jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Whiskey opened, loud Lucinda Williams, and I am hollering along in my native accent. Out of years of good kitchen training, my hair is in pigtails to make sure it is not a special added ingredient. Basically, there is a demented southern Pippi Longstocking in the kitchen, yodeling and knife-waving. Yah freakin hoo!

The sweet potatoes are cooked, mashed, sweetened up then spiked down with whiskey and dressed with pecans.

The sweet dressing is prepped--cornbread (no, I cheated and did not make it. but I could. so there), more celery, almonds, apples, apricots and figs, all cubed and bagged. They did not have dried cherries at the grocery store at the other end of my neighborhood, and I hiked all the way there almost specifically for that.

I did not mind all the hiking around this afternoon to get stuff. I grinned like a fool, even though it was spitting rain and sometimes little hailish stuff. I even grinned like a fox eating peanut butter out of a wire bristled brush at the skells hanging out at the liquor store, because, you know, I am just so happy to be here.

Next up: fabulous carrots!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I even grinned like a fox eating peanut butter out of a wire bristled brush..." Nice. Go buy the printer. Put it on paper. What you're doing is more than blog, more than soul-searching or self-shredding. I found my way here by accident, but I keep coming back because every time I click out I think, "Damn! I wish I'd written that." (Okay, so I'm also a little curious to find out how the Remue-Menage subplot turns out.) Maybe it's just me, but I want the whole Oklahoma-gothic story, author photo on the back. (Yeah, I'm curious about that too.) All that running-until-I-bleed stuff sounds like novel avoidance to me. You want pain? Try "Chapter One." We'll all be glad you did.

9:47 AM  
Blogger ttractor said...

well, now YOU are a sub-plot! Who the heck are you?

I may be avoiding a novel. I know people who write, and I can't really wrap my head around making up a whole world. Neither do I want to do an embarassingly-thinly-diguised memoir, whore myself all out in one go and be left with nothing.

How and whether to present the contents of my head to the world is a set of questions I am working my way through. Thank you for the encouragement. As my father would say "the nail that sticks up will be hammered down" and I have been hammered plenty.

And hey, I run until I vomit! And my toenails fall off! And my bronchii shut down! There is no blood involved here! sheez.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, no subplot. Wish I were. Just an anonymous reader/fan. You ARE making up a world, though, or at least making your world come into focus in flashes of perception. I'm not sure a thinly-disguised memoir would be whoring, even if it feels that way sometimes when you live in New York and everybody seems to be hawking their story. We read because we need those voices to remind us that we're in this thing together, and you're really good at that. I don't read this blog because I know you. I read it because sometimes you write like a demented, knife-waving Pippi Longstocking who broke into the whiskey and other times you write like Virginia Woolf. I'm actually happy that you're writing it, because I enjoy reading it. The whole novel thing may have played itself out in our culture anyway. (I'm a midcareer novelist, so that sound you just heard was me sighing.) And it wouldn't surprise me if you've found the new literary form in this kind of sequential autobiography. (Ask Dr. S. about that.) But sometimes writing out of and away from the self can allow you to say the unsaid, even the unspeakable. Sorry to hear about the hammering. I've gathered that from some of your entries, including today's. They do a good job of that in Oklahoma, in my experience. And also in New York. But I can't help thinking as I read that there's more to the story. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. (Southern boy, so that whole demented, knife-waving Pippi thing gets me right in the heart. Nothing like a messed-up Southern girl with a knife!) Sorry about the toenails, too. Been down that road, just not that far. So just take this as encouragement: I'd probably want to read whatever you chose to write.

12:15 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

well, holy flying monkeys. That's just about the nicest thing I've heard all day. And from a real, live actual writer person. Thank you angel stranger.

I guess I should read Virginia Woolf now? Which where?

I am just now reading Annie Dillard for the first time, "For the Time Being" and I like it sliver by sliver inching towards what I don't know but I trust this stranger to get me there.

How do you take your grits?

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read Mrs. Dalloway, for the way she walks around the city making it ugly-pretty with her eyes. Annie Dillard's good readin' too.

I don't do grits any more. Been there, done that. I live where it snows now, so the landscape matches my cold, cold heart.

11:35 AM  
Blogger ttractor said...

oh, you know what? no-one here is a subplot. They are all people, not characters. Me included. I was being playful, but I don't want to be careless and hurt anyone. Me included.

