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Monthly Archives: October 2009


Right at the moment I’ve resigned myself to sink into the comfort zone cocoon of impending winter, an indoor life and being on a first name basis with my (fake) fur booties (I get cold feet easily), another school of Great White media sharks come swimming over the event horizon to gnaw on my insecurities.

I have a few.

In a large Danish newspaper this morning, I came across an article asking with bright and cheery insouciance:

“Are you a smommy?”

It may only have been 5:30 AM, but no kidding, there I was, not even entirely awake, suddenly spitting out a loud “WTF???” into my first cup of coffee.

“Are you a smommy?”

“Smommy”, which is how it translates, is a contracted version of “smart mommy”. A smart mommy.

I sit there – remember, people, it’s 5:30 AM and I really don’t have to be up at this hour, but old habits die hard – pondering my IQ. It’s one of the few places in my life where I have no insecurities whatsoever. In that respect, I’m (also) supremely arrogant.

Now, a smart mommy – indeed, I am one – is an advertising catchphrase for a mother who’s on top of the trend. She surfs the many roles of her life with perfect equilibrium and ease, going from career creature to best female friend to playmate for five-year-olds to horizontal tiger in the bedroom without breaking her stride. She considers her friends to be a part of her family, not a world apart. Nothing in her life is a coincidence, it’s all part of a greater plan to sail in to the golden sunset of trandsetting motherhood.

That’s right, she’s a trendsetter.

“It’s important to you that your relationships with your husband and your children is friendly and based on dialogue, and that you do family activities together. You like to stimulate your children, and they like to help you cook. You like to play lively, stimulating games with them, or read aloud from educational children’s literature. You’re the one your girlfriends come to when they need a new dress, and you’re the one they come to when they want to show it off. You may be liberated from gender roles, but you feel tied by your personal ambitions to be 100% on them, when you are. You cook from scratch, not because you have to, but because you like it, but you’re not so fanatical you can’t buy readymade food if it means you get to spend more time with your friends.”

Not even 6 AM on a Saturday morning, and already, my teeth hurt. My head will surely be soon to follow. Because this one little article in the lifestyle section of a national broadsheet newspaper had already ruined my day before it even got started.

No. I am not a smommy, not even with a Mensa material IQ. Here’s what one Real Life looks like:

I am not the one my girlfriends come to for fashion advice, for the simple reason that I don’t have any – girlfriends, that is. I have a much-loved sister I don’t see nearly enough, and she lives a good 200 miles away, which is about 198 too many for my taste. The closest thing is the re-establishing of a friendship that started in high school, with one of the few women I have only fond memories of, and like my sister, she also lives 200+ miles away. I’d love to give fashion advice to my girlfriends, but most women don’t trust me about as far as they can spit. Why, I can’t tell you, but I suspect it’s because I scare them.

Instead of having a home filled with Nice Stuff, I have a home filled with “It’s you or the Salvation Army” stuff, otherwise, we wouldn’t have any – stuff. In spite of all I do, there is always, somewhere, a spot where incipient chaos either reigns or threatens.

I do believe that it is important to be friends with husbands and children, the former because otherwise I can’t live with the guy and the latter because both my children are very distinct and very different individuals, not extensions of myself. (Thank the Gods! More than one of me would be more than the world could bear!) But when push comes to shove, and it sometimes does, I am a parent, not their best female friend.

The one true friend I do have is every bit as much a part of my family as the Buttkicker or Damien, so much, in fact, that if I ever do manage to get out of BFE and head toward the one place on the planet I belong, he likely wouldn’t be too far behind. He was born and bred here, and he doesn’t belong here, either.

I cook from scratch, because I like it, and because I have to. It’s all I can afford. Damien is beginning to help, which doesn’t mean he eats what I cook. I’m working on it.

