Archive for July, 2010

“Kilgore Trout owned a parakeet named Bill.” (Fiction?)

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

“Yea, that was a bad one,” Justin (not Justin) said about yesterday’s post.

“Really?” I asked.

He didn’t hesitate.  “Yea, pretty short, boring, not very insightful.”

It took me hours to write that post.  I wrote entire pages and deleted them completely.  I went through my blog notes over and over again only to find that there was nothing I wanted to write about.

Lately it seems that instead of letting myself become inspired I’ve been allowing myself to be distracted.  I’ve been making bad decisions because I don’t care about the consequences anymore.  On the other hand, I’ve been making good decisions for the same reason.

I’m doing whatever I want at any given moment.  Spontaneous.  Dangerous.  Fun.

“I really like your blog,” a friend told me the other day.  “You’ve got a lot of balls to put it out there like that.  Knowing the person you’re writing about could read it.”

People tell me things like this all the time – that my blog is “honest”.  I think my blog is dramatic.  I wonder if these things define me.

In Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut writes:

Kilgore Trout owned a parakeet named Bill… He told Bill that humanity deserved to die horribly, since it had behaved so cruelly and wastefully on a planet so sweet.

I am curious to know if this was how Vonnegut truly felt, disguised as fiction.

“I have trouble believing anything is 100% fiction,” I once told Tim.  All of the fictional thoughts and experiences we read in our most beloved novels must come from some truth.

Some nights I lie in bed drunk and make blog notes.  (Ashleigh’s Writing Rule #658: Never write when drunk, only make notes when drunk.) One evening, I noted how I wanted someone in particular to die.  I thought about seeing the splish-splash of this person’s blood and guts on the ground.  I wondered how this person’s friends and family would feel when they heard that so-and-so had expired and is on his/her way to meet our maker, or maybe just to a meat locker in the morgue before being reduced to worm food or ashes.  (I’m not really sure what so-and-so’s last wishes regarding burial might have been.)

Is that honesty?  Debatable.  Is it any more or less honest if I create a character who expresses such thoughts to his/her pet parakeet?  Again, debatable.  Should it be stated that I obviously don’t wish death upon anyone?  No, because it goes without saying.  Should Vonnegut have clarified whether he really did or did not think that all of humanity deserved to die horribly?  No.  Why?  Because he was writing “fiction”?

I dunno.

What is something I do know?  That this blog is my cathartic release.  It’s my inaudible music.  My intangible painting.  Me dancing without movement.

It’s me screaming as loud as I fucking can without making a sound.

It’s my heart and my brain, thrown into Jayme’s food processor and made into a meat shake for the world to drink.

Weegee

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

“Oh, you like to take pictures of dead things, too?” Aunt Heather asked me.  She had noticed the photo of dead birds being used as the background on my iPhone.

“I do,” I replied.  I’m like the Weegee of dead bird photos, I thought.

Weegee (derived from the phonetic spelling of Ouija) was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig.  His family moved to New York City from Poland in 1909, when he was just 10-years old.

Fellig left school at age fourteen to help support his family. His first job was as an assistant to a commercial photographer. He also obtained extra money by taking street portraits.  In 1918, Fellig was employed as a darkroom technician in Lower Manhattan.

Then, in 1935, Fellig left his job and attempted to make a living as a freelance photographer. By tuning his radio to the police frequency and monitoring their calls, he often beat authorities to the scene of a crime.  This resulted in grotesque images of murder victims, car wrecks, and the public’s reaction to such tragedies.  He even had a complete darkroom in the trunk of his car.

Fellig sold his pictures to newspapers, and in 1938 he became the only New York reporter with a permit to have a portable police-band shortwave radio.  Since then, his photographs have appeared in multiple exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art.  Books of his work have also published.

In unrelated news, I have a new mole.  “Whoa, you should really get that looked at,” Ryan told me.

The other night I dreamt that it grew to cover the entire left side of my face.  It was quite hideous.

Photograph of a murder victim taken by Weegee (above)

One of my photographs of a dead bird (below)

Babies Having Babies (The Story of Lina Medina)

Monday, July 19th, 2010

On Mother’s Day, 1939, Lina Medina gave birth to a healthy six pound baby boy.  But this was no ordinary pregnancy – the new mother was only five and a half years old.

Medical documentation revealed that Lina had begun showing signs of menstruation when she was eight months old, and she started having regular periods at age three.

