This is your harp. Autocorrect has bled, like my phone, into all aspects of my life. My penis got autocorrected into a lingonberry yesterday. I manually changed it back, but come on.
A tweet suggested to me that I might try wearing it like a necktie. I tried it on and it gave me a radically mild new kind of cancer — non-lethal, not even especially uncomfortable. Just a really gentle cancer of the thorax. I didn’t even realize I had a thorax!
My tutor became my assistant and immediately suggested that I learn an easy kind of programming language called “markdown.” She nibbled the arm of her glasses, and then went on to eat her glasses in 22 discrete bites — about as many as it normally takes her to eat her customary lunch of 6 carrot sticks with chèvre. (Midway through her meal, autocorrect changed her chèvre to a Lydia Lunch LP, which she actually bit into, so distracted was she reading Max Read’s New York magazine piece about the death of Gawker.) “OK,” I added, thinking about what fonts I would see in the tableau of my imagination once the remaining 5 percent of my visual field degenerated into white noise and I officially become “print disabled.”
CHARLES GARABEDIAN is a painter in Los Angeles. This isn’t him. Our CHARLES, 35, is a legally blind father of one living in mid-Missouri. He wears a logo-less off-black American Apparel baseball hat and a “Best Show onWFMU” T-shirt illustrated by Michael Kupperman. His shorts, manufactured by the great outdoor company Gramicci, are khaki. He holds a waxy-tasting to-go cup full of slightly chilled unsweetened iced tea sold to him by a young woman he’s not so legally blind he can’t tell was scowling. The iced tea cost two dollars.
CHARLES GARABEDIAN: A few months ago I had a rogue eyelash — maybe a few — that started pointing the wrong way. Every time I blinked they would scrape painfully across my eye. This led to a corneal abrasion, and the Dennis Lubbe Eye Institute prescribed antibiotics. These came in the form of eyedrops, suspended in a tiny bottle that I kept rattling in a tiny white cardboard box. About a month ago I decided to go off the medication that I was using to treat my macular edema
SPRIGHTLY NYMPH: Is that related to the corneal abrasion?
CB: Nope. It’s related to my RP tho
SN: RP = yr degenerative retinal condition, the thing that has made you so legally blind
CB: Yes. The medication I was taking for the macular edema was giving me tinnitus and I figured out I could take eye drops that don’t induce tinnitus instead. I have to take them twice a day. This morning I rummaged in the Zabars tray that once held the Babka & Rugelach Crate that the celebrated children’s book author sent us on the occasion of the birth of our son
SN: And which you purchase for your friends whenever any of them have children
CB: The experience of eating gift-rugelach through a thick veil of exhaustion was indelible.
SN and CB both imagine the words indelible and inedible anthropomorphized, wearing black jeans, and making out in the back of a rock club in Manhattan in the early 1980s
CB [cont]And the Zabar’s mug and crate stick around as a memory not just of the author’s generosity but also a form of solidarity: other dads, other babies, have been through this too
SN: I hate the pseudo-embattled rhetoric of new parents. It’s not that hard! People are dying!
CB: What are you talking about, it is super hard
SN: Oh yeah OK Fine
CB: So last night before watching the season finale of Silicon Valley
SN: A really funny and well-written show
CB: I administered the eyedrops upstairs and left them there. Then this morning I went to look for the drops downstairs and half-remembering that they were upstairs was confused but lazily gratified when I found them in the Zabar’s crate downstairs. So I went ahead and administered the drops into mine eyes. Then, later this morning, I was upstairs and what the–
SN: You found the drops.
CB: Upstairs. This was wrong. They were downstairs five minutes ago. So I looked at the little rattling cardboard box
SN: And it was the antibiotics.
CB: Yep. And the scary part is that I can’t remember or I don’t know if these last three weeks when I’ve been administering antibiotics or when I’ve been taking the topical Dorzolamide or accidentally alternating days or what. I wasn’t even aware I had two bottles going.
SN: You’d forgotten about the existence of the antibiotics.
CB: The boxes and bottles are identical.
SN: I think you’ll be OK. Antibiotics can’t hurt you.
CB: Thank you. It might explain why the Dorzolamide hasn’t been working. I think the danger of antibiotics is more like developing antibiotic resistance which is scary but whatever.
