What I see when I look up

A hedgehog
The sky over a pond
That you can’t tell connects to the ocean
(but I know that it does)
The view over the river that runs through Florence
(I forget its name)
Bears. I’m the Curious One.
The view from a gondola in Venice
Half in
Half out of the light
And a cat, Le Chat Gourmet,
That tells the story of all the trust I didn’t have
When I needed to have trust

There are three pictures of the arboretum
That I used to spend my summers in
One has me on the river bank,
(by the big concrete pipe that isn’t there now)
One just my feet and the river
One has the river and no feet at all

There is Alfred Kinsey, looking young
And smart
And sexy
(wearing boots)
And fish in a Japanese fish market,
And the meanest Annunciation I’ve ever laid eyes on

There are Elvis impersonators at a Florence Cafe
And while we’re in Florence
There are also these locks, a whole bunch of them
Like grapes
But brass and steel
Hanging from a big iron ring on a bridge

And there are pieces of wood that jutt up like fingers
from a beach
And rocks piled on rocks
And trees peaking over a hedge
And skulls
And chefs
And even more Florence, a view of the roofs
I obviously can’t get enough of that city
And Sweden! A little red house and a big blue water
What water, I do not know

There is a feast of cheeses and grapes, a painting
A still life, I guess
And some purple glass
And the fortunes from cookies that say things like
“You are heading in the right direction”
Because sometimes I need the reminder.

And there is a cathedral
Sunk somehow into the ground
I don’t know how, but I remember the feeling
Looking down on that Gothic arch
And feeling out of place, like maybe I had suddenly
Been shunted up into the sky, like the earth I was on
Was not real earth
Looking down at what I should have been looking up at

And there is a dragon of course,
And there are bats
Mama bat
Baby bat
There are cards for the restaurant that changed my life
And for the tea room that saved me when I was wandering
Alone around people
February; New York, cold and confused
But basically glad of my own independence

And an arch
And a forest fire
And Harper’s Christmas edition, with a cat and a lady
And a vase full of flamingos
The conical top of a basket that tends to hold pens
And bones
And oddments
And a sign that says simply:

I’m not mean
you’re just a sissy.

And sometimes there are to-do lists
The palmistry cards that I get from machines
In the places that still have the sort of mechanical wonders
That give you palmistry cards
And sometimes there are leaves that I think are pretty
In the moment, though that moment can disappear quickly

And if you think that this is pretty writing
Or that I’m creative
You must understand, it’s an accurate record
It’s truth

This is what I see
When I look up

See You Next Time

He told me this story
Two girls, one on a bicycle
A conversation ended too abruptly
One wheeling off, the other laughing
Face up, at the sky
Meeting her expectation unmet
Without anger
With bafflement, maybe
With joy

And I agree with him
This is definitely worth learning from
This story
It is excellent proverb material
Because – you know – isn’t it true?
We just can’t go around expecting
Our conversations to be completed
We can’t just assume
People won’t bike away

My whole life is like this
One unexpected thing, like a friend
On a bike, who I hadn’t thought to see
Followed by another unexpected thing
A conversation that never happened
It shifts so quickly,
I didn’t expect to see you here
I didn’t expect you to go
So what can we do?
This boy, those girls
What’s left but to laugh, belly-deep and joyous?
Hello, sky
Hello, Fall
Goodbye, whatever I had thought was going happen
See you next time

