Working on Symmetry

self portrait is actually a good album people just don't know

I’m here to warn you; the following is like a book chapter; just scroll past it if you aren’t in the mood for nice conversational and insightful prose at length.

Not you, sir. Maybe. Somebody. Somewhere. Did you make a long trip?
(Did you make the wrong trip? )
Gonna find you.
(Or you could just go home.)
Or you could just sit there and sulk, that fine. Just sulk.


Did you ever reach that point, with, like, a kid, where they go in the corner and pout, and you’re like, Ok, that’s progress? Works for me, right now. Just sit there and pout.


Because at least you’re not screaming, when you’re pouting. Pouting is progress.


Here’s an interesting thing to observe: I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. You’re going about your business, routine, ok, normal day–and then you get the feeling that someone is praying hard for you? Ever had that feeling? It’s funny, because you’d think you’d think, oh, that’s nice, but no–while it is nice, the first emotional reaction you have is uhooh, what do they know that I don’t?

Usually something, too, that’s the thing. You think, I don’t know what it is you’re worried about, but thank you!

Then somewhere in the course of your day you find out and you’re like uhOOH, ok. As a piano falls two feet from your head, you know.


Uh uh uh! Go back to pouting!




Did you ever wish that now that you’re adult, that you could go back and be a kid again, and torture your parents even more? Think of all the things you know to do now, that you didn’t know when you were a kid. Especially if your parents now sometimes get on your nerves.

My mother is kind of like an expert in aggravating. I don’t know where you get that degree, but she has her PhD in Aggravation.. She’s a leading scholar in the field. And I feel like I let some opportunities go that I shouldn’t have, when I was younger.


You know, like when you are kid, you find one word and you like it. Sometimes it’s something you made up. I’m trying to think–I’m sure I must have had a day or two, where I was enamored of a word. You like a word, you say it, to hear how it sounds. You say it a couple times to see if it changes as you say it. Say it a couple more times to see if that makes any difference to anything, you know. And then you might just decide that you like saying, and so you’ll say it a few more times just because you enjoy it. And then you might not see any reason to stop saying it, so you might just keep saying it at that point.


And after awhile, you might want to see how other things fit in with saying it, so if you sort of stomp your feet or jump a little bit, as you are saying the word, how does that work? Is that more fun? Probably. You can jump and say it, say it and jump, see if you can say it while you are in the air; jump harder, say it a little louder; see if you can wait until you land and see if you can make it come out of your mouth with the air that comes up out of your body as you hit the ground. Practice that for awhile, then say it a few more times, as a break, while you rest. Then pick back up with the jumping.

And then at some point you might get the idea–this is what happened to me a lot as a kid–but after twenty minutes of this or so, you might get the idea that probably other people would like to know about this word. You really shouldn’t keep it a secret. That it’s so much fun it should be shared. That it really would make other people happy to know about it, and that the other people in the room with your might want to know about it too.

They might be busy, trying to do their taxes, or trying to watch a television program, or talk on the phone with someone important. But when they are available, it would probably be a good idea to let them know about this word, and how much fun it is, and maybe demonstrate a few of the ways you can say it.


Part of being aggravating, it turns out–I don’t know why my mom decided that she needed this degree, but one of the things that she learned when she got it was how to come up with a good reaction to just about anything very quickly. Because when you are aggravating people, I guess, now and then they are going to try to aggravate you back, and you have to be able to immediately squelch that: because that’s not their job, it’s yours.

So I don’t think I’ve seen my mom annoyed in about thirty years. I think she might have been working on her degree when i was young. But once she got it: seriously, you just can annoy the woman.So, if she was over there on the phone with her boss, I would practice my word a few more times, hop around with it a little, and then sortof hop my way over to where she was, and say Hey, look at this!


The stuff I had to show my mom when I was a kid was like, Look, if I put my hand on my other hand, they fit together.

See? Look what I can do! I can put my hand on my other hand. They match.


And my mom has this teacher voice: she would look at me, and you could see things filtering through her mind really quickly, and she’d put on her teacher voice and say, Well, why don’t we draw pictures of our hands?


And always I would say No way! Anything she came up with in the teacher voice, I knew, as soon as I heard the first word in the teacher voice, that I was going to say no. There was just no other way to go. Any sort of educational suggestion was dead from conception. I don’t want to draw pictures of my hands. I’m just showing you that they fit together. Because drawing pictures of your hands is hard too, you know?

And then she would try again. No, look, you can put your hand on this paper and we can trace it and

I would say No, I’m not doing that. You’re missing the point.


And at that point I would start to get disappointed with her. I didn’t know why she couldn’t understand this. But I also knew I had only so many tries to make her understand. And already I’d  used up two. So I only really had one more chance to explain to her what I was trying to explain. So I would say, Look, your hand and my hand do NOT fit together.

At which point she would pause, and then say, No, I have the same five fingers that you do. And I’d think God, this lady does not get it!


