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I really don’t know what to do with this space anymore

30-Aug-12

There was a time when “blogging” was a liberating thing. These days: Not so much. There is something to be said for longer (much, much longer) incubation periods with regard to any piece of writing than this platform is meant to facilitate.

So I’ll just leave this as is, for now, undisturbed, as a room to which I will surely need to return – but not any moment soon.

Probably, it will all be demolished in favor of some other structure. (Change is often a good thing, when carefully considered.)

Meantime, I can be found here and there.

Peace – V.

I was finally going to update this blog with a big thing on ‘ambivalence in the life of the artist’

15-Jan-12

but then I thought, eh, fuck it.

The one time I thought I had the means to buy an Apple

05-Oct-11

This happened.

(And no, I wasn’t one who rioted. Actually, I helped to keep my part of the line calm by handing out juiceboxes to those hotheads in my vicinity who were in the most immediate danger of losing it.*)

Back at Evergreen, only the coolest of the cool used the Mac lab. (I was, sadly, not cool. In fact, the sweetest woman I ever slept with was a Mac girl – and she ditched me for another Mac girl.)

So I am not, by any means, part of the ‘Apple Culture.’

Nonetheless, that culture has had an enormous (and, the above anecdotes notwithstanding, overwhelmingly positive) impact on my life.

Greatness begets envious contempt as easily as rapturous idolatry, and I am sure, as news of Steve Jobs’s death rips about the Internets, both varieties of response – and all those between – will surface.

No matter: It is still ‘greatness.’

Wherever Steve Jobs’s consciousness is now headed (to evenly dispersed atoms or ‘Afterlife,’ I don’t pretend to know), I do hope that, as he made that transition, he felt a certain gratitude of completeness: In having lived, by anyone’s measure, a life of creative genius, which cannot but beget many more generations of creative genius.

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* AM I A MOM OR WHAT.

“Relief and peace.”*

22-Sep-11


“All the feelings of relief and peace I’ve been waiting for all these years, they will come later.”

- Anneliese MacPhail†, upon the execution of (quite possibly innocent) Troy Anthony Davis for her son’s murder. [via]

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Perhaps, perhaps Anneliese MacPhail is right: That the relief and peace – “closure” – sold to the bereaved as the benefit of state-sanctioned murder, which this rightly devastated mother had, perhaps, expected to descend late last night, will come: not, apparently, right away, but: in time.

Just as possible, however: Nagging doubts about whether an innocent man died, for no reason — save the further entrenchment of state power — late yesterday (indeed, on the International Day of Peace) will begin (or continue) to scrape away at her already frayed nerves.

And if, in fact, Davis actually did kill her son? (Or at least, she remains convinced of this?)

I suspect, even then, that the “relief and peace” she surely deserves may prove elusive.

Rest in peace, Mark MacPhail.

Rest in peace, Troy Anthony Davis.

Learn from and, as you can, recover in peace: All those who loved and believed in each man.

While, at present, I lack the grace (indeed, the peace), to summon similar sentiments for the executors‡ (to include all those who could have halted last night’s execution, but did not), I will note, with awe, some of Troy Anthony Davis’s final words:

“For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls.”

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* Written for my eldest daughter, whom I could not adequately comfort when she, in tears, brought me this news late last night.

† Not a day goes by – or could – in which I don’t grasp how lucky I am to have both my girls. To suffer the loss of one’s child – at any age – is a grief unimaginable to me, so it is with neither rage nor contempt that I reflect, as gently as I can, on this woman’s words.

‡ To say nothing of my incapacity to address, with any coherence, my feelings concerning another U.S. execution that took place last night.

In case there is anyone still reading this from my days of writing, with care, concern, and some degree of consistency about feminist issues (and, in particular, about the sex industry)

08-Jul-11

[E.g. through an old feed in your reader you've been meaning to purge someday, but "someday" never comes, because you are, quite seriously, too busy and/or important]

Two things:

  1. No, of course, I haven’t forgotten about “all that,” but the issue is, I went from trusting a handful of people in the various political, pseudo-literary, and action groups involved – plus Claudine – to trusting Claudine only, and
  2. I’ll get back to it in my time, and when that happens (whether next year or in the next decade), it will be in a huge way, which, at that time, you should feel free to love, hate, ignore, politely tolerate, cautiously embrace, and/or wish (in vain, I’m afraid) would quietly go away.

Meantime, I will hold each of you in light.*

Sincerely – V.

