Saturday, December 29, 2007

Yeah, it's a little like that. Tired, chubby and lazy as hell. For some reason the end of this year has brought on a reign of overindulgence that hasn't been allowed in a long time. Or maybe it's my ability to tolerate the streams of sugar and alcohol and couch surfing that has diminished over the years. Either way, there's been no restraint because the anvil of reason is about to drop. Fulfilling the 2008 manifesto is going to be a little tough, but it's going to be good. Having finished off several pies, piles of toffee, bowls of nuts and bottles of wine, restraint and diligence is starting to have a nice ring to it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It never did stick, at least not enough to hide my Sanford and Son yard, but it was still a nice surprise. Quiet Christmas snow.

Monday, December 24, 2007

For Christmas we unwrapped Sean's face from its cover of fur. I've always been a bit jealous of facial hair. So many silly stupid things you can do with it. On Sean, all of the in between stages turned him into an instant asshole (in appearance only, of course). The Lemmy stage is okay if you're Lemmy. The mini moustache is okay if you're Hitler. And if you're Ricky from Trailer Park Boys you can rock the chops/goatee look pretty hard. If you're none of these people, please think twice before doing something stupid with a razor.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

As if to confirm the darkest of days, yesterday was a rainy, dreary mess. But in the evening it cleared up, the nearly full moon came out and we burned the shit out of a wooden man, much like this one. I've been bad about carrying my camera with me these days and so the bad news is I have no photos of the even larger man my friend built this year and I have no photos of the tower of flames it made and the perfect way it collapsed in on itself, its charred fingers flipping a flaming bird. Before we burned him, we covered him in marshmallow men and secret wishes, knowing that today, though equally dreary on its surface, would still be a little lighter.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Here's the Bee Gees doing their song. Not Melinda Doolittle, who apparently sang this on American Idol and not Feist who did a watered down version of it. Here they are in their falsetto glory.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No, Sean is neither a hipster nor a hippie and that should be a lesson to all of us who like to judge a book by its cover. Lucky him, he is currently sporting two different trends. The hipster facial scrub and the afro. It seems like both of these trends must be about to play themselves out if they haven't already. I think only mustaches are really in these days. Or maybe guys will start waxing their eyebrows off and penciling them in. Or maybe everyone will start getting perms. Anyhoo...sometimes it just happens that what you've always done falls into synch with what every one else is doing. You live with it because to change in order to deny the hipsters your company would be a very silly idea.

Me...I like disco. I have since I first heard it as a kid and continued to like it all through the eighties and nineties into today. If you haven't listened lately to the Bee Gee's version of Love You Inside and Out seek it out and have a shot at it. Hopefully, it will make you as happy as it makes me.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the twelve days of shaving. . .

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Resolutions are too easy to ignore. Make your 2008 manifesto now.

Mine is still taking shape, but one thing I've decided is that I will bring more poetry into my life in the coming year. Not only will I read more poetry but I will also support it with dollars and applause.

I just bought Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 2005.


Having reached the beginning, starting toward
a new ignorance. Places to become,
secrets to live in, sins to achieve.
Maybe South America, perhaps a new woman,
another language to not understand.
Like setting out on a raft over an ocean
of life already well lived.
A two-story failed hotel in the tropics,
hot silence of noon with the sun
straying through the shutters.
Sitting with his poems at a small table,
everybody asleep. Thinking with pleasure,
trailing his hand in the river he will
turn into.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I am undoubtedly a scrooge, though I try and keep it to myself for the most part. Sean reminded me that the thing that we can both really get behind on this upcoming holiday (along with Thanksgiving and New Year's Day) is that it's a rare and wonderful thing to walk out into the urban landscape and not be assaulted by the sight, sound and smell of cars. Cheers and Merry merry to that.

