Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Fiction is a temporal art form. Poetry can choose to ignore the passage of time, for there is a clear sense of a poem being an object, composed densely of words, existing in space. This is true even when the length of the line is not an objectifying part of the form, as in a prose poem. And a poem need not overtly concern itself with a human subject. But when you have a human being centrally present in a literary work and you let the line length run on and you turn the page, you are, as they say in a long storytelling tradition, “upon a time.” And as any Buddhist will tell you, a human being (or a “character”) cannot exist for even a few seconds of time on planet Earth without desiring something. Yearning for something, a word I prefer because it suggests the deepest level of desire, where literature strives to go. Fiction is the art form of human yearning, no matter how long or short that work of fiction is.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
At some point it became clear to me that as the eldest child, the eldest grandchild, and the daughter of two parents whose personalities fixate on preservation and documentation of the past, it was my responsibility and duty to record our memories and hold them in the light. However, those histories are subject to permutation. Someone told me that it was recorded through case study and observation that the more times a person told a story, the more it changed. For example, if an individual was told a story they could repeat it more accurately a week later when asked to recount the details than they could if asked to tell the story after a week of recounting the story multiple times every day. Because when we tell stories we achieve authorship-- facts change, things are embellished or omitted-- the memory becomes less vulnerable and more performative.
There's one story in particular that I've been telling people since arriving in Ithaca 12 years ago. At some point I told so many people that I kind of forget that it wasn't true. But at this point, more people know that that memory occurred, than people that know that memory did not occur-- it has been proactively encrypted into the memories of all my friends who know that this thing happened to me. I just moved to San Francisco 3 months ago, and recently was interviewing with potential housemates, looking for a new place to live. At one of these interviews, I found myself telling this story, and realized how funny it was that I was telling it again, to a new community of people, in a place where no one knows me, and again, where I can completely rewrite who I am, who I was and who I'd like to be.
When I think about the process of telling people 'the truth'-- that this particular memory didn't really happen to me, I know that people would take it personally, feel hurt that I lied to them and maybe lose trust in the validity of my future stories. That's why I'm choosing not to out myself on the internet-- it feels like a more personal confession than that. I've been thinking about this hurt I could make people feel and how it relates to the coming out story-- how people can feel hurt to learn that a person is 'different' than how they seemed before. I think about this and how I never told my grandmother, Mimi, that I was queer, how I didn't tell my dad until 3 years after I told my mom. I wonder if I 'owed' it to them earlier and if telling selective truths/details about my love-life was the same thing as lying.
The problem is that gender is performative-- it's a kind of storytelling. We wake up every morning and put it on in one way or another to tell people visually, with our dress, body, and body language, not only who we are, but who we were and who we want to be. I've decided that I'm not convinced that I've ever lied about who I am, even in the act of telling a story about myself that isn't true, even in my attempts to 'pass' as an identity that I am not. Identity and memory are not factual, they're fluid. This is why I can feel acclivity to objects that aren't mine, to pictures that are not of me, to stories that are not my own. I think this is why people can fight for human rights even if they don't know what it feels like for their own to be in danger, why straight people should defend the rights of gays to marry, why a white middle-class girl can draw pictures of things she doesn't own to illustrate memories she hasn't had.
In 9th grade I read Rigoberta Menchu's book, I, Rigoberta Menchu. The book was written and published just before I was born, in 1982/1983 and Rigoberta Menchu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 at the ripe old age of 33 for its publication and her uncovering of human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the country's Civil War that lasted from 1960 to 1996.
More than a decade after the publication of I, Rigoberta Menchú, anthropologist David Scholl conducted a thorough investigation of Menchú's story for his 1999 book Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans. While Stoll confirmed that Menchú grew up in a Mayan peasant village, which was visited by Marxist guerrillas and then attacked by the Guatemalan army, he also discovered that Menchú changed many elements of her life, family and village to meet the publicity needs of the guerrilla movement, which she joined as a political cadre after her parents were assassinated.