SN: I’m curious to see if you’ll notice a difference in your vision after taking JUST the dorzolamide for a few weeks starting now
CB: I hope so, because these days I’m seeing the world through a vaseline-smeared sheet of plexiglass you guys
LINDA: Yeah, I’m having fun researching it. The fake
DOCTOR: Hang on that’s the second time you’ve said “fake.” I think it’s become a tic. What do you really mean? Instead of fake, think of a more genuine, a more authentic
LINDA: [Seething] Why say both genuine andauthentic? Is there a difference between the two that requires you to use both words?
DOCTOR: [With dignity and reserve] I merely used both words for emphasis.
LINDA: I’m sorry. My worst enemy had a baby last night. I just got the email announcement.
DOCTOR: It’s OK. I know you’re going through a lot.
LINDA: You mean my eyes.
DOCTOR: Yeah. Do you want to talk about your eyes?
LINDA: OK. They’re fucked.
DOCTOR: Ha. How are they fucked?
LINDA: I was taking Acetazolamide
DOCTOR: —a generic of Diamox, a standard diuretic used for glaucoma patients —
LINDA: —and also commonly prescribed for cystoid macular edema, which I have.
DOCTOR: A swelling in the retina. Which is itself a common complication of retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
LINDA: Yup. The RP is the main event — that’s the degenerative retinal condition that’s inexorably eating my vision from the outside in
DOCTOR: At your diagnosis, at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, when you were a teenager, I asked if you could see stars. You said no, and I knew it was RP.
LINDA: You asked if I could see stars in the night sky. It felt a little creepy. That you knew I couldn’t see stars. like you’d asked me, “Do you have a fantasy of being reborn as Frank Whaley’s character in Career Opportunities (1991), locked in an after-hours Target, rollerskating and making out with Jennifer Connolly for eternity?”
And I was like…”uh, yeah. No, I can’t see stars.”
DOCTOR: RP often first gets diagnosed in teenagers as night blindness.
LINDA: That movie (and, let’s be real, Jennifer Connelly) made a strong impression on me when I first saw it. I was probably 11.
DOCTOR: What made you think you had RP?
LINDA: It must have been… I don’t know. 2000, 2001. People were already Googling their ailments by then. Or, I guess, Yahoo!ing their ailments.
DOCTOR: Webcrawling across their pain.
LINDA: Ha. That phrase
DOCTOR: I just thought of it! I love riffing with you!
LINDA: Ha. That phrase reminds me of Chris Burden’s TV Ad, where it says “through the night softly.” he bought a TV spot on national television
DOCTOR: He’s the performance artist famous for the piece where he crucified himself to a Volkswagen.
LINDA: Right so he bought a TV spot on national TV where it shows him crawling through glass with his hands tied behind his back and then it says throughthe nightsoftly
All this talk of my night blindness, kind of reminds me of this Chris Burden piece.
DOCTOR: Was it that painful?
LINDA: not at all. I mean that’s the thing unless you count walking into things (which hurts) or feeling sad or worrying you’ve passed it on to your son
DOCTOR: RP is genetically marked in some people but many with the condition have no record of it in their bloodline
LINDA: But it’s not painful. The Burden connection is more about the way I went through the world at night, and now the way I increasingly do during the day. Softly, at pains. But also something about the way that Burden has uhhh burdened himself with this difficulty himself. he’s not being tortured — he’s going through the night softly for an artistic reason.
DOCTOR: Cut that pun but my question is why do you think of the blindness as self-imposed?
LINDA: More that i have to perform it, that blindness becomes a sort of performance art. The cane really creates that feeling: when I unfold my cane, with a flourish, the social situation is transformed so fast it’s like Chris Burden just walked into a room and started doing one of his pieces. Of course I’m exaggerating
DOCTOR: At the time of your diagnosis you still drove a car
LINDA: I still drove back then — even at night! Kind of unbelievable to me now. At first it was really only noticeable when I was likerunning through the woods with my drug-friends after dark
DOCTOR: But over the years…
LINDA: It’s gradually degenerated. Anyway I was living in NYC for a year recently
DOCTOR: You were in that one-woman show on Broadway.