I do read to my son, and I can’t wait until he’s old enough for books like “The Hobbit” and “Huckleberry Finn” and both the Dumases and Jules Verne and all the books I loved as a child. Already, Dr, Seuss is a massive hit. Already, he’s picking up words in “The Cat in the Hat”.

But otherwise, forget it. I am a Dismommy. A distracted Mommy. One part of me always has my head in some other location entirely – on the Effing Book, on archaeological finds on Lambay Island in Dublin Bay, on musical musings or this blog or the next book series or whatever catches my attention on any given day.

I am a slobby Mommy. If inspiration strikes, if the Muse comes to call, then the restoration of order and calm will just have to wait for it. If Damien wants to eat corn flakes for dinner on a day I’m banging away on an important scene, if a chocolate cookie gives me the precious half hour I need to finish – a scene in the book, a blog, whatever – then I let him have it. He’s healthy, he’s active, he’s partly vegetarian and eats huge quantities of vegetables and fruit. It won’t kill him, but I might if I can’t finish what I’m doing.

I know. The Mommy Police will be arriving any minute now.

On the other hand, if a four-year-old can say – without provocation or incitement, I might add – “Mommy, you’re sweet and you’re beautiful and I love you and bring you flowers, and I don’t want another Mommy”, I must be doing something – right.

So then – screw smommyhood, I say. Is it anything more than yet another attempt to prey on women’s insecurities and doubts? Is it yet another artificial construct to try and pigeonhole the many hats we women have to wear in our lives, the roles we have to play? We MUST be perfect, we MUST be – hip, happening, devoted, dedicated, friends, lovers, mothers, we MUST be – career women, achievers, movers and shakers, we MUST be – young(ish), gorgeous, fragrant, fashionable, and we MUST be staggering intellectual giantesses, with many considered opinions on anything and everything – the latest books, movies, plays, current events.

We MUST!

Wrong. I seem to recall that a very long time ago, one paragon of achievement – if not motherhood, Ms. Helen Gurley Brown – once said that there are limits, even in this, the best of all possible worlds.

You can be the total career monster, you can be that elusive unicorn, the Perfect Mommy, you can be the Perfect Slut in the bedroom and the Perfect Saint in the kitchen and the Perfect Girlfriend, even. Yes, it’s possible. You can do it. There are no limits to anything you really, truly want to do. None at all.

Except one.

You can’t do it all at once!

So why do the media keep insisting that we can?

If we can’t, if the doubts creep in like November fog at 5 AM, if we think it’s perfectly normal to change our answering machine to something including a rock song and along the lines of “Please leave a message after the guitar solo!”, if playing airplane in a pile of leaves with your child is your idea of a perfect Saturday afternoon, if the laundry can wait until after the villain gets his and the hero gets the girl, if you want a Playstation 3 not so the kid can play, but so that you can play Brütal Legend (true story), if, in other words, you are just too bloody-minded and outrageous and daring enough to buck that trend and refuse that label – then you have joined the legions of ladies who embrace their slobby, slutty selves and their sometimes chocolate-covered children and even life itself – with gusto, verve and a healthy dose of “I don’t give a flying spaghetti monster WHAT people think.”

You are a Slobby Mommy, and you will always buck a trend.

I’m ME, at whatever cost. Try gluing a label onto that! They’re still digging for the last one who tried…

Image: Raphael, The Alba Madonna, ca. 1510

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I am, as some of you may or may not know, a creature of many inclinations, proclivities and preoccupations, most of which are all too apparent on this blog. I’ve written about food, children, music, fashion, books, discoveries – whatever riles me up, gets my goat or get me going – it’s all fair game, all fodder for the blogosphere, all smelted down, distilled and poured into that great Gundestrup Cauldron I call MoltenMetalMama.

In fact, the blogosphere is where I have been known to spend a good portion of my time online, because there is always some hidden gem to find, some diamond in the rough that maybe, baby, can expand my own horizons for good or bad, make me laugh – or just make me feel privileged to be a part of this marvel we call Life On Planet Earth.

