Tuesday, May 5, 2020

"A Study in Contradictions" by Douglas Messerli

by Douglas Messerli

Jean Genet The Criminal Child: Selected Essays (Charlotte Mandell and Jeffrey Zuckerman, translators) (New York, New York Review of Books, 2020).

Jean Genet’s The Criminal Child, selected essays recently published in a wonderful translation of Charlotte Mandell and Jeffrey Zuckerman by the New York Review of Books, is a study in contradictions, however beautifully expressed.
     Although readily admitting to his criminal childhood acts—which consisted mostly of stealing books and sexual acts as a child prostitute—Genet, naming many another such beings (Saint-Maurice, Saint-Hilaire, Bell-Isle, Eysse, Aniane, Montresson, Mettrayé)—admittedly meaningless to the rest of us, that these children, sentenced often for a prison period of 21 years (the French system was not a palliative one), writes:

           These children are committing an (intentional) error, the tribunal
           having passed a judgment such. Acquitted for having acted
           without full awareness, and entrusted to the reformatory until
           the age of majority….” But the young criminal immediately
           rejects the indulgence and concern of a society that he has, in
           committing his first offence, revolted against. At fifteen or
           sixteen or earlier yet, he has attained a maturity that other may
           not even reach even at sixty, and he scorns their munificence.
           He insists that his punishment be unsparing.

     I am certainly unsure that all teenage offenders quite felt the way Genet portrays them, but then Genet, despite his moral indulgences was also a highly moral being determined to react to the school-boy discipline that “strike a gentle soul as severe and pitiless,” while yet to remaining true to French church teachings that would be infused in his radical theatrical and fictional works to the end of his life.*
     It is clear, even in these early essays, that Genet was always torn between societal values and his own radical reaction against them.
     His ballet, “’Adame Miroir,” for example is a performance about mirrors, which reveal the class differences between a handsome sailor, who “has no past,” and whose life “beings with the choreography, which utterly contains it. He is young and handsome. He has curly hair. His muscles are hard and supple: in short, he is our of the ideal lover,” and The Domino, who represents death, a coupling performed in the interior of an extremely sumptuous palace, “the hallways covered with beveled mirrors.” In short, it is a slightly later version of Querelle of Brest.
     Although it is quite clear that he loves the work of fellow French director Jean Cocteau, he also describes the famed author-director as writing a work that is a “curious fragment, brief hard blazing, comically incomplete.”

          That is how Jean Cocteau’s work seems to us, like a light, aerial
          stormy civilization hanging from the heavy heart of our own. The
          very person of the poet adds to it, thin, knotted, silvery as olive

     Genet’s wonderful essay on the artist Alberto Giacometti is just as fraught with contradictions.
On one hand, he recognizes Giacometti’s work as representing a kind of nostalgia:

           It is Giacometti’s body of work that make our universe so un-
           bearable to me, so much does it seem that this artist knew how
          to remove whatever impeded his gaze so could discover what
          remains of man when the pretense is removed.

     Yet, clearly, he is entranced by the sculptures, for him an truly sensuous experience.
           I cannot prevent myself from the touch the statues: I turn away
           my eyes, and my hand continues to discoveries alone, the neck,
           the head, the nape of the neck, the shoulders…Sensations
           flow to my fingertips. Not one that isn’t different, so that my
           hand travels through an extremely varied and lively landscape.

     But it is the last essay of this book, “The Tightrope Walker,” that most intrigues me as a kind of metaphoric statement of Genet’s own writing and sensibility. For him, the dance, the acrobatic on the wire is everything—in short it is the performance of the art that is even more important than the writer/performer.

            Give your metal wire the most beautiful expression, not of
            you, but of it. Your leaps, your somersaults, your dances—
            in acrobat slang, your pitter-patter, bows, midair somersaults,
            cartwheels, etc.—you will execute them successfully, not
            for you to shine, but so that a steel wire that was dead and
            voiceless which finally sings.

     This short volume of essays by Genet reveals volumes about his art, as contradictory as it may be—but then that was what Genet himself was!
      After finishing them over a few days of quarantine, I wished I might read them all over again.

