Saturday, October 25, 2014

Show this wicked town something beautiful and new.

I've reached the point where it feels like I do nothing but process things (paper, assignments, grades, words, ideas, references, editing marks, aesthetic philosophies, fears, egos, and dreams of the future, to name a few) for students. I may not actually be a human being myself. David does most of the cooking, I have a cursory relationship to my own children, I do not exercise, and I do not write. I do however watch the morning sky. That is something I do.


More than a week ago, I drove to school a bit late. It was nearly 7:30 and dawn was in full gear. Something about the post-rainstorm atmosphere made the sky a vibrant coral pink in every direction. I have never seen a sky like this before. The whole of the world glowed with this strange liquid light. It was like being inside a shell, the nacre alight with the filtered fire of the sun. When I got to school, swim practice was in full gear, the pool enclosure a glass cube of freakish aqua green within the orangey-pink air.

The next day, I drove 30 minutes earlier, and the sky was totally black. The air felt black, too, but there was the slightest mist in the air that amplified the intensity of artificial lights. The brake lights on cars, traffic lights, the store signs at the small shopping district were all brighter than bright. The early morning bus-stop-waiters, with their bags and headphones and cups of coffee, were thrown into sharp relief against the contrast of blackness and too-bright lights. It could have been midnight in Tokyo for all that.

Every day since, the morning sky has been a bit different. Dawn is a bit later every morning. Every morning there is a different bizarrely brilliant set of Maxfield Parrish clouds and heavens spread out over the gables and rosy bricks of the school. The combination of oranges and purples and greens and pinks is unique each morning and gone before I call my first class to order.

I've always loved clouds, but I've never thought of them the same since reading Annie Dillard's For the Time Being, in which she creates an extended meditative metaphor about the individuality of clouds and the fleeting nature of human life.

Reading: Would you believe I still have not finished the Donna Leon novel started a couple weeks ago? (Yes, inquiring readers, it is the first of hers I have read, and I do enjoy it quite a lot.)

Of course, student writing, some of it so good it makes me cry - tears of hilarity as much as tears of sadness, sometimes just tears of wonder.

And just yesterday, I finished a NYT Magazine article by Virginia Heffernan about the current crop of cookbooks extolling the virtues of family dinner and her complicated feminist mom take on them. I could, and probably already have, written an entire blog post ... magazine article ... book? ... about my own take on this and my own approach to family dinners. I disagree with Heffernan, and many others, that the new return to cooking real food (at least among certain bourgie sets, of which I am, I admit, a member) is some sort of retrograde, erosion of feminist advances, women-back-to-the-kitchen thing. (I am probably overstating her stance.) I will admit,  I am lucky - not lucky, it was by choice - I have the advantage of having a male partner who is an adept partner in the family meal business. Still, the puritanical tone of a lot of mom/family-advice books, complete as Heffernan outlines with conversion narratives, is a bit too far.

Writing: No comment.

Dinner: David (the adept partner in the family meal business) has been doing most of the cooking. I did make a really nice provencal veggie ragout this week (but I totally and completely screwed up the rice. I mean, it was pathetic.) And we collaborated on a beef and pumpkin picadillo.

Soundtrack: I've been listening to the soundtrack to the Neil Patrick Harris rendition of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in the car this week--my soundtrack to the clouds, I guess.

I'm most familiar with the soundtrack from the film version, with Hedwig creator John Cameron Mitchell singing. I also have the glorious local production with Dan Folino in embedded in my mind. The NPH Hedwig is different. His voice is different. His phrasing is different. Different is not a very descriptive word, I know. David pointed out that Mitchell is a trained B'way performer who then learned to sing rock for this show. NPH is an actor who has worked in his later career to become a singer. Mitchell pushes his voice to limits that NPH holds back from. There is something wry about NPH as a result, his Hedwig is vulnerable and raunchy but less raw. Maybe?

Is it contradictory to say sometimes this version is harder? The NPH version of "Sugar Daddy" for example, is more T. Rex than the whimsical countrified David Bowie of the original cut. Is that a distinction that even makes a difference? Here's NPH at the Tony's:



Do you not know Hedwig? If not, you must remedy that. (Here's the movie trailer.) I love this musical so hard. John Cameron Mitchell (book) and Steven Trask (music and lyrics, though I suspect Mitchell had a hand in the lyrics) are brilliantly caustic, wildly ridiculous romantic idealists, with a flair for good glam rock. When I first heard about this show in the run up to the off-broadway opening at the Jane Street Theatre (I've always wanted to live on Jane Stree, but that is a different blog post). I couldn't believe that there was any way a rock musical about someone with a botched sex-change operation could ever be anything but ridiculous camp. But I think this play is one of my 10 favorite works of art in any medium. I don't think I am exaggerating, but Hedwig is given to exaggeration, so maybe she is wearing off on me.

Random thing: One day this week, I saw Marjane Satrapi talk about art and self and curiosity in the morning and Lynda Barry and Dan Chaon read a truly bizarre tale that freaked my students out in the evening. I may not be human right now, but at least there is all this crazy wonderfulness to be had.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Comforters, philosophers, and lifelong mates!

Just a little check in to let you know I still live and there are still pretty objects.

These are my new kicks, purchased today with *last year's* birthday money from my
mama, along with new bras, tights, and undies! I know how to live. Thanks, Ma!

I went last night to see preview night of the chamber-sized production of Les Mis at a certain local theater. I've never seen this show before but I am familiar with the music. I spent a week or two in the summer of 1988 in between living in Atlanta and New York, hanging out at my friend Andrea's apartment listening and sometimes crazily dancing to songs from the cast album, along with my other bestie Brian. It was a funny soundtrack for us to have, not something I would have guessed this trio to gravitate toward. Brian and I were both theater geeks, but not so much musicals. I'm not sure what else I was listening to then. Varieties of punk & new wave, with some Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday thrown in. Andrea had been one of my punk rock mentors, but by this time she was more of a witch than a punk, and I'm not sure what else she was listening to. I feel like we also had the Dead Milkmen in heavy rotation, but that may have been another summer. But the improbability of it all made it all the more completely ours for that very brief time. After that summer, we all went off to the complexities of the rest of life. I didn't see and barely had contact with either of them again for more than 20 years, I think. I love them both so much. It is sweet to be reminded.

Reading: A lot of student writing, and Dressed for Death by Donna Leon, a Commisario Guido Brunetti mystery, given to me by my brother in law around the time he went to Venice a few years ago.

