Friday, December 3, 2010

All decadents need cats

"Seraphita was of a dreamy and contemplative disposition. She would remain for hours on a cushion, wide-awake and following with her eyes, with intensest attention, sights invisible to ordinary mortals. She liked to be petted, but returned caresses in a very reserved way, and only in the case of persons whom she honoured with her approbation, a most difficult thing to obtain. She was fond of luxury, and we were always sure to find her curled up in the newest arm-chair or on the piece of stuff that best set off her swan's-down coat. She spent endless time at her toilet; every morning she carefully smoothed out her fur. She used her paws to wash herself, and every single hair of her fur, having been brushed out with her rosy tongue, shone like brand-new silver. If any one touched her, she at once removed the traces of the touch, for she could not bear to be rumpled. Her elegance and stylishness suggested that she was an aristocrat, and among her own kind she must have been a duchess at the very least. She delighted in perfumes, stuck her little nose into bouquets, and bit with little spasms of pleasure at handkerchiefs on which scent had been put; she walked upon the dressing-table among the scent-bottles, smelling the stoppers, and if she had been allowed to do so would no doubt have used powder. Such was Seraphita, and never did a cat bear a poetic name more worthily."

Theophile Gautier

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

some queer thoughts

So, lately queerness has come up a lot in the media and in my experience of social media. Coming Out day was recently and lots of my friends were very gung ho about coming out... as allies. At first, I felt really proud and happy. I am glad to have so many allies and that they are proud. But eventually when I saw about 4 times as many allies and many ambiguous messages by the folks I know who are queer things started to look a bit different.

Coming out is complicated and has consequences.

I'm not fully out of the closet in all situations. I'm sure out in my current town and in my work place and with my friends. I even came out super awkwardly to my mom after my sister outed me herself and lied about it. But, that's a story for another time and the bad poetry involved will never see the light of day. But, I am not explicitly out to my father (he totally knows though) or my husband's parents or to everyone I ever met back in super rural Kentucky. I'd like to be, but Its complicated (I'm working on it).

So, when I didn't feel fully comfortable shouting out my queerness on Facebook, I started to feel alienated by all of the happy cheerful straight people enjoying their participation in queer visibility. Though there can be complication for allies, coming out as supportive of homosexuality doesn't strike me as the same level of magnitude as truly publicly coming out as gay, or queer, or bi, or trans, or asexual, or gender queer, or any number of the mindblowingly diverse flavors that sexuality holds.

Allies, I appreciate your participation in queer activism. I really do.

So, I questioned this emotional response. I do not want to take away any support of queer issues, and I don't want to quash anyone's self-expression of sexuality or activism or visibility. I stand by this, but I do think my questioning led me to something a bit more complicated. What got me there was this. A very smart male straight pastor, for whom I have the deepest respect, posted to his FB wall a neat article by a queer female pastor. The gist of the article was a very rousing challenge for victims of bullying and other forms of oppression to do the Christian thing and bless their enemies and also to learn from them. It was very smart and thought provoking. I did find it uncomfortable to see this explicit challenge being shown to me by straight person. I didn't want to reject such a smart good thing, but I also don't want someone in a position of privilege (even the nicest, coolest, most open-minded person-in-a-position-of-privilege ever) to be telling queers how to deal with our bullies or oppressors. So, I went back to thinking.

Queer people are confronted with their identity in almost every space in culture at almost every moment. This is not our choice. As a result, there are parts of queerness that even the most intelligent, empathetic straight people may only catch a glimpse of, and because our allies are more numerous than we are, I think some of these perspectives and experiences risk being drowned out in the happy noise of the newly expanded pride parade.

I do not want to silence or censor folks. I especially don't want to do that to people fighting a good fight and showing their love. But I am totally willing to advocate for a bit of self-awareness. For everyone. I hope I can take my own medicine; I certainly try. I benefit from privilege, and I try not to forget that. So here's where I'm going with this.

Think about other people. Think about them when you advocate for their rights, or your own rights (for your rights will always affect others). Take time to put yourself in the position of people different from yourself and look at your own actions from the outside. Think about how other people feel. Think about people who have been thinking about this and working on this for longer than you've been alive. Think about people who have multiple minority statuses, all of which complicate each other. Think about the differences of opinion and desire and politics within the spectrum of queerness. Think about the very young and very old who don't necessarily have the freedoms many others enjoy. Think about the fact that not everyone defines queer in anything like the same way. Be a conscientious activist.