DOCTOR: That got great reviews, didn’t it?
LINDA: Uh, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Yeah, we did well.
DOCTOR: What was it about?
LINDA: I adapted Dwight MacDonald’s Against the American Grain and sort of did a mashup with that and “The Star-Spangled Banner”
DOCTOR: “Amber waves of grain”
LINDA: Right and there was also a thread about brainwaves
DOCTOR: “grain waves”
LINDA: Yep and one of the characters was the lovable fascist Walter Starkie whose autobiography was called The Waveless Plain
DOCTOR: I thought it was a one-woman show. “Characters”?
LINDA: And I performed the whole thing in a Lieder style inspired by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who Roland Barthes writes about in “The Grain of the Voice,” his wonderful essay on the linguistics of sound.
Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings are played at loud volume at various times throughout the piece
DOCTOR: Wait didn’t you say it was a one-woman show?
LINDA: It took a lot out of me. Also Terry Eagleton has a book of essays called Against the Grain and he’s a character in it and so is an eagle that my mom made out of felt and I did the whole thing buried up to my waist in raw barley
DOCTOR: But so you said you stopped taking the Diamox?
LINDA: The Acetazolamide.
LINDA: Well I was taking it because I had the swelling in my macula and that was fucking with my central vision
DOCTOR: you also have cataracts
LINDA: which are super treatable but I don’t want to fuck with surgery until it’s absolutely necessary because my vision is like a little scrap of parchment that I have been carrying with me through the wilderness
DOCTOR: the wilderness of, say, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
LINDA: Sure. Or maybe a YA adventure book à la Hatchet
LINDA: And I think of someone with otherwise healthy eyes getting cataract surgery they’re worried but also if something goes wrong there’s a lot more…uh… parchment left over for them even in a worst-case scenario
DOCTOR: Whereas you have just this tattered soft decaying square that you’ve worried over and sweated through and pissed on and so on through the King Lear style Tempests
LINDA: seriously, the literary references here are a bit much what is going on
DOCTOR: I dunno just feeling my oats
LINDA: right so I’m understandably wary of laying my precious little square of fabric out on the operating table. so when I’m living in NYC i finally decide to go see a retinal specialist which i haven’t been to for years because I figured what’s the point there is no treatment for RP
DOCTOR: At least not for someone with as much vision as you have left but recent developments such as the Argus 2, an artificial retina
LINDA: Right sure but I’m a few years out from needing one of those and it just recently became commercially available and anyway the specialist on Gramercy Park looked at my eyes and was like jesus I don’t know how you get around — i had folded up my cane when i arrived so he didn’t know i used one? — and told me I was legally blind and could collect disability and then said the good news is you have this swelling which we can treat with Diamox. So I’ve been on that for a year or so and the only side effect I noticed was that it makes beer and most carbonated beverages taste bad
DOCTOR: which is a shame because you love craft beer!
LINDA: yeah, woe is me. but then i started having tinnitus. which for a person who’s gradually but inexorably going blind tinnitus is really fucking scary. because I was just imagining myself once i’d lost all my vision, sitting there in the dark with my family nearby reading books that i’d only know the titles of if I asked them and not being able to quite make out what they’re saying because of the painfully loud ringing in my ears
LINDA: and then one day i was re-googling my ailments and remembered that tinnitus is a listed side-effect of the drug
LINDA: so I stopped taking it right away and then really quickly and dramatically my vision went to shit. like a new level of shit. it took about a week off the acetazolamide, and suddenly reading got really hard. as did moving around, even familiar places. chances of knocking over my son went up by 40 percent. asking if anybody had seen the thing sitting on the table in front of me became a daily thing.
LINDA: so anyway i found an alternative treatment which i’m trying but i’ve only been on it like 2 weeks and I’m not sure if it’s working yet or not
This is a recipe given to me by my wonderful friend (and one-time nemesis) Savitri Chandran, who makes it much more fruitily with granulated gnum-gnumb beans sprinkled on after the fact. I have omitted those beans here, but the dish still retains an exhilarating zest.
