after some waffling about, i finally went down to macbeath and bought an enormous 111x8.5x3 slab of eastern american ash -- that's 18 board feet of first-grade, flat-sawn ash. there's some art to figuring the best cuts to minimise waste -- after some slow sketchings, i bandsawed it down into two 2.4" and two 1.8" boards with john's help, then crosswise into the approximate lengths for the final timbers. this was more dramatic than it sounds. half the jointing is already complete. at dinnertime, i whip out the box of pad thai from king of thai noodle house. steaming hot, it is maybe the best pad thai i've had in san francisco; it falls short still of the famed pad thai of spice. a few days ago, while reading through darryl's intermittent entries, i noticed that he too had identified spice's pad thai as the best in the country. as if it were not sufficiently remarkable that cambridge, ma has the best of any one thing in the country, providence has seen fit to grant it also toscanini's ice cream. in any case.

paul auster is a new favourite. having tried, many years ago, to read the new york trilogy, last year i picked up the book of illusions and then this year, while in james meader's office at picador, oracle night and the brooklyn follies. the writing seems artless and un-self-conscious (the way rushdie's prose will never seem) and yet it clearly is an art that conceals art. in his own way, very japanese. there is a curious symmetry too about what i've been reading: chatwin about movement, always, and restlessness across vast expanses of space, heavy on the style and affect; kooser about endless depth of detail in a given location, genius loci. it's probably time to trot out hugh of st victor again:
Those who find their homeland sweet are still tender beginners; those to whom every soil is as their native one are already strong; but those who are perfect are the ones to whom the entire world is as a foreign land.
just as the perfected person can be either world traveler or stylite, both kooser and chatwin are writing about the same thing. there's nothing like a stomach bug to bring out symmetries and connections.


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