Writing: I've worked on an article in progress about pastured turkey (did you know that when mink attack they bite and suck the blood of their prey?), and I am trying to do the same writing assignments my students are doing.

Soundtrack: Right now? The Current streaming live into my living room all the way from St. Paul, Minnesotta. They're all, like, Nirvana, Black Keys, Hold Steady this evening. But I still have Les Mis tunes in my head, too.

Random thing: Yesterday a student told me the journal I make them keep was one of the most inspiring things she's ever done. That was a shiny moment.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Welcome to Fairyland

The kids and I, along with cousin A, made some improvements to the space behind the cabin in Maine this year.
First, we added signage

Fairies use blueberry juice for ink

Fairy bonfire

Fairy dugout

Fairy Teepee

Fairy pavilion

Fairy townhouse

Townhouse entrance. Also notice circular window.


Fairy modernist pad, with fungi path

Where the fairies dance.

Blueberry

Reading: Bean Trees and David's new script

Writing: No but I saw a very good writer friend, who is also my doppel-g. I love her and miss her and would love to spend hours talking with her about writing and reading and teaching and cooking and walking and being. Instead, we had a whirlwind family traipse through Salem, MA.

Dinner: My doppel-g took us for cocktails and beautiful seafood in Salem. The cocktail was a Ginger: gin and cucumber and ginger beer. To eat, I had the hake marsala.

Soundtrack: Iggy Pop in the cafe where we lunched. Not in person, on the radio.

Random thing: We spent the afternoon in the Peabody Essex Museum, where we saw many wonderful things, including an entire 18th-century Chinese house. My favorite things, though, were the bower bird painting by MJ Mcconnell (there's a Frontline doc about her) and the video of a living room slowly filling with animals by Corinne Schitt, both part of an exhibit called "Beyond Human."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bird Report

A wax wing. (Thank you, Wikimedia)

Last night before Wine Hour I was resting on the couch on the porch and listening to the birds. There was something making a high twittery, churring sound nearby, so high pitched it was almost out of hearing range. A couple of somethings by the sound of it. I couldn't tell if it was coming from the oak tree off to my right or from the tangle of lilacs, apple trees, scrubby bushes and pines over across the drive. I thought maybe it was hummingbirds. The other evening a green hummingbird darted out of the the oak tree and hung in front of the porch inspecting us for 10-20 seconds before making a curlicue dance and darting off towards the lilacs. Finally I got up to investigate and found that the big fluffy orange cat from the big house was also prowling around our yard. I determined the sound was coming from the somewhere in the lilacs and just as my father in law came out of the house and asked me what I was doing, a pair of cedar wax wings leapt up out of the brush and lighted on the top of the tallest pine tree. They posed there prettily for a few moments then flew into the woods.

Yesterday we also came upon a gray catbird perched on the back of a bench at the top of the stairs from the beach. We paused a couple stairs down, our heads level with the bench but far away enough that I guess we blended in with the tall grass and raspberries because the bird didn't seem to notice us at all.

In the late afternoon, one can often spot the local osprey flying out to sea to hunt. Once I saw it returning with a fish.

Other coming sightings are a pair particularly plump robins tugging worms in our yard, oodles of goldfinches, scads of chickadees, and something fast, big, and black and white (a woodpecker of some sort, methinks). On the water there are gulls, of course, including a large all-gray gull that I can't identify, cormorants, flotillas of young loons, and quite a few terns. There is also something that rasps loudly in the woods near the cabin in the morning and something that sings prettily in the woods at dusk. These may be the same thing. I'm guessing maybe it is a mockingbird, although the rasp could be a particularly vociferous squirrel or a very large insect.

Reading: I finally finished reading American Gods yesterday, 2 days after I was hoping to finish it. I read the last 40 pages or so very slowly, reluctant to part with the book. It is an American epic, a hero's journey, complete with tests and battles and a trip to the underworld. I'm not sure what the book says on a larger scale about myth or religion or America, but whatever it said when it was written in the late 90s is different than what it says now ... maybe? It really affected me to see that the author's note, which comes at the end, was written on January 15, 2001. Gaiman launched this book into the world at the beginning of that terrible year. Would he have been able to write the same book after? The climax of the book is the avoidance of a great chaotic bloodbath. What did it feel like to him to see the towers fall after that, to see the wars that followed? The sadness is overwhelming to me. And now, I guess, the are making a miniseries, because that is what we do now. All of prior culture will eventually be turned into a cable tv miniseries. You know, I think someone like Neil Gaiman should write a book about that. Or maybe someone like me.

Now on to The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, which I rereading in preparation for school.

Writing: Made some notes.

Dinner: For wine hour I made a "caponata" of minced up leftover grilled eggplants, patty pan, and butternut, combined with black olives, garlic scapes, fresh basil & oregano, lemon & orange zest and juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of cayenne.

Soundtrack: There is a cricket that sings in the oak tree in the evening.

Random thing: Z got seasick and O had an unfortunate run in with a dog too enthusiastic about its stick. He has a puncture by his thumb. Many people helped to nurse him in his great upset over the wound, but it looks fine. Prognosis is good.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reflection is a Flower of the Mind


You could buy this Estes for $350k. I think it would be
worth the outlay to be able to study it regularly.

We marked the end of our first week on the cove taking David's brother's family down the coast to the big city so they could catch an early flight the next morning. I got all dressed up and wore sparkly shoes. There were proudly gender bending youth holding hands on the sidewalk while an osprey cruised overhead. Outside the place we had dinner, a tattooed, bearded guy in a trucker's hat sipped beer from a can while my niece pet his Dachsund named Zelda.

You can't really see my sparkly shoes, but I am beautiful.

One of the things I really like about my brother in law is that the two things he is most interested in exploring in a new city are food and the art museum. At the PMA we found a special exhibit of paintings by Richard Estes, a photorealist of whom I was vaguely aware. His cityscapes are full of reflective panes of glass and strange angles that allow the viewer to see inside and outside buildings and beyond the frame of the paintings. And he uses random juxtapositions of signs and advertising and other word-bearing objects to make subtly ironic jokes ... or perhaps my apeish insistence on pattern recognition makes me find these jokes on my own. I found his images vertiginous in a way that a mere photograph never could be, and I will be thinking of his paintings for a long time. Also at PMA was a sculpture called "Raising Cairn" by Celeste Roberge that was so uncannily upsetting to me that I fled nearly in tears the window that made it visible to me.

Reading:  I am determined to finish American Gods today. 150 pages to go.

