Build Notes: Junk Mail Blinds

Issue 160, for the week of 12/4/2005.

Boring Preface: There’s this idea of “junk chic” floating around that I’m vaguely attracted to. Most of it, however, seems to be concerned with buying old crap at antiques stores and putting a new coat of paint on it. What I’m interested in is more finding uses for the reasonably well-made things we’re expected to throw away. Somehow I’m not sure if making things yourself will ever come back into the mainstream; there’s just too much money to be made selling us everything. Maybe that’s the point. Free software, free instructions, free knowledge… There’s a growing, silent acknowledgment that there needs to be a non-commercial sphere to life, distinct from religion and opposition, and this nebulous idea of “family” our politicians keep pounding us with. Not everything is about money. The irony is that the people who sent me the raw material for this project did so in the hope of making money from me. And they can screw.

Theory: By affixing strips of junk mail to an existing set of venetian blinds, one can drastically reduce the amount of light allowed through without losing the ability to raise and lower the blinds.

Get: In my case, about three months’ worth of junk mail, but your mileage will vary. Your trusty roll of duct tape (color to suit). Two rolls of scotch tape. A ruler. A spool of uninsulated wire. A pair of needle-nosed pliers. A thumbtack. Space to work.

Step i: Measure the width of your window. The real width. Don’t leave a full inch on either side like those goddamn blinds we’re covering over. Leave maybe a couple of millimeters. (Dark! We must have dark!)

Step ii: Tape off on your workspace a piece of real estate (in my case, floor) measuring the same width as your window and six inches tall. (Or three floorboards, if they’re each two inches tall.) This will serve as a template for building the sections.

Step iii: Next we’ll need to figure out where to affix the hangers that will connect the junk mail blinds to the existing ones. We will eventually be bending wire into a set of three connector pieces, one for each of the three strings running down through the original blinds. For now, grab your ruler and measure the distance between the edge of the window and the nearest of these strings. On your template, go in the measured distance from either side and make tape marks. Also, find the center of the template and mark it with tape as well. I think we’re ready to start building a section.

Step 1: Find a nice piece of junk mail (you’ll start talking like this) — maybe a credit card letter with your name misspelled, or a useless “newsletter” from your predatory health insurance company. Lane Bryant sure likes sending me fliers now that they’ve decided I’m female. Whatever you have handy.

Step 2: Fold the piece of junk mail upward at the bottom (I recommend using an existing fold) and align it with the bottom left corner of your workspace.

Step 3: Tape the folded portion down with scotch tape.

Step 4: Fold the top of your sheet of junk mail down so that it fits within your six-inch template. Chances are it doesn’t have another crease already made at the six inch mark, so use your ruler to make the fold yourself.

Step 5: Tape that bad boy down.

Step 6: Grab another piece of junk mail. Place it under the previous piece so that they’re overlapping by an inch or two.

Step 7: Fold the bottom up so that it’s sort of “eating” the previous piece.

Step 8: Tape the folded part to the old piece and to itself. Be sure that the corners are taped thoroughly.

Annoying Tip: Kinda thin? Not sure it’s going to block enough light? I’m sure you’ve got a lot of little pieces of junk mail floating around. Why not tape one of them inside the fold before taping it down? Envelopes work great for this — they’re two-ply. You can even stick smaller annoying things like fake credit cards inside the envelopes before taping them down.

Step 9: Grab your ruler again and fold the top down.

Step 10: Tape that muthah down, and to the previous piece.

Step 11: Repeat steps 6 through 10 until the section fills your template. You now have a strip of junk mail six inches tall, and as wide as your window.

Step 12: Enjoy a good pull of Endurance Ale. You’ve earned it! (It’s called Endurance for a reason, but it grows on you.)

Step 13: Flip the section over. You’ll notice that all the taping has been done on the reverse, keeping it out of sight. Just because we’re making things out of junk mail doesn’t mean we can’t pay attention to aesthetics.

Step 14: Grab your duct tape. We’ll be using the duct tape to add strength where the new blinds connect to the old ones. It’ll also impose some kind of order on the appearance of the blinds, which is probably just as well.

Step 15: Rip off a strip between half again and twice the height of the section. That’ll be about ten inches, if you want to measure it.

Step 16: Use the marks you made in step iii to stick the tape down where it will be needed to match up with the string.

Step 17: Flip the section back over.

Step 18: Fold the ends of the strip of duct tape over and stick them down. Remember, we don’t care too much what this side looks like.