In the book, Menchú maintained that her family was actively involved in fighting against their subjugation by wealthy Guatemalans of European descent and the Guatemalan government. She also claimed that her father, Vicente Menchú, had founded the peasant movement known as the Committee for Campesino Unity. Instead, while poor, it was uncovered that her father and family was relatively prosperous by local Mayan standards. During the late 1970s, when Vicente Menchú's daughter claimed that he was an underground radical political organizer, he was at home in his village of Chimel working with U.S. Peace Corps volunteers.
In her 1982 life story, Menchú claimed that she and her family had been forced to work as peons on a distant coastal plantation for eight months of the year, as millions of other impoverished Mayan farmworkers continue to do every year. According to neighbors, however, the family was sufficiently well-off to avoid this fate. Menchú also claimed that her father refused to allow her to attend school, on the grounds that it would turn her into a non-indigenous "ladino" who would forget her Mayan roots, but in reality, Catholic nuns supported her in a succession of schools until she reached the 8th grade.
In one episode in her 1982 story, Menchú claimed that her younger brother Petrocinio had been burned alive by Guatemala's military as she and her family were forced to watch in a town plaza. After interviewing local townspeople and reviewing contemporary human rights reports, Stoll concluded that Petrocinio was shot by Army-supported paramilitary groups, rather than burned to death and that Menchú and her family had not witnessed his death. However, Stoll argues that her 1983 story is not a hoax. The reason is that she in fact lost both her parents, two brothers, a sister-in-law and three nieces and nephews to the Guatemalan security forces.In response to Stoll's findings, Menchú initially accused him of defending the Guatemalan military and seeking to discredit all victims of the violence, but later she acknowledged making certain changes in her story. The Nobel Committee has dismissed calls to revoke her Nobel prize because of the reported falsifications; however, Professor Geir Lundestad, the secretary of the Committee, said her prize "was not based exclusively or primarily on the autobiography". According to the Nobel Committee, "Stoll approves of her Nobel prize and has no question about the picture of army atrocities which she presents. He says that her purpose in telling her story the way she did 'enabled her to focus international condemnation on an institution that deserved it, the Guatemalan army.'"
When the book was first published, it was titled, "Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia," which translates to My Name is Rigoberta Menchú and this is how my Conscience was Born. I like this title for an autobiography because it admits that the personal story is just a prop for a larger dialogue. This is how I feel about the drawings I'm doing right now. I tell stories because they open me up to other people, and in my vulnerability, it becomes easier for me to talk to other people, for them to listen, for them to talk back to me. Our lies turn into dialogues which turn into memories.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
At Linda's house I re-met Larry Rinder, who curated a show I installed at Liz Leach's gallery in Portland. I was also introduced to an SF artist named Colter Jacobsen, who draws photographs once while looking at them, and then again from memory. Linda suggested I do an advising unit with him next semester, so I'm going to look into it and see if it's not too late to change around my schedule. I think the way Colter is drawing is similar to mine, but simplified-- which I really appreciate. Maybe I've got to make some more rules for myself to try to make all these projects more coherent. That's at least one argument of what I should do. The other one, of course the opposite, is just to do whatever the hell I want and figure out the whys later. Meh. I'm kind of into either idea and both-- everything's feeling sort of melty these days.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I've been working on this zine about all the places I lived in Portland and have been thinking about that really exciting head-space I go when I'm about to start over or try something new. It's exciting because it's fraught with potential and anxiety. It's been great with Timber and Pam in Bernal Heights, but it's time to try a new place and feel like I'm still choosing to be there instead of sticking around because it's familiar.
I met with Glen on Monday and we talked about this new artist statement that I just wrote and all the things it's accomplishing, confusing, overstating, and missing out on entirely. It's hard to summarize a body of work that has departed like a cancer from an original idea. It's hardly isolate anymore. Some of my drawings are about family history, some are completely autobiographical memory, some investigate the social construction of memory, some are renderings of what exists, some are rendered inferences of things that are missing.
