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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



Travelling Into Dangerous Territory

Jim woke me up Wednesday morning by turning up the radio as it reported the World Health Organization's travel warning about Toronto. You see, I'm booked to fly to Toronto on Tuesday. All morning at work he sent me a barrage of emails, forwarded news stories, warnings, etc. Friends have been appalled that I'm still going, forwarding those same news stories. Rumours fly that things are worse in Toronto than reported, people are talking about not attending a convention that's held over the Labour Day weekend, it's SARS SARS SARS.

I'm already tired of talking about it. About how the Center for Disease Control, whom you'd think would be more worried than the World Health Organization given that the U.S. is right next door to Canada and has already dealt with some cases brought into the U.S. from Canada. About how my acquaintances in Toronto think it's all paranoia, and everything is running as usual there, though people are staying away from Chinatown and occasionally you see people wearing masks on the subways or in the streets.

I'm still going, as I was invited and I promised to come, and I'll lose a big chunk of money I can't afford to lose if I don't go. And I'm looking forward to a couple of nights away, though I'm going to be so sick of flying soon I'll be ready to scream. Did I mention that I'm going to visit Christina in Turkey and Bulgaria the last week of May and first week of June? That's a 15-hour flight there and a little longer back. Sigh.

In other news, this was a busy week, full of meetings and commitments. I had a lovely quiet weekend planned. On Friday our neighbours invited us for dinner if I would help them with their computer a little. Nothing was wrong, they just wanted to learn how to work with something.

So we had a lovely dinner, and the next day I went over to help. Showed them how to do what they wanted to do, then since they were worried about viruses, decided to set up their virus program to scan the disc every time they shut down. Ran a scan as part of it, and discovered some weird files I couldn't remove any way I tried, nor could I really find them. Their wouldn't boot up using Norton Utilities, and when I ran the scan from the usual start up disk there were all kinds of problems it couldn't fix.

Things went from bad to worse, until finally their hard drive went completely inaccessible.

Went over again today, and installed the drivers, put on all their software again and now everything is working and they didn't lose anything too necessary to their lives (their browser bookmarks), but it took hours and hours, and I of course felt guilty and as though I had caused the whole thing! But it's fixed now and I can sleep tonight. As I'd better go and do, as it's nearly midnight.

See you when I'm back from Toronto, as long as I'm not Typhoid Neile by then. Of course, it doesn't help that my throat is still sore and I'm a little congested from that old cold I caught in Calgary.

World traveller, ha!


last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing



A new recent obsession, Kat Terran's Lion & Blue is a lovely strange disc. At times I hear bits of Kristin Hersh, Kathleen Yearwood, and someone else I can't quite name. Maybe Cat Power. It's indie alternative pop/rock, but her own. Really intriguing. She's even local to Seattle.


last week's listening § next week's listening



Sarah Waters Tipping The Velvet is the tale of a young Victorian woman's journey to find love. That she loves women in a repressed age and travels from life in a seaside village in her family's oyster restaurant through London's music halls, the world of rent-boys, the heights of wealth and the worker's world of poverty and the rise of unions, is all spice on a tale that at bottom feels pretty classic. Entertaining and a good novel, but I liked her followup novel, Fingersmith, better (see my October 20, 2002 entry).

Lloyd Alexander's The Rope Trick is a children's/young adult novel about a young performing magician travelling a world analogous to medieval Italy. She and her companion find themselves adopting a child, who follows them one day and turns out to have prophetic powers sometimes, so she becomes the Added Attraction. Then they come across a young fugitive who becomes their stagehand. Both the child and the young fugitive inadvertently bring trouble as they travel on the magician's search to find the magician who can teach her the mysterious Rope Trick. A fun novel, a little slight but nonetheless magical and charming. (See my April 15, 22, and 29, 2001 entries for comments on my re-read of his Prydain series.)

Though it has witches, wizards and spells, Cliff McNish's children's novel, The Doomspell, has an original feel. Rachel and her brother Eric are kidnapped from their home in the real world, and brought into the world of Ithrea by a tricky witch. Ithrea is full of magic, and Rachel discovers that she can manipulate it better than any of the other thousands of children the witch has kidnapped over the years--and now the witch wants her to help free her from Ithrea so she can have power over more worlds.