Step 19: Repeat steps 13 through 18, placing a strip of duct tape for each of the three marks we made in step iii.

Step 20: Grab your thumbtack. On each of the strips of duct tape, make two holes about a quarter of an inch apart and one inch from the top of the section. I recommend cutting out a template, to save you from having to measure the position of the holes every time. Make sure the holes go all the way through, and are wide enough to get a piece of wire through. Don’t stab yourself.

Step 21: Grab your spool of wire. Straighten a bit of it out to work with.

Step 22: Using your ruler and pliers, snip off three pieces of wire each measuring four inches long.

Step 23: Center a piece of wire in your pliers.

Step 24: Fold it in half, into a long horseshoe shape.

Step 25: Fold the wire at a right angle, half an inch from the pronged end.

Step 26: Repeat steps 23 through 25 for the other two pieces of wire.

Step 27: Twist your venetian blinds shut so that the slats are angled down toward you.

Step 28: Insert the first of the bent pieces of wire around the first string on the inside of your blinds. We want it to hang so that the prongs are facing inward.

Step 29: Repeat step 28 for the other two pieces of wire.

Step 30: Bring the blind section over to your window and find the first set of holes in the top of the duct tape.

Step 31: Place the first prong through the first hole.

Step 32: Place the second prong through the second hole.

Step 33: Reach around behind the section and bend the prongs up, flush with the back of it.

Step 34: Repeat steps 31 through 33 for the other two pieces of wire. The new junk mail blind section is officially hung.

Step 35: Tear off three small squares of duct tape.

Step 36: Stick each over one of the exposed sets of prongs on the back. This is to keep the ends of the wire from catching on anything. Squeeze tight.

Step 37: Repeat all numbered steps until the blinds are complete.

Criticisms: I’ve noticed two things, since completing the blinds, which deserve attention. First, the mechanism in the blinds, not being designed to hold this much weight, has begun to squeak a bit. A dab of electric shaver oil or graphite would probably take care of the problem, but I haven’t bothered to try yet. The second concern is a tendency I’ve noticed for the lowermost sections to catch momentarily while nearing the bottom. Why this should be an issue near the bottom but not the top I still don’t know. I’ve found that the problem can be reduced by bending the wire hangers outward on the bottom-most sections, so that the blind section sits farther out from the original slats.

Final Thoughts: It took me about twenty minutes to do a section, once I got all of the experimenting out of the way. I did one or two sections a night, which made for some relaxing non-computer work before bed. (It was kinda nice.) I’m still not totally satisfied with the hanging scheme (bent wire) but I haven’t come up with anything better or easier. All things considered, I’m pretty happy.

Junk Mail Art

Issue 159, for the week of 11/27/2005.

Toast Note: Failing to produce a real Space Toast Page tonight, I got playing with junk mail a little after midnight (it’s now close to 3AM). The medium represents an inexhaustible resource, and I’ve been endeavoring to come up with uses for it lately. The following pieces are assembled out of what junk mail I’ve accumulated since the blinds project. (More on that later.)

Lem’s Bunny, from the web comic of the same name. It’s been submitted in a slightly different form to Bunny’s Warren, the section for fan-made strips.

The Marboxian. It had to be done.

Finally, Berkley Breathed’s Opus, who in my world needs neither introduction nor invitation.

Still More Human Resources

Issue 158, for the week of 10/23/2005.

Toast Note: Presenting “Human Resources” comic strips 26-41. (Click here for Strips 1-11, in issue 145. Click here for Strips 12-25, in issue 149.) Medium: Blue ballpoint pen (museum issue) and red magic marker (museum issue) on recycled note pad paper (museum issue), improvised straight edges (museum/personal issue). Dedicated once again to the wage slaves of America: “vagrants amidst the plenty.

Tentative Title: “Class Day” – Jack Scully

Scene 0:

[Fade in on the intercom. ]

THE PRINCIPLE’S VOICE: …should not have happened. And finally, on this class day, our congratulations go out to Mr. Goomba’s automotive class, who successfully took apart Financial Administrator Johnson’s Ford pickup yesterday and reassembled it on the roof. The administrators then responded by car-bombing Mr. Pickford’s new Pontiac outside of his science class, in turn causing the front office to be mail-bombed by the teachers, resulting in a slew of gunshots fired into the teachers’ office, which set events in motion which resulted in the bombing of my house, to be responded to with a strong letter. Also, the chess team will be meeting after school, and Mr. Horovitz reports that the nuclear reactor in the science lab is almost operational. That is all.

