Octopus' Garden

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


(QuickTime Required.)

Art Glass Bowl and Kitten Centerpiece
posted by Artichoke Heart at 6:44 AM | link | 3 comments

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Enormous tumbleweeds of wind cycloning in off the plains tonight--jangling the windowpanes like a glass tambourine while the windchimes dance a spastic, frostbitten tarantella. The bathroom fan clatters open and shut like a mechanical high hat. Wind so strong that, from a distance, it sounds like the dramatic rumbling of timpani mallets rolling thunder and storm forward from the back of the orchestra.

I love the unease, the unsettledness of the wind. I love how it gives anxiety an exteriority. How its excessive spectacle, its hubristic grandiosity--the Romantic grosse fugue of it--can't help but shift one's focus away from the obsessions of the interior--which, lately, feel too much like endlessly fretting over tiny puzzle pieces in a mismatched puzzle that will never go together anyway.

Cold drizzle on snow today. Slipperiness and treacherousness and mess. What else is there to do but put on sensible shoes and tread carefully?

And yet . . . the horizon this evening marbled with creamy streaks of orange and raspberry sherbet. The band of darkness that wraps each day like a tourniquet loosening its grip. There is a slight easing of things.

In the dark, the resolute stars with their obsolescent light from some other lifetime seem almost like an offering--a candle tribute mourning whom? Or what?

You'd think the wind would blow them all out and extinguish the sky. But it doesn't.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 3:22 AM | link | 0 comments

Monday, January 28, 2008


(QuickTime Required)

A Story About a Box, Part I

A Story About a Box, Part 2

A Story About a Box, Part 3

A Story About a Box, Part 4
posted by Artichoke Heart at 4:59 AM | link | 0 comments

Sunday, January 27, 2008


(QuickTime Required.)

Biting the Book

Bathing Beauty

WWF Presents . . .

In other news, I dreamed last night that I had to crash land a small airplane. I was pretty sure that I was about to die. Somehow, though, I managed to maneuver it through trees and rocks and fields and past the roofs of houses, and then through the opened bedroom window of my apartment, over the bed and through my bedroom and over the entire length of my dining room, and then land it right smack dab in the middle of the throw rug in my living room. Really, it was absolutely astonishing. I had no idea how I was able to manage this. I still have no clue.

(Oh! And then there was this thing involving a giant sponge Rubik's cube . . . ? Or wait . . . that was just something I read about myself on a poster somewhere.)
posted by Artichoke Heart at 1:06 AM | link | 2 comments

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Birthday Phone Call:

JM: We don't get schedule yet. Why don't you send schedule? Now too late and we have no idea where supposed to go for conference. We been waiting, waiting, waiting, but no schedule.

AH: I put a schedule in the mail for you on Monday. You really should have received it by now.

JM: But we don't get. So don't count.

AH: That's strange. You should have.

JM: You say you sent. But we don't get. Who the liar? Now too late. Why you do such lousy job organize conference? You don't even make schedule yet?

AH: Of course the conference is scheduled. It's just that everyone else has e-mail access, so I distributed electronically, and I've been really busy, so I forgot to send you a hard copy until Monday.

JM: Always such big lie excuse you have to make for yourself. So you send schedule to everyone else except your own parents. Why you treat complete stranger better than your own parents?

AH: All you had to do was ask, and I would have gladly told you anything you wanted to know about the schedule and sent you one.

JM: We shouldn't have to ask. We paying customer. Customer always right.

AH: Do you wanted to be treated like customers, or like family?

JM: You treat so poorly. Stranger get better treatment.

AH: I'm sorry you feel that way.

JM: I not accept that kind of insincere, side-of-face apology. You should think about what you did! We old!

AH: You're not even going to wish me a happy birthday, are you?

JM: Shame on you! (Hangs up phone.)

At the Super 8:

JM: I so worry about motel because usually we stay at other one, but you wait such last minute to make reservation for us so we have to stay this one instead. This one cheaper. I hate pay so much money stay motel. This one have ice box, too! (She gestures to the dorm fridge in the motel room like a game show hostess, and opens it up to show me.)

AH: I'm glad you like it.

JM: Next time we stay here.

AH: Good.

JM: Hey. You want piece of cold chicken? I can keep all nice cold chicken in ice box.

AH: No thanks.

JM: Your father, I bet, want cold chicken when he come back inside. Who know what he doing outside such long time with car! (She puts a piece of cold chicken on what appears to be a plastic plate ensconced in about a gazillion layers of tinfoil.) You sure you don't want?

