Sunday, October 2, 2011

sketches from pittsburgh

I haven't updated this blog in ages. These are sketches from a recent trip to Pittsburgh, along with some recent(ish) artsies and, because it was playing in the car, a song by Rufus Wainwright:


The factory is solid blue. Clouds rolls like butter from the smoke stacks. The windows are fogged yellow. I can't see inside, but imagine the factory full of cartoon rabbits. The rabbits have pink eyes. They are not human-rabbits. They are rabbit-rabbits.

"Industry makes this city beautiful," says the writer at the artist collective across from the factory. The writer is published. His book is called Black Holes, but is mostly about deer; still, people think black holes are the main problem because they're always sucking up things, namely deer. Deer are disappearing at an alarming rate. Soon they will be extinct.

What people don't say is that most deer walk willingly into the black holes. They know the deer do this, but pretend they don't because they can't imagine why a beautiful animal with long legs and brown eyes would want to disappear.

The black holes are not in outer space. They are in the banks of the Allegheny River. The black holes are steel pipes. Before walking into a pipe, a deer will look back at the person watching them, who is always you.

Every deer looks back.


I'm drawing ghost dogs again.
I haven't drawn them in ages. I thought I had forgotten them, but no, there's a lolling tongue, the sound of panting.
White, Steamboat Willy eyes.
Long shadows.
No legs.

I was 8 years old when I saw Old Yeller die. In fourth grade, I read about two coon hounds whose intestines were torn out by a mountain lion. The boy they belonged to--who belonged to them--buried the dogs together. A red fern grew between their graves.

Where I'm from, there's a lot of space. There are a million malls and radio towers and computers. I'm connected to everything, especially my dead dog.

No, really, I am. There's an underground wire connecting me to to Shrimpy, the border collie that bit off my dad's thumb. My dad was upset because he couldn't play his 1954 Martin Guitar thumbless . He said Shrimpy had rabies, so we took him to the vet. The vet said "put him to sleep."
This means kill.

After killing Shrimpy, we buried him under the holly tree in our backyard. The earth was webbed with little white roots. One of the roots caught me by the wrist. It buried itself in the vein where, if I concentrate, I can feel my pulse.

I feel Shrimpy's pulse too, if the rain is hard enough. If the trees are bare enough. If my guitar isn't tuned.

The ghost dog on my paper has a speech bubble. The bubble says "woof."


In the tree where hipsters tie their bikes, a sparrow puffs his chest, shakes water from his wings, then looks me in the eye as if to say "Well, haven't you gone soft with your open-back dress and peppermint tea?"

Rain falls with the specific random of pointillism, rippling dots under the heels of Hepburnian women passing quickly under their umbrellas. The cafe is a warm, well-lit place.

I miss the anonymity of the city. The man at the other table has long curling lashes that scan paper where, with long curling hands, he sketches cats. The cats have long curling tails.

Sometimes the man looks at me. Sometimes I look back.
When i leave the cafe, I will never see him again.

Thank God!


Driving back, we stop to let a train pass. It's almost morning. Flashing lights outline the freight, piles of dirt barely visible over the box cars.

The dirt is coal. Coal is dirt that used to be trees. When the trees died, they were buried under tar and dinosaurs and woolly mammoths. The pressure from the tar and dead animals turned the trees to dirt.

One day, a human accidentally set the dirt on fire. The dirt burned and burned. The human used the dirt to heat his house and cook his deer. Later, humans used the dirt to generate electricity. They dug past the tar and dead animals and pulled up the trees that weren't yet coal to get to the trees that were coal.

Graffiti covers the train, red and orange ghosts with electric blue outlines. Written on the caboose is a wobbly sentence:

This isn't fun anymore