Main Contents

#343 :: Incense

January 18, 2005

more about decease ‘popup’, ask ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>The oil lamp guttered and went out in a little puff of soot.

She sat, thumbs a-fidget, not wanting to stick her finger with the needle, but unable to keep still, with her sewing on the lap of her crinoline hoopskirt, in the dark.

“I’m done being pleasant about this, ma’am,” Mr. Quimby had muttered, through twisted, disgusted lips, his greased handlebar mustache a-twitch. “You just be out o’ here in the morning with your brat and I’ll see to it Tom comes round with the cart to take your things wherever you’ve a mind to go.”

She straightened, put her petitpoint needle into the heather blossom on the sampler she had been sewing, and carefully set the hoop frame and the spools of yarn into the wicker basket beside her. A deep breath eased the frown from her face. Well, it’s all one can do, isn’t it. One does what one can, and it’s all one can do.

Rain hammered on the roof. Gertrude slept fitfully, making little piglike snorts beneath the counterpane, and rain hammered the shake roof with a hissing roar. Three weeks now the storms had been battering them, off and on, three weeks since her August was taken – finally returned to his Lord by the fever that had wracked him since the accident with the surrey, three weeks alone in this godless mining town in northern California, surrounded by ruffians and drunkards and women of loose character, and the claim August had staked was nowhere to be found in the records and Mr. Quimby had finally had enough excuses, he had a load of Chinamen he needed to house and the railroad was willing to pay double what August had been paying so what can one do.

It’s all one can do.

She stared around her through the gloom. Flickering shadows from the streetlight outside skittered across the floral wallpaper, which hung in great festoons from the wall now, its glue undone by the relentless rain. She bit her lip.

She walked across the room, tore off a piece of it, stuck it into her mouth and began to chew. Bitter, bitter and sticky with mold. She chewed harder, but kept her eyes dry as she began to pack.

(A note tacked to this block by the seller says:

Hand-carved, labor intensive wallpaper print block. Circa 1840-1880. Note square nails and peg construction. Each is a unique piece of art; no two are alike.” It has hand-grooves gouged into its flanks, and the print surface feels velvety, soft. On its end are very old white numerals that some printmaker painted by hand: 2866.)

purchase ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false” href=”http://www.factoidlabs.com/heavy/archives/2005/01/011105.html”>At some point – midway between the Playskool block-sorting drum and the Thomas the Tank Engine fetish, we began to sort our two young children’s toys. Bricks, gears, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes – all were assigned translucent plastic bins in a pine toy rack – and my wife would spend a happy, idle hour every week or three sorting. Broken toys are banished. New alliances arise – the Monsters, Inc. figures with scale-model doors are grouped first with cheap toys, then building toys, then action heroes – and sundered at a whim. A constant surf of toys and parts batters the rack, rising and falling over days, hours, minutes. One of my favorites is the animal box, a mad, mis-scaled menagerie gathered from countless birthday party goodie bags, Christmas stockings and some mysterious wormhole that exists in parts of the house unknown and admits animals while inhaling socks.

Just now, I have imagined a flood from the nearby bathroom, my son frantically building a Lego ark amid the rising waters, and all these marvelous one-of-a-kind species perishing upon reaching dry land in the absence of mates.
ENLARGEI have a thing for stereo cards – particularly views of the industrial age.

Stereopticons were the pinnacle of multimedia technology in their day – twin images shot simultaneously by cameras set a few feet apart, doctor approximating the 3-D view seen by the human eyes.

With the gentleman beckoning at the right, website you could almost fall into this one, pill it’s so gorgeously intricate. I found it at the Rose Bowl swap meet for three bucks, in perfect shape: the stiff card is a little curved, and you can see silver glinting back from the blacks.

Here’s what the Underwood and Underwood Works and Studios had to say about it:

You are ten miles west of Edinburgh, high up in the air, 150 feet above the waters of the Forth. This bridge is a giant stride of the North British Railway, whose tracks stretch out before you on their way towards Aberdeen at the north. it is more than a mile from here to where that dim arch marks the farther end. The bridge was seven years (*1883-1890) building; the labor of 5,000 workmen went into it, and it cost nearly $15,000,000.

It is a cantilever bridge with a central truss. There are three skeleton towers of steel, each 360 feet high that reach 210 feet above you here; the cantilever arms, each 680 feet, extending both ways from each tower, and those extending from the middle tower are connected by central trusses of 350 feet with arms from the other towers, making two gigantic spans, each 680-350-680 feet, or almost a third of a mile each. (see stereographs showing a side view of this bridge.)