Lina’s family did not know of her condition until she was already seven and a half months pregnant.  Living in their small Peruvian village, they did not have the technology or money to diagnose the five year old’s bulging belly.  However, as the months passed, the family began to worry that little Lina had a fast-growing, life-threatening tumor in her belly, so they carried her into town for medical attention.

After doctor’s confirmed the pregnancy via x-rays and biopsies, Lina’s father explained that before her stomach started to swell, she was having regular periods that all of a sudden stopped.  Physicians were stunned by Lina’s pregnancy and were not going to pass up the opportunity to study this medical miracle. They transferred Lina to a hospital in Lima, Peru, so she could be observed at all times.

Due to Lina’s small frame and pelvis, it would have been impossible for her to give birth vaginally.  Doctors at the Lima hospital concluded that she would have to have a cesarean section.

In 1941, two years after Lina gave birth, the New York Times published an account of an American psychologist who had examined Lina while visiting South America:

Ms. Kosak said she gave a series of intelligence tests to the child and that on the basis of this study she has no doubt that the child’s age was given correctly.

“Lina is above normal in intelligence and the baby, a boy, is perfectly normal and is physically better developed than the average Mestiza (Spanish Indian) child,” she said.  “She thinks of the child as a baby brother and so does the rest of the family.”

Jose Sandoval, an obstetrician who took an interest in Lina Medina’s case and authored a book about her in 2002 said that Lina was a psychologically normal child, that she displayed no other unusual medical symptoms, and that she preferred playing with dolls rather than her own child.

Lina’s boy, named Gerardo, did not learn until he was ten years old that the woman he thought to be his sister was actually his mother.  He grew up healthy but died in 1979 at age of 40 of a bone marrow disease.  Lina still lives in a poor district of Lima with her husband (who fathered her second son in 1972).

Members of the American Medical Association meeting in 1939 were a bit skeptical of Lina Medina’s extreme youth.  Per a Time Magazine article published a month after Gerardo’s birth:

Most of the members believed that Lina was at least eight or nine, little younger than several U. S. child mothers now living in the South. Baby teeth, said the critical U. S. doctors, are no criterion of age. Lina’s early menstruation, said U. S. pediatricians, was probably caused by an ovarian tumor. Ovarian tumors are not rare, sometimes cause menstruation in children a year old, often produce glandular changes which stunt growth. Concluded A.M.A. spokesman Dr. Morris Fishbein: “It is difficult or impossible to determine the exact age of children born in primitive tribes. . . . It is likely that she was much older.”

The father of baby Gerardo was never determined. In fact, Lina’s father was jailed for incest and rape of Lina, but was let go due to lack of evidence. Lina herself never gave any answers to doctors on how she became impregnated.

I’m getting to that age where a number of my friends are having children.  “Babies having babies,” I always say.  Now when I say this, I’ll always think of little Lina Medina.

Lina Medina, seven and a half months pregnant (above)

A Lot Can Happen In A Year (Happy Birthday, Blog)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

(From Facebook:)

Ashleigh Walker –> Justin Tiemeyer: I had a dream that we went to the same school together but class was held on a roof in Brooklyn and on the last day of class you got mad at me because you kept saying you finished reading my blog and I didn’t believe you. Then we were going to walk home together but some weird guy started talking to you, so I just left. Sorry dream-me abandoned you.
May 23, 2010 at 12:54pm

Justin Tiemeyer: Haha. I’m almost done with July 2009! So you basically lost a significant other and decided to leave work and go back to school and wrote a blog as a way of creatively dealing with it?
May 23, 2010 at 3:34pm

Ashleigh Walker: That’s how it started, a kind of quarter-life crisis. And somewhere along the way I remembered how much I love to write, and people seem to like to read it, so…
May 23, 2010 at 3:49pm

Justin Tiemeyer: Good. There’s definitely some struggle in your writing, but it’s not blown out of proportion like a John-Cusack-movie-loving, Real-World-watching, Coldplay-listening writer might. Oh and there’s structure. Which is different. Memoir-based, feelings blogs rarely have anything resembling structure. I’m enjoying your sorrow so far. Haha.
May 23, 2010 at 4:20pm

I started this blog one year ago today.

A lot can happen in a year.

I’ve lost some old friends, made some new friends, and held on to some true friends.

I’ve graduated college and begun working for a small company that I hope to help flourish.

I’ve gotten over last year’s heartbreak only to find there is heartbreak far more cruel than those previous, reminding me that someone I believe to be compassionate can turn out to be quite merciless.