Scene 1

[By he doors to the main entrance of the school, the lone figure of PARKS stands. He has a pack on his back, and prefferably a pith helmet. ]

ANNOUNCER: [The voice of adventure, rather stuffy, perhaps British. ] …And so our hero, Sir Walter Parks Raleigh, 11th grader and captain of the chess team, sets out on an arduous journey. He must, at all costs, find the man who raped his hamster, Fluffy, and return before third period. [Quick cut to the hamster in question. ] Fluffy is said to be recovering nicely, though he hasn’t touched his food for most of the day. [Back to PARKS. ] With this in mind, our intrepid hero leaves behind the sweet confines of civilization, and goes off into destiny.

[As he walks off down the hallway, a paper airplane flys past the back of his head. A brief montage of innovative shots, many dramatic and slow-motion, of PARKS walking follows, overscored by dramatic music. At the end, PARKS stops and looks up. A shot, similar or identical to one of the first shots follows, revealing that he has travelled all of ten feet. ]

ANNOUNCER: Our hero realizes that this journey may become even more arduous than he at first assumed, and heads off for snacks. [PARKS turns and goes into the cafeteria. ]

Scene 2

[At the vending machines in the cafeteria. Parks enters, trying to crumple a bill into machine-usable condition. Three or four students appear from between or behind the machines, or off-camera, and waylay him. Some have spears and shorts, others guns, dark shades, and white tee-shirts. They carry him offscreen. The announcer’s voice continues underneath. ]

ANNOUNCER: He is then waylaid by giant Pigmies and 1950’s Cuban Communist revolutionaries.

Scene 3:

[PARKS is dragged by a Cuban revolutionary and a pygmy, fighting unsuccessfully, deeper into the cafeteria. He stops, and his eyes bug out. ]

PARKS: You!

[Reversal to the Cuban Communist revolutionary leader in a heavy khaki shirt and dark shades sitting, fingers crossed, at a folding table, flanked by his men. His men are in similar dress, and are all quite a lot bigger than he. ]

LEADER: So, we meet again. [Evil laugh. His men catch on after he is done that they should have been evil-laughing too and do so, but quickly stop. ]

[Back to PARKS, etc. ]

PARKS: But… but you’re the hall monitors-! What is this-? Why are you doing this-?! Where did these pygmies come from?!?

[Several characters, in turn, in close-up say: “Pygmies?” The pygmies then look at each other, scream, and run away. ]

ANNOUNCER: The pygmies are terrified of themselves, scream, and run away.

LEADER: Now then, getting down to business… You have been charged with trespassing on the lands of the independant state of Ezbulistan, founded at around 8:30 this morning, and extending from approximately over there, to about where ever else we want it. These charges being true, you must be executed. But first, [Addressing the seated spectators. ] any old business? No? Any new business? Very well. Comments from the public?

AN OLD MAN: Yes, I’d like a sewage system.

LEADER: No.

[Random requests from all over the school, such as… ]

MAN WITH A TOWEL AND SHOWER CAP STANDING OUTSIDE THE BOYS’ BATHROOM: I want a sauna.

JOCK STUFFING A FRESHMAN INTO A LOCKER: I want bigger lockers.

GIRL: I want a man.

BOY: I want a man.

TWO INTERPRETIVE DANCERS: We want… love! [At which point they are trampled by the giant pygmies in their desperate attempt to flee. ]

BOY: I want powdered wigs to come back.

BOY DRESSED IN A GIRLS’ CHEERLEADING OUTFIT: [Becoming suddenly self-conscious. ] …no, I’m fine.

LEADER: Very well, we shall begin the trial. Do I think you’re guilty?

PARKS: Yes.

LEADER: Then you are. Guilty as charged!

[All the previous “request” people gasp in sequence, including the interpretive dancers who the pygmies then trample again, coming the other way. ]

LEADER: [Laughs his evil laugh. ]

[The head of the Ezbulistan Department of Tourism then interrupts. He is wearing a sport coat and carries a hand microphone. He has his own light. He seems out of breath throughout, as if trying to keep up with the camera. In every cut, he has to get back into the shot. Nevertheless, he tries to put the best spin on things. ]

TOURISM: But, before we head over to the execution, I wonder if we might – take a moment to examine the many natural and artifical wonders – that greet you on a wonderous Ezbulistan vacation…

Scene 4

[A “Wet Floor” sign, by a puddle of water. TOURISM enters quickly. ]

TOURISM: See – the many rivers and streams of Ezbulistan’s national waterways.

