What’s in a name

Funny, fun coincidence. What I’ve been working on, a character’s name is Virginia. I’d not expected her to be a significant character but she grew into one.

However, “Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World” also has a Virginia which is a prime character. She’s a rather abrasive character and so is this Virginia in this other work. I had carried over the name Virginia, knowing this one would be not very pleasant, just thinking it would be a fun thing to do, but she was supposed to be fleeting and minor, I’d not expected her to end up occupying so much acreage.

Tonight, I decided it would be best to change this character’s name.

I went through my document and did an individual search and replace rather than a global just to see how the new name played, which took a while. And then I had to change the name of another character as hers was an intentional variation on Virginia.

The second I was done and sat back to rather admire the new name, liking it a good bit, the computer beeped at me, letting me know new mail had arrived. I opened my email client and there was one new message from AlterNet. The email’s headline read “Virginity Movement on the Defensive, Scrambling to Rebrand.”

Parenting a nine-year-old, after you stop wondering if you have a poltergeist, you start wondering if you’ve lost your mind


We’ve had problems with lost items in the past, in this apartment, which have nothing to do with H.o.p. I had long ago concluded there are teeny tiny blackholes abounding that science knows nothing about, which suck up random belongings and very occasionally spits them back out a few months later, though most often the items are gone forever, I guess those of which the black hole elves are especially fond.

Aaaaaah, but week before last it was different. I began to feel like I was losing my mind. Too many items disappeared and the elfen blackholes simply don’t choke down items on a daily basis.

I really knew I must be losing my mind when H.o.p. started yelling for a new little game board he’d made, one with a Red Wall illustration he’d drawn. I could remember having seen it two days after he’d made it and thinking, “That shouldn’t be there, it’ll get lost,” picking up the item while doing a quick straightening up and putting it on the bookshelf next to my desk.

Then here was H.o.p., Sunday, after the the Saturday I’d put up the item, screaming where was it and it wasn’t on the shelf. It wasn’t anywhere. We looked up, down, under and over and it was nowhere to be found. I kept asking H.o.p., “Can you remember when you last had it?”

“I didn’t!” he kept saying. “Don’t ask me again!”

Eventually he calmed and resigned himself to the fact this game he’d made was nowhere to be located.

But it had to be around here somewhere. Usually the elves don’t go running off with tin Altoid cans. I don’t remember ever having lost an Altoid tin to a black hole. Doesn’t happen.

I even dug into the trash, because I remembered that when I’d been cleaning I’d been holding the tin (the one which H.o.p. had turned into a game) in my left hand while throwing some trash away with my right. Had I glazed over and thrown the tin away as well? I went through the trash three times.

I stared at the book shelf.

I cleared out everything under the bed looking for it.

I went through H.o.p.’s drawers. I searched under the sofa-futons. I looked under every pillow and even went through my knapsack.

We once lived in a duplex with a fireplace covered over by a painted piece of tin. We could hear squirrels and birds in it occasionally as the chimney had never been blocked off, wild urban fauna making homes in it. We never found any evidence of the squirrels entering but during the year or so we lived there every earring I had lost its mate. I’d a number of earrings and every single one lost its mate. I didn’t lose a single pair complete, just the mates disappeared. (Carole, hi, it was the earrings you gave me from when you were living in Mexico, plus every other pair of earrings I had at the time.) When we moved out we even took up the gratings and searched down in the heating vents, wondering if our American Bobtail had deposited them down there. No. And moving out all the furniture revealed no secret hiding places.

I always thought it bizarre that it was just the mates of earrings that disappeared, leaving me with one of every pair.

It didn’t occur to me when all the earrings disappeared that I was losing my mind, but with the Red Wall Altoid tin I was wondering what in the hell was going on. Yes, that week H.o.p. has always shown up with an item that had gone missing (except for some sheet music of his) but the accumulative effect was playing with me. By Monday morning after the Saturday I’d put the Altoid tin up, and the Sunday when it disappeared, I was still worrying, “Where is his game? Where is his game?”

Finally, this squeal came from up front. “I found it! I found the game!”

