happy birthday to me


Happy Birthday to Me.

I went to Coney Island today and sang on the boardwalk and had my picture taken in a photobooth and saw the sideshow and went on a ferris wheel and battled with brenno at two rounds of disco bumpercars and remembered all of the lyrics to a thousand pop songs. Earlier this week I went rowing at central park, enjoyed a late night circus arts show, danced at an interactive media chiptunes concert, answered questions at a quizbowl, took self-portraits with cornell boxes, rode the staten island ferry, saw the statue of liberty, conquered half a sheep’s head for dinner and kept the skull as my only souvenir, and had my very first art gallery showing. It wasn’t all that I wanted to do, I haven’t been dancing yet, haven’t been to any all-night beauty bombs, but it has been enough that I feel alright closing today like a book and going to bed. Tomorrow, hopefully, my birthday, will be even better, as will the day after that, and the day after that. Every minute here has been a tiny miracle even when I’ve been unhappy, flowering, blossoming, treasured, better, and that, in itself, is truth.

we are an invention of our very own making

It’s a long time since I wrote to you, Frau Milena, and even today I’m writing only as the result of an incident. Actually, I don’t have to apologize for my not writing, you know after all how I hate letters. All the misfortune of my life — I don’t wish to complain, but to make a generally instructive remark — derives, one could say, from letters or from the possibility of writing letters. People have hardly ever deceived me, but letters always — and as a matter of fact not only those of other people, but my own… The easy possibility of letter-writing must — seen merely theoretically — have brought into the world a terrible disintegration of souls. It is, in fact, an intercourse with ghosts, and not only with the ghost of the recipient but also with one’s own ghost, which develops between the lines of the letter one is writing and even more so in a series of letters where one letter corroborates the other and can refer to it as a witness. How on earth did anyone get the idea that people can communicate with one another by letter! Of a distant person one can think, and of a person who is near one can catch hold — all else goes beyond human strength. Writing letters, however, means to denude oneself before the ghosts, something for which they greedily wait. Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts. It is on this ample nourishment that they multiply so enormously. Humanity senses this and fights against it and in order to eliminate as far as possible the ghostly element between people and to create a natural communication, the peace of souls, it has invented the railway, the motor car, the aeroplane. But it’s no longer any good, these are evidently inventions being made at the moment of crashing. The opposing side is so much calmer and stronger; after the postal service it has invented the telegraph, the telephone, the radiograph. The ghosts won’t starve, but we will perish.

~ Franz Kafka, from a letter to Milena Jesenska, whom he met in person only twice.

“Possibly mislaid in some provincial station.”

On the middle finger of my right hand is a small lump, a callous right up by the first knuckle that used to be known as a writer’s bump, prominent and round, worn into my flesh by countless pens, yet, oddly, I have discovered that my hand is no longer familiar with writing.

The crux of this discovery lay in a love letter I wrote last night, (bittersweet black ink on treasured boutique paper, short yet hopefully sweet), when I found it curious how naturally I remembered my cursive, (how deplorable my style has become!), and my kerning, even as I marveled at how very long it took to manually scribe all the words. I have become more accustomed to tapping at keyboards, whipping down thoughts at 75 words per minute, and the gentle, profound flexibility of word processors that allow me to shift chunks of text up and down a page, than the slow, steady pace of scribbling with ink, although it used to be the activity I did most in a day. Still, I appreciated the process, even as I railed against the pace. It is comforting to fashion an object, to have made something more tangible than my usual twist of digital light.

I have, myself, a small untidy box of such things, collected from friends, ex-lovers, and one amazing, mysterious stranger, that I can never quite bring myself to throw away, no matter how irrelevant their messages have become. They are charmed things, each page representing a strangely intimate glimpse into a slice of past life, time that I would otherwise forget captured as solid state memory spun from stationery, as telling as the rings of the dead trees that made the paper pulp. Riffling through them exposes layers upon layers of emotional archeology, the rise and fall of small relationship empires, describing arcs of meaning all the way from the brief glory before an emotional disaster to someone’s gleaming desire inexpertly pinned to prose like a shoddy taxidermy specimen mounted on sagging cardboard, all broken clauses and imprisoned nouns trapped in a dirty laundry of terrible poetry and too many verbs.

So even if the practice feels antique, even as my hand cramps at the now unfamiliar act of proper writing, even as it consumes resources probably better left for others, I will defend the act forever. Love letters, even as a mad, sometimes callow contrivance of adulation, hypocorism, and art, are how I shall keep my heart.

