ups and downs

My ankles have been so great and I’ve been walking more and more but I guess I went too far – maybe the squatting down while arranging stuff in the garden and digging or maybe just the cumulative extra walking was too much too fast. I thought I was being so cautious – literally years of waiting to be ready to even walk half a block to the corner and back – And then once able to do that I have waited like 6 months of building strength before trying to do anything further.

It feels like a bad dream.

I’m back in the manual chair in the house. Got out the shower chair.

Pain is not great but I can’t move my ankles at all without some pain and probably I should break out the walking boots/ night splints. It is painful/stiff/burning feeling but not as bad as it was that first year (no splinters/stabbing/boa constrictor squeezing feeling but that is what i’m scared of)

I can’t even express how much this sucks and how scared I am that it might get really really bad again like in 2011.

Here’s hoping not and that some days not walking, lots of forbidden NSAIDs, ice, elevating, etc. will let my ankles heal up again. I will also go to my nice new doctor. Just go all in on the NSAIDs and get some long lasting variety? (whatever replaced celebrex/vioxx if that exists?) Prednisone? Orthopedist again for round million of MRIs? Oh god.

Well whatever, I can cope even if so.

I am on day 3 of this. It wasn’t so bad today emotionally because I went out to get my allergy shots (train ride, nice lunch, allergy nurse was super nice, lovely view of the city to the bridge to the ocean, from UCSF clinic windows). They are going to do my Xolair shots too so that I don’t have to make 2 trips. Immunotherapy every week for now, and xolair on top of that every 2 weeks.

Pollyanna mode thoughts:

This house is so much better and easier than the old one to be fucked up in. Space to roll around in my manual chair! Various different places to lie down with my feet up – two whole couches and the bed and actually also the kids’ room in a pinch – If I can get down the stairs, my gravity chair – And I can sit on the porch steps in the sun or the tiny back deck for a nice view.

I am better off financially than before & now have both money and skill to get help for things or figure out what material / assistive device things to try.

I’m stronger physically than 10 years ago even if I’m, well, older.

It’s definitely enjoyable rolling down the long, smooth wooden floor hallway with the cat in my lap and pulling up with a little spin at the end. I always enjoy my competence at wheelies and wheelie-ing over a little bump (which we have from the hall into the kitchen). The cat really loves a little ride!

And in “experienced with this shit” super crip mode, in the good sense of super crip, I have a plan.

– Nice new (wheelchair user!) doc is out on leave. Hope she is OK. So I have a tomorrow morning remote appt with a physician assistant and will ask for extended release NSAIDs and a referral to orthopedist

– Actual doc in person appt in a couple of weeks (first available not-an-old-white-guy doctor that I can get to easily on a bus)

But I already know the things I should do, more or less, which are:

– Keep a log and follow a schedule to note pain levels and do regular voltaren/advil-with-crackers/ice

– When pain level gets worse over the day, amp up my elevation/icing/rest and don’t try to do stuff even in the manual chair

– figure out when in that pain level sequence I should take painkillers (probably “when it wakes me up at night/ can’t fall asleep” – otherwise probably not, or maybe some CBD/THC drops in evening but no opiates)

– So as not to mess up the rest of my body, spend some time periodically in the chair doing some seated tai chi/ stretches

– Experiment with night splints as long as I can tolerate them to keep things immobile

– Shower chair is up now and I will use it till really better

– Obviously, limiting my leaving the house or using the stairs (can do it, and should do it for my own physical and mental health, but can’t just do it frivolously)

– Ask for help more, which I hate even though Danny totally understands

Considering the many things I did kind of in rapid sequence that might have got me to this state. Experimenting with walks more than a block. Doing new foot exercises and stretches. More extreme stretching (like squatting to do things) Going out a lot and sitting up all day several days in a row (office day, night event, two night events in a row, extra office day with photo walk in evening (why did i do that!) I just have been so excited to be able to walk more and it felt actually good to be more active. So I guess I crossed that line without knowing it.