Where had the game been? Situated underneath Elmo in what has become Elmo’s chair, which was originally the highchair where H.o.p. first tasted mashed carrots, then broke down into a table and chair (by design, not force) and the chair’s vinyl upholstery is long cracked and coming apart but H.o.p. loves it so we use the blue table as an end table holding books and Elmo sits in his little blue chair in front of it. And H.o.p. often sits on the floor next to Elmo’s chair with his foot high stack of paper, drawing.

I guess we’ve gotta start keeping an eye on Elmo.

P.S. The person who lived after us in the apartment with the tin-covered fireplace, removed the tin and used the fireplace for a mini personal hydroponic pot farm, the tin hiding. So, I hear! I never saw it myself. It was a duplex and we’d moved to the other side. After the guy moved out and his sister went in to clean the place out for him (which he’d neglected to do) it turned out he had a full wall of stacked, unwashed cat food tins, which explained the flood of roaches we were getting on our side. A few months later we were sitting outside with friends who lived in the neighboring buildings and we started noticing pot plants growing here and there and pulled them up. Well, other people noticed them. I’m bad at identifying plants and wouldn’t recognize a pot plant to save my life, even though I did a biology paper on marijuana in tenth grade and included meticulous drawings of pics found in the encyclopedia. Doesn’t every tenth grader?

Anyway, I figured the wayward pot plants had something to do with squirrels having raided the duplex neighbor’s fireplace.

Just occurred to me that my earrings may have been spread around the yard in little squirrelly hiding places?

The strange small things in life

The world is a funny place. A few days ago, for the first time in two decades, it occurred to me to try to recollect what my kindergarten teacher’s name was. I hadn’t thought about it in nearly twenty years and at first I thought oh I’ll never remember, then after a few minutes it finally came back that her name was Koenig.

This evening I get an email from a woman who was expressing appreciation for a website of mine. Her name? Koenig. Not since my kindergarten teacher have I had any dealings with a person named Koenig.

Children may like ghost stories but not the inexplicable–at least H.o.p. doesn’t

My plans had been to write about watching “Twister” with H.o.p. earlier tonight.

Insomnia without my computer programs and files isn’t a whole hell of a lot of fun. Usually, if I can’t sleep, I get up and work some then go back to bed. That not being an option the past ten days, I finally started cutting on the television and thus ended up watching, amongst other things, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “A Night at the Roxbury”.

Well, I only watched “A Night at the Roxbury” in part because it was so bad and boring that I fell asleep during it.

Tonight I woke up and unable to get back to sleep I lay there thinking about “Twister” (I don’t know why, I just did) and decided to pass a few minutes blogging on it on my own computer which is kind of back in my possession and kind of half not. At the moment most of it is missing (memory and files) but should be back to normal sometime tomorrow.

Anyway, I get up and come in and sit down in my chair and am thinking for a little while.

And I felt someone nudge the back of my chair.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep and get up then H.o.p. will wake up and he won’t say anything when he comes in, he will just brush the back of my chair and I’ll turn about and there he is and I’ll say he needs to get back to bed and he’ll say he needs a bedtime snack.

So I turn around but there’s no H.o.p. standing there. And the feel of the back of my chair having been nudged by someone was so strong that I couldn’t shrug it off, couldn’t shake it, became rather unsettled and finally had to get up and go over and cut on the lamp.

The floor hadn’t shook. Nothing like that. It had just been the back of my chair.

I may have been as susceptible to being unsettled because I’d already thought something odd enough earlier that I’d mentioned it to Marty.

When you cut off the kitchen florescent light, our electrical set-up here is such that you can hear it through H.o.p.’s speakers. For some reason you can’t hear it through my speakers, but you can through H.o.p.’s, a loud scratchy pop electrical noise. Has always been this way here. Whatever. Electrical quirk and we’ve got surge protection on his and whatever is going on electrically seems never to have hurt it.

But, earlier tonight, I’m walking into the bedroom to put something up and the moment I walk into the room there was the same scratchy pop electrical sound. And I couldn’t figure out what it came from. The television was off. The radio was off. Where did that sound come from? Impossible to figure it out and yet I heard it. But I’m one of those people around whom electrical appliances do seem to behave oddly so for me that happening falls in that category, not in the “odd” box, but in the “oh yeah that happens sometimes” box. I’d mentioned it to Marty to see if he knew what might have been the cause then not thought about it again afterwards.