I'm figuring out, more and more everyday, that authorship and ownership are diffused in the context of the world. How, when I walk into a thriftshop or garage sale there is an overwhelming sense of familiarity even if I don't know the people, what the things are, or care to invest in them. Having grown up, and up and up and up, and with two younger brothers, I have seen things that were once so entirely mine become so completely not mine and someone elses. Everything from Iowa, New Jersey, Ithaca, Middletown, Boston and Portland has the potential to be in someone elses home and, I suppose, has the potential to find me again in San Francisco.
If the thread of my work is the concept of positive and negative space, in that existence is directly dependent upon the fact that an object doesn't not-exist, then the concept speaks much more largely than the nature of things. It's about this weird space between me and you as visual interpretations of each other-- it breaks down the idea that I am the seer and everything else is seen-- it's that weird trance babies enter when they see their own hands and bend back in on themselves.
Of course, when I start talking like this, I lose track of all the different components, which I suppose makes sense because I'm talking about how components are losing their separateness. My writing starts to read melty and high. But I'm not. So it's important to bring it all back home to say that perhaps this project is about adaptability-- the idea that we are formed and affected by our environments in both a physical and mental way. Physical in that we define objects in relation to how our bodies use and perceive and feel their presence, and mentally in how we define ourselves (our identities, who we are) by how our bodies and daily routines use those objects. "I am a carpenter" also means "I am passionate about woodworking" and "my house is full of tools" and "my friends ask me to fix things for them all the time" and perhaps "I used to be a sculptor, but this makes me more money" or "my father was a carpenter" and perhaps even"I hope my daughter will be a carpenter."
So I'll say it again: I'm 24, and I've been moving moving moving around my whole life. This informs why when I enter a thriftshop it feels both new and familiar. I don't have a lot of things, I do have need for them, I used to have things, I do have things I don't need. I define my need, my need defines what I need and makes me needy. My need changes as I move from one place to another, as the people in my life change, as those people themselves are changing, as I change them, as they change me, as I am changing too.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Hooray! We bought a plane ticket to fly me home for Christmas where I will do exciting things like go to the dentist, visit the endocrinologist, make smoothies and Baldwin-style omelettes, watch Holiday Inn and White Christmas and type on my dad's old typewriter. I haven't touched snow since the horrible slushy dusting in Portland 1 1/2 years ago or seen it since driving through Mt. Hood this past April. I have a lot of pictures of people sledding like this one-- I think the very not-white white is lovely and the looks on peoples faces are always sort of guilty/naughty/gleefully wicked.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
New photos from the steeply-priced battlefront of San Franciscan thrift shops. There's one store in particular that I think does an especially shameful lack of haggeling over prices-- a major component of the experience of buying things used. Awesome second-hand purchases landmark my memories from the past few years-- the time I bought 90 ties for 15 bucks in Boston, the time I found all the parts of a 100 year old wooden bed frame for 20 bucks in Portland, a seemingly infinite amount of old lady slips at 15 cents a pop in Ludlow, VT.
Friday, November 14, 2008
The way I've been living places has been in this same sort of pick-up-and-go way ever since leaving home for college. I mean, I'm not even sure I can count the number of times I've had to siphen through the things I own according to their worth and weight. Doron gave me a book on clutter the other day and I was border-line offended-- I dont really percieve my relationships with my belongings as one of owning clutter. I embrace objects with little value, but I'm also ready to send them off to someone else when the day comes for me to move again. I've been living on a trunkful of things for 6 years, and there's no putting down roots now-- who knows what will happen once I finish up here at CCA. In fact, I secretly yearn for the day I get to drive accross the country again with a loaded car, picnic basket and nice person sitting next to me. Of course, there's also a hope to find the stability of a place (someday someday someday) to put things for forever. I can only hope that the Lesbaru holds out until that day, when it can finally kneel its rusty hubcaps into the ground and resign.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I think a good caption for this photo would be 'and then the two remained two.' I've always thought the expression 'then the two became one' was a sort of horrible idea of what marriage should mean. Marriage might entail the melding of possessions and memories but, in this writer's opinion, shouldn't mean the eradication of individuality. I'm coming dangerously close to entering my diatribe about why I'm so fascinated by my parents lives before meeting one another as a feminist re-visioning of family history, so instead I'll just say, hooray for my parents! 25 years ago on June 18th they tied the knot and held on tight. Check out the death-grip my mom has on my dad's hand in this picture.