So, people, I read a few of them, and they are as diverse as my own self.

I also, as I’m sure you know, am a devoted reader of the online edition of New York Times, not because I live there but simply because I like to be informed in a way that does not insult my intelligence (or lack thereof) and which also is nearly as diverse as the city of its origin. I don’t always agree with the editorial stance, and many things in said august purveyor of information have riled me up no end, but – again, like the city it comes from, it’s anything but boring.

The three highlights of my drab and dreary week are Thursdays – because of the Style section – Fridays, when the Book Review ticks into my inbox, and Sundays, because I love getting buried in papers on Sundays.

The NY Times did a feature one Thursday, not too long ago, on a particular blog that had been striking terror in the hearts of many insiders on the NY fashion scene. This blog was particularly snarky, sometimes vicious and always thought-provoking, especially since it was obviously written – quite well and often beautifully, I say – by someone who knew all the dirt from the inside, and no one knew who was hiding behind it.

Well, the NY Times blew that whistle. Now, I was really intrigued. Snark is good, vicious is excellent, so off I went. Besides, I love cats.

Enter one Very Cool Cat, Fluff Chance of The Emperor’s Old Clothes Fluff has a mouth and many pointed teeth, none of which he is at all afraid to use.

For a longtime devotee of the fabulously frivolous, his blog was a revelation.

I read through all the reviews of Spring-Summer/Fall-Winter/Resort/Couture/RTW (Ready-to-wear) in many other places, and let me tell you, sooner or later, verbal hyperglycaemia will set in. More sugar than in the Magnolia Bakery, more sycophantic claptrap lipservice and mutually advantageous back-slapping – or worse – than you can find at any point on any corporate ladder. My head starts to hurt, and my brain needs a countershot of neural insulin. Now, I like fluffy, frivolous and verbose overload as much as the next woman, but geez, people – c’mon! Get real! Lay off that thesaurus entry for “fantabulous” and – open your eyes!

So few of them dare. It might cost them advertising, a job, an editorial spread, a mention of just how “now and happening!” these people’s opinions are.

So refreshing to find honesty, integrity and a view to The Big Picture, in an articulate voice. Fluff has Been There, Done It. He sees all the bs of the business and will never call it roses, lilies or any other flower, come to that. But Fluff also knows a thing or two about that Big Picture, which is not at all about clothes, or who will be wearing whose, or even momentary sartorial insanity.

It’s about the bottom line, people. Fashion, lest we forget, is a b-u-s-i-n-e-s-s.

Very rarely, so rarely it merits headlines of its own, is a collection about that Other Thang, that other monster, the big pink elephant in the room the mercenary and mercantile, crisis-stricken industry has completely overlooked in the wild hunt for the Next New Fantabulous.

It’s called creativity. It’s called vision. It’s called expressing something unique and uniquely visionary, which may or may not be beautiful or commercially viable or even, dare I say it, commercially exploitable. It’s called putting that vision on the line for your peers and contemporaries to either applaud or berate, but by Golly, it will out, it will be done, it will say – something and it will, if you’re open enough and tolerant enough, change your perspective, a little or a lot.

Enter one of the Greats in my personal fashion pantheon – Alexander McQueen. Love him or loathe him, just don’t ignore him. I’ve always had a thing for McQueen, ever since that birthday I received a David Bowie CD as a present and he was wearing a frock coat of the Union Jack made by – Alexander McQueen. I had never seen anything so flawlessly cut – or executed – since the heyday of Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dresses.

When I staggered out of bed to my Mac this morning, Fluff had been at it again, and to my delight, he was writing about Alexander McQueen. I had to read it, even though it was 5 AM. Somewhere in the depths of the first cup of latte of the day, I decided that I had to contribute my own two cents, because Fluff saw what I, too, had seen – a visionary collection, a breathtaking and mind-blowing artistic statement unlike any others, or any others anyone had ever experienced. Just as he did for his last collection, Mr. McQueen took no prisoners, made no compromises, and definitely no excuses. Here was what he had to say and this was how he said it, and all we paltry, pathetic mortals could do was clang our disbelieving jaws to the floor in awe – and not a little delight at the heretical thought – that finally, at last, enfin, mes amis! someone had DARED.

