Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mythology and Demythology

Yesterday, someone asked me on Twitter about “myth” and John Foxx’s music; specifically, what I saw in it that was “mythical”. John Foxx himself would tell you that there’s nothing “mythical” about his music. The short answer to that is that all art is mythical. But I’m not sure that people understand what I mean when I say that, and it’s a definitional problem.

When John creates art and songs that center around “The Quiet Man”, he is creating a myth. It may, to a certain extent, be an extension of his own private mythology (and we all have them). Current albums by John seem to have a “lamenting love that was lost or never happened” theme, and that also is part of a mythology, whether it be autobiographical or not.

So, what do I mean by “mythology”? Most people think of the stories about deities of different cultures—Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology, Celtic Mythology, etc., etc. But that is a very narrow definition of mythology. Mythology represents all of our interpretations about life.

I saw a quote from Joseph Campbell on Facebook yesterday that perfectly defines it:
“Mythologies are in fact the public dreams that move and shape societies, and conversely one’s own dreams are the little myths of the private gods, antigods, and guardian powers that are moving and shaping oneself: revelations of the actual fears, desires, aims and values by which one’s life is subliminally ordered." (The Hero’s Journey, p. 61).

As indicated, there are “collective mythologies”—myths adopted by a society (so-called “conventional wisdom” is part of this), and there are “individual mythologies”—the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the way things are based on our own experiences, dreams, and fears. The term “myth” implies something fictional, but it really tests the definition of “reality”. We tend to associate what is “real” with “facts”. (This is another myth). Philosophy spends a great deal of time trying to get at the truth behind subjective interpretation, and that is incredibly difficult, if not potentially impossible, to get to. The brain does not function without meaning; there is always an interpretation, and it is never totally “objective”.

Different phases of life embody different mythologies. The imaginative figures that we learn about and literally believe in as children become demythologized as we get older. “Demythology” is a sad but necessary process, the need to get away from literal beliefs and rediscover the myth symbol or narrative in a broader sense. A good example is the belief in Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Children literally believe in Santa Claus when they are young, then at some point they realize that there is no such person coming to their house. However, the mythical image of Santa Claus and what it represents can still be enjoyed by adults without literally believing in it.

Demythologization is painful. We would rather find reasons to cling to our myths than let them go. It’s not just about letting go of figures like Santa Claus. Adolescents are often surly and moody because they are going through that very process. There is an innocence that is stripped away as we become older, and the more experiences we have, the more disillusioned we can become. This frequently happens with religion—especially with religions that insist on clinging to outmoded mythical ideas. The experiences of those who grew up believing that “this is the way it is” from their religion’s standpoint often clash with the realities they face. This often leads to a period of rebellious atheism—“clearly there is no God”. There becomes a rejection of everything the society values, because we believed those stories were “truths”, and when we discover they are not, we assume they must be “lies”.

However, because something is a “myth” doesn’t mean it’s a “lie”. Facticity doesn’t equal truth. It may not be literally true, but it often contains a deeper truth that isn’t easily expressed—the myth acts as a metaphor. Psychoanalysts are doing mythical work—they attempt to bring the patient to an awareness of their myths. One has to be aware of what one believes about the world before they can think of changing it. And more often than not, we are deeply unaware of what we believe—we take it for granted and don’t think about it.

Understanding your own myths and that of your society is critically important. I had a professor in my undergraduate years, who was discussing Matthew Arnold’s essay on Hellenism vs. Hebraism. To paraphrase his interpretation—Arnold said that you must choose and live by your own myth, because if you don’t, someone else will “shove theirs down your throat.”

I did an exercise with my Religion students, where I asked them to look at the current 2012 Republican debates and the Republican objection to Obama, and regardless of where they stood on the issue, to identify the mythology there. They were perplexed at first, but once we started deconstructing the various talking points—and showing how they’ve repeated themselves throughout history—they were amazed at how little awareness they had of our “national mythology”. There is a tendency to take the news at face value, because we believe that journalists report “facts”. (This is another myth). “If it’s on TV, it must be true.” Like Lon Milo DuQuette said in his wonderful song, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

And that’s the value of demythologization—it forces us to deconstruct our worldview, and to be open to something less limiting. After demythologization, there is often a reintegration of the mythical content—we now see it in a different light, in all of its colorful context. Of course, this doesn’t always happen—sometimes people get stuck, either by suspiciously rejecting everything as “false” and the world as “bad”, or by clinging more tightly to literal beliefs, no matter how irrational. The irrational is always with us and should not be rejected, but it needs to be balanced with rational assessment. Rational assessment isn’t always “scientific method”—sometimes it’s just using your common sense.