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-24

  • For those who are interested in what I did last year: https://followsthesun.com/the-library/ #
  • Say goodbye to a great sex-positive news source. We'll miss you, Carnal Nation! We learned a lot from you! http://bit.ly/bWGRuW #KinkOnTap #
  • Tonight I remembered how good it is to make for pleasure. Made a crazy mix, listened while creating a crazy cover. Tmmorrow I give it away. #
  • Apparently, for values of "Game" equal to "Boys," you still can't win, can't break even and can't get out of the game. Dammit, menfolk. #
  • I have this one friend, and EVERY time I see him I wind up hungry when he leaves. Why is that? What makes him so famishing? #
  • My cup runneth over. #
  • And I am not so sure I was thirsty to begin with. #
  • All I want out of this afternoon is sunshine through my window helping me stay warm. That's all I want. It's not so much to ask. #
  • They sky over Providence is so lovely it makes my work grind to a joyous halt. Well done, world. Thank you. #
  • @DDog I said that to a boy just the other day! He smiled and said 'Thank you" which is how I knew he was worth talking to. in reply to DDog #
  • These days I feel like I should open up a cafe in Morocco. Do what I gotta do; y'know – I don't stick my neck out for nobody. #
  • @bewareleopard Sure! When do you get in again? in reply to bewareleopard #
  • @xMech JOY! in reply to xMech #
  • I keep going to bed early yet not waking up for at least 9 hours. What is my body doing with all this sleep? Building me some wings, perhaps #
  • @vlad43210 But I want wings… in reply to vlad43210 #
  • "Oh, hey. I know you didn't want any icecream, but have a taste-isn't it delicious? Don't you want another lick? Ok. Now I'll throw it way." #
  • @siniful Not so bad. Life happens. Like you see a friend on a bike, expecting them to slow down to chat, but they go right past. Just laugh. in reply to siniful #
  • Seems #legal #tradition is more important than #lgbt #rights or the spirit of the constitution-no surprise. http://huff.to/9HXliM #kinkontap #

The Library

The first thing I remember really noticing about the library were the curtains. The library has huge bay windows, about 13 feet high (I once measured), and in them hang some of the most hideous curtains I’ve ever seen. The background color is brown, and they are printed with a floral pattern in, primarily, purple and orange. The string to pull them along is broken, so they are never completely open or completely drawn, and in several spots they hang in shreds. It turns out the shredding has more to do with age than with vandalism; the curtains at the library will shred if you so much as breath on them wrong.

The library is the same vintage building as my elementary school; both are hard-wearing public buildings from the early part of the century. Because of this I instinctively felt at home there, wandering comfortably through the over-stuffed storage room full of out of date magazines, globes and old craft projects or sitting at the forgotten desk in the basement which I appropriated as my own. However, unlike my elementary school, the library had not been favored with much in the way of renovation since its construction. The roof leaked in several places and there were large sections of plaster peeling off the walls. There was no air-conditioning, and during the summer the building frequently had to close due to heat. During the hotter months I spent almost all of my time in the basement, reading or creating story boards out of felt at the ancient desk, and enjoying the comparative cool. The basement tended to be between 5 and 15 degrees cooler than the main library, which meant that if I tried to stay down there in the winter my hands got too cold to turn pages or cut felt. During those months I sat in the window, smack on top of the heating-grate and in perfect position to catch absolutely every ray of winter sunshine. In this way I successfully avoided seasonal affective disorder, although I ran a high risk of turning into a cat.

The year I spent at the library, my mind was largely elsewhere. I was frequently sad and deeply distracted, and reading there, talking with the librarians and the patrons and the kids who showed up after school demanding that I draw them dragons and super heroes and anime characters brought me back to the present a bit. I spent hours hanging out with security guard, whose main interests in life were wrestling (not the staged tv-stuff but the real, competitive, even more homoerotic stuff) and the state of his automobile access. He told me his stories of buying a car, having it totaled, driving his mom’s, leasing a new car, and he beat me at checkers whenever I agreed to play. But we also talked about the universe, and things he’d seen on Discovery Channel, and I challenged his beliefs on gender equality and culture, and was reminded that it’s pretty easy to be a basically cool guy – just be interested without being threatened, and be ready to laugh. He was always ready to laugh. I played checkers with him, knowing he would beat me, just because he took such obvious delight in winning.

There were three librarians: two women who were so different from me that crossing the distance with conversation seemed an overwhelming effort and always trailed off bit by bit until one of us found reason to walk away, and the head librarian, a smart, funny man who looked eerily like the husband and father figure on a popular animated TV comedy about a suburban family. No, not that one – he wasn’t yellow for goddsakes. Yes, there we go –  the one set in Rhode Island (naturally). That’s the one.

When we talked, we talked about British TV and the second world war and the state of world and American politics. He told me stories about the other people who had held my job, a yearly stint that tended to be held by folks in a transitional state of life. I was the first girl stationed at the library, and he tended to be careful to warn me about ruffians. Once when I was leaving my car wouldn’t start – battery death, it turned out. He drove around the block, then came back to check on me, having noticed I seemed not to be going anywhere. He waited with me while AAA came, waited till the battery was changed and I could get home.