I bought my train ticket to Seattle. I leave Wednesday, then fly out on Friday night.

Rebecca nadia duncan

This past weekend was exhausting, the sort that feels alright to leave behind. Saturday was eaten up by David’s sister’s wedding, a strange affair out in Abbotsford at a family restaurant, small, informal, slightly terrifying, and Sunday was taken up with Slutwalk, a thousand person protest march against victim shaming that Katie N. helped put together. Oddly, out of the two, even though Slutwalk was four hours of being on my feet, running around and taking pictures, surviving the little wedding took more out of me. Something to do with social shock, maybe, or walmart-culture inspired depression. Either way, it’s not something I would be willing to do again.

There was also a long, miserable walk home from Broadway on Sunday, broken and alone. It ended with John catching me in my room crying, so he went out and brought back two delicious cupcakes from the new place up the street, presenting them to me in a small paper box, “Here’s some men-are-scum cupcakes.” I sniffled and laughed, and said, “Men aren’t scum.” He replied, “Yes they are sweetie. Trust me, I am one. Eat your cupcake. It’ll help make everything better.” And he was right. It did.

(He also, tongue firmly planted in cheek, brought me a voodou doll when he arrived from New Orleans to “help” with my heartbreak. It’s a grassy thing dressed in pink, with a burned plastic doll face and a magic lima bean tied to its waist with some leather. Creepy looking, yes, but with the effect somewhat ruined by the mass produced tag around its neck: FOR ATTRACTION.)

Today I’m processing pictures, doing laundry, and last minute packing for my trip to NY, making certain I have cords for things, trying to remember if I packed any stockings, triple checking that I’ve put aside pants that fit me, shirts for every weather, vitamins, hairpins, toothpaste, moonlight, music, the moose hat, and things with feathers on them. Really I’ve been more or less ready for a couple of days, I could have left yesterday, the only thing left is to find a missing bird skull earring, but there’s something comforting about being extra sure.

A month later and I haven’t yet learned how not to cry myself to sleep.

  • An interview with Richard Pell, Director of the Center for PostNatural History.
  • Ugly Truth of Space Junk: Orbital Debris Problem to Triple by 2030

    It is terrible how I ache to lean into him. Terrible, giant and baroque, this need, covering ground with great footsteps, to reach forward and touch his hair, leagues, miles, to press against him and taste his naked fingertips, every one, unmistakable, each drop of memory an ocean to drown in. The last time I wore this dress was New Year’s Eve, when our pinstripes matched and I took out his cuff-links to put in my own. We kissed, then, at midnight, caught in each other’s laps under confetti and flashing strobes, surrounded by strangers and glitter and chaos, and then, quietly, with a sincerity that shocked to my center, he met my eyes and said a toast to us, perfect, heart-felt. I wanted to stop time to stay in that moment. I felt like I would be transformed forever, a happier person from then until death. The champagne was bitter, the entertainment spotty, and I limped back to his place half ruined, my twisted ankle a broken thing, but what stayed with me was that moment, that untouchable, pristine moment that filled me with stunned silence, that poured through me with light.

    It is terrible that I am wearing this dress. Terrible, obvious and provocative, this dress, covering nothing, a candid sheath of longing to be undressed by him, shouting from rooftops, through megaphones, to feel his hands cradle my hips like a cup, so loud is my desire, this catalogue of cravings, deafening, vulnerable, terrified. The first time we were at this restaurant we asked if it was a date. We decided, then, that it wasn’t, even in the face of all evidence, yet grinned, conspiring, maybe lying, while offering our histories, shyly admitting our shames, building a shelter together, every beam of the structure a story, a narrative link. This will be love, I thought to myself, surprised, this will be love like I’ve forgotten how. I wanted to go back in time to hurry this moment. I felt like I was braving a dragon’s lair, safe with the knowledge of the hole above its heart. I had been isolated, a furtive species too rare to breed, spectacularly ill equipped for such good luck, but what stayed with me was the trust, that pure, mysterious conviction, that maybe for the first time, everything would be alright.

  • Ten Days until NYC!

    Now that I’m planning to be away for my birthday, friends have started fishing around, trying to figure out what magical thing would make a great present for before I fly away. This year, though, rather than adding to my collection of stuff, which I have been trying to significantly pare down anyway, I’d rather that people kick in a few bucks toward my trip. The gift of experience, of freedom, of escape and new places, (especially given my dire finances), is the best gift of all!

    Thank you so much!