Scene 5:

[By a potted plant. ]

TOURISM: – Thrill to our National Forest.

Scene 6:

[Two people play at a pingpong table. ]

TOURISM: For the sports enthusiast, Ezbulistan features a multitude of recreational outlets – and sporting clubs.

Scene 8:

[A single saxophonist butchers a few notes to a radio playing softly behind him. ]

TOURISM: Enjoy an evening with our national band.

Scene 9:

[A shot that shows most of the cafeteria. ]

TOURISM: [walking ] Yes, Ezbulistan; truly a vacational treasure. [Some smiling people join him from behind. ] And now, back to the exciting execution of the first foreigner to enter our country.

Scene 10:

[Low angle shot. Inside the auxilary gym. A bit of wind ruffles PARKS’s hair, accompanied by a more substantial sound effect. He stands proudly, arms tied behind his back, awaiting the inevitable. Shot widens to show his executioners – armed revolutionaries, ceremonially preparing to push him off the precipice. Wider shot for a moment, revealing that the drop off the bleachers is none-too-far, and cushioned at the bottom. ]

EZBULISTANIAN 1: You are charged with crimes against things.

EZBULISTANIAN 2: Yeah.

PARKS: So be it.

Scene 11:

[The desk with the LEADER and high officials of Ezbulistan. ]

Announcer: Meanwhile, a coup d’etat is underway in the state of Ezbulistan.

[A rubber chicken flops onto the desk before the LEADER and his high officials. They regard it with curiousity. Suddenly, it explodes (digitally). Afterward, the table is empty, the pygmies run on, cheering, and assume power by sitting down. ]

Scene 12:

[Back to the execution. ]

EZBULISTANIAN 1: Have you any last words?

[PARKS looks on nobly, and then looks startled, camera fast zooming-in on his face. ]

PARKS: You!

[Fast zoom on a lone, evil figure in the corner. The EVIL MAN chuckles. ]

PARKS: Wait! [But he is pushed off. The drop takes an excessive amount of time, the sound track, in fact, seeming to be paused while the men watch him fall. And they watch him. And they watch him. Just at the last possible funny moment, we hear him hit the mat (far) below. ]

Scene 13:

[A grainy, slow digital zoom on the rodent. A new, stuffy, but tension-filled announcer quickly voices-over. ]

ANNOUNCER 2: This is the story of one rodent’s courageous battle against the confining confines of society. Of what one hamster can be forced to do when no-one else is in its corner. A story beyond boundaries! A story of high drama! A story of sin and more sin, of love/hate/joy/lust/perversity, and above all, a devout lack of pygmies.

Scene 14:

[An on-the-floor, wide angle shot looking up, somewhere in the hallway. The EVIL MAN enters, and looks down at a spot on the floor just in front of the camera. ]

EVIL MAN: [sneering ] So… it’s you. Back again, are you..? What’s that behind you? [A standard revolver rises into the shot, just in front of the camera. ] Oh I see… You haven’t got the guts, though. You… a simple hamster, you haven’t got the guts!

[The gun fires. EVIL MAN falls out of the shot, dead. The gun looks suddenly to the right. ]

SCIENCE TEACHER’S VOICE: No no, not yet!!!

[A nuclear blast rips across the frame from right. Cut, briefly, to a shot of a nuclear mushroom cloud. ]

Scene 15:

[Somewhere in the school. ]

TOURISM: And so ends – our exciting story. Brought to you by the Ezbulistan Department of Tourism. Who would like to remind old friends and new that –

[A rubber chicken flops onto the floor in front of him. He looks at it. Quick cut to an exterior explosion shot, such as the federal building in the X-Files movie. ]

Credits:

[PARKS lying motionless, face down on the mat. He remains there, motionless, all through the excesively long credits. Finally, after the last title has scrolled off the screen, he raises a hand. ]

PARKS: [muffled ] I’m fine.

More Human Resources

Issue 149, for the week of 12/5/2004.

Toast Note: Presenting “Human Resources” comic strips 12-25. (Click here for Strips 1-11, in issue 145.) Medium: Blue ballpoint pen (museum issue) and red magic marker (museum issue) on recycled note pad paper (museum issue), improvised straight edges (museum/personal issue). Dedicated to the wage slaves of America, and the founder of the feast, Curious George.