_
* Quakers (of which I am, very surely, one) are often given to saying, instead, here “In the Light.” I have no objection to this practice, but, when issuing from my own mouth (or keyboard, pen, etc.), the phrase feels terribly awkward – as if I’ve lost something crucial in my own translation, between my spirit and its available languages – so, from here on I will be using, instead, in light, which to me (at this time) feels precisely right.

Maybe it’s like trying to walk barefoot in zero gravity, after a lifetime of trudging through swamplands while wearing cement boots.

10-Feb-11

A question I am being forced to consider (—well no, not forced, exactly. Compelled, maybe? Okay fine, compelled—): What would I do if I actually had everything I needed?

I mean, it’s never happened before, so if it did happen, I would probably be blindsided.

All my life, I’ve been reacting to emergencies of varying degrees, and there’s a part of my brain that’s hard-wired to function only in that mode; it just doesn’t grasp there might ever be anything else.

Really. What would something, anything else be like?

I mean, one: Could that even happen? To me? (Sure, unexpected things happen to individuals every day; it stands to reason, then, that I might not be exempt from something like that, but it’s still unprecedented.)

And, two: If it did happen — if I had (received, made, and/or found) everything I needed — what would I do with that opportunity?

On the chance that something like this is possible, I need to consider this. (No hippy-dippy visualizing whirled peas or whatever, but, yeah, at least summoning realistic scenarios of my life, and that of my family, going swimmingly well.)

I guess the first thing to do is: take off these cement boots, which have made my feet as tired and sore as… these boots as a metaphor for my being so tired and sore.

About Today

30-Jan-11

Considering a ‘zine project, Way Opening.

Inspired, on one rather silly level, by Beat Happening.

But also, a Quakerism thing.

Perhaps with a subtitle: oblique light for a bent path.

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Today I went to Meeting for the first time in a while, having felt too closed off, too fragile to do anything in recent weeks, besides sit in the library upstairs, reading this and that.

And among the books from that library are several once owned by a lovely woman, Jean Jones Andersen, whom I didn’t know, except through the sincere and gentle acquaintanceship of Friends.

Here she is, look at her! At the love managed to radiate, even through pictures [via]:

I’m delighted to say her notes in the margins have been at least as edifying as the richly varied texts she left us, following her recent death.

I believe that, although I didn’t know her well, she would be happy to know how her generosity (in this and many other acts, throughout her life as well as following its conclusion) moves me, helps me to begin imagining what wholeness would feel like, and gives me some notion, too, that such wholeness might in the range of possibilities open to me. Still. After everything — and there has been, Jesus, just so much.

I realized that if I died in five years or fifty, I’d be as pleased as possible to have that death among these certain Friends.

Jean Jones Andersen lived a long, full life, and I plan to do the same. But having some sense of belonging here, at last: an affirmation that, even if my body were removed from my consciousness tomorrow, I would still love and be loved by this community, is a fair part of what gives me strength to continue to live.

Way opening.

Oh what the hell, I might as well “blog” again.

30-Jan-11

You know what was great about blogging in 2003 or so?

The fact that there was no “you.”

I never thought I’d have an audience in that venue, so I didn’t feel some compulsive (and usually covert) need to anticipate the interests and desires of that audience. (“If I am To Be a Feminist Blogger, Then I Must Write About Abortion!” — and/or, “If I am To Be a Literary Blogger, Then I Must Debate the Relative Merits of MFA Programs!” —and so forth.)

Then, I backslid into different processes. Soon, I felt my worth measured in blogroll links from literary and/or feminist websites. Became invested in ideological and stylistic wars between tediously self-caricatured “camps.” Took sides. Issued commentaries. Cozied up to ‘stars’ in each – for lack of a less putrid term – “blogosphere.” Forged tenuous links, easily broken beneath the histrionic duress of identity-based and partisan politics.

Always, of course, in the name of “connecting.” (Some of us even called it activism.)

Increasingly, my experience of the Web became one of diversion rather than edification, a collapsing into contrived, constantly-shifting cultural constructions, rather than “connecting” or “communicating” in any substantive way.

I began, most damagingly of all, to cater to both actual and perceived shortened attention spans.

This is a bit like bringing to a junk food potluck an already fat-laden, three-day-old Cinnabon which is also smeared with faintly rancid butter, doing so to all the expected levels of excess, and then expelling those snacks in the vomitorium of the Internet, in specialized channels we call feeds, about which we like to act just so precious.

Anyway, fuck all that.

It – that period of “blogging” – was mostly diversion – a kind of tedious, compulsive mental masturbation that could never, ever result in any permutation of “getting off.”

