Kaleidoscopy (Part I)


Letter K is for kaleidoscopy, a made-up word that in this case means the conjoining of sensations.


A to Z entries: My post for each letter of the alphabet will be anecdotes or musings based on an element from the previous letter’s post. Names always changed, events always real.

 ~ Letter J was for a Joke, in which I spoke of a lack of memory retention, and so now the capturing of sensations, or…kaleidoscopy. ~

A note about missing posts: If you’re reading the alphabet posts in order and discover missing letters, it likely means I’m revising and incorporating them into bigger pieces for other sites. Over the years, this blog has served my writing as a developmental and exercise space.

I was a kid who collected things.

“You’re a little magpie,” my mother would say. She made it sound like a bad thing. To this day, she says I had a dead bug collection. My mother is full of mirth. She must mean dead leaves, since I did collect leaves and dry them. It’s a point of pride for me that by the time I was eight, I had a collection of leaves from seven different countries around the world. I also collected stamps and coins.

But more than anything, I attempted to collect sensations.

When I read Perfume by Patrick Suskind, about the man who sought to capture the essence of everything, I was fascinated. It wasn’t enough for him to distill the essence of flowers; he wanted to isolate the essence of a brass doorknob. His obsession made sense to me—other than the part where he killed virgins for their essence too.

I was always thinking up ways to capture sensations. Photographs, writing, mementos, recordings, files… My brother used to say, “What are you, J. Edgar Hoover?”

By the time I was a teenager, I had a box of doodles, notes, concert stubs, coasters, patches of fabric, rocks and any other small items that represented a person or event I didn’t want to forget.

But nothing made my pursuit of preserving the sensation-of-the-moment as efficient as social media. Born was the heretofore unknown “status update,” whereby you could recount anything from your lunch to your personal philosophy.

Many of my updates were impressions and sketches. Some were of gatherings, others were complaints, and still others were deliberately obscure.

Collected together, they are an uncanny representation of those particular few years I lived, like mosaic pieces forming a whole.

Or, kaleidoscopy.

The following is a harvesting of my social media updates and messages. I’ve added connecting sentences for coherence. The broad, sometimes indistinct brushstrokes nevertheless manage to bring back sensations for me, serving to encapsulate moments and their effects. A kaleidoscope of forgotten perception.

This is from 2010, a heavy year. Now, I find it a fascinating enough study to work on other kaleidoscopies.

They’re acid flashbacks with a constantly focusing and defocusing lens, and I’m never one to resist that seductive, nebulous line between psyche and occurrence.

~ 2010 ~

The third time is…a cliché. It allows me to escape him. I leave him on the day I pack my car to go be with him. But I hate him less than I hate myself for having stayed for so long. My apartment in Los Angeles isn’t mine for three months. I’m homeless. I drive to San Francisco for interminable hours on a curving cliff road at night through Yosemite. It’s raining and my brake fluid is leaking. My tears run and run. It’s inconvenient. Everything is slippery and made of liquid. But what runs, flows away. And from this night forth, I never say again “My soul is sick.” I no longer picture my soul as a huddled thing, blackened with sleepless suspicion.

Summer in Northern California. An honorable man who has never let me down shelters me, and I feel clean. We drive by lavender fields and rolling hills, by redwoods and the ocean. I am a lucky stray.

“You play happy well…,” the one I escaped writes to me. In a hundred lifetimes, I won’t ever be “happy” that we didn’t live out our destiny, but to like myself again, to feel light, is worth severing any number of gangrened limbs.

I’m asked, what is one thing you have learned this year? A cliché.

Which one? You can count on the predictable to happen.

Halfway home, back to Los Angeles, just me, the truckers and Janis Joplin, and I only agree with half of her reflections on Bobby McGee—I decidedly would not trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday holding Bobby, that hobo.

Labor Day and I’m jobless.

“A ‘hobo’ is a migratory worker who likes to travel, a ‘tramp’ travels without working, and a ‘bum’ does not travel or work.” So specific, dictionary, and yet by these terms “independently wealthy” can in fact be synonymous with “tramp” and “bum.” Considering that “worker” isn’t such a nice word either, where does that leave any of us? For someone who has spent more of life unemployed than employed, I sure have a lot to say about labor.

Back in Los Angeles, for a few weeks, I pet sit two impossibly untrained dogs, a Rottweiler and a German Shepherd, and this gives me a roof. I hold a leash to each on morning walks. The second morning, the Rottweiler sees a squirrel on a lawn. He runs towards it and suddenly I’m down on the ground, dragged on the grass, holding on to the leash. Pure slapstick. Pure rage in my chest. The day before, I let myself in for the first time and the growling Shepherd backed me into a corner. He became used to me, but I can’t stand their need for more love than I can conjure, or their smell, or their unrelenting barking. A few times a day, I go through the motions and pet them with empty eyes, the way I imagine a prostitute gets through her duties. I pet and scratch because I feel sorry for them.

It’s weird to have compassion for something you dislike.

