“Barely awake, house quiet, coffee poured, blank page. Quick, first thing each morning, start writing. Keep the pen moving on paper, shoot for paragraph or two, no thought to where it’s heading, or if it will lead anywhere, or be worth reading, or embarrass you. It’s better if it does. The last thing it should seek, in any sense of the word, is to be good.
“Type it up allowing minimal edits for preposition or punctuation fixes. There’s always a word or two you can’t read and have to take your best guess at.”
Nog called them his sillies. No surprise, eventually we would each quietly on our own get up to give them a try too.
Bry — March 18, 2021, 6:12 am
BERN AND I got talking last night about the moral outrage around the “canceling” of Pepé LePew and Dr. Seuss’s Scrambled Eggs Super (a magnficient and memorable book, but for the depictions of blacks on p. 17, that was on the shelves of probably half a dozen bookstores across the country). The main objections seem to be that it’s absurd to think such innocent images could influence children. Bern recalled these same people (Fox & Friends being the nastiest) holding Fred Rogers largely responsible, when he was two years dead and couldn’t respond in his patient fashion, for creating “these entitled millennials.”
Bern — March 17, 2021, 5:04 am
“CRAZY GUGGENHEIM” appeared on the old Jackie Gleason Show in a weekly skit with Joe the Bartender. His walk-on bit always began with “Hello, Joe. Hello, Mister Dunahee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee.” Was he meant to be a drunk? He appeared more to have some kind of brain damage or development disability. The studio audience roared.
I read statements by older standup comics lamenting how we’ve become too politically correct; edgy jokes that got big laughs 15 years ago would only get you lambasted today. I think the real reason is more of us slip quickly between an awareness of comedy and tragedy. We’re not so much “sensitive” snowflakes as we are of aware others’s possible pain. The adult in the room at a children’s birthday party has to keep an eye out for the one off in the corner clutching his hands. It’s what adults do.
the zest of napery
Bry — March 16, 2021, 6:12 am
ALL THE appliances in his house had been chosen not for their performance or dependabilty or appropriateness to decor but rather for their insistence on having faces. The dishwasher had two small dials, well-spaced eyes above a low grid like a grimace of orthodontia. The oven with its minimalist controls, ordered from Japan, looked sagacious and deeply contented. The washer and dryer both were caricatures of surprise and astonishment. In the basement the water heater was hilarity itself.
Nog — March 15, 1995, 6:20 am
“CABABANANANOIDS,” his father said, and laughed, his eyes dark and set deep, a pair of commas fallen on their faces.
“It’s cannabi… canna… canabinabanoids. Shit!” Hendricks giggled and passed the joint back to his father.
A thump, as if the ski gondola had hit a speed bump, and then another. They were coming to the top of the mountain, where two snowmobiles and two unmistakable Pitkin County sheriff deputies waited for them.
Bry — March 13, 2021, 5:04 am
SNOW. WEATHER says two to four feet, up to five up in Fort Collins and Estes Park.
This morning I’m hearing “Repeat the Sound Joy” (repeated repeatedly) in my head, with that strange emphasis on “RePE-EET, RePEE-EE-EET the Sounding Joy.” Now I want to call something The Sounding Joy—a novel, a Christmas album.
This year on Christmas Eve we get to have an open house again. It’s been called (the party has) for many years now, for no great reason, as if a party needed a title, Owl Be Home for Christmas. The email invites have featured owls photoshopped into holiday scenes. I think I will propose to the brothers we call the party The Sounding Joy going forth.
Bern — March 11, 2021, 6:10 am
Whistling Singing in the Rain he took himself along Oak Street, because the oaks would be full still. They weren’t. Their leaves swirled at the cross-streets as if circling the drain, and their stripped branches made the sound of waves on a beach running up and sinking back. Setting off up 5th Street, he thumped his chest with his fists, then buh-buh-buhhed Seventy-Six Trombones until he arrived downtown.
Bern — March 9, 2021, 5:07 am
SHE TELLS him her father is Albert Singer, and that they both work for the Ádhraím Thú, the Irish Secret Service. Her accent switches mid-sentence, just like that.
“Fuck off. There’s no such thing as the Irish Secret Service,” he says to her.
“We’re that good, aren’t we.”