Los Angeles, May 5, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (May 2020).
*I need to again mention that at about the age of 15, visiting a University of Iowa bookstore, I stole the only book that I ever have or will: which just happened to be Jean Genet’s The Blacks. I knew absolutely noting about Genet, and had never read his work, and certainly did not at all know that he had been arrested for doing the same thing; but the book just called out to me and I had to have it, despite the fact that I had little money, and was allowed to visit the stores for a short while before my other family members would be delighted to take in the Hawkeyes’ football game.
      Strangely I never felt guilty about this one-time act, but when I relayed it, after I myself had become a major publisher, to the bookseller from that same bookstore, he seemed shocked, startled by my revelation, and surely ready to have me arrested for my childhood crime.  

Friday, May 1, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #37”

So, so quiet—except for the endless drone of the television's CNN, which I haven't yet dragged over into my personal space.
      No mourning doves yet.
      Despite the reported return of natural life into our slightly departed world, it seems quieter this May 1st than Rachel Carson's description of it in her 1962 book Silent Spring.
      O, just one dove, at 5:45, has begun his early call. But then, like my cricket, suddenly stopped. Do these sentient beings realize our sudden abandonment of their world? The dove never returned to his cries.
      I read in yesterday's The New York Times that New Yorkers' were getting up later. Same thing here in Los Angeles. Some of our neighbors seem never to even see the day-light, with their blinds endlessly drawn, with no lights. Yesterday, I saw only one person from our complex, the Russian again airing his blanket upon his railing.
     In my look into nature, am I also losing contact with the humans with whom before I daily came together within space? If we were so busy rushing around previously that we hardly recognized one another, now we appear to be trapped within our own fearful nightmares, alone and desolate.
     I ran down to the check the mail early today, with my mask on, just to not have the encounter the lurking people around the corners, waiting for me to quickly leave.
     I've realized these past weeks just how much Howard and I do truly love and need one another.
     My cricket was busy for most the night, but I awoke him early this morning with a shower at 4:30, and he closed down his communications. Moreover, I forgot to give him his nightly tribute of impossible to eat food and water. His fortitude simply amazes me. Tomorrow, if he survives, will be the beginning of his 9th week sheltering in our house.
      Despite our best intentions, we retreated last night to a diet of Welsh rarebit, this made with a lovely Welsh cheese on Thomas' muffins.
      Yet neither of us was pleased with the meal, and we mutually agreed to lay off the unhealthy dish for a while--despite its luscious taste.
      Maybe tonight some Rao's chicken soup or Marie Calender's Roasted Turkey Breast and Stuffing? Neither is great cuisine. but I don't want to have Howard make a journey into the unknown for better and fresher ingredients.
      The pool lights just turned off. So quiet. So very quiet.

Los Angeles, May 1, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (May 2020).

Thursday, April 30, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #36”

Two serious calls today, one absolutely wonderful: Howard's niece Stephanie had a baby, which she beautifully named Alice Rose (after Howard's grandmother's and mother's name).
      The other quite tragic, a dear Washington, D.C. friend is nearing death, after an exceptionally long time of surviving with a number of serious illnesses. Hospice has finally suggested that he be removed from his ventilator for pneumonia (after he strangely did not prove positive for the COVDID-19 virus). Does it truly matter? A dear friend is now dying. I'll soon send out our news about one of our very dearest friends. We all cried together on the telephone this morning.
     The other night we received a late-night call and weren't able to get to the telephone fast enough. Neither of the calls were from them, but Howard now keeps the phone under his pillow.

Los Angeles, April 30, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #35”

My little cricket is still well, singing throughout the night. I fed him tiny bits of fish (which wasn’t tasty) with his water last evening. I do believe that perhaps the small ramekin of water was moved a bit, but I also think this might be delusional thinking on my part, and just a result of the shake of my hands.
       Now 61,005 US citizens dead. Throughout the world, 3,218,430 have contracted the virus to date, with 228,625 international deaths. When more than 30 million citizens apply for unemployment insurance, what can you say? How do doctors expect you to stop touching your face when tears are streaming down both cheeks?
      And now the Los Angeles City Department of Health has completely closed down our pool and jacuzzi. The tiny bit of human recognition we have left is now gone. No Ukrainians, no anxious parents or their children will be witnessed: just the plastic owl and the mostly closed umbrellas and our Russian family’s rug and towels, which they’ve begun to hang over their second-story balcony railing.
      Yet, just now, a little bird, which I describe as a finch, perhaps a purple finch since his forehead was slightly bluish, flew into our patio to inspect it. When I attempted to get a better look, he/she flew off, but soon came back. Hard to see in the gloomy Thursday morning light. And a crow just darted through the garden. And another, larger one, just flew across my view, with another behind. Heckle and Jeckle again I suspect. They’re now terribly busy cawing, evidently for food and territory.
       At least, Los Angeles County has now promised to allow free testing for the virus to all of its millions of citizens. A brave act. How they will have enough testing kits and how they will offer them is still not clear. But it’s a start toward normalcy, and maybe will result in an even clearer notion of just how many were affected by this terrible disease.
      Howard keeps getting thinner—something that begin long before the pandemic—and today, I observed that the t-shirt Elsa Flores Almarez had given us celebrating her artist-husband Carlos—whose image generally peeks out over the belly—has now been buried into his pants.
      Well, today, I’m watching Sacha Guitry’s 1937 film Désiré, a comedy for a change. I need it.