Updated: Click here for Strips 1-11, in issue 145. Click here for Strips 26-41, in issue 158.

Letter to the Editor

Issue 147, for the week of 10/24/2004

From the Boston Metro Weekend Edition, Oct. 22-24, 2004, page 29:

“NEW PAD ON NEWBURY”

WHEN CHRISTINA Capone moved from her digs in New York she had a bit of anxiety about abandoning the hustle and bustle of “the city.” She was ready to head back to her hometown of Boston, but didn’t want to trade off on her urban lifestyle. “I was nervous when I looked at places in Beacon Hill because there was nobody on the streets,” said Capone, 26, who works in the media department at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc. The solution — a modern, two-bedroom, door-man building on Newbury Street. Needless to say, she hasn’t missed a beat. “The constant motion is so important to me,” said Capone, while gazing down from her third-floor apartment at the consistent flow of shoppers passing Niketown and the oh-so-cosmopolitan diners heading into Armani Cafe. The floor-to-ceiling windows in her spacious abode help to absorb the energy of the city’s most fashionable street. The glass coffee table, khaki-colored couch peppered with primary-colored pillows and modern art on the walls pulsate urban sophistication. “The inside reflects the outside and the energy of the city,” she said. Although a posh place on Newbury can be a bit of a drain on your wallet, the convenience makes up for all the cash you’d be dumping into a car, said Capone. “My mentality is that there is no reason to drive. Everything should be in walking distance,” said Capone. Whether it’s a fresh salad from Scuzzi a block away, or a pasta dish from Piattini Wine Cafe across the street, everything is right at your fingertips. And, although Capone admits she does have a weakness for the trendiest purses at Luna, which she stores nicely in her walk-in closet, the rest of the swanky shops don’t tempt her. “I’m lucky that I don’t have a shopping problem,” said Capone.

FACTS: Name: Christina Capone – Age: 26 – Occupation: Media relations at Hill, Holiday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc. – Rent/Own: Rent – Size: Two-bedroom – Where: Newbury Street

– CHRISTINA WALLACE

Sent to the Boston Metro October 24, 2004:

Thank you for this weekend’s Home section profile of Christina Capone’s “New Pad on Newbury.” Might I, however, submit a somewhat different profile?

After five months of post-college job seeking, animator Matthew Rasmussen, 24, settled into an hourly-wage position selling tickets at a local museum. He now rents (not owns) a room in a four bedroom Inman Square apartment, which features a living room, a porch with peeling paint, and a mostly-functional kitchen. Rasmussen’s bedroom is tastefully appointed with a desk of his own construction, an oak futon, and a prefab bookshelf. A geranium by the window, perched jauntily atop a milkcrate, quietly pulsates urban sophistication when it needs to be watered.

Reader Lindsay LeClair adds:

Lindsay B. LeClair lives in an apartment with floors so uneven that even the

shelves are falling over, but it’s otherwise cozy and sunny, with a kitchen to

beat the band. She is cohabiting with her boyfriend of nearly five years,

which is terribly convenient — she would not be able to afford living in

Boston if she didn’t share a bedroom. It’s too bad, really, that this

convenient apartment is nowhere near a grocery store. The young couple was

really counting on Lindsay’s beater car to make up for that. All jokes aside,

the apartment is beautiful, convenient to the T barring, if convenience

includes strolling through an industrial, lifeless bioengineering square where

you’re pretty sure they’re actually TRYING to make the undead… or at least

that’s what it smells like. In spite of all that, Lindsay is very happy in

their new apartment.

Human Resources

Issue 145, for the week of 9/12/2004

Toast Note: Presenting “Human Resources” comic strips 1-11. Medium: Blue ballpoint pen (museum issue) and red magic marker (museum issue) on 4.25″x7″ recycled note pad paper (museum issue), improvised straight edges (museum/personal issue), clipboard (museum issue). Dedicated to the wage slaves of America.

Updated: Click here for Strips 12-25, in issue 149. Click here for Strips 26-41, in issue 158.

Wives

Issue 144, for the week of 8/15/2004

Toast Note: My typical strategy when I spend a few weeks tapping away at something I don’t really understand is to post it to the Space Toast Page and let posterity ridicule me. This is three seperate sketches on a theme. I’ll probably be embarrassed by this later, but there’s been worse in 145 Space Toast Pages.

