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TLDC cover imageThe lost daughter collective gathers on the top floor of an abandoned umbrella factory in the downtown of a mid-sized city. The group is composed of men who meet weekly to harness their mourning, a delicate practice best not undertaken alone. Along with the roomful of fathers, there is weak tea and a healthy supply of biscuits neither sweet nor tart. A rich store of tissues is hidden in nooks throughout the large, single-room loft that composes the thirty-third floor, out of sight so as not to invite tears. Despite this, crying often ensues, though most of the men use their sleeves.

The fathers categorize their lost daughters in two ways: dead or missing. A dead daughter is deemed a Dorothy, a missing one an Alice. Qualifying their lost girls in this way is a silently endorsed coping mechanism. When a new father arrives, no one need articulate the method of daughter-exit from his life. The others can tell whether he is the victim of a Dorothy or an Alice by the new father’s posture and gait. Father sorrow is best read through the mobile body.

dance-movie-full-cover-1-1170x1747This is a dance movie! Teenagers are dancing. They are popping, locking, tutting. The teenagers must stay loose, stay low to catch each step. To roll from beat to beat. The teenagers must be careful not to overemphasize the downbeat.

One teenager, a boy named Robert, is dancing down the street. Robert is practicing. He is snaking his arm. He makes it fluid: shoulder, elbow, wrist. Or tries. Several times. The audience feels his pain. The audience knows Robert must master this move. Robert and the other teenagers must win a competition. Robert, in particular, must win this competition in order to get a scholarship the girl laid. Robert must get laid. This is a dance movie!

Robert must get laid by a deadline. To win a bet? Possibly. In this way, this dance movie is also a teen sex comedy. Except this comedy isn’t so funny. Or maybe it’s funny. It’s sort of funny. Its funniness depends upon the audience’s appreciation for schadenfreude. The problem is Robert is likeable, making it harder to laugh at his expense. Or rather, likeable to certain viewers. Robert is likeable because he’s pretty, making him likeable to girls and gay boys, this movie’s target demographic. Most teen sex comedies are about ugly straight boys. Critics rave about these movies because, being ugly straight boys themselves, they identify with their protagonists.

eacoverInstead of sleeping, my new husband spends his nights out of doors, procuring animals for his next day at work: a basket of rabbits, a glass receiver of frogs, two pigeons, an owl, a dog, several tortoises, two cats. I never considered, but all of a sudden I notice, how Paris adores and despises its animals. In every home at least one pet, and courtyards are lousy with cows and hens, shit on stairs and stones. Paris loves animals more than it hates shit-covered stairs, and women would rather walk their dogs than their children. Not to mention shit is good business—sold to tanners by stooped ladies fighting with spoons over the biggest droppings. Meanwhile, the fanciest dog market at Saint-Germain-des-Prés jacks up prices, and ladies strut up and down Pont Neuf with their fluffy prizes. Regulating this surge in pets, a new law requires dogs to be muzzled, and a tax is announced—from one to ten francs depending on the breed. Now people just toss their animals in the river. So the first pound opens, rue de Pontoise, in the shadow of Notre Dame. Dogs are stuffed behind bars, then hanged or struck on the head. “Well bred, good looking” dogs are stored eight days, then sold back to the stalls, while “mongrels, or those without collars or breed,” live without food or water for three days, and are given to people like Claude who show up to take them. As with humans, “class is determined by breeding and partly by occupation.”

the-sleeping-world-cover-originalSpring 1977

Our final university exams were in two days. Grito would probably pass because despite everything, he’d been staying up and studying. La Canaria was sure to fail, and she’d get sent back to the Canary Islands, where they were rioting, and I’d have to deal with a blubbering Grito. As for myself, I just didn’t know.

We’d spent all semester protesting, gathering in the plaza and marching for the Communist Party, for democracy, for the legalization of divorce and abortion, for jobs, for anarchy, for anything except what we’d always known. Our dictator general finally dead and there would be democratic elections soon, the first in more than forty years, but we didn’t really know what they would mean. We’d stayed out all day, screaming and drinking, pinning the Communist Party’s hammer and sickle to our bags and jackets. La Canaria walked around with safety pins she’d stolen from her part-time job at La Reina Tailoring, and a couple of potatoes cut in half, offering to pierce anybody and anything.

51IKDORqGrL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Curiosity #84: Aztec volcanic rock sculpture, circa fifteenth century A.D., probably made for the temple of Tenochtitlan. An example of a traditional demon princess, or Cihuateteo, who escorts the sun from the underworld each morning, she wears a simple skirt, breasts bared, hair long and over her shoulders.

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The truth about Set is the truth about all ghosts: there is a weightlessness that keeps them fluttering, light as leaves—and in turn they are drawn down to instability, to the volatile, to cracks that open and can split whole mountains. To the volcanoes. Specifically, in Set’s case, to Lana Volcana.

That wasn’t her real name, of course, or even her screen name. But it was what they all called her after her breakout picture, Vera and the Volcano—a two-reeler about an island girl that sent her star up and up. LANA VOLCANA! the picture magazines screeched, with accompanying photographs of a dark-haired vamp in a grass skirt and clamshell top. The IT GIRL, the papers called her, a new kind of girl for these daring times. Filmstar Rag said she was the girl you don’t bring home to mama.