There is a great deal in John Foxx's work that suggests the invisible, the hidden, the ghostly—which, in spite of all his pleading, does give his work an “esoteric” bent. His Ballardian themes are mythical. His story of a man who lurks in the shadows—who may be a shadow—who moves through cities that represent layer upon layer of the past, seen in the present—and who is something of an explorer of those forgotten regions—is patently mythical. There is an attempt to view a larger back story, in the context of his own (or his character’s) interpretation, no matter how minimalistic. In my own opinion, I see a tug-of-war between being publicly noticed and appreciated and retreating into privacy and an inner life. But there’s also a tug of war between doing things “logically” and “rationally”, and trying to come to terms with “irrational” experiences. His best work, in my opinion, integrates a cold minimalism and an eerie sense of the layers of history. Together, you have that sense of the numinous, which suggests a deeper awareness if you pay attention to it. Whether this is his intention or not is irrelevant. We all function within mythologies, unless we are consciously attempting to break from them (what Jung calls “individuation”)—and that is an incredibly difficult path tread by very few.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Small Picture

Zen Buddhism makes much of living in the present. If you make a conscious effort to put all of your awareness in the present moment, you will find that it is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Time slows down, or disappears entirely, and the mundane takes on a startlingly profound significance.

To illustrate what I mean—I usually get up in the morning, feed the cat, make my bed, meditate, take a shower, and then go downstairs to make breakfast and wash any dishes left in the sink. Anyone reading this has their own version of the morning routine. But try this—when you get out of bed, don’t focus on anything except what you’re doing right now. Don’t worry about what you will do at work, or wherever else you are going that day, don’t rehearse conversations with people that you haven’t had yet, don’t think about what happened yesterday. Focus on each step you take when you get out of bed. Focus on the act of turning on the water in the shower, and washing yourself. Focus on the act of washing dishes. Apply that to whatever you do in the morning, or just one thing you do, and see what happens.

Besides the slow-down of time, you will find that this is a very difficult thing to maintain, because your mind jumps all over the place. It’s the reason you can’t meditate by sitting and thinking about nothing. Your mind can’t bear sitting still and shutting up. Rather than fight that, it is said that it is better to listen to the chatter of your mind like you’re listening to the radio or a TV in the background.

Even though it is unlikely you could maintain this state of mind, it is a very worthwhile exercise. For one thing, it shows you how you really DON’T live in the present. Another thing it demonstrates is how mundane tasks are acts of meditation in and of themselves. Finally—if you can manage to attempt this sort of thing, even for a little while on a daily basis, you will find that it completely changes how you view life.

Poetry is the language of the present. To describe a scene or an event, you have to be fully immersed in whatever it is you are writing about. It isn’t really an accident that sacred and/or mystical writing is usually in the form of poetry. There is an attempt to recount the wonder of the experience, no matter how mundane. I think rationalism has made us lose our sense of poetry, as we have a habit of trying to “factually” recount things in an “objective” way. It’s not just what events objectively happen; it’s how those events are experienced. For instance, Gary Snyder has a poem about waking up, rolling a cigarette, and listening to distant cars going by. Simply listing those activities leaves them devoid of meaning. But in a poem: “Sun breaks out over the eucalyptus / grove below the wet pasture / water’s about hot / I sit in the open window / & roll a smoke / ... / a soft continuous roar / comes out of the far valley / of the six-lane highway—thousands /and thousands of cars / driving men to work.” (from “Marin-an” in “The Back Country”).

Like most of us at some point, I have a tendency to try to figure out the “big picture”. Where will I be in five years, what is my plan for making big changes, what are my deadlines for my goals? We short-change ourselves with this kind of thinking, because our planning is based on our assumptions about the future, which are based on the past and the present. The big picture is really a background to the small picture, and the small picture includes those daily things we do that in time will take us where we want to go. Just like squirrels build up their winter store one acorn at a time, there is a need to break things into smaller components, and focus only on those things we are capable of dealing with in the present. What seems to happen is that we suddenly find ourselves with the right opportunities and circumstances to achieve our goals. The reason this happens is because we’ve cultivated awareness—and when you are aware, you pick up on things that others miss. It may be something read online or in a newspaper (does anyone read those anymore?), a casual comment from a friend or from someone sitting across from you on a train. I believe the term for it is “serendipity”.

