Local Lore

February for planting potatoes, I am told by my spouse’s ex, who is herself a gardener, and has lived here long enough to know it well.  I have never grown potatoes.  They’ve always intimidated me.  Like rhubarb.  It’s the poisonous leaves.  Yes, I’m the one who will go to the woods and hunt down chanterelles, I will dig up bitty bunches of wild onions, and forage for wild blackberries.  But I fear growing potatoes.

I’ve grown other root crops no problem.  Stubby little carrots in soda bottles on a balcony.  Tubs of sweet potatoes while I lived in my studio apartment—but those leaves you can eat.  Regular old potatoes?  The kind you say “I’m a meat and potatoes kind of person” about?  I can’t grow those.  Growing those is devilry, I tell you!  Besides, they don’t grow in Florida.

Except they do.  We have commercial potato production all throughout the state.  Unlike the rest of the country, just not a whole hell of a lot of Russet potatoes (they mature too slowly, where slowly means in summer, during the heat, when bugs and disease will kill what they can).  There goes that theory.

So I went to the local nursery and bought seven pounds of Red Pontiac potatoes, a variety which was developed in Florida.  I would have bought less, except this was the smallest amount they carried.  The potatoes came in a brown paper bag, which I eyed dubiously, and cradled in my arms like a small child with an enormous stack of forbidden books of dark magic.

When I got them home, I cast skeptical glances over at their corner.  The rain helped me prepare the garden beds.  Sort of.  You know how rain is.  Don’t have to water, don’t have to worry about the sun hurting my spuds and their little eyes.  So many eyes.  It also kind of allowed me to delay planting the tubers, which looked like an army of tentacled Cthulhu acolytes reaching out of the sack.  Some of them would have to be chopped into small pieces.  I figured I would do that bit later, because it intimidated me.

I dug the little trenches lined with compost for my small foot soldiers of Cthulhu, and then buried them over.  Thirteen of them, a devil’s dozen.  I still have so many more potatoes to plant, big hulking seed potatoes waiting for my knife, waiting for a black loamy cavity in the earth.  Creepy.  I can’t help but prefer the little started slips of my sweet potatoes, leaves all happy and green… and edible.

So now I wait for the poisonous shoots to come up.  And for the tiny tubers to get bigger.  Witchcraft, mark my words.

Ignorganization

Cleaning is not something one does because one wants to.  Our inner five-year-olds rebel against it, pouting in corners, stomping feet, wailing “after I beat this monster!” or “lemme just finish this one thing online.”  But we know better.  These are tactics to get our brains to shut up so we can have more candy, or to get nagging roommates to leave us be while we glut on video games.

Then along comes a deadline like a big black spider.  Here is a project that wants your attention.  Those documents have to be done by November 7th, that paper is due on the 8th.  Suddenly, that broom leaps into your hand, and you Disney-dance with it all through the kitchen.  Suddenly, your bedroom floor is not only visible, but clear as a bright winter sky.  Suddenly all the laundry is washed and folded and put away.  The sink is empty of dishes and the counters sparkle.  Even the bathroom glimmers.

You, my friend, are a dirty ignorganizer.  To avoid investing your precious efforts into one big push and to turn aside that inner voice calling you a lazy lump, you have mastered the art of ignorganization, putting off important tasks by way of cleaning.  Those reports need to be on a desk by tomorrow?  Don’t get in front of the computer, rearrange your work area!  Have a Halloween costume you still need to make?  Don’t sew; organize your gardening supplies!  You can even use your powers on related tasks, gaining even more deflective credibility: big trip coming up?  Instead of actually preparing, clean the car instead.  You’ll need the space, right?  Even though the car is going to sit at the airport for a week, or get driven back home by your friend, you need a place to put all your one bag that the airline still allows you to carry on.  You’ll thank yourself later.

I know you all have tasks to avoid, so I’m going to let you finish your ignorganizing in peace.

The Dancing Ox-Mouse, or: How to Ask a Writer about Their Work

1.  Creativity is a different beast in every brain, but there are similarities in process no matter the brain into which you look.

2.  The youth and size of a project correspond to its delicacy.

3.  Writers are vain little creatures, and awkwardly uncertain besides.  I should know.

Given these statements (the truth value of which we will not be examining) I propose a set of terms to help poor blundering writers and their long-suffering well-meaning friends discuss the state of any given narrative project before its completion: mouse feet and oxen.  During the beginning phases of creating a narrative, the writer is often chasing after smoke rings with butterfly nets, casting about for unifying notions, trying to link odd scenes that haven’t yet been set into words.  This is when the narrative is all kinds of mouse feet.  It is soft and delicate work, highly tentative, and much of the process here will not be evident in the final product.  The writer’s faith in their own ability in this phase of development may also be said to be mouse feet.  In this stage, then, it is easy to send the ideas skittering for their hidey-holes, sometimes simply by discussing them too openly.  The other state is as straightforward as its name would imply.  Oxen is the stage in which the tale proceeds, and the work on it is steady and directed, though not necessarily without snags.  Note the types of plural in each of these states: A whole team of sturdy oxen pull the story along once notions are firm, but everything rests on the tiny feet of one mouse in the beginning!

Thus, the best way for a non-writer to inquire about the current state of a story is to simply ask, “Is it mouse feet or oxen?”  To which the writer may then give an answer which contextualizes the state of their insecurity over the whole affair.