From the left, to the right:
Papa, Mimi, Dad-bo Baldwin, Momboda Costich, Grammy, Grampy
I found these pictures on different days, but these two weddings had the same church, same photographer and apparently, the same guest list. In turn, both couples got the same sauce pan from Edith and Clarence (read the text, which I've re-typed below). How ridiculous!
Edith and Clarence,
Thank you so much for the darling pan.
Tony & Gerry Garcia
Thank you for the sauce pan. As soon as I learn to cook we will both enjoy it more. Come and see us.
Kenny + Dorothy
The archetypal pencil may have been the stylus, which was a thin metal stick, often made from lead and used for scratching on papyrus, a form of early paper. They were used extensively by the ancient Egyptians and Romans. The word pencil comes from the Latin word pencillus which means "little tail."
Discovery of graphite deposit
Some time before 1565 (some sources say as early as 1500), an enormous deposit of graphite was discovered on the approach to Grey Knotts from the hamlet of Seathwaite near Borrowdale parish, Cumbria, England. The locals found that it was very useful for marking sheep. This particular deposit of graphite was extremely pure and solid, and it could easily be sawn into sticks. This was and remains the only large scale deposit of graphite ever found in this solid form. Chemistry was in its infancy and the substance was thought to be a form of lead. Consequently, it was called plumbago (Latin for "lead ore"). The black core of pencils is still referred to as "lead," even though it never contained the element lead.
The value of graphite was soon realized to be enormous, mainly because it could be used to line the moulds for cannon balls, and the mines were taken over by the Crown and guarded. Graphite had to be smuggled out for use in pencils. Because graphite is soft, it requires some form of case. Graphite sticks were at first wrapped in string or in sheepskin for stability. The news of the usefulness of these early pencils spread far and wide, attracting the attentions of artists all over the "known world."
Although deposits of graphite had been found in other parts of the world, they were not of the same purity and quality as the Borrowdale find, and had to be crushed to remove the impurities, leaving only graphite powder. England continued to enjoy a monopoly on the production of pencils until a method of reconstituting the graphite powder was found. The distinctively square English pencils continued to be made with sticks cut from natural graphite into the 1860s. Today, the town of Keswick, near the original findings of block graphite, has a pencil museum.
Wood holders added
It was the Italians who first thought of wooden holders. An Italian couple in particular, named Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti, were believed to be the ones to create the first blueprints for the modern carpentry pencil for the purpose of marking their carpentry pieces; however, their version was instead a flat, oval, more compact type of pencil. They did this at first by hollowing out a stick of juniper wood. Shortly thereafter, a superior technique was discovered: two wooden halves were carved, a graphite stick inserted, and the two halves then glued together—essentially the same method in use to this day.
American colonists imported pencils from Europe until after the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin advertised pencils for sale in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729, and George Washington used a three-inch pencil when he surveyed the Ohio Territory in 1762. It is said that William Munroe, a cabinetmaker in Concord, Massachusetts, made the first American wood pencils in 1812. This was not the only pencil-making in Concord. According to Henry Petroski, transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau discovered how to make a good pencil out of inferior graphite using clay as the binder; this invention was prompted by his father's pencil factory in Concord, which employed graphite found in New Hampshire in 1821 by Charles Dunbar.
Munroe's method of making pencils was painstakingly slow, and in the neighbouring town of Acton, a pencil mill owner named Ebenezer Wood set out to automate the process at his own pencil mill located at Nashoba Brook along the old Davis Road. He used the first circular saw in pencil production. He constructed the first hexagon- and octagon-shaped pencil cases that we have today. Ebenezer did not patent his invention and shared his techniques with whoever asked. One of those was Eberhard Faber of New York, who became the leader in pencil production.