Serendipity (and synchronicity) make us nervous, because it means relinquishing control and trusting that you will get to where you need to go without worrying or fretting about it. This doesn’t mean that no forethought should go into future plans, but we do tend to spend more time worrying about those things that are out of our control. You can’t “solve” what is uncertain and unknown, so you can only surrender to it.

With so much going on in the world, and so much information, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to learn to focus on one thing at a time. After all, you never really win the multi-tasking game; you just have more and more to do, and less time in which to do it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


For those of you who are “seasonally affected”, I made a discovery today. Maybe it’s not something all that new, but I hadn’t really thought about it before. This morning was overcast, but I was driving to work as the sun was coming up, and you could see that brilliant line of pink and orange at the horizon. It occurred to me that this can also be seen at sunset on cloudy days. So—go outside at sunset, or get up at sunrise if you hate cloudy weather.

I am not terribly affected by the weather, though my thoughts do move faster on sunny days. This can be good or bad—I could write an entire story, or waste an entire day yammering to myself, and not really focus on anything useful. At work, I talk to myself almost non-stop. I’d hate to be my co-workers on those days.
Speaking of words and distractions, I took an inventory of my reading material last night, and realized that I am about halfway through four different books (non-fiction), and would like to start a fifth book (fiction). I used to reliably plod my way through one book before starting another, but I seem to have literature commitment difficulties these days.

Part of the trouble is that I’m a writer, and one who has not written much except these blog postings for the last month. I reach points in my work where I have to read in order to write. My mind plays the same boring things over and over again, and I need to get fresh perspective.

When I was in Bristol, John Foxx and I talked about the next tour stop, Manchester. He advised me to visit St. Ann’s Square if I had time. “There are 2 bookstores there,” he said. I wondered how he knew that the bookstore was the first place I looked for in any city. He made a face, and said, “Well, if you’re civilised, then you read.”

One of the first things to come up in last week’s conversation with Umberto Eco at NYPL was the idea of being well-read. Eco, like Pierre Bayard, says that it is impossible to read everything, and much of the time people fake being well-read. There is a sense that in order to do a book justice, you need to cultivate an awareness of every word. In reality, you only do this when you really love a book, and want to re-read it. When I look at lists of books I “ought” to have read, I sometimes feel ashamed, like they are acquaintances I should have spent more time getting to know. But—like distant friends and family, it’s hard to sit down and “write that long letter to catch up”. In a world of Facebook and Twitter updates, it’s no wonder we’ve developed a fondness for 140 characters or less. There just isn’t time.

I realize that my own blog postings are often very long, so I should take my own advice with regard to time. Still, I can’t shake the idea that I’m cheating my readers with short posts. Readers and reading are like friends, and I don’t want to cheat my friends by not giving them enough attention. Then again, a lot of people tell me they’ll read my posts “when they have time”, which is code for “it’s too long to read in 2 minutes.” (Kind of like my e-mails to a certain unnamed person, who only tends to respond if I send a one-sentence e-mail.)

So, in the interest of not droning on, I will leave you with an Onion article about reading:

Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Umberto Eco in New York City

On Tuesday night I ventured into New York City. I had some misgivings about this, because I've been sick since I returned from the UK. I am not one for going to the doctor; to paraphrase Dave Barry, if my arm was severed and dangling, I'd sooner wrap it up with duct tape and keep going than go to the hospital. This is nothing personal against my doctors; it's just another thing I have to add to my already-busy schedule, and illness is something I just don't have time for. However, there are a few things on my "see the doctor" checklist, and coughing up blood is one of them. I started doing that on Monday morning, so I made an appointment. Fortunately the blood was not coming from my lungs, and I just had a very bad sinus infection. I'm feeling much better with some antibiotics and nettle tea.

But all of that is background. I went into New York to go to NYPL Live's conversation between Paul Holdengraber and Umberto Eco. I'd bought my ticket before going to the UK, which was a good thing, as the event was sold out. I stopped by St. Andrew's first, for some dinner and Belhaven's. I was sitting next to the bar next to two very cute young Scottish men, who had just arrived here for an 8 day vacation. One of them informed me that they don't drink Belhaven's in Scotland, even though it's a Scottish beer. I was not surprised--I didn't recall seeing it on draft anywhere in Glasgow. Of course, they have other fine beer selections in Scotland, like the Dark Island ale, from an Orkney brewery. Anyway, we got chatting, and they flattered me by guessing my age was 26. We were discussing Kearny for some reason, and I realized later that I was thinking of Keansburg rather than Kearny. I have no idea in the world why; I'm going to blame it on antibiotics haze.