It’s night, and I’m upstairs at my desk. She comes into the room and puts her arms around me, resting her chin on my head. I reach back and find her waist, never able to just accept affection. “How is it going?” she asks. Not well, I say. She hugs me a little harder and pulls me back. “Come play with me. You’re not going to solve it by staring at it.” My script has three things happening where they shouldn’t be, and they’re plugging the story before the second set of commercials. “Just come with me.” I have to write in my book, I say. I jot down my ideas, as they stand, to pick up later. She keeps wheeling my chair back. I finish fast, throw the pen down, turn around and kiss her. A compact brown face draws back, darker patches around her eyes that make them seem larger, almost glowing in the shadow from the desk lamp.

She tosses my shirt away. I feel her breasts against my inner thighs. She slowly runs her tongue up me, looking me in the eye with a playful edge of worship. Her tongue slides down, and she closes her lips over the end of my penis. Long black hair falls over her face, and she brushes it away with one hand. I touch the sides of her head, feeling the solidness, the smallness of her as she moves on me. Her head bobs gently. Her hair falls over her face again, and I fold it behind her ear. I can hear myself breathing. She redoubles her movements, and I have to shut my eyes. I push her head down and lift it back, pushing myself into her throat. She grunts a bit. I come, digging my hands into her hair. I open my eyes. She’s staring at me, lips still closed around me. Another, smaller spurt goes into her mouth. She’s so calm, her eyes looking back at mine, blinking slowly. I stroke the sides of her face again. I want to hold her. She pulls off and opens her mouth. There’s a little pool around her tongue. With a look so clear it’s almost a question, she closes her mouth and swallows. She smiles, and I need to hold her. I got a little rough back there. Did I hurt you? Lying against me, she shakes her head no, and rubs her ear against my chest.

Midnight or so, perhaps the same night, perhaps a different night. I can see the shape of the episode’s script in my head, and I’m untroubled. We’ve been fucking for so long I couldn’t come if I wanted to. She’s had her tense, shaky first orgasm, and its easier cousins. She breaths deeply and steadily, in and out with each slow thrust and retreat. Her eyes glow, half open, the only part of her face I can see. Little tears glint at the corners of her eyes. She puts her arms around me, and wants to be held.

Papers, in neat little piles, surround her at her desk. I come in and start to knead her shoulders. Her head rolls forward. “Oh that feels good,” she breaths. She rocks backward and forward, whispering encouragements, until the last knot is gone. Her back feels supple and hot. I kiss the nape of her neck and disappear again.

How is your mom? “She’s fine. She sends her love.” She puts the phone back on the charger. I’m not quite what she expected for you, am I? “No, you are! You’re good to me… but in terms of my mother’s shopping list? No.” Shopping list? “You were supposed to be Punjab, come from a specific village…” Even after your parents moved here? “Mom has connections. It’s just the shopping list. All moms do it. I’ll do it. But, see, unlike your mother, mine always had it in mind that she would end up choosing someone for me, even though she always said I could marry whoever I wanted.” I’ll assume this is an Indian thing. “That’s like saying it’s a Northern Hemisphere thing.” I’m sorry. “Don’t be.” And what did you picture? “You. Just darker.” Well, sorry, again. “We can’t all be perfect. By the way, are you going to work on your script tonight?” Yes, I have to.

* * *

I am to understand that, sexually, I had a number of bad American habits to be broken, when we first got together. I tended to hedge my bets, was concerned about things like performance and stamina — cheats to keep my sex life separate from my regular life, hence my obsession with it. The whole thing did indeed became far less stressful the more she got to me. She says she’ll tell me if I do anything wrong, but aside from “stop thinking!” (“Você está pensando!”) she’s been pretty mute so far.

That’s our girl. She’s so much like her mom. Tottering around. She’s got the same hair, brown, and always a mess. That little dress looks like it was stitched together out of whatever was left over from her mom’s outfit. Lots of earth tones. They both look a little like a shanty village. “Menina,” she scolds. Our little girl immediately changes direction away from the street. It’s all the same to her. She’s a little ship, and we’re her pylons. She runs between us, looking thrilled at the world.

Two years later. Our little girl has had a nightmare about mommy and daddy dying, and I’m rocking her to sleep. What can I say to her? Years before she was born, her grampy died unexpectedly; why couldn’t we? My wife looks at me, and I look back at her. Rocking.