I spent my mornings away from the library, reading to pre-kindergarten children, which is at least one but probably several other stories. In the afternoon I read, drew and joked with the middle-school aged kids whose mom-sister-aunt-cousin-grandmas weren’t home to let them in yet (or whom they were avoiding), helped shelving books, and helped the adult patrons. Those are the moments that I remember best from the library.

I helped a cuban ballplayer write his first resume, trying to apply for a position coaching at a local school. After playing professionally in Cuba, he had come to play in the American minors, had been on the cusp of being called up to the majors but had hurt his knee. Since then he had worked factory jobs and coached recreationally. When he left, he gave me a hug and thanked me. I still wonder if he got the job.

I helped a wide-smiling, tall and heavyset black gentleman, a general laborer who’s skills went from factory line jobs to generalized construction to specialized installment to short order cooking. He had at some trouble with the law at some point in his past; each job application was a struggle, as he asked me whether he could simply not answer questions about arrests, court appearances, and convictions. Thirty years later, he had done his time – or so I chose to believe, I never asked – and simply wanted to move on. His fingers were too big for a computer keyboard and he had a deeply held belief that his hand writing was terrible (in fact it was perfectly clear script, but it took him a very long time to write it), so I both typed things up for him and filled out applications long hand. Once we got to talking on the Library’s late night, and talked for two hours. After that he came to see me and ask for my help on something or other almost every week, and was very sad to see me go in June; I don’t think he ever understood that helping him was my job as well as my inclination, and when I my job was over I would have to spend my days doing something else. I worry, sometimes, that he feels abandoned now.

Once a young hispanic mother of three asked me for help on a college paper. It turned out that she was arguing for comprehensive education about the human body and sexuality, beginning in elementary school. She told me that she had had her first child when she was 17, and that while she loved all her children, she wished she had been better educated and more able to make  informed decisions; that 17 was too young for children. She told me she taught all of her children the proper anatomical names for their genitals; saying that she knew some people who, when asked by their children what the difference between a man and a woman was, said that women have long hair and men have short hair. That, she said, is obviously incorrect – we laughed. I had very short hair, when I worked at the library. I helped her with her citation format, told her how awesome I thought her paper topic was, and walked around for weeks full of hope for society.

Towards the end of the year at the Library I spent some time with a South-East Asian woman, a sort of buddhist nun-at-large. She lived in a structure she’d set up behind the post-office. The librarian used to worry a lot about her, but she seemed to be happy with the situation she’d set up, and I let her be. I helped her set up an e-mail account, tried to teach her the difference between things that you do and information you store on the Internet, and things that you can do and store on an individual computer. We laughed a lot, and she told me I was a pro. Once she asked me if she could set her icon as a picture of her son. I said sure, if she had a picture, I could do that – she showed me a tiny cut out of a printed picture from some magazine, of a marmalade cat. That, she said, was her son – well, not exactly her son, but a cat who looked a lot like her son. She explained to me that she regarded the cat as being like a child to her. We did a google search for images of orange kittens. She chose the one she wanted and I set it as her icon. I wonder if she uses the e-mail for anything, or if without continued guidance, it did’t really take.

There are other images, of the library; the incongruity of kids who spent every afternoon there but still didn’t understand why anybody (me) would want to spend all their time reading. The collection of dying plants. The strange pieces of news that the librarian would bring me, DVDs of TV-shows he thought I’d like, and newspaper clippings, and books that the library wasn’t going to keep. Book sales outside, in the sunshine, and inside, in the evening, with baked goods made by the community and a lot of jokes I didn’t really understand. Children that were much more interested in taking lots of books off the shelf than actually reading any of them; and a few children who weren’t, and really wanted to read the book. Being informed that I should be wearing skinny jeans. Sitting in the weedy garden out back in the fall, the very beginning of the year, reading early science fiction and eating my sandwich and wishing I had things a little better figured out.

The library felt a lot like home – or perhaps like the home of some extended family. It was comfortably, and I could pretty much act with autonomy, as long as I stayed within certain, fairly general restrictions. There were a group of adults who liked me pretty well but didn’t really understand me. There were younger people who felt pretty similarly about me, but showed it in very different ways. The building was old and worn, but basically functional, most of the time. I could bring in as many new ideas as I liked, I could set them up blogs and try out my own thing, and they would be fairly appreciative and game to try them out, but somehow manage to stay just exactly the same even while using new, different tools. Just like your relatives.