Tuesday was a gorgeous day, 68 degrees and sunny, so it was a nice evening to be queued outside the New York Public Library. I was chatting with a woman in front of me in the queue about Europe, and she told me that she was able to stay in Paris in the 1970s for about $8 a day. Clearly I've started traveling too late in life.

In between grading papers on the train over, and waiting for the event to start once we got seated, I was reading De La Torre and Hernandez's book, "The Quest for the Historical Satan". This turned out to be quite synchronous with the Eco event, as the theme of human evil came up more than once in the conversation. Paul Holdengraber is a very entertaining emcee, and his questions are very well-informed. He asks his guests to provide him with a biography in 7 words. Eco's 7 words were: "High is the moon on Prague, gosh."

Holdengraber started by asking Eco about his impetus for writing his new book,"The Prague Cemetery". Eco said it was an "irritation" about human lying and forgery. All of the characters in the book are based on people that really existed, except for one, and Holdengraber said that Eco managed to make this one fictional character utterly despicable. Eco said that was certainly the point--though he also felt his fictional character was also the most authentic, in human terms. Returning to the theme of forgery--he said it was a type of lying, and that forgeries, even when acknowledged as such, are still believed by people and become prejudices. He mentioned forgeries like the Protocols of Zion, and other anti-Semitic Jewish "conspiracy" works. When at least one of these was acknowledged as a forgery, the response was, "well, maybe the book was a forgery, but it reflects how the Jews really think." So, a false prejudice is created with a false work originally presumed to be true. If you think about human behavior in this context, it is well known from studies that when factual evidence is shown that disproves a belief, people will cling to the false belief even more tightly.

I also started thinking about the line between fiction and reality. Often, we have a difficult time sorting the two, and that can have negative consequences. In a quote from Eco that was from an original version of his new book, he talks about people who believe that Dan Brown's stories are true. Certainly there was a lot of hoopla over the Da Vinci Code and its follow-up novel, which was quite unbelievable to watch. People simply could not accept that the book was fiction. The Church didn't help much by getting into the fray to tell people the book was fiction--that only convinced believers that there was a "cover-up." In general, though, one of the things that does worry me about modern society is the ability to discriminate between different kinds of information received. As I am reviewing research paper drafts, I realize that my students, even with guidance, can't tell a valid source from an invalid source. It's all one big screen or book full of words, all equally true or untrue relative to our own prejudices.

Eco contrasted hate with love by suggesting that love is a very selective thing, while hate is much more general. We love individuals, we hate groups. Holdengraber noted that Eco was quite animated by hate, and Eco replied, "I am animated by my hatred of hate." He then made the rather interesting point that the "enemy" in stories must follow a certain pattern. The archetypal image for the enemy in Western culture is the Antichrist.

Holdengraber asked him about his evil character in his new book and his relationships with women--why do women gravitate towards such horrible people, and conversely, why was the character so obsessed with women, who he claimed to hate? Eco replied that in order to really hate something, you have to be attracted by it. One might "hate" the guy who cuts him off in traffic, but that person will be quickly forgotten. Real hate requires an obsessive attraction to the object of contempt. Holdengraber quoted from one of Eco's books (might have been the new one) about a man who was an "erotic anti-Semite". The hate has so much devotion, it's almost a kind of love.

Holdengraber then tried to pin Eco down on the subject of psychoanalysis. He felt that this was a real theme of Eco's, as Eco is interested in the re-reading of things. Eco demurred from the idea that he had an interest in psychoanalysis, or that re-reading had anything to do with it, though he went on to say that his ego prevents him from having a committed relationship to psychoanalysis. Holdengraber said, "You're worried about what it might turn up for you?" "Yes, I would worry about that very much!"

On the subject of the places Eco chooses to locate his stories, the choice apparently has to do with where he wants to visit. If he wants to visit a place, he'll write about it as an excuse to go there. Sounds fair enough to me--I should do more of that with my own work.