Hopefully the parade has room for everyone who wants to participate. I think it does. We just need to be sure that our participation doesn't overshadow or displace anyone else's.


Since writing this two amazing blog posts have come to my attention. Both deal with this same issue in different ways and I think they do an amazing job of sensitively but honestly addressing allies.

The Day After That

The Do's and Don'ts of Being a Good Ally

Friday, October 8, 2010

Leave a difference at all

I feel trapped sometimes, and weirdly enough I think it is partly the color of the light around me that affects this feeling. I hate yellow light. It is the part of fall and winter that holds no love or fascination.

Golden light I love; every photographer needs their golden hours of the day. That gentle gilded glow adds so much to any subject. No, what I cannot handle is harsh yellow light. Summer afternoons radiate with it and winter evenings do in the hours just after the sun has gone. Through most artificial light in these evenings, everything becomes stale, too warm, and itchy and yet toes stay slightly too cold. Escape and change become my inner chant at these times.

I want to run in the dark, tell secrets, and laugh airlessly with my friends far away and do it by the strange shadows of summer nights or the white brightness of winter mornings.

Fall gives birth to many urges and experiences, but sadly one of them has left me in these years living too far south for true seasons. Back in Ohio when fall turned cold and brown and deep after its earlier kaleidoscopes I would get what I called "land urges". It felt like longing and loyalty and fierceness all at once. I wanted to stand on a hill with a stick in my hand surrounded by wind and earth and belonging. This feeling rooted me to my place and told me of future connections that could grow even deeper. This cannot happen here; I feel nothing for this shifting sanddirt it isn't the earth and clay that I love. It holds biting ants and spiky strange growths. Lovely and wild yes, but never ever mine.

I wonder how connected everything is sometimes. If I exercise again today will I feel like I can live here longer without losing something precious? Does applying for lifetime jobs all over the country attune me to my gypsy self? Does growing older inspire rebellion? These answers elude me solidly.

My hands want to grasp and my eyes to scan. My location cannot change now, and my work requires me to be grounded for months and months yet. Sometimes it is all I can do to transubstantiate my desires into the realm of the possible. But then in the realm of reality, as always, I trip into conflict, compromise, contention.

Monday, I walk into the house of law. Interviewers will try to find out about me and make guesses like those addicted to horse races. Strangers and I might become a jury together and put on blindfolds so as to be many faces of justice. Sunday, my escapes appear like clockwork. Saturday, I could hunt and watch the gavel fall many times. But what about tonight? I do not know what I can do.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The venn diagram of myth and reality

A couple of weeks ago I went home too see my folks and my homeplace and the pets before my year swept me up for the next two and half months. What I found there, in addition to the comfort and inspiration I so often find, was the season of butterflies. They greeted me on the road; I saw flashes of color rip over my head, and rush beyond me. Every step out of the door brought me to the butterflies. They rested, played, fed, and bloomed as riotously as any flowers.

Beyond the immediate joy of seeing these paper thin splashes of color and flight, I felt like I'd come home to an overwhelming symbol. Butterflies can mean change and this sight of them in the last weeks of summer also spoke to me of bravado and panache in the face of fragility. There will be change. We will all be vulnerable to it, but we can leap into that, not only face change but run to it as our best selves and forget any thought of useless clinging. This felt apt to me the moment I learned it, and that rightness continues. Sometimes it feels like very many iterations of the same lesson occur all at once or that many go through the same experience together and apart but with unwitting synchronicity.

Last fall, I saw rupture and loss; it echoed through the harsher winter and the slow spring. It stayed apart from me, but I watched it like a cubist painting from many angles simultaneously and in or out of sync. Now I feel like the tumblers in our locks are moving again, but this time with me. It is not loss, this season, but movement into the unknown. We are the butterflies at the very end of summer, but we are also the coming fall.

For me this means putting forth my name and ideas for jobs. Each of them becomes a nucleus for a host of potential futures and most of them will be ended in a barely read stack of papers in a stale busy office. But I have to send these chances out; they are bright winged possibilities that range from the tiny and unknown to the deeply familiar or dauntingly celebrated. I am sending myself out on at least eighteen quests.