Imagination and reality

You already know what I’m about to say: imagination is part of reality! One thing I love about road trips is poring over the Roadside Geology books for the area I’m visiting and at this point 30 years in I’m pretty familiar with Roadside Geology of Northern California. On this visit to Calistoga I swore to finally go look at “Glass Mountain” roadcut with obsidian bits coming out of it and a bunch of baked rock and ash where the obsidian hit a layer of ash and tuff from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

My sister and I got into my car. As we drove down Old Silverado Trail past beautiful wineries and terrifying burnt hillsides I described how I had to unsubscribe from the arrowheads group on reddit because they are often such horrible looters. But then there will be a video of someone looking at the bottom of a stream bed to a jumble of rocks and then bending – zooming in – moving a couple of little rocks and BANG giant clovis point. Dammit! I could just SEE an arrowhead and admire it and NOT LOOT IT, someday, as a treat? But in any case I’d like a little chip of obsidian to bring home and put into a flowerpot as decoration.

The location was described pretty well in the book and in some articles online as north of St. Helena near Glass Mountain Road, showing (color!) photo of the roadcut. The sun was in my eyes but the red baked dirt and rock was super obvious in a small roadcut and there was a spot to pull out pretty close by! Close enough for me to walk to. (We actually stopped at a different cut than the one in this article very close by)

The problem was giant trucks barrelling by and a very narrow shoulder so we scrabbled up a few pieces of obsidian from the roadside gravel and dirt sliding down the face of the cut. Really beautiful conchoidal fracturing and fresh glassy surfaces in the tiny pebbles we picked up! And then fled in about 5 minutes because the trucks were terrifying.

A side jaunt up to Deer Park and back on Glass Mountain road did have some streambeds we could have picked over if we had better long sleeve shirt protection from poison oak, but all really not looking like public property. Then we saw a bunch of signs for Elmhaven, famous house of someone famous, and turned off for it while reading Wikipedia articles about 7th day adventists and Ellen G. White (whose house it was). Apparently she was hit in the face by a rock at age 9 and then had lifelong Visions of angels on other planets (sometimes planets with rings and several moons!) Apparently Satan is just on Earth and other planets are much nicer (I guess; not having read her 40+ books and journals of 2000+ Vision sessions) I love how she gazes ethereally and makes graceful motions as if traveling through space (WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE EXACTLY) and always exclaims “Joy! Joy! Joy!” during, with an echo/receding effect like a song outro)

“‘One evening at the conference above mentioned [Topsham, Maine, 1846], in the house of Mr. Curtis, and in the presence of Elder (Captain) Bates, who was yet undecided in regard to the manifestations, Mrs. White, while in vision, began to talk about the stars, giving a glowing description of the rosy-tinted belts which she saw across the surface of some planet, and added, “I see four moons.” “Oh,” said Elder Bates, “she is viewing Jupiter.” Then, having made motions as though traveling through space, she began giving descriptions of belts and rings in their ever-varying beauty, and said, “I see eight moons.” “She is describing Saturn.” Next came a description of Uranus with his six moons, then a wonderful description of the “opening heavens.”’

So maybe we did not have time to soul-bond and time travel with the red bank of lava contact at the roadcut, but we did get another imaginary journey, even if also not consumnated since visiting hours at the victorian house and gardens started at 10am and it only opened at 11 and I was not gonna sit in the parking lot for an hour when I had to pee.

Oh those Golden Dawns

Storytime! Brought to you by two small poetry books I just found in a box. In 1988 or so I went to the Yeats International Poetry School in Ireland and it was an interesting round of small workshops and classes (Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and a guy named Tom Paulin who clearly didn’t want to be there) And deadly boring poetry readings / drinking sessions where Yeats’s grandnieces’s cousin would play the harp and someone would beatifically recite When I went out to the hazel wood on a little stage while people chain smoked.

