in which i descend into surrealism

the countdown is on! only 23 days until i am in philadelphia. i was thinking yesterday that it’s a good thing i’m going to be living with amanda for two months. she & jared are pretty much the only people with whom i can imagine spending that much time. when leola (our summer sub-letter) came to see the apartment last week, she curried my favor by exclaiming over charlotte’s adorableness. “it’s going to be so hard to not want to pet her all the time!” she said. it occurred to me later that i should have told her, “she understands your plight & is willing to meet you halfway by scratching the bejeebus out of you if you try. she’s cool that way.”

jared observed last night that charlotte has a weird scabby thing on her chin. behold:

get that camera out of my face, woman, if you value your limbs.

it’s not as bad as it was yesterday, but…what is it? a cut that is healing? cat acne? (that’s a real thing.) i did an internet search for “cat chin cut,” but apparently, no matter the species for which you are seeking internet-based medical advice, it’s always cancer. i learned about a particularly aggressive form of cat jaw cancer i should look out for, as well as the statistical likelihood of cats with white fur developing skin cancer from laying in sunny patches on the floor. so i was convinced for about five minutes that charlotte was going to die of jaw skin cancer while i was frolicking in philadelphia, & i had to contend with the prospect of her mortality & the fact that i will be emotionally wrecked when she dies. that little lady is my best friend!

yesterday i went to the weirdo antique market downtown to look for a large rolling suitcase capable of containing two months’ worth of summer clothing. the antique market here in lawrence is less an actual place to get antiques as it is a place to get the weirdest junk you could possibly imagine. if you need a mounted taxidermy back half of a dog, i can hook you up. ditto on millions of back issues of various porn magazines, tacky coach handbags locked behind glass, an otherwise functional dresser hideously disfigured by red lacquer, sequins, tassels, & “ironic” clippings from the “national enquirer,” porcelain cat figurines with the ears chipped off, filthy old rusted flour tins from 19-dickety-two, spin doctors cassette tapes, & lesbian pulp novels from 1983. it’s a cavalcade of ridiculous junk, but i hoped there would be a large rolling suitcase somewhere in the mix.

instead i found this lovely painting:

girl with cat by leonard foujita

apparently foujita was the most important japanese painter of the twentieth century. the dude was obsessed with cats. his painting studio was full of them & scores of his paintings are of cats, or of girls holding cats, or self-portraits of himself hanging out with cats. he was friends with modigliani, his muse was man ray’s wife kiki, & he was quite the parisian ladies’ man, despite his bowl haircut & harry potter glasses. he married four times. i can’t tell if it’s an actual painting or if it’s a reproduction. i bought it because–hello! there’s a cat in it. i am obsessed with art that has cats in it. when jared & i went to the art institute in chicago, i kind of checked out after a while & only really paid attention to art with cats in it. there was one painting of a bunch of sad sacks huddled in a destroyed temple while a volcano erupts in the backgrounds. i’m sure it was a very old painting by some great master of the craft, but all i cared about was that there was a cat chilling in the temple, avoiding the volcano. that’s when i came up with my idea to open a museum that is nothing but paintings with cats in them. & this foujita dude would be the patron saint of my museum, because the dude loved cats.

i figured i could go home & look the painting up on the internet & find out more about it. but i can’t find it anywhere online! i literally spent about four hours yesterday researching it. i looked at a few hundred of his paintings, drawings, & lithographs & this particular painting is nowhere to be found. i even looked through his entire 560-page catalogue raisonne on googlebooks, which is supposed to collect all the known work he has ever done. nothing! i looked through hundreds of auction listings, photos from his retropsective at the tokyo art museum…this painting just does not seem to exist. i toyed with the possibility that foujita experts don’t know about it. he was apparently quite popular in his own lifetime & sold scores of paintings to private collectors who just kept them. they were never put up for auction or hung in museums, so historians don’t know about them. the painting is on the type of material he used while canvas was being rationed during the war. but i am not entirely convinced that it’s an actual painting. there are places where the layers of pigment look like they had to have been painted, but…maybe it’s just a very good reproduction. foujita was not shy about authorizing reproductions, especially of his cat paintings. but he also used a top secret painting technique that essentially invisibilized his brushwork…i don’t know! & i don’t especially care. i didn’t buy it because i thought it might be worth thousands of dollars. i bought it because it had a cat in it. i only regret that the cat is not a calico.

