Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12:

It's odd to have workers painting the outside of your house when you're inside, doing your own work, and the noise of scraping and sanding, or the softer noise of someone with a trowel filling in holes in the wood, is right beside you, or behind you. It's like something is moving in your walls, it's half sinister, you have to remind yourself it's only the painters and they're two very pleasant men from Brazil who occasionally speak to one another while they're working in their strange language. I can understand a bit of Spanish but Portuguese has an altogether different sound. Mostly vowels. Which reminds me of Robert Stone, complaining about the title of the movie made from his novel Dog Soldiers, starring Nick Nolte, as I remember, and it's called Who'll Stop the Rain, and he said, what on earth compelled the producers to come up with a title that begins with a Swedish diphthong? The movie didn't do very well. But I can usually work with noise around me. I tune it out. Not music, however. Some writers, and I think most visual artists, work with music going. I generally start listening to the music. But Stone was right, and what was more impressive was that he knew what a Swedish diphthong sounds like. I don't, and my father was Swedish. Born here, but Swedish.

Work is a funny thing, though. With me it has a rhythm; I'll work very hard some days, other days I can't really get started, even when the subject fascinates me and if I don't work I'll lose precious time. I seem to have a large need for downtime, for gestating things, ideas, I don't know what. I need to read the papers. To straighten up my office. I need rituals, daily rituals, that must function as a kind of glue, holding me together. Me! Whoever that is. The rituals in a way are me, that illusion I spoke of some time ago, that construct. Whole societies are constructed of rituals. The daily vodka; the evening news, truly a waste of time; the crossword puzzle Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, because that's when they're the hardest. Rituals, chitchat, surface tension.

All to fill the silence, I suppose. Behind me one of the Brazilians is painting, and I can hear the paintbrush on the wall from time to time, knocking up against one of the battens, perhaps. It's a trifle eerie, but also reassuring. In horror movies the sounds are supposed to be terrifying, but perhaps at the same time they're a source of hope. Something, at least, is out there. It might have mercy. Isn't every creature capable of mercy?