Is a Hope Chest Full of Regrets a Suitable Dowry for Death?

A fraction of the collection.

"The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself." - Joan Didion
I'm not a particularly good minimalist. I have high hopes for my potential to own as little as possible but in the meantime I've got this stupid... sentimental?... streak that compels me to hang on to things that I haven't used or looked at in ages. I think about getting rid of things for a long time before they actually get gone. I've got a few trinkets from my Grandparents' house. I've got some kitchen stuff that I just like the idea of but have no memory of using. And I have years' worth of notebooks and journals full of, if memory serves, complaints about the minutiae of everyday life.

I've never revisited these journals and I still don't want to look at them. And yet they're all stowed in my hope chest as though they're something treasured: Antique linens, family photos, and 20 years of journals that no one should see. Part of the reason I'm a minimalist is because I'm aware that someone will have to deal with the material fall-out after I've died and I'm quite motivated to make sure that the task is as easy as possible.

I do still keep a journal, but I use it differently now. Ten years ago my journal was a diary; it was a record of the weather and what I ate and how I felt. These days I journal to jog my memory, and to keep notes and quotes about things I want to learn more about. I use it more as a reference and do go back and re-read my notes, but only when I'm still using that particular book. Once I've filled it and put it in the hope chest, it's out of my mind. I tried not having a notebook but felt its absence acutely. The time I spend writing is frequently the only time during the day when my thoughts are purposeful and pointed. I need to physically write things down. It helps me remember, and also gives me a clue about how to find things later based on handwriting, pen or pencil colour, etc.

I'm currently working through the contents of a recently recycled metal filing cabinet. Once all those papers and important life documents have been organized and sorted, I'm moving on to those journals. The journals are destined for the mixed paper bin at the recycling center.  I've been debating getting rid of these journals for years. When I finally do I think it'll be liberating. It's going to be soon...


Books Given Away and Kept: A Brief History

Over the past year or so I've been trying to return to my minimalist interests. It's been a slow process as every item in my little apartment is being scrutinized for its usefulness, and in some cases judged using even tighter criteria, by potential sentimentality.

I recently made the final cuts to my book collection and it's left me with delightfully uncrowded and tidy shelves. I have just 6 small, unfilled shelves with just a little room for growth, but with the understanding that the collection not exceed its allotted space.

Earlier this year I sorted through my Dharma books and found that I had about 50 that I hadn't used in years. I knew that Sravasti Abbey has a prison Dharma outreach program as well as a library at the Abbey itself so I contacted them to ask if they could use the books. They matched up about 15 individuals in their outreach program with the list of books I'd emailed them and sent me all their addresses. I mailed them all using USPS book post so it didn't break the bank. The rest I packed into two large flat-rate boxes and posted to the Abbey for their library.

My books are mostly nonfiction. There are Dharma books, cookbooks, writing books, essay collections, books on green living, and a few on creativity. I have a few treasured signed books. I met Huston Smith by special invitation as a religious studies undergrad in 1999. I had the unmatched honor of meeting and spending time with Venerable Palden Gyatso in 2002. I took a solo roadtrip from Indiana to Michigan to meet Allie Larkin upon the release of her first book Stay in 2010. I met C.J. Fisher (along with Jimmy Hill and Myles Wheelerin London this past April, Caitlin Doughty in Huntington Beach, and Ven. Thubten Chodron in Long Beach last year. Most recently I met George Watsky at The Last Bookstore in LA.

I have some books with good memories built-in. I have a copy of Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red that I scored from a little library book exchange in a tiny village in Derbyshire while adventuring with my friend Hayley. I have a 1975 copy of The World of Birds that has a Smurf root beer scratch n' sniff sticker on the front and my heart-sister's childhood signature in the front cover: M A r y K A t e. And I still have A Commentary on Guru Yoga & Offering of the Mandala by Geshe Tharchin; it's one of the first Dharma books I ever bought from Snow Lion Publications way back in the mid-nineties (RIP, Snow Lion. You're missed.)

It's a good collection, useful and beautiful.


An exploration of my inner creative life with examples of my most definite misunderstanding of what the fuck creative means

I've been privileged to have some great conversations with my wicked creative friends lately. They're writing music and comedy sketches and books. They're planning videos and paintings. They're developing new projects before they're even done with the old ones. Some projects are products. Some are learning-by-doing just for fun. Some are quite shit but you didn't hear that from me.