Titanium balls – or ovaries, even – should always be applauded and certainly encouraged.

I saw it – and said it, in my comment, and such being the impact of the blogosphere, Fluff completely made my day by replying to my comment by personal email, thanking me for my comment.

A solitary voice in the void, many miles and lightyears away from hip and happening, had made the cat meow.

Fluff, the pleasure is always mine. Some day, I can hope, you might forgive me that I wrote about it!

I had to. And when Fluff meows, I will listen!

Honesty is always refreshing, in a day and age when it is in increasingly short supply, and should be applauded, just like titanium gonads!

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There’s a big stink in the media these days. A cold wind is blowing through the hallowed halls of something many people have taken for granted, if they’ve known about it at all, but – it”s a big stink in two words.

Size Zero.

We’re not talking about brain cells (although with some of the comments from fashion luminaries, you might call that into question), or the shrinkage of the polar ice caps, but something far less consequential, and far more influential, in the minds of far too many – women.

Size zero is an artificial construct invented by manufacturers of women’s clothing to, so decrees official dogma, accommodate the needs of women who were too thin to fit into the smallest previous size, previously called size 4. It was created in those halcyon days of obvious consumer spending and It bags, and sure enough, before long, there were entire armies of Size Zero declarees, heaving giant sighs of relief – if they weren’t heaving up their dinners – that finally, they were able to find something that – fit. It wasn’t long before other scandals started appearing – the notable shrinkage of several celebrities, the likewise notable skrinkage of catwalk models, and worst of all, the death of several models to anorexia. This, in turn, led to banning models with a BMI of less than 18 (which is still technically underweight) in certain countries, and just last week, in an unprecedented move, the German fashion magazine Brigitte made an editorial decision to no longer feature professional models, but – the horror! – real – women. The art department had grown awfully tired of having to retouch boobs and butts on models that had neither, just so they could look – human.

Naturally, such an august personage as Kaiser Karl (Lagerfeld), chief designer for Fendi, Chanel and his own eponymous brand and Grand Pooh Bah Arbiter Non Plus Ultra of all things fashionable, had to wade into that debacle and provide his immortal 20,000€ (per word) opinions. “Of course real women hate models. They’re all a bunch of fat mummies who sit on their sofas eating potato chips in front of their televisions.”

Note the context. Real. Women. Fat. Mummies. Eating. (the very idea!) Potato chips. The sum entire of all things repellant – and repulsive – to his mind.

Well, even the former Duchess of Windsor said it – one cannot be too rich – or too thin.

The problem is, fashion has always been an aspirational business. It’s not about what you, Ms. Ordinaire, can do, or at least can Look As If – not at all.

It’s what You Can Aspire To. Since the 1920s, the – fashionable – ideal has gravitated toward the tall, the long-waisted and long-limbed ectomorphic, unattainable by just about every means at our disposal even today – unless, of course, you’re born that way. Very few of us so-called “real” women are. And in a day and age where the Privileged West has a historical unpredecented access to any and all foodgroups imaginable, where obesity and Type 2 diabetes are increasingly becoming commonplace industrial-world diseases, the whole size issue is revealing quite a lot about what lies behind it.

Control, and the lack thereof. If you have control of your own bestial appetites, if you watch what you eat, if you exercise like a maniac and work at your looks like a dog, then – you’re OK. You’re – cool.