Writing: Thinking ... Talking to David about his writing ...

Dinner: We ate at a place off Longfellow Square. The food was very good, the service was middling, the wine list was great, and the cocktails were hit and miss (very good Corpse Reviver, middling Caiprinhas). The highlight of the meal was the warm goat cheese salad, which was, I think, the very best salad I have ever eaten. The paella with local shellfish and house-made chorizo was also notable.

Soundtrack: My young niece really liked the Everything But The Girl compilation that was playing when we drove to the salt pond near New Harbor on Friday. Twenty years ago at this time of year, David and I were falling in love to Amplified Heart.

Random thing: On the rocks, my favorite rocks, one of my favorite places in the world, today, I saw the two smallest spiders I have ever seen. The first had a shiny spherical black body the size of a poppy seed and tiny, barely visible bright red legs. The second was shaggy and gray and the size of half a short grain of rice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You'll Always Know Your Pal

Roller coaster recovery time.

Yesterday we arrived in Maine. One of the things I like most about traveling is the opportunity for unexpected moments with random strangers. This can happen at home of course, but the odds are better on the road.

Somewhere between Erie and Buffalo we stopped for coffee and car snacks. I stood at a bank of coffee pots along the side of the raised box where the cashiers stand and poured myself some "bold" roast coffee, but I couldn't see anything to put in it. David had already gotten his so I called back over my shoulder, "Where's the cream?" He was involved in some important junk food negotiation with the kids and didn't answer right away. "David, where's the cream?" I asked again.

The woman behind the counter gave me an odd look and said, "It's behind you." A second later David chimed in and said, "It's over here."

I shrugged at the woman and apologized. "I was trying to ask him," I explained. "I wasn't trying to bark questions at you."

She said, "I thought you said 'baby,' like 'Baby, where's the cream?'"

"I wouldn't have called you 'baby,'" I said. "I was calling him."

She said, "Well, I thought maybe you were just being nice. I could've said, 'It's behind you, darlin.'" Then she thought a second and asked, "Is he Baby?"

"No, his name is David. I said, 'David.'"

She shrugged and said, "Well, my brother-in-law's name is David, so I guess that makes sense too."

"OK," I said, failing to understand how that made sense, and turned to the cream.

A few minutes later, junk food negotiations complete for the time being, I gathered the cookies and chips and coffees and headed to the cash register.

"I'm ready now, baby," I said.

The cashier smirked and said, "OK, sweetheart," then lowered her voice to a conspiratorial stage whisper. "People're going to think we're nuts," she said and nodded toward David, perusing the Pringles display. "Especially him."

"He's pretty easy going," I said. "We don't have anything to worry about."

She gave me my change. "You take care then, Babe. Bye-bye."

Reading: Continuing with Gaiman's American Gods, which is nicely apt for me right now. I want to type out the passage I marked about choosing roadside attractions over shopping malls, but I am too lazy to go upstairs and get my book.

And in the car David read to me from a recent Janet Malcolm essay from the NYer about the Argosy bookstore. I love bookstores and the day to day work of them. I had an alternate life path in which I was offered the position as head of the used book department at an independent bookseller in Manhattan. I was not really qualified to take this position, but I had worked at the store, in new books, for quite a while, and who knows, perhaps I would have learned the trade. I moved to Cleveland instead, because I was in love with a Clevelander and tired of being poor and overcrowded in New York, and I wanted to grow green things and have solitude. Cleveland and that Clevelander have been good to me, and I have good relationships with Cleveland booksellers, some of whom I have worked for. I wonder sometimes, though, about that other life.

Writing: No. I've decided to take a reading vacation and not make a writing schedule. I had a really great, very helpful conversation with my friend Charlie before we left town, and I was able to clarify some important aspects of what I've been working on this summer. One of the things I clarified was how starved I am for extended reading time.

Dinner: The most wonderful meal on the road was at the unexpectedly good Chowder House in Utica/New York Mills, NY. Every single thing we ordered was fresh and deftly prepared from the crostini with marinated mozzarella to the absolutely dreamy beer battered haddock. Z's penne with pesto and veggies was a tad bit too oily, but it was beautiful and delicious. And the chowder was quite good, too.

Soundtrack: The whole time we drove beside the Erie Canal, I kept singing "16 Tons" to myself, because I conflate that song with the song "Erie Canal." They are not the same song, but for those keeping score at home the title of today's post is from the latter.

I've decided Rainy Days in Agawam is the name of my next album. David thinks this sounds like it will be a faux Joni Mitchell kind of thing, but I am really thinking something more of a deep, moody electronica deal.

Random thing: We feared a rainy day in Agawam because we were driving through thunderstorms on our way to a full day at the amusement park housed there. We arrived just when the storms broke and left 7 hours later when the lightning started again. In between, Z&O dared many rides.

For the white water rafting we rode in a big round floating car with three other people, including a teenager who'd been separated from his pack because they had one too many riders for their car. I felt bad for this young black guy suddenly faced with a thrill ride with some strange white family. He'd been exuberant and silly with his friends, but he looked down and avoided eye contact with us as we fastened our seat belts. "They totally threw you overboard," I said. He looked up and smiled. "Yeah, who needs them?" he said, and we proceeded to have a perfectly fun time. He and Orson both vocally called for the water to douse them, but I ended up the wettest of us all.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miscellany, with mink

American mink - I saw one in the wild at Shaker Lakes last week!

I'm plagued with the sense that the summer is passing me by, which morphs into one big existential cliche that bores me too much to elaborate. Regular readers will notice that I have not been blogging at all, which could contribute to this syndrome -- not catching the quick silvery moments, and so on. This is not for lack of thinking about what I would write if I were writing here, but thinking is not writing. Rather than reconstruct weeks worth of observations and interesting bits, let me tell you about the nowish things, a few of them.

I dropped Z at a friend's house this morning and stopped for a bit to chat in the kitchen, which always amazes me with its beautiful, oddball Americana decor, complete with vintage signs and green milk glass (maybe jadeite?) tea cups. Today I noticed a collection of vintage orange juicers, each with its own unique juice glass underneath. I love this. I will try to divert myself from the wish that I could maintain a house like that by expressing my delight that someone else does.

Yesterday, I went to a wedding reception in my third barn of the season. (Barn #2 was also this weekend, at girls camp.) The weather was perfect. I wore a strappy sundress to soak up the balmy evening breezes and to show off the effects on my shoulders and biceps of my almost daily workouts since school let out. (Not Michelle O. arms yet, but I'm feeling good about them.) I found myself wishing for more opportunities for people to have grand parties besides weddings and bar mitzvahs. Like, let's just have events! Everywhere! With food! And wine! And dress-ups!

