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I Heart Barn Assemblages

I am a barn-admirer from way back. I admire most things barnyard, as a matter of fact, but that is another topic altogether. For now, I will stick to the topic of the arrangement of buildings around a farmhouse.

Barns and other farm outbuildings (chicken coops, corn cribs, tool sheds, etc) usually arrive piecemeal, as they can be afforded instead of all at once up front, so they are often not arranged Grand Plan-style but rather loosely concatenated as need demands. It’s hard to begrudge a farmer for throwing a structure up where it will fit in order to house this or that new stock or piece of equipment, but the lack of sense can be maddeningly unbeautiful.

I suppose that’s what makes a collection of outbuildings arranged sensically so precious, for lack of a better word. A milieu (pardon my french) of farm buildings of mixed sizes arranged around one another around a central open space is an image that reads safe and familiar while at the same time allowing for entry from without sand exit from within. It’s a portal between the unknown of the larger world and the known of the domestic. Not so much a walled garden, which is all secrets, but a courtyard: protected, but a passageway as well.

Compound is a word that often comes to mind to describe these assemblages, but that may have too much of a martial connotation, like Colonel Kurtz’s, from Apocalypse Now. Then again, now that I look it up, that may be a misguided interpretation of the word. War/prison is the second of the “collection of buildings” definition, but the word comes from kampong, the Malay word for village.

I love these especially much because they trigger a primal image of a scene of a courtyard in The Good Earth, a book I loved very much when I was young.

Now, to disconnect entirely from any association with that book, I would like to mention here that compounds, or courtyards, and being able to create them, are exactly why it is so important to be disgustingly wealthy.

Below are a couple of sub-par photos of a great bunch of barns from this morning’s country drive.

Pumpkin Porn

Courtney and I stepped outside for a moment to enjoy one of the last warm nights of the year, and stood looking down at the pumpkins we had painted instead of carved for Halloween this year. Which is your favorite? she said. I was quiet a long time considering it. You don’t have to be nice, she said. I wasn’t going to be, I said, I was just having a hard time deciding. Then I pointed to one of mine. I really like this one, and another, and this one, and another, and this one... She laughed.

I like the way yours look, I said, but I just want to touch mine. She was quiet. I elaborated: I’m quite fond of yours, and I pointed at one with beautiful dots, but this one, indicating a small one of mine with green and blue swirls, I kinda want to sleep with this one.

Pumpkin porn, she said. Exactly, I said.

Despite getting a ton of visits to my vegetable porn post from people who  – I’m guessing! – were looking for something a bit less wholesome than an affectionate close-up of a gorgeous watermelon rind, it is only appropriate to refer to the whole-body experience these pumpkins produced in me when naming this post. For all you visitors looking to see the hardcore stuff, you will be far happier here.

in the night garden

I have had my night blooming cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) for two years now, and did wrong by it the first year with too much sun, and got wiser, but still abused it when it stretched four feet out into traffic and kept it in a tiny pot, and  did a little bit better by it this year but mostly ignored it, and still managed to kick it every oncet in a while in passing, and brought it in from the cold a week ago, and stuck it in the basement, crammed it between two far-more-nurtured bananas, and  moved it today to make room for another banana, and I was surprised, nay, shaken, to see that I am finally getting my first bloom.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum

I bought it after a dozen years spent coveting the sally mann image of the same name, arguably the most beautiful photograph of the twentieth century (so decreed by yours truly, among others far wiser, I’m sure) . My neglect has been rewarded with the promise of a beautiful bloom, seen in budding stage above. Stay tuned for a pic in all it glory.

In contrast, I have had my buddha’s hand citron nigh on three weeks now. I stuck it in the winter garden under the light, and it is so covered in flower buds I am downright shocked. Shocked, I say! To top that, it has two small fruit already, pictured below is the larger:

citrus medica var. sarcodactylis

Suck it monkeys (though it may be somewhat tart).