I’ve been forced to question if the world is really plagued by bad people, or just good people who do some bad things.

I’ve changed but remained the same.

I could have never imagined that this is where I’d be now.

I wonder what the next year will bring.

Happy birthday, blog.

“God can be so hilarious. Ha ha. Ha ha.”

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

It was the end of May.

Jayme, Maria, and I were watching the first Sex and the City movie.  In the film, Big doesn’t show up to his own wedding.  His fiancé, Carrie, is devastated.  When she confronts him on the street only moments after he told her he wasn’t coming, she is hysterical.  She hits him.  Repeatedly.

I had just dealt with a similar (but still very different) situation.  “Is it ever okay to hit?” I asked the room.  “Like really?  Shouldn’t you never slap someone?”

“I really don’t think it’s ever okay to hit someone,” Jayme responded.  Her words wounded me a little, as she knew that I had recently lost control of my emotions and slapped a boy.

After Maria left, I brought it up again.  I’d been sitting there over-thinking it and feeling guilty and terrible.

“Should I apologize?  To xxxxxx for hitting him?” I asked.  “I mean, it’s never okay to hit someone.”

Jayme looked at me, and very sternly she said, “No.  He deserved it.”

“But..,”  I started.

“No.  I mean.  It’s not okay to hit.  But he deserved it,” she assured me.

“I just.  I just feel so bad,” I told her.

“Well stop.  Stop feeling bad,” she said.

I told this story to Rona via email.  Jayme’s a sage, she wrote in response. I think she verbalized exactly what the situation is.  Also, a few slaps make a man!!

This boy and I have mutual friends on Facebook.  In my news feed the other day, I noticed a comment one of them posted on his wall.  The mutual friend was expressing how happy he was that this boy has found himself a girlfriend.  It contained the text: …it’s been a while since either of us have dated someone…

I found this funny, since the boy whose wall it was had dated me for months almost immediately before he decided to commit himself to this new girl.  Maybe he never mentioned it.  Us.

Ha ha.

Also quite funny is that this other guy just moved back to Brooklyn.  He now lives around the corner from me with the girl he left me for two years ago.  It certainly does not affect my heart anymore, it’s just… funny.

Ha ha.

But returning to Facebook and emails, I recently received an email from a very old friend that I just reconnected with over Facebook.  He wrote:

Hey Ashleigh, I wouldn’t normally do this. I tend to be shy and don’t really Facebook and all that stuff. I am content to have left my old life behind and blend in…  MY POINT. I loved your website. Really cool words. Thanks for sharing them. Good AM reading. Even if they leave a small hint of residual sadness in the room.

I thought that was nice.

And finally, back to Jayme.  She and I were playing pool the other night at Lockinn.  The jukebox there contains one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs, “Blasphemous Rumours”.  Additionally, I have become newly obsessed with the Regina Spektor song, “Laughing With”.

These songs have much in common.  Maybe they should fall in love.

I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours
but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor,
and when I die I expect to find him laughing.

(Depeche Mode, “Blasphemous Rumours”)

God can be funny
when told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way,
and when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus.
God can be so hilarious.
Ha ha.  Ha ha.

(Regina Spektor, “Laughing With”)

“Well, still, pretty good year.”

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Last week I decided to find some of the pianos stationed around New York as a part of the “Play Me, I’m Yours” exhibit.  I met Andrea at my last stop: McCarren Park.  Playing the piano was an old man accompanied by his friend on the drums.

“I really thought there’d be some hipsters rockin’ out on this one,” I commented to Andrea.  “Oh, and I thought you’d like to know that I haven’t washed my hair in a week and two days.”

“You are a hipster, you know,” she told me.

“How so?” I asked.

“Uh, what you’re wearing,” (I looked down at my ankle-high pixie boots, jean shorts, and thrift store tank top), “you don’t have a real job, you don’t wash your hair, and you’re sitting in McCarren Park on a weekday afternoon,” she stated.

The day before she had texted me a picture of some birds.

Sometimes birds don’t die, she wrote, Sometimes they chill on stoops like cool awesome people would if they had stoops.  I mean me.

Awww, I replied, But also.  I wish they were dead.  God.  I’m cruel.  Kill them and send me a photo?

You are the worst person in the world, she texted back.

In other news, on July 14th, 2010, Keep My Words will turn one-year old.

It was around this time two years ago that this guy broke my heart.

And it was about one year ago that I decided to break my own heart before this guy did.

Then this year, only a little over a month ago, another boy broke my heart.

