There is no way around it: convenience food is nothing but convenient. There is no book, drug or experience that will change your personality. There is no pair of jeans that will ever really fit. There is no fun reason to visit your relatives. There is no way to remove tomato sauce from a white shirt, so just throw it away. There is nothing good about winter. There is no justice, just luck. There is nothing you can buy that will make those bags under your eyes go away: Only sleep will help.



Yes, loyal reader, I’m back. Where was I? Shopping the internet for maternity wear. Changing diapers. Washing itty-bitty things with snaps. Which has left my hands very dry. Might also be due to ten years of printmaking without gloves and a lot of cooking. Bought something at the drugstore called a hand mask. Things are improving. As long as you ignore the things that are deteriorating. And don’t ask too many questions. Or just the little ones. Should I paint my nails? There are eight shades in the refrigerator to choose from. None of them seem quite right.



A friend mentioned that no images of me show up when I am googled. This left me feeling equal parts of pride and shame. Is there no record of the me who enjoyed various lines of overextended credit? The me who told overzealous art lovers not to touch the Francis Bacon? The me who drove the 1981 Honda Prelude? The me who did step aerobics? In the interest of filling this essential void, I offer a selection of my outdated ID cards.



Ah, Berlin in March. Now that the glacial covering has receded, vast swathes of slushy dog shit and piles of crushed gravel (strewn by the city in an ineffectual effort to keep us all from slipping) create an interesting obstacle course for the average pedestrian. If you lost your keys in November, now’s the time to search for them. And if you’re me and have a fetish for select kinds of garbage, it’s like Christmas. Alone on a block long walk to the mailbox I found these three treasures from the thaw.

But everytime I see a soggy rocket I’m a little sad. Berlin on New Year’s Eve is a war zone. New Year’s Day the streets are filled with the strange burnt out remains. I collected these for years in a large cracker tin when I first moved here. Then I needed the tin for something else and saved only a choice few, throwing out the bulk of the collection. So my instinct when I see a rocket is to pick it up. But I don’t. Because now, like clothes I once loved to wear but are no longer fashionable, they’ve just become something from another time and only serve to remind me that I can’t go back.



It is comforting to know that in the era of spellcheck there are other people out there who still make embarrassing mistakes that completely change their intended meaning. I stumbled across this alluring offer recently; I think they meant massages. Don’t ask what I was looking for.



A recent exchange reminded me of a collection I inherited from my grandfather. I returned from Florida after his death with a battered cardboard box overflowing with the grosgrain and woven linen watchbands he changed daily to match his seersucker jackets and madras plaid pants. He went to Princeton during the depression, his style was a combination of old school preppy and dimestore dandy. He made no apparent distinction other than color when choosing a sweater; some were 40 year-old threadbare cashmere, others polyester blends. There was a phone mounted to the wall in his bathroom, which he refered to as the office; it smelled like cigarettes and Old Spice. He was known to fart at the dinner table, dive into the pool with his clothes on or play tennis in golfshoes: always with utmost decorum.

Back in Chicago, where I was going to art school with a lot of people wearing a different kind of plaid out of a completely different context, I started wearing the watchbands as bracelets, or hooking them together to make belts. I wore bright pink or orange lipstick and embroidered cardigans buttoned up to the neck and spent a lot of time trying to get my hair to look like a model from the pages of the Sears catalog, ca. 1961. Of course I wasn’t the only one trying to look like I was from another decade, but at the time I guess I thought I was using an obscure code to engage in some highly private form of rebellion.

At the movies last night on my way into the bathroom there was a girl carefully prodding the elaborately pinned curls of her hairdoo back into place. Her lips were a perfect pouty heart on an alabaster face, and the clothes established her style somewhere between burlesque and rockabilly. Part of me thought, Such a rediculous effort, another part of me thought, Why don’t I wear fishnet stockings more often? I was wearing a gray sweater and jeans and the modern-yet-not-flashy accessories defined my style as middle-aged hip. A woman passed me on my way out, wearing the international uniform of the senior citizen: frumpy hat, tan coat over nondiscript beige clothes, wedge heel shoes.

I’m wondering if the progression from retro fringe to tastefully modern to nondiscript utilitarian is inevitable and, if so, if it’s something I should welcome or fear.



Certain days, certain jobs seem less than fulfilling. I find it helpful to remember some of the worse things I have done for money. The waitressing job where the cook threw a battered chicken leg at me comes to mind. Or the gallery job with the annoying, loud film loop where minutes became hours and hours nearly unbearable.

And then there was the guy I worked for who left himself little notes on index cards; Dao around the house and Rock-On, Holy Warrior are two I remember. I took two buses and a train every Saturday to get to his house on the South side of Chicago. He always drove me home. We always had lunch at Burger King. My job was to transcribe his journal entries into the computer, and when I had done that I was supposed to fold the laundry. He was trying to finish his dissertation on the weekends – something about Paradise Lost – while holding down his job at a company that installed water filters. For Christmas he gave me a copy of his self-published book of poetry. Oh, you’re his amanuensis, a smirking editor told me at a party.

He had a pale, weepy wife and two children: a very fat little girl and a mean-looking boy with coke-bottle glasses, both immobilized in front of the television whenever I saw them. One day I finally found a better job. Not sure how he would react, I waited to tell him until he dropped me off. The motor of his Buick was running and the door was open; I had one foot on the pavement. Ok, fine, was all he said.




Give me your broken, your useless, your rusty refuse yearning to be saved… I lost a new cashmere sweater before Christmas, which was kind of annoying, but if the wire thingy with the two red plastic discs were to disappear it would be a real tragedy. Where did it come from and when did it mutate from junk to talisman? William Davies King answers my questions in his book Collections of Nothing, which intersperses a poignant chronicle of lonely childhood to midlife crisis with lists such as Here are all the varieties of tuna fish for which I have labels. Wise man. And I thought I was the only one collecting the patterns on the insides of envelopes.stuff



My approach to the coming year is to wait and see…




Whose keys are these anyway? Are they yours? Were you a Latchkey Kid? Did you hang them around your neck on a shoelace? Key to Success? Key to the City? Key to Your Heart? Etc., etc.

Family lore has it that my first full sentence was Where are the goddamn keys? Now they’re in every drawer like lint in my pockets. I’m guessing that one of them might open the padlock on the door to a windowless, nine square foot space at Your Personal Vault; a place my mother and I call The Family Estate. If you found the right key, you would find things that have been broken and then glued back together and are too ugly for anyone to want but can not be thrown away because of their official status as Family Heirloom. You might also discover a big black portfolio filled with drawings of fruit and baskets rendered painstakingly in colored pencil on bristol board. Or the electric pencil sharpener that was so essential to this neurotic activity. There are also some very overdue books from the Detroit Public Library, Main Branch. Also, clothes that no one wants to wear but thinks that someone else will one day want to wear. Which they won’t, unless they really like shoulder pads. Again.