i just killed a baby brown recluse spider in the bathroom. fuck you, kansas!

on a different note, i have really long hair. i haven’t cut it in about two & a half years. it’s almost to my waist. but i suck at having long hair! in the last few weeks, i’ve gotten milk, honey, peanut butter, masala sauce, yogurt, pasta sauce, & mashed potatoes in my hair. it’s like i’m always saving a snack for later. part of the problem is that our apartment is too small for a kitchen table, so i eat every meal in my lap. going to a restaurant & being able to eat with dignity is always a treat. but part of it that i had short hair for almost fifteen years & i forgot how to live a life with long hair. my dad had long hair the whole time i was growing up, & sometimes he would roll it up in the car window or shut it in doors accidentally. i laughed at the time, but now i feel his pain. i usually wear it up in a bun just to keep it the hell out of my way, but it’s to the point where it’s heavy enough to make my neck stiff. people who manage to have dignified long hair: what’s the secret of your success?

i found this amazing website yesterday: e-mails from an asshole. i am apparently pretty late to the party–the dude has already published a blog-to-book. the gimmick here is that he replies to classified ads, like from carig’s list, & comes up with the most absurd responses he possibly can. the “concealed weapons” post, in which he offered to sell the poster a glock stuffed inside a solo cup, made me laugh until i wept. i also really enjoyed his response to a mom looking for someone to drive her daughter home from soccer practice. he adopted the persona of a mercenary driver ferrying bigwigs around iraq & afghanistan. he offered to take six kittens off someone’s hands in order to feed them to his pet bengal tiger. he tried to rent someone’s wood chipper in order to dispose of another litter of unwanted kittens. he tried to sweeten the deal by offering the guy “a free kitten (unmulched, of course).” this shit is totally exactly my sense of humor–i love things taken to the most absurdist, surreal extreme possible.

for example, i once teased jared in front of one of his friends for wanting to buy a paid of sock suspenders. she asked why he needed sock suspenders, & he explained that sometimes when he’s messengering important legal documents around downtown boston, his socks droop, & that’s when the alligators that live in the sewers emerge & use the drooping socks to seize unsuspecting bike courier off their bikes & devour them. “we lose more good bike messengers that way,” he said sadly. i think his friend wasn’t entirely listening, because she was all, “really? alligators in the sewers of boston? they eat bike messengers?” “oh yeah!,” said, “people buy them as pets, you know, & then flush ’em when they get too big. & then they live in the sewers. well, it really just takes two. & then they breed a family down there.”

similarly, i have concocted my own little fantasy of what jared is going to be doing in new york this summer. the fellowship he has been offered is some kind of hydrology thing, researching various aspects of the rivers in new york state. jared is a resident environmental historian working on the inter-disciplinary project, & will be presenting his research to a geophysics conference in san francisco in december (which means–san franciscans holla! let’s hang out in december). of course, when i hear the word “environmental” & the word “history,” i immediately fall asleep. hydrology is not exactly a big area of interest for me. so i don’t actually have any real idea what jared is going to be doing. to amuse myself, i decided that he is going to be dyeing adult ducks with food coloring & perhaps applying home permanent to their feathers & then releasing them back into the wild to determine whether or not their ducklings still recognize them. when jared tried to explain what he’s actually going to be doing, i cut him off & said, “i prefer my version. don’t ruin my fantasy.”

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

5 thoughts on “in which i descend into surrealism

  1. Uh, those emails are amazing, I can not stop reading all of them! I love the one with the Jurassic Park Ford Explorer. Concealed Weapons for life!!! Holy Crap!

    I have very long hair also, but it is really straight and just sits there, it doesn’t escape artist into substances very often. My main thing is getting mascara in it. I need a trim bad.

  2. I just noticed the Foujita painting. My grandmother scored the exact same one at a yard sale many many years ago. I grew up wondering about it (it was in the kid’s room). My sister and I believe it’s a print and worth a few thousand. We call her “Vera”.

  3. I also have a print of your Foujita girl and cat painting, nicely framed by B & S Creations, a company that reproduced fine works of art. I found your photo while I was trying to find more about mine. I had never heard of the artist, just liked the print!

    1. i had never heard of him either. i just like art with cats in it. i’m not sure who framed mine, but it’s just a frame, no glass. i should probably get a better frame for it.

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