At night, a lost love and I instant message. He was my most intense crush twenty years ago. Now he has children. He has a need to describe me to myself. He types words I like. I say, I like that you use the word “dangerous,” I feel dangerous right now. So dangerous, he says. I say, dangerous but good. I’ve had two glasses of red wine. Good always has to accompany dangerous. I say, can you please tell these dogs who walk all over me that I’m “dangerous?”

At sunrise, the orange disc creeps out of the horizon like an irritated pupil, and the upper layer of clouds disappear like an opening eyelid. I wish I didn’t live my life like time will never run out for me.

I’ve stayed put for one whole week and I’m both relieved and antsy. Falling is fun. A thrilling tumble. One of my pastimes is crazily reaching out and seeing what grabs hold. By not observing lines, you journey farther with someone.

The day’s deceptive wind hits my pores with all the hopes and dreams of my youth, fooling me into thinking I’m still young. Poisonous hope.

I say to my faraway love, who is not really my love, I booked back in with my agency, which will start the whole cycle of auditioning, callback, avails and torture. I need a quick booking, I’m going to sell out or check out, I say, being dramatic. He scolds me for “check out,” and tells me if I’m going to sell out, sell out big. He has a point. I don’t sell out.

It’s almost interesting to sit and do nothing and see what course things take on their own. But I make too many experiments of myself. I ask him, is my problem that I’m not in full command of my gifts, or that I’m deluded about having those gifts in the first place?

(Part II)

~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.

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  1. Paul · · Reply

    Please be advised that a comment will be coming in this space shortly.

    1. Haha, you know me well!

  2. jny_jeanpretty · · Reply

    You write very beautifully and it brings it all home. Completely real,

    jean http://prettykittydogmoonjewelry.blogspot.com/

  3. “It’s weird to have compassion for something you dislike.” aHA! I think I’ve stumbled upon the common denominator between you and me.

    1. Ha, how so? (Sorry for the extensive delay — I was buried under the alphabet.)

      1. Hey – LOL – at the time, I had an epiphany based on what you wrote. Now I’m not so sure what I meant! 🙄
        I *think* I was getting at this: it’s a whole lot easier thinking in black and white. This is bad, this is good. What they did was bad, therefore I shall shun them. But of course, shades of grey everywhere we look, and compassion does not do black and white.

  4. lrconsiderer · · Reply

    I feel slightly as though you up and hit me with a branch torn from the crazy tree, just to see if it would leave a mark…

    1. You’re smart. I always said so. It’s crazy tree indeed.

      1. lrconsiderer · ·

        And so, perhaps, I learn to speak Geisha.

  5. Steph · · Reply

    I loved this! You’ve inspired me to go dig through my relics.

    1. Hope you did it — you can often write an interesting prose poem with such relics…

  6. maurnas · · Reply

    *sigh* I wish I loved any of my past writings as much as I loved this.

    1. I edited quite a bit, believe me.

  7. Paul · · Reply

    Very powerful GG – real, elemental, fundamental. And besides that, I like it too. Ha! It’s clear to me it is part of the foundation of the writing/work you do today. The expressive/ impassioned pilings which support the house of GG. Nicely written.

    1. Thanks, Paul. (Two weeks later…)

  8. Oh, my! I have absolutely been fascinated by kaleidoscopes since childhood. (The kind that is a tube with pieces of broken glass and you gaze into it as it makes designs of all kinds.) Even after I discovered how they were made, the artist in me loved them. Still does. I’ll be 81 next month. Come visit an old lady if you wish. 🙂 Best regards to you. Ruby aka Blabbin’ Grammy. (number 771 today on the challenge list)

    1. Yes, kaleidoscopes are infinitely fascinating.

  9. wonderful stuff GG. Your writing enchants me.

    1. Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to have you here.

  10. Nadia · · Reply

    I love the idea of capturing sensations. Reading this, I wish I had keepsakes that captured feelings and moments. Music is the only vehicle for my past sensations. And Suskind’s Perfume is a masterpiece.

    I absolutely love, LOVE, your writing. If only my social media platforms were full of words like yours. These are the lines I can eagerly reread:
    “Everything is slippery and made of liquid.”
    “I go through the motions and pet them with empty eyes, the way I imagine a prostitute gets through her duties.”
    “At sunrise, the orange disc creeps out of the horizon like an irritated pupil, and the upper layer of clouds disappear like an opening eyelid.”

    1. Nadia, now that the one-a-day challenge is over, I’m catching up and re-reading all the comments I rushed through the first time. Thank you for this. And, have you considered verbal keepsakes based on your memory? Sometimes they’re more true to the moment than even pictures…

      1. I will definitely consider writing some now that I’ve read some of yours… I’ve never kept a journal, but I might get one just for that purpose.

  11. Interesting! You and Mark (Exile on Pain Street) share past writings/insights/journalings and I’m always impressed by the beauty of the words. I’m way too terrified to look back at my own… no way. It’s bad enough just to look at old blog posts.

    I definitely use social media updates to recall where I was at a certain time or place. Just the other day I was expected to recall when I had last had my washer repaired and I figured it out based on a facebook status.

    1. Your statuses are funny and quirky. If you string them together, you’d probably be very pleased with the result.


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