Most of this trip is a haze to me because I had a killer sinus infection and a fever for half of it and had to stay in the horrible youth hostel on codeine and antibiotics absolutely dying while brutally healthy German girls played the guitar and sang far into the night, but I do recall amidst the nervous chain smoking academics and the earnest poets these two complete weirdos absolutely swanned into the entire scene and they were real live serious devotees of Aleistair Crowley.

The guy was small, skinny, ferretty, wore a giant gold medallion and I believe often some sort of robe and he would stroke his little goatee like a caricature supervillain while he talked in a weird nasal voice about the Order of the Golden Dawn in its modern day incarnation, and how he was a Druid. He came across as just a giant creep. The girl in this couple was more interesting and nice, with a giant smile, tall, floofy blond hair, big chunky hippie jewelry, kind of seemed rich, and had a cheerful breezy manner — and she would talk constantly about druid sex magick. I actually liked her. One could not figure out why this perfectly nice lady hung upon every word of the fool Druid.

I thought they were hilarious especially because everyone was so disapproving of them (why were they THERE? I mean, I get why, but, ?! somehow? Money?! They were both Yeats Enthusiasts and were also very clearly out to do lots of psychedelic drugs and sleep with anyone who was interested in a little Druid Sex Magick as a palate cleanser between the Baileys and the bee-loud glades. (I did not partake) I also didn’t think either of them wrote very good poetry (neither did I but I had an excuse: being 18 years old)

So coming across these books, I looked them up. The Druid died in 2014 and you can read all about him and his translating and how he liked to spend summers in the basement of the Cairo Museum. I wonder if he was a legitimate translator, or what? https://www.darengo.co.uk/terence-duquesne/

The druid Priestess, Dwina, now that I look her up, seems to have been in a long and successful open marriage with Robin Gibb from the Bee Gees. Interesting! “Dwina Gibb, his second wife, whom he met through her cousin in 1980, when she was running a beanbag factory in London while trying to make it as an artist….. The couple lived together in the Biscayne Bay mansion once owned by President John F. Kennedy and a 100-acre Oxford, England, estate, where tapestries and tarot-card tiles adorn the walls of their 12th century converted monastery and the Gibbs built a druid place of worship.”

It was truly hilarious like being inside A Dance to the Music of Time, maybe at the end where Widmerpool goes running off in robes or whatever. Maybe it’s time to re-read that whole series again!

Making a pass

From a Twitter thread the other day on odd books no one has ever heard of, I made a list and read through a few young adult and children’s books. One of them, Redwork, was described as the quintessential situation where a young person has a weird bond with an old neighbor who is witchy & mysterious. I read through it – the 14 year old protagonist becomes fascinated with his downstairs neighbor who was a WWI vet and has become both a hoarder and a backyard alchemist – And there is some light psychic phenomena –

But the odd thing about this book is it had the vibe of a book that would have been out of date even in the 70s. I mean, maybe? Did movie theaters have double features, and (teenage) ushers that actually ushed, showing you to your seat with a flashlight, and supervised, and would kick you out for talking or throwing popcorn or smoking in the non-smoking section of the theater (!?!) I don’t think so but correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe it was by an author who grew up in like, 1940, trying to make his story seem current by having the kid’s mom be a single mother trying to get her Ph.D. (or something, though that part was as unreal as the alchemy) And nothing ELSE about the book situated it in time, really. Paying for a gallon of milk with pennies would have been more than difficult in 1990. Maybe we can date it from the wages – 4 hours times 3 nights a week brought take home pay of 40 dollars (no taxes mentioned and it seemed to be pay in cash)

Anyway, the worst bit was that the mean bullying head usher sexually harasses and assaults the young women and girls who work at the popcorn counter and everyone who works there knows it and a sexual assault on a young teenager was clearly described (in the mop closet, horrors) And the characters describe it as the bully “making a pass at her”. It didn’t feel like the author making any sort of point but more like that is the language HE was using about the incident.

What the ever living fuck and how was this book published like this in 1990?

People are so gross sometimes. It was also a totally mediocre book of the genre of “kid meets witchy old neighbor”. One star.