This merging of the archetypal, mythic, or fairy tale with what can be readily experienced jolted me this morning and prodded me to write. In Banff, somewhere in the wilds of Canada, there are these mysterious geological formations called the Inkpots. They are round greeny-clear pools of water in a mountain clearing, and they stay at the same very cold (but not freezing) temperature all the year round. We don't know much about them, save that their water comes up from below. It bubbles through their quicksand floor instead coming on the surface. How could anyone hear about such places without thinking of the story of King Turnip Counter or the many myths of being lured into magically beautiful water only to be paralyzed and drowned. These Inkpots sound more than real, and they remind that the world is wilder and bigger than our minds can hold in an everyday way. With all of this possibility, who can say what will happen?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thunder on a sunny day

I've been realizing that I need to walk, to walk long distance, step after step out in the world till I have seen wonders and my body grows tired. The urge has struck me in many places both home and just as often away.
My first days of college – orientation really- I needed long nighttime walks across campus, through deep sleeping professorial neighborhoods into the more restlessly drowsing main street. Traversing again and again between the two poles of this tiny town I found my transition and so my days were social and engaged.
Later, I took small sweet snacks out into the creeping English spring around lanes and lakes alone in a medieval city. Watching the Brits congenially escorting their dogs helped me feel, if not properly kinship, then at least friendliness within a lonely time.
My steel town and truly large city walks functioned as constant exploration. I saw the architectural ghosts of Europe (some a bit more ragged than others) and the tarnished marvels that neighbors even three streets down had never seen. The largest city, one I've never fully understood nor yet determined my relationship with, crawled with life on my walks. Life outcrowded life and brutalized life and surrounded and buried and nurtured life. Trees reached up before lots could even be called abandoned, and the wildlife rivals any I've seen since in fecundity and ferocity.
Beyond these small specifics, walking performs enough miracles that to describe them would doom me to the trite and overused words of a snake oil salesman or smooth tongued contractor. But, I look for it, the change, the loss, the mindless working through with my deep reptile brain, and at the same time the breathtaking cabaret dazzles my waking eyes and inspires the stories of my sleeping hours. Tuesday, I walked, despite the heat, and I saw green hearts yearning in a not-quite-solid wave of particles making my shred of sidewalk into something of motionless surfboard. I saw ants taking a dead snake back into the earth while leaving its maize and garnet colors spread across the path. Warmth bathed me and smothered the air from my face, but tiny scents and wasteful sprinkles of water sustained me.
I didn't carry food for thought with me this time, but since I stopped walking cares and concerns enough have found me to make me long to walk again. I need to walk with them, not deny them or even wear down the exclusions, unwanted changes, and witnessed sadness. That night, talk and touch and dance under cheap confetti lights kept me, but I've walked since and needed it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

red and white/spots and stripes

I saw my scars today as I wandered deep in an old tale's retelling. My dear one calls them inverse freckles: little and tiny, more or less round, dots of pale in my summer hued skin. They are not like my others; they do not each have a unique origin and memory. They are subtle and must be read together. In two summers, many miles and years away from my present, a plant took me over. Poison Ivy stole weeks from me in those awkward summers, and left behind these speckles that can hold no pigment. I love my scars like I love my tattoo. They allow me to physically carry symbols and knowledge and more than myself. These scars are the season, they are transformation, they are survival and forgetfulness and growing will.

Next week they will come out more as I play in the space where ocean and land come together: geographic doorways and wind, sun, salt. Every breath will be a ritual and welcome some new knowing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

There are so many Englands.

Many of us create these Englands ourselves. We imagine it whole cloth, or bend the wood of its ancient trees, or embroider the land and its culture whether we mean to or not. I fully admit this, and have lived with the consequences.

This past trip to England ended a week ago, and I miss any sort of England that exists (be it real or no) and my own England. Each day puts my experiences more and more in the land of my own invention, my England, and less in one that might be visible to anyone else. This loss is one of melancholies of coming home. For me, this is compounded by my sleepy thoughtless loss of my travel notebook. Faithfully, for two weeks, I kept detailed thorough entries about my days only to lose it on the last leg of my very long day of travel.