Over the weekend, Z and I walked through the dark woods with the other girls camp-ers to howl at the cloudy sky, glowing white from the moon concealed somewhere within. In the woods and over the meadow the fireflies looked enormous, their lights like glowing, fat bumblebees. Z held my hand the whole time, and we helped each other cross the muddy bits. She held my hand lightly and firmly the whole time, my 11-year-old girl.

Reading: The time has come to ask yourself why I never allow myself to realize my fantasy of holing up at a hotel with a pile of books.

The book of the moment is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I have a weird relationship with this book, on which more later.

Writing: Not really since I read at the pie event a week ago. Why not? I can't say. See paragraph 1, but don't get stuck there.

Dinner: At my suggestion, David made a skillet full of broccoli and leftover baked potato with onions and garlic and cheese, and big bowl of kale chips. And it was good.

This weekend, in the not shiny department, it seems as though Z had an allergic reaction to soy. Investigations are afoot.

Soundtrack: David Bowie, Sidney Bechet, and Sinead O'Connor - oh, and Weird Al's "Word Crimes." Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Random thing: In addition to a mink, I have recently seen a bunny small enough to fit in my hand, a hunting heron that ate something I could hear crunching 30 feet away, a bat, a suspected owl in flight, an irritated hawk over the rec center parking lot pursued by a much smaller bird, several goslings, and I forget what else.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wandering in the Chiricahuas

I've been thinking about this place, the Chiricahua Mountains, a lot lately.
Maybe someday you will get to read what I have to say about it.

I've been trying to spend writing time out of the house.

Wednesday I made my office in a local coffee house. At the gas station across the street, a woman in an old fashioned cinch-waisted black and white dress and pumps cleaned her windshield. The guy who runs the gas station came over and took over from her, so she stood back by the driver's door and talked to him while he washed the glass with big arching strokes. I could tell he was following the edge of the arc of the wiper blades, getting that line that forms and making sure the whole pane was uniformly clean. Every few passes over the window, he would pause to wipe the squeegee off on his pants in big, loose-limbed motions.

Thursday I sat in the atrium at the art museum. I was amused to see a woman in yoga clothes clutching an ill-rolled yoga mat on her way into the current Yoga: The Art of Transformation exhibit.

Reading: Read a review article called "Ghosts in the Stacks" by Christine Smallwood from a recentish New Yorker. It's all about books that document odd feats of reading (the whole OED, the Harvard Classics, or the case of the book most discussed - The Shelf: from LEQ to LES - one particular shelf of novels in one particular library). I am always attracted to these books, but I don't read them because I have so many other books I want to read that reading about someone reading seems like a poor use of my limited reading time (so instead I read about someone reading about people reading, yeah).

Smallwood identifies the underlying emotion of these kind of reading stunts as Fear of Missing Out - the anxiety that there is some book, some writer, some experience, some access to knowledge that one is missing.

I have not decided if I agree with her, but I share the desire to read in this manner. I fantasize about holing up in a hotel room with a stack of books -- maybe all Nobel Prize winners, maybe all books published in the last year, maybe (as Smallwood suggests might be useful and as one other reading-writer, Susan Hill, did in a book called Howard's End is on the Landing) it would simply be a big stack of books that I own but have never read. For instance, the big historical novel about early 20th Century Russia that I bought at an Atlanta Public Library book sale when I was 17 and have carted around with me ever since. Or the book about the social history of table manners that sits in that weird not-cookbook food books section of my shelves.

Writing: Yes, and I am fighting the sense that every sentence is a road to nowhere, which if you know anything about my project is kind of ironic. I have humor even if I don't have faith. ::sigh::

Dinner: I don't think I ate dinner last night ... wine with M, cheese on the way to baseball, some almonds at the game, then gin with P ... oops.

Soundtrack: I've decided I need to listen to the Black Keys. I don't know why this right now, and I realize this is not a choice of earth shattering originality, but there you have it.

Random thing: How, oh how, and why and whyfor could I have managed to miss the recent Van Gogh exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art?! Van Gogh is my favorite painter. I cry at Van Gogh. I am connected to the divine through Van Gogh. This exhibit was in town for three whole months. What the hell kind of way to treat myself is that? There is something messed up about this. File this under #notshiny.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jocund day stands tiptoe


This is in France. I am not in France. But this is what I mean when I say
that I felt as though I was floating inside a Monet. If I had let go of the
Earth while gazing into this morning's sky, I would have ended up here.
(The image is 
The Cliff, √Čtretat, Sunset, held by the North Caroline Museum
 of Art,which is pleasantly ironic seeing as how I am *in* North Carolina.)
OK, this caption has gone on long enough. 

I'm trying not to lament that I have finally gotten my groove now that it is nearly time to leave the beach. I spent the first several nights here up late, mostly to spend time with my sister, who is a night person, including the night Z and I both stayed up so my sister could bleach streaks into Z's hair. These are vacation things. These are good. But I not a night person any more. The morning holds much more mystery and allure for me. Waking late, often second only to my sister, has been disorienting and slightly dissatisfying to me. Yesterday I managed to be up at dawn. This morning even slightly earlier. I am at peace.

Being up that early meant I got to do a little yoga and hold my baby nephew and chat with my mom, all before watching the rise of the hot pink orb of the sun and the multicolored lightening of the sky behind the layers and layers of  clouds until it felt for a moment as though I was floating inside a Monet painting. After the sky resolved itself into grey and the ocean into an expanse of mottled dull green, I took a long walk on the beach (for the first time this week). When I got back the children weren't even up yet.

Reading: Without a hint of irony, I am spending my vacation reading a book called Overwhelmed, about harried, fractured, too busy lives and the problem of "time deficit." I'm reading this over time with a group. They discussed the section on Work in my absence last weekend. I am just now starting that section, and without hurry making my way towards the Love section that we will discuss in a couple weeks.

Writing: I've gotten remarkably little writing done this week. That is OK. As with the reading, I am embracing my vacationing status.

Dinner: Last night we ate out. I had Campari and soda with a twist of orange before, then she-crab soup and chicken paillard with a glass of vinho verde.

Soundtrack: The local oldies station plays stuff from the early 80s. The oldies music channel on the TV plays everything from Smokey Robinson to Conway Twitty.