Finally (in a fit of self-disgust, which was also, perhaps paradoxically, driven by a newfound drive for self-preservation), I defected from ideology itself, and stomped off that habitually reconstructed and deconstructed stage, blew another database consisting of at least three books’ worth of words to smithereens, tossing fragments of that mess of self, in 2007, toward the a still-new, and extremely strange venue for the overtly fragmentary: Twitter (and a while later, its chunkier young cousin, Tumblr).

Soon, my value as a sentient being was measured in ranked systems of [Twitter] stars and [Tumblr] hearts. A nice change from the mutually reinforcing idiocy of “blogrolls,” but with its own huge potential for mindfuck.

Along the way, I changed my avatar to an image (from the requisite blackberry-in-bad-bathroom-lighting self-portrait session, which, if I were having that today, I suppose I might then feel a need to Instagram it! Woo!) of myself flipping the bird. Then @sween (Gather ’round, kids! I’m old enough to remember when he had only a few hundred followers!), very graciously, made this drawing based on the photo, and it was so much better than the original:
victoria

But, just as a girl dreams of love, for years, sometimes, before she actually finds love — I was, then, a woman only dreaming of being able to say, with any depth of confidence, Fuck you! to the world — and so, my gratingly juvenile gesture remained merely that: a gesture. (Like when, at fifteen, I tried on some Buddhism, and so walked about on the beach quietly murmuring Nam-myoho-renge-kyo — and then waited, patiently, for some kind of great magic to happen.)

No doubt, Buddha himself would have belly-laughed.

Anyway.

I’m not walking away from “social media” or whatever one wants to call it – for better and/or worse, it’s something I’ve absorbed and have been absorbed by. And, I’m not going to go live in a cave (which, granted, would make me only marginally more reclusive than I already am).

(***WARNING! DUBIOUS PARABLE AHEAD!***)

It’s like this:

I live in this thin-walled apartment above this rowdy-ass bar. (“You” – yeah I’m talkin’ about, you – are the people in that bar.)

I don’t have to be in that bar day and night, but I also don’t have to move to the suburbs or perhaps the Arctic to get away from some of your (!) collective noise.

I can be neighborly, visit now and then, and also leave for weekends here and there.

In the beginning, there were no blogrolls. No avatars. No comments. No perverse dynamics of the ‘followed’ versus ‘following.’ No posting, even, of pictures. Much less, engaging a (for fuck’s sake) “commentariat.”

I just wrote, and it worked.

So that’s what I’m going to do again, here.

But this time, I’ll be doing my best to disconnect that process from the various social elements of the Web.

It’ll take time, because I’m deeply unfond of template-tinkering, but I’ll be killing off the “comments” function as soon as I can. (I’d really rather that didn’t leave a pointless line of text at the bottom of each entry – “Closed to comments” or any such thing; I can’t stand that as the default possibility; I’d rather posts here rendered simply with fields for date, title, and the post text itself; I’m ambivalent, right now, about “categories” as well as “tags” – these fields may or may not be retained, whenever I can find the most ideal, stripped-down template.)

And while this may seem like a giant “Fuck you!” to the Web, it really isn’t; rather, it’s my saying “Fuck you!” to processes I once, quite voluntarily and, sometimes, enthusiastically, adopted, but which no longer work for me; that have drained, over time, almost all joy and growth I’d once experienced from writing in an online medium.

“Social media” can still —even for me— be a fine and useful thing; I just need to keep it separate from this (whatever “this” is). So I won’t be doing anything rash like killing off my Tumblr and/or Twitter accounts – but neither will I be doing anything in particular to promote posts here (beyond, say, some perfunctory feed of post titles to Tumblr, and the occasional link sent to Twitter and/or Facebook).

Bottom line: I’ve gotta get back to that early point of departure: When I could, by availing myself of the then-new blogging technology, write in a very free, authentic, egoless way; without games (subconscious or deliberate); and without kowtowing to the tastes and demands of any real or imagined audience.

To offer, most peacefully, my words before a great and often beautiful Void, which may or may not have you in it.

A rite of purification, if you (and/or the Void) will.

Aaaaah. This feels so much better.

I’ll admit it. I’m jealous of a Thalhimer.

04-Jan-11

Local author Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, interviewed by Valerie Catrow in Finding Thalhimers: ‘It needed a monument’ (RVANews):

I tried to be really objective in my research, and I tried to tell the story as honestly as I could… There’s a little [of the family’s] dirty laundry but, for the most part, there wasn’t a lot of dirty laundry to be shared, so it made it really easy to be honest.