Cormac McCarthy’s Typewriter

Continuing with the spasm of materialism inhabiting this e-ournal* for the last couple of weeks (it’s the holidays, bub), consider Cormac McCarthy’s Olivetti for auction this friday at Christie’s.


I begged and begged Courtney to buy it for me but no dice. I don’t know what I’d do with it anyway except look at it sitting in the corner.

And write letters to myself from him:


What a slamming writer you have turned out to be.

– Cormac


* Thank you A.H.M for lending this appellation.

belee dat

I watched the Biggie Smalls biopic “Notorious” last night. The Girl said it was amazing so I had to see it.  Plus that “Note- Note-, Notorious” clip in the trailer gave me goosebumps every time I saw it so of course the movie must be amazing am I right or am I right? Trailer producers are quite possibly the most gifted and fortunate filmmakers past or present. What amazing power to be able to take non-sequitur or even non-existent clips and create for potential viewers a soul-shuddering minute and a half of suspense, an ninety-second emotional rollercoaster… It is godlike this power. I never did see the Note- Note, Notorious scene in the movie.

But I digress. I really mean to talk about the moment in the movie when everything went sour, when Biggie and Tupac’s relationship took a 180-degree turn for the worse.  One minute they were BFF, and then suddenly, from out of nowhere, Tupac gets shot in the lobby of a Times Square recording studio and blames Biggie. Biggie’s voice-over attributes this shift to paranoia (one that the viewer was not previously keyed in to), and that may or may not have been true, but so suddenly? For whatever reason, the director chose to gloss over this pivotal moment, the moment that effectively created the east coast west coast rivalry that shaped the rest of the movie. And because that moment of weakness was located so close to the spine of the plot, everything that followed rang false.

The trickiest trick in fiction is delivering believability. Nine writers out of ten prefer to sacrifice credibility to a streamlined plot or some fantastic dialogue.  And then nine out of ten crazy Hollywood people convince other crazy Hollywood people to spend thirty million dollars without giving serious weight to the question could this happen in real life. Could Tupac go from Biggie’s homie to his arch-enemy in 17 seconds? No. Did the director ask us to believe that he did?  Yes. And there’s the grub, as my friend Cookie says.

Not to say that uber-realism is the way to go. Because even fantasy works this way. If you can’t convince the audience that the aliens stayed in the detainee camp for twenty years then you’ve got a major hemorrhage in the plot and all your fictive energy is leaking out of it.

We all have complaints about this world: trick knees, the necessity of shaving, too-short days, etc, but what you can always appreciate is that it is utterly real. That the dialogue is felt, that the physics work, that the motives line up, that the timing is right.

We say the timing is wrong but we mean wrong for us. We say that so-and-so’s stupidity is inconceivable, but really, of all the features of this life, the one that has become so workaday and expected and able to be imagined is stupidity.  We say, when the dialogue is not felt, that the speaker has been watching too much bad TV. We say the pain is unreal but there is nothing more real than the sensation of pain. We say that someone’s perversity knows no bounds, that it is infinite, but this is hyperbole. These characteristics are as limited as we are and we may be legion but we are finite as hell. There is nothing of this world that is not of this world, except for our lame attempts to represent it.

And then there’s nothing more real and more human than our subsequent testing of this representation. It’s everywhere this test, it can be applied to every little thing: it’s what makes a good actor, if they seem to be speaking their lines from somewhere inside their chests; what makes a good company, that will at least attempt to add value alongside scraping the meat from our bones; good advertising, that entertains as well as demands brand fealty; good folks, that can reign in id for a little bit of superego; good life, with a little slog through the mud before an ascent to the top; good metaphysics, that suggests that there may possibly be some critter at the controls tweaking my storyline but stops short of promising that the lambs will lay down with the lions.

It’s a discipline this believability, and it’s much harder to pull off than it at first seems. But we wouldn’t buy any of it if it didn’t pass the test.