Los Angeles, April 30, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #34”

My cricket is already, at 4:02 p.m., communicating with the world.
     Howard, unfortunately, is not, sleeping for the first time in years for about 2 hours with very ruddy cheeks. Worried about him.
     Checked his forehead, not fever that I could detect, but not totally coherent, accusing me of throwing away two small ramekins which I do not use for my crickets.
     This happens in stay-at-home families. Things that are clearly not true become reality.
     The crows, Heckle and Jeckle, came again to visit us, spending a few moments on our patio railing.
     The mourning doves have been basically quiet.
     Only one child in the pool. The Ukrainians came to visit the pool only for a few moments. It's been overcast in Los Angeles most of the day, but that is usual in May and June gloom—as we generally describe this season in the city.
     Howard did make his wonderful red potato salad, thank heaven. We have only to warm up the fish fillets, as bad as they might taste.
     Just looked into the mirror. My cheeks look shallow, not red in the least. Don't know which of us is more or less healthy.
     These questions are the issues that our pandemic brings up. But it is he who goes out to grab up our food, such as it is. How can anyone who cares not worry?
      I emptied some of the unnecessary leftovers in our refrigerator, something Howard normally does. I'm not criticizing him, just wondering, as our roles have suddenly shifted.
     The wind is up, and I mean this literally, not as a metaphor.

Los Angeles, April 30, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #33”

We finally decided to eat broccoli with mushrooms and onions, with barbecued pork fried rice tonight. Better for us by far. And even our surely starving cricket.
      Children in the pool, but Pence and Trump wander into all sorts of spaces without any masks, even at Mayo Clinic.
      The children are wonderful, these older men are idiots who cannot even comprehend what their actions might mean.

Los Angeles, April 29, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #32”

Not many mourning dove moans yet by 6:30. Maybe all the doves are busy making nests. Although I don't see them skittering about the way I have for years. They used to come up as pairs to our patio and look for whatever bits of food they might discover there. Perhaps that's because the gardeners uprooted our lovely Ficus tree. Its roots were too deep and were causing leakages into our parking garage.
     Yet my cricket was so very loud all night that I almost wondered if his friend hadn't rejoined him. He was fed a few bits of egg with his water.
      When I take up the saucer every morning, however, all seems so untouched that it appears to have been primarily a symbolic act, like the feeding of the cobra in Jean Renoir's film The River, the same snake that later killed the young heroine's little brother.
     Now many local Iowa farms will have to kill their pigs—my uncle raised both pigs and cows—because of the closures of the Tyson and other meat-processing plants since so many of their workers had come down with COVID-19. So even if some wild animals are making a return, domesticated ones are needlessly dying.
     We're planning on fish fillets tonight with Howard's homemade potato salad. I'll try the fish with Mr. Cricket. To the right is a picture that looks similar to Howard's red potato salad.
     56,253 people have died on the virus in the United States. Almost a million people have contracted the disease.

Los Angeles, April 28, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Monday, April 27, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #31”

One thing I very much enjoy these quiet days is when one of our residents daily brings out his young daughter, holding her tightly to take her around the pool. Neither wear masks; surely that would frighten her. But she loves to see what's around her, and today looked into our patio, without my knowing why. Maybe she liked our crazy plastic owl.
      Other parents do similar things, some taking their children for a much-needed swim. They're noisy, but I completely understand their desperation to simply enjoy themselves for a few moments, and where the Ukrainian couple lovingly encourage them to toss and turn a short while.
      It's so quiet right now, on this rather warm day in Los Angeles. Not like anything else I've ever experienced. No cricket--too late in the day, nor mourning doves either. A big crow came down and sat on our patio railing for a few moments, obviously again inspecting his predatory territory.
Today, I finally again worked on my taxes, and will get them to our accountant, via e-mail, I think, by tomorrow.
       Howard is off to the Post Office (which is still surviving, but in great peril), and then on to two brief outings at our local groceries, Ralph's and Smart and Final, Ralph's evidently remarkably busy. He proclaimed we had enough now to eat for another week!
      We toss so much food away that we can no longer process. I wish somehow we might give it away before it spoils to those in need.
      Last night we had frozen Sicilian pizza, tonight eggs Benedict or a version of it, this time with exceptionally good Thomas' muffins, finally again available at our local grocery.
     It was difficult to get up in the middle of the night; my muscles and foot hurt. But thank heaven my little cricket was there to greet me, and didn't stop his leg-rubbing for a moment.