AH: I'm sure. I had soup and salad at the coffee shop during the poetry slam.

JM: Wah! You have to spend money? (Conspiratorially). Hey! I show you something. When done eating cold chicken you just wrap up in top layer of tinfoil and throw away and then you can use same plate again next time eat cold chicken. Isn't smart?

AH: Very smart.

JM: And guess what plate is! Can you guess?

AH: No.

JM: You can't guess, can you?

AH: No. What is it?

JM: I show you! (She lifts up the gazillion layers of tinfoil to reveal a plastic frisbee. My parents, it seems, have apparently been eating cold chicken from tinfoil-covered frisbees.) Guess what?

AH: What?

JM: I got it for free! They giving away frisbee for free at Washington Park this summer! I don't play frisbee. But I take it anyway and now make such nice plate.

AH: Wow. I don't even know what to say. That's great!
posted by Artichoke Heart at 12:59 AM | link | 8 comments

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Gray/Blue and Apricot kitten is named Aiko (Beloved) and Orange/Black/Gray/Cream Tabby kitten is named Tampopo (Dandelion).
posted by Artichoke Heart at 2:58 AM | link | 4 comments

Monday, January 21, 2008


Cold so cold you feel like a crime scene -- flashbulbed open into a tremulous lesion policed by bright yellow tape.

You stay out too long and too late and come back pink as a rare flank steak. You Google hypothermia. Just in case.

You decide you're like vodka. You can stay in the freezer as long as you like without getting burned.

So you go to a party with a six-pack in your purse and even though you've been sad, or maybe even because you've been sad, you laugh and talk and laugh all night long and it feels really, really good.

Cold so cold you turn on every single light and keep all the candles burning.

You simmer a soup on the stove until the kitchen window steams over with mist and fog.

You cheer yourself up with different kinds of apples: Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Delicious.

The kittens sequester themselves in your armpits at night. You sequester yourself like a snail in its shell.

You wait for the pending depression to cash itself in like a bounced check ricocheting into an overdrawn account.

You think if you stay inside and don't leave the house, you can avoid the angry villagers with their sticks and flame.

You keep telling yourself you're like vodka. You can stay in the freezer as long as you like without getting burned.

Outside, late at night in the Hy-Vee parking lot, wind Spirographs the snow under the metal halide parking lot lamps and everything is a frozen discotheque of glitter, glitter, glitter . . . and you think you could stay out there in that beautiful deadly tundra forever.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 9:43 PM | link | 0 comments

Saturday, January 19, 2008


In which the kittens begin to distinguish between Self and Other and enter into an imaginary misrecognition of symbolic knowledge upon which the Ego is formed. To inaugurate entry into the imaginary order, and counteract threat/anxiety of fragmentation, kittens must unspool and fragment toilet paper to resolve aggressive tension between subject and image, as well as demonstrate jubilant mastery over the imaginary . . . but hide when the Omnipotent Mother, who has opposable thumbs, discovers evidence of this precarious mastery.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 4:17 AM | link | 6 comments

Friday, January 18, 2008


When I was in the fourth grade I became obsessed, for awhile, with Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. I must have read it at least ten times that year, although I'm not exactly sure why. In part, I simply liked the physicality of the book itself--it's brick-like heft that made it an everlasting gobstopper of a read. Maybe it was that I was always desperately searching for any avenue of imaginative escape that I could find from Laramie, Wyoming, circa 1970's. And, of course, the patina of old-school Hollywood glamour associated with the movie starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable was inescapably compelling to the hopelessly freakish geekozoid that I was, so there was that, too. I liked the epic-ness of it all, I suppose. And yes, the trashiness, too.

I remember that my mother used to love the skit on The Carol Burnett Show where Carol Burnett played Scarlett O'Hara preparing to meet Rhett Butler after the war--forced to make a dress out of those dusty green velvet drapes at Tara. Carol Burnett came sashaying down the stairs of the set with an enormous drapery rod yoked to her back and my mother just laughed and laughed and laughed. At the end of the show, when Carol sang, "Now it's time to say so long" and tugged her earlobe--a special "hello" to her grandmother--I noticed my mother always looked up from her knitting and tugged her earlobe too.

I particularly liked the skit that was a spoof on soaps on The Carol Burnett Show--"As the Stomach Turns," I think it was called. Or was it "The Heartbreak of Psoriasis"? No, wait. That was a commercial. My parents actually did watch the soap As the World Turns together on a regular basis after lunch before my father went back to the office. I remember that they liked to idly gossip about someone named Rachael--Rachael this and Rachael that . . . Rachael, Rachael, Rachael--and it took me the longest time to realize that they were talking about a character on a T.V. soap.