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I keep trying and the time just doesn't appear.


last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

January 1990

1578. To Start Anew the Same Old Way

[Deliberate blank space left.]

1579. Silly Poems at Night #1
January 3, 1990

I Toss in Some Bones for the 90s

It's Wednesday night, just after
     the new decade's start
& lying in bed I start telling
     my husband--strange word but
     I can think of no other--spouse
     reeks too much of sperm and house--
about seeing X-rays of my mouth
     at the dentist's
about how they seemed so flawlessly
     anonymous--that skelton truth
     could belong to anyone dead he said "What did you think--it should
     say "I am Neile's jaw?'"
Still, how foreign it seemed,
     unclaimable white--thinking now
     how it's not truth, how
     they identify the decayed dead
with only dental charts
     for confirmation instead of the lying
     corruptible flesh ("Ah, yes,
     a crown on number nineteen, too much
     silver all 'round")
Sometimes our teeth are only things to name
     us, omnivores that we are. Those
     shadowed pictures backlit by modern equip
are mine--or how I appeared
     at a certain machine's thin view
     only moments before I saw them,
identify me, render me fleshless
     render me
     (only) human [1]

1580. Silly Poems at Night #2
January 3, 1990

I Was a Pagan Baby

     a true story

That's what I tell my
     Catholic friends, those still only half-fallen away
When they tell me long tales
     about the nuns and
     the high mystery of confession
And they tell about giving the Sisters
     whatever change they could make their parents space
     for saving the pagan babies.
They talk about that childish
     quick pang of devotional guilt
     the sisters eased out of them
     when they spoke of the pennies
     spent on gumballs and jelly babies
     that could instead be used
     for the saving of souls.
I can tell they are both embarrassed
     and earnest
     when they confess this to me;
     I can tell it is bittersweet still
     after all these years, like the bit
     of the caraway seed at the centre
     after all the jawbreaker's sweet coloured layers.
I tell them that I was the pagan baby.
I don't know if I say that
     so they will think they've saved someone
     or so they'll know they won't
Because saved I'm not, at least
     in the Catholic way:
Once in my teens I was saved
     when a boy wanted me to be
     --baptised in a downtown fountain
     and all. It lasted me a few more
     boyfriends and years, but even that
fell away in a blaze of dangerous light
     deliciously, like Satan falling...
But I can certify a pagan baby I was:
     before I was two I would wander
     alone in the woods with only a neighbour's dog
     to guard me. My mother tells me
     the only way to get me home was to call the dog
     and I would come toddling after
(I don't know if I worshipped the woods
     or the dog, but that certainly indicates
Something.) Even today I find my gods
     in forest, whether I'm dog-guarded
     or not.
Even today in the forest
     I am born
     (deliciously) in the woods catholic splendour
     pagan again. [2]

1581. Silly Poems at Night #3
January 3, 1990

When I can't sleep
     and it's not just because
     the neighbour's damn porchlight
     is in my eyes
And I bounce out of bed
     disturbing the bed-cat and my husband
     to visit the cat out on the chair
I kiss her twice loudly on the head
     but she doesn't stir out of her
     sleep-tightened ball: she knows
     I'm not serious.
I bounce back into bed, ignoring the moans
     and make myself as cozy
     as I restless can, park my nose
     by the fur of the warm cat there
But it does no good. Not even the thick
     sleep-scent of disgruntled cat
     can ease me.
I leap out of bed in despair:
     and now the bed cat follows after
     a few minutes of watching me
     and already he's thrown the pillow
     to the floor and is chasing 'round
     in circles his tail
He won't calm down and I won't sleep
     I'm chasing thoughts, the best ones
     that tomorrow I won't be able to
     recall in the aching shake
     of my tousled bones at anxious work
It is all hopeless as sleep
     in a night deserted
     by all rational bounds. [3]


1. Another lineated piece that never became anything

2. This became one of the poem in the dual-poem "The World of the Dead" in Blood Memory.

3. This describes many of my nights, but is nothing near a poem.

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