Thursday, September 22, 2011

Home-made Journals

I fill up a sketchbook with my journal writing about every two to three months. I've been thinking about how to avoid having to buy these journals so often. Maybe I could make some books?

I took a book-making class some years ago at the Glassell School in Houston. But we didn't learn about the kind of book I've been thinking of making: the book made by binding single sheets, rather than by stitching folded folios together. Fortunately, there is a book about binding single sheets: it's called Smith's Sewing Single Sheets, by the great bookmaker and bookmaking book writer, Keith Smith. I have this book, and I'm studying it now.

It might be possible to simply find a great deal of usable paper by saving junk mail letters with at least one empty side. These could be bound together, and the written-on side could be re-primed with gesso for painting or drawing, as in an altered book. But of course, it's also possible to make your own paper, another thing I want to learn. I could get newspaper out of the dumpsters for the pulp, or use fibers from plants around my farm, or both!

Of course, making journals by hand from found materials won't solve the storage problem: I am running out of storage space for my journals. But it won't be too hard to make more bookshelves, I think.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Get to Work

How to Get to Work

Turn right on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard,
Drive past the huge metal chicken that has a hen’s body and a rooster’s comb on its head,
The product of art students who’ve never seen a real rooster or hen;
Drive past the grass-less park with the old black men and their pit bull pets—
“Don’t let your dog come over here. My dog is not social. Do you understand?”

An old woman hobbles along the path on the edge of the park, a stick in her hand
To ward off the pit bulls.
At the corner turn left on Old Spanish Trail
In front of the abandoned gas station.
(If you need gas, you should have driven to Midtown, where you can safely buy gas.)

Go under the railroad trestle
But not if it just rained, because the puddle is deeper than you think and your car will stall out.
Somebody got swept into a culvert and drowned.

Drive up the little hill past the chemical plant—at least I think that’s what they make  there—
On your left is some tall grass and the concrete-lined, so-called bayou
Where somebody must have died because there’s one of those home-made crosses with teddy bears and plastic flowers.
Did he get shot? Was he in a wreck? Did she drown?

On the right is a grey metal building and a fence with concertina wire,
Around what I think is a junk yard.
Nobody ever walks there, so don’t try it.
Some big loops of spray-painted graffiti arc across the walls of the building. 
Once I saw a man standing there.

Further down on the right is one of those old motels from the fifties—
The Texas Motel.  I think some people live there.
Then the bayou. They fixed the bridge
And it’s pretty nice. Stop at the three-way intersection. Wait for the light.
Trucks come in from your right and you can’t always see them.

Pass the used car lot where “Your Job Is Your Credit,” or used to be—
It went out of business—the cars are gone but the strings of colored plastic flags are still there.
Pass the bus stop where a woman stands with a baby in her arms, and four kids under the age of six,  each one slightly shorter than the next oldest one, wait.
Get onto the ramp for I-45. Speed up.
But stay in the right lane. See the bayou on your right, and a heron pick at a dead fish. 
The anhingas spread their wings to dry, standing on a black log.
A white plastic bag floats downstream.

Go over the bridge. Below on the feeder road,
A woman hurries along the narrow concrete sidewalk, in red plastic shoes, tugging a child’s hand.
“Tomo Mi Mano, No Mi Vida,” pleads a big-eyed child on a billboard.
The reason is, there’s a family planning clinic somewhere around—
Oh, there it is. An angry-looking white person is sitting in a lawn chair in front of it,
Holding a sign with something written in magic marker on it,
But it’s not, “Homeless Please Help Anything Helps God Bless.”
You will see that sign later on your way home.

Pass the big yellow sign with black letters that says “Cambiamos Cheques,”
And the beauty school, where young women wait for the doors to open, 
and the pale bald mannequin heads wait inside,
And the wholesale restaurant supply place,
And a little church that used to be a Mexican restaurant,
And a pawnshop, and an adult video store.

You exit at Woodside Avenue,
But there are no woods at its side.
There are men—a lot of them—waiting in groups at the front of the Home Depot parking lot,
Some crouch, most stand. They smoke and drink coffee from Styrofoam cups.
A lady with a cooler sells them breakfast tacos and tamales. 
They sort of flirt with her, but she’s old, and they are mostly very young.

Stop at the end of the exit ramp. Here you have to turn left,
But be careful: wait for the green arrow and look out for the young woman
With long black hair and a clear plastic backpack who’s trying to cross in front of you
And the old man on a bicycle who’s trying to dodge the broken glass under the overpass
Which you also have to drive under.
On your left is a tangled pile of black plastic-coated wire that has sat on that concrete curb at that intersection for five years.  Who knows why.
Don’t look at it.

Turn left under the freeway and stay in the left lane,
Turn left again, looking to your right first because of big trucks coming off I-45,
And then immediately get in the right lane, when you’re in front of the James Coney Island,
Because you have to make a right into the college parking lot.

Wave to the cop in the parking lot, and then drive around to where it says “Faculty and Staff.”
There’s a chain-link fence there, trapping a tree against the bank of dirt—
the tree’s bark and body is growing around and into the chain links.
A crushed plastic soda bottle is caught there too, and a tampon.
Ignore these things. Park and lock your car.
Go back and check to make sure it’s locked.

Shoulder your backpack; grasp your book bag and lunch bag.
Walk to the front of the door of the Angela Morales building.
Watch out for the girl in the motorized wheelchair who is coming out as you go in—
Her head and trunk are the size of a normal girl’s, but her arms and legs are like a baby’s: short fat stumps. Nevertheless, her fingers work.
Her mother waits for her in a van equipped with a wheelchair lift—
But her mother lifts her tenderly out of the chair and carries her to the passenger seat in front,
And all the wheelchair lift does is it lifts the enormous motorized wheelchair into the van.
(The girl operates the wheelchair by pushing buttons on the right armrest.)

Go inside the building. On the left is the main door to the writing center, where you work.
But it doesn’t open.
Go down the hall on your left. Say hello to the lady who cleans the bathrooms.
Go in the first door on your left. Turn on the lights in the room.
Go to the front door and open it. Prop it open with the trashcan, 
because we can’t figure out how to make it stay unlocked.
Go back in the writing center. Put down your stuff.
Go to the window and look out. Fifty feet away, you see the freeway, and the cars rushing by.
People trying to get to work.