You’re writing, Sylvie exclaimed, her voice rising hurray as we came to a full stop point on Interstate 5 northbound. What did you write? 1.5 million people in San Diego and they all decide to drive north on the I-5 this morning. Let’s move over to the Cabrillo and head up to Fallbrook and visit the god of avocados. It’s going to be messy whatever we do. Why don’t we just find a place to stay and live and never mind all this sitting in cars driving around. But don’t you want to go places, see things, visit all the wonders of the world, parachute out of a hot air balloon, sail the seven seas, climb Kilimanjaro, travel back roads to far places to eat in parts unknown. We could sail around the Mediterranean and visit Italy and Greece and Turkey. And pick up refugees and ferry them to safety. Don’t you ever get tired of living on the dark side of the moon? At least I know my way around. And it’s not so crowded. Have you got Avo’s number in your phone? I’ll give him a call. Old Avo. Wonder how is he.
“Listing” is episode 67 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
Pete, a veteran with nightmares of night problem patrols, spoke of the snow of his time in country, how the snow melted in the winter firefights, how it sucked up red light like a county fair snowball. For guys like Pete, Tin Can Beach provided paradisiacal possibilities after bouncing around in troop carriers in the war zone off the Sea of Japan. The beach was a haven where you could talk about your predicament without being asked a bunch of silly questions, without wondering what the daze of the days was all about, tin cans strewn across the beach a way of counting and recounting. And Tom spoke of his Engineers unit. They mainly put up and took down their pontoon bridge, and he was a fording expert. Jack operated a compressor truck. Air tools. He made compressed air, engine tank on the back of a deuce and a half frame. Attached to air hoses, the construction platoons worked jack hammers, saws, drills, picks, shovels, drivers. Built road culverts, shelters, cleared paths through the wilderness. Moved villages. Pete, Tom, and Jack lived in a makeshift shack near the back of Tin Can Beach. I asked could they keep an eye on my scooter while I went in the water for a fresh soapless wash. Tom said not to take a shit straight out, but move north or south down or up the beach a good hundred yards or more. They’d been having problems with swimming into hobo poop in the water when they went in for their morning dip. Later in the day, a meeting was held to discuss the problem. Someone suggested they put up a sign down near the water line: No Shitting in the Water. Discussion followed as to the best way to word it. Pete said it sort of sounded like there was no shit in the water, worded that way. Don’t shit in the water, followed, an improvement, but still they didn’t feel they were there yet. Don’t sounded too informal. Do Not Shit in the Water. Was there a more polite term for what they were talking about? Do Not Poop in the Water. What water? Wouldn’t ocean be more specific? Do Not Poop in the Ocean. Tom suggested Not be underlined, for emphasis. And By Order of the Mayor of Tin Can Beach should be added, for officialdom. Approved plan in mind, we set about constructing the sign, and when it was finished, we walked in a group down to the water to erect the sign on the berm up from the high tide water line, on perpendicular line to the shack up on the beach. Everyone stood back to admire and critique the sign and saw that it was good and headed back up the beach to sit out in front of the shack to drink beers out of cans. In the morning, we awoke to the smell of Jack’s coffee in an open gallon can boiling over the fire pit, and watched a hobo walking along the berm, in a predawn mist, and stopping and reading the new sign, drop his pants down around his ankles and squat, facing the ocean, his back to us. We’ll never know the winning tale, Tom said. The next night, the tide came in higher than expected, and the sign washed out with the tide. I found it washed up surf mangled about a hundred yards down the beach.
“Hobo Poop on Tin Can Beach” is episode 47 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
One should not time travel, nor play or work with the gods, unless fully qualified and experienced. One should live in one’s own moment, in one’s ongoing present, which is fully developed and capable of satisfying all one’s present needs. The reason we are unable to travel forward, into the future (with the exception of being able to travel forward to the future present we were in when we exited to travel into the past), is that the future consists of too many variables, too many possibilities, too many uncertainties – and no way of managing the risk. There’s only one door into one’s past. There is an infinite number of doors into one’s future, and picking the wrong one is almost certain, and will lead to couch surf zero. Two exceptions to one should not time travel: 1, we can still prepare for any uncertain future; and 2, we can visit the past to learn from our errors, as long as we don’t try to rewrite the past (while at the same time being mindful that we may not have understood at all what was happening when our past was present). Still, it’s also useful to remember that time is always under construction, and deconstruction, at the same time. In addition to travelling backward or forward in time, one might be inclined to want to stop time. I can often hear the click of time slow to a rest while time travelling on my 1972 Piaggio Vespa Super 150. One wants to travel through time in the slow lane of life. It should come as no surprise that by the time I made it down to San Diego to meet up with Cagetan, as we had planned, I had missed him. Apparently, Sot showed up, and he and Cagetan are presumably somewhere now travelling south through Baja. I’m not sure where that leaves me at this point in time.
