February 2, 2016
Dear Frost Bitten Henry,
Still frost bitten?
In the usual Canadian way, I’ll start with the weather, which is unusually warm. We missed out on the east coast dump. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rise to 10 above, which in American parlance is higher than I was taught to count.
Is the gas furnace refilled yet? You know, it must feel good, getting to know a house the way you are. I’m not the first person to compare a house to a body, and I won’t be the last. This is why I’ve always found house knowledge to be an extremely intimate, sensual––dare I say erotic?––affair. A house is equipped with entry points and exit points, just like a human. Gateways for consumption, like a gas furnace, exit points for the leftovers, like a chimney. Each part of a house seems associated with a different anatomical part, now that I think about it. The foyer (do you have mud rooms in New York?) is the domain of the foot; the living room the domain of the behind; the kitchen the belly; the washroom the asshole; the windows the eyes; the bedroom the genitals (the only place my genitals are regularly on display, minus the shower); and would it be a stretch to compare the drain filter in a sink to the liver?
Like the pleasure gained in the revelation of a lover’s body, the dark corners, tics, scars, secrets, becoming intimate with a house can be deeply sensual, if I say so myself––not to mention the self-knowledge that tends to go hand in hand with these types of educational fields.
Although, ownership does play a role in these sorts of affairs, even if we don’t always admit it. It seems like my previous comments are due for a correction. If you own or rent a house––if, in other words, you feel a certain possessiveness toward the house––likening it to the knowledge of a lover’s body is surely a false metaphor. It’s more a form of self-discovery, or auto-eroticism, isn’t it? After all, it’s not a lover’s feces lodged ‘twixt the walls of my toilet pipe that I regularly have to plunge and thrust through the exit points of my house. It’s mine! (Well, I suppose it depends on your lover.) It’s not my lover’s three-day-old macaroni that I have to regularly squeeze through the gaps in my kitchen drain. It’s mine! (Please refer to my previous parenthetical comment.) It’s not my lover’s ass that freezes when my furnace breaks down. It’s mine. (I am very lonely.)
That must be the source of the thrill I get (you get? one gets?.) after being acquainted with someone new, and being invited back to said person’s house. When a host invites me through a house that they own, give me the ol’ round the bend tour––now that is exciting! Gesturing to the memories hanging on the wall, followed by a self-deprecating joke on the topic of time and its tendency to to make you look foolish, more than you ever thought possible, the way it pulls the rug under your feet faster than you can say “Wait! I need to put my shoes on.” Apologizing for the state of their bathroom, the stray hair, curly and suspicious, on the wash basin porcelain. Being a foreigner in another person’s territory is thrilling. (Am I talking about a body or a house? Does it matter?)
This thrill is due to ownership and its absence! Being a guest in someone else’s most personal space has got to be one of the most uncomfortable and exhilarating experiences. Which is why, ultimately, every once in awhile, it’s nice to get that break, that refuge, in your own home.
Well look what you’ve made me do. My handkerchief’s sodden and my eyes are red. Time to shift gears, to use my favourite suburban metaphor. On the topic of voice. I’ve been thinking about something similar, now that you mention it. Navigational tools, what have you. I think identity and voice, which I sense are somehow connected, can provide that long-term guidance. Not in any complete sense, nor in any god-on-high sort of sense, either. Maybe in a kind of internal magnetic pole kind of way. Like a reference point, or something. You know, pick up that book of Sal Walker or Henry Darling, flip to the Life Goals section, page 377-562, find the goal in question and its position on the list of priorities: Join Mile-high Club, priority #276, right after priority #275, Learn How To Sew On Elbow Patches—Goddammit, I wish I was more impulsive. Or, look through the index at the back for keywords: romance tattoos (always a good idea), after-hours (never a good idea, although exceptions can be made), holiday pay, down-payment––what the fuck would I ever need to know that word for? Oh, right. Ageing.
‘Course, voice is a strange one, because it’s not really the same thing as who you are, but it is kind of, like, an outward expression of who you are. Unless your preferred mode of discourse is the internal monologue, in which case, I think we should talk.
Speaking of talking, check it: Phatic. I never heard of it before either, so I’m going repeat myself: Phatic. Now, re-read both of the previous sentences, for emphasis. Good. I OED’d that shit, and you should too, but I’ll give you my take away. Phatic speech is a speech act that wikipedia likens to social grooming, like, chimpanzees picking bugs out of each other’s fur. It’s talking not intended to impart any meaningful information about anything. It’s just, talking for the sake of talking. Talking that plays any other role except an informative one. The content is irrelevant. It’s all about creating contact, acknowledging each other’s existence, exchanging human warmth.
Thought you might find that one interesting since it’s connected horizontally to your proposal that ended your last letter. I mean, I think we have things to say above the level of the phatic, but maybe that sort of stuff takes care of itself. So long as we’re enjoying the sound of what we’re saying, maybe most of the other stuff solves itself. Eventually.
Guess what I’m trying to say is––let’s try it out. A little more frequent, a little shorter. Taking what you say and rolling with it, and vice versa, and seeing where it takes us.
New Years! Didn’t we have a great party in December? You are an exceptional host, my friend. The year is fine. I’m learning to cope with all the things I don’t like––ignore them! As for goals. Well, you guessed it; flew right over my head. Though, I went for a 6am run yesterday. I Rocky Balboa’d that shit. I wore grey long johns and everything. And, it felt great. I mean, it felt terrible, my body was in pain and so forth––but I liked it enough that I’m gonna try to do it tomorrow. I need to get my body back for the spring. Seriously, I think it’s necessary for my employment.
Love hearing about you waxing that table. Not joking. Just hearing you describe the process of getting personal with that table. Angle brackets––why has that never occurred to me before? I’m gathering from your letter that your counters are also wooden. Must be a beautiful kitchen. Do you know what kind of wood, if you don’t mind me asking? Are the counters pockmarked?
Regrettably, I haven’t done much woodwork in my life, aside from a shelf I salvaged from a waste pit around three or four years ago. It’s sitting in my basement right now. I fixed it up, but I didn’t even think to refinish the wood. Thus it’s kind of grey and weatherbeaten. Guess it’s what you would call “Sorry looking”.
The finish is exactly the detail I tend to overlook. A carelessness that also applies to my personal hygiene. I’ve got all the works, shaving appliances, everything, but I always forget to purchase the damn skin creams. (I’m running very low at the moment.) So I’m always itchy for hours after my morning shower!
Wood! Friend, I’m beginning to detect in you a streak of sentimentality. A fatality, if you will, for creaky stairs, hidden cupboards, and the like. You, my compadre, you, have a soft spot for all things old and wooden. Have you notified your close relatives? Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. Where does it come from, do you think? Do you happen to remember the opening chapter to The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe? I hope you address this in the next letter! Do you feel the same way about certain kinds of brick?
Henry, I’m tired. I’m going to call it a night. I wanted to tell you about this bomber jacket I saw (no ordinary bomber jacket), but I think I’m going to have to save that for my next letter, if it’s still relevant by that point.
Toronto’s nice, but you’re not missing out on any snow or anything, which disappoints me, but at the same time, Spring is around the corner, I can feel it.