Lots of bookshelves

As I sit down to write I’m mostly thinking about putting up more bookshelves. Neighbor Colin, who is a retired carpenter, gave me two long, long redwood boards which are at least 100 years old and have been weathering outside. We scraped them a little and hosed them off, and he split them lengthwise for me so now I have four very long and narrow shelves.

Today I plan to start sanding the boards by hand and then oil them. To avoid hurting my hands with repetitive motion, I’m figuring to sand, then oil one board, then hang it and arrange some books. Most of my books are out of boxes now, but double or triple stacked.

It’s so exciting to have them all back after their 10+ years in storage. While unpacking I felt my brain sort of waking up in different places – all my poetry books in Spanish – a ton of feminist science fiction – weird literary criticism – a huge section of the history of sexuality – all my zines and papers and letters and notebooks and other projects.

So that’s going on with me and actually generative creativity is in tension with the amount of domestic work to get the books and papers out and up — and the feeling of this enormous backlog of my own work that is a huge mess. I glimpsed entire book projects and zines that I forgot even existed – an entire Manifesto – Oh, help!

So, a little “curation” and archival ordering, a little spelunking through lost caverns, I hope will be balanced by new ideas & new writing.

Wish me luck with the sanding, as I’m a little afraid I’ll do it “wrong” by my neighbor’s judgement. He loves every piece of wood like a brother. As we were out on the sidewalk scrubbing dirt & lichen off the boards, he looked around dreamily at the painted Victorians of our street, & said, imagine if there was NO PAINT on all these, just beautiful, beautiful wood, century old virgin redwood and pine… Grain exposed… the history…

And the sins of our other neighbors, or contractors they hired in the past, have been pointed out to me: SOMEONE USED AN ORBITAL SANDER ON THAT REDWOOD!!!

Building up strength

I am able to walk much further these days, mostly managing OK in the house and able to go out every day with some interludes of using my manual chair in the house (and powerchair for most outings). My new foot and ankle PT exercises are much harder and I’m venturing out of the house on foot (to visit next door or 2 houses down- a very steep hill) Today I figured I’d try to get to the bottom of the hill and back. I have a new cane with 3 legs that unfolds to become a seat so I used that on one side and my normal cane on the other. Down was OK, I sat for a bit on Mission and listened to the music coming out of the club on the corner, thought about whether I could make it across the street to Walgreens and buy something and not suffer too much from it now or tomorrow. On reflection I was somewhat weepy feeling from the intensity (physical and emotional both) of my half block journey so maybe better to take this more slowly.

Uphill was way harder and I stopped to rest twice (the cane with the fold out seat was a good idea.)

I’ll try icing my ankles and doing gentle stretches now – maybe an Advil and a tylenol – I hate the feeling of the entire arch of both feet spasming – so many separate weird little muscles. It also gets just a little bit of the “snake squeeze” feeling that is so scary (because it can get really bad)

Maybe going down just 3 houses, stopping, and coming back and doing that for the next week. It would be neat to have a small challenge like that, daily.

I need to install my pull up / toe stand bar somewhere under the deck – it doesn’t fit in any door frame upstairs but i’d like to start the combination toe-stands and pull ups again.

And maybe learn to do a push-up properly now that I have stronger toes! Ambition!

What will it be like if I can walk more? It was very strange seeing Mission as a vertical person. I felt so tall and unshelled.

I have been trying to imagine as I ride the bus, whether I could get to the bus stop, and then take the bus somewhere, and then I’d need to get across a street and probably a block or at least half a block the other direction to catch the bus home. Then another half block + up the hill again and then half a flight of stairs. Fucking yikes! I’m not there yet.

Keeping firmly in mind that I was in more or less this state in 2011 and then was felled for an entire year by bilateral achilles problems which have lasted a DECADE and which i’ve only just improved in the last 2 years to the point where I can walk flat footed and stand on my toes for a few seconds. So. Must not fuck this up ! NO MOON BOOTS!!

If you see me walking around, please know I’m struggling and having my own kind of private journey over here and just keep your comments and assumptions to yourself!!!!

