Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What happens to us after we die?

I don’t know the answer to this question. I have a couple ideas, though. Let me explain. A few years ago, I quit smoking. Here’s what it was like:

Gonna quit!
Gonna quit!
I mean it; I’m gonna quit.
I’ve made up my mind; I’m gonna quit.
I’m quitting!
I’m quitting!
I’m quitting, I’m really –
Not smoking! Don’t even miss it.
Not smoking! I didn’t even like it.
Not smoking! I tell you, I can’t believe I waited this long, I don’t even – Well just that one time, but other than that I – and today I had one, just one, because I still had the pack, I –
Smoking! Just a little, I –
Smoking! Every now and then when I’m at a –
Smoking! You see with me, I don’t smoke that much, and I don’t really need to –
I’m gonna give it up when I’m ready.
When I’m ready.
I’m gonna quit.
I know what I said before, but this time I’m sure.

Is a cigarette the best thing you’d ever tasted, or is it foul and nauseating? Are you relieved you’re not doing it, disgusted with people who do it… so much that you make snotty comments like, “I can’t believe you don’t just quit. It’s so bad for you.” Or would you gladly dig five butts out of the trash can and paste them together into a Frankensmoke just so you can enjoy one more gulp of all that smooth, refreshing flavor? Are you a smoker, or are you an ex-smoker, or are you a sort-of-smoker, or are you a would-be smoker if you could just sneak out the window without your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/minister/parole officer catching you?

Cigarettes have taught me that I don’t know who the hell I am from one moment to the next. But sometimes identical moments, moments when I’m identical people, reappear again and again at intervals not connected to one another, but falling at the same time of day, or the same time of year.

To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born,
A time to die,
A time to quit,
And a time to phone your friend, whimpering that you have to pay him on the hundred dollar bet you two made, and listen to him call you pathetic.
Turn, turn, turn.

There’s a time when the house is filled with identical clutter, and my bank balance is confused in a familiar way, and the same appliances or fixtures are crumbling, busted, or warped – lying in wait where they’ve always been.

There’s a time when I’m in control, and a time when I’ve lost it, and I’m calling up my mom, spitty and frantic, and I’m saying, “I just don’t know why my life has to be so hard all the time.”

Perhaps if I could see them in the right order, all my moments would line up like the four suits of cards spread out in value – beginning with the two of hearts and ending with the ace of spades. But someone shuffled them, and now they hand them to me all wrong: I can barely see the pattern. Some moments seem strange and far away from each other. Some blend so closely I’m barely aware the cards are running out. But running out they are, and that ace could snap in the very next deal.

Who was I before? Who will I be after? Who am I now? And now? And now?
Someone else.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Dish Straight Out of Dracula

Paprika Hendl
Originally uploaded by straylight6
I have used a recipe for Paprika Hendl, by Flickr user Straylight6, and it is delicious (click on the photo for the recipe). I am planning on cooking up a batch today and thought I would share.

In the second paragraph of Stoker's Dracula, Harker talks about eating this concoction, which he calls "very good, but thirsty." He makes a mental note to get the recipe so that his wife can prepare it for him back at home. It's an early act of the kind of cultural transmission which fills the novel. The Count will later talk to Harker about his collection of books about English culture and politics, which he is studying to fit in, when he arrives in London. Information, like blood, must flow.

And the irony is that in the writing of Dracula, Stoker spent years studying folklore and history -- about Transylvanian legends, about vampire myths in New England, about werewolves -- and he mixed it all together deftly enough so that now people can scarcely talk about any of it without Stoker's handiwork leaking into the conversation. For the data is the life.
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