If not, if Black Forest cake turns you on, and eating it in bed with someone as uninhibited and bestial as yourself floats your boat, if you happen to think that life is too short to deny yourself all manner of sensual pleasures, then you are condemned and damned to be terminally, fatally unhip and uncool the rest of your days, unless – and sometimes, in spite of – whatever you simultaneously cultivate your interior as well, in which case, you might only be cool if you’re talented enough. A few short years ago, the lead singer of the band The Gossip, a defiantly Rubenesque Beth Ditto, was called “a fat pig”, to her face and by Kaiser Karl. who later rescinded and apologized – because, let’s face it, the lady has talent. Not only talent, but a very healthy amount of self esteem as well. She appeared on the cover, in all her naked glory, of a British music magazine and was plastered in billboards – likewise naked – all over London.

In a size zero age, that takes titanium ovaries, and titanium ovaries should always be applauded.

Another case, this one involving Ralph Lauren, has made a stink. One of his house models – used for several years running in all advertising campaigns, catalogs, lookbooks etc – had the nerve to complain that her photo had been retouched to absurdity. Her head was much larger than her waist. This was not the photo she remembered.

She was promptly fired for spilling the beans, on the grounds that she was now, at 27, “too old”.

Right. Which makes your truly something just above “fossil”.

The sinister thing, the scary thing, the thing that keeps me awake at night, is not that I shall never be a size zero, or even semi-close. What frightens me most is just how much the whole size debate/issue/debacle deflects and distracts from something far more disturbing. If you can’t get a woman’s goat on grounds of her intellect, her job status, her qualities as a human being – then, you at least have free reign and ditto license to call her – fat. Even if she isn’t. So long as she diverges even slightly from the “ideal” – go ahead – hit her, make her feel inadequate, make her sense her shortcomings, hit her where you know it hurts.

Anything to distract her from the sad and sorry fact that this is not an equal world, and anything to remind her that whatever else she accomplishes, whatever else she is, she is also – fat. And a woman.

The Cardinal Sin.

Evolutionary biology teaches us that attractiveness is all about sexual competition. It’s all about landing the best mate to propagate the species with. And this is where the controversy gets increasingly strange and contradictory.

In my 46+ years on planet Earth, 31 of which I have been, to a larger or lesser extent, sexually active, I have never, ever lived up to any idea of “fashionable”. I’m built like a V – my shoulders are wider than my hips, my bust is larger than my pelvis, and I’m one of the “lucky” ones who can carry up to 20 extra lbs without it being immediately apparent, at least to the casual observer. If I lose too much weight – which is to say, I approach the “normal” range of certain insurance company weight tables, people start asking me if I have some terminal disease. At my thinnest, I was a US size 8 below, size 10 or even 12 on top. Nothing even close to perfect.

Yet, in spite of it, or because of it, I’ve never had any problems with the opposite sex. On days I’ve felt like crap and looked the part to prove it, I’ve been propositioned by men a good deal younger than myself. On days I’ve made a definite effort, I’ve gotten no reactions at all, or at least, not the ones I wanted. So I came to realize that in the attraction stakes, what a man may define as “sexy” has less to do with “ideal” and much, much more to do with attitude.

My sister knows. She’s my polar opposite – a small, definite A. Even so, she somehow manages to exude her own brand of va-va-voom – not unlike Sophia Loren in her heyday (although they look nothing alike), and like Sophia, a Virgo – and even so, she’s not had trouble, either. She is also the most fashionable woman I know.

We know our limitations. We know we will never be anyone’s idea of size zero, unless you’re talking our computational skills after the second bottle of champagne. We know we live in the real world of Real Women, and we are very much looking forward to see what Brigitte – or other women’s magazines who are brave enough to buck the trend – will do to show just how beautiful we really are!

Even in those moments we’ve parked our post-baby Fat Mummy tracksuit bottoms in front of the TV to watch Disney movies with our progeny, eating potato chips.

Some people out there may loathe that particular ideal, of an Ingres odalisque sleeping in all her curvy splendor, but to many of us – and even to our men – that odalisque is a woman, and that is what a real woman looks like.

Kaiser Karl be damned!

