This is the last day of our acquaintance

27 04 2009

The whole world ending is only an abstractly-sad prospect. A particular person’s world collapsing is acutely so.

Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm has been chronicling the last days of a dairy farm, noting that he had been hoping to persuade the farmer, Jon Clark, to allow himself to be photographed.

Go, look at the photo of Jon Clark, posted at 9:02pm, April 26, and the other shots of the barn and the cows and the emptiness which follows after a man’s life has been tugged away from him.

I grew up in a small town in a dairy farming area. When I was a little girl I wanted so much to live on a farm. I loved animals and the whole idea of haylofts and horses and running through rows of corn.  Then I got older, and my loves shifted to theatre and partying and, oh yes, sleep. Still, when my high school friend K. asked if I wanted to help her with the evening milking at her family’s farm, I said sure. Hey, it’s all automated now, isn’t it?

Ha. Yes, there are milking machines, but each one has to be hooked up to each cow, and each teat has to washed before or after (or maybe both—I don’t remember) to prevent mastistis. Anyway, once you’ve managed to slip the suction cones over each teat, you have to plug the tube running from the cones into the overhead pipe, where the milk is sent streaming down the length of the barn to the milk-collection room. Given my vertical disadvantage, this was a challenge.

Hell, given my clumsiness, the whole operation was a challenge. K.’s family had, I don’t know, a hundred? a few hundred? cows, and the twice-a-day milkings each took a couple of hours (even when they weren’t, um, helped by the likes of me). Then, of course, there was the moving of the cows out of the barn and into the pasture and back again. And checking the chickens and feeding the horses. And the mucking out of the stalls, and the hauling of the piss-and-shit-layered hay out of the barn and into I cannot remember where.

Wheelbarrows: They seem like such a simple technology. Really, what could be harder to push around? Well, add a hundred or so pounds of whatever, and you keep it on the straight and narrow. At one point I had K. in the barrow, and I managed to steer so well she ended up in the shit trough. (Yes, she got me back.)

Farming is incredibly hard work, and family farmers especially always have to be concerned with prices and credit and commodities markets. For those of us who like both to eat and to take care of the animals (or whose products) we consume, paying attention to where our food comes from is not just paying attention to the animals, but to the men and women, boys and girls, who tend to them.

Men like Jon Clark, who loaded his favorite cow Sable into a truck and sent her away.

I fall to pieces

25 10 2008

All that there is to write, and all that I don’t write. Bits and pieces, effluvia from the day, surfacing only after the computer is turned off, or things worthy only of quick hits.

So, some of the jottings:

NaNoWriMo: It’s a week from National November Writing Month, and I’m starting to get a bit freaked. Fifty-thousand words! In a month! Jesus Christ!

There is no possible way that I can do this. I have one day off a week. And while I write fast. . . I have one day off a week.

Ah, fuck it. Try and fail. That’s life, ain’t it?


Blogging extras: I see RSS and CSS and Twitter and (or whatever) and all this other crap and I go, Huh? Should I be doing something with these?

Nah. Or at least, not now. I don’t have to know everything before I start—do I?


Crushes, cont.: I neglected to mention the anti-crushes, the horrifying obsessions with ideas and worldviews so on the other side of you. Pat Robertson. Jerry Falwell. The 700 Club. Trinity Broadcasting Network. Rod Parsley. John Hagee. All crack for the lefty brain: you know it’s bad for you, but you can’t. stop. watching.

And then, of course, there’s Ayn Rand, the Objectivist wonder drug, turning readers into zombies. Best not to engage them at all.

Like my crushes, I carry the obverse inside me, too, but not willingly. Nope, viruses lodged in my brain,  waiting, waiting, to be reactivated with just one           more            hit.

Brrrr. Scary.


Settling in: Two and a-half years in New York and I’m still not settled. I would like to settle.

When I moved to Bummertown, I thought it would be my last city. Before that, I lived in Feline City, which I loved, but which was also located in another country. In fact, I moved to Bummertown because a number of people had said, Oh, you like Feline City? Well, then, you’ll love Bummertown!


So when I heaved out of there to NYC, I did so with the idea that I would stay—but knowing it could all go bad.

It is not bad. I would like to stay. But for this to be real, for this to be my last(ish?) city, I gotta sink my feet into the concrete.

Hasn’t happened yet. Soon, please, soon.


Procrastination: Sixty papers. Not long, not difficult to grade.

And yet I don’t grade.

Baaaaaad professor. Can I blame my status as an adjunct?


God and alienation: Still working my way through the Bedlam Farm archives, and reading about Jon’s conversations with the Hound of Heaven (Pastor Steve from a local church).

Jon often quotes from Thomas Merton, and he writes often about his struggles with his own spirituality and doubts. This past winter he started blogging about his regular conversations with Pastor Steve, and his uncertain steps toward God.

I, too, for awhile engaged with a local priest (variant: Episcopal) about God and doubt, but after awhile felt like I was simply wasting her and my time. I am not uninterested in God—duh—but I don’t feel any great need to move out of my doubt. I wonder why other people believe, and what God and their relationship to God means to them, but I’m fine with my role as observer rather than participant.

And I admit to some bewilderment at the notion that one can get closer to others by getting closer to God. How does that work? Isn’t that simply a kind of alienation? Running away from the world rather than opening oneself to it?

Not that simple, I know, and it’s entirely possible that opening oneself to God helps one to open herself to the world (cf. Caputo and Vattimo and the concept of weak theology).

Still, as someone who struggles with openness, I see God more as an escape than an entry.


