Monday, September 26, 2016

Living in the Dark

Olga and I came across this lonely chair while walking to Gladstone Park on Saturday. In reality, it wasn't as nice as it looks in the picture -- the seat was cracked and flaking. But I saw at least one person sit in it and give it a try. I bet it didn't stay on the sidewalk long.

Yesterday was pretty mellow. I worked my way through two issues of The New Yorker, including an interesting article about a woman whose skin would "burn" when she was exposed to light -- even the tiniest, tiniest amount of light. Sunlight or bulbs, it didn't matter. She lived her life, more or less, in a blackened room listening to audiobooks. Eventually she wrote a book herself, the event that brought her to the pages of The New Yorker. The author of the article seemed to maintain a healthy skepticism about the woman's story, but he left it to the readers to make their own decision.

It reminded me of one of my coworkers, who prefers to work in her office with the lights off, illuminated only by the glow of the computer screen, dim light seeping through two internal windows, and occasionally a small round IKEA lamp. She's never said her skin burns when exposed to light -- I don't think that's her motivation -- but it's interesting that she prefers that environment. I think she just hates fluorescent tubes, which provide most of our overhead light in the library, and I understand that completely.

Anyway, back to yesterday -- I cleaned the house, including the shower, which I am loathe to do under the best of circumstances. Then I took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery, where she got so tired and hot that she plunked down on her belly several times on the walk home. It wasn't particularly hot yesterday, but it was sunny. Sometimes she just wants contact with a cool patch of grass or smooth, shady sidewalk.

Last night we watched a documentary about the peculiar case of J. T. LeRoy, the writer who created a public persona as a teenaged survivor of drug addiction and sexual abuse -- and who wrote two books and made public appearances in that guise -- but then turned out to be a middle-aged woman named Laura Albert. It's a very strange tale. I never bought or read LeRoy's books, but I was dimly aware of "him" while working in New York. Now, though, when I see photos of LeRoy in public, with his blond wig and sunglasses, it seems laughable that anyone ever fell for such a ruse.


  1. I hadn't checked your site for a few days while on vacation. I got back from Paris Saturday night and am now in London for the remainder. Sunday was an assortment of weather. There were times I was hot and times I was cold. But, I'm enjoying to sunshine. I'm off today to check out Temple Church and assorted other places.

  2. Perhaps "Shadows and Light" is also a carefully constructed "ruse". Who knows who this character "Steve" really is? My guess is that he is an egghead professor of psychology in a Russian or Chinese university - playing an intricate and continuing mind game in order to elicit a range of comments that can then be analysed to determine levels of insanity in the western world. Olga was probably created with clever CGI techniques.

  3. A life without light because the skin burns, how tragic. I remember, Hannelore Kohl, wife of our former federal chancellor, suffered from this disease too. Awful!

  4. A woman such as you describe (I need to go back and look for that article) makes me wonder about her emotional state and the phenomenon of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

    And now as a new dog owner, I find I'm studying your blog for instruction on this whole dog thing. Would I have known that the reason my dog kept plopping down mid-walk was due to ennui and heat? Still learning here.

  5. I confess the story of the woman whose skin burns in the light had me making up past life stories to explain why she'd chosen life in a dark room for this one. Go ahead egghead professor in a Russian or Chinese university. Analyse the insanity there. Or maybe she's a vampire! Ok. I'm done.

  6. I just finished listening to a Ruth Rendell novel ("Portobello") and one of the characters in it could not tolerate the light. In his case, it was because in the light he could see someone whom he did not want to see- an ethereal person whom others could not see.
    Not the same.
    But strange, that concept.
    I've lost one of my NY'ers and feel bereft. I have no idea what I did with it. I may have left it in the PO.
    And oh- Yorkshire Pudding- I have met Steve in real life. He is exactly the person he claims to be. Trust me. Unless I, too, am living a role I've created and we are in cahoots, Mr. Mysterioso and I.

  7. These two sound like obsessive compulsives? Books give us many very strange stories. Living in the dark is a super title.

  8. How sad - and I've heard other similar stories. There are definitely diseases out there that involve intolerance to light; that shouldn't be in dispute. They are so rare and so little is understood about them that they are not widely recognized. There are many of what is called orphan illnesses that occur so infrequently that research is not funded to investigate them, but they exist.

  9. The JT Leroy story is as bizarre as the woman whose skin burned from light but who was still able to write a book. Strange.

  10. I know that people can have intolerance for all sorts, including light, so I hope the woman has some sort of support network that can come in to her and the other you mention--was there ever any explanation offered for her ruse as a drug addicted teen? Human and animal behavior is intriguing in all its forms---the shrinks of the world will never be lacking for work.

    Mr. Pud, I too know Steve and he is as real as real can get.

  11. Sharon: Yeah, it was what is often called "unsettled" weather. Like, anything could happen!

    YP: And my conclusion is, the Western World is COMPLETELY insane. Oh, and I love my CGI dog!

    Kaki: Yes, the article talked about Hannelore Kohl and her illness. I didn't remember that story -- tragic!

    Marty: Well, it could be any kind of illness, really, but in Olga's case I knew it was heat! When she's hot her instinct is to put her belly on a cool surface like grass, tile or even a shady sidewalk.

    37P: Vampire seems as logical a diagnosis as any!

    Ms Moon: Interesting concept for a novel! I hope you haven't lost the issue that contains this article because it is worth a read and I'd love to know what you think.

    Red: Yeah, I suspect there are some psychological issues going on there.

    Jenny-O: I don't mean to say I disbelieve the woman entirely. She definitely has SOMETHING going on, whether she has properly pinpointed the problem or not. And yes, there are plenty of legitimate illnesses that we do not know enough about.

    Catalyst: Yeah, it was a day for weird stories! Every time I read or hear about that LeRoy ruse it blows my mind that it went so far.

    E: The woman is married and her husband has supported her through her condition (though he doesn't suffer from it himself). As for Laura Albert and her ruse, she apparently had a troubled childhood and was always imaginative, and somehow her creation of this LeRoy character just sort of took off beyond her control. I mean, his writing was never billed as anything but fiction, so in that sense, at least, she wasn't lying. It only went too far when she enlisted her sister-in-law to make personal appearances and began executing legal and financial documents in his name.

  12. You must live pretty near us if you walk in Gladstone Park. It's just a bit too far away for me to go there to walk of an evening.