Image: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Ètude d’après la Dormeuse de Naples, 1839, V&A Museum, London

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Today, a very long time ago, a boy was born in a distinguished house in Dublin, a man who would later become a byword for all that was decadent, depraved and “inverted”, to use a delicate Victorian euphemism, a man whose person, whose writings and whose very existence flew in the face of the many hypocrisies of his age.

Oscar Finegan O’Flahertie Wills Wilde – and how great a name is that? – was born today, and if anyone remembers Wilde at all in our own decadent, depraved, celebrity-obsessed age, we remember him for a lot less that what he truly was – a gifted observer of people, an indignant social critic, and like so many of his countrymen, one of the finest writers in the English language.

What we remember is what we have today come to define as “flaming gay”, meaning openly homosexual, or we remember the many, many barbed-wire bon mots he also left behind as his legacy, not a few of which are still quoted with equal relevance today, not something too many of his contemporaries can boast.

We might remember the notoriety – of the man, of his “trial”, of the consequences of honesty in an age that was anything but, and bless our fate that we now live in more forgiving, progressive times, when the fact is, that we are no less hypocritical today, no more forgiving than in the Belle Epoque.

We might remember being forced to read “The Picture of Dorian Gray” in English class, and wondering WTF the fuss was about. At 15, I read it, and even though I was precocious for my age, I was not yet old enough to see the book for what it truly was – an incendiary criticism of “society”, a commentary on art and aesthetics, and a horror story that these many years later still makes my skin crawl.

Dorian Gray is not the only one who has a hideous portrait hidden in his attic, reflecting the sum of all previous vices and transgressions…

We might remember amateur or professional performances of plays such as “The Importance of Being Earnest” or “An Ideal Husband”, where the lines come thick and lightning fast, so fast, the real punchline goes missing in the mirth.

There was always a sting in Oscar, a sting that until his dying day made it possible for him to associate with the highest society and the the lowest dregs, from peers of the realm to Colorado miners, a sting that told the careful listener and observer that the fop, the aesthete, the walking exclamation point had something more, and darker, to offer than one-liners.

What we remember, in other words, is the caricature, the public, distorted persona and what we have forgotten is the man’s complexity – as a writer, critic and certainly as a human being.

He is known for his association with Lord Alfred Douglas, who, it must be said, can’t have done poor Oscar many favors, and yet – he was, for a time at least, a devoted husband and certainly a loving father to the end. Along with his plays, essays, poetry and books, he also wrote children’s stories. One of my own near-misses was a first edition of his “House of Pomegranates”, complete with Art Nouveau gilded pomegranates on the cover. It was in deplorable condition. The binding was coming apart, the edges were frayed and dissolving, and the delicate pages had obviously been read – and loved – for several generations. I almost bought it, but I couldn’t afford it at the time. To this day, I still regret it.

What I remember – a man who used his rapier-sharp wit, his persona in the public mind – and his wits – as a smokescreen and a deflector, to hide what he did not want to world to know – that he saw – everything, and felt – even more. The pain of human existence, the high cost of hypocrisy, the price of so-called progress on the human soul, of how, in the light of all our technological advances, we have forgotten much we should have remembered. Mainly that we have forgotten our very humanity, overlooked our complexity and forget to forgive each other’s and our own all-too human failings.

“Some of us”, said Oscar in one of his more reflective moments, “are in the gutter, but we are looking at the stars.”

In the end, even to a man who always loomed larger than life in many ways for many people, his own human failings caught up to him, and nevertheless, he saw it coming.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
To feel another’s guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
For the blood we had not spilt.

Fron “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”

Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde, wherever you may be! Today your grave is covered in roses and peacock feathers, and even now, so long after, you, also, have never been forgotten, and although you have been much maligned, you are, today, much beloved!

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Walk out your front door, and you will realize that summer – is gone. That promise of spring green that deepened into a darker, summery prayer, has come to this – summer’s end.