Los Angeles, April 27, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Sunday, April 26, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #30”

The dominate mourning dove was singing after midnight last night and is now singing his lonely song at 5:00 a.m.
     It almost seems he's moaning not in desire of love but out of sadness. And yesterday was not such a happy day for me.
      I think our brown cricket has died. I haven't heard him now for two days, while the black one strongly carries on in my bathroom, beginning his 8th week as a resident. Maybe I should ask him to pay rent. But he does more to comfort me than I can express.
     And yesterday I needed comforting.
      Howard made excellent Spaghetti Carbonara. But as I begin to clean up the dishes—one of my household duties—I suddenly and inexplicably fell to the kitchen floor, and for the first time ever, was unable to simply roll over and stand as I have in the past.
      I fell back to the floor 4 times, before Howard tried to rescue me. But even that didn't work, as I fell back yet again. It took his positioning of our small chair stairs, to help me find something to support me in my attempts of rising.
      Finally, I stumbled up, but realized I was badly bleeding. I couldn't figure out from where the blood was emanating. Only this morning did I see that my small left toe was covered in blood.
     Accordingly, I tracked some of the blood down the hall into the bedroom, into the bed, and, apparently later, into my bathroom.
     I also think I pulled a muscle in my upper left leg.
     I don't believe the small toe was broken (I can still move it), but I feel a bit like Billy Ray Cyrus' song "Achy Breaky" all over today.

Los Angeles, April 26, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Friday, April 24, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #29”

On the same day that our toddler president suggested that we might inject ourselves with a detergent or expose the insides of our body with ultraviolet light waves, the Korean brothers, Jeff and Warren, whom we allow to use our second parking space for free (it may be hard to believe, but we own only one car in Los Angeles, which is why we had an empty space--every apartment building or condominium in Los Angeles is required to offer their tenants 2 spaces), sent us a large box of cinnamon buns.
     It was so genuinely nice, but I could eat only one. Howard and I have never been very taken with desserts, although of late he has developed a great liking for mint and chocolate-chip ice cream.   
     But these are so very, very sugary I could hardly finish the first.
     Wonder if our crickets might like a taste?
     The black one in my bathroom chirruped all night, but the brown one in our bedroom chirped out just for an hour. Hope he's alright.
     We had tuna and fried potatoes for dinner, so I served them just a little tuna with their water.
     The mourning doves were also fairly quiet, sharing just a few moans. Perhaps they've already all found their mates.
      For a brief moment yesterday, a hummingbird did buzz our green plants just to check them out. Well, at the end of April the temperature was 93 degrees! which usually doesn't happen here until August, a month I describe as "mockingbird" month.
     When we lived in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, we had a very noisy mockingbird in a nearby tree. The variations of the noises he produced truly did make it difficult to sleep. And one night our rather cranky neighbor loudly screamed out at about 2:00 a.m.: "Shut up!" The mockingbird stopped for an instant and then proceeded to sing his endless song.
      But if that incident wasn't funny enough, the neighbor told us the next morning that he had attempted to call the police. They laughed and reported that they do not respond to mockingbirds.
Howard could just imagine them coming to the apartment in the middle of the night and shouting out to the bird through a megaphone: "Come down, you up there come down."
     On the outside of our condominium compound a mockingbird nested in a tree across the street during our first year living here. His cries, incorporating sounds that appeared to imitate trucks, air-conditioner units, and other machines, was much more horrifying than the more southern, Maryland version of the species.