I can’t help but wonder about her experience. Not “growing up as a Thalhimer” (non-Richmonders: You will have to trust me that this is a thing), but being able to write about one’s family in a genuinely searching manner, without (according to the PR; haven’t yet seen the book) finding much in the way of ‘dirty laundry.’

(As distinct from heaving mountains of, at times, nearly radioactive dirty laundry: inescapable, requiring that one choose either miserable detours — necessitating the torching of every bridge one has ever needed to traverse — or, worse: that one write dishonestly.)

Whereas, Elizabeth’s dad will respond to her work with:

This book means everything to me. It’s the history of our family. It’s like giving birth to a child and transferring your ancestors’ DNA along to future generations. It’s not a headstone in a cemetery; it’s a living story. It’s an incredible gift.

And no, I won’t use this as a pass to evade my own work. Nor should I begrudge this author her current, and likely future success. (For those interested: Tonight, she’ll be reading downtown, kicking off the Friends of the Richmond Public Library’s annual Richmond Writers Series. Health permitting, I may head down there.)

Still, there’s a part of me whose first response – to the ‘dirty laundry’ bit – can’t help but be, Daaamn… must be nice.


Sometimes I feel like a motherless child

23-Dec-10

Townzen, Mark and Barb
Townzen, Mark and Barb (by Elise Hasenstab)

Townzen – the guy on the left – is kind of, sort of, named after my dad.*

Mark – the guy on the right – is, technically, my brother – which is to say: my parents were his foster parents for a few years before I was born. 

Barb, Townzen’s mom, is a fascinating person (for now, we will leave it at this).

They were all, quite graciously, at my wedding almost a decade ago, and I have barely seen them since, although they remain geographically close. 

For my part, this is due to the fact that my now 5+ years-estranged mother still sees Mark (a throat cancer survivor) and Barb whenever she visits, and I don’t want to intrude on their relationship. (As in divorce, one of the many costs of estrangement is that one party either seems to, or actually does, “get” all the associated friends and extended family members, while the other party either feels, or actually is, effectively “frozen out.”)

But I’ve missed them terribly all the while. 

Townzen and Greg
Townzen and Greg (by Elise Hasenstab)

What is worse: Mark’s brother Greg (mentioned recently here, and, in the last story I published before I stopped sending out work, here) – also at the wedding, and quite dear to me – died recently, after a great struggle with ALS.

I had been waiting for “the right time” to re-establish contact, but that time never came, because I could not imagine a scenario in which I could see any of these folks, without my heart’s conflicted and distinctly unbeautiful contents gushing out, potentially causing rifts among those to whom my mother remains connected, and I did not ever – nor do I now – want to cause her such pain.

And this week, came news of another death: That of a man named George Smith, without whom, as I understand it, Mark would never have met my parents. (George – an Episcopalian minister – also officiated at the wedding of my mother to her second husband, one doom-infused day in the seventies, but I digress.)

I did, at least, manage to spend quality time in recent years with George and his wonderful wife Laurel – both of whom had known me since I was very young. (To understand why this is so significant, it helps to know that there was next to no geographic, cultural, or familial constancy in my early life; I don’t even know how many schools I attended between kindergarten and the second grade, although the last credible estimate had it at eight.)

But there, too, I had hesitated for years, because they were also still close to my mother.

Still, it pains me that I didn’t spend much more time with George; for that matter, there are others from the same web of folks (in particular: Rafael Lorenzo, who introduced my parents) whom I feel I cannot or should not be in contact, because they are “hers.” (When we were in touch, my mother told variations on the story of how, shortly after I was born, Rafael, Mark, and [was it Greg? someone else? I can't remember, and I can't imagine who I'd ask...] joined around my bassinet, serenading me… What I would do, now, to have some unfiltered memory of that! Or at least, the name of the song…)

I can hope, at least, that Greg and George knew how profoundly I cared for them; even when I remained out of touch for years, they each occupied huge estates in my consciousness.

Wherever we, the living, may go from here, along our variously strange and estranged paths, I hope those I love know the depth of my regard for them, which is not diminished by silence or distance, but continues, peacefully and powerfully, to expand.

Rest in Peace, dear and good gentlemen: Gregory Phillip Soltys, and the Reverend George Joel Smith.

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* He’s also, coincidentally, a former classmate of the hilarious and sweet @crispycracka. (Degrees of separation and all that…)