There have been a few instances of things around here where I have wondered if I heard something, was at the point of deciding I’d not heard it, then H.o.p. will say, “Did you hear that?” At least twice we have been sitting in here and heard something loud, as if it was in the room, but never could figure out what the noise might have been. Each time I have thought, “Well, maybe I didn’t hear it after all,” and then H.o.p. will say, “What was that?”

H.o.p. has told me in the past that this place is haunted. I’ve always thought it was haunted in the way that an old apartment building is haunted by the sounds, say, of a dog playing with a ball on the wood floor in the apartment above. And there have been numerous instances where H.o.p. has said, “Ghosts!” and I’ve assured him, no, that instead that was a sound that came from upstairs because it was obviously a dog with its ball upstairs or someone walking or the radiant heater making noise. I’m a skeptic in general about hauntings and think usually there’s going to be some rational explanation.

Then about two months ago, Marty and I had opted to sleep in H.o.p.’s room because he’d fallen asleep in ours, and we both heard and saw his door shake like he was on the other side trying to open it and Marty opened the door for him. But there was no H.o.p. Marty went to check and H.o.p. was still sound asleep in our room. But we had both heard and seen ithe door shaken in the way it would be if someone was trying to open it. And it was bizarre enough that we got up and didn’t go back to bed for a couple of hours. We never could figure it out.

It wasn’t just the apartment building “settling”. There wasn’t an earthquake (and I’ve felt several small ones and it’s quite different). It really did seem someone was at the other side shaking the door a couple of times trying to open it.

When it happened it reminded me of a sound I’d heard not long after we moved in the building, maybe within the first month or two. It was late at night, I was unable to sleep and was at the computer. The light in the living room was off. And it sounded like a door or someone or something up there, I couldn’t figure out what. I wondered briefly if there was someone trying to get in the apartment. I got up and looked into the living room just to make sure H.o.p. wasn’t up. He wasn’t. I never did get to sleep that night. And in the morning when Marty got up, when he went up front he found, up where I’d heard the sound (which I’d not mentioned to him) a large puddle of water sitting there in the middle of the floor behind the sofa. We were never able to explain it either. The radiant ceiling heater for the living room is nearby and after three years (no other incidents) I’m still not absolutely sure it wasn’t the source, but Marty examined it at the time and insisted it wasn’t. I examined it too and could find nothing to indicate that the radiant heater was the source, and was convinced enough that it wasn’t that I even examined the front door, wondering if somehow water had entered through there? But there was no way possible for that to have happened.

Which, by the way, has nothing to do with the problem leak currently in our bathroom, which is next to the bathtub and does have to do with a pipe in there.

No, this puddle happened within a foot from the front door. Just happened. Nothing else was wet. No trail of wet. Nothing. No splashes or drops. Just a puddle of water. But since the radiant heater is nearby I’m still placing my bet on it probably having been the source, as it is the only reasonable explanation. And though it has never happened since and though there was no sign of the water having come from the heater and though Marty insists it had not come from the heater.

This is a very quiet building. No sheet rock. All good hard plaster. You can sometimes hear the upstairs neighbors walking around but the sound is pretty muted. You don’t hear doors opening and closing upstairs. You can hear doors opening and closing sometimes from out in the hall and the sounds are obvious and distinguishable.