Los Angeles, April 24, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Thursday, April 23, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #28”

I hate to say this, but I'm happy my mother died in her assisted living-home when she did, at age 92. Her caretakers described her, in the last few days, as "actively dying," as if it was almost an activity of will. It would have been terrible to know that she had COVID-19 and that we couldn't even visit her to give her some comfort.
     My sister had already filed an Advanced Medical Directive on my mother's behalf, so that tubes would not be jammed down her nose and throat if her health deteriorated.
I think we all need to rethink nursing homes and assisted-living spaces. Perhaps living at home with family would help our elders more than shipping them out to petri dishes of disease. And, as in Asian cultures, they might even contribute to the raising of our children.
     Of course, Howard and I, without children, have no place really to "go." Our brothers and sisters are also aging, and we hardly know our nephews and nieces, who also have their children to care for. And neither of us would be comfortable in Iowa or the suburbs of Washington, D.C. We are very urban folks.
     I've directed that, if at all possible, I'd like to die at home. 88% of the hospital patients in New York, put on a ventilator, died with no one at their side but those brave and very busy nurses.
     Good accompaniment to my comments by the mourning doves—but, obviously, they are not truly "mourning," but are calling out songs of love, just as our poor bachelor crickets are nightly desperately attempting to attract a female to magically enter our house.
     The brown cricket came into our bedroom last night to rub out his legs, while the black one, obviously the more reluctant explorer, stayed in place.
     Last night Howard made baked lemon chicken thighs, but he had forgotten to get Pinot Grigio. So I elected to make the run, bringing also back some Kiwi fruits. He also made fresh mashed potatoes.
     The crickets, accordingly, received tiny bits of baked chicken as their cricketing award.
     I gather our vegetarian determination has ceased. But as Tyson continues to close plants (they just closed down the plant in Waterloo, Iowa, the town in which I was born) because of so many of their employees coming down with the virus, it may have to become the new reality. I should add, we don't buy Tyson or Perdue products.

Los Angeles, April 23, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #27”

Well, I confirmed my theory about there still being two crickets in my bathroom. The brown one was out last night hiding under my sink, while the black one was still thrashing out in the usual space. Now I can also explain why some nights the cricketing seemed to be performed in stereo.
      I again fed the critters Chinese string beans with their water. I had again put their water ramekin in the very center of the saucer on which I feed them, and it once more was moved a few inches closer to the lip when this morning I came to take it away.
      The mourning doves were singing en masse all day. That early single dove was just a harbinger of the others. And now their songs represent almost a chorus of moaning voices.
      But I didn't realize until today that early in the morning they sing out a 5-note song. But in the evening they hoot just a 3-note cry with no alteration in its pitch. Some of them continued on almost until midnight.
     Two crows came to our patio ledge for a visit, which I immediately named Heckle and Jeckle (younger people probably don't remember the late 1940s and 1950s animated cartoon-series).
     This morning another crow flapped by and moved off to the roof. Just checking out dove territory I suspect, since all that singing will surely lead to dove babies. I've seen them swoop down and grab up new-born chicks. But then our second cat, Kiwi was also not very nice to the doves, bringing many a one into our house as a "gift." I often attempted to “save” them, but most of them did survive her brutal catch.
     We received our delivery bag of food that my friend Pablo Capra had ordered for us from Sprouts: Swiss chard, broccoli, blueberries, blackberries, a lemon, eggs, and a bag of beautifully colored potatoes.
      Pablo is a vegetarian, and all of these things are delicious evidence of that, although neither of us has previously eaten Swiss chard. Looking forward to trying it. Perhaps we'll become vegetarians as well. For a long while now we haven't eaten much meat, and after seeing what is happening in the meat-packing plants in the Midwest, perhaps we no longer can even stomach cows, chickens, and pigs.
      We had lovely loosely scrambled eggs and the intolerable muffins for dinner last night.
      As he was falling asleep last evening, Howard suddenly mumbled the words "I hope you're not going to abandon me." After 50 years and 3 very long months of living with him, I'm surely not going to "abandon" him, unless, of course, if I die first.
      There have now been 178,845 deaths from COVID-19 world-wide, and scientists now realize that the disease had been in the US (in California) at least two weeks before the first case in Kirkland, Washington was announced, which means we were all exposed to the virus long before we even knew it had visited us.