But to speak of my trip itself improves things, as does posting my photographs, or thinking quietly to myself of living in some part of England again. I cannot recall everything; my photographs sadly do not contain scent (lavender and wet stone on the breeze so rich I do not even have to dip my head to find it); memories do not carry me back there. Still, we can enjoy these imperfect impressions and not hope that they are more than tiny views from moving windows.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Someone once said that all art aspires to the condition of music

But what about the desperate and immediate communication of graffiti? In a small private room, in a casually spacious coffeehouse, before many other things happened, I saw/my scouts saw.

Just fall in love

Bitches, stop crying.


A discussion of how many dimensions a dot occupies, including time.


Bitchez love kittens.

A hand drawn ad for a cell phone repair service.

pleading loneliness and cynicism.

frustrated dialogues about friendship.

Dumbledore's Army 4-Evah!

I saw lots of love, lots of anger, much of it to one guy who was also described as "taking applications", along with miscellaneous phone numbers and fairly specific feedback on the results. Something about the lockable door separating this room from the rest of the shop allowed people to let out some of their feelings and views.

Back to music, after all this was a concert day. Not in a safe private space, I saw other things, social rituals, negotiations, internalized gazes gazing, and I separated myself from it all alternately with years, a table, commerce, and my camera.

The gallery and their many ways of dancing and watching. One woman stood like a lighthouse to anchor her video camera and keep the shot still, another clutched her hands together and kept them tucked under her chin [not quite gothic gamine but close], at least one lied prettily, another danced like Salome's younger sister, some twitched, some gawped, some swayed. What connected these eight was their tinybabypixieness with their piled high hair, smudgy eyes, and slender untried driftwood legs.

the angelic gray/blue/white/silver laptop glow and serene detachment of the sound guy in his isolating booth.

Parking lot graffiti: public/alienated/graphic/abstract Is that always the difference?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Your lockets, your foxgloves, your elusive ceremonies

I have a small trail of blisters running across my foot not far below the protrusion of my ankle bone. Right now they make me think of tears. Maybe because blisters weep when punctured, or because reading or watching the portrayal of a lover's mourning (always a weakness of mine) has coaxed me to tears twice this week, or maybe it is the very real witness I've played to sadness over the past days. They all fit together easily.

No one's laundry will be aired here. I respect the privacy of those I love. But your thoughts and images and stories touch me. Last year I felt like the world was shaking for many, and standing still under my feet. Reaching out and listening was what I tried to do. I'll try again, and again. It will not be enough, but such is life. Sometimes your stories mirror each other, or interlock unexpectedly. Maybe connections can form, reform, revolve, and improve things. Maybe I'm just being maudlin in the quiet upstairs room of a music-making house. I always hope bad news can somehow result in good change, and can form humble irregular pearls. You have before.

Other things occupy me as well: preparations, projects, indecision, amazing smells, backsliding and improvement. When business and routine take off to their summer cottage, change and contemplation and adventure rather messily house-sit.

Good night sad songs, walking on hot coals, blushing surprises, grunting cats, and wonderings. Always, always, always, good night to wonderings.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lowlands low

Disappointment happens; it isn't unusual. I just don't want to lose hours of what could be good time to it. So when I sat down to do some writing or editing this morning and it didn't feel right, I didn't fight with myself. I was feeling yesterday's disappointment, and I was feeling disappointed with myself for not getting into a groove with the current small part of my big writing project.

Instead, I took the energy that I did have and worked all over my house. Spiritually and mentally speaking, I wanted to get rid of negative feelings, so I found an analogous physical activity: culling unwanted items. This was partially inspired by seeing a friend's progress in this direction yesterday. Her neatly tied, lumpy, bags of clothes looked like clarity and calm to me.

I worked till sweat covered my skin. I went through books, clothes, household wares, just stuff. It feels good to be letting go of stuff I do not need. It isn't even bad stuff, broken stuff, or un-wantable stuff; I simply do not need it. Sometimes it hurts because, once some of those clothes fit and pleased me. So often what stops me is the notion that someone could want something I'm giving away. The control obsessed part of me wants to find that person and give them the stuff individually, instead of letting the tides and deities of thrift bring the right owner to my discarded treasures. Six bags later, I felt a very positive sort of empty, but so dirty, dusty, sticky, sweaty, sore. On to part of two of the process.