I have fuzzy memories of T.V. shows that I liked when I was really small. I used to love The Glenn Campbell Show, for example. When I was four, I announced that I was going to marry Glenn Campbell when I grew up. I also apparently announced that I was going to marry Gomer Pyle as well. So, okay, maybe I was a little bit fickle. And apparently weird, too. There were shows that I was too young to get, but with theme songs that I loved. I adored the Hawaii Five-Oh theme song, for example. And the Mission Impossibe theme song, too. ("This message will self-destruct in 60 seconds!") And for some reason, I really liked that silly show Love, American Style. (It was because I saw the episodes with Karen Valentine, and she was just So! Dang! Cute!) I remember dying Easter eggs one year while Love, American Style was playing late in the afternoon. And a very, very faint early memory about playing on the living room floor as a toddler and watching Dialing for Dollars during afternoons while my father was working at the office?

But in the fourth grade, it was all Gone With the Wind all the time.

In the fifth grade, I started taking my first college classes. During the lunch hour, I'd walk to my father's office in the English Department from the University Pilot School that I went to, and I'd eat my lunch--which he'd keep for me in his desk drawer. I read all sorts of books I wasn't supposed to. I particularly liked reading all of his students' short stories.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 1:38 AM | link | 3 comments

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


In warmer climates, the center line is defined by reflective Bott's Dots stuck onto freeways with epoxy, but here, in snow country, snow plows scrape them right off, so highways are striped old-school style--with trucks and hoses and spray nozzles. Sometimes the paint is garnished with a shrapnel glitter of reflective glass beads for better visibility.

(When I was a kid, the dashed passing-lane stripes always reminded me of the dashed middle lines in those amazingly racist red Big Chief Tablets that we had to buy for school every year, along with our Elmer's Glue, Crayola Crayons, and Ticonderoga #2 pencils.)

Here, the center line can sometimes be tricky and elusive. Have you ever been unexpectedly caught in a bad snowstorm? The tense drive home--head hanging out the side window when the flurries get too bad, trying to find the center line? Bracing for the invisible collision?

(I was skipped forward, so never really became adept at penmanship. I sign my books with the leaning, too-careful cursive of a first-grader. Without any lines I go off the road completely, which is okay, because lines are overrated anyway and I have 4-wheel drive, but still . . . off road is off road and on the highway there's too much traffic to write over the center line.)

Here, it's three degrees below zero already tonight. More storms and flurries on their way.


I'm hanging my head out the window looking for that shimmer of yellow, some tiny glint of spark not snow, to guide my way back to who and where I was before.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 8:49 PM | link | 6 comments

Monday, January 14, 2008


When I am six, I find a lump.

I am six, and I don't know a lot, but what I do know is that a lump means cancer and I'm going to die some kind of horrible death that can't be spoken about out loud in front of children, but only mentioned in whispers and murmurs among adults.

I don't tell anyone I have cancer. Because in the first place, it's not someplace not embarrassing--like an arm, or a knee--and I'm very, very bashful on account of my mother won't let me leave the house during the summer unless I'm wearing a sun bonnet. She says that only low-class people get suntans and ladies have to protect their skin because otherwise they'll end up looking like truckers.

I am six, and I don't know much, but I'm sure I'll be punished if my parents find out I have cancer because I probably got it by doing something I wasn't supposed to.

I am six and what my Japanese mother calls a psychopathical liar. She says this is a problem because if someone accuses me of murdering somebody else and I try to tell her that I didn't murder anybody, she won't know whether or not to believe me and won't be able to come to my defense, and then I might have to go to jail for murder. I am worried that maybe I've given myself cancer by being a psychopathical liar.

I am six, and waiting to die. I'm not sure how long it's supposed to take or what will happen, exactly. Maybe it will be all coughing-up-blood-in-a-hanky, like in the opera, La Traviata, that my parents watched on T.V. Or maybe it will be more like the movie Love Story--where love means never having to say you're sorry.

I am six, and waiting to die. I lie awake at night, listening to the sound of my father's typewriter in the next room like artillery fire, all the stuffed animals piled on the bed with me at once so I won't die alone, my heart pounding, waiting and waiting.

Eventually, the lump goes away. It just disappears from the surface--reabsorbed somewhere deeper into my body, I think.

And that was that. Or it really should have been. But that bad seed, the secret darkness, it spread and spread and spread, and still . . . I wait.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 10:34 PM | link | 3 comments