Los Angeles, April 22, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #26”

The mourning doves are very busy in their 5-note calls this morning. I got up a bit later than usual (4:00), and they began their calls at around 5:00. It's now about 6:00 and they are still busy. Today again there are several of them, some with higher and others with lower pitches.
     At 7:30 they're still calling out to one another.
     We also have little birds, which I call finches, who rush upwards with a small shrill sound of wing-beats or cries. Perhaps someone reading my narrative knows what kind of bird they really are. They too are gathering still in the dark, although in other years I've seen them only in daylight.
Toni Simon suggests they are simply house sparrows (scientifically described as finches).
     Last night Howard made tofu and then drove down the street to our local Chinese restaurant for Chinese string beans.
      So our crickets were served a plate of tiny bits of the string beans with water for their late dinner.
     And yes, I did say "crickets" plural. Last night I suddenly realized that a single cricket could not be also making the slightly arrhythmic and chirruping sounds at the very same moment. And recently the noise has been so loud that it's hard to imagine one little cricket accomplishing such operatic performances.
     The existence of the other male cricket still living with the first would also explain why a few weeks ago the cricket surveying my shower was black, and the other day the cricket I thought was dying was totally brown. So perhaps they are gay crickets, still inhabiting the same small hole of linoleum that has come loose. And, given the evidence, they represent a kind of bi-racial couple--or, at least, of different breeds.
      Later, at 2:00 I listened carefully again, and at first simply heard one cricket at work; but soon after he was joined once more by a slightly different arrhythmic version of the first's leg thrashings.
I actually believe they did sip on some of the greens. And the tiny ramekin seemed to have shifted.

Los Angeles, April 21, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Monday, April 20, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #25”

In yesterday's The New York Times Magazine, author Helen Macdonald wrote about the new craze on Facebook and Instagram for pictures of animals, often wandering through locations such as Venice, Oxford, and German cities where they previously have not been observed (some of these testaments being quite false).
     She pondered why these pictures had become so popular, suggesting both a moral vision (nature was during our lockup getting the opportunity to redeem itself) and others of sentimentality (humans return to nature in times of crisis).
     Of course, nature has always been with us all along, sometimes, during our busy lives, intruding—coyotes can surely kill young pet dogs and cats, bears lumbering into backyards are a threat to human life, and former LACMA curator Maurice Tuchman's former wife, simply while gardening, was bitten by baby rattlesnakes and had to be rushed to Cedars Sinai Hospital in order to save her life—or simply ignored.
     But it's also quite apparent to me, we, locked up in our rooms, have become the zoo animals we often talk about, the crazy polar bears who endlessly circle about their spaces, the lions who roar every time they witness a human face.
     That is why I chose only to talk about, in Howard's and my quite limited space, animals who turned out to visit us. In a sense, my little diary is like a locked-up tiger's claw of our natural history.
     The stories I tell are not about lewd human behavior as much as they are about how natural beings enter into our lives to remind us of the lewd beings we really are.
      Having eaten delicious boiled shrimps and obscenely bad frozen potato wedges last night (my garbage reveals we ate all the shrimp and few of the potatoes), I fed our still active cricket smashed bananas and water. Even Howard, for the very first time commented, in the middle of the night, how our cricket (although he's not truly "ours") was busy with his legs.
      In a few moments our mourning doves will sing out to us again. Yes, just as I write, there they are at 5:48 in the morning.
      I wish we'd be visited again by hummingbirds, but they like flowers, and mostly we have only green plants. When all of this is over I intend to go to a plant nursery and buy several pots of flowers just to lure them into our patio.
      At 6:20 not a human being in sight (not even at 8:00, when I am editing this), no lights on except ours. Another sleeping-in Monday. I'm happy to still remember what day of the week it is!
      Terrible news: now 40,683 US citizens dead, and probably far more without testing.

Los Angeles, April 20, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Sunday, April 19, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #24”