7 white mushrooms
2 english muffins
old, old quarter of an old avocado (refrigerated)
the red hot chili peppers feat. salt n pepa
Make sure your wife is delivering a paper on Simone Weil at a comparative literature conference. You are alone with your son, a toddler. Put two whole-grain english muffins (I use Ezekiel brand, so named because of the passage in the bible where god says, “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger [plus whole-grain muffinzz, this line may have been added by King James]” and then shoots a screaming Frank Whaley in the head as acoustic desert nomad surf music starts, sounding not unlike the new Tiniawaren album but more surfey than bluesey and the opening credits roll) in the toaster oven.
The english muffins ought to be vegan — most brands seem to contain powdered milk. Are you seriously that insecure that you think having the powdered milk of some artificially inseminated factory farm cow destined for the meat grinder is going to make the nooks and crannies of your little vegetarian muffin taste any better? No. Your milky muffin is poor. Buy a better muffin.
(Also hey I want to know why the cows that make the powdered milk in your [and ok not infrequently my] muffin are lactating. You think they decided to finally take the plunge and have a baby and they read that the longer you breastfeed your baby calf the more immunities and ADHD-resistance it builds up, so they have all this extra cows milk for you? Fact: dairy farmers block their cows’ access to all third-party websites, including Slate, Salon, Mother Jones, and other outlets that might educate them about the benefits of longterm breast feeding. No but seriously dairy farmers spend a lot of time keeping those cows as pregnant as possible as long as possible and then when they can’t anymore they get chopped into cheap chili. Buy a fucking peace muffin, OK, let’s get back to breakfast–
You don’t need to toast your son’s muffin so much — just loosen it up because truth be told those Ezekiel muffins can be kinda bricklike before they’ve warmed up. Slather some PB ünd J on his and cut it into quarters, like a little time-piece. Noon to 3 p.m.: muffin. 3-6 p.m.: muffin. 6-9: yes, muffin. 9-12 midnight is muffin time. Do you understand? The sandwich will distract the child whilst you attend to your half of this meal. Now is a good time to decide that later you’ll write a blog post about breakfast, even though you have more or less stopped blogging in favor of, whatever, working, reading, writing sad diary entries that lack the zest (and embedded video) of a blog entry since you know no one will ever read them.
It’d be easy enough to just slap your muffin with hummus and move on to more pressing matters (becoming an activist, making the bed, etc). But it’s going to be a long morning, no matter how deep the reserves of fun you and your child will explore, and you deserve more than hummus today. It’s Saturday.
Hey: Why do people frown on dads who smoke one hit of pot after their kids are asleep for the night, the baby monitor flickering quietly like a 19th-century candle? Seems hypocritical whilst these same people smile upon those selfsame dads who drink four high-octane seasonal ales after the kids are in bed. Is it safe to admit here on the barely occluded blog that Last night while my wife was out with Gerhard Richter and his extended family I tried to treat my degenerative retinal condition with illegal medicine? Before watching Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects on Netflix I had some spooky fun times with Dodie Bellamy’s new semiotext(e) pamphlet, printed on the occasion of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. It’s called The Beating of Our Hearts, and it’s animated by (among many others) these two YouTube videos by Andrew Kenower:
If I were to try to respond with any interpretive substance to Bellamy’s essay I think I’d run out of time and brain cells and tiny dudeman would wake up from his nap and you’d never find out what to do with your muffin, now nearly toasted. Put oil in the pan or, more likely, spray it for nine tenths of a second with a spray-can of oil even though people who subscribe to gimmicky nonsense like spray-cans of oil tend to be fatter than people who just pour a little oil in the pan but know when to stop eating or who can skip meals without feeling “deprived” or who can go six hours without eating without thinking constantly of food. Cut up the mushrooms, probably not local, probably not “ethically sourced.” Throw em in there. Pour in some mirin. Mirin makes everything taste great when you sautee with it. Soy sauce in there. Salt. Pepper. Enough chili flakes so that if this were on the menu at a restaurant they’d need to put a little icon of Flea’s face or Anthony Kiedis’s wang in a sock next to this item.
