Disruptive Juxtaposition

Friday, April 14, 2006

Las Vegas means The Meadows

The setting: JBG's very 60s pad in downtown Las Vegas, which house features white brick highlights, a killer sunroom, and a bright yellow Formica kitchen table which some of you might remember from the Hollyhock house in old Eugene, OR.

What we did last night: went to the Artisan lounge in downtown Vegas, where there are no slots and no games.

What we talked about: English pedagogy, Campbell McGrath, where to get married in Vegas and avoid "that Vegasy feeling", home renovations.

What I'm teaching on Tuesday: Jane Austen's Persuasion.

How I'm feeling about that: Surprisingly confident.

What the weather's doing: Mid-70s, overcast, a few incidental raindroplets that do nothing to interfere with your plans or your mood.

Best simile that goes a long way toward explaining why taking care of a pool is so engaging and fun: "It's like a big witch's brew."

Plans for today: Purchase and read Persuasion - OK, maybe just a couple of chapters for today - then pick up some batteries for the camera, snag a smart-looking jacket, hit the In-N-Out Burger and order off its secret menu, and then, then, it's the Strip, the Strip, the Strip.

What's on the stereo right now: Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People, "Pacific Theme", which more than any other song you can think of is the soundtrack to this whole trip and all of your impending victories.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'll believe in anything

My fingers feel more loose - looser? - than they have in a while. Wine helps. But so does Wolf Parade.

Apologies to the Queen Mary is a sweeter Modest Mouse - a Modest Mouse gorged on some sweet French cheese I've never heard of. But I tire of explaining bands and my enthusiasms for them by means of other bands. That's lazy writing. So be it known that Wolf Parade features hazy vocals full of reverb, yawped out over sharp clean guitar lines and a drum kit that's typically being whomped on with great vigor and spit. Their whole sound is ramshackle - but not lo-fi - in a charming way, as though that boy you were eyeing back in high school but stopped eyeing because he wouldn't amount to anything turned out OK in the end after all, and his songs are about God and guns and love and la-la-las, the latter two being boppy, powerful counters to the former two. The song this post is titled for is a goldurn masterpiece.


I've been emptying my head into a Word file I've started specifically for pedagogical and educational review. Because you see, I have a major. Major. Interview coming up this Tuesday the 18th. This interview will take place in Las Vegas at that city's foremost preparatory learning institution.

I'm pretty excited about this.

Part of me wants to say that further discussion would jinx the proceedings, and I should be more demure and Zen. Part of me simultaneously remembers Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio in the James Cameron underwater adventure film The Abyss, who, as her yellow submersible capsule is being craned into position over the unruly ocean, is wished luck on her mission. "Luck is not a factor," she says, and wrenches at the lever that releases the sub from its tether, and she plunges into the water.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Best word ever for that weird feeling of displacement and sustained fatigue that stems from travel. Last weekend in Milwaukee I was zonked for most of the travelling and the wedding, although I wasn't so zonked that I couldn't cut a rug (dance) with my baby.


I'm not very religious anymore. This is Palm Sunday, and I didn't even know it until we arrived at the church were my cousin's baby Aiden was to be baptized. Actually our arrival was sort of funny: with my dad driving and the Dostoevsky somewhat inadequate to the task of keeping me awake, I slept all the way there - conked out, you might say - until I rubbed my eyes and there stood the church. It's hard to describe how beautiful the temperature, the weather, and the church all conspired to be simultaneously; I'll satisfy the descriptive task by swiping a phrase that JBG used to describe the weather in Vegas. (More on Vegas soon.) The phrase is "golden blue." It was that kind of a day. Inside the church, which was a grand, recently renovated sight to see made of light beige stone and much interior space, was packed with people who'd been standing, sitting, and kneeling since 9:30 AM. Catholic calisthenics. As it turned out, that had been the bishop himself up there officiating, and that's why the mass was still going on by 10:45 or so. You could tell by the number of people slipping off to the restrooms that it was the kind of mass where you sing every verse to every hymn. And so there we were -

Here's a quick family tree-style primer or refresher on my family's setup, if you need one,

Baba (Grandmother) - Pa (Grandfather)
/ | \
The LeBeau Family The Filonovich Family The Lobko Family

with lots of grandchildren and a swelling number of great-grandchildren. It's really something, considering Baba and Pa's immigrant origins fleeing pogroms and hunger and futurelessness. So there at the church a whole slew of grown grandkids and great-grandkids are scampering around waiting for the ceremony to actually start. Greetings ran to the garrulous side of things. I was wearing my sunshine yellow sweater and feeling particularly daisy-fresh thanks to the nap and thanks more simply to just seeing everybody. It felt more, well, holy than any kind of "Quick get into church mode" conduct could have. I had no interest in taking communion.

