Recent Work By Nathaniel Missildine

 

I live in an apartment in Dijon, France that is centrally located between the train station and the original Maille mustard shop where tourists come to sample the sinus-clearing condiments that the town is famous for.Our home is situated off a pleasant side street that remains quiet even during the bustling hours of the week.We have a view out of our third-floor window onto the gothic Saint-Benigne cathedral with the gold, red and green roof tiles traditional to the Burgundy region.

In the foreground of the cathedral, stands a slightly newer stone building.It’s a residence like ours, but one that also houses the offices of a psychotherapist and a dentist, both on the ground floor.Its north side is covered in lush green ivy.

This building was also, once, the headquarters of the Gestapo.

* in a dryer

* on a clothesline

* wringing thoroughly

* with a blowtorch

* tying to car antenna

* laying flat on helicopter landing pads

* with the steady breath of babes

* placing anywhere near the bottom of the ocean

* fitting onto shorn sheep

I recently woke to a blue sky over a place I didn’t want to leave and I should have guessed that from there the rest of the day would take on the kind of proportions it didn’t fully deserve.

San Francisco isn’t supposed to be part of America, but I saw it as heartland visiting again after eight years living away and abroad.If there was anywhere I fit in, on any continent, it had to be this place with the blue sky white at the edges and fierce MUNI drivers and food choices galore and ideas forever coming to fruition and close, brisk ocean.Possibly, I just missed a place where I didn’t have to act like a grownup like I hadn’t for so many years of house parties and second-hand clothes. I’d convinced myself moving back might make my world less complicated. So I went looking for signs urging me to return and, if those didn’t turn up, I needed irrefutable reasons why my young family and I should live out the rest of our days here, within a country that was plummeting further, rising from the ashes or just realizing the dream.Until I confirmed which one applied, I was only on vacation.

Not long ago, the following sentence was entered into the personal literary canon of my household:

“She is m’ennerve because she is toujours trying to cache my doudou.”

It’s an even larger mess and a more resplendent marvel when you hear it.

The line was uttered by my four-year old who wanted to say that her sister is “getting on her nerves because she is still trying to hide her favorite plush toy.” But instead she spoke this one sentence from the two languages she has yet to fully unbraid. I stood over her at the time, ready to respond “Quoi?” before reminding myself to stick with English and leave her mother to the concerns of the tongue with all the accents.

As part of a series of ongoing efforts to better serve our community, a large portion of individual users will be asked to submit returns this year.We refrain from using the word “taxes.”Suffice it to say that if you are reading this, you have the good fortune of being a part of this exciting new initiative!Please take a moment to complete the following.Our sincere hope is that, one day, ours will be the only annual form of its kind you’ll need to file!

1) Were you aware that you would be asked to pay for your 2010 use of Facebook’s services? If no, check all lines below that apply:

You haven’t arrived until you’ve let Andrew McCarthy rack up debt on your Blockbuster card.

So I told myself and people back home at the time, which was long enough ago to relive safely, but not long enough to feel casual about seeing it as a “time.” It was half a year after I’d crossed the country for Los Angeles, the receptacle of my crowded visions of movies as products of an innocent, worldwide imagination.In the case of the employer to whom I’d first hitched my collegiately-decaled wagon I’d settled for tv movies.I’d awarded myself an early E for effort, and for entertainment.

Among household names then were “Blockbuster”, “videocassette” and “the end-of-millennium.”“Andrew McCarthy” was well ahead of them on slowly fading away.He was set to star in a 10 o’ clock network original playing a single father fighting for custody of his adopted child after his wife’s sudden death.I calculated he now owed me thirty dollars.The production company had rented the movies of the woman playing McCarthy’s wife, for his own research purposes.I’d been sent on the task of obtaining the videos and had used petty cash, but my own card still got strapped with the late fees.

1. Technical difficulties.

2. Loss of feeling in fingertips.

3. Moved to laughter and tears, but not necessarily to typing and sending.

4. Commented out loud to myself after reading and considered the message well received.

5. Commented on your Facebook wall, reposted my comment on several blogs and then discussed it with you in person, however I figured this comment section was a private matter.

6. Typed out a comment and then saw it as over-praising and sugary, even for someone who writes about parenting.

7. Typed out a comment and then saw it as contrarian and snarky, even for someone who writes about the French.

I

We will go to the post office.My two girls and I will walk.It is close, so close, in fact, that the old stone building where it’s housed would be visible from our third floor apartment window if not for the still older stone buildings blocking the view.I open the window, thinking what a quick and agreeable walk this will be as the November morning air blows into the room bracing, but the sun over it shines.Maybe winter won’t be as grim-reaper gray as last year.Maybe we can spend one last day in the park.This will be an unfettered, uncomplicated day off.We have no plans.We can simply enjoy what could be, by certain measure, the last day before my daughters need to go back to school, before they start calling friends, before they couldn’t care less, before they leave the house without first checking the temperature or listening to anyone who cares enough to have checked it for them.This day, before all these others, remains open and my call.We need only to go this short distance from our door to the post office to send a medium-sized package.