This is a dark, early morning shot of my neighbor's christmas tree, the first visible one on my block since I moved here six years ago. Despite my scrooginess, I'm a sucker for those candy-colored lights, the ones that you have to screw into the green cord after spending an hour untangling it. I have a strong childhood memory of pure craving for them. I remember the fragile click as I opened the box we kept the bulbs in and my inevitable disappointment at how dull they looked. My sister and I would screw in the bulbs then string the tree and my mother would plug it all in. And oh, what a feast. For a second I can turn off my knowledge of electricity and imagine the sweetness of one of those delicious red globes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Stay and stay and stay and stay . . ."
Richard Ford in a lecture from The Celebrity Lecture Series at Michigan State University. Listen to these.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ben Wilson is a London artist who paints colorful, inoffensive images on pieces of chewing gum smashed into the sidewalk. Now he's been beaten by the police and had his DNA put on file. I, personally, don't love the paintings themselves, but I absolutely love this idea. I think it's inventive, constructive, and subversive in all the right ways. Clearly, he must be stopped. Read more about it in The Guardian.

A few nights ago, Sean and I watched Brazil. It was one of my favorite movies as a teenager and so I'd seen it many times, but Sean hadn't seen it since it first came out in 1985. My love for this film came back fresh. Not only did it look far superior to most of the unimaginative computer graphics in most movies today, but it was even more timely: Terrorist bombings hidden behind pretty tapestry screens, citizens arrested and tortured based on the flimsiest of evidence, the landscape stripped bare. My guess is Ben Wilson would see a bit of himself in Sam Lowry. I imagine a lot of people would.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I appreciate the effort to cover the side of your building with something other than a wide expanse of burgundy and ochre (apparently the hot colors around here these days) but murals are a tricky business. There is so much going on in this mural, it's hard to take it all in: ecstatic prepubescent girls, wary matrons being secretly groped by Sean Penn look-a-likes and a floating yellow rabbit in a blue jacket that seems ready, at any moment, to jet out of the scene under its own magic powers. And if that wasn't enough, a slightly less odd but equally sinister mural extends across the rest of the building. Congratulations. Best Wishes. Huzzah!

Friday, December 07, 2007

I have a very particular kind of neatness. It doesn't require hypoallergenic cleanliness. Dust, while not my friend, is not my hardened enemy. As Sean says of both the bathroom and kitchen: BEHOLD...the floors that never come clean! But what I do like, what I require, is a certain degree of order. The mail I haven't looked through doesn't have to get sorted but it has to be piled neatly at the edge of the table. The coats don't have to go on hangers or hooks, but they need to all be hung on the back of one chair. The dirty dishes can sit in the sink, but preferrably in a sturdy tower, from largest plate to smallest. You get the idea.

This morning I transferred all my idea notes into my manuscript at the appropriate chapters. At first, this felt like a very orderly way to go about this next set of revisions, but now I feel overwhelmed with the sprawling chaos of my story. The notes are nice, sure, but how do I gather it all in? How do I make sense of two protagonist's uneven narrative arcs? How do I add and subtract scenes without tossing the whole thing into the air like a disheartening game of 52 pickup?

The answer, I fear, is a more thorough cleaning. I'm goint to have to lift up all the lamps and sponge off the surfaces beneath them. I'm going to have to lift up the damn rug and scour out the old nasty dirt. I'm going to need bleach. Lots and lots of bleach.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I swear, Jordan Rosenfeld did NOT pay me for the following endoresement:

I'm about three-quarters of the way through Make A Scene. Now, because Jordan is a friend, I could have bought the book, read it and given her the ol' good job! But as you can see by the proliferation of stickie notes, this book has inspired a lot more than a passing glance.

This book reminds me of Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction, in that it tackles all the essential elements of what goes into a story. Jordan is good at giving examples from literary fiction, horror, fantasy. The rules apply regardless. All those stickie notes are ideas regarding my own novel that came to me as each element of a scene was disected.

I can see how this book would be really helpful to beginning writers, but even more so to those of us with a little experience who, perhaps, have let some of the basics get lost amidst all the complications of writing a novel.