S&P.A, who I knew in Bummertown, have just had a baby. S. was in labor for 25 hours (!), but in the photo of her and her son O., she looks terrific. Really beautiful.

And my roommate’s sister also just had a son. Cute, she said. Round head, round face, and loooong fingers. (Roommate and I are getting along better, these days. All for the good.)

Welcome to the world, boys. We’ll try to keep to keep the lights on for you.

Devil was my angel

18 10 2008

Depression is a thief.

Back up a step or two: Jon Katz blogs at Bedlam Farm, the last thing I read before turning off my computer at night, and I generally find his posts calming, and, perhaps, chastening in that just-so manner. I recommend him.

That said, I’ve been catching up on his archives, and just finished the December 2007 (and am into the Jan 2008) posts. Having read an advanced reader’s copy of his book Izzy & Lenore, I knew that he fell into a hole in this period—he refers to the ‘Black Dog’ of depression—so the posts were not unfamiliar. Still, he treats this Black Dog far more generously in these posts than he does in the book: whereas in the book he rasps to his (long-estranged/newly-reconciled) sister ‘I’m in real trouble here!’, in the posts he speaks of the redemptive power of pain, of what can be gained, of the connection between madness and creativity.

I cannot believe this. I used to, and it almost killed me.

Shit. It was probably too late to start this post, given how much there is to say. But I do at least want to note that, for some us, pain cannot be harnessed to redemption, nor can depression enable art. Believing so made it easy for me to feed my disorders, and made it even harder to leave them behind.

Depression was the thief that stayed in my home, stole my things, dismantled the framing, smashed the foundations, and cooed that it was all for the best, that, really, I couldn’t live without it. I clung to this, trusting this hollowing out of my life far more than I trusted life itself. I didn’t just believe, I knew that depression would lead me to the only redemption possible for such a deracinated life. It was only a chance un-knowing which allowed me steal back my life.

I’m glad Jon Katz made his way through his troubles, and if believing that there were some point to them helped him get through, I’m not about to criticize him. I simply cannot believe it.

Young Americans

2 10 2008

I can’t stand it—having fleas headline my blog. So even tho’ it’s late and I don’t really have anything to say, I thought I’d offer the music list for some cds I made some years ago for my niece. (No, I don’t know if she ever actually listened to them.)


Songs For An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (I)
Marvin Gaye: I Heard It Through the Grapevine
John Lennon: Instant Karma
Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run
U2: Seconds
Talking Heads: Burning Down the House
Romeo Void: A Girl in Trouble
Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side
Police: Invisible Sun
Pretenders: Brass in Pocket
Midnight Oil: Beds Are Burning
Gang of Four: Call Me Up
Elvis Costello: (The Angels Wanna Wear My)
Red Shoes
David Bowie: Under Pressure
Beatles: With a Little Help from My Friends
John Cougar Mellencamp: Jack and Diane
Violent Femmes: blister in the sun
Sly & the Family Stone: Everyday People
Diana Ross & the Supremes: Reflections
10,000 Maniacs: Peace Train

Songs For An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (II)
Clash: This Is Radio Clash
BoDeans: Fadeaway
Eddie Cochran: Somethin’ Else
Jam: Town Called Malice
Belly: Feed the Tree
CCR: Bad Moon Rising
Patsy Cline: Walkin’ After Midnight
Five Stairsteps: Ooh Child
Pretenders: Stop Your Sobbing
REM: It’s the End of the World As We Know It
World Party: Way Down Now
Police: When the World is Running Down
Primitives: sick of it
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Kate Bush: Running Up That Hill
Blondie: Call Me
Replacements: Achin’ To Be
Garbage: Only Happy When It Rains
Joni Mitchell: Chelsea Morning
Nick Drake: Pink Moon
Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changing

Songs for An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (III)
B-52’s: Love Shack
Van Morrison: Moondance
Temptations: Treat Here Like A Lady
Roy Orbison: Oh Pretty Woman
Sinéad O’Connor: nothing compares 2U
Elton John: Tiny Dancer
Cranberrries: Linger
Earth Wind & Fire: Got To Get You Into My
Elvis Costello: Sneaky Feelings
Terence Trent D’Arby: Wishing Well
CCR: Susie Q
Macy Gray: Why Didn’t You Call Me?
Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee
Wilson Pickett: Mustang Sally
Bruce Springsteen: Hungry Heart
Clash: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Patty Smith: because the night
Violent Femmes: add it up

Songs For An American Girl:
Know Yer Pop! (IV)
Feelies: Time For A Witness
Clash: Rock the Casbah
Dead Kennedys: California Über Alles
U2: The Refugee
Police: Message In A Bottle
REM: Radio Free Europe
Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On
Gang of Four: I Love A Man In A Uniform
Beck: Loser
Chambers Brothers: Time Has Come Today
Peter Gabriel: games without frontiers
David Bowie: Space Oddity
Otis Redding: (Sittin’ On)The Dock of the Bay
Pogues: Thousands Are Sailing
Michelle Shocked: (Making the Run to)
Mamas & the Papas: California Dreaming
B-52’s: Roam
Three Dog Night: Joy To The World

There are other cds for other family members; I guess I’ll post them when I need another palate cleanser.

And yeah, these lists are limited, because I drew from my own cd collection (as opposed to pulling songs off Napster or iTunes or wherever); I’m old-fashioned like that. Oh, and I think the idea was to create ‘historical’ discs. Whatever.

Off to read Bedlam Farm. A fine way to close out the evening.