Anyway, H.o.p. has been telling me that the apartment is haunted but I’ve always passed it off as the kind of imaginings you have as a child where there are monsters in the closet or under your bed. He doesn’t like to sleep in his room, and it’s only been in the past couple of months that he’s told me, a couple of times, because, “It’s haunted” and I’ve always thought it was because he was hearing apartment noises. He hasn’t insisted on it. He’s just mentioned it a few times in the same tone of voice he’d use for telling me he wanted some water. If he sees an ant around here then he yells, “Mom, I saw an ant!” (see an ant here and usually it’s followed by a swarm coming in through the back door so there’s reason for alarm) but there’s been no yelling about ghosts. Still, we don’t make him sleep in his room–right now he now normally beds on one of the living room futons and sometimes in our room with us or we’ll sleep in the living room. It’s all pretty flexible since it’s all futons around here. But occasionally I will try to get him accustomed to his room and will again suggest he try sleeping there and go in and lie down with him until he goes to sleep. I did the same a couple of nights ago. Got him settled and cut off the light and lay down with him. He said, “I don’t like this room, it’s haunted.” I said what made him think that and he pointed around and said, “Ghosts,” then said, “Eyes.” When he’s brought up the idea of seeing ghosts before, I’ve explained to him that sometimes we see things that aren’t there, especially in the dark. I assumed this time he was talking about his stuffed animals on his bookcase and I said no those are just your stuffed toy animal friends. We lay there a minute and then I realized he was quietly crying and that he really was afraid. I’d had no idea–couldn’t tell by the sound of his voice. So I got his stuffed toy dragon that he sleeps with and played with it like a puppet and had the dragon tell him all about his stuffed animal friends, reminding him how much fun he has with them and how much he loves them and they love him, talking about every single one of them and the good times they’ve had together. He started smiling and fell asleep and the next morning when he got up he proudly said he had not been afraid at all after his dragon had talked him to sleep.

Well, that took care of that, I’d thought and felt rather pleased with things that the dragon did the trick and that his fears abated.

And here I am, a couple of nights later, freaked out and cutting on the lamp because I felt something bump my chair.

It’s not like I was sitting here thinking about ghosts or all this. No, instead I had been sitting here thinking about “Twister” and how I would have hated it if watching it by myself and would have cut it off, but watching it with an excited and enthralled eight-year-old made for an enjoyable evening.

Do I “feel” the place is haunted? No. I do feel H.o.p.’s got those eight-year-old fears of closet monsters going on that many kids have. We’ve talked a lot about that. I’ve not just brushed them off. But now that I think about it, the few things we’ve been unable to explain, I wonder how I can continue justifying telling H.o.p., “No, it’s nothing.” Because there have been a few things that we simply can’t explain.

Young Actress with Roses (digital painting)

Young Actress with Roses
14 by 28 inches
digital painting 2005

Our power went off last night. Off and on. Off and on. Off and on. We were all just getting to sleep and I heard this wild distant sound and the power went off. Then the power came back on. Then there was again this weird distant sound and the power went off and that was that, off and on, all night long. As this happened, I lay there and half asleep I had one of those half-asleep thoughts where is this what the universe sounds like, shutting down for you, when you die. Zonk, bop, and off it goes. All kinds of whacky unbidden thoughts lately. Yesterday Marty got up and said he had found himself, upon waking, meditating on what a space alien would think of Christmas if it walked into a Christmas party, not knowing anything about Christmas, a stream of thought that prompted him finally to think, “Get out of my brain!” and cut off the proceedings because it was a ridiculously meticulous meditation. About the same time I had found myself thinking, “Whatever in the world brings the thought of Dorothy Stratten to my brain?” Because there she was suddenly, a woefully 1980’s blonde Galaxina sitting on her space ship robot’s throne. I never think about Dorothy Stratten and had no reason to be thinking about her. I’ve seen Galaxina a couple of times and thought it was a fun film but the last time I watched it would have been at least ten years ago.

Not that strange unbidden thoughts don’t happen every few minutes but yesterday our brains were apparently more confused than usual by them.

So the power goes off and Marty cut off this and that around the apartment and we still got up this morning to a burned out aquarium pump, and it was no cheap pump. Damn! And then the new LCD monitor, the one that took me forever to calibrate, which I’m still questioning whether it will work for me, wouldn’t come on. Said it was in power save mode and for me please to move my mouse and I did but still it wouldn’t come on so I rebooted and it came on finally. The video card is messed up because the monitor now looks like hell. The new machine, back last night from being tweeked, sits in the corner and maybe today we will or I will be able to finish transfering everything over and get it set up. It may have to be today as the last time two times the power died (it dies frequently here) it took 30 to 40 minutes to get H.o.p.’s computer back on. We have a battery back-up/surge protector on mine. We should get one for H.o.p. too.

Our mail around here sucketh. Relatives mailed cards to H.o.p. at the time of his birthday, December 2nd, and they didn’t get here until yesterday. Nearly two weeks. And that included a card mailed for him in town on December 2nd. A lot of mail we’ve been waiting on for a couple of weeks didn’t get here until yesterday. But some cute cards for H.o.p., celebratory. He had great fun opening them.