“Don’t Try This at Home” is episode 45 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
Across the hidden room (no longer secret now that I and Zoeasta had broken the code) the back door opened onto a giant spider web blocking a small opening in the annulus surrounding a wellbore encased with cement. I had wondered about the absence of spiders as I had worked my way from the basement under Hotel Julian through the tunnel and into the underground room. A few webs I had seen, hanging like frayed tapestries depicting the scene of some ancient battle or site of seduction. But I have no fear of spiders (snakes, yes, but not spiders), and I quickly swept the web away from the door, careful not to harm the spider’s anchor thread, the easier for her to weave a new web. A ladder affixed to the inside of the vertical well shaft invited further exploration. But what to do with Zoeasta? She rubbed against my leg, arching her back, and rubbed her head on my calf, telling me something in cat speak. I could see rays of light at the top of the shaft. I dropped a rock, and several seconds later heard a splash. I could leave Zoeasta in the room and hope she made it back to her kittens, or carry her up the ladder with me. Either way, she probably knew her way back to her litter in the basement of the hotel better than I did. I decided to carry her up the ladder with me, thinking the tunnel into the hidden room might be too dark to navigate even for a cat. Once out of the well, I would hurry her back to the hotel and her kittens. We began our climb. I counted 40 rungs on the fixed steel ladder, about 10 inches on center. At the top, we climbed out of the well shaft into an elaborate wishing well cover, complete with spindle wound with rope from which hung a wooden bucket under a shingle hip roof held up by wooden beams sided half way up with horizontal, painted slats. On one side was a hinged gate. I opened it, stepped out, Zoeasta still in my arms, and was flabbergasted to suddenly notice an old woman, sitting apparently nude in a forest green Adirondack chair, knitting a long narrow tapestry that rolled across a yard of bermuda grass. I was standing in the backyard of a house, presumably across the street from Hotel Julian. The old woman had stopped her weaving or knitting and was staring at me, bemused, while I gazed back at her, bewildered. Disoriented, I absentmindedly let go of Zoeasta, who dashed across a grassy space and out of the yard. You found Zoeasta, I see, the old lady quipped, and she’s had her kittens, I see. Oh, my. Down below are they? Oh, my. I can see you’ve had quite the adventure, Glaucus. Hand me my robe there, on that side table. I’m just sunning, you know, getting my daily dose of vitamin D. I hope you don’t mind. Sorry if I startled you. What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? Oh, don’t worry about Zoeasta, she’ll find her way back to her kitties. She visits us everyday, and she crosses the street to the hotel very cautiously. Smart cat, that one. Oh, yes, I know who you are, Glaucus. You’re staying at the hotel these days, and have even taken on some part time work there, though I’m damned if I can understand why. Yes, I see everything that goes on at the hotel. And you should be out adventuring, exploring the real world, not hiding out in these secret dream rooms buried beneath childhood’s ruins. What are you doing, anyway? Why have you so disappointed? What a waste, what a waste you are, Glaucus. And what have you done with Sylvie? Abandoned her for some flower girl? Though I rather like Florence. She’s had a hard go of life, so far. But I don’t see how you can be of any help. But we’ll see, we’ll see. How many kittens, by the way, in Zoeasta’s litter? Still 5, I hope.
“Minerva” is episode 32 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.
“Hard to get,” a friend writes. “Why do these social media applications insist on one’s date of birth, indeed, one’s real date of birth? But they never specify which birth. A friend, for example, claims to have been born at least nine times over the course of the last three millenniums. Never the same date of birth, mind you. She’s been born in every season. Rather enjoyed winter births best, she relates. Wake up from the weaning and it’s spring. Slow gathering of the senses. In this current life, she is an artist, oil paintings.”
Mud poor, of course, this artist, this life. Asked to borrow another friend’s email, who created an account for her. Apparently, she wanted to display her work on one of the prominent social media platforms, which required an email address. And a real date of birth. This she struggled with (having recollection of so many births, including several in her current lifetime), the result of which, and after having posted pics of a couple of hundred paintings onto her new web place, came notification the platform deactivated her account.
Yet another friend has now reported to have seen our artist just yesterday, which in these parts happened to be Christmas Day, another of her birth days. But, apparently, she now relates, she may be able to reactivate the account, if she successfully submits to the platform the following stringently produced selfie, described in an email to her borrowed address, to wit:
We’d like to help you, but we need to know your exact and real date of birth, including year, month, day, and time of day (using 24 hour clock time).
The easiest way to satisfy this requirement would be for you to reply to this email with several pics of yourself with a copy of your birth certificate hanging firmly from your neck with blue rosary beads and clearly visible and readable just below your chin.
