THIS ENTRY WILL START WITH THE VERY SERIOUS AND END WITH THE VERY MUNDANE, AND I WILL PROBABLY TRY TO MAKE A FUMBLING HALF-ASSED CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO
I have known for a few days that Aaron Hawkins killed himself, but I have not said anything because I did not know him, and because other people have said better stuff. Also because when you have a rambling self-indulgent Cornucopia-Of-Words-style webpage like mine, it is just too weird to mention shocking news and then blithely move on to crazy people on the bus and how you cannot break yourself of saying “True story,” at the end of every book you read to your daughter. Big things like death deserve their own entry. (Except that, on the other hand, they don't. See below.)
I read Aaron's site for the first time accidentally and narcissistically, after noting that he had linked me, and I liked his writing very much—a great combination of breezy and serious, political and personal. I remember him coming to the Gaper's Block thing, with Trancejen, and he struck me as a person who had nothing to prove. That is a rare quality, particularly in a room full of webloggers and diarists and writers who get their kicks by talking about themselves.
The other thing I remember noting was the obvious friendship between him and Trancejen. I get a mysterious kick out of seeing girl/boy buddy pairs in public—maybe because I have had so many good male friends and drinking partners in my own life. They arrived together, drank whiskey together, were at many points in the evening so very obviously snarking about the scene to each other, and it was fun to watch. I am sad that the world has lost Aaron, and sad for Jen that she has lost her friend.
I was reading a story in the latest Brain, Child that had a few paragraphs about how motherhood is a head-spinning combination of the Small and the Big. You are cleaning up poop and teaching someone how to talk. You are stuffing small arms into sleeves, filling sippy cups with diluted apple juice, pointing out the Big! Dog!, and also being responsible for another person's health, nutrition, and emotional well-being. I read that passage several times. In fact, I read that passage over and over and over.
Part of what makes life, the universe, and everything so wonderful/terrible/frightening/exhilarating/mindfucking is that very juxtaposition. And I believe (apologies in advance for the weird vehemence I am about to display) that it is a TRUE juxtaposition, in the dictionary sense: the Small does not “stand for” the Big like heavy-handed metaphors in some stupid undergraduate short story. Life is not a metaphor for Life. This is partly why some Buddhists make me so mad with their the-world-is-but-an-illusion crud.
I wonder if suicides have something gone wrong in their sense of the Small and the Big. Maybe the Big feels too big, without the Small to anchor it down. Or maybe the Small piles up and piles up until the Big starts to seem completely unreachable. Or maybe I am completely full of baloney.
When I was still in my writing program, I was simultaneously dealing with depression. My poems got smaller, smaller, smaller. I was all about the one amazing image, the petals on a wet, black bough (if you will), that would stop readers in their tracks. I wanted to stop writing poetry, in a sense, and just throw a tiny cube of some incredibly dense metal at your head. I scrunched words up (and scrunched myself up) until there was very little to hold onto. My poems were practically turning Japanese. (No, not that way. Or wait, maybe that way.) It was, to put it lightly, a bad scene.
I need to keep reminding myself about Small and Big sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. It helps. It makes existence worthwhile. I can't know what went wrong, Small-and-Big-wise, for Aaron, but I wish it could have gone right.
I have zero longing for fame, and you may not believe this but I honestly never think about the weblog-turned-published-book phenomenon. To me it is just a goofy thing that happened, and so were the handful of interviews and press and so forth. Yesterday I was outside the Reader building and a guy said, “Hey, weren't you on the cover of NewCity a while back?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said. Surprised but (let's admit it) a tiny bit pleased.
“Yeah! You're in that band!” he continued.
Sigh. But also, ha ha.
It reminded me of a similar thing that happened to LT in Yemen, attending the same language school that had expelled John Walker Lindh a few years earlier. Some backstory: there is a city in Yemen called Ibb. Ibb is the origin of all “dumb Yemeni” jokes in Arabic. If you take a Polack joke or a blonde joke and want to translate it into Arabic, you can just make the protagonist a guy from Ibb. “A guy from Ibb walks into the mosque”…it's already funny!
Anyway, LT had grown a beard and was wearing a scarf to keep the dust off, and was speaking good, idiomatic Arabic, and when he was out and about one day someone asked if he was from Ibb. As he put it, “Okay, it's cool that they think I'm Yemeni. It sucks that they think I'm from Ibb.”
WE WANT OUR ONE TWO THREES!
That collective scream you hear coming from Comcast's digital-cable distribution area in Chicago? It is all the mommies who rely on at least a touch of quasi-educational television to get them through the toddler rough spots. Our cable lineup has mysteriously been missing Noggin for three days now, and every day TiVo merrily goes out and records its episodes of Play With Me Sesame or the boring-as-fuck-to-adults but much-loved-by-children Maisy, and every day the recorded episodes are nothing but black screen and the promise that THIS CHANNEL WILL BE AVAILABLE SHORTLY, and every day I'm quick fast pulling out all the Distraction Stops with Nora. “Quick! Look over there! Please erase from your brain the fact that I ever mentioned Elmo or Big Bird!” Of course, if I were smart I would have a Sesame Street video waiting in the wings for emergencies just like these, but my media-buying habits have not yet caught up with my life circumstances, and I do not. So today I get to spend another half-hour on hold with Comcast, in order to pitch my own version of a toddler tantrum and demand that you RETURN MY NOGGIN. NOW.
Hee hee, “return my noggin.” I like that. I like it almost as much as the fact that on today's square of my office calendar I have written “deadline for ECT decision.” I know what that means and it is dull and work-related, but it amuses me to think of myself as having the power to administer electroshock therapy. In my PDA there is also the notation “give bitch money,” by which I mean “give Bitch money,” since they are doing their annual fundraising and they so deserve my cash. But to the casual observer, I have the PDA of a tight-fisted pimp.
—mimi smartypants big and small.