This should be fun.

 

The waiting room of the Côte D’Or préfecture de police has but one open seat.It’s beside a mustached older man in a knit cap holding a green passport.Around the intimate space of plastic chairs arranged to allow for the minimum amount of leg room, I see other green passports along with various shades of red.Mine appears to be the only blue.  I don’t get the sense that any one member of this colorful international coalition desperately wants to obtain the brown passport emblazoned with the words République française.But this is what has brought us together.

We are not expectant, we’re resigned.Whether we think procuring the right to stay in this country is just a matter of procedure or whether we assume it’s almost pointless to try, we wait for our number to be called.I’ve torn “46” from the machine at the door.I sit down with it and my own renewed doubt about my prospects here today.

A very quick glance through the book releases slated for Fall tells us that this year, perhaps more than any other, the literary novel as a form that we’ve come to know and cuddle up to, has taken a grand leap into the next century. We at The World’s Best Little Bookhouse are pleased to offer a sampling of upcoming titles from first-time authors that move well beyond traditional book forms, call into question the very purpose of reading itself and, in turn, stand poised to capture our wide-open hearts.

* floating

* blindness

* morning naps

* confidently communicating in nonsense

* chewing Lincoln Logs

* building Lincoln Logs

* peeing with pants down around ankles

* concern over no other persons’ well-being but my own

* bedroom

* thumbsucking

* anti-thumbsucking ointment on thumb

* wearing a bullwhip made from leather shoelaces

I was busy feeling unimpressed by Mt. Rushmore when I noticed the people around me. Four busts over a medium-sized ridge stared deadpan into the clouds as a collective image reproduced so often the original was an inevitable and sorry letdown.

The visitors, though, were something to behold. Among well-dressed Germans, Boy Scouts, sweaty fathers setting up the tripod, earnest tourists listening to the Lakota version of the audio tour as an act of solidarity and even a few Minnesotans, I also noticed bikers.

Every other person at Mt. Rushmore, after I started counting, was clad in bandanas, leather and jeans. Of vehicles in the overflow parking garage, a full two levels teemed with Harleys.

There was a one-word explanation: Sturgis.

So you might as well go to Paris.

I mean, why wouldn’t you?The city has been, for some time now, the most visited in all the world.At least, since the Prussian Wars.Or since Disney built a park on its perimeter.Or maybe since France last won the World Cup.Either way – a very long time.

And you might as well rent a car.Preferably a breathtakingly tiny one, like Renault’s Twingo, into which you’ll have difficulty jamming your American suitcase that seemed to be the paragon of light travel back home but in this city has turned you, along with your unfortunate white socks, into what you now recognize as the blundering jackass version of an American you impersonate as a lark to close friends.

But you shoehorn your Samsonite in somehow and you pull your pants over your socks and you carefully intone the words “merci beaucoup” to the guy handing you the Twingo keys, responding in near-perfect English in a sign he’s either trying like you, or rather hoping you will please cease to try.

Start with typical.Stand in front of your kitchen cupboards wondering what you’re going to make for dinner.Something quick and healthy and delicious and still quicker to clean up.Haul out the same pots and pans you just washed from lunch.Get the food into small, yammering mouths through concerted negotiations or last-ditch ultimatums, then remind three times about both the importance of brushing teeth and not unrolling the toilet paper.Then shuffle the little bodies now emitting their last crescendo of energy into bed where you read a book and sing a song and answer correctly a question about what you will do to save everyone if a volcano full of sharks erupts in the middle of the night and then kiss goodnight.The lights-out silence that follows reverberates against the walls with such a contrast to the uproar of the day that you’re left too disoriented to clean the kitchen or speak in complete sentences.Wake up the next morning much earlier than you thought possible and immediately throw together a breakfast and dress everyone and comb hair in a way that must be as painful as a Civil War hospital amputation because of the wails that accompany each stroke, and then speed up to get the shoes and coats on in time to reach the school entrance before the final bell, after realizing you didn’t match the socks with the top and never combed your own hair which might explain some of the looks from the teacher’s assistants at the door.But it doesn’t matter now because you’ve got a day of folding the socks (the ones that do match) into neat piles ahead of you and now it looks like mildew is growing in the shower which you’ll need to be on your knees scrubbing before it’s time to get the littlest one, who has developed a cough in the two hours since you last saw her that you should probably make a doctor’s appointment for just to be on the safe side.Before that though, it’s lunchtime where you’ll be back to the cupboards pondering the exact same question you didn’t have a good answer to yesterday.The only thing you can say, to yourself and your starving children, is “be patient.”

Two wholly different riverbeds in the United States offer an official rock with a slide.

There are possibly more, and there may soon be less.But we would make sure to dip into these, one in North Carolina and one in Arizona, on our tour around the country.Because we’d been away from American natural spectacles and because an open swimming hole with a rock slide wasn’t actually supposed to exist in this new century, belonging to a rosier, bucolic past since replaced by concrete waterparks and videogame fitness.