Wednesday, August 25, 2010


My cat is wailing. He’s been doing this lately and I do not know the cause. Perhaps he is filling our otherwise empty quiet space with the noise of his own insistent conversation. My cat doesn’t seem to appreciate the noises of the city as much as I do: the industrial laziness of the cicadas; the whoosh of the express trains and the rhythm of the red line trains; the CTA announcements behind the cicadas and whoosh and car alarms and street traffic; the rustle of leaves from the very large tree outside my window; the saxophone player at the el stop who plays my summer theme songs through purple night air; the jangling of dog tags and the clatter of shopping carts; slamming of doors and running down stairs; the pulsing atonal siren of the cicadas; the yelling, the talking, the drunken mariachi outside my bathroom at 2 in the morning: this is my soundtrack.

I’ve discussed this with some people before and I do think I am not wrong. Other people have other ways of classifying types of people; I have my own. There are two sorts of people: amoebas and pencils. Amoebas are shapeless and shifting, taking on this shape, no this one, no this one, no this one. An amoeba’s behind sometimes precedes its in-front which may be at odds with its behind. The shape of the amoeba is most noteworthy when it resembles something else: a cloud! an ink blob! a horse head!

A pencil’s behind always follows its in-front. A pencil comes to—and has—a point. A pencil can in fact be used as a pointer, can be waved or shaken—much like a knife—for emphasis. A pencil knows precisely where it is going and why: toward the end of the sentence. A pencil loves nothing so much as the terminal period.

An amoeba is unaware of its own direction or purpose. An amoeba, attempting movement, may find itself distracted or repelled or impelled or compelled and find itself someplace very different than it (thought it might have) intended.

A pencil carries with it only a ghost of a past. Mistakes can be unmade. All evidence erased. A worn-down eraser is the only indication that perhaps the pencil has committed some error. The eraser, however, is silent, unable to tell any tales, voiceless, a mute servant.

An amoeba can hardly hide. It is very simple. Wears its metaphorical heart on its metaphorical sleeve.

A pencil, though pointed, grows dull and must continually resharpen itself. Eventually it dwindles and must be discarded.

An amoeba divides itself and divides itselves and divides itselveses and divides itselveseses and divides itselveseseses.

A pencil is singular. An amoeba becomes community.

If there is a problem with my classification, it is because I have a disproportionate amount of sympathy for the amoeba. I wish I could be more of a pencil. I wish I had a point, a direction, a purpose and an eraser. The usefulness of a pencil is immediately clear. The usefulness of an amoeba much less so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

the end of an age

Two new years begin soon. As for anyone who has never left school, the end of August marks the beginning of a new year and the end of that strange and shapeless in-between time that is not part of a year at all. Some people term this time "summer;" I call it "the time of the year I cannot wear boots."*

The beginning of October marks the end of a decade and looks like the beginning of a new one.

I am plotting strange and wonderful plans for these new years.

I am going to begin pouring words into chapter 2 any day now--perhaps even today. I have been shaping the container all summer and I think it might be ready to hold the words that will make it visible. I, naturally, will not know if this is the case until I have poured a great number of words into the chapter. Lately, like a potter, I've been gliding my hands on on unformed, sloppy, wet shape. Later, like a sculptor, I will chisel at existing words to finesse that shape.

I am going to learn how to read poetry. This might be even more difficult than writing my dissertation. Suggestions welcome. I cannot remain illiterate any longer.

I may work on my sewing skills. I may learn to knit. I will become a pro at baking bread.

I will travel this year. I don't think it even matters where I go. I need to see new things. I need to learn to navigate new surroundings.

*except for last summer, which was exceptional

Thursday, August 12, 2010

it's like drowning in virtue

If you begin now, you should be able to read every post at Inky Fool by the end of next week (assuming you choose to do a few other things as well).

It is a good thing my boss does not know about my blog, because then she would know that this is precisely how I am spending all of my time at work this week. I call this research. I believe I am significantly wiser today than I was yesterday and at least three times as wise as I was on Tuesday. You may decide for yourself, at the end of next week, whether my reading is the cause of my increased wisdom.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

by the lamplight

I've bought at least four dresses this summer. Two hats. A pair of shoes. A watch. Books. Many books. Spent $875 to receive a free copy of the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. And yet toilet paper feels like an extravagance. I walk into the bathroom, count out two squares and fretfully blow my nose. The roll is worn very thin and I only have three rolls left and I really ought to reduce my spending, tighten my belt (I could use a new belt), watch my pennies. I hardly feel a twinge of guilt when I purchase a new dress, but toilet paper--and trash bags--feel like luxuries too precious to afford.

It's nearly eleven o'clock when I write this. I know I should sleep soon but my chest hurts (again) and that worries and frightens me so much that I no longer feel tired. Neither can I write. I have nothing to say. The thought occurs to me that if I should die before I wake I will never have to worry about toilet paper ever again. This does not comfort me as much as I would like. It does make me laugh a little. I know I am being extremely silly. I just don't know how to stop. I keep the lamp on until I fall asleep. I'm not sure what it is I think this will do, what kind of help it will offer, but at midnight it just Makes Sense. In the morning I wake to the sound of rain and a meowing Cat and I am okay.