Joseph Dixon, an inventor and entrepreneur involved with the Tantiusques granite mine in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, developed a means to mass produce pencils. By 1870, The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company was the world’s largest dealer and consumer of graphite and later became the contemporary Dixon Ticonderoga pencil and art supplies company.
Modern pencils are made industrially by mixing finely ground graphite and clay powders, adding water, forming long spaghetti-like strings, and firing them in a kiln (thermally insulated chambers). The resulting strings are dipped in oil or molten wax, which seeps into the tiny holes of the material, resulting in smoother writing. A juniper or incense-cedar plank with several long parallel grooves is cut to fashion a "slat", and the graphite/clay strings are inserted into the grooves. Another grooved plank is glued on top, and the whole assembly is then cut into individual pencils, which are then varnished or painted.
Color of pencils
The majority of pencils made in the United States are painted yellow. According to Henry Petroski, this tradition began in 1890 when the L. & C. Hardtmuth Company of Austria-Hungary introduced their Koh-I-Noor brand, named after the famous diamond. It was intended to be the world's best and most expensive pencil, and at a time when most pencils were either painted in dark colors or not at all, the Koh-I-Noor was yellow. As well as simply being distinctive, the color may have been inspired by the Austro-Hungarian flag; it was also suggestive of the Orient, at a time when the best-quality graphite came from Siberia. Other companies then copied the yellow color so that their pencils would be associated with this high-quality brand, and chose brand names with explicit Oriental references, such as Mikado (renamed Mirado and Mongol.
Not all countries use yellow pencils; however, German pencils, for example, are often green, based on the trademark colors of Faber-Castell, a major German stationery company. Pencils are commonly round, hexagonal or sometimes triangular in section.
On January 30, 2008, Ashrita Furman, 53, unveiled his giant $20,000 pencil - 76 feet long, 22,000 pounds (with 4,000 solid pounds of Pennsylvania graphite), after 3 weeks of creation in August of 2007 as a birthday gift for teacher Sri Chinmoy. Longer than the 65 feet creation outside the Malaysia HQ of stationers Faber-Castell, it will be transported from Queens, New York, to the City Museum in St. Louis.
The metal band used to mate the eraser with pencil is called a ferrule.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Mom, it's not right.
What do you mean, it's not right?
It doesn't look like the picture-- there's only three nuggets, not four. And they're small.
My mom then taught me my first lesson in activism, albeit rooted in consumerism. We drafted a letter of complaint to Lean Cuisine expressing our epic disappointment and culinary fury. We took a picture of the meal next to the picture on the box. We developed the film the next day and put all the parts of our claim in an envelope and shipped it away. I remember realizing the discrepancy between what happened when my mom got mad at me but still loved me and when my mom got mad at Kid Cuisine and glowered at the frozen food section of the grocery store for years.
My father and I also had a shared experience of outrage with the Burger King in Somerville, NJ. We ordered a burger, asked for it plain, the way prissy 5 year old girls like it, went home and were greeted by chopped onion/pickle/tomato/lettuce/mustard/mayo goulash melting into the bun. This kind of activism was of a different genre-- less pacifist, more riotous. We went back to the Burger King ('we' meaning, my dad driving, and me strapped in a booster seat) and demanded burger justice. We made a big scene about checking the burger for untainted bun, and asked for a kid-size milkshake in repentance.