Books and house projects

Just a quick note on my reading and activities lately.

Son of the Storm – Very interesting fantasy novel about climate change across a continent where the world building has roots in West Africa. There is a magic rock
called stone-bone or ibor (which I keep imagining as dinosaur fossils, but, I’m sure more will be revealed in book 2) A somewhat reckless and privileged mixed race university student, his rather horrible and power hungry girlfriend who has her own battles to fight, and an invader from the Nameless Islands. Complicated politics!

Travel narrative of Rabban Sauma from around the 1290s – I read Wallis Budge’s translation and his honking big preface which was extremely boring but that the book exists at all is very cool. Sauma and his student or acolyte or fellow monk, whatever, travel from China (Mongolia? anyway China adjacent central Asia with a free pass from the Khan) to Persia, Rome, and then further west visiting I think a French and English king but I’ve already forgotten. Charles somethingth…. The point was to get the Pope to agree to join with the Mongol Khan to attack the Arabs in Jersusalem and elsewhere (this plan did not come to fruition). The writer adds they removed many of the trivial details (probably just what we would want to read today). Lots about splendid churches, fancy tile, vestments, a peaceful interlude of prosperity and close ties to various Khans, then our hero gets his ass kicked and it’s very sad.

This was a little detour from an edition of Ibn Battuta’s travels (much abridged but very good).

Annals of the Cakchiquels – Another nifty old book, a Mayan history from 1571. If you are going to read something Mayan then go for the Popol Vuh, but if you’ve read the Popul Vuh and want more depth and want to know about first contact with the Spanish (spoiler, everyone dies of various diseases and society collapses), try this!

Accounts of China and India:55 (Library of Arabic Literature). This was a good anthology with a ton of footnotes.

The Mill Town Lasses (a series). Fairly light fiction, a family saga set in a Lancashire cotton mill town (pretty much exactly where a good chunk of my ancestors worked in the mills and mines.) Well written and researched! I enjoyed these!

The Open Society and its Enemies – Karl Popper. I read this if I have trouble going to sleep. Works every time.

The Lost City of the MOnkey God – Douglas Preston. Interesting non fiction story of various searches for “lost cities” of Honduras. (Spoiler – Using LIDAR, they find a crap ton of archeological sites in jungle so thick and remote it has been uninhabited for hundreds of years).

Botchan – Natsume Soskei. Famous Japanese novel from 1906 about a sort of bumbling dork, I don’t know how to describe him but he is earnest and mediocre and unambitious, a bit spoiled by a nanny, half assees his way through school and goes off to the provinces to become a teacher – Suddenly embroiled in the politics of small town life – Always fucking up but in a kind of endearing way ! I loved this book.

Victories Greater than Death – Charlie Jane Anders. What can I say, this was fabulous. Young adult space opera that has crucially cozy “chosen family” moments while also having a lot of ass kicking and a fast moving action plot and complex, interesting politics. I love the aliens and the scariest villain with the scariest superpower you have ever seen.

The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. Recommended enthusiastically and it was ok but basically the sort of book a lot of book clubs are going to read this summer or maybe already did in some recent year. If you like twins who go their separate ways and one lives as black and one passes as white and then their very dark and very pale children meet, this book is for you. It’s good but kind of like if current day Nella Larsen hit you over the head with a hammer.

Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace. Fabulous! YA dystopia, perpetual war, extreme water rations, war orphans living in bombed out city dorms ekeing out a living by streaming their VR gaming in a simulation of the actual war zone they’re in. Highly recommend!

The Misfortunes of Alonso Ramirez – Another cool history “primary source” about a Puerto Rican guy from the 1600s who goes off to sea and kind of ends up a pirate. Actually written by Carlos Sigüenza de Gongora who is very interesting indeed! I love him! So, I heard you like prefaces, ok, if you don’t, then maybe stay away, but if you really like longity-ass explanations of a fairly short primary text then look for all the books about Alonso Ramirez, because there’s years of scholarship about how this is a novel by Sigënza and is Mexico’s first novel and then it actually turns out it is an amazingly provable mostly-true story, or at least, Alonso is a historical person whose movements we can partly trace.

