Sunday, November 20, 2011

goodbye, t.

it's sad that only with something like this do we appreciate the fragility of life. but what do you do with that knowledge?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Urban Archaeology!

While putting some textiles away after an exhibit, I noticed what appeared to be child graffiti on the bare plaster walls of a small closet underneath the stairs. I pushed the dozens of dusty tablecloths back to find signatures, a crude drawing of the British flag, the alphabet in a wobbly cursive, and other apparently random scribbles. One of the signatures, in a child's pencil scrawl, was "Selma".

Selma Goldberg lived in the house from 1897 to 1904. I was VERY excited to see this name after having spent my summer researching her family. She was a little girl when she lived in this house, prime age to be hiding under the stairs and tagging up secret places.

What was more exciting, and strange, was that none of the museum staff knew about the writings. Oooh discovery! Although I felt like - really, guys? You've never skulked around inside of the closets...? Because that was basically my first move after taking this position. Phone flashlight in the closets, and open all the books. That closet is the only place in the house that wouldn't have been refinished or painted or stripped in some way over the years or during the renovation. The place has been a museum for 35 years, so the director checked the archives for any mention of the scribbles during the renovation or after - nothing. People had to have noticed them, but the "Selma" inscription is very hard to see in the dark, and that's what gives the scribblings a little more relevance and gravity or age.

I might not have thought to look for anything in an understairs closet if we didn't have one in my childhood home, and if I hadn't written in a few closets myself. Secret inscriptions are apparently a big historic homes "thing," but no one knows about that sort of thing here because we have so few of them.

Top says Hattie, with Selma below. I need to figure out who Hattie was.

This says Annie. There was a young girl by the name of Annie living in the house beginning in the nine-teens.

The alphabet in a childlike but stylized cursive scrawl.

Fat, rat, cat, carved into the inside of the doorframe. This kind of reminds me of that period after kids become comfortable forming letters into words, and start writing on everything.

Another interesting detail, noticed after emptying the closet and crawling inside with a lantern, was that all of the undersides of the stairs are numbered. The staircase came in three pieces from somewhere on the east coast, and each step was apparently numbered for ease of assembly. The lettering is so period and fancy, an amusing secret construction detail.

It is interesting to think of simple workaday details being around for GENERATIONS after you are dead. The guy who wrote his fancy "N" on each plank - did he think someone would ever be interested in that? Or that those letters would ever be seen? Of course not! And now it's on the internet. It's something living people rarely think about, or I assume. I used to frame pictures in little galleries around town, and it kind of weirds me out to think that things that I put together and possibly designed will be in someone else's family for god knows how long. We used to sign everything we did. Sometimes people were rude. Will some kid one day turn a frame over and wonder, was my great-grandfather a dick, or were the initials of the person who assembled this really "FU"?

I'm not sure why I think it's weird that our belongings will outlive not only us but the memory of us, particularly since half of my shit used to belong to other people I have never met. How fucking strange is that? Anyone who loves antique things has to deal with this. The hand mirror I use every day to check if the back of my hair is a rat's nest is a 100+ year old stray from an ebony vanity set. I passed on the bristle brush. Can't help but wonder about whatever girl may have had this thing first.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Great article about self-control/determination vs. talent when it comes to success. I've learned a lot about myself in this last year, but I have to say that most of it I seem to have already known, but ignored. Bad sentence, see if I care. I think I have below-average self control (I can justify anything as necessary mental health concessions), but enough dogged fixation on my goals to compensate for it somehow. It also helps when goals = pleasures. What I am doing now is what I would do if money wasn't a question. In fact, money has nothing to do with me, and that's the way I like it. Yeah, there's a footnote, it's called STUDENT LOANS and ask me about it in ten years if you want to but I'll probably slap your face.

Rupert Everett is my new favorite person, ever. He's so cheeky and funny and sassy and charming and funny! This is an insightful, unusual documentary about the travails of Byron.

An article about the fluctuating dress sizes of Marilyn Monroe. I have a few comments about this. One, from whence comes this desire to call her fat? Are people trying to dislodge the pedestal she's on? Get over it, hypocrites. Of course Elizabeth Hurley thinks she's fat. Elizabeth Hurley is also shaped like Jarvis Cocker. Next, the comments. The inability of women to find suitably flattering clothing in the mass-production market is no surprise to me, but it is both heartening and irritating to see how prevalent the problem really is. Women are expected to fit into one of five generic sizes, which are all basically the same size, but larger, with no consideration for proportion. The hourglass figure, so prized (once), is actually a fucking nightmare to dress.