I guess the reason why these stories are important are because they were small, silly, little moments, but punctuated a childhood of being generally complacent with food and consumerism. They were also bookmarks in the chapter book of how one can act when feeling jilted by people in charge. I never asked for Kid's Cuisine again, I always made sure to be articulate when ordering and describing what I wanted/needed, I knew it was okay to throw a scene sometimes, that pictures and people sometimes lie, and that my parents were teaching me things that had taken them a lifetime to learn.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The trip was nice, but it's even nicer to be back and working again in the studio. I'm sad to have missed the SF Prop 8 rally on Friday-- I heard there were helicopters! Today I started some new tiny drawings of the backs of photos to get them out of my system. I got these pictures from Holly for my birthday this past summer along with a whole album of amazing lesbian softball pictures. Not LA lesbians, but my oh my, what style-- yeah ladies!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
So what are my feelings on gray and grey? I spoke to Linda and Allison today in my studio about my work and I really liked something Linda said. I've been trying to figure out what the hell it means to be drawing objects to make drawings that are not about objects. Linda reminded me that abstract work doesn't mean that you have to draw wildly like Pollock, de Kooning and all of their peers and contemporaries. In fact, I'm not even sure if I CAN draw like that. My drawings are abstract because they're not of a real space-- objects are drawn on white paper and are often exagerrated out of the context of what they actually are, by size, shape or quantity.
So I'm working in this in-between space and it feels really good-- the endless spectrum of grays/greys that I wrote about in my very first posting back in September. I love it because everything I make winds up being connected by the fact that they are not particularly one thing or another. I like that they can't get pinned. The grayness is like so many other things too-- like the fog in San Francisco (says Claire), like queerness, like being uprooted and 24, like the emotional and physical push-and-pull of being in school and needing to make money, like the constant state of being stuck between your history and your future. It's been a good week for me and I'm excited to get back from LA and keep on keeping on.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Then in 7th grade I had just moved to a new city, Ithaca, and it was Clinton Clinton Clinton everywhere and even though the students were invited to vote in a school-wide election here too, most of us were just pissed that we had to miss the first half of lunch to wait in line because 2 of the school's 3 voting booths were broken. But I remember the feeling of being in the booth was awesome.
Then I was in 11th grade and 16 years old and some of my classmates really cared. To be honest, I didn't really. I was in AP US History and remember thinking that Bush II didn't really seem so bad and that Gore seemed like kind of a big loser. I didn't express this opinion, however, in fear of being equated by my classmates with the only vocally pro-Bush student in our class, a Jew for Jesus who dressed goth.
So at some point in college I guess I started caring. Not a whole lot, but just enough to know that things had once been better and that I was queer and female and neither of those things were particularily celebrated or defended by the presidential administration. I voted at an old-folks home in Middletown, Connecticut, got my "I voted today" sticker and wore it proudly.
Now I'm here in a city and state that's overwhelmingly Democratic-- last night at Dia de los Muertos the skeleton procession kept cheering "O!-ba!-ma!" to the music and it was amazing. I think that this election I realize for the first time what voting means and what kind of convictions go into voting. My mom told me she can't speak to my grandmother (pro-McCain/Palin) until after the election results come out. No matter what happens, things are about to change. Tomorrow I will wake up early and walk down the street and vote at the fire station. I'll drive to work in Oakland and work on my zine at the gallery and then come back to San Francisco to work on some new drawings. I'll go to El Rio for the Pissed-off Voters party and be with my new community in shared celebration or remorse.
I biked by Garfield Park this morning on my way to work to see the aftermath-- there was nothing. All the altars dismantled, the grass impeccable, the streets totally quiet. It almost seemed like it might not have happened, which is pretty incredible and cathartic and part of the point. It's time to go back to school/work/life/dreaming/hurting/hoping/dying. I'm left feeling great about all of these things. I want to learn how to play a snare drum so I can hit it in parades. Next year, next year.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
A throwback to times past-- so many of these people are in different places, all are doing different things. Emmet and Sarah are in Portland, getting ready to leave. Emma has driven across the country. Sally started nursing school. Kristin has moved back and forth from Portland to the Bay Area at least twice. Danny and Jade broke up, got back together and moved to Berkeley. But for that one night we got together in my small cramped studio in Portland, listened to music, drank beer and made food for our grandparents.
Everything. Even the two lightbulbs.
The tipi was dismantled, the canvas rolled up, the poles stacked onto a pickup, hauled away.