Now, this is not to say that these two states are absolute and opposing, or even that a story’s construction course will develop from one to the other in a linear progression.  Some days you’re just going to have oscillating moxen en pointe, so shut up and deal.  But now we have a means to label the infancy of creative ideas without upsetting the nest and a means to invite inquiry when work is proceeding apace!  Now when you ask me how the writing is going, and I tell you “mouse feet,” you won’t be offended when I slap you for inquiring further.

DIY Procrastination Fix

It’s totally the environment.  With everything in boxes, and no clear space, how can I ever sit down to write?  I would totally go to the coffee shop, but I’m so broke.  I can’t find the notebook I started to write my novel in long-hand after the Great Computer Crash of 2013, so I can’t work on that.  My head’s not in the right space for short stories, I can’t write those.  And I believe in Big Foot, too.

Excuses seem to be everyone’s favorite craft project.  They’re easy to make.  Instead of listening to my own hype, I decided that another DIY project was in order.  I set one of the kitchen stools in front of the counter.  I cleared off just enough space to fit my computer.  I plugged the fucker in and turned it on.  I took some white glue, knowing my jeans were already slated for the sewing scrap bin, and I smeared the seat with the sticky pale stuff.  Then I plunked my ass down to write.

Uncomfortable physical reminder of the task at hand acquired, achievement unlocked!  But I want to tell you something— it worked.  Two hours of text, fifteen minutes of clean up.  Today’s score is Story : 1, Procrastination : 0.

A Face for Public Consumption

Diced up, any way you slice it. Yeah, that’s the ticket: show me that flank, those corsetted tits. Lady Gaga and Tila Tequila. Katy Perry singing, “I kissed a girl, I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.” This is the public face of female bisexuality in the good ol’ U S of A… and I hate it.

It’s all a show. That’s what they suspected all along, isn’t it? That all women are somehow for sale, and if bisexual women really do exist, they’re in for an angel’s three-way because they showed up with a cock?

Fuck you, America. Fuck you, world. I did not spend my teenage years in a panic flipping out that I might be a lesbian just to satisfy your desire for female-on-female flesh. A youth in hiding: jumping from boy crush to boy crush to keep my feelings for women at bay, to deny that the erotic dreams I’d wake from sweating were as often about my female peers as the males. To take that anguish and turn it on me with a lecherous grin and a “ur so hawt!” is to equate me with a steak. Or a basketball. Or a cum towel. Fair warning: I have a mean elbow strike, and the last time I checked, towels didn’t hit back.

Conversely, I’m tired, bone-weary of being told that I’m less pure in my feminism for dating men. That if I were really into women, I’d be giving up the dick just like that. That if I really want to date a woman for who she is, this bisexual phase is something I’ll “grow out of.” Condescending correction of the poor misguided young girls isn’t feminism anyway.

No, this is not a thing I’ll “grow out of.” I grew into my sexuality. I grew up and had to unlearn all the tropes—that bisexuals were bad, greedy, dangerous, wrong. I had to stopper my ears to the insults shot from both sides, screaming “dyke” and “liar” and “play thing.” I had to ignore the self-righteous “pity” over my “confusion.” And I have to still the quaver in my voice every time I speak of my orientation, for fear that my mother might hear… because she still doesn’t know. The rest of the world does, but she still doesn’t know.

So I kiss girls. You can’t watch and I don’t tell. I kiss boys. You didn’t ask that time, but the answer’s the same. My sex drive is mine, and it’s not for sale. Go watch a Katy Perry video, perv.

It’s Like a Place You Can Visit

I seethe. Ache, really, an old wound. It’s the unfairness of it, is all. It’s seeing how small bricks and a little bit of mortar can build a cultural edifice. To wit: coffee, an outdoor terrace, a friend. A young man walks by and I comment to my friend about this gent’s scrawny sexy physique. My companion, also male, remarks, “You’re bi; why don’t you ever comment on women the same way?”

I didn’t have to think very long for the answer, because this has been a thing near the forefront of my mind for a long while now. Like a ball tossed: “Because they hear it all the time. It’s an invasion to do that.”

“What? How the hell do you mean?”

I sipped my coffee. “Do you like it when women come up to you, don’t talk directly to you, and comment on your physical appearance?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“Do people do that while you’re at work?”

“What? No.”

“How about in class?”

“No. That’d just be weird.”

“You’re right, it would be weird. It is weird, and there isn’t a single place where most women aren’t subjected to those kind of comments. For you, it’s an ego boost. It’s a place you can visit, but your ‘real world’ has different rules. For us, we can’t leave it.”

He leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest. “You know, it’s not very feminist to make objectifying comments about anyone.”

“You’re right. And you’d know best, wouldn’t you?” I jabbed out my cigarette.

In Light of Rossetti and Siddal

Wanted: Bona-fide male muse

Must meet all the standard muse characteristics expected of the female of the species: uncritical, non-judgemental, with extremely good looks and extreme passivity. Impishness a plus. May engage in creative endeavors of his own, but must not expect to be taken seriously. Must also cook.

Tasks include: bolstering of my fragile ego, unwavering support of my art, sexual favors, constant emotional availability, cleaning up my artistic space (but never after a work in progress), caring for my physical needs while I’m on a creative binge (i.e. ensuring I eat while enraptured, providing me with enough coffee and cigars, finding the right balance between insisting I sleep and letting me stay up late into the night to work on my endeavors).

Compensation will be meted out in the form of poems and dedications, and in the infrequent mention of his goodness and virtue to my friends before we discuss topics of real import.