I'd like to show you some ideas for projects I've had which I've thought about a lot. Each has a detailed calendar and Trello board with stages of production and budgets and space to document my feelings. I'm looking forward to sharing them with my friends because I'm sure it'll draw us closer together as artists. I really want to earn their respect.

  • An illustrated chapbook with a line-by-line accounting of emails I'll read 13 times to make sure I've actively interpreted every word in the worst possible way. The goal is to fully understand that the person hates me, I hate me, I couldn't possibly be more of an arrogant nuisance, and that they're never going to talk to me again. If good art comes from suffering you've got to be a great artist to be able interpret "I really appreciate your help!" as a personal attack on your character.  
  • Taking photos of small collections of mundane things I find around the house to highlight how modern consumerism is going to destroy humanity. I'll be using my phone, a $270 Samsung Galaxy filled with frightening minerals no person should go near, and my unsteady hands will add an arty blur to the photo no filter can rival. I'll post these to Instagram (please turn on notifications; good art is, after all, jarring) with bot attention-grabbing hashtags like #getfollowershere and #giveaway and #freeiPad and #KimK. Please heart each picture because the stats could get me a brand-sponsored post gig and who doesn't like free stuff? 
  • Reading a book I've had on my shelf for 10 years but never read. I'm going to video-record me reading thoughtfully and silently in a 2 hour performance piece I'm going to use for grant applications. I'll use the grant to upgrade my video editing software, I think. The one that comes with Windows really isn't that good. 
  • How many times can I move this empty cardboard box around the room before I figure out that I can just recycle the damn thing: an experience in existential angst in time and space.

As you can see, I'm really going to have my hands full for some time. Apologies if you don't hear from me for a while. If you do need to contact me, please leave a comment on one of my Instagram photos because any traffic there will help me move up in the algorithm.


An Average Friday

Friday is my day off. Thursday, too. Thursday I relax a bit, maybe go on a mini adventure or something. Friday I do all the stuff that I don't want to or can't do all the other days.

I went to the post office to check the box. I received two books from England. I got some new pencils from New York, and a thank you note from a lady in Ohio. I'd donated to her charity walk. I'd forgotten I'd done that.

I got a new bathroom faucet today. It's pretty shiny. It doesn't drip like the old one did. Some plumbers came by to install it. I don't know how to do things like that.

I went to the credit union to get some cash. The teller tried to get me to come to the member appreciation day event on Saturday. I'm not doing that.

I went to the market. I complimented a guy on his t-shirt that read "Do me a favor... and stop talking."

I chatted with MK, Cate, Tabitha, and Alex. I heard from Christopher, Jack, Allie, Mike, Rhi, Ziba, and Satan. I had a conversation with Daniel. He gave me an idea for a little project. Another one.

I listened to some music, watched a video or two, and just had a think. I made some soup.

I'm working tomorrow. I might try to listen to the whole of Blackstar. I haven't so far. It's quite heavy.


Jesus Was Mentioned as Casually as Cornichons

A few Sundays ago I sat in The Bowery in Camden Town at a round table with Christopher and Conor and a man named Tom who has the broadest shoulders I've ever seen on a person. He also has tall hair, a penchant for grandpa sweaters and blingy rings, and a way with words that'd captivate you for hours.

Tom's a comedian and he told us a humorous anecdote that seemed totally realistic until Jesus (yes, The Jesus) somehow made an actual appearance, like he was just one of the guys. Tom briefly stepped away after he'd finished and we'd laughed. Christopher, who's known Tom for some time, leaned over to me and whispered "I have no idea if any of that was true."


Overnight Inventory

by Dorothy Parker

Four be the things I am wiser to know: Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.

Four be the things I'd been better without: Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.

Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

Three be the things I shall have till I die: Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

Nothing like an upcoming birthday to get you thinking about what came before, what's happening now, and what's coming next.


In Which I Wander Lost in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

With my backpack on and wheelie suitcase in tow, I got off the coach in Earl's Court and promptly walked in the wrong direction... twice... adding an hour and forty-five minutes to a fifteen minute walk to the hotel. There've never been so many steps on my FitBit.

I headed East and then North along the majour roads, past tiny pubs with tiny dark windows and large modern office buildings with large even darker windows. I walked past people and dogs and bins. 
I'd wander back through the side-streets... lanes and courts and ways... past row after row of white buildings with steep stairs and courtyards so small they seemed to be designed exclusively so estate agents could say there was a courtyard. 

I had a lot of time to think.
I'm still thinking. 

Don't worry.
I found the hotel.