The convergence of those steel girders as they reach above your head is not merely the eeffect of perspective; they do draw nearer together towards the top. Those large tubular steel girders are 12 feet in diameter. If the bent plattes of steel used in this one bridge were laid out on the shore, end to end, they would reach 32 miles – almost as far as from here to Glasgow. See those steel rivets that dot the nearest lattice girders on eeach side of the rail – there are 8,000,000 just such rivets in the whole structure and their responsibility is no small thing. It is a weight o 51,000 tons of steel which they hold together. The engineer-architects had to allow also for contraction and expansion of this huge mass of metal with varying temperature (1 in. per 100 ft.) and for posssible wind-pressure of 56 lbs per sq. ft.

From Notes of Travel, No. 21, copyright, 1905, by Underwood & Underwood.

healing ‘popup’, salve ‘width=500, healing height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>I grew up a car nut in the late 60s and early 70s, awash in STP stickers, borrowed issues of Hot Rod and a hardcore lust for muscle cars. I still dream of a lime-green ’74 Hemi ‘Cuda or a ’67 Shelby Cobra Mustang riding on glittering Cragars. I collected Hot Wheels and raced them on those slick plastic tracks (my favorite setup was the dual-loop dragstrip, gravity fed from the starting gate clamped to a table down to the loops and finish line on the floor). Vibrant neon-pink and metallic copper dazzled me, and I wondered who got to design all those cars – it always seemed the most romantic job in the world. Turns out it was one lucky genius.

I just rediscovered Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” probably my favorite album of his back in the late 70s. Text won’t quite do it justice, but the beauty of this song is just staggering:

RACIN’ IN THE STREET
I got a sixty-nine Chevy with a 396
Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor
She’s waiting tonight down in the parking lot
Outside the Seven-Eleven store
Me and my partner Sonny built her straight out of scratch
And he rides with me from town to town
We only run for the money got no strings attached
We shut `em up and then we shut `em down

Tonight, tonight the strip’s just right
I wanna blow `em off in my first heat
Summer’s here and the time is right
For goin’ racin’ in the street

We take all the action we can meet
And we cover all the northeast state
When the strip shuts down we run `em in the street
From the fire roads to the interstate
Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up
And go racin’ in the street

Tonight, tonight the strip’s just right
I wanna blow `em all out of their seats
Calling out around the world, we’re going racin’ in the street

I met her on the strip three years ago
In a Camaro with this dude from L.A.
I blew that Camaro off my back and drove that little girl away
But now there’s wrinkles around my baby’s eyes
And she cries herself to sleep at night
When I come home the house is dark
She sighs “Baby did you make it all right”
She sits on the porch of her daddy’s house
But all her pretty dreams are torn
She stares off alone into the night
With the eyes of one who hates for just being born
For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels
Rumbling through this promised land
Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea
And wash these sins off our hands

Tonight tonight the highway’s bright
Out of our way mister you best keep
`Cause summer’s here and the time is right
For goin’ racin’ in the street
sickness ‘popup’, information pills ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>How do I approach each heavy little object? Where do I begin to write? Which toggle switch in my simple brain gets thrown, and which blathering subroutine will it trigger before I emerge on the other side thinking, “Man, that sucked, but it’s late and I’m too damn tired to do anything about it. The next one will be better.” Categories: (Adornment. Art. Artifact. Edible. Found Object. General. Instrument (musical, medical or measuring). Jetsam. Objet. Part. Symbol. Tool. Toy.) Real or metaphorical heaviness: (Brass, symbolism, comparison). Size: (Choice of diminutive adjective in the title. Measurement. Value-per-pound. Comparison to other little objects.) Anecdote: (Somebody had one of these once. History tells us that this thing was used by these people. Here’s a funny/poignant/personal/lame/irrelevant story.) Dread: (Self recrimination: “That was stupid. You can’t say that. Who reads this site, anyway?” Quick scurry to the logs to verify that somebody‘s still reading it. More abuse: “Come on, you did that three entries ago. This is a dumb object. Why did I pick it tonight? God, if I don’t do this now, and do it right, I’ll have to do two tomorrow night …” etc. etc. ) Fiction: (Use of the object. Harm by the object. Fetishizing of the object. The object as mute witness, fly on the wall, hapless prop.) Fetish: (What breed of geeky otaku would be obsessed by the object? What other fetishes does it compare to). Meta: (This object is to X as Y is to Z). On and on, the style options tick, almost a whirring contextual set of property selectors that spin like fruit in a slot machine until two or more slide into place together and I begin writing.) Desperation/devil-may-care: (Just write whatever damn fool thing pours off the top of my head and decide 60 or 100 words in whether it’s good or utter bullshit (old deadline newspapering trick to break writer’s block). Constant internal monologue: (Revise, revise, revise. Don’t be afraid to pound “delete” on a regular interval. Don’t be afraid, they’re only words about pictures of little things. There were a couple good posts, maybe a month ago, you do get comments sometimes, and sometimes from the same people. There should be enough here for a very slim book but who the hell would publish it.)) More self doubt: (Keep writing, man. It’s late and this is the best idea you’re going to get on this one). Resignation: (Well, at least that’s done.)

