August 27, 2008
Here I come…
WE DO NEON
The moment I lay eyes on the giant prop pencil atop the “Sign and Design” sign at Bilalian “We Do Neon” Sign Co. at Fillmore and Fell, I picture myself under cover of the night in cat-burglar black, stealthily removing same from its post.
But to help oneself to a giant novelty pencil is a crime against pencil-pushers everywhere. People should be able to display oversize writing implements without fear of having them hoisted. If statuary can stand undisturbed on the streets of Florence, surely I must resist pilfering the pencil.
So instead I just find myself wondering, “Where can I get a giant pencil?” Because it is true, as Hannibal Lecter pointed out, that people covet what they see, just like some of us didn’t know we needed a football phone until we saw one. So now I just gots-ta gots-ta gets me my own giant pencil. It’s obvious I should have had one all these years, perhaps even been awarded one.
Like most things this day and age, a giant pencil is only a click away, delivered to your door from Pencil Craft (“Maker of Big Pencils”) of Ithaca, Michigan. They specialize in custom-printed big pencils, jumbo pencils, oversized pencils, long pencils and giant pencils. The head spins, the mind boggles. How do I choose between jumbo and giant, big or merely long? The colors, the imprints, the color of the imprints? Is it pencil heaven or pencil hell?
They come in lengths of 44″, 36″, 23″, 16″, 16″ (golf), and 12″. There’s an Internet special on the 44″ and if I’m going to invest in a giant pencil it might as well be giant as they come. That’ll come about up to my chest, so I guess I won’t l be putting that one behind my ear.
BUT FIRST I MUST FIND OUT
if Mr. Vic Flegel, Owner of Pencil Craft, is willing to custom-print the message I consider the motto of my writing career:
Alexandra Jones–She can turn a fuckin’ phrase
I’ll keep you posted.
“I’VE BEEN STABBED
by my own pencil many times,” the Silver Fox confessed to me. Just as I have often eaten my own words.
A READER POINTED OUT
that I have treated you all to an uncommon number of portrayals of my feet (and shoes, I add). He wagers that I have provided four or five “yards of feet.” So now let me offer only the shoes.
Alexandra Jones, “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’,” 1992, graphite on paper.
[The humble offering of supple worn brown ankle boots the author sold for 50¢ at a Page St. garage sale. –Ed.]
Last column I said my visual art was more a matter of skill than art, that I have no vision. Friend Kathy disagrees. And I do think the boots drawing has personality. So I agree to disagree with myself and to agree with her disagreement.
I found that drawing in a fragmented journal from the early 90’s I ran across. Contains some nice pencil work. I’m going to transcribe some of it here because apparently, in 1991, I had told someone else the same, that I don’t do much drawing because I have more to contribute in writing. And a friend in New York, Louis B., said so what? Draw if you want to!
SEPTEMBER 8, 1991, Sunday 2:11 p.m.
Surely a new decade deserves a new book. Certainly a new pen, even a new desk, new chair, and why not, a new room. For in truth, this is the first time I have drawn this chair to this tsble in this room to take this pen in hand to this notebook. For yesterday was my tenth anniversary here [Portland, Oregon -Ed.] and I want a new view.
Right now that view is of a cat [Jackson -Ed.] curled on a comforter, friendly rooftops framed by the treetops of Mt. Tabor, the twin peaks of the Methodist Church next door, and the welcoming aspect of my newly furnished “studio,” flooded even in the grayness of this day with luminescent southeastern light. Now—suddenly—a crack in the cloudbank casts a stray ray of sunlight through the curtain and stencils a checkerboard of light on the floor. This lasts a second, but this room let me witness it. I can sleep here, lounge, draw, write—it is my own private garret which it has taken me all my life to give myself.
1 Front page in history, footnote in my journal: Lithuania regains independence—a family holiday!
SEPTEMBER 9, 1991, Monday 11:30 p.m.
And in this vessel of psychological temporality, I have installed the furniture of the future: bare walls, windows facing east, much open space, a barometer, clear desk, sharpened pencils, blank pad, unopened book, unopened bottle of wine, skylights, light colors, large doorless openings to other rooms…
[The author thinks she was quoting Robert Grudin here. The author has never had a barometer, nor skylights. –Ed.]
SEPTEMBER 10, 1991, Monday 11:58 p.m.
This is the Evening Edition, the down-home book, the Big Book, the book I don’t take out. As opposed to the Bus Book, the other book—the one that fits in my purse.
Nevertheless, like the fingers of two hands interlaced and forming a bridge, these two different books constitute one narrative. Perhaps one I will write with the Left side of my brain; the other with the Right. Whatever, but as the commercial doesn’t say, it’s one book, one book, one book in two!
You know what’s going to be hard? Obliterating the timeline of the evening. I need to unplug the clock and grope my way through the night.
SEPTEMBER 11, 1991, Tuesday 8:55 pm
Lord, yes, this will be tyranny not to be overthrown with a single coup. To take back the night, to stop marking time, dividing it into parcels of what I do and don’t have time to do, will take more nail biting than I have the nails for. My specific goal is to not know what time it is, from the moment I get home from work, till the time I go to bed. I just want to do things till I’m finished or I’m tired of them. The symbol that has to come crashing down like a statue of Lenin is the artificial demarcation line of 11:00 p.m. as the official end of the evening. This is so ingrained from a lifetime of television “prime time” propaganda that I wonder if I can ever alert my brain to the natural flow of time. Evil it is, the monstrous panacea of television, which saps people of creativity, imagination and resourcefulness. Shattered will have to be the myth of TV as relaxation; people will foster relaxation as they learn to cultivate peace of mind. This can come only through use of the mind, through developing its strengths and feeling free to rest them.