Nog — March 8, 2000, 5 am
THE DISINFORMATION graphic has its beginnings in mythic nonverbal scaffolding models first posited by theoretical diagrammarian Jeannette Dutarde. Ms. Dutarde’s seminal work defining infauxmation would later inspire works like the justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Bry — March 7, 2021, 6:19 am
[A DRY morning, so I’ve fished this out of Bern’s wastebasket—as he cuts like mad:]
Up and down the avenue, the sharp asynchronous flickerings of the city’s lamppost globes, scores of them, served as a nightly tribute to a city purchasing agent who’d taken payments under the table to accept first-generation LEDs, and who had left town in disgrace shortly after his misconduct was made public. Wish felt bad for the man, whom he’d liked, and who year-in, year-out, would volunteer for the Rotary Christmas tree sale, manning the lot alone on the coldest nights. He’d had a son with special needs the city’s health plan didn’t begin to cover.
And yet with all that, the display never failed to cheer Wish. He liked to pretend the flashes were the lamps excitedly sending each other messages of affection and invitation, like lightning bugs.
Bern — March 6, 2021, 5:01 am
POST-DIVORCE Billy Black is slow to grieve, and to help his young sons grieve their household.
The three of them sit one side of a booth in a diner. It feels, he decides, like holding the palm of your hand against a heart fluttering with indignation and despair at what is happening to its illusions. To its world no longer holding up.
Demonstrating with mashed potatoes and gravy, he tells the boys about the Dutch who build great dikes to hold out the sea, to build their best paradise in a safe place. He thinks, but does not say, just sitting on the beach contemplating the huge waves, the huge loss, isn’t nearly as effective, not by a long shot.
But I am so far ahead of myself here, Black thinks, as he cuts his younger son’s pork chop. I’m still just the boy holding his finger in the dike to hold back the sea. I’m not building. I’m hardly contemplating. Right now it’s all I can do to reassure the two little boys beside me, holding their fingers to the holes in their hearts.
Bern — March 5, 2021, 5:02 am
I'VE JUST had to cut the word “mayorally” from the novel draft. This is painful, first because it is exactly the word that describes how Wish Bernum proceeds into a room after a crowd shouts surprise at his birthday party, and second because I haven’t yet been able to find it in any dictionary, which argues powerfully for keeping it.
Nog — March 4, 2001, 5:49 am
THE SAGES OF THE AGES (garage band!) exhort us to be reborn. But this morning, listening the bluejays chatter after last night’s rain, I see how my lifelong conditioned awareness of myself and my world need to give way to my own conception (and no one else’s but my own) of who I am as I live from my desires.
This is what is actually meant, Fr. de Plüm told us last night, by the NT stories of Good Friday and the Resurrection. And this is the potentiality and promise that awaits us all—not this going through life eating, as he put it, from economy-size bags of store-brand Easter candy in weak and sickly colors.
Bern — March 3, 2021, 5:03 am
WE’RE OUT of practice as regards civic participation in the presence of our fellow citizens. Mail-in voting has been the standard here for several years; the county hasn’t seen fit to put us on a jury; we never made it down to Denver for the BLM marches. So it’s a long time since we’ve found ourselves amongst strangers sharing in a mood of civic common response and best intentions for our community.
Yesterday, we trickled into Good Sam Medical Center for our vaccine shots. Standing in line we looked a little like survivors of a maritime disaster, dazed by what happened, grateful to have made it to safety, in need of a shave. Clutching our forms we stood well-spaced along a hallway until a relief worker took us one by one to a chair, where a nurse spoke to us clerically but kindly, getting down our name and birthdate, then administering the shot. After that we went to sit in a chair by the wall for fifteen minutes in the unlikely event we had a reaction.
Sitting there, in quiet celebration for having made it to this stage, happy too for these others as they exhibit shy smiles of relief, or effusively thank the healthcare workers and volunteers for their service here today—we experience a reaction. We feel the same coldness in our gut we felt during the long shuddering collision. Then we are flushed as we think of those who remained at their tables in the dining room complaining about the poor service, and at the band being directed to play on, and at the captain, who kept insisting, from his lifeboat, there was never any iceberg, that it had been placed there by his enemies, and that it had melted away just like that.
Nog — March 2, 2000, 4:29 am
MY FRESHMAN college roommate calls to recount a line he remembers Goldie Hawn delivering on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In three decades ago.
“If Tuesday Weld married Frederic March II, she’d be Tuesday March the Second.”
Bry — March 1, 2021, 5:02 am
The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout,
This is my handle, this is my spout,
So you better not cry, you better not pout,
Or I’ll give you something to cry about.