Isolation does strange things to people. My hair, which I was gradually losing, has grown so long that I'm beginning to look like a hoary old man out of Lear.
      Last night, when as I was holding Howard, he falling into sleep, he suddenly mumbled: "They're raking them out of the sea. So many people are dying!" Yes indeed.
      This morning, when I recounted it to him, he didn't even know what I was taking about.
      I have taken to the habit of reading both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, both of whose deliveries we receive every day, a day late. CNN keeps me abreast of the daily news, and I prefer reading the most tragic and analytic aspects of the news a bit after it has occurred.
      I can say, after all that meat and cheese we've been eating recently, I have never enjoyed Cesar salad so very much. I ate almost everything on my plate. And yes, Howard, after acquiring some bread, did make the croutons himself, as Pierre Joris suggested he might.
      But Howard had forgotten to get me more fresh fruit (I had asked for strawberries), so our poor cricket—still busy thrashing his legs last night as he begins his 7th week living in our house—went hungry. But they can survive, so I read, without food or water for several days.
      I might have fed him salad, but I don't think lettuce infused with eggs, oil, vinegar, lemons, anchovies, and Parmesan cheese, etc. would be good for him.
      James Sherry suggested I might have washed the lettuce, but I'm not sure; and we both swallowed most of it down in any event. We were hungry.
      Although he stopped his chirruping rather early, he was busy for most of the night.
      Howard and I ate so early, at 2:00 in the afternoon, that, like toddlers, we fell into bed by 5:00. I tried to watch TCM's showing Network, but after watching earlier in the day French director Maurice Pialat's The Mouth Agape (about a dying woman whose husband and sons had abandoned and cheated on her) I was just too depressed to watch it. And I've never been much of a fan of writer Paddy Chayefsky's kind of realism, rooted as it was in the 1950s and early 1960s.
      Instead I continued reading a little of the Genet book, The Criminal Child (with his fascinatingly mixed views of the artist Alberto Giacometti) through which I've been slowly making my way through before falling asleep. I got up at 2:00 this morning, which explains why I'm writing this entry at 5:15 a.m.
     We have no idea what we intend to eat today. We do have some beautiful packages of pasta that Pablo Capra brought us a few weeks ago for our anniversary, and we have several jars of good sauces, as well two large cans of tuna, and that tin of sardines I insisted Howard buy for me.
    Just now the mourning doves began their cries at 5:24, very early. It appears that they and our cricket have also been adjusting to earlier hours, the cricket beginning in late afternoons, and the doves still in the dark before daylight. Our pool lights don't turn off until 6:03.
    So good to see governors in certain regional areas working together to provide their citizens what Trump is unable to, guidance and protection.

Los Angeles, April 19, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Saturday, April 18, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #23”

I need to tell the story of our courtyard bees. Every once in a while they appear en masse in our pool, drowning. Why is quite inexplicable. Have they, like lemmings, suddenly engaged in a kind of mass suicidal pact?
     Nature doesn't always act rationally. And the concept of the "survival of the fittest" doesn't always make sense.
     One day, when I was still regularly swimming, I saw this bee terror, and loving these beings who keep our flowers blooming and help to create our honey supplies, I tried to carefully scoop them up, one by one, into my hands to return them to the sunny concrete around the pool. After a few moments, some woke up again to fly off, but many others were dead by the time this mini-lifeguard-saving effort took place.
    Two bees stung me in my attempts, but I didn't mind since I had been able to save a few.
    Yesterday, our president encouraged just such a lemming-like behavior, provoking his followers in several Midwestern states (Michigan and Minnesota among them) to gather together in just such a suicidal act, perhaps infecting each other with COVID-19 as well as bringing it back to their children. Moreover, he incited them, in a time when he has done absolutely nothing to truly support communal activities or to save people from this pandemic, to openly rebel against their mostly female governor's attempts to help their citizens to survive.
     This is not just lack of intelligence and empathy, we have now moved into Kafka territory. Logic no longer holds any sway.
     We did eat Rarebit last night, and it was good--although not the best we've ever made. Howard uses muffins (we couldn't get our favorite brand, Thomas') with a slice of tomato beneath the cheese topping for the rarebit
        So I had to feed the little cricket mashed blueberries again, with water. I can only imagine him belting out, like Ethel Merman in the original version of Gypsy, Stephen Sondheim's great lyric from "Some People," "goodbye to blueberry pie!"
      Tonight, it is our Cesar salad. Howard just needs to make a run for, of all things, croutons, maybe some fresh Parmesan cheese!
     Maybe tonight for our cricket I’ll serve some banana, strawberries, or peaches. Our friend Toni Simon suggested he might like a plate of small insects, but given where we live that is quite impossible, although they do sometimes crawl up the drainpipe to my bathroom. But they move fast and are difficult to murder. I'll just leave them to the delectation of the my still thrashing cricket. This is nearly the end of his 6th week, but he's still going strong. He's certainly one of "the fittest," this small being who has sought respite in our house.
     The mourning doves were out early (4:45 a.m.) and are still at it now (7:40 a.m.). No neighbors seem to have risen. Just our natural beings who vaguely surround us.
     I think I'll have sardines for lunch. I love them.