That bright light of summer, the thin green-gold of vinho verde, has now matured into an amber sweet Sauternes poured over the landscape to remind you one last time – remember this: Soon, the light will be gone.

The insipid blue of the sky has mellowed and evolved, no longer aquamarine but sapphire into lapis, sharpening the details on the leaves, trees and the half-hidden apples glowing under foliage, ruby red a, the taste of summer distilled into a taste of a life, with sweet and tart and bitter earth beyond.

Smell them, even, lying on the ground, spilling their juices, the flavor of an oath they give to birds and voles and fiery red squirrels – we will return, another year, another spring, another fall, for you to eat – and remember.

Breathe it all in, the truffle scent of mushrooms, blooming suddenly on the burning green grass, the leaves dropping in a jewelled blaze of shocking color, the sharp smell of the fallen apples, fermenting for the birds, the grass, burned emerald glass by hoarfrost – the smell of sleep, lingering under hedgerows, whispering through the rowan trees.

The sounds of autumn – the geese, calling out “We’re going, we’re going – we’re…gone” in a song headed south, the rooks, lurking in the branches, black, ominous, guarding their trees beak and claw, for even they know – soon, they will be gone, too. Towering beeches, yellow-gold torches above the darker honey brown of the forest floor beneath, singing their regrets, they cannot stay, they must be going, going…down.

Down like the raindrops on a Sunday afternoon, playing their Debussy counterpoint on the windowpane, racing each other to the ground, and up above the next chill morning, a skinny sickle moon a little boy tries to catch with his hand, he’s so close, and the moon is his own that he can never catch, but it is – his moon.

His mother stands transfixed in that early Sauternes sunshine, holding acorns in her hand and knows the light that will return, the promises it holds and keeps the secret – that the oak and the woman are not so unalike. The hint of a mighty forest in the acorns carpeted beneath her feet, the suggestion of the man in the boy who stands there, holding her hand.

She knows that sleep and dreams shall not be so far behind, for the oak, for the woods, for the apple trees dropping their last fruit as she watches. She knows that secret scent exhaled by the stones and the pines, a scent of cold, of wet, of winter and regret for what left, and hope for what remains.

She knows. It’s an end holding another beginning, another promise, another hope and yet another dream to wish for, in the cold and dark awaiting them all.

She knows.

It’s Summer’s End.

Image: Georgia O’Keeffe, “Autumn Leaves, Lake George, NY” 1924
Copyright Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

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If someone ever took a gun to my head (perish the thought) and asked me to name my two favorite possessions, I’d blush a bright shade of pink to admit that they’re both manufactured by a company named after a very common fruit. If my apartment building caught fire and I had five seconds to leave, I’d grab the kid and those two things before I’d grab the cats. Seriously.

It’s that bad.

I am the owner of a MacBook – the salvation of my life (and definitely my marriage), the savior of my sanity, the gateway to my independence and future hopes and dreams – and an iPod, a small 1 GB Shuffle with no bells and whistles except the ones I put on it. I don’t need umpteen gigs of songs, I don’t need my favorite TV shows or baby pictures of Damien. I just need something semi-discreet and portable – that makes noise. I can use it as a USB-stick (I have), I can plug it into my TV and hear what’s on it. I can put anything on it my li’l ol’ heart desires, or even a heart’s desire (or two). This tiny device has prepared me for work and prepared me for the onslaught that waited when I got home. It has provided a sound wall for when the Buttkicker indulged his passion for WWII movies and I wanted to write on the Effing Book, or this blog, or something else entirely you really, truly, don’t want to know about.

I got around as a single girl. As a writer, I still do!

The other thing, my little laptop, you already know about. The results are as seen.