Hmm. Our little girl has walked in on us four or five times without noticing anything unusual. Fortunately she’s used to mommy and daddy kissing. The bathroom door is inside our room; that’s the problem — like it was in my house growing up. I now feel sorry for my parents. Item #341 I will never bring up with my mom.

“You married a Brazilian, a sculptor, and a MassArt student — that’s three times you were warned.”

We’re below my mom’s house, dipping our feet in and watching the lake grow dark. She turns around and rests what’s left of her bun in my lap. I scratch her head absently and move our beer bottles away from her elbow. She chuckles. What? “Did you ever fantasize about a girl like me, Matthew?” I’m not that creative. “Sadistic, you mean?” Frankly, I wouldn’t have liked to get my hopes up. She stares at me until we hear a pad pad pad pad pad of little feet, closing fast.

* * *

Nordic. The irony of repainting the house in Denmark Nordic style is that Nordic comes from the U.S. The irony of us is that we both look Danish but have only been here once before. She withdraws the stencil. “Yes?” It looks great. She beams.

“Which way?” She takes my hand. I was overwhelmed, she was overwhelmed, now we’re thinking. Left. There will be a market by the train. We can eat down by the river. When does the Metro stop running? “Midnight.” She knows. She smiles, hair matted, two days without a shower, mares-tails sticking to her forehead. I have to kiss her.

The river flows by sluggishly at night. It brings up a memory. I don’t say it. She’s tucking into her bread. “I like Europe. I like these places.” She burps, putting her fist to her mouth. “I like how children here can just… be kids.” Another memory. I don’t say it again. I like being within five feet of you. She looks at me. There is a pause, then she looks away, smiling. “You want to have kids?” I nod. I’m still looking at her. I don’t think either of us was expecting that.

Copenhagen, for the first time. I’m trying to dredge phrases out of the phrasebook but I can’t stop bursting out laughing every few moments. (Poor guy at the desk.) I’m trying to say “Mr. and Mrs. Rasmussen.”

We’ve got the giggles out of us. It’s late. There are snores around us in the hostel. We’re on a top bunk. I rest the hand holding a condom in her hand, and she closes her fingers around it. No movement. Barely breathing. I kiss her. Her cheeks are flushed. She puts it on me, kissing me again. I slide her to me, still trying to be as quiet as possible. Every curve, the full length of her body, bulges solidly against me. I part her shorts, kiss her again, and move against her. I’m inside her. She breathes out sharply through her nose. I feel it against my cheek. I push in again. She exhales, and immediately draws a breath. Her face screws up. She breathes raggedly through her nose, body rigid, pressed against mine. I break the kiss, raise my head and listen with one ear as she pants quietly against the other. She grabs fistfuls of my tee-shirt. I rub my hand across her bottom, squeezing her. Our mouths come together again. She’s shaking a bit. Her hips jerk. A small creak from the bed. Her jaw spasms, and she whines. 3… 2… 1… Her body relaxes against mine. Her breathing redoubles. She opens her eyes, hair stuck to her face, glistening with sweat. The sight of her is more than I can handle. I bundle her in my arms, and come.

It turns out that, when allowed to, she makes quite a bit of noise. The house smells like paint. It’s a similar moment. We’re both coming back to ourselves. “Do you love me?” Yeah. “Will you always love me?” Yeah. She searches my face, looking from eye to eye. “Look at me, and love only me?” Hai. (It’s transitioned into a bit of a movie we saw, but I know she’s being semi-serious.) She looks in my eyes. “I can’t read people like you can.” I can’t understand people like you can. “Did you ever think about… this, before we met?” Of course. There’s an odd look on her face. “Am I what you expected?” Sometimes, I answer; remember that thing I wrote about it? “Yeah.” You kind of remind me of that last girl. She frowns. “I didn’t really like her.” Why not? She was the most human. “Yeah, but you didn’t really want her, like the first girl. And she wasn’t as cool as the second one.” I didn’t say you were her, I said you kind of reminded me of her. “Then did you ever fantasize about someone more like me?” I’m sure of it. Maybe a dozen unique daydreams and fantasies a week, of varying length and complexity — I only wrote down three.

Finding Oz

Issue 141, for the week of 6/6/2004.

Toast Note: “Marboxian” can now be viewed online through Hash Inc’s new A:M Films web site. (I’m feeling happy… which is a big deal… for me.) Also managed to fix the too wide problem with the Space Toast Page’s JavaScript.