November 26th, 2007 § § permalink
For the second year–but not in a row–my brother joined me in New York for the turkey days. At Harry’s Steak they stuck us in a back room like a vault made of wood, away from all the round, convivial tables with their centerpieces. The cherry finish framed frescoes of peasant revels: monks and villagers in wine cellars of massive barrels. As we sat down, half a family of Latinos—a father, two children, and his mother—was just getting up to leave. The old lady was being slow—inching along the bench to where she might heave herself up—and her grown son curt. He gave the jacket he was holding out to her a limp shake: bored matador and tired cow.
Beyond them, further steps descended to an alcove whose exposed brick had been painted white and shelved with magnums and bottles. There were candles lit on all the tables. No one came to sit there all evening. We were later attended by a rotating staff, none of whom were Latinos.
In the corner of our room was an attractive couple; much to my brother’s envy, the man, who spent the night expostulating to his date, ended slumped across the banquette, jacket open as if in illustration of the digestive ease afforded by his posture, but the blonde remained upright, chin in her hands, tasseled earrings swinging just below her clipped hair. I make his laissez aller sound a gross lapse of decorum, but in fact the hush and tastefulness of the surroundings—the panels of menu slate behind them awaiting the day’s chalked prices—lent everyone class: the little girls all decked with frills and teenage sons in college sweatshirts, the calculated outfits of girlfriends brought home for the holidays, Asian or Indian every one, who passed through, the Emperor’s or Maharajah’s children in parade review, on their way back from the unlimited dessert bar to still further rooms, pumpkin mousses dainty on saucers. » Read the rest of this entry «
November 17th, 2007 § § permalink
In Phoenix, between planes, I bought a Vitamin Water (focus) for $1.75 (!). And a box of Mexican Jumping Beans. Not from a bowed crone, her gray hair in a headscarf, who claimed with gaptoothed smile they’d sprout a pogo beanstalk, but from a woman in a vest and nametag, silken neckerchief and smile, who sympathetically enthused: “I know, people have asked me the same thing: how can your prices be so low, and at an airport? Did you know, our bottled water’s only $1.25!” There were three beans apiece in boxes small and clear as if for earrings, dumped higgledy-piggledy in a plastic tub on the counter before the woman. The jumping beans made jerks and clicks of protest.
From what I understand, the animation is a form of curiously inexpressive puppetry: moth larvae tugging on the silken strings with which they’ve replaced the contents of legumes they’ve consumed. There’s something horribly bacheloresque about buying pets, if pets they can be called, of a very specifically limited lifespan—jumping beans are a step back in upkeep from my hermit crabs of grad school. The larva can survive for months, I’m told, but the moth, once released, lives only a few days. Of the boxed three, only one shows any evidence of having survived the trip.
I think of girls with jumping beans for earrings, which at the ends of silver tassels bob and jostle in the sun even when the wind is still: and the moment, never expected, when in effortless legerdemain a diminutive moth flies off from below the ear, as if to make whatever was just said the last line of a poem.
In the quiet of the room I’ve returned to, there’s only the ticking of my alarm clock, and the competing jumping beans, on a shelf beneath the desklamp that approximates their sun. Carpocapsa saltitans do not, like flywheels, make good hearts for clocks, but still, if time is to be kept, I prefer the idiosyncratic metronome of a blind worm twitching off the minutes to its own eschaton, dozing toward millennial transformation. Isn’t part of what amazes us about the pupa its blithe sleep toward its own sure fate, which we interpret variously as acceptance, blind commitment, or dreaming faith? What pulse runs through the bean, with its abrupt tumult and periodic lull, must be more attuned than charged quartz to the natural pace of change. I could, I think in the peace of night, measure my life in these erratic ticks of a private time, but before I know it, the gray and silver moth will from its round hole flit, and the hollowed bean give up the ghost.
November 14th, 2007 § § permalink
The ALTA Conference 2007 just ended Sunday, and I’m sad. I couldn’t possibly do it justice. Bits of a most memorable time will probably trickle their way into other posts.
A mouse has run, my story’s done. Just felt like letting you know.
L’année prochaine à Minneapolis!
November 3rd, 2007 § § permalink
… translating Archaia Studios Press’ series The Killer by Jacamon (art!) and Matz (words!), with issue #5,
released back to back two weeks ago with issue #6
to grateful exclamation. The start of this new arc, “The Debt”, is a good place for new readers to jump on. Reviews have been ecstatic, especially over the NY scenes in #6, though not a single critic has neglected to bewail Archaia’s lateness in delivering what seems their best-loved translated title. Nor am I privy to what editorial congestion held up timely publication–but it wasn’t this translator! Writer Matz provided Archaia with his own translations of his work, which they asked me to brush up. Working on this series has been a crash course in concise dialogue. The other two Archaia series I work on, Okko and The Secret History, the former with its flourishes of formal diction, and the latter with its historical freight, both allow more leeway in narration than the clipped tone of The Killer. The rule of thumb that English is 15% more concise than French does not apply to slang (and in my experience applies more to the formal French of nonfiction and newspapers than to the literary idiolects authors invent to express largely personal concepts). » Read the rest of this entry «