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
DARREN: yes. a fine reminder that self-deprecation can sound 100 times more self-involved than self-aggrandizement
KARREN: or you mean that self-deprecation can just be another form of self-aggrandizement
DARREN: that’s a finer way to put it
KARREN: do we like these Deep Noodles?
DARREN: I’ve never tried them
[tosses the Deep Noodles with nonchalance into the brimming cart]
[a loud trust-fund punk song begins playing on the supermarket stereo]
KARREN: but Baker was sharp and charming in that interview
DARREN: i know. it was just when they were talking about the Pulitzer that it bummed me out
KARREN: what if I’m more interested in writing dialogue that’s read on the page than I am writing something that’ll be performed?
DARREN: watching tv or film, the only time i’m conscious of the writing is after the fact. i only think “that was well written” once it’s over. as opposed to obviously reading a novel or a poem where every sentence is another opportunity to evaluate — and consciously appreciate — the writing
KARREN: sure because the writing is submerged in film or tv or theater — you have so much else to evaluate first — the performance, the images, the sound
DARREN: why don’t more people publish novels in dialogue?
KARREN: Because they have to feed their families.
[Throws a vegan suckling pig shrink-wrapped in hot-pink plastic into the cart, which buckles and implodes]
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”
That’d be funny if the guy who said to you “that’d be funny if” in the cafe naked next to your workshirt in San Francisco, the dairy caffeine cafe with the watercolor timestamp art on sale for the wall next to the Green Giant, the jolly fellow near the bathrooms at Ritual Coffee Roasters had a handbill in his pocket that said Remember That Time? And his smile would resemble (in the poems by the coffeeshop poets of the neighborhood) a Trademark Symbol, and in his pocket a kangaroo-shaped playbill would reveal an idea like wouldn’t it be funny you know how when you work from home you invariably inhale sheets of graham crackers (apologies to Kevin Moffett, and or baby carrots,) over the sink, fuck it there’s nothing left in the fridge boiling veggie dogs just because you’re at home and the only stress outlet is to turn your face into a compostable sink disposal, well the funny wouldn’t it be if watch there’s a hip coffee shop like Roasters, but it’s got a fridge and a microwave and a bunch of free food that when you get stressed out you just go up and eat? Plus a separate normal pastry display with normal pastries for sale that all the people with dignity still pay money for and get on ceramic plates, but in a separate part of the cafe there’s a dirty fridge with leftover Thai food and frozen veggie pups and cantaloupe beans and whatever else that people who get a terrifying work-email at 4 p.m. just go hose-happy on blasting the babka till it’s gone.
Trundling up the path, snowy silence, bullshit poems alight on branches like proper ravens. Fatman lost in the zendo can’t even feel the stringcheese in his fleece’s breast pocket. An elipsis travels up and down the length of your cock, why the fuck are your daughters reating my erotc poetry blog… scratch that… nyc pastries + flowers
feeling free in the zendo a professional lifeguard reads the blurbs on the back of your self-published book at the self-funded book release party craftily, hilariously putting his empty plastic wine glass in his breast pocket. Mallarme reference TK, he reads aloud, having flipped to a page at random. “Oh fuck,” you say, “is that actually in there?” Taking the book to look, you see that your placeholder text has accidentally made it into print, you’d meant to insert a Mallarme reference here but I guess you never got around to it… “Fuck,” you say again, handing the book back to the guest, who wears an eyepatch and has a fake parrot sewn to his shoulder and teeters as if wearing a pegleg though looking down it’s true he has two sturdy legs overhung with slate chinos. “Pity the placeholder,” no-one says. The next song comes on shuffle and it begins with an accellerated secular church bell, the kind that bongs the time in stately patient bongs but the clever electronic musician has accellerated the bongs so it seems to be chiming 4,000 o’clock and it’s driving you wild with pleasure, to hear this now, and the embarrassing Mallarme TK gaffe feels decades old and already celebrated as a hilarious and ultimately instructive gaffe. A mewling toddler does not say, “Gaffe Giraffe,” but she does do something specific