Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day Thirty-Two to Thirty-Five: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Leesburg, VA & Washington, D.C.

The earth is a homeless person. Or the earth's home / is the atmosphere. / Or the atmosphere is the earth's clothing, / layers of it, the earth wears all of it, / the earth is a homeless person...
from Sharon Olds' “What is the Earth?”

Our last day in Ohio, the heat broke. We even got caught in a rain storm and took refuge, shivering, in the impressive Hudson Public Library. And then, we were off.

More friends in Pittsburgh and Washington, DC – two places I used to call home. One has the most down-to-earth people I've ever encountered. The other has motorcades that always seem to happen just when you're trying to get to lunch.

Or the atmosphere is the earth's cocoon, / which it spun itself, the earth is a larvum. / Or the atmosphere is the earth's skin – / earth, and atmosphere, one / homeless one ...

Isaac got to go to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where he encountered the climax of his fossil-laden cross-country adventure...

And he arrived at the much-hyped-by-his-parents Air and Space Museum on the Mall, personally my least-favorite of the Smithsonian museums, but as someone born in the summer of '69, I feel strongly that freeze-dried ice cream is a childhood rite of passage.

Both cities provided some welcomed preggo creds. A woman pushing a stroller at the Carnegie asked me when my baby was due. Oh, to be noticed! (I am consistently told I am small and can hide the belly with the right clothes still. I have very few actual maternity clothes, which adds to the potential for disappearing baby.) She then followed this question with the more than predictable statement: “You look great!” Other women say this to pregnant women all. the. time. It's code for, “You aren't that fat yet!” Consequently, I'm never really sure what to say in reply.

Unfortunately, Andrew Carnegie either didn't warm to great-looking pregnant tubbos, or didn't leave enough of an endowment to put some upper floor restrooms in – two bathrooms, both in the basement. Not. Cool. A preg might be hanging in ancient Egypt on the 3rd floor and, go figure, need to pee. Hypothetically.

Or its orbit is the earth's / home, or the path of the orbit just / a path, the earth is a homeless person. / Or the gutter of the earth's orbit is a circle / of hell, the circle of the homeless...

Another preggo triumph: At the Air and Space, which now requires bags to be x-rayed and people to be subjected to a full body scan, the guard pointed at my belly. “Bomb in there?” he inquired. When I shook my head, he ordered me to bypass the scanner.

While for its part, the Air and Space Museum has bathrooms in sufficient locales, they were – impossibly – even louder than the din of the museum itself. They could have been their own exhibit with the noise and force of the automatic hand dryers. Have you encountered these dryers? The ones that caution you to remove hands slowly? You may think the warning odd, until you notice your skin rippling and curling away from the flesh of your hand.

Honestly, I can't take the auto-bathroom stuff. Toilets flush themselves, except when they don't, water comes out on its own, if you wave your hand around enough, soap, too, sometimes – although more often I've been caught flailing fruitlessly in front of the dispenser of gloppy pink liquid waiting for it to magically fall into my palm... and paper towels appear with a wave, unless, those trusty hand dryers turn on with gale force winds.

But the earth / has a place, around the fire, the hearth / of our star. The earth is at home. The earth / is home to the homeless. For food, and warmth, / and shelter, and health / they have earth and fire / and air and water, for home they have / the elements they are made of...

Perhaps I am alone in my ability to observe exhibits of early flight, of satellites and moon landers, to see full size skeletons of diplodocus and giant prehistoric sea turtles, and leave with my strongest memories attached to public restrooms. These are the things comedy routines are made of, and really dull blog entries.

Living in the moment may not be my strong point. Writing may simply preclude living in the moment. With the exception of newspaper writing, which comes pretty close to being present in one particular moment since you are constantly on top of dates and happenings. Newspaper writing is different than my other writing in many ways – for example regarding clichés. As a poet, I run screaming from cliché, but in newspaper, its the lifeblood. The best headlines are always clichés. I imagine journalism school must be full of courses on cliché: Cliché 101, Intermediate Cliché, The History and Politics of Cliché, Multicultural Cliché. I am a mere novice here, and defer on this point to the “J-men” as I like to call my editors.

While, in my theater previewing, I am loathe to copy down directors' many clichés regarding things such as the “magic of live theater,” regarding headlines, it's always fun to see if I can make up a cliché good enough to stick. A while back, I wrote a piece about the popularity of genealogy research. I named it, “The family you never had.” I thought it was pretty good! But it got bumped for “Find Yourself.” I had to admit defeat. And then there are the puns. Plentiful and glorious. There is a Broadway show called “Urinetown” that has been produced in Monterey a couple of times in recent years. I was sure I nailed it titling my preview article with “To Pee or Not to Pee.” Just goes to show what I know... “Urine Luck.”

Ah, but again I stray, and rather far this time, I'd say! I find I have less to say about my stays when I stay with friends. Perhaps I am subconsciously protecting their privacy. Perhaps I am just better at writing when disgruntled.

In Pittsburgh, I got to hang out on the porch on a warm summer evening, talking with long-time buddies and watching fireflies. Something I can't say I've done in a very long time. Monterey has no warm summer evenings, no fireflies, and few porches. In D.C., I had dreams of going to bookstores I miss like Kramer's and Politics and Prose, but ultimately, our time was short and our accommodations were far (Leesburg). I didn't get to those places. Instead, I store the unfulfilled desire to go, to browse, to replay this dream, while the impressions I write about must revolve around bathrooms and food courts – oh boy, food courts! Don't get me started. McDonald's, you sly devil, you.

as if / each homeless one were an earth, made / of milk and grain, like Ceres, and one / could eat oneself—as if the human / were a god, who could eat the earth, a god / of homelessness.


Susannah said...

You do look great, and not because you don't look fat. It is because you look beautiful; and I love the photo of you posted above.

I also love the poem by Sharon Olds. And yes, I am now self-conscious before you, the wordsmith, with my use of the word "love," but it will have to do. The word itself has become cliche, but I am at a loss for a substitute.

For me, auto-bathrooms are some kind of kitsch nightmare, especially the auto-flush, which always seems to get set off for me mid-wipe...

Kitty said...

tee hee, Susannah. OXO, Kp

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