The World of Alphonse Allais – This is a tiny, charmingly printed hardback that I somehow had on my bookshelf & hadn’t read till just now. It’s little humorous vignettes of Paris life that were printed in I guess a newspaper or journal, and the preface here (ALWAYS READ THE PREFACES AND INTRODUCTIONS! BEST BIT!) goes into a long funny ramble about how Allais isn’t THAT amazing, but hits a perfect note of just amusing enough to be amusing. (True) If you like whimsical nonsense, absinthe, the hijinks of of a little light adultery, and Paris bistro life from I guess around 1890, go for it.

In 1965 – Albert Robida. Ok this is wild – it is French science fiction from 1920 – kind of lighthearted BS about the future of aircars and spires (fabulously reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller’s zepplins and towers) along with a powerful feminist manifesto (which sadly must be defeated but which has some cool potential) . Then a Gulliver’s Travels-ish novella about a guy who is shipwrecked on a Centaur Island. My favorite bit of that story is how the centaurs finally force him to wear a prosthetic horse butt so he won’t look so deformed, and they never understand that he can’t just gallop several miles with them especially with a giant prosthetic wooden horse butt strapped to him. Kind of awesome read from a disability perspective.

MORE TO COME and I haven’t even mentioned all the stuff about moving, the new house, various house projects, etc. but that is taking up a lot of my thoughts and energy. Am writing some poetry but not a ton. Also reading for the Otherwise Award.

How to make a coronavirus piñata

I bet you would like to BEAT COVID-19. And here is one way! Make your own coronavirus piñata and (safely socially distanced, masked, outdoors) hit the piñata until it is DEFEATED!

All the diagrams of the shape of the virus that I’ve seen have a round shape with at least 3 different sizes of “protein spikes” coming out from the middle, with each kind being a different height. Each spike has an extra bit on top like a flat top or a sort of flower shape. This is not too hard to make, but doing the “protein spikes” was a little bit of a challenge.

Here’s one model I looked at, from the CDC:

coronavirus diagram

Here’s how I made a coronavirus piñata, in some detail! I am putting in all the details, because, while I grew up making piñatas I realize a lot of people did not or they bought their piñatas from a store. It’s so much fun to make them because the multi-day process builds up anticipation.

Make a standard piñata shell over a large balloon.

(You can also use a plastic or paper grocery bag stuffed with paper or other bags to make the shape – the important thing is, you have to be able to pull all that stuff OUT of a small hole.)

You will need:

  • about 3-4 days
  • a round balloon
  • flour
  • water
  • a bowl
  • a newspaper
  • some twine or strong cord
  • somewhere to work
  • black paint
  • regular school glue
  • thick cardstock or thin cardboard, two or three pieces
  • paintbrush (or your fingers)
  • scissors
  • red, orange, and yellow rolls crepe paper (or colors of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees NOOOOOOO I’m joking. Never put your piñata in the oven. It will catch on fire. Very bad idea!

Mix a bowl of warm water and some flour to make a thin, soupy paste, beating out all the lumps. Tear some newspaper into long strips a little less wide than the space between two fingers (so that you can efficiently use your fingers to strip the paste from the newspaper).

Set up a place where you can make a mess. It helps to have either a place to hang the balloon on the cord from somewhere that puts the balloon at your working level, or, you can perch the balloon on a tray or on top of a cooking pot.

Tie the cord to the end of the balloon, leaving a long piece to hang the piñata, and about 6 inches or so on the shorter end, to build into your paper mache base.

This is going to make a big mess!

Now, take a strip of newspaper, carefully dip it into the flour and water, and use your fingers like a squeegee to strip excess paste from the newspaper. This takes a delicate touch because when the paper gets wet, it will break easily. Now lay the paper across your balloon. Repeat this until the balloon is covered with 1 layer of paper. Leave a hole near the top to put in the candy, decorations, and prizes!