Any action undertaken with focus and intent can become more than it appears on the surface, and so cleaning my bathroom and showering became a reclaiming of space and body. Attachments were washed away along with garage debris, fuzzies, and cat hair. Anxieties and soreness and hurt feelings went away together. Now, I'm taking a break from demolishing a pile of clothing chaos into wearable order. My partner keeps playing bits of evocative folk and maritime music in the other room for his work and the afternoon's first boom of thunder punctuates. Mysteries crop up in other tabs and bits of iridescence shine through death. It is time to work again and enjoy the calm I am creating.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Even though my car constantly smells like hot glue...

I do not often extol the joys of summer. I am not really a summer person, and so it is sometimes hard for me to see them, but tonight I'm lucky. The moon hangs so low that you have to tramp around in the dark to get a view of her. She's a thin moon: barely more than a sliver. But the color is a rich amber vanilla and I get the impression that she'd smell like smiling eyes and warm honeysuckle. I think tonight's moon would go with art deco theatre nights and emeralds, but I'm not entirely sure. I don't have much experience with either, truth be told. To set this moon, you must realize that it hangs amongst live oaks, Spanish moss, and chanting hordes of frogs and insects. Their rhythmic groanings, chirps, and calls recall dark monks in catacombs or the anxious rumbling of pre-teens waiting for Twilight movie to begin. (I can barely believe that I'm going to subject myself to that unsettling experience, but I am).

But summer moons and night smells are not the only joys this season offers. We can relish some tastes and textures in summer like at no other point in the year. Vanilla Coke floats are some sort of universal shortcut to my personal bliss. Fresh cantaloup makes healthy as much fun as evolution should have made it. Garden grown tomatoes must have been stolen from Mount Olympus just like fire; we mortals do not deserve their tangy/dripping/vital/fragrant goodness. I'd talk about the glories of grilled vegetables, was life not so cruel. Alas, this year I have not tasted them outside of a restaurant, and some foods deserve to be cooked at home. On the other hand, this year a very smart friend introduced me to sparkling white wine liberally doused with lime juice. It can take hours of stress and ten degrees Fahrenheit away instantly.

Farmers' Markets ought to be a summer joy, and they can be, but my latest trip to ours was severely disrupted by the last fantastic summer win that I'll give myself room to discuss today: thunderstorms. Repeated cracks of thunder and vicious forks of strangely colored light bring the good kind of drama to the already very necessary goodness of rain. We have then near daily this year; the next one's rumblings have started. They are perfect. Calm conversations can take on diabolical or heroic dimensions when the thunder lays its emphasis at just the right moment. They lull us into napping or inspire other antics. Nature gives us many metaphors but few are so always welcome as thunderstorms.
What all of this has been a roundabout way of saying is, happy Solstice. Enjoy the summer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Following good advice: my best twelve

Honestly, I more often feel moved to give advice than take it, but recently a photographer (the incomparably nice and talented Kyle Cassidy) I admire wrote an excellent list of suggestions for those aiming to become serious/professional about their photographic work. While my aims do not ever include making a living through photography, I do want to constantly and consistently improve.

One piece of advice struck me as really interesting.

"4) Make a portfolio of your 12 best photos. these can be 4x6 1 hour prints. Every month try and replace at least one of these with a better photo. Do this for the rest of your life."*

So, I'm now sharing my first portfolio of my twelve best.

The goal is to be able to replace one of these with a photo I like more by July 16th.

*for those that are interested. Here's a link to the rest of his good advice.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

melting with the right company

When I first arrived folks were getting ready for the arrival of our party's inspiration. Despite the best intentions of our canine assist, we managed to overfill a table handily.

The hostess charmed me with her lovely set up and vintage table linens. Her home made the perfect setting for a candlit tea revel. We sipped and chatted on a hardwood floor, under a navy ceiling, to the comforting background of box fans and summer insect noise.

But somehow everything changed when two androgynous troublemakers came in from the heat. They carried cheap beer and BB-gun into our midnight tea party, but they walked like demi-gods of trickery. Of course, folks slowly meandered outside and took turns sinking ankle deep in the backyard sand and shooting a tin can by candlelight.