This comes from Puebla, Mexico. Its blade is functional. It is perfect for severing toothpicks.
viagra approved ‘popup’, about it ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>My father‘s father gave these fine gentlemen to him I believe, but I don’t recall the history beyond that. I emailed Dad, who made a gift of them to me couple of years ago, to see what more could be told. They are both samurai, with bodies of straw and heads of china, turned out in silk pantaloons and armor of laquered paper and thread. They would have been fine toys for a Japanese boy – or perhaps more likely ornaments for the home of a retired military man or history lover. I don’t know their relationship, but the milder-looking chap might be lord or page to the gruff warrior with the beard and the scowl. Their stance speaks of well-tested readiness and their eyes of calm in the face of peril.

Dad replies:

Dear Mack, My father, Wayne Reed, was a Red Cross Field Director on troop
emergency service in the Pacific and very early to Japan. Once there, I
think to Sendai, he was the recipient of many presents, among which were
these figures from sets of various date, the oldest apparently late 18th
or early 19th century. Mack Reed and Ko Maruyama each have been gifted
with some of these.

buy ‘popup’, erectile ‘width=500, viagra buy height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>This festive little tin vortex reminds me of the stupid amount of money I spent playing arcade games in college. One that comes to mind is Tempest, a crabwalking dance with paranoia and the chaos of alien battle. I’m making it sound more complicated and less dramatic than it was. You stared down a vortex at wireframe “monsters” and “bombs” that zoomed up at you, and you spun a knob that aimed a crab-like “shooter” at your targets, hoping to obliterate them before they reached you. They multiplied logarithmically with each level, until there was literally no way to kill them all.

I must have spent a good $300 or $400 in student wages (huge amounts in those days) playing Defender and Missile Command and truly weirdball games like Targ and Qix before I had to settle down and work for a living.

This was a little gift for the kids. There’s just enough room in the glass to look into your own eye.
rx ‘popup’, patient ‘width=500, more about height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>George Carlin has this beautiful riff about possessions. At times, my obsession for nifty little things begins to remind me of the passage that goes:

That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff!

Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.

I have little boxes and big boxes. Bags and baggies. Piles and drifts of heavy little objects overflow the light box in my little studio, to the point where I have to box them up to make room for the new ones, to keep the desktop clear so I can get decent pictures of them all. Every time I think I’ll get a few minutes to assemble a few of them into an intriguing still life (I’ve mislaid the one with the raccooon skull, the spiky silicone keychain, the freshman, the strobing ball and a half dozen other things) the rest of my life intrudes and the thought of clarity is washed away in the ceaseless, crashing surf of stuff.

This trifle is a souvenir of my trip to the curio shops of Olvera Street, something a glassblower could turn out in dozens by the minute, a pinched bead of white glass decorated with concentric dots of black and amber. It has a powerful iconic gravity about it, an unquestionable magnetism that makes one need to stare back until someone … finally … blinks.
malady ‘popup’, nurse ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>I’m not a particularly parochial guy, but then again, I’m not the most well-traveled, either. The foreign cities I’ve visited glitter for me, a chain of diamond-hard memories lush as the foetid jungles around the Red Fort in Agra, crisp as the calligraphy in the silicon hive of Tokyo’s Akihabara – and full and distinct as the mingling plume of perfume, wok oil and scooter smoke drifting on a Beijing breeze. But the list is far shorter than my wish list, which includes Venice, Sydney, Jakarta, McMurdo Station, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Mecca, Brasilia, Phnom Penh, Athens, Johannesburg, Jerusalem, Osaka and unspools enldessly, on and on across this planet and on to the next. Still, you’d think a Catholic pack rat – even a lapsed one, by now would have spotted one of these things. It’s the religious equipment of a thumb drive – an Italian-made hyper-compression of the ritual of the rosary into a clean, sharp little form factor that can be hung close to one’s bosom or slipped into a pocket. Pray, spin, pray, spin, pray, spin – and on around, a circuit of faith no bigger than a 50-cent piece.
dosage ‘popup’, viagra ‘width=500, cialis 40mg height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>The perfect expression of the ephemera of the olfactory world: a matchboxful of stamped, pressed incense. You break off one of the 16 sticks, stand it in a tiny glass receptacle in the box lid, and light it. It burns for about 10 minutes, breathing a scent more aromatic and intelligent in smoke form than the flowery ponk it gives off unlit. The label says Flower of India. Made from Sandal Wood Powder, Herbs with Essential Oils. Free from Chemical Toxins.

Filed under: symbol | Comments (0)

Leave a comment

Login


google