Hang the piñata to dry. If you have a space heater you can put it nearby. Otherwise, it will take at least a day to dry out.

unpainted wet pinata

Wash your bowl and work surface quickly so the paste doesn’t dry into glue!

Once the shell is dry I do recommend you add one more layer. Unless your piñata is for very small children – in that case one layer might be okay.

Repeat everything to add another layer of paper!

Hang the piñata to dry again. (And, now, you can pop the balloon if it hasn’t popped already!

It does not matter if your piñata is not perfect, or it’s lumpy, or a weird shape. It will still look amazing once you cover it with paper, and you are going to break it anyway!! Don’t worry!

Look how ugly it is! But we have no worries.

lumpy looking pinata base

(I am leaving out the part where I hung the piñata outside in the sun to dry, then forgot about it. Raccoons came in the night and slashed it open, so I had to add some repairs and dry the shell again before I painted it. I recommend you skip the step with the raccoons. Again – do not worry about any little imperfections, such as a raccoon invasion, or that your virus is not a perfect sphere.)

Now you have some choices. Normally I would wrap the piñata around and around in overlapping layers of frilly crepe paper, but for this coronavirus effect, I painted the balloon shell instead. I thought black would hide any imperfections in the shape and would make the color of the protein spikes stand out more beautifully! I used washable tempera paint that cost about 3 dollars for a 16 oz container. The paint dried in a couple of hours when I hung the piñata near a space heater. Otherwise, expect it to dry overnight.

Now you are ready for the decorations!

Take your roll of crepe paper, and stick the scissors into it so that you are cutting a fringe about 1/3 of the way through several layers of paper at once. This next picture shows what that looks like, with a sneak preview of making it into a tall spike shape!

crepe-paper-spike

You can’t cut too many layers at once, just cut a few, then make some decorations, then when the fringed part ends, cut some more fringe into the roll.

To make the spikes, I had two requirements. One, they have to be strong enough hold the “flower” fringes of paper up high at two different heights. And two, I have to be able to attach them firmly to the piñata base. But how to do this? (Tape will not work!)

I happened to have thick colored cardstock in bright yellow and orange, the same color as the crepe paper I bought. But, my original plan was to use plain white cardstock or strips of a thick cardboard box, painted black. Construction paper might work if you roll it into a tube with several layers. Another idea, you could use paper or plastic straws.

So, using my cardstock (#60 thickness I happen to know) I cut out rectangles and taped them into small tubes about the size of a drinking straw. Then, cut the base of the tube 3 times to give 3 flanges to glue onto the piñata. If you look back at the photo above you can see the tube and two visible flanges.

Then, I wrapped the fringed crepe paper around the other half of the tube and taped it into place. Spread out the fringe to make the flat, carnation-like top of the protein spike for our virus!

Then glue the spike onto the piñata and hold it for a moment for the glue to stick. This took a couple of hours to make all the tall spikes, then the medium spikes.

Here is a picture of this phase of construction. In it, you can see that my shape is not perfect, the paper is very lumpy, and the paint job is not very good. None of those things mattered – You are not building something perfect; you are building a PARTY.

pinata construction phase

The most numerous spikes are the short red ones, much less work. For those I just used the base of the crepe paper, cut into flanges, and glued them directly to the piñata base.

Things got tricky because the glue does not hold quickly enough to stop the taller spikes from falling off, unless they are at the top of the sphere. So I had to keep turning the piñata and carefully propping it up, without squashing the spikes.

pinata half finished

Maybe you will think of a better way to do that! Or maybe you will have better glue!

But, while I am working on it, it’s so peaceful and meditative. I’m thinking of the vision of the finished object, and also thinking with love of the event and the people I will host and how they will be astonished by the ridiculousness of this project and the ephemeral nature of ritual celebration and destruction ! We will BEAT the CORONAVIRUS! Together! With joy and love!! And from it, somehow, we will extract ABUNDANT GOOD THINGS even if those things, when not metaphors, are little bottles of hand sanitizer and chocolate bars and “crispy fruit” packets from Big Lots!