As people left, taking with them Granny's worldly goods, George stood where the tipi had set, next to the smoldering fire. In his hands, a big roll of dollar bills. He peeled off a dollar bill for every person. George saved the last dollar bill for me.
By sunset it was just me and George in Granny's empty house. The light through the windows on the shiny floor. The places where her pictures had hung. The stovepipe, crooked, hanging down. The scrapes on the floor where the table and chairs had sat. The four dents that had been her bed.
George walked through the rooms, close to the walls. He touched everything he could. When he got to the electrical box next to the front door, George opened the metal door, reached in, and unscrewed the fuse. He put the fuse in his pocket, then closed the metal door.
Then out of nowhere.
Would you get the broom for me? George said.
The broom? I said. There's nothing left.
It's in the back of your pickup, George said.
In the back of the pickup, an old broom, its bristles worn down to a fist. And a suitcase. One of those old kinds of suitcases, leather, that look like a valise.
George swept the house, every corner. The little pile of dust he swept up, we picked up with our hands. Carried the dust out to the smoldering fire, threw the dust onto the fire.
We made sure all the doors and windows were open. In the middle of Granny's room, George took my hand. His hands weren't shaking. George in his Italian suit, his white shirt, his Italian shoes, and cotton socks, the red tie tied around his bristly head.
I took my porkpie hat off. Adjusted my red tie. My hair was bristly too. My Sunday shoes were scuffed, my suit pants were bagging out, the suit jacket wrinkled, the burned iron spot on the collar of my white shirt. Underneath, my crusty shorts and a three- or four-day-old T-shirt. I was ripe all right, but not the worse for wear.
The Shoshone prayer from George's lips was soft and high and sounded like Idaho. Silver and gold in the sunlight, wind in the poplars a high sigh and scratch, dry June grass. Heat lightning storms in the night sky. Pickup trucks backing up and a pine box bumping down into a grave.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
My mom was struck with a strange kind of sadness over the experience of going through an impossible mountain of his stuff. Obviously, her sadness was invoked because he was her brother, but also because it seemed to her that his consumption and accumulation was an empty attempt to fill other vacancies in his life. One room in Mark's house was filled with used books, still in the paper/plastic sacks they were once purchased in. The intention to read/learn/invest/embetter was there, but it had never been realized. The idea of an empty life occuring inside of an overwhelmingly full house is contradicting and compelling. The story of Mark's house initiated my own dialogues and considerations over how ownership, collection and evidence play a part in my own mortality, identity and memory. Tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos, a holiday which, since his death, has always seemed the most appropriate way to celebrate my uncle's tragic, darkly comical and eccentric life. My mom wrote this list for me three years ago while I was working on my thesis in Connecticut:
Mark Costich’s Obsessions-Possessions List
[All items found in vast quantities in his house in East Boston]
1. Bags: tote bags (most from bookstores), duffel bags, gym bags
2. U-Haul rental company packing boxes
4. BOOKS (10-15,000)
5. Dunkin’ Donuts cardboard carrying trays
6. DD.s Styrofoam coffee cups
7. Chinese food carry-out containers
8. Zip-lock bags: all sizes
9. Steamer trunks: the bigger, the better
10. Basis soap
11. Black umbrellas
12. Black jeans
13. Black Gap cotton crew socks
14. Men’s XL cotton turtlenecks (black or navy)
15. Ceramic statues: the uglier, the better, all sizes—animal motif prevalent
16. Keys and key chains
17. Knives: all sizes, shapes, degrees of potential danger
18. Tools: hammers, screwdrivers, saws, wrenches, sets of tools power tools
19. Toolboxes: most of them not containing the many tools that were found throughout the house
20. Workgloves (mostly brand new and unused)
21. Phones with answering machines
22. Junk mail
24. Homemade wooden tables (practically big enough to perform surgery on an elephant)
25. Furniture: assorted, no matching sets, odd pieces
28. Tweed jackets
29. Framed and unframed prints, mostly of historical theme or owls or human females
30. Iron doorstops, reproductions