Eventually we serenaded our birthday girl with blurry warm voices and an un-tuned mandolin. She could have, like Guinevere, asked any quest of us on the strength of our natal-day loyalty. Thankfully she didn't, and just sipped her fine birthday whiskey with good grace. Candles, sun tea, crumbly sweet tea cookies,wispy cigar smoke, bad aim, and dear friends turn the warm night strange and golden.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bad news, good wine, and better books

So, we all receive bad news from time to time, but I've found there are a few ways to most happily put oneself back together, and one of my favourites includes a glass of wine, a snack, and an armload of new books from the library. Today the wine is a Riesling, the snack is homemade cornbread, and the books are travel bits for the upcoming trip to England.

I have two fantastically huge books of travel porn. These are the photo-laden, idiosyncratically organized, theme books of dubious usefulness, hence travel porn. These give me inspiring views that will surely complicate my travel plans. One is The National Trust Book of Great Houses of Britain by Nigel Nicolson and the other is Timpson's English Villages by John Timpson. The others fall into two camps; we have the useful but fairly standardized British guide book, and the much more interestingly focused snotty book for those of us that Lord Whimsy* would call retrosexuals. These historical guides only tell us how to find the old stuff. The books could care less if we get stranded without a loo or a place to sleep so long as we get to see Roche Abbey (from 1147) and Faldouet Dolmen (a grave from the Neolithic era built like a long underground stone hallway). I chose The Intelligent Traveller's Guide to Historic Britain by Philip A. Crowl and arranged by historic period and The Cambridge Guide to Historic Places by Kenneth Hudson and Ann Nichols. The Cambridge one is thankfully much more travel oriented; it at least lets me look up a town and then find all of its historical flotsam in one go.

To distract me from these wonderful companions, I also have a party to attend. My friend has brilliant timing for her birthday; I must thank her. The celebration is to be a charming dress up tea party, but I'm guessing things will veer off from there. I can always trust my friends to embroider our most humble plans with their fitful strangeness. To best support them, I suppose I should make tiny sandwiches and find a frilly dress. Perhaps I'll be able to catch some of tonight on film; I can only hope.

*Lord Whimsy makes terrariums, uses remarkable pocket scarves, and writes lovely books about nature and art and all things related to his particular variant of dandyism. This is a link to Whimsy's really charming first book

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Pleasures of Costume Dramas

The heavy momentum of Victorian gowns, long panning shots of a fictional history lovingly created like a dollhouse with its complete miniature place settings, language that travels down too oft unused paths in my brain, and myriad other pleasures come to me when I settle in to enjoy a costume drama. And settle in I must, this isn't the sort of watching that can be accomplished while I fold laundry or grade papers. I lose myself in the gulf between the world of the costume drama and my own. I feel like I'm gently tearing into a giant eclair or sinking into a downy mattress. There is so much give and softness in this viewing experience.

Tonight, I re-watched an opulent strange little film called Angels and Insects. Though I'd seen the film's larger reveal before and find significant parts of the film uncomfortable and off putting, this second viewing was vastly more enjoyable than the first. The world of the film became more of the focus for me since I have already seen the story unfold. Details came into focus since I came to the experience with knowledge of the narrative as a whole. The plaster molding of bed frames, chair railings, and interior doors compelled me without distraction. I could devote myself to the minutiae of fasteners and trim and light fixtures. This heightened the difference for me between the enjoyment of costume drama and most other sorts of time.

This is my escapism.

I doubt I'm alone in my unabashed delight in the created illusion of history of this genre. Sometimes I dream in this mode, and when I wake I do not remember who spoke or what happened, but instead I remember the rich green browns of stamped leather on the walls and the sound of eighteenth century heels ringing across a polished marble floor. Perhaps this is largely class fantasy, but I think the historical displacement has more allure than simply wealth. In a time before mass production, everything we used and looked at and touched was the product of craft. Individual aesthetics created each jacket, dish, fireplace, and chair. I do not want to fetishize someone else's reality (or many centuries and continents of someones), but a world of craft calls to me. There is something unpredictable about what comes from the hands and mind of an individual. Perhaps I'm just an aesthete leaning toward decadence despite myself. I not only want beauty, but I want it to surprise me.