Independence Day is painfully literal for me.

independence – (noun) freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

All three of them had new girlfriends less than a month after our dissevering.  The latter two ended up with skinnier, more-tattooed, and I’m sure less-cynical versions of me after claiming to be too commitment-phobic to dare call me their “girlfriend.”

Oh well.

Right now, I am uncomfortably content.  Part of me thinks I’m better off alone, and part of me thinks I just haven’t met the right person.  But it’s fine.  I want to meet a good man as much as I want to win the lottery – it could happen, and it could make me gloriously happy, but it’s not necessary.  And it certainly doesn’t happen for everyone.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  Possibilities are everywhere.  With each second, I am changing.  Those boys don’t even know me anymore.  You don’t even know me anymore, nor do I.

Yet there’s enjoyment in constantly becoming reacquainted with myself.

Andrea’s birds (above), Piano at Thompkins Square Park (below)

Piano at Astor Place (below)

Piano at Greeley Square Park (below)

Piano at McCarren Park (below)

“Hey Jupiter, nothing’s been the same…” (Toynbee Tiles)

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

In 1992, Bill O’Neill starting noticing strange tiles randomly embedded in local roads in Philadelphia.  They measured about 6 x 12 inches, and contained some variation of the message below.

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN Kubrick’s 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER

Many tiles included footnotes consisting of cryptic political messages, such as “Murder every journalist, I beg you” and “Submit.  Obey.”

Bill decided to do some research on the tiles, and he came to discover that this wasn’t just a local incident.  Over time he found that similar tiles had appeared in many US cities, including Washington DC, Pittsburgh, New York City, Baltimore, and Boston, to name a few.  Some had even shown up in South America.

Although these tiles were planted into busy public roads, no one seemed to know who was responsible or what was used to make the them.

“Toynbee” most certainly refers to British historian Arnold J. Toynbee.  According to letters written by the tiler, allegedly uncovered by Toynbee tile researchers in Philadelphia in 2006, “Toynbee’s idea” stems from a passage in Arnold Toynbee’s book Experiences:

Human nature presents human minds with a puzzle which they have not yet solved and may never succeed in solving, for all that we can tell. The dichotomy of a human being into ‘soul’ and ‘body’ is not a datum of experience. No one has ever been, or ever met, a living human soul without a body… Someone who accepts – as I myself do, taking it on trust – the present-day scientific account of the Universe may find it impossible to believe that a living creature, once dead, can come to life again; but, if he did entertain this belief, he would be thinking more ‘scientifically’ if he thought in the Christian terms of a psychosomatic resurrection than if he thought in the shamanistic terms of a disembodied spirit.

The other reference in the tiles is to Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was a movie that made implications that a man was reborn on a mission to Jupiter, not exactly resurrected.

There is only one known connection between the works of Toynbee and Kubrick: Toynbee’s writings spoke of a man named Zoroaster who conceived the idea of monotheism (the belief that only one God exists), and this name also occurs in the title of the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme song entitled “Thus Spoke Zoroaster.”

A clue to the source of these tiles came from a 1983 newspaper interview with a social worker from Philadelphia named James Morasco.  Morasco claimed that Jupiter could be colonized by bringing Earth’s dead people there to have them resurrected.

When writing an article on the tiles in 2001, a reporter stumbled upon the original 1983 article and tried to call the only James Morasco listed in Philly. A woman who answered said Mr. Morasco couldn’t come to the phone because a mysterious ailment had required that he have his voicebox removed.  A different reporter writing another story in 2003 tried to call the same man, only to be told that he died the previous March at age 88.

“My husband doesn’t know anything about that,” his widow told the reporter. “Besides he died in March. But he didn’t know anything about it.”

In any case, there are two problems when assuming that James Morasco is the responsible party: (1) He would have been in his 70s when most of the tiles were placed, and (2) Some new tiles have been installed since his death in 2003.

It was eventually determined that these tiles were composed of layers of linoleum and asphalt crack-filling compound.  A Toynbee-tile enthusiast website reported a tile found in Pittsburgh that included deployment instructions, which the reader transcribed as:

…linoleum, asphalt glue (?) in several layers, then placing tar paper over it so that car wheels won’t mess it up, and apparently the heat of the sun on the tar paper will bake it into the street.

There is no public or private agency dedicated to conserving Toynbee tiles. Many tiles now exist only as photographs taken before their destruction.

Toynbee tile at Franklin Square, 2002 (above)