my dreams are dogs that bite me

2nd half of 2015 uncollated personal humanity

August
I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to get an MFA in creative writing. I lived in a house in a graveyard across the river from campus. The first month was lost in novelty and huffing the rich scents of the one-time middle-four-figures stipend the university gave us to get set up in Alabama. I abandoned a lot of materiel when I left Cleveland at the end of July, silently essential implements like vacuum cleaners and incidental furniture, after abandoning a lot of material in Brooklyn. In leaving two places within one year, I abandoned or never occupied a sense of complete belonging. Not knowing where in the grocery store reside the things you want. More knowing where in the place you live reside the people and vortices that sustain you. It’s easy enough to proceed without a sense of belonging although it is also easy enough to drive a car until it runs out of gas.

September
Grandma died, went home for funeral. Got depressed re: alien corn, general feeling that life was a new pair of shoes that did not entirely fit. Participatory ethnography of bad habits, old and new. Continued making new friends. Wondered whether I was too old for any/all of this, determined that I had no practical options re reversing direction of space-time. Which led me to October.

October
Officiated wedding of friends. Basked in radiant practical operative love. Self-lectured about being in school to write and to put own ass in gear re personal implementations of telos re caulking seams in sense of self.

November
Like October but with Thanksgiving. Attempts at writing and being human continued with typical rate of success.

December
Stressed over emerging demands of grad school (it turns out you can’t just poke at a weird bunch of fiction and then get a graduate degree at the end, you have to do some actual thinking and working). Met emerging demands after some whining.

I wrote 30 postcards to my mother for her 60th birthday. My sister sent the other 30.

For three days I went to New Orleans. As I walked past a washeteria on Prytania Street, a man in a green shirt said a pinched high sweet accent “You can go on and do what you want but when we get you, this is what we’re going to do to your ass.” He wasn’t talking to me. New Orleans is broken/fixed, bones peeking through skin, beautiful/ugly &c. I want to go there again and fail to see everything again. I saw the jaw bone of a hog killed in self-defense by two Confederate soldiers near Port Hudson, Louisiana. I saw Jefferson Davis’s robe and slippers, and a crown of thorns that the Pope made by hand for the ex president of the Confederacy. I saw a hologram fridge magnet that showed Robert E. Lee knelt in prayer. I ate banh mi in a bleak strip mall. I lost $1 in a video poker machine in a cafe where I got Vietnamese iced coffee that tasted like butane. During the Vietnamese food interlude I received and transmitted information on the phone about my mother being in the hospital with abdominal pain, just two days after she turned sixty.

I drove back to Alabama and packed up my stuff in the graveyard house. For four days I looked after three old black dogs, aged 14, 14, and 12 years respectively. Dogs this old take very short walks. Sometimes dogs this old stop in the middle of very short walks and look at you with their rheumy eyes. I frequently ascribe human-wise thoughts to the expressions of dogs. When these dogs stopped in the middle of walks their eyes said I forgot what we were talking about.

The civil authorities of Western Alabama, even in the relative congestion of Tuscaloosa, have austere ideas about streetlight placement. On the dawn walks the sun pushed up behind the broad prairie of chain retail to the east of town/university and the sun helped me see where I was going and more importantly it helped me see the dog poop I was duty bound to collect per social norms. In the hasty December dusk, that same sun hurried out toward Mississippi. So I walked the black dogs in the dark. I had to bring my cellphone on the walks, to use its flashlight to discover the poops of my charges. Otherwise I went to the gym and watched Netflix and ate at Waffle House. The first time I went to Waffle House a strung-out lady came in at 6 am and asked for plastic bags. I finished dog-sitting and moved all my stuff into a new apartment which coincidentally is very close to the Waffle House. I subsequently ate there a second time, the third time in my life to date.

I drove back to Ohio in stages. I saw my sister and her family. I shopped at Ikea with money I would probably have done better to save. I drove on to Cleveland and looked at newspapers from 1836.