Saturday, December 31, 2016

Little Miss Sunshine's gonna steal herself some shadow.

Dear Princesses,

I was driving away from Los Angeles when I heard Carrie Fisher had died.  I always feel a bushel of maternal protectiveness for Hollywood damsels who become emblematic of what society thinks about women; living martyrs, consumed by our voracious appetite for symbol.  I did not love her right away, though, because I am suspicious of popular things, and I never want to read the best sellers, dance to the number one records, or see the big films until the hoopla has left the building. 

And so, I grew to love Carrie Fisher slowly: I saw her in Star Wars six years after it was released (see above).  I loved that she was a wise acre, I loved that she was a writer, and I loved that she married a musician for only a matter of months.  I loved that she crawled out of her own hell, over and over, because everyone does, or doesn't.  I loved that her fame was a hairshirt for her.  I imagined meeting her and telling her it was okay; she was all right with me, no matter what, with or without Star Wars and metal bikinis and addiction.  Yes, she was all right with me, just for trying to be herself in the first place.

Here are two songs to contemplate:  Carry on my wayward daughter, and she moves on.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Edge.

Dear Combers,

Call it the playa, shore, seaside, plage, strand, or lido; the beach is the liminal space between the sea and the land.  A twilight where two worlds collide.

I once lived near the beach- at night, and on calm days, one could hear the breakers.   You could see the water from just one window, in the small bathroom.  The bottom half of the window was a pebbled 'privacy' glass, but taller people looked over the white wood sash and the roofs of the houses to the sea and an oblong of sky, criss-crossed by telephone lines.  The delightful thing about a window view like this is that you go to it purposely to look out; it isn't the view from the sofa, it requires a small pilgrimage to see it.

The beach is most glorious in tempest, or dark, or fog, or howling wind.  It is most raw and authentic on grey or stormy days.  I would walk to the beach at night, in damp drizzle, and it was perfect; it held no one, reflected only my enormous solitude and sense of self.  This is the thing about what is sometimes called loneliness- it is you, this feeling, it is you at your most expansive, most real, most true, most small, most fearful, and most at one with the world. 

You will hear, often, on these squinting bright days, with a limitless and textureless blue sky, a bubble of homogeneity; that it is a 'beautiful day at the beach.'  Zounds, how little we desire!   It isn't at its best in that glare at all, it is at its best in the weather of human discomfort and difficulty: in the dynamism of wind, wet, and dark. 


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Holiday Set

Book, Jasper Johns, 1957

Green Target, Jasper Johns, 1955.

Dear Red and Green,

A short set of Xmas songs for you today on Radio Dodo:  one, two, three, and four.  All my best wishes!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Solstice Pledge

Dear Armchair Cannonballers,

Will you just look at this!  So terrific.  Shall this be our goal for 2017?  It is aiming mighty high, considering I have taken just three trips to the skatepark to date.  Still, let it be our goal, but let's agree that reaching it is not important, and trying it is the only thing that matters.  You know I have been working at the jump and rotate 180 on the flat now for well over a year.  My turns are not video-worthy, or consistent, and they are very s-l-o-w.  What do I do about discouragement?  Look around, and think of this song.  One more time.

Hop Right Into My Car

Dear Gadabouts, Gallivanters,Wayfarers, Vagabonds and Nomads,

Have you been thinking of traveling?  I have, and wouldn't it be nice to go in style, with all the things you need right there with you.  There is a story of a snail, by Leo Lionni, where the young snail is cautioned by his father not to desire too big of a shell.  The snail's shell got me thinking about the song for today, and about gypsy vardos, and Happier Campers.

Here is a place you can go and stay in a gypsy vardo.

Here is a Happier Camper.
(Too busy to go to the library?  Click here.)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Date Nails


Dear Friends,

Pop quiz:  What is a date nail?

They might be a thing we might hammer into the days we love the best, the ones we don't want to lose, to forget.  They could be a pin for the dates to come, a marker for the future.  They could be something even less probable, a nail to get the pit out of a date.  Or, they could be saved fingernail clippings from the first dates of paramours, which might be saved in in special date nail lockets.

What they really are though, are nails with a date stamped on their heads, to mark when a railroad tie or utility pole was installed or erected.  Have a look at part of a really large collection of date nails, from the galleries of the Western American Railroad Museum in Barstow, California.













If you are thinking (as I am) 'hey, how can I get a piece of this action?'  Try this site for some advice.
See you on the tracks, Jack! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Dear Menschen,

I was talking to woman I know, and she used a German phrase that is used to refer to someone who always has to be right.  I have been looking for this phrase, and, as usual, I found some things I wasn't even looking for, and decided to give them to you, too.  Here they are.  Take this waltz, too.

Oh yes, and I think the woman I know said:  immer Recht behalten. 

Monday, December 12, 2016


Dear Birders,

Here's one for your life list, to which you must now add all of the prehistoric birds formerly known as dinosaurs.  We are going to need a bigger field guide, my friends!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Charmed, I'm sure.

The Smiling Spider, 1891, Odilon Redon.

Dear Miss Muffet,

I lead an utterly charmed life-  I step out the door, only to have the birds sing out their message, just for me!  I turn up my stereo too loud, and the people sing along!  I bumble along at work, and a friend treats me to lunch!  I read my email, and there is this wonder of the world!

Spiders, kiss your homes goodbye, I am coming to take your webs for substrates.  This elaboration of our current symbiosis (you make the webs, I let the flies in the door) hampered by my occasional disturbance of your homes could be a beautiful thing.  Instead of just casually and heartlessly dusting and vacuuming your webs away, I could tenderly lift, layer, and mount them.

I imagine my spider web painting will be a very simple color study, with a several small, infinitesimal, even, spiders on it.  In soft blue and lilac, with a warm charcoal grey of complexity for the arachnids.  I hope the tiny weavers will be pleased by it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016



Dear All,

Are you getting my pencils?  I am leaving them for you all over the place- in hotel drawers, piling knot holes, in chinks between bricks.  In banquette seats, in bar loos, in sandwich shop pen jars.  In museums, on planes, on ships, in canoes.  In bowling alleys, in skate rinks, in cinemas.  Gas station johns, park picnic tables, school desks, ocean piers.  Seat back pockets on buses, pushed into the soil of potted plants, balanced on walls in car parks.  I hope you will use them in very good health!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Somewhere on the Road Between Taciturn and Misanthropic;

Dear Goodman and Goodwoman,

I am prepared to address the issue of adult coloring books.  I have struggled with their meaning, their message in the visually clotted and choked world of the now, but I have found something to say about them that is honest and long-considered:  If it keeps 'adults' off the streets, then I am all for it.  A  beautiful world could be built around adults quietly tending their daily coloring duties.  There would be no strife, surely, if all would focus on that tiny sliver of blue to be filled in at the antler's tip.  Yes, an adult coloring book in every adult pair of hands; this is our utopia.  Amen to that.

On the other hand, which may or may not be holding a felt tip pen, these kinds of books are perhaps too coddling?  Are they actually the self-driving car in disguise?  What soma is this mania, anyway?  I know, I know, one 'can't draw, not even a stick figure,' but, is one likely to get better at drawing filling in these little bubbles?  Didn't people used to say that free spirits would 'color outside of the lines?'  Maybe I imagined it.  Maybe just filling in the blanks is what we are here for: Age.  Sex.  Affiliation.  Nationality.  Descent.  Race.  Income.

Oh dear! I always stray beyond 'taciturnity' and end up right in 'misanthropy.'