27 May 2008...11:41 pm

And Possibly I Like The Thrill Of Under Me You Quite So New

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Annie Blacker house, Greene & Greene Architectural Records and Papers Collection

If I weren’t convinced that everything I know is already known well by anyone I’d ever want to impress, I’d use Hemingway’s six word novel as a pick-up line. (I’m embarrassed now to even write it, so certain I am that you all have committed it to memory and started either rolling your eyes or nodding maternally). Deep breath, Emmita! Our romance isn’t dead yet:

For sale, baby shoes, never worn.

Entry hall stairway of the David B. Gamble House

Now that I’ve done some brief internet research, I’m starting to doubt Hemingway ever wrote those words at all, or that they haven’t been irreparably bastardized (one example here–infuriating!) by generations of creative writing teachers who thought “artist” was spelled with one rim of their Clark Kent glasses and “quirky” with the other.

Gamble house from the northwest

I ran into my very own creative writing teacher this evening, in the first meeting of my second-to-last Columbia class ever. Her name is Phyllis (as though there were ever any doubt), and if that author photo bears any resemblance to the once-original, she used to be really, really hot. She’s aged, and, I’d guess, gotten more acerbic. At the very least, she seems to have wantonly embraced the professor as muse complex, common to literary men and women who find themselves at the heads of seminar tables before they’ve stopped being able to fill out an oxford. It didn’t take much actual intimacy before I realized I didn’t really need to bed any of those people again.

Rosewood chair, designed by Charles Greene

And yet: I want to write really well for her. I kept being blinded by the glare from the overhead light reflecting on her glasses and so I never knew if she was looking at me intensely or vacantly, and I was never sure for how long I should maintain my end of the eye contact, so my face in seminar was a flickering affair full of eyelash.

These were my six-word memoirs, in this order:

What do you really think, Mom?

I haven’t learned to mop, yet.

Still frequently falling up the stairs.

Mariah Carey_Fantasy

She gave each class member individual prompts for next class, which I cannot attend because I will be at Clio’s Sail-a-bration in my boss’s stead. Max is graciously serving as my date for the Parents’ Association fund raiser. When my boss told us to wear “jeans, something casual,” I told Max that, in British English, “jeans” means “seersucker.” His response:

I will be wearing my finest pair of Dungareed short pants! T’would a sandalled shoe be appropriate?

Commenced, of course, a rapid-fire email discourse on the virtues (him) versus the criminality (me) of cargo shorts. It did not culminate until the email copied below, which I wrote in character, did not even send and which languishes as a draft because it is just way too completely ridiculous:

“I hate to do this, because you have a lot of cargo in your trunk, but I just think I have too much cargo from my childhood.”

Anyway, Phyllis assigned me the prompt: “I knew I was in trouble when…”

Seriously. That’s my assignment. It think it means that I am inane and boring. Phyllis had heard me speak an hour earlier as we went around the table introducing ourselves. I’d finished my brief monologue, conveniently forgetting the suggestion that we note what we’d “bring to a desert island,” and she waited a moment and said “Well. You certainly have a checkered past.”

Mariah Carey_Always Be My Baby

Do I? I am going to finish my “in trouble” prompt with an explanation of a certain halting, alternately uneasy and impassioned and frequently drug-fueled affair; this may be the point at which I actually know I’m in trouble, of course, but I actually think she’ll like it.

Charles J. Willet house

[Buy Phyllis here and here, and buy Mariah everywhere, including here.]

[All images are from the Greene & Greene Architectural Records and Papers Collection, housed in the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia. Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene were born in Ohio in 1868 and 1870, respectively. They studied architecture at MIT and moved West, where their work emblematized the Arts & Crafts movement. My parents live in an Arts & Crafts home in New Jersey and I think it's beautiful; all of the above examples were built in Southern California. One of them, Maddy, is in Ojai!]

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