And if you are to have a year of transition, and have to deal with a lot of feelings and be sad, and spent a lot of time just reading books and not thinking too hard and letting yourself sort of grow back together inside, it’s a pretty good thing to be able to spend that year in a building with a heating grate in a huge bay window that you can sit on, and people who are basically kind, if a little bit awkward, who aren’t going to judge you or pressure you or expect all that much of you.

The library gave that to me when I needed it, and I will always be thankful for it.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-17

  • Hang out at live.kinkontap.com for streaming video of the #CSPH conference. It all gets started at 1:00 pm EST! #
  • We're talking to #Screw #Smart at the #CSPH conference. Hang out with us at live.kinkontap.com! #
  • Stealing comp time to chat live at live.kinkontap.com – it's hard to step away from all the fabulous people at the #CSPH conference! #
  • Here we go streaming the #CSPH Conference #Panel So many smart, sex positive people in one place! It's like a dream come true! #
  • In true @KinkOnTap style, our camera is a macbook, panning is @maymaym turning the computer. He's director, cameraman, editor. I #thank him. #
  • The #CSPH #Panelists introduce themselves. Hello @charlieglickman, hello @mrsexsmith. Hello everybody! I'm excited to #learn from you. #
  • Panelist @LoganLevkoff suggests that perhaps #failing to educate kids robs them of innocence more than #educating them with care. #CSPH #
  • Also? I'm freezing. And I left my warmthings in the center, on the other side of the panel. Stranded and cold. #
  • DrRuthie, responding to #CSPH panel talking on #sex & #aging from the @KinkOnTap chatroom: "It's not like our vulva's fall off at age 50!" #
  • There is little in this world @maymaym cannot fix. He has given his jacket. No longer cold because my co-host is magic!!! #
  • The #CSPH panel tackles issue of who can consent. Are you ever #too #old to say yes? Do the #cognitively #disabled have say on their bodies? #
  • Come hang out with me in the @KinkOnTap #Chatroom We're watching the #CSPH con panel, and having a blast! #
  • A #CSPH Panelist #Anita says she was once asked "Why would anybody be #interested in #sex "-Now that's a question I'd never thought to ask! #
  • Panelist @LoganLevkoff says she asks her #5 year-old son for #consent before telling stories about him. That is what #respect means. #CSPH #
  • Nice to see @maymaym's work highlighted. He works hard, folks. He does good. #
  • All the cool speakers & orgs here at the #CSPH conference support each other and share their resources. Let the #goodness #spread and #grow #
  • It's always nice to hear from another source that you follow #best #practices. #
  • Bouncing between presentations at The #CSPH con. Learning about Gynecological Teaching Associates – the other, better #GTA #
  • Dear The Internet: I am in need of a #steam #cleaner. For carpets and fabrics, mostly. "Dry Steam" preferred. I think. Suggestions? Please? #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-03

  • Gearing up for @KinkOnTap. Ready to say stuff. Wanna know who our guests are? Check out http://kinkontap.wikia.com/wiki/Kink_On_Tap_60 #
  • Lalala, work work work, and then BOOM! Suddenly in desperate need of a hug. How does that happen so fast? #
  • Hey, @siniful – Have you eaten yet? #
  • Lunch-and-good-eats break. Man, #AB is pretty goddamn sexy, 50 pounds lighter. Married, a dad – and a culinary fox. #
  • Shoulda capitalized that first #Good #Eats. The show, as well as the lunch. #
  • OH MY GOSH THAT WAS AN AVENGER'S NOTE. #AB #039;s pizza peel and I have the same name. If you get it, you get it. 🙂 #
  • @stubbornella I did, actually! Did your high school not have Fantasy Literature as an option? #
  • Listen, the people you know are fucking brilliant, amazing creatures who will make your heart sing. If you don't get it, pay more attention. #
  • Eat your problems. #
  • @neilhimself It is inappropriate to respond to this verbally. Honkhonkding! #
  • Listen, I'm sorry, but #oxoxox is a stupid name for an event, and very difficult to #google #