"we are in this thing together" which thing are you meaning?

I am not afraid to speak my unspeakable, I just hate to see the way someone's face crumples in pain when I do. I am not convinced it is necessary even it may be important. If that makes any sense.

OK, Mrs. Dalloway, next on deck.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right. There are no subplots, only people. That was my snark, so no need to take responsibility for it.

By this thing we're all in, I just meant life, consciousness, all that solitary mirror-work of the self that makes us want to hear someone else's voice. What I find interesting about the few blogs I read is the way the self gets whispered amid all the louder sounds of the narrated life. I don't know you, but I want to hear what you say, mainly because it's well-said, but also because what you see as faces crumpling in pain we experience as empathy, that sensation of that heart going out to someone which makes us human. I look at Beggs, OK in your photo, and I wince a little at that landscape, but I'm glad to know, and I'm glad young ttractor is heading down that road, wherever it leads. Suffering in silence doesn't build character; all it builds is silence. I'd rather hear the words. It doesn't have to be the unspeakable. (Sorry if I seemed to be demanding that you sing all the old songs.) Sometimes just the perceptions on the subway are enough. It's good to know there's someone seeing it all.

4:47 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

the encouragement is gentle and greatly appreciated. I would be happy to hear critique as well, although since I am, um, unschooled, I guess, I am not sure I would really understand or be able to change (like, it sounds like Virginia Woolf--I guess that's good? but I don't know what it means...)

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm guessing you understand plenty. Slickaphonic and Dr. S are right about the silk spoon line; it's beautiful, and the fact that it's been hanging around for a while, waiting for the right context, suggests that if you are, um, unschooled, then you've got a natural gift. So no critiques from me. You're doing just fine on your own. And yes, the comparison to Virginia Woolf is good. It's about a clarity of perception, seeing the small details, and then rendering them in language that seems to breathe and speak on its own. Have you heard the old line that when artists get together they talk about money, and when businessmen get together, they talk about art? I'm not sure it's true about businessmen anymore, but in my experience, writers who have been "schooled" spend most of their time talking not about writing, but about who's publishing where, who's gotten what grant or review or teaching job, all the stuff that's about success or failure in the world, not in the words. Sounds like you hang out with writers. (Nonprofit person, maybe? Grants? Just guessing.) Does that strike you as true? My point is that what really matters is what you write and what you read, who speaks to you and who you speak to, those moments when the words cut through all the daily noise and touch your life. I've only written to you once before (I sent you a Hopkins poem a while back), and I probably won't jump in as a regular in your comment box, because I kind of like being the anonymous reader who only speaks up to tell you when you've said something that touched me. You do that a lot, so I hope you'll just take the praise, tuck it away for some moment when you need it, and keep going in whatever form makes sense to you. Sounds to me like you're in it for the long run, or at least until your toenails fall off, so I'll just keep reading and see where it leads you.

9:36 AM  
Blogger ttractor said...

I swerved away from making art when I was much younger because I did not think what I had to say was worth the ferocious battle to be heard, and I had no faith I would be heard in a way that made sense to me and I did not want to grow bitter and hoarse from screaming into the void. So thank you very much for emerging from anonymity to make comment. There is so much I would want to address in what you are writing here, but I don't want to keep drawing you out in a way you find too exposing. I will miss you when you re-submerge.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm happy to keep talking. And it's not really a fear of exposure that makes me post anonymously. Anonymous really is my name. Seriously, my parents had a weird sense of humor. But I guess it makes it easier to publish...

Actually, I just can't think of a user name that doesn't sound like a superhero in some odd universe where all the villains spell poorly. And I have too many names already. But I also can't figure out this whole business of commenting on another person's life. I just want to encourage you to keep writing, because you do it well. Anonymity allows me to say that without feeling like I'm asking for anything from you in return.

You're right that it can be a ferocious battle to be heard, but I don't really think that's a reason not to make art. I assume that people will only hear my voice by accident, like the accident that first brought me to your site as a reader. I once drove across the plains in an old car with a radio that couldn't hold a station, and it struck me that all we ever get from each other are a few words before we pass out of range. But that just makes it all the more important to speak truly (or tell really good lies), since that moment could be the one when somebody is listening and needs to hear it. I agree that making art can sometimes feel like screaming into the void, but for me it's the art that makes the void go away.

12:18 PM  

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