We are still figuring out Christmas here. UPS knocked on the window yesterday and apologized for waking me up though I wasn’t asleep. All my life people apologize for waking me up, in sight and on the phone. I must look and sound perpetually sleepy at first auditory and visual glance and it has been extremely annoying, for decades, to have everyone say they’re sorry for waking me up, including my mother-in-law who can say that even if I’ve just stepped out of the car. In the box was a popcorn maker from a relative. I never think of Christmas until the last minute but that and the cards had me looking around Amazon, anywhere, this AM, trying to figure out Christmas gifts. H.o.p. was all excited about the popcorn maker, never having seen one, a microwave popcorn boy. It’s an on top of the stove type. He puzzled over it for the rest of the afternoon. He made dinosaurs out of the styro-popcorn-pellets. “Math, math!” I kept saying now that he’s getting over his cold. “Math! Math!” I said. He replied, “How did the world get here?” and I wanted to hit him over the head as I’ve told him that story a dozen times, what anyone believes they know about it, and he’s seen film on it numerous times at Fernbank. (Which reminds me, there’s a film on the Nile at Fernbanik’s IMAX I promised him we’d see.) I wasn’t up for talking about the beginnings of the world yesterday for some reason. Just wasn’t in me.

He’s still coughing. I’m dribbling kleenex again. Marty said he felt awful yesterday.

As for the header, it is a portrait of my young actress niece. I call that some sense of presence to be eleven and pull off that expression and pose. When I was photographing her for the portrait when she received the roses, she was herself but when she was back on stage during the strike and saw me taking shots she went into the pose. (And, Bibi, if you’re reading this, isn’t she gorgeous?)

That’s what I’ve been working on since Sunday. Hell was painting in every single one of those flocked things on the dress. But this portrait needed all those little flocked dots. For one thing it needed to be a record of her and her roses and the dress her mother made for her for the play. Also, just too stark without the flockings. Needed some activity. Spent hours on a background that you can hardly see, just painting and repainting and paint over, layer on layer on layer, to get some good depth to it. Simple black wouldn’t do. Not with that light-colored dress and shawl. Simple black background and she became all black eyes and nothing else. May have worked with just a facial portrait but not this.

To me she looks remarkably like this portrait Antonello da Messina did, a Sicilian painter, renaissance years. It’s always funny what stares out at you from the canvas. With my niece it was her father and then the man in the Messina portrait, the same mouth. And the shape of the eyes.

You say, “Why didn’t you take the roses out of the cellophane in the painting?”

Because I like the way the wrappings push the eye up to her face.

I am still not happy with the calibration on this monitor. Today I realize it is a tad contrasty. Seems to be. This is going to drive me nuts. Am right now running VGA and will switch over to DVI cord on the new machine and it was looking contrasty on that as well. Can’t afford one of those expensive calibration meters.

And of course most people don’t even have their monitors calibrated so what they’re seeing on the screen begs the trash can.

Can’t right now check my calibration against a print as my printer is cheap and for some reason now had begun printing all reds and nothing but. But my former monitor was spot on, I know that, though at the end it was getting just a touch darker.

Driving me nuts, I say. Nuts. Bang my head against the wall despairing nuts.

Wanderin’ Fool

Was one of those kind of sleeps where you go to bed and wake up feeling like you’ve been drugged, can’t move, go back to sleep and repeat. Lots of dreaming. I remember at one point trudging along in one of those dreams and looking down and seeing my left pants’ leg pulled up and I thought ah the Tarot Fool’s journey again and for some reason didn’t pull the pant’s leg back down.

Don’t you hate it when that happens.

Amaryllis eyes


Took a digi snapshot last night of our amaryllis for family. The “eyes” effect is actually just an accidental trick of light and shadow, the white being the wall behind the flower. Still, quite something. I looked around on the web at other photos of amaryllis and didn’t come across anything even vaguely similar. Was having a couple of weeks ago a conversation with a photographer friend about how our brains are configured to look for patterns in things and perhaps especially facial features. Click for slightly larger view.