I'm really very interested in this. I was thinking about Jon at various points today, in part at how unlikely it would have been that he'd have been in attendence had he happened to be in Syracuse and, well, alive.* It hadn't been for sure that I was coming until two nights ago, when I first heard of it. (I tend to be removed - not by choice or anything - from the funny catch-as-catch-can lines of communication.) I can picture him there, in gym shorts and a white T-shirt, or maybe even if we really tried to get him there a button-up shirt of some solid color such as charcoal grey or royal blue. But I can only so picture him because I know that it's a fiction. I wouldn't lay good odds on his choosing to attend if he were around. He hated church. And I don't think that it was merely with the disdain some people have for organized social activities. I'm surmising and inferring things left and right here but I suspect that religion was a nettle in Jon's side less for the obligatory C.C.D. / Religious Ed obligations that all young Catholics are made to endure, and rather had a lot to do with what he regarded as its mysticism. Its easy-answer appearance. Its profession to know one's soul. One of the tragedies of Jon's life was that he didn't learn to depend or trust other people; he wasn't accustomed to enlisting anyone's aid. He was one of your roughs; you could say that there was bred in him that brand of rugged individualism that would have made him a good frontiersman circa the 1870s. I think his take on religion was somewhat Marxist, actually, and in opium plus masses.

Kneejerk responses to this (potential) position of Jon's would center on faith. Namely that he didn't have it. But I'm not really interested at the moment in the theological implications of Jon's stance on these kinds of activities and ways of thinking. Instead I wonder what he considered holy. I don't mean to confuse what he felt to be happiness with what he felt to be holy. Happiness and holiness are distinct, one potential distinction being that of the scale of the emotion or experience. Maybe happiness is a sense of personal fulfillment, and holiness is a sense of a contentment and happiness within a larger communal or even cosmic context. I see a picture like this,

or this,

and I have to hope that these moments were, for Jon, more than simple moments of a transient happiness. I like to think that they represented bigger instances of that happiness that is hopefully typical in our daily lives. And that any such expansion of scale in this happiness had everything to do with Jon knowing that there were people around enjoying themselves and himself. That there was this rapid-firing back-and-forth acknowledgment, both implicit and explicit, of the fact that everyone there is glad for everybody else's being there, and for everybody else's being happy - on and on like that. That sounds about right for the definition of holy I want to sketch here.


More pictures follow.

Max and Shane playing with toy soldiers at the edge of the font. The toy soldiers were the kind with firm oval bases. I loved this part. I snapped a photo that inadequately captures the game Max played with his younger brother Alec; Alec, 2 and 1/2 years old, started dipping his finger in the font behind the priest's back and commenced baptising by chasing them down and wiping his finger off on their skirt or pant leg. Max got in on this soon after. Then they began baptising each other, but without any of that pesky ceremony. It was as though they wanted to see who could make the other brother more hallowed, or something.

Aiden was dipped three times. Didn't cry. It was actually awesomely cute. The priest dipped him in the water and Aiden vocalized his displeasure with this crotchety-sounding old man's cry. As soon as he was lifted out, he stopped. Think of a Geiger counter being brought near to and away from radioactive material. It wasn't a real cry, but let you know that if you left him in there then he was really going to cry for you.

Oh, well now here's that shot I mentioned. "You're blessed!" "No I'm not, you're blessed!" Running in a circle, thinking thoughts like that.

My cousin Tasha and myself, surrounded by posters lauding Italian mobsters of the silver screen. And Tony Montana.

* I realize that that sentence has some redundant elements, but I stet it because such redundancies actually remind me, in writing, like right there BAM on the screen, that Jon is in fact dead. At times I must resort to saying it repeatedly, as with a mantra, for it to sink in.