Excerpt From An Unpublished Essay: Lonely in Kino or The Long Stretch of Day. A Fisherman's Bar

At the shore where the beach makes a shallow bay, down by where the fishermen drag their boats onto the sand, is a large metal shed with no windows where you can buy one kind of beer.  A woman with dark ringed eyes wearing a little girl’s tank top and shorts, leans on the doorway with one leg wrapped around the other.  From the dark interior floats the sounds of a TV laugh track and a child crying.  Several fisherman hang around, sitting on the overturned belly of a boat, standing in the shade of the bar, waiting for nothing, hoping for something, in the golden light of falling afternoon, where everything smells like gasoline and rotting fish and salt water.


Zuihitsu: A 10th Century Case

All this technology confuses me, such a great many choices at such a speed!  I know how quaint that sounds, like those first people who road in automobiles, reporting the terrifying, head spinning sensations of moving at 30 miles per hour.

When my head starts spinning, I remind myself to sit on the bed with a notebook and pen.

Sometimes I feel guilty, noticing that the boys are watching another movie.  Maybe I should have taken them to the Y.  But time is limited so here I am, spending it selfishly, sitting on my bed, following the line that falls onto the paper.

Sei Shonagon, a courtesan in 10th century Japan, kept a journal that she hid in the drawer of her wooden pillow, taking notes on court trysts and annoyances, making lists of "very tiresome things."

Here's what Dennis Washburn says in the introduction to Arthur Waley's strange and much abbreviated translation of Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book.

The Pillow Book is an early example of an extremely important genre in Japanese, the miscellany, or zuihitsu (literally, "following one's brush") - a form of jotting or literary wandering.  Zuihitsu gives the writer considerable freedom to use a variety of forms and touch on a wide range of subjects.  

Sounds to me like a terminal case of whimsy.

Ha!  There she is, on the other side of the planet, one-hundred and one decades back, inking little nothings on paper, dreaming that someone might read them.


Anonymous Blogger

I come upon a blog, not a year old, only half a dozen entries, talking of places I know with a foul-mouthed anger inspired by the affair that the writer’s wife is having while the writer stays home with the kids.  Do I know these people?  He attacks his wife’s character and then asks us to empathize with his flawed one (some mental illness, perhaps?) which we do, because the writing is very good.  Names are named. Details given. I determine the identity of the anonymous blogger.  A true shock, my impression so different from this aggressively intelligent and angry writer.  How many different selves we each are, and here, the most manipulative and intimate, the literary self, whispering lines onto paper that whisper to a reader, images that enrapture our emotions.  The caressing bodies.  The rising action.  The falling action.  The denouement. 


Write By Heart

The boys are congregating on the porch and I am reading On the Road, for the second time because the first time I only made it a short way in before I myself had to take to the road leaving behind everything familiar except myself which may have been the thing I most wished to leave behind, for a while at least, but it was not meant to be.

Now I am not on the road and restless because the summer is fading fast, and I am faced with the prospect of returning to teaching classes at the high school, and it fills me with a panic, not feeling confident that I can pull it off even though I've done it before, it always feels like starting from zero because I can't stand to do things the same way twice, even those classes I've supposedly taught before feel just as new as if I never have, and whether that's bad or good, I don't know, but I do know how I feel and that is exposed and incompetent and nervous.

I'm not supposed to admit any of this, I also know, because it is not professional and being unprofessional is frowned upon, but I have never been a professional at anything except being an amateur and since I'm already past 40, I suppose that's how things will remain.  Sometimes I wish things were different, but sometimes I don't, and I don't imagine that would change even if I were a professional, I'd look at some amateur sitting on the porch, fingering a banjo, and dream about a life free of all that professionalism, though other times I might feel great relief that I wasn't so adrift, like I said, sometimes wishing things were different and sometimes being thankful they weren't, exactly the same way I feel now.

Where all this comes from I don't know, a gene drifting down from Siberian gypsies or a reaction to how I was raised or a product of my culture?  These things are hard to sort out and complicated and probably not worth the effort since there never will be a straight answer except for it's just the way things are so why not accept it?

What I do know is that taking the time and space to write these things down gives me a satisfaction that I don't get doing other things and it keeps me feeling calm.  Whether that is because I've taught myself that habit, like brushing my teeth gives me a certain amount of peace, or whether it is some ancient human thing stuck in the DNA, I don't know, but it makes me feel agitated and depressed even when it's sunny and everyone is lovely and I have many hours, if I can't come up with something to write.  That makes me crazy, like a caged animal, so I pace around the house, wasting the day.

It doesn't make any sense because there are always so many important things to be doing, scraping paint or earning money or grocery shopping or cooking or spending time with people I love, but I can't seem to do any of those things or even be content if haven't scribbled something down, even if it's something that has been scribbled many times before.