Random thing: Sitting and watching the sky this morning, I also got to see one of the lovely, sleek, yellow-eyed beach grackles drinking from a puddle on the roof of the fishing shop next door. He stood perfectly mirrored by his reflection, beak touching beak as he leaned down to drink, both images fanning their tails and arching their necks to call cha-cha-cha-chirrup into the sun.

Final note: Today's title is from Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 5

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My heroine

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!*

It was the afternoon of the second full day on Topsail. We had had plenty of beach time, plenty of World Cup viewing, plenty of deck sitting, reading, idle shopping, late night conversations and so on. I was boogie boarding in the surf with Z&O and David. The tide was almost high. The waves were getting bigger.

It went in cycles: several big, gentle surges, followed by a couple small breaks, and then the ocean would pull back and back building up energy for a series of three or four tall curls. We would race each other to catch the wave, usually hitting it too early, lifted by the surge but left behind as the racing edge swept ahead. Every once in a while timing it just right, balancing just on the crest, born aloft by foam, speeding towards the beach. "Did you see how far I got?!" we would yell at each other.

And sometimes trying to grab it too late, watching, watching as the wave reared up and the lip started to curl over, jumping to grab it, but caught underneath, tangled up in the noise and the bubbles, water up the nose, water over the head, trusting that gravity would take hold sooner than later, gripping the board until we found ourselves standing shin deep and ready for the next one.

I kept my eye on the kids, decent swimmers both, smiled at David as he called out his concern that his glasses strap could simply be pulled over his head by a wave at the right angle, and rode up the face of a couple surges slapping down on the far side of the crest and testing my body for fatigue. We were all having so much fun. I didn't want to quit, I didn't want to make anyone else quit, but when is it too much?

A wall of water gathered ten feet away. It was going to be a really good one. I'd ride just this one more, and then maybe call it quits, but this one was going to be good. I turned to towards the beach and kicked to get ahead of it. It lifted me. I was almost flying. But then the real crest smacked me on the back of the head and grabbed my own glasses strap, the one holding my old lady, over-the-glasses sunglasses tight(ish) against my face, and theoretically holding my real glasses against my face along with them. I could feel the strap slip up over my hair. I let go of the board and clawed at my face, catching plastic and neoprene and holding it as tightly as I could while the board yanked at the tether on my wrist. Finally the wave subsided, and in my hands I clutched black shades and a black strap. My tortoise shell real glasses, the ones with the preposterously expensive takes-a-week-to-be-made-because-I-have-horrible-blinding-astigmatism progressive lenses, were no where in my woefully limited sight.

This same beach had claimed my beloved prescription sunglasses 2 years ago, hence the old lady over shades, and here I stood like a complete idiot grasping worthless plastic. I shrieked and gesticulated.

David paddled over. Z paddled over. O went to get is goggles so he could peer into the water. My sister came from her blanket in the sun.

We combed a 20x20 section of water, from sand to break line. Squinting at the shells rolling at the edge of the surf, feeling with our toes. I tried to hope, but really, this water was roiling, waves and under tow moving all the time. There was no telling where one small object would be or even what direction the water would move it. In to the land? Out to the deep? Down shore? Back and forth in some limbo of sub surface dynamics?

I don't know how long we looked. I tried to be calm, but the growing awareness of how completely fucked I was was hard to fight. I am functionally blind without my glasses. Maybe I would be able to read with a book two inches from my nose, but all other vacation activities were about to coming to a complete halt, and I would have to sit helpless in the passenger seat the whole long drive home. I need my glasses as much as I need my right foot, more really. As much as I need my thumbs. And did I pack my old, out of focus pair as back-up? I did not. I stand here, dripping and crying at the edge of the Atlantic and admit to you that I am a complete boob.

At one point, when I started sobbing, David splashed over and embraced me. "Can we get Sarah to overnight something from home?' he asked.

We moved bedrooms last fall. I don't even know where I put my back up glasses. I would guess I had been smart enough to put the somewhere on or in my dresser. Right? I am a smart ape? Right? Who knows? I kept sobbing. "I don't know," I cried. "I don't know. And it will take a week to make new ones. And they are so expensive. I don't know."

"I need to keep looking," he said.

I gasped a deep breath and nodded. I kept looking too. I kept looking past the point of having any hope of finding anything and thought more than once that I should tell the others to stop too. "This is stupid!" I yelled into the wind.

This went on for how long? 10 minutes? 20 minutes? I have no realistic idea.

Then Z stood upright and raised her hand in the air. She yelled for David, giving him an imploring look, unsure if she should proclaim victory. "Are these the right ones?"

My 11-year-old girl found my glasses with her preposterous prehensile toes and saved them from the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.

The four of us embraced. "Thank you! Thank you!" I repeated, sobbing and laughing. "Thank you."

Vacation was not ruined.

All the adrenalin in my system made me shaky and nauseated. O put his arm around me and leaned his cheek against my arm. "I think you need to go inside and sit down," he said.

I will stay out of the big waves for the rest of the week.

*from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by S.T. Coleridge

Monday, April 28, 2014

Future Sightings

Mr. Noodles, the gorilla in question (actually, I think he's
a chimpanzee, but I'm not in charge of him.)

There's nothing like an afternoon in the sunshine watching your daughter play soccer with her stuffed gorilla on the sidelines dressed up as the team mascot in a spare uniform to make you know it is really spring, even if the wind is cold enough that your hands ache for an hour afterwards.

Reading: Chapters for writers group. I'm happy to say it was the first time in a while that reading someone else's pages has made me eager to get back to mine.

Writing: Nope.

Dinner: At writer's group, cheese and salami and Lebanese green beans. When I got home, the salad and corn and part of a corn dog that was waiting for me. I probably could have made do with only one of these, but they were both so lovingly prepared.

Soundtrack: In the kitchen, dancing with Z's arms wrapped around me, her cheek pressed into my back between my shoulder blades, to "CC Rider" by Old Crow Medicine Show. She swayed with me and held me tight and we danced for far longer than if it were just a casual hug then parted wordlessly. And not 15 minutes later O and I embraced and shuffled to "Future Sightings" by I Am The World Trade Center.