201303-orig-botw-goodman-284xfallThursday Night – John

Kidnap was not the right word. John had simply meant to take Clara to breakfast at the corner diner, where they had good poached eggs and were especially kind to babies. But in the end he couldn’t explain the inexorable pull, the electric thrum that made him rise from the bed, strangely untethered, and begin to shave with scalding water, or the innocence of his motive — he just wanted to be with her. He couldn’t describe the indefinite urgency that had propelled him. Yes, he took the baby with him, but she was his daughter.

PART ONE
tape 1, sides a & b
MAYOR

If you set aside love and friendship and the bonds of family, luck, religion, and spirituality, the desire to better mankind, and music and art, and hunting and fishing and farming, self-importance, and public and private transportation from buses to bicycles, if you set all that aside money is what makes the world go around. Or so it is said. If I wasn’t dying prematurely, if I wasn’t dying right now, if I was going to live to ripeness or rottenness instead of meeting the terminus bolted together and wrapped in plaster in the Madera Community Hospital, if I had all the time in the world, as they say, I would talk to you first of all about the joys of cycling or the life of the mind, but seeing as I could die any minute, just yesterday Dr. Singh himself said that I was lucky to be alive, I was unconscious and so didn’t hear it myself, Carmen told me, I’ll get down to so-called brass tacks.

Prologue: Going Home with the Poets

New York City on Sunday, December 11, 1994

Madeline and I are walking home from the Nuyorican Poets Café, where these people with lousy day jobs, like waitressing or temping or sometimes dealing, read their poems, which are always about having really good sex or being a black woman.

We go there on Friday nights, always Friday nights, and we fold our legs beneath us on wooden floors, sipping cheap drinks and sweating under bare bulbs that make the place look ghoulish.

Next to us, the poets. Ahh, the poets! People of mystery, of magic, of words. We know they write quatrains and couplets on paper napkins at cafés on Sunday afternoons, stirring lattes, buttering croissants, consuming raspberry tarts—oh, we envy them their free verse!

I have spent years going over our past, untangling memories from dreams, trying to pinpoint the exact moment when fate sealed. The easiest place to start is with the most blatant mistake: our mother, Jenny, kept the matchbooks in the junk drawer. Amongst paperclips and rubber bands, bent spoons and thumbtacks, the glossy sheen attracted the kitchen light, creating an irresistible enticement. The logos on the covers hinted at Jenny’s fairy-tale existence—the outline of a slender woman dancing, knee lifted high; two champagne flutes clinked together, surrounded by bubbles; a cartoon trout wearing a top hat and blowing a tuba. I loved to sound out the names: Blue Moon, Miranda’s, Larry’s Lagoon. But that’s where my interest stopped, with these little girl fantasies of my mother as a glamorous star.

There are three things that robots cannot do,” wrote Maxon. Then beneath that on the page he wrote three dots, indented. Beside the first dot he wrote “Show preference without reason (LOVE)” and then “Doubt rational decisions (REGRET)” and finally “Trust data from a previously unreliable source (FORGIVE).”

Love, regret, forgive. He underscored each word with three dark lines and tapped his pen on each eyebrow three times. He hadn’t noticed that his mouth was sagging open. He was not quite thirty, the youngest astronaut at NASA by a mile.

I do what robots can’t do, he thought. But why do I do these things?

Some Frozen Night

Madison, Wisconsin

 

He’s been drinking with this guy for a long time.

It’s good.

It was a rough day and this just sort of happened. The guy sat down and ordered a bourbon, neat, and after ten minutes of silence, the two of them saying nothing and drinking their drinks, looking up at the TV, they started to chat. First about the basketball game, then about campus, then about classes, then about the cold. Then women.

1.

According to my father, there are three types of necktie knots: the Windsor, the Half-Windsor, and the Limp Dick.

“Jeremy, I’d bet my hand,” he says, adjusting his seatbelt, “that every swinging dick at Byron Hall wears the Windsor.”

“Could you not talk about dicks first thing in the morning?”

“The ladies love masculine things,” he says, pinching his silver tie at the base of its knot.

“Dad, it’s an all guy high school.”

There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can’t do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.  —Kafka, Notebooks

 

Alex Stein: What do you think is “the world” of which Kafka writes? What do you make of what seems to be the slightly eroticized imagery with which it concludes? Could one call this aphorism pure sublimation? Simply the dream of an impotent? Where does one draw the line in looking to literary figures for answers or sustenance?

I lie under a stack of blankets. Day-old briefs hug my thighs. My fist makes a miniature vibrating tent of the knobby wool. I should get a life!

I’m due at the New York Hospital Fertility Clinic in half an hour. My Raleigh three-speed stands ready to hustle me to Sixty-Eighth Street and York Avenue, about as far across town as you can get from this one-room walkup at the corner of Fifty-Seventh and Tenth. Yes, I donate my semen. Though it isn’t exactly a donation. I get paid thirty bucks a shot, so to speak. I need the money and childless couples need…well, me. A pretty straight-forward transaction, you might say, with the added satisfaction of helping somebody out in a cosmic sort of way. Though I have a bad feeling about it sometimes, like this morning, the vague sense that I’m doing something wrong, and one day it’ll all catch up with me.

We were bound but not gagged; the wife wanted us to talk.  Her assistant had done the dirty work—jumped us in the street, knocked us out, transported us to wherever the hell we were, tied us tight to wooden chairs.  It was my day off.  I had been walking the Highline.  I heard footsteps behind me, turned, and everything went black.