Conclusion! I am going to become a tailor in my free time. Once I master this, I will make my own fitted clothing. I took my great-grandmother's sewing box out today and hemmed a pair of pants (with instructions from the internet) by hand. Not fucking around! This is one of those things that I will end up doing instead of reading books for expensive classes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Wilde

I cried at the gym last week. It surprised me so much that I laughed immediately after, adding an essential tinge of "crazy" to the spectacle (not to worry, no one saw), and why all the fuss?
Because Oscar Wilde died!

I listen to stories, interviews and programs at the gym because it's the only way I can distract my brain long enough to allow me to stay there longer than 20 minutes. This time I was listening to the excellent Omnibus Wilde biography, but suddenly lost my shit at the end when the lonely and bitter hotel death is being discussed, and it's pointed out that Michael Bracewell is sitting on the bed in which Wilde died. That was too much for my Tuesday elliptical session and I found myself sniffling and blinking furiously. It's too pure proof of sadness and brutal loss in the world that the bed that he died in still exists! Can be touched and seen and slept in like any other bed even though it's some sort of horrible portal. Also raw to see old toothless and wavering Shane McGowan quote him and comment on his life like an old friend.


I'm like this all the time now, brimming over about any pet interest. I think it's a byproduct of getting rid of my horrible prior occupations and being surrounded only by that which I want to be near. Like emerging from a dark room into noonday sun, it's almost too much, and I find myself feeling intensely sympathetic, sentimental and moved by the things that I love. I remain cooly ambivalent about everything else.

Like I said, really excellent biography. And yes, Stephen Fry is in it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Asylum Suitcases

So amazing. A New York asylum catalogued and stored the suitcases new patients brought with them from 1910 to the 1960s, and there they remained until having been recently discovered.

They were stored with all of their contents and it sounds like the patients never had access to their things again. They are the amazingly preserved, intact time capsules of people who were removed from society to rot away in unknowable circumstances. A photographer has started a project to document the cases and all of their contents.

I can't believe how new some of these items still look! I guess it's a product of being shut away from light and air forever. This is interesting on a lot of levels. I love old forgotten things that haven't been touched in ages. The connection between "then" and "now" seems much stronger with those secret little things locked away for decades or more.

It's also interesting to see the things these people chose to bring with them. As the photographer says, the asylum was for people with chronic mental illness; they probably never left the facility once they went in. These are days when mental illness was poorly understood and poorly treated. Rosemary Kennedy, shock treatment, the freakish regularity of lobotomies! This asylum was probably a really unfortunate place to be.

I have a few favorite suitcases.


This one held a zither! Remember the crazy music from The Third Man? Zither music. Weird, carnivally. Rad.

NPR article on the project

Jon Crispin's blog

La Llorona

La Llorona! My cousin told me she would rise in a mist from the canals in Phoenix looking for children to steal away into the water. ay dios mio.

This song isn't about the same weeping woman, though. I love love JB singing in Spanish.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Hey, these are easy to make!

I took this from an old etching I saw somewhere on the internet. I wanted to do something monochromatic. Now I want to learn to embroider Mexican dresses but it'll take me a year to finish one.

Not pictured: I learned to make flowers out of tissue paper! Finally! All these years. I had to learn so I could show some kids, who already knew how. whatever.

I heard this song on 8tracks the other day for the first time in years. It was somehow familiar and sweet even though I decided I didn't like him before. He has a song called "Sylvia Plath" and the lyrics are so retarded that I guess I just stopped liking him then and there. DON'T MESS.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wallace & Ladmo

I didn't realize how ridiculous and adult the bits on Wallace and Ladmo were. I caught the tail end of this show's run and my remembrances on it are as such:

-I hated/was afraid of Gerald
-I preferred the cartoons
-My cousin went on the show with her brownie troop and won a Ladmo bag. She was slightly older and bratty and mean to me. She used to make me let her open my presents! Anyway, I considered her getting a Ladmo bag to be proof of the end of all reason and fairness in the world. Turns out - maybe right.

Wallace and Ladmo was a famous local children's show that ran for over 30 years, ending in 1989. Children were obsessed with the Ladmo bag prizes. Some of the first-person narratives I've read about them are still filled with exhilaration or deep bitterness re: who did and didn't get a bag. I'm sure you can ask any Arizona native between the ages of 30 and 50 only for them to smash their fist into their palm and complain about not getting this brown paper bag full of posters and candy. My re-interest was piqued by an exhibit at the Mesa Historical Society. It was pretty all right, but the Lehi School building that MHS is in is a lot more interesting than the museum itself.


"Aunt Maude's stories never turn out the way you expect."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dia de los Muertos

Poor sweet brilliant OFOFWW. Crushed utterly by life but resurrected just like someone else we know. Except Oscar's story is real. ZOW!


And if you're so clever, then why are you on your own tonight?