In these uncertain times, anything that keeps mind, soul and body together can’t possible be bad. People are being laid off right and left. Creativity, that mainstay of food-for-thought, is getting scarce as the global economy is getting worse. So, instead of Busby Berkeley musical extravaganzas and Rogers&Astaire movies, some of us are taking highly radical steps into terra incognita to rid ourselves of an increasing sense of frustration and powerlessness. Feed that fatal pair long enough, and sooner or later, the Great Man-Eating monster known as Rage will emerge, and it won’t be pretty, either as poetry OR prose.

That monster, a close friend and associate of the Dood I introduced in another blog entry, merits his – or her, his deadlier, uglier sister – own blog entry.

Now, I’m interested in exploring how to manage him. Recently, as one of the things I do in order to avoid the Effing Book (something all writers do – clean their desk, do the laundry, wash the floor – anything to avoid actually writing), I completed a thoroughly stupid Facebook quiz along the lines of “What is your most repressed emotion?”. I was hugely surprised to find out that it came up as – anger.

Anyone who knows me will know that this is a laugh and a half. My fuse is notoriously short, loud and short-lived. I simply don’t have the attention span to carry a grudge for long. But anger is one thing, and rage is something else entirely.

If you’re not a sports fanatic and gifted with the ability to transfer your own rage to the opposing team, and since Roman circus games have been out of fashion for about 1700+ years, and there’s no reason an innocent four-year-old should bear the brunt of it, what do you do? You can work out until the cows come home. You can reorganize your kitchen cabinets and your closets, but then, you wouldn’t have any excuses not to write.

Your rage needs somewhere to go to get it out, or else the consequences will be dire.

One enterprising writer – and musician, as it happens – who was also laid off with ever-more increasing frequency – discovered entirely by accident that metal – the kind that gives your auricles calluses, the kind that drives many people mad, the kind, in other words, that incites and expresses murderous, poisonous emotions – did wonders for his flagging optimism. His gateway drug – if you can use that term – was Slayer.

Me, I can’t stand ’em. I was raised in a household with classical music, not a little of which I knew how to play myself. Opera, symphonies, sonatas and concertos – not to mention being able to read music – it all meant that I had certain standards that had to be fulfilled, or else – forget it. If it didn’t have melody, evolution and progression, if the musicians didn’t know how to play (which does nothing to explain my love of the Sex Pistols, but let’s call that one nostalgia!), if the lead singer did NOT know how to sing in fairly articulate English, if the lyrics were stereotyped “we’re EVIL and we know it” – forget it. Despite all my perverted Pisces best friend does to the contrary, Polish black metal doesn’t quite make the grade.

I’m picky about a lot of things. It’s my iPod and I can scream if I have to!

So when I went looking for a replacement for one particular musical obsession I’ve had for the last 15+ years (and man, does that make me feel OLD!), certain criteria had to be fulfilled. Brains. A certain healthy dose of brawn, just because I’m a gal who likes the guys who – you get the idea, right? – and above all else not staying in the same place for too long musically.

In other words, I went looking for musical redemption, the kind that carried a container for all the rage of 21st century life, the kind that made me think, the kind that challenged me and subscribed to the Chinese Box theory of great art – finding something new on the fifteenth runaround, as well as the Picasso theorem – “All great art, in order to be truly great, must have a certain Pelvic Pulse”. I wanted something to lift me out of my petty, pathetic limitations and carry me – up and out, as cool and calm as a refrigerated cucumber.

It took a few evenings trawling through YouTube, but I found what I was looking for. Now, I wait in line at the supermarket with Lee Hazlewood crooning his baritone croon in my ears. While Robert Johnson sells his soul to the devil, I collect Damien from kindergarten. On my way down, Danzig is teaching me how the Gods kill.

And in those dark, deep hours at night, where I wrestle with Scaring a Roman, I tap away on my keyboard while a black aria plays, spooked to the gills, transfixed by a terrible, eerie beauty, born up on a black angel’s wings.

Cool as a cucumber, cold as a crypt, happier than a warm day in May.

Whatever works and whatever it takes!

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Image: Michael William Kaluta, “Black Aria”, copyright Glenn Danzig, 1991

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