Random thing: I write about birds a lot here, I've noticed. Something streamlined and fierce looking with sharply folding wings and a chittery cry lives near the train tracks behind the soccer field we were on today. About the size of mourning dove, but not soft or plump like that. If art deco designers made birds, this is the bird they would make.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A new place to dwell

The Floating Dolls (a Polish Folktale)
You should make plans to come see my play. (/selfpromotion)

For the first time in a long time, I am actively part of putting on a play, a play I wrote, and it is very, very gratifying. There's other stuff I've written in the past whatever length of time that I've handed over and not been a big part of putting on stage, and that's fine too, but I'm reconnecting to why I loved theater in the first place. The collaborative building of art is a grand thing, and Talespinner does it particularly well. Rehearsals kick off with presentations by all the creative and acting company members on their take, whatever it may be, of the script. So much great stuff flying around, and as the writer it is so satisfying to hear people really getting what I was doing when I wrote it. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Reading: I got a book of Japanese children's stories illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki to show at presentations. When I was writing the script, I went looking for these illustrations. They were in my mind somewhere and when I found them online I was pleased to discover they actually existed. It was only when picking up the physical copy of the book at Loganberry yesterday that I remembered that this book had been in the playroom at my grandparents' house when I was little.

Writing: No, but rehearsal counts. And now I know better some of the scripting that still needs done.

Dinner: Pizza with the kids who are back from spring break Wolfkamp, catching up on Agents of Shield. One with wide ("sandwich") pepperoni, kalamata olives, and mushrooms. One with mushrooms, mild pepper rings, and green onions.

Soundtrack: Because I have been away from here for a while I have missed the opportunity to write about my recent obsession with the album Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones. But after a recent road trip to deposit the kids in the fairy wonderland of Southeastern Ohio that disk got tucked away somewhere so it' out of rotation for the moment.

Yesterday, driving home from the theater I grabbed a CD case at random and wound up with Elvis Presley's first album. This is a late 90s re-release so it starts with "Heartbreak Hotel," which is not how the actual album started (the read first song was "Blue Suede Shoes"). But never mind that.

When I was pregnant with Calvin, I would drive to school every morning singing Elvis songs to him, and this was one of the ones I sang the most. I've known this song for as long as I can remember, but that was the first time I made a study of it, really imitating the breath (young Elvis was killer at the exquisite hitched breath) and changes in dynamics. I'm not really a singer, but in the car with my unborn child, I was Elvis's greatest interpreter. I have a distinct memory of singing this song at the top of my voice early on a grey January morning in 2001, rounding the curve by the parking lot on Kenilworth -- "Well, though it's always crowded, you still can find some room where broken hearted lovers can cry away their gloom" -- on my way to grad classes, my belly full of the future. It was a moment when I was truly complete and happy and knew that I was. Between songs I would explain to the life growing in me how important it was to appreciate Elvis and give it other tips on being human.

When Calvin was stillborn this was one of the greatest sources of pain to me. I couldn't listen to Elvis for a long time (Elvis and Wilco's Mermaid Avenue album were both hard). It took me back to that moment too intensely. It made the loss, not just of Calvin, but of the entire version of my life that he was a part of, too stark. I've come back to Elvis since then, and when I drive that stretch of Kenilworth I think of that moment fondly, but yesterday in the car was the first time in more than 13 years that I have sung it like that, full out with the joy of finding myself in sync with that crazy genius voice, feeling completely at home in myself. Writing this makes me cry. I hadn't realized that was a wound I still carry.

Random thing: We have a young male cardinal who has claimed our back yard this spring. The narrative I tell myself is that is the offspring of the cardinal couple that made a home at our fence line for several years running (or so I have imagined). Whoever he is he's very full of himself and sings with incredible verve and volume. I think I will name him Elvis.

Monday, March 24, 2014

This must be the place



When I got home from jury duty, I took an evening constitutional. It's part of my new "move your body every day" campaign and a celebration of the bright sunshine.

It's been a long winter. I haven't been out in my neighborhood much in many months. I love my neighborhood. I love the houses. I love the flower beds - the kempt and the unkempt - which are just now beginning to intimate greenness and growth. I love the big, tall maple trees. I love that these are the streets on which my children have learned to ride bikes.

More than any place else in my life, this neighborhood is home. And most of all I love the people here. Old people, young people, artists, working class folks, young doctors, retirees, pinko lawyers. Families with young children, people who have spent their whole lives here. Straight people, gay people. All colors and religions. Even a Republican. Some of us know each other well-ish. Many keep more to themselves. Both are good. This is a truly diverse place. And in my utopian soul this is what I think the world should look like.

True, this neighborhood has seen better days. We have too many empty houses, fewer now I think than at the depths of mortgage crises, but maybe I've just gotten used to them. We have fewer of the big old maple trees. Our houses are a little more worn. But this evening, in the sunshine, with the birds singing, and girls on roller skates, it seemed just fine.

Fine, but like anything else alive, it felt fragile. I hold this place and hope we can make it last.

Reading: Unmentionable Cuisine by Calvin W. Schwabe, a sort of encyclopedia of weird foods, firrst published in 1979. I've owned this for ages, but have only barely opened it before. The blurbs on the back from Craig Claiborne, James Beard, and MFK Fisher all declare this to be an important and fascinating volume. Some blurbs. Tonight I just got a page into the preface.

Writing: I'd hoped to have more time in the jury assembly area than I finally did.

Dinner: Cheese tortellini in chicken broth with parmesan cheese and gremolata, and a green salad.

Soundtrack: Well, Talking Heads (see blog post title) was in my head on my walk.

Random thing: One of the things I like about jury duty is that it takes me downtown. I like there was someone clever enough to call their sneaker and cell phone store Walk-n-Talk. Aaron Sorkin should be proud.

A Good Lie-In

In a college drawing class I had to draw all the wrinkles and creases in a pillow
without lifting my hand and without looking at the page. 

Like "scheme" in the sense of plan or system, and ordering drinks "for the interval," the term "lie-in" is a great Britishism I think Americans should adopt. Sure, we all sleep in on weekends, at least the adolescents among us, but we don't have a term for it. "Sleeping in" is an action. A "lie-in" is an event.

So, we had one this morning, a lie-in, and a good one at that. A long lazy morning for everyone in the house. O eventually woke and came in to cozy up in our bed. Z slept and slept and then spent some quite alone time in her room. The cats even got frustrated with us we were all so lazy. David eventually got up to make breakfast, O and I stayed in bed to read and write. Z watched a tv show. It was just as it should be.

Reading: A friend's poetry manuscript, to give feedback.

Writing: Yes, but very slowly and with frustration.

Dinner: I sauteed some bok choy with lots of garlic. I ate it before writers group with some leftover spaghetti. Everyone else ate it later with hot dogs.