Come close as you can to burning the mushrooms without burning them: Near-crispy. Spread the top of your halved muffin with the last slices of a dying avocado like the avocado had come out of a tub of vegan fruit spread. Avocado is always already a savory vegan fruit spread (in a compostable wrapper! Just kidding). Remember: Avocado is Already™. Respectfully lump the mushroom sautee on top. Retain your dignity. Don’t put anything in your mouth until you’re sitting down. Your son is almost done with his breakfast by now, having eaten his way through about “6 hours” of the “muffinly timepiece” you “wound” for him. But he’s been learning that Daddy Needs to Eat Breakfast Too (how old until he points at your middle and replies, “Not by the looks of it, Bro”?), so gently bring the muffin to your mouth, over and over, until it’s gone, as your son turns the pages of a book on the floor, quietly identifying each dog that appears there.
WHY DO SO MANY MENNONITE FAMILIES SHOP AT NATURAL GROCERS?
SERIOUS INQUIRY; PLEASE ANSWER IN THE COMMENTS
WOKE EARLY OF MY OWN ACCORD. BABY-RELATED BUT I COULDA FALLEN BACK ASLEEP IF I COULDA
THE ONLY THING MORE “SELF-INVOLVED” THAN BLOGGING ABOUT THE MINUTIA OF YOUR LIFE
IS GENTLY ANONYMOUSING — ANONYMYZING — ANONDYNE DYNASTY METASTAZING — OCCLUDING THE DETAILS OF MY OWN LIFE AS IF ANYONE CARES
EMPTIED THE DISHWASHER, CHECKED OUT THE 6 AM CST FACEBOOK FEED
BEEN A WHILE SINCE I’VE BLOGGED YOU, GIRL
FOR THE NEXT WEEK AND A HALF AT LEAST I’M AN ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OCCLUDED!!!!
I’VE GOT CLASS IN 20 MINUTES
IF A STOODENT GOOGLES ME THEY FIND THIS BLOGPOST
WHEN I FIRST STARTED THINKING ABOUT TRYING TO “BE A TEACHER” I PASSWORD PROTECTED THIS BLOG
BUT THEN JUSTIN — HIS ACTUAL, REAL NAME — EMAILED ME SWEETLY DEMANDING I TAKE OFF THE PASSWORD
AND NOW I AM MANY MONTHS BEHIND IN OWING JUSTIN AN IN-DEPTH EMAIL ABOUT AN “OCCLUDED PROJECT”
BUT I SORTA DOUBT HE’S GONNA SEE THIS,
PLUS I “LIKED” SOME OF HIS RECENT GOOD NEWS ON FB, THAT PROBABLY BOUGHT ME ANOTHER WEEK, RIGHT?
THERE WAS SOMETHING ELSE
I’M HERE IN MY SHARED OFFICE AT THE OCCLUDED U
NICE VIEW OF ELM STREET. A BIT OF PEACE PARK
TODAY IN CLASS WE’RE SKYPING WITH A RADICAL YOUNG JOURNALIST WHOSE ACQUAINTANCE I’VE MADE
HE’S AN EDITOR AT OCCLUDED NAME OF MAGAZINE, CURRENTLY ENJOYING A SURGE IN RESPECTABILITY OR AT LEAST MORE PPL TAKING IT SERIOUSLY DUE TO HBO SERIES AND SPIKE IN INTL INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT JOURNALISM, BUT I AM A FAIRLY ACCOMPLISHED STAND UP COMEDIAN, SO TEACHING WORKS OUT FINE
AROUND 6:30 THE HUMAN INFANT WOKE UP, I STRAPPED HIM TO MY THORAX AND WE TOOK THE DOG TO THE PARK, THE GRASS WAS BE-SOAKED IN DEW
AN OVERFRIENDLY A.M. BIKER SAID HELLO IN AN AGGRESSIVE WAY, SORT OF LIKE “HEY WHY IS IT I WHO MUST BE THE FIRST TO SAY HELLO?” MY RESPONSE WOULD HAVE BEEN, “I HAVE A DEGENERATIVE RETINAL CONDITION AND DIDN’T SEE YOU, YOU OVERFRIENDLY LEATHER-SKINNED MEGA-DAD”
BEEN READING A BIT OF CAROL DEPPE’S THE RESILIENT GARDENER, THINKING ABOUT PLANTING SOME RESILIENT VEGETABLES IN THE OLD BACK YARD
LAST NIGHT THE MISSUS AND I HAD A GOOD LAUGH RE A PASSAGE IN THE BOOK I READ ALOUD TO HER, WHEREIN DEPPE WAS RECOMMENDING TO THE READER A BOOK BY JARED DIAMOND ABOUT CATASTROPHE THAT INFORMED HER CHAPTER ON CATASTROPHE AND CLIMATE CHANGE, I AM PARAPHRASING BUT DEPPE WAS LIKE “LIKE MOST GREAT BOOKS THAT COVER A BROAD RANGE OF HUMAN HISTORY THIS BOOK IS VERY HARD TO SUMMARIZE, IN FACT IT’S INDESCRIBABLE” — I’M NOT DOING IT JUSTICE BUT SUCH A POWERFUL BOOK RECOMMENDATION ACCOMPANIED BY A SUBLIME CONFESSION OF the failure of language, it made us laff.
