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Monday, December 27, 2010

Submitted Work

1507-D

Mrs. Shaw said it just rained and rained. Nearly brought the water up above the drains and levies built with the waters direction and destiny in mind. Said, it was out of sorts for this area and that we were lucky to live on the third level and not the first. Told us how all this happened before we got there, before her kids moved out of state. The rain brings out all kinds of insects looking for a piece of dry land she said.

We moved just a month ago. My wife drove our car while I drove the moving truck. She drove in front because it was my idea to move. Her rationale was that she shouldn’t have to stare at my decision for any longer than she already had to.

The apartment was perfect in so many ways that the first night we swore we heard a ghost, a gas leak and movements from the neighbors above us that were those of occupants who sold drugs. I am good with “pros and cons,” so I made a list. We decided that we didn’t have any kids so that a ghost would be okay. We never smoked so our lungs should sustain a gas leak for longer than most and last, we knew very little about the drug trade. I gave the list to my wife who said, if only we could tell more about a place from its online pictures.

There are times when I’ll go a whole hour without looking up from my computer. We live by the Pacific Ocean so the weather can dramatically change during that hour. The transformation can make you feel like you lost a day, or left too much unfinished. When this occurs, I like to switch my clothes even though the temperature inside hasn’t changed at all. We struggle with water coming in when it rains, but surprisingly it doesn’t seem to work both ways. Our heating bill is significantly less now than it was before we moved.

Just yesterday a couple moved into the apartment next to us. They brought over oatmeal cookies and asked about how we ended up in San Francisco. I thought it best to start at the beginning. To explain my desire to be closer to the baseball team I sold season tickets for and then to head to the end which was always that we were looking for a change of scenery. I left out the middle. The part about my mom, her parents and the car accident. Their first vacation together. I don’t think if my wife had been there she would have added the middle. Our walls are thin, and from our bed she could hear my account of the story.


-Alex King



Please send submissions to thehistoryofwords@gmail.com. Fiction, poetry, and selected non-fiction will be reviewed for acceptance.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Save The Words

Today I came across a staggering statistic that 90% of everything that we write is communicated in only 7,000 words.  This not a lot considering the vast vocabulary of the English language.  Not to mention Greek, Latin, and all the other languages we borrow from to create our modern syntax.
The Oxford Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words.
I'm tired of not doing things about heartbreaking statistics, start small and adopt a word today...expand your mind and your vocabulary.



Friday, October 1, 2010

Rothko

 This past weekend, even with the ever elusive San Francisco sunny day on the horizon, we decided it was time for a little slice of culture and headed for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  They had an exhibit on display, sharing the rich and fairly impudent history of not only the SFMOMA in the last 75 years but modern art in general: it's seed, birth, rebellion, it's latent insecurity and evident transformation.  Everything from the first solo Pollock exhibit, to the familiar colors and lines of a Matisse and the fervent dots that make up a Lichtenstein.
I will openly admit that I'm one of those museum visitors who cannot resist reading all the mini novels carefully and aridly written on the wall next to each painting.  In fact, as we were walking around I found myself very jealous of those with a convenient headset.  I think the jealousy came on when I found myself standing awkwardly too close to a painting, reading intently, and realized that I had failed to even look at the art itself before digesting the words.  I know that in many ways we would be nowhere without the context of history, but I wonder how our experiences would be different without it.  Perhaps the understanding of art sometimes requires the absence of any context at all.

