This week has been full of
- Seemingly endless shopping for supplies at the Dollar Tree and Fred Meyer: measuring spoons, alka seltzer, baking soda, white vinegar, corn starch, half-and-half, plastic zip lock bags…
- Playing in the fountain in downtown Hillsboro and getting head-to-toe soaking wet, much to the delight of the kids
- Breaking up a fight started by this foster home kid who’d entered this obstinate Beserker rage that reminded me of the Bloodwrath of the badgers from Salamandastron in the Redwall novels.
- Life-saving yoga classes in the evening on Alberta street.
- Dodging and praying not to run into Max ticket officers. It’s like clockwork: I don’t buy one, I get checked, I buy one, I’m never checked. I’m just waiting for Laura to get back from Montana so she can help me arrange having one of her college student housemates buy me one for 1/2 the price.
- Dealing with the wrath of the kitchen lady (NEVER borrow a kitchen lady’s garbage can, and then forget to return it.)
- Daily 6AM wake-ups.
- Missing Corey, in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker until Thursday.
- Missing talking to my sister about stupid stuff.
- Getting tons of e-mails now from Kiva. The internship has officially begun. It’s both exciting and a little scary at the same time. Another new chapter and crazy adventure is coming up here pretty soon…
- Half-heartedly applying for part-time jobs, even though I really really enjoy my current schedule of 30-35 hours per week. I have yet to work the “standard” 40-hour a week job; those hours sound so crazy and soul-sucking to me…
- Learning to play “Once Upon a Dream” from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty movie on the keyboards, as well as playing the babyfied version of Moonlight Sonata over and over and over and over again.
- Getting helped out by A., probably the Club’s biggest problem child, while making ice cream (he helped bring ice cubes from the kitchen). VICTORY! Small steps! Small steps!
- Never-ending program planning and refining. Animal Camp is next week for 10-12 year olds and it’s been a nightmare to plan for, especially after the two field trip places I had lined up canceled on me. Groan…
I’ve also been reading Arlt’s The Seven Madmen, the 1984 edition translated by Naomi Lindstrom. (Arlt is really ripe for a rippingly good, modern-day translation, in the style of “The Savage Detectives” or Elizabeth Grossman’s “Don Quixote.”) I’ve only read Part I, but some stuff has really stood out for me. In Piglia’s Respiracion artificial, one of his characters has a long rant about how Arlt is a bad writer, but how that’s ok (it goes much more in depth than that). But yeah, that was definitely my first impression of this novel: I could never have gotten away with using some of these similes in the few creative writing classes I took. Take this gem of a sentence: “He felt each spasm of grief hopping like an owl from branch to branch in his misery.” (25) How visual is that? Or how about this one: “Like a horse with its guts torn out by a bull, mucking around in its own viscera, every step he took drained his lungs of their lifeblood.” (17) O dear.
Strangely enough, the book this has reminded me the most of is Fight Club. The main character, Erdosain, is fired from his dead-end job as a bill collector for embezzling six hundred pesos and seven centavos on the same day that his wife leaves him for a creepy dude called El Capitan. In order to get the money he needs to avoid jail, as well as refind structure and sense to his life, he turns to a strange figure called the Astrologer, who is this book’s Tyler Durden mastermind character. The Astrologer has this ridiculously convuluted plan that is never clear: we’re not sure if it involves the Ku Klux Klan or Lenin-loving Marxists. In the words of the book cover summary, his plan is “a terrorist conspiracy to help the unemployed that will lure workers to mountain stronghold factories and enslave them. For start-up capital, a chain of bordellos is proposed. To finance these, the murder of Erdosain’s wife’s rich cousin is planned.” Believe me, it’s never made as clear as all that.
The main character, Erdosain, reminds me of a hero from a novel by Camus or Satre, bringing way back to memories of middle and high school days of me lying on my stomach on my bed reading dusty, battered books pulled out of my parents’ shelves, based on how interesting the cover art looked to me, as well as the novel’s fame (Nausea, the Stranger). On page 6, Erdosain is already asking of himself, “What am I doing with my life? What kind of soul do I have? What have I made of my life?” (6-7, 12) That ought to be the first indication that this novel isn’t going to be your regular, run-of-the-mill crime caper or pulp fiction that Arlt supposedly adored.
Anyway, in the one of his ponderings, Erdosain makes an interesting point:
“I’m nothing in everyone’s eyes. But still, if tomorrow I throw a bomb or murder Barsut, [his wife’s rich cousin] suddenly I’m everything, the man who exists, the man for whom generations of criminologists have prepared punishments, jails, and theories… That’s really weird! And yet, only crime can affirm my existence, just as evil is all that affirms the presence of man on earth.. Really, this is all so weird. Still, despite everything, there is darkness and mankind’s soul is sad. Infinitely sad. But that can’t be how life is. If tomorow I figured out why that can’t be how life is, I’d pinch myself and disinflate like a balloon spewing out all these lies I’m filled with.” (81)
Depressingly enough, this reminded me of the whole Michael Jackson debacle. I can’t believe how swiftly news of the frontlines of Iran has been banished from headlines to make room for story after story of a dead entertainer (the L.A. Times receives a particularly big FAIL in this regard–I mean, I know it’s L.A., but come on! Seriously?). Also, somewhat depressingly, this passage made me think of some kids where I work. It’s tough dealing with troubled individuals from what are defnitely some very messed-up home lives, because so much of your time and energy and attention and focus goes into trying to prevent these kids from having one of their explosive temper tantrums or freakouts (or calming them down when they do). This summer, it feels like there’s just been an explosion of eccentric individuals (all worthy of their own novel) at the workplace. Isn’t it weird how, in the end, these are the kids who seem to “exist” the most strongly for me, the ones who take up my daytime time and attention to the point where they’ve even started making appearences in my dreams?
The other thing the novel touches upon that I found interesting (which I won’t write about too much now because it’s nearing 10:30 and I’m exhausted and need to get to bed) is the characters’ search for truth and (in Erdosain’s own words) that wonderful phrase, “the meaning of life.” Ha! Let me end this with a quote from the Astrologer:
“In the old days we could have taken refuge in a monastery or traveled to unknown and marvelous lands. But today you can eat a morning sherbet in Patagonia and be eating bananas in Brazil in the afternoon. [This book was published in 1929, mind you.] What are we supposed to do? I read a good deal, and believe me, in every book from Europe now I find that same undercurrent of pain and bitterness you describe in your own life.” (87)