Excerpt From An Unpublished Essay: Lonely in Kino or The Long Stretch of Day. "Seri Originals"

Around the corner from the ice cream parlor that one could mistake for a puppet show stage, shallow and big faced and screaming out circus music, is the cafĂ© where all the Gringos eat chile rellanos and tamales and drink horchata because the floor is smooth and swept and the owner wears a clean apron and keeps her hair tucked away in a bun and has, by good fortune, straight off-white teeth.  The Gringos meet there in the afternoon and feel reassured because they have learned to tell time by the sun and learned to love tortillas and say Hola! to the fishermen who don't even nod from the shadows of the twisted trees, watching the Gringos emerge from their shiny vehicles.  
The Gringos love the cafe because it is in Old Kino, tucked in among "the people" and the shacks and sandy unpaved streets.  The building isn't different from any of the other aluminum shacks, but is pleasant with a pot of fake flowers hanging from a dusty beam and a two year old calendar nailed to the back of the door. 
            Sometimes a new Gringo is there, sent by the woman who runs the posada, and then they have new ears to tell all about Kino and how the Seri Indians used to live east until they were pushed to the ocean by the Spanish, and lived here on this beach until they were forced into the mountains by the Ladinos, and how they carved animal figurines out of ironwood and wove tremendous baskets until a Ladino saw they were making money and copied the designs and produced them in factories and sold them cheap with the label "Seri Originals" and no one knew the difference so the Indians themselves came into town, bought pack loads full, carried them back up to their villages and sold them for a huge profit to the Gringos who searched them out, looking for the real thing.


Artist's Statement for Art on the Town Exhibit: Friday, August 15, Appleton Beer Factory, 6-9pm

Ever since I first heard the word juxtaposition, it has intrigued me.  Why is this concept so important that it has its own word?  It has always felt good to say it, with its many shapes and tones.  But only after I started this blog, at the age of 40, did I begin to grasp its power. 

Before I was diagnosed with a terminal case of whimsy, I spent years reading and writing short stories, hoping to produce the one that would get printed in The New Yorker. But I became stuck, squeezing all my creative energy down one narrow and rigid road.  It was depressing.  Here I had dedicated years and all I had to show for it was miles of rubbish. 

This is perfectly normal.*

Everything began to change when I saw a correspondence by Saul Steinberg printed in The Paris Review, illustrated with his drawings.  I assumed (wrongly) that he had written the words to go with the pictures or vise versa.  So, I inserted drawings into some of my own essays and felt the stirrings of something profound and confounding. 

I began to imagine a newsletter.  A friend suggested starting a blog.  Instead of repressing my terminal case of whimsy, I embraced it, making each day whatever I was inspired to make.  After two and half years of this, I realized that what I was making was a novel of juxtapositions.

Thank you for visiting @ A Terminal Case of Whimsy

*See “The Gap” with Ira Glass, a 2 minute 18 second video by frohlocke.


Art on the Town, Appleton

This Friday. 6-9pm. Appleton Beer Factory.

Featuring excepts from a novel of juxtapositions.

Come on down and say hello.

And don't forget to bring a burning question.



Today a bug lands on me. Instead of swatting it off, I watch it, tiny and leaf-like, bright green, wide faced.

It crawls, spiraling around my finger, its feet tiny n's.  I think I detect it accelerating; a hint of panic, desperate to find a familiar surface?  When I finally put my finger against a tree, it steps onto the bark and freezes, hoping to fool me.

I poke it, and it scrambles a few steps and freezes.

I poke it again but this time it slips and falls right off the tree.  I gasp, attached enough to care even though two minutes before I was most likely to brush it off the moment I sensed it, unaware that there was anything to care about.

I'm in a panic to find it.

I do and am relieved.  I put my finger to the grass and it scrambles on.  I put my finger to the tree and it scrambles off and freezes.

I watch it, then, loose interest.


excerpt from an unpublished essay: "Lonely in Kino" or "The Long Stretch of Day" - MUSEO

Here in New Kino - where the wealthy from Hermosillo and the retired gringos build homes on both sides of the narrow road, houses surrounded with concrete walls topped with broken glass, houses dug into the beach, still and hollow, crested with satellite dishes winking at the sea - an old man with saggy eyes leans on an abandoned fence post, picking his teeth.  I stop to read a little wooden sign hanging on a wooden door.  MUSEO.  The man slowly crosses the empty street and asks me for five pesos.  He slips the coins into his trouser pocket, pushes the door open and returns to picking his teeth, leaning his head inside and raising his eyebrows as if he has never seen the place before. 

The museum smells like pesticide and the fungus that grows beneath the photographs of those Indians who used to live here, photographs of people wearing hats, standing on the beach, smoking in the wind, photographs of people who wove baskets as big as caves and painted lines on their faces from one earlobe to the other, over their wide cheeks and flats of their noses because that is all they saw - horizon and the long line of the ocean beach, parallel waves and the long stretch of their days.


The Day Daddy Started Playing Banjo

I thought the kids would react the way they do to my banjo playing.  Instead, they said, about their daddy's playing, "We could get used to this."  And that was just a half hour after he picked up the thing for the very first time.  He scribbles notes in a journal he carries in his pocket.  That first day, he wrote 22 songs.