the pygmies keep dancing

Page Twenty-three, website outline                                                   

The Pygmies Keep Dancing is the name of the only chance I ever had at some success — success as neurotypical human society defines it; success as those who believe that you are nothing if you don’t earn money define it (but not as I define it). It’s the name of a novel I wrote in 1994 and 95, when I was 41 and 42 years old. It’s a largely silly book, and was intended to be so. Midlife crisis? Sit down and write a silly book? I don’t know.   

I do know, though, that those who knew me took it for granted that if anne nakis ever wrote a novel, it would be serious and literary and probably too la-di-da for anyone I knew to want to read. That’s what I myself thought. So it surprised me as much as it did anyone else that when finally I sat down to write a novel, it turned out to be a silly one.

About six months into it, I sent the first five chapters out to some agents, and heard back from two of them (one in New York, one in Toronto) that they’d like to see the book when it was finished. I was as baffled as I was delighted: What do they want with this silly book?                                                                                                                                 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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There were those who thought the book was funny, including a brother of mine and a friend. And judging by the way the Toronto editor went on for a paragraph about the experience he had marketing humor, I guess he thought it was funny too. I didn’t quite know what to make of all this funny. I myself regarded the book as primarily an allegory on the human subconscious, set in a very fanciful future, and only secondarily somewhat humorous. But I kept my mouth shut. If others saw it as first and foremost a funny book, and had interest in reading it only because of what they saw as humor, then I wasn’t going to debate it. The humor I used I saw as sardonic at times, tongue firmly in cheek at others. Serious humor, to use an oxymoron, but I kept keeping my mouth shut.

I rushed to get the thing finished, knowing that rushing was probably not a good idea, but I couldn’t stop myself. Excitement was only part of it. The other part was a lifetime of experience watching neurotypicals change their minds from week to week, if not from day to day. I had always found people so inconstant that, although both agents had told me to take my time and send the manuscript along when it was finished, I didn’t believe them. I feared that if I took too long, and then sent the book off, I’d get a letter back saying: Who the hell are you? I never asked to see your book. I had started it in mid-May of 1994, and mailed it out on 3 May 1995. I was forty-two years old.

May 3 had been chosen as mailing day at least a month in advance, so that I would have a deadline to work for and thus keep myself on task. But the damnable randomness of living decided to rear its ugly head on that particular day, and three hours before I was planning to be in the post office putting my first novel into the mail, one of my cats was killed by a human driving a car. The sudden death, the sadness, nearly kept me from doing the mailing. I honestly don’t know exactly how or why I went on with it, considering how devastated I was. To this day I don’t understand how I could go through with it. Except for the time I was xeroxing the last few chapters, and then doing the mailing in the P.O., the rest of that day and night were spent in a blur of sadness.

I’d wanted to go with the Toronto agency, since it was the Canadian branch of a very big amerikan agency, and I figured that richer and bigger and possible distribution in Great Britain was better. But, like so many things, it came down to money. Big agent charged a hefty fee (for me) to read the manuscript, and the smaller agency in New York charged nothing. New York it was. In June I got an answer: the manuscript needed to be edited, after which she would read it again. A good argument against rushing. She gave me the name of an editor, I talked to him, didn’t like him one wee bit, and his fee was ridiculous. A few months later I found another editor on Cape Cod who would do it for half the New York guy’s price, and my mother gave me the money. Randomness struck again: some emergency or other happened, maybe with the car, and the editor money got spent. After all of this, I was completely depressed and discouraged concerning the book. By the end of 1995, the manuscript was planted on a shelf and never looked at again.

Jump ahead two years, to the fall of 1997. My depression over the book has begun to lift, and I find myself interested in it again. I am living back with my parents in a miasma of mental illness and psychological abuse, for both me and my father, that I never imagined would be waiting for me when I arrived. I decide to edit the book myself, and see this project as one way I can attempt to stay grounded in something solid amidst psychological chaos all around me. The book and the animals are my compasses.

But even that went south. My mother became so jealous of any time I spent writing, and any time I spent gardening, or being with my animals and her animals, that she would just ratchet up the bullying. I gave up, telling myself that when my situation got better, I’d go back to the book.

My situation never did get better, but only worse with every passing year. My mother’s changing a certain legal document and taking from me my future rights to the family home thrust me back out into the rental market with a lot of animals, and no more rent subsidy. Every year the finances were harder, the physical illnesses got worse, as did depression, anxiety and PTSD. Each landlord was more mentally unbalanced than the one before, with only one exception. From 1999 to 2003 there were many animal deaths, as happens when you have a large family, as well as the deaths of my father, his brother, my nephew and my housemate. All the fiction I had ever got started on — the finished novel, other unfinished ones, short stories and plays, got packed into a big plastic bin, never to be looked at again. That very bin is moldering now in a storage unit for over three years, and if I ever see it again, will I even open it? I don’t know. Since the stealing of my animals, the killing of them, the tossing me onto the streets in my fifties, I have only been able to write truth: journals, memoir, and much less poetry than I ever wrote before.

The only inner force that tries to compel me to promise to get at the novel again is one that comes strictly from the heart. I consider the novel to belong to the animals who watched me write it, just as much as it belongs to me. One cat in particular sat or lay beside the word processor nearly every time I sat down to work on the book, as if she were supervising the work. She died five months into the writing, and ever after that the time spent at the word processor was poorer, emptier. In honor of this cat, and of all the others who shared my life while I wrote, I’d like to go back to the novel someday. But it doesn’t look good at the moment.