revealing that there are toddlers at the book event TK TK. A breast presses against the window, begging to be let inside the gallery. A red-breasted titmouse flutters its paws next to the tiny DVD console. A duste mote reveals itself to be hilariously in tune with the matter at hand, I mean with the Remains of the Day, I mean with the Remains of the DVD, I mean with the reina, the queen, my darling. Hate and hope in equal measure suffuse the air above the plate of sandwiches, sandwiches which have tried so hard to be here and succeed, mostly, except looking again at them they seem mostly gone, where do sandwiches go at parties like this? I saw people eating sandwiches but that seems unconnected to the absent, devastated, crumb-strewn plaza near the greasy checkboard mom flannel plane that is what some once called That Table. My nephew is here, his name is Aristotle said an obese cartoon calico cat. I got string cheese in my pockets, Aristotle said. He moved his elbows and knees like he was composing a filigree’d poem for his aunts. He had spent most of the party in the basement behind a piano participating in a jam session with Needles, the drummer, who performed using eggbeaters instead of drumsticks; Palimpsest, on bass, who didn’t know what any of the knobs on the amp were for beyond the main volume control, but still managed to fiddle with them between every song, giving him a different sound each time, playing literally hundreds of different notes throughout the course of the evening, but in which order he played the notes I’m sure you had to be there to know, and of course P. Raichport, tenure-track professor of fiction at Lathe University at Kansas City, who is so clearly based on a real person that even the dimples in her cellulite seem to spell a constellation of ciphers that you can rearrange and glyph and wait what who is that based on no one actually OK nevermind
—No, I’m all alone, on a computer not hooked up to the internet, drinking a craft beer out of a can, composing an email to you.
—It’s almost like we’re having a beer together.
—How are your studies?
—You mean the life of the mind?
—How is your life?
—My mind hurts.
—How is your salad duty?
—I’ve been making bad salads. Bag salads.
—How is your girlfriend?
—I had a dream that she died.
—But she’s alive?
—She’s working on a new translation of Émile Zola’s Germinal (1885).It’s an experimental translation where she takes liberties with the text. Instead of mineworkers, her version of the novel centers around a group of flowers.
—Is there any other kind?
—The flowers take place in an election year and the gummy part of my car’s tyres.
—Huh. I think Uncle’s gone into one of his Tish-rages again, Paulice–
—Right. Grab the corduroy. A wide wale will be wanted for tonight. Oh, hush, Uncle; please don’t. Stop fussing. It’s Auld Hallow’s Ween, for aunt grable’s sake. We musn’t brackish the whoolinancy — I mean the whoolery.
—Genre’s got a beer-boner for stoners tonight, Barbara. Barbara.
—I can’t tell if you want this exclamation mark.
—I don’t want just any exclamation point, Mark. [Pause, applause.] I want yours. [Renewed, sustained applause. A child is born.]
—This boner’s gone free.
—Now that you’re a dad, and a city councilman, you mustn’t post pseudohomoerotic flash fiction on your blog. You must only post outspoken 5 point rejections of Romney’s 5 point plan and so forth.
—You remind me of the news.
—The fuzzy part with no skin.
—That’s called the Purloined Lettuce. [A mouth.] I am studying Botany with your Aunt.
—My nude aunt?
—I have a newborn baby. A child. I haven’t slept. No longer drink coffee. Go Tigers.
— I expect you’ll want to tell me about your craft beer in a can, now.
—Yes. I bought it at the supermarket with some hummus and the halloween candy. Came in a six pack just like a set of Diet Dr. Pepper, but in fact it’s an intensely hoppy microbrew from Whole Foods, Colorado!
—Durango. That candy’s not vegan
—Let’s get personal. I know writing on your blog makes you miss San Francisco.
—Of course. Who doesn’t? But the thing San Francisco doesn’t know is that I took all my shit with me to Missouri so I still have it so if I want to look at my shit like my books or the only one person I love more than anything
—Hang on, there are trick or treaters at the door. [Inaudible] [Audible] [Inaudible]. Fucker just took my last Krackel. [Pause.] Nice costume… What are you?
[Doug Liman, director of Swingers (1996), The Bourne Identity (2002), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jumper (2008), and Fair Game (2010), walks in with Studio Monitors around his neck. Curtain.]