I had to leave at this point, as my chest felt like there was a rock sitting inside of it, and I did not want to erupt into a massive coughing fit inside the auditorium. But the talk made me think about what it is that attracts me to Eco's work, and I think it's this deliberate attempt that he makes to "discombobulate" the reader. Leaving you in this uneasy state between truth and fiction is a means of cultivating awareness. You have to pay attention, and have some idea about context and background to be able to discriminate between the two. Eco continually challenges his readers to do that.

As a side note, someone on the John Foxx tour (either John, Sefa, or Benge) told me that the new Eco book did not receive good reviews. Nonetheless, I will have to read it myself, as the conversation has left me intrigued about the characters.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


There are times when I could be called nostalgic or traditional, even conservative. However, you are not likely to hear me described as sentimental. "Sentimental" involves remembering stories the wrong way, or changing them in a ridiculous way. For instance--if I'm getting a card for my father for his birthday, I am not likely to buy a sentimental card. Sentimental cards always start with some crap like, "Dad I remember you and I going on long walks blah blah and I'll always be your precious little girl blah blah, etc., ad nauseam". I love my Dad, but it would be utterly ridiculous to give him that kind of a card. Growing up, he worked a lot of overtime, and I only saw him at meals and when he was swearing at the car. We didn't go on long father-daughter walks; he was trying to support 5 children. I could never imagine him referring to me as "precious", for which I am forever grateful. So, to give him a card like that is completely inauthentic and cheesy. In a word--sentimental.

Earlier this week, I was flipping through some old periodicals at work while waiting for someone, and the one I grabbed happened to be "Backstage", a publication for actors. Backstage has casting calls and auditions listed, and I happened to flip to a page where they were seeking auditions for "Carrie : the Musical". I am a big fan of things that do not belong together, so the idea of a Stephen King novel being combined with a musical caught my attention. Only hours later, when I was reading through RSS feeds, I discovered that Teller (of Penn and Teller) is going to produce a musical based on the Exorcist. My first thought was, "If these are done properly, they could make the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade SO much more interesting."

If you've never seen the Macy's Parade (I still watch it on Thanksgiving for some unknown reason; must be that I'm "traditional"), it not only consists of the regular parade floats, but also various troupes doing musical numbers. So, they reach Herald Square, and usually do a number from one of the season's popular Broadway musicals. As soon as these come on, I find myself lowering the volume and walking away from the TV. I am not a fan of musicals. Occasionally there will be something tolerably well-done, but for the most part, I want to avoid being nauseous before Thanksgiving dinner.

My prejudice against certain musicals is probably related to my prejudice against certain types of pop music; it's songs are often bubbly and empty-headed, and have a quality that makes me want to punch the performers in the face. The only time I like bubbly is when it's in champagne or carbonated beverages. I recall one of my professors during my undergraduate years saying how much he hated Disney because all of its movies and characters were "Pre-Raphaelite"--they glorify a way of being that never was, and never will be. Yet, they play into people's ideas of how things should be--and they're usually quite superficial. I don't know if I'd be as hard on Disney as he was, but it's that sense of feeding people a story about "the way things are" that is so inauthentic that resonates with me. There's a used-car salesman quality to the sincerity. Kind of like most love songs.

While I was in London with my friends Garry and Tapio, we had a conversation about famous bands from Finland. Garry mentioned the band Lordi. In Europe, there is a contest called "Eurovision", where music performers compete and get votes from the watching audience. In 2006, this competition was won by a Finnish band called Lordi. Most of the competing bands were the sort of vapid, overproduced pop rubbish that you come to expect from such contests. Lordi was a death metal band, and apparently came out in their full black-metal Kiss-like gear, and roared into the microphone. They won the Eurovision contest by a landslide. I love this story, because a. it adds fuel to my suspicion that Europeans are less clueless than Americans, and b. they absolutely got the joke. If this had happened in America, you'd see evangelists picketing outside the contest venue, because they haven't had a clue about anything, ever. Books would be written about how this is an example of how Satan has taken over popular music.

That may be the problem--Satan isn't present enough in popular music. It's as though we believe that life is like a Jehovah's Witness flier on "perfect life with God" (which also does not, and never will, exist, at least not in that way. Thankfully). We're human beings with a full range of emotions, and why everything has to focus on what's "safe", superficial, and basically a retelling of the same old stupid Disney-esque myths is beyond me. It's as though record companies assume I've had a lobotomy and never passed the maturity level of a 9-year-old. There should be some dark things around the edges; there usually is, and as far as I'm concerned, the best music is that which reflects the complexity of our emotional lives. We should not wonder that children who are raised on nothing but this vacuous, sanitized nonsense grow up to be serial killers, rapists, or otherwise have very serious social problems. (Yes, I'm overgeneralizing, but I hear about enough cases like this, and parents are so surprised, because little Johnny was never exposed to anything "bad"). All it does is perpetuate the artificial good/evil split in our psyches.