Los Angeles, April 18, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #22”

A rather wonderful thing happened today to Howard. On his way out to Trader Joe's (because of the long line he didn't enter) he finally got our wine and cheese at Smart and Final's. Back in our building's elevator, a Korean neighbor who he didn't even know suddenly said, "Here is a better mask," and gave him 4 of them. Ours were quite beautifully fashioned by Therese, but somewhat difficult simply to get on, requiring tying behind our necks, etc. How nice friends (like Therese) and neighbors (like this unknown Korean friend) are! It's very hard to imagine a time when masks are the new chic.
     Last night, Howard, who had perhaps too much to drink, didn't want to make the planned for Cesar Salad (we had all the ingredients) and insisted instead on either Chinese food (I have come to dislike our local Chinese restaurant) or McDonald burgers (which I detest). Finally, after he stubbornly said that then we wouldn't eat, I made a run out to McDonald's to get Big Macs and a single cheeseburger, half of which was all I could eat! A few French Fries. I have to say, they were well-prepared, with lanes and big plastic protections for their employees. And they were quite fast in delivering. Traffic was a breeze! I've never before been able to turn left onto Wilshire Blvd.!
     Not much to eat during the day, although I did have my standard yogurt and blueberries thank heaven.
     Our poor cricket had a few bites of meat and cheese from our leftovers (of which there were many), perhaps the first cricket ever to visit McDonald's. I don't think he ate anything, although he was chirruping again last night, but ended quite early. He did continue very early this morning (4:30), but seemed more frightened than usual by my arrival. Perhaps he hasn't forgiven me for the food I tried to feed him.
     This morning, quite early, there were two mourning doves singing out their song. And they continued every so often throughout the day. Mourning doves mate for life; perhaps he found his new lover. Even as I write at 11:00 he's still singing out. He must be happy.
     I do think I heard our outside cricket for a while, but can't be sure. My ears seem to be ringing these days. The doctor has determined I have some hearing loss.
     Tonight, I believe, we're going to have Welsh Rarebit. Not good for us certainly, but good for the tummy and mouth. He got a nice Welsh cheese at the grocery, and Guinness beer. In these days, you eat what you might.

Los Angeles, April 18, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook  (April 2020).

Thursday, April 16, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #21”

Last night we had clam chowder for dinner, so I couldn't serve the cricket—who surprisingly is still living and chirruping—anything but smashed blueberries and water again.  I think for the first time, our cricket moved off later into Howard's bathroom, so I guess he's come around to recognizing that my husband is benign as well.
      I keep reassuring him that he is safe in our house. Wonder what a human voice sounds like to a cricket. Since they respond only to vibrations, I suspect it must seem as something that is absolutely terrifying.
      The mourning dove is busy again this morning, but seems to moaning from another place in our garden, a bit more distant from our patio, still hooting at 9:00 a.m. 
     Haven't heard anything from the outside cricket.
      Now almost 31,000 people have reportedly died in the US. Estimates are even higher.
      22 million individuals have now filed for unemployment. 43% of small business owners say they will have to close down, many permanently. I think when this passes over, the economy will take a very long time to return even to normal, let alone to the robust one for which Trump kept patting his bottom.

Los Angeles, April 16, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #20”

A crow just flew across our patio, as she/he did yesterday morning, then returning and flying up to our roof. Sorry, I don't like them.
     But yesterday, the lovely yellow butterfly flitted again about our patio several times.
         Howard and I had our 3rd day of beef (too much meat). He made beef hash with beets last night. I loved the beets, and served a small plate of them, finely chopped, to the cricket. When I went to pick up the plate this morning, he was still chirping away, and I think he had eaten of it.
     He seemed busy all night. But when I went into take my shower this morning, there he was face-to-face, and he didn't look good. He seemed frail and slightly disabled, hardly able to move his legs. He attempted to crawl again into the crack below my shower where he lives, but appeared unable to enter, and took retreat behind my waste basket. I wanted to check up on him but didn't want make him uncomfortable or frighten him. I believe he's near death.
     Oddly, this morning another cricket was chirping away outside our dining room window. Maybe I can try to entice him in.
      The mourning dove has been moaning now for over an hour. Maybe it's just out of joy—after all that's what mourning doves do—but it sounded even more sorrowful than usual.
      Later this morning we've scheduled a telephone conference call with our lawyer to determine how to leave our condominium apartment to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, once we both die. And to establish our Advanced Health Care Directives. We long ago made wills and established mutual trusts. We'll probably also leave some money to our active Los Angeles LGBTQ community, whose center has now become a campus for housing and entertaining young, older, and needy LGBTQ people, along with a theater and larger stage. It is perhaps the most active center in the country.
     Maybe a small sum to the LAOpera. I will suggest that Pablo Capra become my executor of Green Integer/Sun & Moon Press.
     These days you have to think about these things.

Los Angeles, April 15, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (April 2020).