father moved up to this town to be able to look after him after my Mom had died. My Mom died two years ago, when I was in NYC for business, pleasure and catching up with my friend on Union Square. My Mom died right after the business part; I didn’t get to enjoy the rest.

Afraid the ice-cream would melt I said goodbye and joined my father, who was in a shadowy spot. Very old people have a tendency to eat greedily, as if death might put a sudden end to it all, oblivious to the fact that one is still eating. It’s just the lack of coordination though, the effort one has to put in to get the spoon in the cup and then, charged with the food, to the mouth, and then chew (as applicable) and swallow, and repeat the motions while keeping track where one is at in the previous cycle. It’s the concentration required to pull it off that may strike one as greediness. As a matter of fact, I finished the cup twice as fast as my father. I’m not greedy or intemperate. I’m just impatient and incapable of looking at food as being more than something to be downed and done with. I’m easily bored by food. I said we were going back. He said he had to piss. He used a nicer word, a word that he taught us when we were kids. I told him that it would have to wait.

I rolled him all the way back to the care home. The wheelchair was about twice as heavy to push as the previous one. I exaggerated the effort though to exercise my gluteal muscles. We got back in time for my Dad to discharge. I helped him with the urinal. My Dad is so old, I can stuff his cock in the urinal’s opening as if it was just minced meat in a condom. I’m unable to gauge what its size might have been in times and on occasions it would have been prouder of.