Look, if I had two left hands, I could put them on TOP of each other and they would fit, I’d say. But you don’t, she’d say. Unless maybe you drew them. And then I was done, my time was up. She wasn’t going to get it. And the way that this would be communicated to me would be, Well, why don’t you put your hands on a chair and then sit on them? Which was not exactly an empty threat, but close to one? The severest punishment of my childhood being that I would have to sit on a chair, and I don’t think I actually ever did sit on a chair. I was just told that I was going to have to sit on a chair. The chair part was important. You couldn’t sit on the couch; couldn’t sit on the floor. Had to be a chair.

And so at that point it’s expedient to remove yourself from view, you know, sortof go around the corner. My house, the house I grew up in, was built with as few walls a possible. So the bedrooms and the bathrooms were enclosed, they had four walls, but the rest of the house was open so you could see everywhere. So removing myself from view sometimes meant going all the way back into the hallway, where luckily there was a big mirror, and I could practice jumping, saying my word, and fitting different parts of my body together.


Which is harder than you think. A lot of times I wished I had an assistant. Because, for example, your ear, does not want to go anywhere near your other ear, no matter how hard you try. And then you try your shoulders, which will get close to each other, you can line your knees and legs up, you can sit down and put your feet together, that works. But I ran through my extremities pretty quickly, and had to start working on things on my trunk. How many ribs are over here? Do they match the ribs over there? And somehow, while on the phone, I don’t know how this was done–

Put your shirt down!


Sheesh, I didn’t know she could even see me. It’s really not fair, because there is no time for me to explain to her what I am trying to do here. If she understood, she wouldn’t mind.


Then I started looking for anything you could fold the other way. How come everything on left matched everything on the right? Shouldn’t there be things on the front that match things on the back? It’s really arbitrary! Why not things that match diagonally? You know there is actually a chemical reason for all this, I found out later. I remember though at the time, I thought the whole set-up was dumb. This is some kind of paper doll junk, I thought. And also: This could be a lot more interesting. But I also thought, Maybe I just don’t know. Maybe I just haven’t found the parts that fit  together diagonally yet: maybe they’re inside. You do a quick mental check of other species that you know: no, it’s all like that, isn’t it. Match match match. I’m going outside! More work to do outside.

The problem is, though, when you go outside, you want to do some work outside, you have to decide where outside you want to do some work. And really, although your options are many, they are also constrained, because you only want to go outside to one of the places that is at the farthest reach of where you are allowed to go. So anywhere that is in sight of the house, if you can go farther, is not good enough. So I had a good twenty-minute walk ahead of me, before I was going to get back to this project.

And then you have to think, do I want to take anything with me? Because you don’t ever want to leave the house without a book, just in case. And you need a bag to put the book in, and then you need something to sit on, in case you want to sit down and read. I remember I had a bag that was big enough to sit on, once you took the book out, and I thought that was pretty great. Since I was already supposed to be outside and I didn’t want to answer any questions, I would sneak in through another door, equip myself, and then sneak back out — I’m sure all of this went totally unnoticed.

And then I had to decide how I was going to go: how was I going to get to one of these places that was at the farthest reach of where I wanted to go. This one you have to climb a hill; that one I haven’t taken in a while; that one I took yesterday and it was good. I’d think, what if, I started out in this middle route, and then went off-road, straight up this hill, and then took the high road, and then cut back down? Plus you get to see all the rocks and stuff that are on that hill when you are going straight up. You think, I don’t know, this is a little dangerous; I don’t usually climb this hill, the dirt is moving under my feet, but no, I can totally do this, right to the top.

Make it up the hill, make it down the other way, and just kind of check out, walk past really, some other things you’ve been doing outside, thinking, No, I’m not really into that today. Probably I’ll never be into that again, actually. And then circle around here, go around there, get to this point beyond which you are not supposed to go, and think, alright, what did I come out here to do? It’s so nice out here. And just then you hear

Where are you?! I can’t see you!

I’m coming.

(Or you could try: I’m back here! (Leave me alone.) Never works though.)


I can’t see you! Get up by the house!

I said I’m coming. And I’m fine though. Start your twenty-minute hike back towards the house. That was fun.


I usually used my twenty-minute hike to work on my speech, my arguments, for why I should be allowed to go back out wherever I was. I’d have a four-point thesis, explaining exactly where I had been, that it was allowed before, that it was plenty light out–for some reason, what I was doing never figured into these arguments at all.

Sometimes I’d stop and pick flowers on my way back to the house. And look, I brought you these flowers! Why don’t I go back outside.

Aw, aren’t those nice. And she’d stick them in a little cup on the windowsill. And I’d feel like a dork, because they were weeds I found on the lawn, that I didn’t think deserved to be in a cup like that; they didn’t even stand up straight.

Usually I was allowed to go back out. It was just the initial needing to locate me, that had to be done.


Several hours later, you come in, just filthy. I like to picture it like a nice gradual scale, darkest of the bottom, and sortof lightening as you go up. Come into the house because you’re hungry. See what’s in the fridge. Nothing is in the fridge. And then go back to the real project of the day, your new word. You’re hopping your way towards the bathroom, and then on each jump, just try it out, see if it is as good as it was earlier: Weenie! Weenie! Weenie! Weenie!


Photo credits:

This guy’s tumblr

This lady I just like, what can I say.

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