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jump ahead again, to august 2012. manuscript found. pygmies has begun. read…    the pygmies

read…    Mugsy’s book…    Scealta liatha

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the future

Page Twenty-two, the website outline

My immediate future was shown to me yesterday afternoon (3/22/10), and I’ve been crying almost constantly ever since. What I was told would be an efficiency apartment turned out to be much worse than that — I’m claustrophobic, and a real efficiency would have been hard enough to be in for more than a year. But this thing the social service/housing system has for me doesn’t even rise to the level of an efficiency. I took my friend in to see it and she said, loudly and with real shock in her voice, This is it? This is like being in jail.

And a couple of hours after I saw this little box that I’m supposed to try to exist like a human being in, I had a full-blown panic about moving back to Turners Falls for the fourth time. This panic has been building for a couple of weeks, and yesterday it burst into full strength: I’ve lived among these despised people three times now, can I really do this again? My heart yearns all the time to the nature in this town that I shared with my animals, to the memories of me with them, and them with me. But can I withstand living among these ignorant, tight-fisted, inbred, phony-christian, anti-intellectual, anti-anne nakis individuals again? And the answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen.

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So now I am moved back to the toxic little burg on the river. Today, the 31st of March 2010. Two years and three weeks after the eviction. Thanks to the indifference (and underhandedness) of the Department of Mental Health, and the indifference of Matthew and all he represents, I was two years and three weeks without a rental unit.

Future Past                                                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Future Present  

read…   Being toward death…   Braonwandering

 

 

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turners falls, in massachusetts

Page Twenty-one, website outline

                        “Human beings are a lot meaner and stupider
                                     than they think they are.”
                                           ~~~   Kurt Vonnegut
                                                     Timequake (I think)
 
 
                       Bite the hand before it feeds you;
                       feeds you poison, feeds you shame.
                       Bite the hand before it beats you,
                       beats you to a bloodless name.
                                                                       

 

Two days ago I was talking to a woman who said this, just about verbatim: I came here three years ago when I fled my ex-husband, and my life has done nothing but go downhill since I’ve been here. I’m doing everything I can to get out.

And I did that too. For years. After I’d been in this town about the same amount of time that she has, I wanted out. And I tried for years to get out. Finally, in 1997, I escaped back to my original town in eastern Mass, and found utter mental chaos going on in my family home. So again I tried with diligence to find another place to live, but one out there. To stay in eastern Mass and never cross route 128 again. But it didn’t work. After thirteen months, my daughter found me a place in Turners Falls that I could afford and would accept my animals, so that after only a brief escape, I was back. Back with a very heavy heart in many ways.

In 1992, when I’d been here for seven years, I had the idea that I’d write a book about this place with the title Poison and Snowflake Trees. I even began work on this book, but that particular word processor disk is one of the many, many objects that other people have deprived me of since 1998. For me that title completely grips the painful dichotomy that has always been life in Turners for me: the undeniable, mesmerizing beauty of the nature; and the equally undeniable, tenacious ignorance and meanness of the people. Poison for the humans, snowflake trees for the nature.  All these years later, I’m starting that book again, structuring it as a collection of vignettes that are the blog posts I’ve been writing about Turners for close to three years now, together with new writing.

This year’s crop (2010)              

                                                                         

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And now it’s April 26, and the snowflake trees have sprouted to six inches high along the canal. The cherry trees (the center of Turners is full of them) and the lilacs are blooming. The ducks want people to feed them. There’s a black squirrel living near the library. The Turners spring I know so well is in its happy throes. 

I walk in places where my animals and I used to live, where we used to walk, where we were so happy in each other’s company and so fascinated with every molecule of nature around us. I walk,cry and remember. And if the nature that we loved together for nearly twenty-two years is still here, still all around me as I walk and cry, well so is the poison. It emanates from every human body that I pass; it is in the words from their mouths; it is in their behavior.

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The flowers on this page: I can just hear the wheels turning:  There’s no such thing as snowflake trees. This broad’s really nuts. No, as far as I know, there is no such thing as snowflake trees. The common name for this plant is meadow rue, but when I found them I didn’t know this. It would be two or three years before I would find out the plant’s actual name, and in the meantime  — with my Asperger’s penchant for naming people and things in ways that fit them better than their real names — I called them snowflake trees. I’ve been naming things my own names for years.

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The snowflake trees and butterfly flowers (also known as milkweed) are blooming now; now being June 16. Nothing of the snowflake flower’s grace and nothing of the sweetness of the not-much-to-look-at milkweed flower can stem the human toxicity here. I’ve always wished that it could. That the sweetness of lilac scent and laurel scent, milkweed and rose could somehow alter the wormy psyches of these people. That the soft mist rising from canal and river could wash the nastiness out of them. But such has never happened, and I don’t suppose it ever will.

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Something I sometimes do these days: squiggling a mouse around a table to use the Windows Paint. I see this one as an abstract rendition of the anxiety,anger and dislike I feel among the people of this town.

                                                                Junktown 2010

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read…  Braonwandering…    Don’t ask

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