Generally Applicable

So it works this way people you thought were sturdy as birches

Not without bent trunks or thinned leaves

But long in uprightness

Fail within

Birch-like

 

In a wet summer

When mushrooms are everywhere

& your neighbors children

Dig with spoons

Down among the roots

Me, Mark Twain, My Blog, and the Chief Jeweler

My blog overtly known as Planet of the Blind has been “down” for almost a month. In a world of famine and violence my absence from the blogosphere is scarcely news. What is less than news but not quite gossip? Narrative poetry? The contemporary American novel? Even goodwill suffices as an answer.

If you went to my page, at least early in my hiatus, you’d have seen a message: “site undergoing maintenance.” It was a promising phrase—something was happening. “Maintenance” is a fine word. It comes from Old French meaning: “upkeep, shelter, protection” or “action of providing a person with the necessities of life.” The French “main” (hand) is in there. A helping hand.

This is a piddly tale—akin to Mark Twain’s story about entering a watch repair shop because he wanted to confirm the correct time while winding his pocket watch. Our motives are innocent and of course, that way tragedy lies. Here’s Twain’s opening:

My beautiful new watch had run eighteen months without losing or gaining, and without breaking any part of its machinery or stopping. I had come to believe it infallible in its judgments about the time of day, and to consider its constitution and its anatomy imperishable. But at last, one night, I let it run down. I grieved about it as if it were a recognized messenger and forerunner of calamity. But by and by I cheered up, set the watch by guess, and commanded my bodings and superstitions to depart. Next day I stepped into the chief jeweler’s to set it by the exact time, and the head of the establishment took it out of my hand and proceeded to set it for me. Then he said, “She is four minutes slow — regulator wants pushing up.” I tried to stop him — tried to make him understand that the watch kept perfect time. But no; all this human cabbage could see was that the watch was four minutes slow, and the regulator MUST be pushed up a little; and so, while I danced around him in anguish, and implored him to let the watch alone, he calmly and cruelly did the shameful deed. My watch began to gain. It gained faster and faster day by day. Within the week it sickened to a raging fever, and its pulse went up to a hundred and fifty in the shade. At the end of two months it had left all the timepieces of the town far in the rear, and was a fraction over thirteen days ahead of the almanac. It was away into November enjoying the snow, while the October leaves were still turning. It hurried up house rent, bills payable, and such things, in such a ruinous way that I could not abide it. I took it to the watchmaker to be regulated. He asked me if I had ever had it repaired. I said no, it had never needed any repairing. He looked a look of vicious happiness and eagerly pried the watch open, and then put a small dice box into his eye and peered into its machinery. He said it wanted cleaning and oiling, besides regulating -come in a week. After being cleaned and oiled, and regulated, my watch slowed down to that degree that it ticked like a tolling bell.

**

As for me, my nanoscale mistake was to imagine I could “un-point” my URL: www.stephenkuusisto.com from my WordPress blog—the aim was innocent as entering a jewelry store to check the time. I wanted to start a new blog project and Network Solutions, hereafter known as “the Chief Jeweler”—the company hosting my URL—said, “only one blog per URL holder” and then they convinced me I could disconnect my fortunate and altogether functioning blog and have it hosted somewhere else, thereby freeing space for my new project.

All seemed innocent enough until it became clear that my blog, uncoupled was incredibly hard to move. Moreover, once they unhooked it the entire design of “Planet of the Blind” essentially collapsed.

**

Do not do business with Network Solutions. I recommend Bluehost.

Three weeks and $400 later I’ve got my blog back. But Twain’s story is apt for my conversations with multiple Chief Jewelers at Network Solutions were largely hopeless.

What should have taken only minutes stretched into a merciless and dysfunctional shakedown.

**

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, in this case Iowa City, Iowa I’m writing a novel about the great opera tenor Enrico Caruso who discovers his voice has a persona and point of voice all its own.

Meanwhile I’m living like a hermit crab in a friend’s elegant downtown condo and walking around a midwest college town with my beautiful guide dog Caitlyn and soaking up good vibrations. Yesterday I saw a young woman talking to a tree and stroking its leaves. Iowa City is that kind of town.

Don’t play with matches. Don’t smoke in bed. Don’t do business with Network Solutions.

Do talk to trees if you’ve a mind.

 

Yellow Bird

I don’t know what you are—my world is necessarily impressionistic—I see and do not see as blind people often do. This morning, early, you were there, poised in mid-air like a dream face and though nothing in your life concerned me you were mine for all of ten seconds. You made the dull bones in my wrists come alive. Though I couldn’t see you, not precisely, I touched the window…

What Does Your Online Journal Smell Like?

There are as many opinions in the digital age as ways to share them and what’s a middling reader to do if keeping one’s wits applies? (Check here if they need not apply.) Me? I’ve always tried to read broadly, by which I mean across disciplines certainly, but also to gather whatever contradictory opinions may be, if not likable, at least understandable. In 1970, when I was fifteen, I subscribed to both the Nation and the National Review. I read them with a magnifying glass, holding them close to my one good eye. Their pages had an identical odor, cellulose and iodine, mouldering promised, a smell that even today can make me nearly weep, especially in libraries. You know the fragrance of hopelessness and shivered glucose. So you’re reading William Buckley or Leonard Bernstein with your left eye which hops like a sparrow and you have a good whiff of promissory decay and what the hell, you’re only a teenager, and already you know despair leaps right off the page.

The nose recognizes memento mori first. That was always its job. Printed ideas are invariably sad, even when they propose optimism. Sorrow was in the delivery system, if you will. And no honest writer can ignore it. It’s the olfactory gorilla in the room. I mean what I’m saying. There’s the architecture of mephitic despair—for instance, what did J.P. Morgan’s library smell like in 1902? Short answer? The vapors of sorrow.

What’s the odor of digital writing? There is none, of course, which is perhaps the greatest lie in the history of scribbling. Odor ye will always have, though it sneaks up later.

Which brings me to a new category of apprehension: writers who, in the electronic age, garner promissory stinks. They may not smell of dead pulp, but their ideas will pull you by the nose eventually. I don’t need to name names. Noses are plenty smart.

I read with my imaginary snoot.

 

The GOP, End Times, and Health Care

I think I’ve finally figured out what’s going on with the GOP. The party is now stuffed with men and a few women who believe the world is ending, perhaps owing to religious mania, or worse, as a nostrum of ambition, but regardless, they think we’re in the end times. Alarming though this may be, what’s worse is their concomitant belief that material wealth will accompany them to heaven. As far as I can tell, this is the only explanation that explains a party that’s doing everything it can to push a disastrous and cruel health care bill through Congress despite the clear objection of the majority of Americans. Traditional politics is out the window. It’s Looney Tunes time—“That’[s All Folks!” The Book of Revelations meets the Great Train Robbery. You can add eugenics, Social Darwinism, racial hatred, disdain for women, a general dislike of poor people and their children, but really these are just sprinkles on the ice cream. The truth is darker, colder, and really much more terrifying.

Yesterday I tested my idea on a friend who’s both a disability scholar and the father to a disabled son. “Well,” he said, “there’s one more thing—it’s not just that they think they can take their money with them, they imagine they’ll leave the rest of us behind to suffer in Hell.”

That’s pretty much it. Rinse. Repeat.