For me, the proof for this is idea is Mark Rothko.  Even though I had previously been to the museum, it had slipped my mind that the museum had a Rothko in it's permanent collection and as I rounded another white wall for more, I couldn't help but to be blown away, again, by this monstrosity of color.  And it truly is just that: three colors painted on a monstrous canvas.  It's that simple.
It might be embarrassing for me to admit how much research I've done on Rothko trying to uncover what's behind the color.  The suicide, the Seagram murals, the rejection of abstract expressionism, the unfinished book, the Rothko chapel, the supposed religiosity of his work, the tumultuous marriage.
My devotion to these details is similar to my inability to not read the provided text on the wall next to each painting.  We're trained as human beings to connect knowledge to emotion.  Feeling is no longer first, as e.e. cummings told us it should be.  We think first, and then feel.
Because of this, viewers often fail to understand Rothko.  The simplicity is intended, it's essence is the art itself, because like the art of a child which demands no intellectual pretense and asks for no history, it is a replica of raw emotion and a direct projection of the self.  There are no lines to signal space or boundaries, nothing drawn from the archives of human memory, just color.  And color is as close to the beginning as I can remember.  I don't event recall "learning" colors, if that's what we do.  It is, as Rothko intended, primitive, because it demands so little from the mind, and so much from what is just felt.
None of this should come as a surprise to those who have studied abstract art. But unlike the frantic lines of a Pollock or the the deliberate shapes of a Gorky, there is something inherently peaceful and yet somehow silently terrifying about a Rothko to me.  I can't get enough.

Mark Rothko, No. 14

"Silence is so accurate" - Rothko



Saturday, September 25, 2010

These Are Not The Roads You Knew Me By

First, let me begin.
Let me begin by telling you how I got here.
I arrived years ago, but it wasn't until now that I realized it.


I decided to start "blogging" earlier this month when I realized that I was overwhelmed and disheartened by the pulses of social media, and other strange and seeming voyeuristic modern practices we have become accustomed to. Nothing against them personally, they just aren't always for me.
I found myself yearning to be able to share something more profound than clicking the "like" button on someone's post. The essence of where I am and what I'm doing entails so much more than locale. It requires history, knowledge of past and present, and the freedom of length and voracity of words.

So here I am. Sitting in my office on one of those perfect San Francisco days. It's one of those days that reminds you that if it were to be like this even 37 days out of the year everyone in the world would live here. It would be worth it.  As much as I enjoy it, instead I often prefer the depth of the cooler, darker days; when the fog clings to the certainty of the landscape like moss and the cold bears down to your bones like the legends of the heavy, sinking libraries.

There are things you become accustomed to living by the ocean. The dampness in the air, the smell of oxidization. There are other things one never gets used to. One in particular for me is the horns of the boats and barges in the sound. They sound most frequently at night and in the morning, especially on foggy days. It sounds low and long like a stranger, minor in tone and lingering. Often one will repeat itself again and again.
Are they are coming, or going? Is this the return to where they came from, or just the beginning? Where have they come from and what do they carry with them that would tell us their story?
I usually like to imagine that they are embarking on a new journey, but somehow their sound signals something else to me; it seems to say "I have arrived." As if that would tell us all that came before.

In composing this I was reminded of one of my favorite poems, by one of the great living poets residing in the Bay Area. I thought it was particularly well-suited for my first "entry".

"Within two miles of the Pacific rounding
this long bay, sheening the light for miles
inland, floating its fog through redwood rifts and over
strawberry and artichoke fields, its bottomless mind
returning always to the same rocks, the same cliffs, with
ever-changing words, always the same language
-this is where I live now. If you had known me
once, you'd still know me now though in different
light and life. This is no place you ever knew me.

But it would not surprise you
to find me here, walking in the fog, the sweep of the great ocean
eluding me, even the curve of the bay, because as always
I fix on the land. I am stuck to earth. What I love here
is old ranches, learning seaward, lowroofed spreads between rocks
small canyons running through pitched hillsides
liveoaks twisted on steepness, the eucalyptus avenue leading
to the wrecked homestead, the fogwreathed heavy-chested cattle
on their blond hills. I drive inland over roads
closed in wet weather, past shacks hunched in the canyons
roads that crawl down into darkness and wind into light
where trucks have crashed and riders or horses tangled
to death with lowstruck boughs. These are not the roads
you knew me by. But the woman driving, walking, watching
for life and death, is the same"
-Adrienne Rich, from An Atlas of The Difficult World