Should probably head over to class now, guys. I realized I should be supplementing the steady stream of nonsense stream of consciousness I fill the baby’s ears with more useful language acquisition naming time, like “TREE” and “DOG” , so my internal monologue is now infantalized and externalized; “the doggie is shitting in the woods; dogs love to shit in the woods; do you love that doggie? the doggie loves to chase the ball”
This morning I unearthed my Andrew Jeffrey Wright Mr. ET T-shirt, which is a drawing of ET, drinking a beer and wearing Mr. T’s mohawk, beard, and chains:
I was wary to wear it, leery of being perceived as the slightly eccentric, trying-to-seem-cool 10-years-older guy, the equivalent of wearing a shirt for a band that was cool when I was first in college and is still cool now, which all adds up to something annoying and uncool.
(What band would that be, anyway? Unrest?)
(Why do I persist in pretending that I ever listened to Unrest?)
(Would it be Pere Ubu?)
(Isn’t the fact that I want to do a show on the college radio station here the ultimate expression of this still-cool-and-thus-intensely-uncool impulse?)
(Stop saying cool! This whole thing — the entire enterprise of going Back to School (1986)– must be an exercise in cauterizing my ego, or all is lost.)
And so I wore it. I went to class and made sure to speak twice—mindful of my participation grade—in the discussion of Hamlet. Then I went to the library and looked (for an assignment) at the Early English Books Online database, which is awesome and full of things like this:
After class I was walking across “Speaker’s Circle” where an evangelist — though not Brother Jed — was haranguing a group of mirthful, occasionally goading students. There were certainly more sympathetic ears for the preacher than there were for the evangelists who would drive to the Oberlin campus to condemn the students to eternal suffering. “My church has a webcast!” one young woman shouted cheerfully this afternoon. I smiled and continued walking, when my way was blocked by a little dude, probably 19, wearing a beanie in the heat.
“I like your ET T-shirt,” he said. “You seem cool. Are you a student here?” I was momentarily thrown off by the second part of his greeting, so I focused on the first part.
“Notice that it’s not just ET,” I instructed him. “It’s Mr. ET — Mr. T is in there, too.”
“Mystery-T?” he said.
“You’ve heard of Mr. T, haven’t you?” I asked him, suddenly full of concern. He shook his head. “Have you ever seen The A-Team?” He looked very slightly frightened. “You know Mr. T. He’s a muscular black man, with a mowhawk and gold necklaces and earrings?” The kid nodded tentatively, then seemed more sure. I suddenly noticed he was holding a large rolling suitcase. He said again,
“You seem like a cool guy.” Then he put a Bhagavad-Gita into my hands. Because I have severe tunnel vision, I didn’t even see that the whole time we were talking about Mr. T, he was trying to get me to receive his Hindu scriptures! He finally placed the books directly into my hands.
“My dad loves The Legend of Bagger Vance,” I told him, trying to ignore the fact that he was trying to spread his Krishna consciousness onto me. “Do you know that book? Or the film?” I asked him. His face darkened again.
“Is that a Hindu film?” he asked. I told him it was a golf movie with Will Smith, but that it was based on the Bhagavad-Gita.
I handed the books back to him and walked to my Shakespeare professor’s office hours. Then I stopped by my fiancée’s office in the same building, where she was preparing her notes on her afternoon class’s discussion of Judith Butler. Then I ate a quarter of a jar of peanut butter.