Soundtrack: Psychedelic Furs. Psychedelic Furs. Psychedelic Furs. I caught "Flowers" on some college radio show sometime during the day and it was like I was hearing for the first time.

Random thing: In the car on the way to soccer, O and I had a great time listening to Splendid Table. He was totally fascinated by the story about white tea. We had to get out of the car just when Lynne started talking about making fondue. O suggested that sometime I "sit down on the couch with a notebook and take lots of notes while this show is on, and then we can have fondue."

Also, at writers group I was made love to by a very handsome cat.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A World with Pyramids

The Wind Rises
Also went to see Miyazki's The Wind Rises. I always appreciate the way he observes plants.
 I was looking for a tighter still of wildflowers, which he does particularly well - in
Wind there
 is even a careful study of plaintain weeds - but this will suffice for now.


It's been a busy few days here in Magpieland. I keep trying to write a post that sums it all up, and I keep hating it. Let's try this:

Thursday was the thirteenth birthday of the son we never had. Calvin would be a teenager now. We always go to the cemetery. This year we took 13 orange daisies, a blue pinwheel, a Lego cop, and a small bag of Doritos.

I was really happy on Friday night to see Ali Garrigan sing the Jesus out of songs she had cowritten with Dennis Yurich in Titus.

On Saturday, partly to prove to a friend that our family has "narrative to spare," we went with her and her son to see the family shorts program at the film festival then stayed an got in on standby to the totally delightful Uruguayan film Anina, based on a book called Anina Yatay Salas, which I hope will someday be available in English.

I finally stopped into the new(ish) Guide to Kulchur book/zine/typewriter repair/poetry happening shop on W 65th. Got a GtK quarterly and a book of essays by Jeannette Winterson.

I went to a poetry reading by friends Catherine and Lee, and Eric, a person who knows so many people I know it is weird that we don't really know each other, and I was surprised and delighted by the proceedings. They traded off readings in the round, which made for interesting associations and a lot of humor. My companion remarked that it made her want to write. Eric Anderson read a poem called "The League" that knocked me over. I bought his book so I could keep thinking about it.

In general, I am wanting to support other people's art. (I also made small contributions to some IndieGoGo campaigns.) Sometimes I feel darkly that we are glutted with people's solipsistic scribblings and everyone should just shut up and do something that actually matters. Right now I am feeling thankful that there are so many people who care about art and want to make things. More art, less of all that other stuff. Until it bankrupts me. It's the "world with pyramids model" (see The Wind Rises for the reference).

Reading: There is a recent NYer profile of micrfiction writer Lydia Davis that is making me think a lot about what makes metaphor work.

Writing: Yes. Sent a piece of the script to writer's group. I need to figure out the last third. That is the really tough part.

Dinner: Most recently, all four of us at Tommy's, milkshakes forbidden due to excess candy earlier in the day. O became obsessed with folding paper hats with the coloring sheets and the napkins and made them for all the many condiment bottles.

Soundtrack: On my way to pick up Anna to go hear the poetry, tuned in randomly to WJCU and got an earful of The Wombats on the Assisted by Argyle show (I love that title).

Random thing: Waiting with Z for her school bus on Friday morning, I think I saw an American Kestrel gliding over the neighborhood from tall tree to tall tree.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The outer edges of my brain

David reminded me, "It's a reflection, not an essay," but this blog is really a random assemblage of links that give something of a map of the outer edges of my brain yesterday. The inner parts of my brain were actually assembling and creating story stuff, which was then alternately ignored and inspected by my editor:

"Your work bores me."                           "What is this supposed to mean?"  


March 20 is a big day in our house. It is Calvin's Day, when we celebrate the presence in absence of our son. I did not know that the UN had also declared it an International Day of Happiness until I was standing in line at the store with a cart full of food and flowers for our March 20 feast and trip to the cemetery and spied it on the cover of a magazine.

Apparently United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.” So it feels painfully ironic that also this week, a new report from a large mainstream scientific society is out trying to get people to pay attention to climate change and the closing of the window of opportunity to do anything to slow it.

To bridge this, I offer you a page of rueful haiku from the largest English-language Japanese news site. This is a bi-monthly feature on the site, which I kind of love. The page I'm sharing is actually from two years ago, and it features this poem that is my new touchstone for the script I am working on (odd perhaps, because it is a children's play, but it is what speaks to me):

Each old doll
carries the story
of her birth
--Hidehito Yasui (Osaka) in the Asahi Haikuist Network, March 1, 2012

Reading: A grad school compatriot with a forthcoming book wrote this post on the myth of the writer as eccentric fuck up.

Writing: Despite all the interwebz trawling, yes!

Dinner: Red lentil dal over basmati rice, from this recipe from Nicholas Day's Dinner vs. Child column, in which he resolves to feed his children too much dal in 2014. I think I am joining in him this resolution.

Another food thing I found was this photo essay about Japanese school lunches. I also resolve to feed my children too much Japanese food this year.

Soundtrack: My house was very silent, but I noticed out of date listings (in the recent New Yorker that David and I are battling to control) for two writers & music events I wish I'd been able to go to. Julian Barnes did a thing with pianist Angela Hewitt at (Le) Poisson Rouge. This blog gives part of the set list. And in Brooklyn at the Greenlight Bookstore the next day, my writing/music crush Wesley Stace did a thing with my grownup music/kids music crush Dan Zanes to sell Stace's new book Wonderkid. 


wish balls
from "Wish Balls"
Random thing: I accidentally came across the website of this artist, Seiko Atsuta Purdue, who has a whole series of works (an "art inquiry") in cloth and paper about "wish tying" - collecting wishes, giving them form, releasing them into the world. I find it very compelling and beautiful. She says this about the beginning of this project:
The most impressive experience I had while collecting wishes was when I set up a sign, paper and pens during the winter along a fence on the Chicago lakefront and left them for a couple days. It was a snowy time in Chicago and I could not walk around to collect wishes. When I went back to the site I saw many paper ties all over the fence. All the paper I prepared was used up and some chocolate wrappers and Dunkin Donuts napkins were tied on to the fence. These had wishes on them too. I have never forgotten how I was shocked to see that response from people whom I didn’t know. I was very encouraged and simultaneously I felt a strange power that kept me from taking down all of them. I left half of them until they were gone. I have thought a lot about what I can do with these wishes after collecting them. I am not a God and I can’t make all those wishes come true. But, as an artist I can create art by honoring their wishes.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I'm me but not me.

As Wilde would say, "One should always have something sensational to read ..."