It reminds me of my favorite poem by María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira about ephemeral things!

You must put all of that love into your piñata making. It is very important!

Back to construction: I think you could go faster by having one layer of the spikes be nearly flat to the surface, then the crepe-paper height layer, then only one layer of “tall” spikes on straws or other tubes. But, your finished product might lack a little bit of panache.

Once you’re done gluing, let your spikes dry for some hours. Then carefully stuff the piñata with candy or prizes and some crumpled remains of the crepe paper as filler.

Oh! It’s almost done now!! But after taking this photo I added more spikes because I noticed a big empty spot!!

me with pinata

Look how beautiful it is when finished, despite its asymmetry, my sloppy paint job, and the raccoons! So festive! (At least, it is beautiful to me, after so many hours.)

finished pinata

Hang it up, play some music, and take turns ceremoniously beating it with a stick!

youth with pinata

It turned out that the pieces of the broken piñata were the perfect shape to make attractive hats.

milo with pinata hat

liz with hat

Have a good time! And if you make your own covid-19 piñata please show me the pictures!

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my FABULOUS SON!!!!! <3

Moving house and internal geographies

At the start of the year we had no idea we’d be buying a house and moving. January 2nd we impulsively looked a house for sale down the street, loved it, scrambled to get our shit together, made an offer, and bang!!! We have a house. The move-in has been slow as I could not figure out how to manage an all at once pack and move without physically messing myself up in a zillion ways. But now we are more or less done aside from a few plants and a towel rack – then a final cleaning for the garage.

I love the new house so much – it’s a joy – and I never thought we’d be able to buy. We are now in massive debt — a weird feeling. I feel very lucky.

victorian houses and bougainvillea flowers

There is room for me to have a piano and I got a free one (a synthesizer in a nice wooden cabinet) from the local buy nothing group.

Little bits of myself are expanding or morphing as we settle in to the potential of the new space. Different habits start to surface.

Someone asked on Twitter how many times folks have moved in their life. I counted & it would be 28 times.

At Noisebridge at the start of weekly meetings when we went around for introductions Mike K. would always say “I’m not the quartermaster, or the ombudsman” (and I’d think — oh!! i’m both of those things, in this space! a good way of describing those roles) A lot of my brain does that quartermaster role. I have a whole mental map of where everything was in the old house, another of when it moved and to where and sometimes even in what kind of box (!!???) and now am creating a new geography for the new house’s contents.

So when I think “where’s my good scissors?” I get three answers, or sometimes just the location from the old house first. It feels so weird to prune the old map away!

My relation to the larger map has also changed. We are only two blocks away, but we are closer to a lively intersection (sometimes chaotic at night) and a bit further from the posh little shopping area on top of the hill. The sounds and the presence of neighbors are very different. I won’t hear the skateboarders bombing the long hill anymore or the people going up the hill with huge bags and carts of crushed cans to the recycling center on the other side. Instead I get pleasantly louder trolley noises and those late night altercations, and a few more buses (also pleasant to me) and a view of the 7-11 and gas station. After the pandemic the dance club/bar will fire up again — that should be interesting.

I notice different trees, my view of the sky is different, we get more sun (HOORAY!!!) I see the moon from the window, the hills, I can sit out on the front steps and look off far into the distance.

view of hills

From the back windows I can see a slice of downtown, and from the way the hills are shaped, get the visceral feeling of being perched halfway up one side of a valley. The old house was also perched but was smaller than everything around it, and in a position on a steep hillside that meant the range of our view was limited to the block or the houses just surrounding us. So the visible world has expanded.

The first thing I did to change the new house: hired someone to come pave over the gravel pit between the front and back so that I can get my wheelchair into the back yard and ground floor basement. (Still need small ramps built but I have temporary metal ramp to get the chair into shelter.)

Really looking forward to building a nicer little free library! Maybe shaped kinda like our house!!