Thursday, May 30, 2013

Booking in Basel

I scrambled to pack for this weird trip to Basel. I am accompanying my father for a cancer treatment, watching him, nursing him, etc. What a time to read, right?

I struggled to bring books that were both absorbing and light, in both senses. I ended up with:
 The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Honored Guest by Joy Williams
The Skating Rink by Robert Bolano
Twin Time or How Death Befell Me by Veronica Gonzalez
Conjunctions 59: Colloquy (much less depressing than Conjunctions 60: In Absentia)

So far The Bloody Chamber was an, um, unfortunate choice. Angela Carter's psychosexual fairy tales might be great for a rainy night with a lover or enemy, but they are not so great for long nights spent in bed with your ailing Dad. Honored Guest is better so far, projecting a sense of strangeness, unease and hope that better suits my circumstances.

As for comics, the Cartoonmuseum Basel is closed for the time I am here. Boo. Anyone have tips for comics satisfaction in this town?

Friday, May 10, 2013

your public face is broken

One of the things that I promised myself when I started this blog was that I would never be afraid to write about the complete shittiness of depression or grief. If you are wondering why I would be afraid then you have never applied for a job knowing that you will be Googled. Or maybe you've never has so few good days that you don't want to ruin one by thinking about why you have so few good days.

Here are two amazing pieces, posted yesterday, on what happens when life is something you suffer through rather than live. Improvising a Bone Graft by poet Nikki Reimer is deft examination of public grief and private pain. Let's just say that I identify: I loved my brother with a fierceness that is not ashamed to stand howling and naked in the middle of the road, and what I miss is the material essence of him. The only thing in the world that I want, and can’t have, is my brother’s arms around my shoulders, his infectious laugh, his shit-eating grin, his middle finger pointed at me in response to sisterly teasing. His “jerkface!” in response to my “jackass!”

Depression Part Two by Allie Brosh is both a hi-lar comic and the most apt description of chronic depression I have ever read: Months oozed by, and I gradually came to accept that maybe enjoyment was not a thing I got to feel anymore. I didn't want anyone to know, though. I was still sort of uncomfortable about how bored and detached I felt around other people, and I was still holding out hope that the whole thing would spontaneously work itself out. As long as I could manage to not alienate anyone, everything might be okay!

You might want to read the first part first. Check the dates of the posts to get a sense of the cyclical devastation even those who are treated experience. Wait, that doesn't sound funny at all! I promise you will laugh (or at least approximate the sound with your mouth).

Monday, May 06, 2013

Meet me by the angel, or travel

30th Street Station will always be my favorite. I've looked at its soaring ceiling while waiting for my father to come home, while fleeing my brother's death, while trying to warm up or cool down on yet another journey. I am small and large, young and old in that place. In the midst of such transmigrations, I've got a lot of reading done in 30th Street.

Last time I was there, days ago, I decided to check out the station's bookstore. Though I was nicely prepared for my trip with a few issues of I Love Bad Movies and a copy of lost traveler Cookie Mueller's Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, I figured that I'd kill some time away from the ghost smell of McDonald's past. Amid the usual magazines and Victorian porn novels, the bookstore carries Tin House, displays Two Dollar Radio and other small pub books, and boasts a decent sci fi and short story section.

Debating whether to buy a (gasp! full-price) novel, I headed up to the counter, behind which the several staff members screamed catchphrases at one another in a jovial manner and avoided eye contact. Hmm. The door looked locked. "Are you closed," I asked. "Yeah," grunted the security guard.

After all, no matter how good the surprises, it is still Philadelphia.


A new thing that the New Jersey Transit train has been doing is being a time machine. Before every stop the speakers emit the strangled warble of a dial-up modem before announcing that you are not as close to your destination as you thought. No superhighway, then or now.


It is no secret that the anachronistic nature of train travels is part of the appeal. Despite today's florescent lights we can all be an incognito heiress or a man on the run on the train from big city to bigger city. There are always people to watch. If you are lucky, layovers include not only a reasonable bathroom but also food made by a human. The newly remodeled (well, new in the timeline of government and memoir) Trenton train station has both of those things. Despite my love of old things, I am so glad that the former Trenton transit center is gone, taking all of those chicken grease, brown-lit, bad boyfriend memories with it.