- Include a front and back view of your face;
- Include side views, left and right, diagonally;
- Include your baby hand and foot prints;
- Smile so that your teeth are visible;
- Eyes open, face recently washed, no makeup.
Comply and we’ll send you a reply, but do not take this as a promise to reinstate your account. Further surveillance may be necessary. For example, we may require a pic of you sitting on the hood of your car with license plate clearly visible, and with time remaining on the parking meter.
We regret that these measures have become necessary, but we are doing our part to protect what remains of the free world. You may of course, avoid all of this potential inconvenience by simply upgrading your account to a business account that uses paid advertising across any one of our popular platforms.
The Purveyance Team
Alma Lolloon is here!
The novel “Alma Lolloon” opens with two epigraphs, both of which serve the ordinary purpose of the epigraph but are also part of the fiction being created. In each, the original is given, followed by an “interpretive translation” by the narrator of “Alma Lolloon,” who is Alma Lolloon:
Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
To speke of wo that is in marriage…
But yet I praye to al this compaignye,
If that I speke after my fantasye,
As taketh not agrief of that I seye,
For myn entente nys but for to pleye.
from Chaucer’s The Prologe
of the Wyves Tale of Bathe
What atrocity this insult of experience
As if somehow right for me and all
Wode talk woe of the marriage camp.
But complain not in present company,
For all tales told in pitiful woe
Tell not a whole story
If want is not to please.
from interpretive translation of Chaucer,
by Alma Lolloon, 1966
Die Erste Elegie
Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen? und gesetzt selbst, es nähme einer mich plötzlich ans Herz: ich verginge von seinem stärkeren Dasein.
from Duineser Elegien by Rainer Maria Rilke
The First Elegy
Who, if I cracked my little mouth, would listen to me in the din of rules of angels? And quickly so near his heart home of pounding hammers, sparkling nails, and gargantuan waves, I would fade in the muscle of his gaze, or in the back seat of his dark ride.
from Duino Elegies, interpretive translation of Rilke,
by Alma Lolloon, 1996.
I’m still working on editing and proofing and design.
I’m still proofing and editing my new novel, Alma Lolloon. I hope to have it out by December. Meantime, I’m posting installments Saturdays here on the blog. Here is the third installment.
(Alma has told her knitting group she is writing a book. The book is to be about her five husbands, and the knitters agree to hear Alma reading from her book in installments at their Saturday knitting sits.)
3rd Installment of Alma Lolloon:
I simply would like to have someone to talk to, someone who actually listens to me. Is that too much to ask? So even though I don’t know you, and you might not be listening anyway, I’m talking to you, and I’m going to share everything. That’s not a trigger warning. Simply a goal. You might safely skip parts, your attention wandering. I’ve already skipped a few beginnings. But I want you to get your money’s worth. Even if you’re reading on-line for free or something, or you picked up this abused paperback copy you’re holding in the neighborhood library box. Go on, take it, read it on the bus. It takes time to read, and most of us value time. The thing is to sit down and relax. Breathe. Smell the paper and the ink, or whatever it is they print words on and with these days. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, a glass of wine, or pop a can of beer, or pour a juice or a clean clear glass of fresh water. Feel my hands kneading your shoulders. You carry tension there. I know. Let it go. Drop the shoulders. I know you have your own story. Let that go, too, for now.
We must have ritual. Ritual is what stops the crazy traffic on the bridge so the tall lovely ship can slip quietly by. Make some space in your day for reading as a kind of ritual. Nothing serious, of course, on the contrary, just a few quiet moments to yourself, for some peace and silence, to get away from your scares for a few moments, those voices in your head that won’t shut the hell up, or to find yourself, or to forget yourself, or to remember something you maybe should have never forgotten and is such a joy to find again. I’m well aware you could be reading something else, something more dramatic, sexy, literary, trashy, or some delightful ichor with goor and geer from some silly battle zone somewhere, or some soapy sap television shows are often stuck together with, if that’s what you like. Sure, and you’ll find soap here. I’ve eaten plenty of soap in my lifetime. My mouth is clean. Or non-fiction, some people prefer because it’s supposedly true. Nothing like getting one’s facts straight. We all need ritual, but we should not consider ritual what is merely compulsive.
Instructions: Read each row left to right, then, in each empty cell in the first column, insert a word that irks you. In the corresponding empty cell in the far right column, insert your irky word’s opposite. If you can’t think of a word that irks you, insert a word that feels good to your ears. (Note: You may also read the words by column, top to bottom, or bottom to top – individual reader experience may vary.)
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A few gratuitous pics for this post, because some readers have come to expect pics with words, and, believe it or not, appreciate a good selfie when they see one: