Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things...

Comments having been made about a certain consistent dourness in these posts (in spite of the title, which I don't think promises finger chimes and marshmallow fluff), I've decided to try something completely different today.  And see how long it lasts. 

This all began, really, with my realization that my favorite place in the house is my bathroom medicine cabinet.  Such confined little spaces seeming almost the perfect cliche for dense little riots of disorder, it was with some amusement that I watched the expression on the face of the efficiency expert we had work with us once, to try to figure out how to make our lives more orderly.  She approached the old medicine cabinet as though it was booby-trapped with an especially deadly and painful shrapnel bomb, but she had no choice...

What a surprise!  I think she looked three inches taller, just from opening the mirrored door!  Her face brightened, and she seemed to revel in the sight of such relative minimalism, which I myself had voluntarily created, and maintain.  On the top glass shelf live the medications and irrigating bulbs for ear care, and a small badger shaving brush on a stainless steel stand.  Below that, the shelf with shaving cream (I use a kind that comes in a tube, and so can stand up on its cap, a razor, and a neat stack of new and used blades.  On the bottom shelf, on the left there are two cups, holding toothbrushes and nail scissors; a glass (which I blew, by the way) with a tube of toothpaste and more toothbrushes than are absolutely necessary; beside that, a little collection of aromatic oils that I used to use, as supplements to my soaps and deodorants.  (Unfortunately, the world-wide demand for sandalwood oil, my favorite, has outstripped the supply; the alternatives, from Australia and Micronesia, smell okay, but I seem to be allergic to them) 

And that's it.  No wads of cotton, no cluster of dental floss boxes, or heaped razor stems.  It even smells nice when I open it, which is gratifying, even if I can't manage to get any of that aroma where I'd prefer to have it.  I think, oddly enough, that this may be, not only my favorite place in our house, but also is my favorite place on earth, for which I am solely responsible.

Now then, it's quite apparent that there is no end to the 'favorites' with which I might regale my readers.  I've even made a partial list of subjects to ponder, in terms of being my favorite...

Shortcoming or flaw;
Possession that I actually know where it is;
Possession that I have no idea where to find it;
Piece of clothing;
Pair of shoes;
Amusement park ride;
Style of architecture;
Physical exercise;
Kitchen utensil;
Household chore;
Job I've ever had;
Living thing, warm-blooded;
Living cold-blooded vertebrate;
Living thing, invertebrate...

So, for today, I think I'll pick two from the above list.  I think it's going to be... favorite living invertebrate, and favorite possession I have no idea where to find it.  Which seems like a nice, counter-intuitive jumble, for now.

My favorite living invertebrate is the praying mantis.  They appeal to me because of their formal beauty, and their lethal appetites.  I've seen pictures of mantises that have adapted to their surroundings so as to be virtually indistinguishable from the orchids on which they live -- delicate, pink and white death traps, lying in wait for the next unsuspecting pollinator who comes buzzing past. 

But even our more mundane, plain green mantids are pretty amazing, I think.  I remember once watching a mantis having dinner.  It perched somehow on the outside of a window pane, five stories up in one of the Louis Kahn towers at the University of Pennsylvania.  I worked there, as a computer operator, mostly at night, so I really don't understand how I managed to witness this gustatory marvel.  Maybe it was the end of my shift, after the sun had come up, and the mantis was having breakfast?

In any event, this creature had snared a common house fly, and was holding onto same with its two front legs -- from which no escape was possible.  And, gross though it may seem, it was fascinating to watch this example of insect dining habits.  Instead of picking out the choice parts, or starting with the appendages and working in toward the main attraction, the mantis was treating this fly like an ear of corn -- zip, went the mouthparts, and a layer of fly's head vanished.  Zip, another pass of mandibles, and another layer of fly head disappeared.  Back and forth, with a kind of mechanical pitilessness, such as one so rarely sees on those nature shows.  I don't know whether I was more impressed at the mantis' eating habits, or the face that its insect victim didn't fall apart, but instead seemed to be constructed to provide just such a dining experience for someone a bit further up the food chain.  I didn't stay to watch the entire repast.  Watching the head disappear was quite vivid enough.

And my favorite thing that I don't know where to find it would be my own hard-bound copy of my Master of Fine Arts thesis.  It's probably in a box up in the attic, in one of those more or less inaccessible hidey-holes into which I've stuffed so many unmarked boxes of... well, they're unmarked, so why would I know what's in them?

Regardless of where it is, I am really quite pleased -- I almost said 'proud', but early church indoctrination makes that statement nearly impossible -- not only with the written content, but also with the formal decisions that I was able, not only to make, but also to realize, with the invaluable help of my dear friend Ed Mineck (the sort of dear friend that you know is so special because neither of you calls the other one, everz0, in achieving the planned printing processes.

I had five pieces of sculpture in my final MFA thesis exhibit (I actually participated in two shows, one on campus, the other in an alternative art space in a part of town considered 'bad' by many Rochesterians, because one might on occasion see someone of darker complexion, from time to time. And even though the thesis had no set minimum length, I thought it made sense to do a bit of descriptive writing about each of the five.   Meaning, there would be five 'poems', five illustrations, and five narrative descriptions, one for each work in the show.  Ed made it possible for me to print out the 'poems' -- really a list of comparative analogies for each piece -- on a semi-sheer paper, under which were the photos of the work under discussion.  And then, for each separate art work, Ed produced a very faint shadow of the last photo in each section, which we printed onto enough sheets of paper, so that beneath or behind the narrative, there was the shadow of the work being discussed.  I was pleased with the assembled work, and have only become more amazed at what Ed and I were able to accomplish, under a fairly inflexible deadline, and with me coping with the untimely death of a dear friend, at whose bedside I spent the last week of his life, out in Seattle WA, while my home address was considerably further east. 

I was a wreck, but managed somehow to focus on the task at hand -- perhaps because in this case, dawdling (my favorite past-time, it seems) would have incurred more expenses, and I felt that I'd borrowed way enough money for the degree -- I didn't need to take out another loan form, I felt.         
Ed, who was at the time teaching full-time with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, re-organized his days, in order to shepherd me through the printing of the shadow pages, the proper reloading of the pre-printed paper, and binding the entire thing, for submission to the bood binder.  I still feel that, with the layout of onion-skin paper with text on it, overlaying color images of my work, and which images seemed to cast a shadow over the text that was to follow, I had manged to evoke something glass-like, but in print.

Plus, I think the writing is pretty good too.  But who am I to judge?

At this point, I believe I'm going to cease ruminations for the evening -- it being that night that is different from other nights, because we cut one end off our blanket, sew it onto the other end, and decide to tell each other that we've succeeded in making our blanket longer.  And I've got to go attend a play-reading in Madison NJ tomorrow, and must get what passes for beauty sleep, in my case.

i wonder what favorites I'll go into next?  There's just no telling, is there?

©   2013             Walter Zimmerman


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