I'm on spring break, doing all things valorous. You know, like blogging.

We moved bedrooms last fall. I am still unpacking my boxes of books and papers. Yesterday I spent some time doing this because I was desperately searching for a book I need to write the thing I'm writing.

I have too many papers - multiple rough drafts of things, invitations to parties that happened 3 years ago, copies of grading rubrics for student papers the writers of which are in grad school now. My recycling bundle will be large this week.

But I also have interesting things - a permission slip I wrote myself to be fabulous, a love note from David, a handmade card from a much younger Z that has multi-colored raindrops crayoned all over it with inkstamped hearts in the middle of each one. And journals. I have decades worth of journals. Mostly, I think, they are full of whining about what I am not accomplishing or what about myself I am most neurotic about at the moment. But yesterday, I blindly opened two of them to unusually significant entries.

A floppy dark green "FlexiComp" book with a phone number jotted upside down in the white label area on the front opened to an entry from almost 20 years ago, July 1994, written the day after David and I first made out. It is racing and raunchy and full of the moment, aware only that something has happened, not yet beginning to imagine what it will lead to.

A lime green cloth-bound sketch book opened to March 14, 2002 - 12 years ago, not quite exactly (and approaching 8 years after that last journal) - an entry written as I approached the first anniversary of Calvin's death. "We're coming up on a year now, which hardly seems possible. Things gradually become easier, more normal, but every day I still grieve and some days I am overwhelmed ... Since the new year began things have felt more settled somehow. The intractability of the situation bears down on us. Bits of life seem normal, yet that old life still feels like it belongs to a different person. I'm me but not me. I'm the mother of a dead child." It goes on to ruminate on other grief and on what comes after. It looks toward writing, and other children, and Calvin's hoped for legacy in the world.

Two moments of profound transition. The witchy part of me thinks this was no accident. (And did I mention I just cut all my hair off?)

Reading: I finally, finally, finally finished Looking for Alaska by John Green, which I began in December. It takes me 3 months to read a damned book I am not reading to teach? This is bad. I liked this book - Well constructed, big-hearted teen fiction with some lovely sentences. What next, and what faster?

Writing: Yes! Happily in the trenches with the new script. A day of discovery and connecting dots.

Dinner: We went out with friends for St. Patrick's day. I drank a Guinness. It was a political statement.

Soundtrack: Very into Portishead today.

Random thing: Another journal I found (also a green composition book, this one stiff backed) was not my own, but my friend Anthony's. He sent it to me because it documents an epic road trip and he thought it might be good inspiration for the book in progress. He gave me his journal. It came in a cardboard mailing envelope with a handwritten note and incredible good will. It's been a long time since he sent it -- I think Anthony has published two books of his own since then! I should gather up the serendipitous magic of today's discoveries and make good on his gift.

Oh! And I found a rough draft of a short story I had forgotten I wrote, and I kind of like it.

Rites of spring.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Notes from airportland


Slow maudlin techno-folk song with the refrain "I never knew you at all" playing in Seattle airport seems ill chosen.

Caramel flan latte? Who wants eggs in their coffee?

Paying for wifi makes me angry

Rick Bayless has an airport kiosk that serves fresh well-sourced food (if you believe the signs, which tell you where all the ingredients come from). Yea, Rick Bayless. I did not eat there because I wanted a waitron to serve me. I am sorry, universe.

And while we are on the subject of karmic debt, I am sorry to all the people who ate less-than-stellar salads at the Pita Potpourri Cafe in Atlanta in 1987-88. I was young, lazy and feckless, and I sometimes left yesterda'ys lettuce in the to-go set-ups, and I am sure that sometimes it was wilty and blah.

Man cheerfully carrying complaining child.

The changing face of airportland: When did light sculpture become the thing?

It is clever to have the museum shop in the airport - good for last minute gifts that don't look totally lame - and also the chi-chi cocktail bar, but has anyone ever really bought a diamond necklace at the fancy schmancy jewelry store? Ever? If you work there, what do you do all day?

Why do the Vosges chocolate kiosk workers all have to look like hipsters? Some of them look very much like they are not hipsters, but they put on hipster costumes to come to work.

How long do you have to spend in airportland before you start to go insane? Edward Snowden was in the Moscow airport for how long?

Reading: class prep

Writing: nope

Dinner: breakfast was the worst bagel ever, in SeaTac, lunch was a decent salad at an Italian sit-down in O'Hare. Dinner TBD, at home

Soundtrack: See line one.

Random thing: It's all random.

A corvid every day

This beautiful creature is "Wisdom Seeker" cast bronze by Tony Angell found randomly in the WAshington State Convention Center. Nice corvid sighting!

If you are participating in a panel or other information exchange type of event, unless you are actually reading from the text of a story or poem, which by its very nature depends on an exact sequence of language, please do not simply read from a paper you wrote without looking up, and especially do not read from a computer screen containing the paper you wrote. I know you might be nervous or you might worry that you will forget something or you like the way you put written sentences together. I don't care. Don't do it. Write the paper, fine. But use it as a prop not a shield. Make eye contact with your audience. Vary your tone. Simplify your long convoluted sentences. Also, do not put the exact text of what you are saying on a projector for me to read along with you. This actually distances me from you even more. You do not even need to have a visual aid, but if you do, make it something that illustrates or supplements or highlights or adds color to what you are saying. The exception, again, is if you are reading text that I somehow need to grok in its exact form, like a poem or part of a story we are going to analyze together. And finally, if you are given a 10 minute slot, do not take 20 minutes. (My apologies for maybe probably haven broken the last one once or twice in my life. I admit it, editing is very hard.)

Day 3 was a good day, better than I expected in the morning when I woke up melancholy and small, but it did make me cranky. It was, notably, the only gray and drizzly day I had in Seattle. There were good ideas for non traditional readings, quotes from Rimbaud, conceptual anti-workshop models, and some good stuff on teaching flash fiction. I had impromptu lunch and market browsing with Nora from New York, who is a friend triangulated through writing conference acquaintances (I will let you try to figure out what that means), and had drinks and dinner with Paula and her poet friends. I failed to ever see the monster Frankie. Now, home.

these are place holders for later, posting on the fly:

Making play/book writing notes in the chair in a quiet corner window above the busy street reminded me of the chairs in the 1804 room in the now defunct Baker Center in Athens, where I used to go read as a teenager. I like chairs in windows.

Lunch at the Persian place in the market with Nora 

I dreamt of the gerbils. They climbed up my dress and kissed me.