Sunday, October 12, 2003

camera lucida

My mother just showed me a photo of an ancient female relative. The photo has to be at least 90 years old, shellacked to a board. It features this incredibly dour-looking woman, built like a tank, in dark clothes. Neither my mother nor I look anything like her. The oldest photo we've seen so far of a relative.

I'm going a little stir-crazy here. Detroit, especially the burbs, is not pedestrian-friendly in the slightest, and out here it's one strip mall after another, with long stretches of road between. At least it's green and tree-y. The weather's been insanely, unseasonally warm, and that's been nice. The elevators in my parents' building have been very sporadic... climbing the stairs to the ninth floor, unfortunately, is the most exercise I'm getting.

On the landing at the fourth floor, my boots stick to the floor and light shows through around the edges where the metal landing doesn't quite meet the walls. Between seven and eight, it's taken someone a couple of tries to spell "jackass bitch" properly with a lipstick on the white-painted cinderblock. The place is falling down around my parents and their elderly, been-here-forever neighbors; to hear my mother tell it, the first of every month around here it's like lemmings.

Just before I left for Detroit, she writes casually, PRobot and I essentially broke up via polite emails. "Essentially" because "break up" isn't quite right; it indicates a level of mutual into-each-otherness that just wasn't happening. I keep expecting to feel something more than I do, but I wasn't particularly surprised, and I do honestly believe this is for the best. Certain things important to each of us were not manifest.

Which is not to say that I'm not sad and disappointed, but I think being here with my folks is giving me a larger perspective. And, well, how can I put this? I did not know that I had the capacity to restrain myself from falling in love with someone. Generally when I feel the loopy gravity, I let go. But there was so much evidence that such abandon would be unwise, especially after burning man, that I kept myself in check.

I don't like being in check, but it has its virtues. The trick now is finding that person with whom I don't need to restrain myself. Someone who thinks I'm the cat's pyjamas.

I've always wondered about that spelling, incidentally. Pyjamas? Pie-jamas? Pyee-jamas?

I'm feeling pretty introspective, but the keyboard setup on my mother's computer is very awkward and it's killing my wrists. Think I'll go back to reading David Hockney's 'Secret Knowledge', an absolutely fascinating book about the Old Masters. Hockney thinks they were using various optical devices--camera lucida, camera obscura--as aids to their drawing and painting. If he's right, and his evidence is compelling, we've all been working way too hard and thinking too little of what we're capable of.