Sunday, January 7, 2007

Taking the Bait

Kirby Olson at Lutheran Surrealism has "tagged" me with a game suitable for the MySpace/FaceBook generation: I'm supposed to reveal five secrets about myself. Why, I haven't the faintest idea. But since I shan't let it be said that I'm not, at least, a good sport, here goes.

1) When I was a child I was fascinated by the process of metamorphosis, especially tadpoles to frogs. My brain is wired to grasp processes and transformations, and it didn't take me too long to see the similarities between metamorphosis, evolution, and embryonic development. (This was around the age of five or six.) I used to keep jars and tanks of tadpoles every summer. Dozens, maybe even hundreds, over the course of my childhood. With only one exception -- a bullfrog named Capricorn -- every single tadpole I ever had died on my watch. So did a salamander named Brian.

2) For a few months, when I was about 9 or 10, I also had a dog named Seiko. My parents didn't know how to take care of a dog properly, and I didn't, and I didn't have anyone to teach me. Why we even got a dog, I don't know. I guess I must have wanted one. One time, the puppy was chained up in the yard behind our house, and it was barking incessantly. I became furious, and I ran at it and I beat it up. All I remember at the time was that I was full of a terrible rage that I couldn't do anything with. Now I'm filled with shame every time I remember how badly I hurt that puppy. We gave him away a few months later because we didn't know how to housebreak him.

3) Given (1) and (2) above, it's hardly surprising that I became what's known as a "cutter": someone who intentionally mutilates him or herself. This began when I was thirteen or so; I'd dig my nails into my arm until it bled. Later I switched to carving patterns in my left forearm with a swiss-army knife. The cutting started up in earnest the night after my first kiss, in freshman year of college. I didn't know how else to deal with the whirlwind of emotions I was going through. The main thing that makes me different from most cutters is that I've never tried to hide the cuts. I have scars all over the left forearm, and I think that this is why I wear shirts with the sleeves rolled up -- to show off the wounds, as if they were prizes earned in battle. (Note: the last time I hurt myself was in 2001.)

4) I was in Kenya for six weeks in the summer of 1995, and while there I was side-swiped by an irate hippopotamus. The impact broke a bone in my wrist and I had to be sent to a hospital in Nairobi. This technically isn't a secret, since it's known to most of my close friends, but it's not known to the friends I've formed in the past two years, nor to my colleagues in the blogosphere.

5) While in Istanbul several years ago (and isn't it wonderful to begin a sentence like that?), I befriended a keyif-smoking carpet salesman who showed me a little archeological find in his backyard -- literally. He'd found, in his backyard, an entrance to a small buried Byzantine palace. There were three or four rooms, huge beehive shaped structures with a central pillar maybe ten feet in diameter, that he'd rigged up with floorboards and track lighting. He asked the Turkish government to help him excavate, but they refused on the grounds that government funds were only available for archeological excavations that post-dated the Muslim conquest of Constantinople. (Why they changed it, I don't know.)


andy gricevich said...

Carl! Excellent!

I tried to write, but Yahoo "doesn't like" the email address. Got another?

Great to discover that it was that Carl Sachs after all.

more soon,


andy gricevich said...

Oh, yeah: I'm at

Kirby Olson said...

Carl, I think Shaviro might be considered another cutter. He would irritate his cat until the cat would strike at him and leave a mark. His arms used to be covered with scratches. I nearly fainted looking at it.

These made me think hard. Very well written, and fun to read.



Kirby Olson said...

Dogs aren't even vaguely reasonable, I think. When you have children you will have the same response, I think. I sometimes feel crazy anger at them when they make noises. It was the worst when we had the first one. You just have to steel yourself. Even today if you hit a dog you'd go to prison (have you seen this show called Animal Precinct on Animal Planet?). But hitting a child could put you in prison for years.

I have four of them and the noise is deafening. But now that they're getting older I can talk to them and tell them to please quiet down or you'll have to go to your room. It's so wonderful. When I come home now they say, library time! And they start to whisper. I think it's somehow part of the 5 personality to need things to remain fairly quiet.

I've never been in Africa. The closest I got was Portugal. I was afraid to go to Africa.

I've been in Hong Kong.

I've also been all over Europe, and into Russia. But never South America or Africa.

What were you doing there?

Was Istanbul interesting? I've tried to read their Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk but couldn't stand the novel Snow. It was good, but it was just so depressing. People kept killing each other without motives other than Muslim or not-Muslim.

Kirby Olson said...

I never hit any of our children, by the way. Just want to say that. I get crazy over the noise they make.

But what I do is slip into another room and close my ears with my hands.

I used to wear earplugs all day.

do you think it's the noise that set you off with the dogs?

This is also part of the reason I can't live in big cities. I just can't stand the noise. I live on a back street in a village, and even when one car drives by it seems like a terrible amount of noise to me.

Kirby Olson said...

One last comment: could you tell me how to make links? I don't know how to do this, and it seems only polite to link you and others who link to my own blog.

I'm clueless about this.

Tell me via backchannel if you wish.

Maureen said...

Hey Carlos,
The "5 Secrets" Challenge really was circulating on myspace. There's a whole bunch of versions--"In One Word," "Top 5." Anyway...those are some really interesting secrets-no-more. I had never noticed #3. Not at all. I don't know why that is. Why don't you atone for the puppy? Buddhist practices might help. Fasting and/or another rite of purification. That's just a suggestion. I, too, collected tadpoles (rather obessively) as a child. None survived as well. That's what happens when you collect them in jars, but it was never my intention that they'd die. And none of the adults around me were either aware of this fact, or, karmically responsible enough to inform me of that fact. The only reptilian creature that survived in my care was a chameleon named Friendly that I bought at a pet store. It escaped its tank and lived for a long time on our kitchen curtains. For whatever reason, although Friendly thrived living on the curtains, my mother decided that I should return Friendly to the "wild," which meant the wooded area down the street. She insisted I do this, and I did. Surely, Friendly, a native of warmer climates, died there. I feel there is something reflected about our parents' limits in the way they handle their children's pets that's worth thinking about.

Carl Sachs said...

I feel there is something reflected about our parents' limits in the way they handle their children's pets that's worth thinking about.

It may be helpful to start thinking about this in terms of our parents' anxieties about parenting, too.

Kirby and Andy -- backchannel communication on the way!