Why do I smell cat shit?
It is a high-anxiety choice I make, to take control of my time, to not fall prey to the mind set of “I’m too tired…I think I’ll just…” My God, I have only so much time.
Yes, a lie it has been, what a dirty rotten double-cross I have perpetrated upon myself, that I don’t have time or energy for this or that. It’s all the choices I have made. I was regretting not attending my company picnic the other day because though crossing some chores off my list, I passed a rather ordinary day—but it was a step in the right direction, a weighing of choices in the face of time constraint. I just didn’t manage to use my time to my satisfaction. I won’t gain control overnight.
But tonight has been a blessing. Tonight at least I conquered my fear of the open space before me, and filled it with myself. I’m a little stronger now; it’ll be easier to go on.
My pleated lampshade casts a shadowed arc of triangles against the wall.
“QEH,” 1991, graphite on pencil.
[(Quiet Evening at Home.) A corner of the author’s old Portland house dining room. That bookcase is now in the foyer, she just gave the lamp away, but the lampshade still shelters her eyes from the lightbulb as she writes. –Ed.]
My, my, then apparently this is to be a Left/Right Brain Production! It’s two, two, two brains in one!
It pays not to think too hard or too long—within minutes of noticing that lacey shadow and asking myself, should I write it or draw it, I had done both.
Louie B. was right. The quality of lines does say something; it is its own justification. The above lines say to me: I love this funky, cozy, crooked corner of my home.
SEPTEMBER 12, 1991, Thursday 12 mid.
Louis B. was so right! Why have I denied myself drawing? It’s so much more fun than writing, like taking a trip away from yourself and coming back renewed. After a grueling aborted upside-down exercise based on a diagram from work of the respiratory tract, I decided to turn it into a cartoon called “Lung Man at Home,” gave him a pony tail, and earring and a dick, and thereby discovered a new outlet for the sarcasm I wear like a suit of porcupine barbs.
Whereas in writing it often it is wearing to delve into onself, in drawing one can forget oneself completely! One gets to know things in detail. I look at that certain corner of my dining room with a new fondness.
SEPTEMBER 24, 1991, Tuesday mid.
What’s in my thought balloon tonight? [The author was writing the dates in this book inside a rubber stamp of a thought balloon. –Ed.] The Poet’s Life. Sometimes the Poseur’s Life. I want to see more product, less image. I don’t like about poetry readings the same thing I don’t like about art openings: people wear their lifestyles like a sign, a sandwich board reading I AM A POET. I AM AN ARTIST. And often, I AM A POET; THEREFORE I AM ANGRY. OR DRUNK. OR POOR. OR BIG SHIT. Not that they’re all like that, or that this is sour grapes because I am living the life of Jane Doe and not Jane Bowles, but I doubt that I will ever be a noisy poet, loudly proclaiming my poetry to the world. I’ll write it—I leave it to the world to find it and read it. [That doesn’t work. –Ed.]
OCTOBER 1, 1991, Tuesday 12:30 a.m.
This year, October 1st is the most hopeful day of the year. I came up with a book at Powell’s, Writing on Both Sides of the Brain. Says to write down professional and personal goals. My goal, and my hope, is for my profession to be personal, for my personal life to be my profession.
TO BE PAID FOR BEING MYSELF!
[The author had once written in a previous journal, “Someday people are going to pay me for being myself.” -Ed. ]
JANUARY 19, 1992, Sunday 10:52 a.m.
I don’t have Emmanuelle Béart contorting herself before me, only my walking boots resting on a book on a table by my side. And so, draw them, I command. Perhaps someday I can draw a picture that doesn’t have words in it. But for now, it is comfortable.
JANUARY 20, 1992, Monday 9:00 p.m.
I need to draw like I write, that is, like some people doodle—off the cuff, without notice to myself, when I spy a pencil out of the corner of my eye. I need lots and lots of practice. Toss things off. And I don’t want to kvetch. Not going to stand in an empty barn of a studio with half a dozen canvases gathering dust—one of them somebody else’s. Blocked for 10 years! Well he should have forgotten about art and become a piledriver (Frenhofer, the boring nuisance).
“Footnote,” 1992, graphite on paper.
[The author had just seen “La Belle Noiseuse,” and been annoyed by the main character, an old man with a ten-year bout of “painter’s block.” –Ed.]
JANUARY 22, 1992, Wednesday 9:45 p.m.
Aberrant, bizarre, chimerical, dysfunctional…words used to describe a “modern” long-distance marriage on a TV sitcom. Somehow I can hear those words being applied to me! And why do I like the idea so much? ‘Cause I like being a naughty girl. And if I ever have one of those aberrant bizarre chimerical dysfunctional unions, it will be with a man who likes it too.
I write by the white skies of the first snow of the season…
I abandoned the journal after that, so back to the future now. And off to Philadelphia, Pencil-mania.
I AM A POET!
Silver Fox--call me!
copyright Alexandra Jones 2008