So, I hope that both Carrie and the Exorcist are not turned into banal morality tales, and actually have a sense of humor as musicals. I do wonder if the trend will continue (Friday the 13th the Musical, Halloween the Musical, Texas Chainsaw Massacre the Musical, etc.). It would certainly make Broadway a different place.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Leaving the UK, Entering Total Chaos

All good things come to an end, as they say, and my trip to the UK was no exception. I spent my last day in the UK switching hotels for one more evening, and then met up with Tapio for drinks, as he was also at a loose end before his flight the next day. I’m sure that was an odd sight, as Tapio has a well-quaffed and polished New Romantic look, whereas I look like a refugee from a 1970s coffee commercial. But it was nice to have one more visit before leaving.

I got the bad news that afternoon that John Foxx had fallen and hit his head on a desk, and had to go to the hospital. He was released the same day, but told he couldn’t travel. So, the last two dates of the Maths tour were canceled. I have not heard from him, but I presume he is back at home resting, and I hope he gets much better very soon.

The morning that I left the UK, it was a lovely day in London, the trains were on time, my flight left on time. Then we crossed the “big pond” and everything promptly turned to crap. It seems like it was an omen that I shouldn’t have bothered coming home.

First, in further evidence that Mother Nature hates New Jersey (and much of the Northeast), a huge Nor’easter came roaring through, dropping anywhere from 5 inches to 2 feet of snow. (I think the New England states were hit the worst with regard to snow—we had the minimum). It was a heavy wet snow, and the trees are still full of leaves, so this basically has amounted to a Tree Apocalypse. I can’t drive down any street without seeing tree corpses littered along sidewalks, often mixed with power lines that have been dragged down with them. My flight was diverted to Boston at first, but by some miracle they let us into Newark, and we arrived at 6:00 pm. There were no trains, I was not about to make my friend drive an hour to get me, so I had to resort to calling my parents to come get me. Fortunately they made it without incident, as there was very little traffic on the road. But it took about an hour and a half to get luggage, as the door was stuck on the plane’s freight compartment. By the time I got to my parents’ house, it was after 9:00 pm. I did not choose to drive home that night. (My parents, by the way, also had no power).

Curiously, while in the airport waiting for my luggage, I heard a conversation behind me between two friends, one who was describing an incident at her friend’s house involving a toilet that exploded while she was on vacation. “The tank just cracked. It was weird.” (You may recall that the exact same thing happened to my parents while they were on vacation last month). Then I looked across the baggage claim belt, and saw a woman who looked almost exactly like me, wearing a coat that looks much like one I own. After reading H.P. Lovecraft all afternoon on the plane, I was starting to wonder if I hadn’t entered some fourth dimension.

The next day I arrived at my own house. My neighbor was waiting for me outside, to tell me that we had no power, and how abysmally awful things had been in the neighborhood the last two weeks. I walked in to a freezing cold house, but also to an overjoyed cat, so I stayed in the house with him for awhile in spite of the fact that I wanted to leave immediately. My yard is littered with leaves—no surprise as I’ve been away for almost 3 weeks—and the tops of large trees. Fortunately no trees landed on my house. Once the snow melts, I will have another monumental task ahead of me in the yard.

So, the time since my return has been spent at friends’ or family’s houses that have hot water so I can take showers, searching out launderettes that don’t have lines of people out the door (and preferably with a pub nearby), and fighting some kind of respiratory infection that I’ve acquired since returning (and that the extreme cold in my house is not helping). They’re not predicting that we will have power until Thursday or Friday. If I come home Friday to no power, I’m calling up the electric company and hacking a lung into the phone, hoping that the threat of possible death by cold will drive them over here. I’m trying to be patient, but it’s suspicious to me that everyone in the state who has the OTHER electric company as their utility carrier had their power restored by Monday. The same thing happened during Hurricane Irene. I’d change electric companies, but I think my only other choice probably leases their lines from my current company, so I’d be in the same boat.

So, wish me luck as I attempt to keep both of my lungs from exploding, and my life together while I have no resources at home. I promise a return to my normally obtuse blogging after this short intermission.