And now, with feeling. GOOD JOB!

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Sylvia Beach Hotel along with most of the Oregon Coast is currently being battered by a huge storm, one of the strongest in the last ten years, closing down several of the roads between Portland and the Pacific. I love a good storm, but I'm glad I'm home now.

I stayed in the tiny but super-cozy Gertrude Stein room. Having read almost no Stein, I opened up one of her books from the shelf in the room and found this:
At the Sylvia Beach, even the storage space gets its own author:

And the resident cats are named Dickens (pictured here after I lured him into my room) and Shelley.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I hesitate to write much about my trip to the Sylvia Beach Hotel in this small space. It was as if I stepped into my real life, or rather, my writer life. And because I was in a building infused with books, visited by other artists and owned by a most remarkable woman, I believed that life and packed it up when I left.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Picture me down in that far corner chair, my feet in wool socks curled underneath me, my pile of manuscript pages open on my lap. My four nights at the Sylvia Beach Hotel start tomorrow. I'll be without internet or phone or tv. I'll be alone except for the characters I bring with me, the poor struggling fuck-ups that they are. They could probably use a week at the beach as much as I could. Though, for them, it will be more like extraordinary rendition. Where are we? Why is this woman torturing us? What have we done wrong?

Friday, November 23, 2007

I've started listening to the Celebrity Lecture Series put on by Michigan State University and posted on their website. Yesterday, I listened to an old lecture by Kurt Vonnegut and he had these wise words:

"Get yourself a gang any way you can and make it grow."

Hope you and your gang had a great Thanksgiving. I know we did.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Xiao Lao Mao (Little old cat) has put our lives into a funny new pattern. Because Sean and I are home a good deal, we frequently announce that we're "going out to see that cat." Our days don't revolve around this activity, but they are punctuated by it in an oddly tender way. Because the cat is old and not all that well, this feels, in some remote way, like the caregiving we will someday have to give to our parents.

Sean has his own cat hospice rituals, but as for me, I rise early, sometimes at the first blue tinge of dawn, and go out through the drizzle to the back studio with containers of cat food and water. I turn on the heaters and the comforting, soft lamp, lie down on the floor and wait for that little old cat to make her rattling cries, stretch, and come crawling onto my chest. Sometimes, while she eats, I read. In this way, we try to give comfort and find a little joy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

cash advance

Cash Advance Loans

Apparently, my blog is posting at an elementary school reading level which fills me with ebulliance and gratification. My tutelage in journalism at Boston University, though brief, was also arduous and my fine professors often expounded on the necessity of writing in a manner that was both unadorned and comprehensible but at the same time captivated the reading audience. It's not entirely clear that vocabulary alone is the sole determinant in assigning the above reading level or that any one post would be sufficient to skew the rankings, however, I have made a worthwhile effort to reveal the machinations lurking behind this anonymous and largely inexplicable ranking system.

Xylophagous. Frondescent. Barghest. Fooey.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lulu was the constant companion of my best friend, Joe and one of the only dogs I've ever liked, let alone loved. This morning she moved to California and she will be sorely missed.

Apparently, when Mr. Hooper died on Sesame Street they struggled with whether or not to say he moved to California or to deal directly with his death. They went with the latter but I'm sticking with former.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"I like feeling at home, but I wish I didn't feel it here."
Mary Robison from the story "In Jewel"

These, of course, are not my sentiments about my beloved Portland, but when I was reminded of this quote the other day I realized it is the exact sentiment of one of my characters. Okay, so Mary Robison has already summed up my whole novel in a brilliant five page story. Damn her. Nothing new under the sun.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I spent the weekend across the street from the Virginia Woof Doggy Daycare (really? REALLY?) at Wordstock, a big loud mess of a book fair/literary festival/workshop/fundraiser. For me, it was more like a collision course of old and new bookish friends. Some I called out to, eager for reconnection. Others, I dodged down aisles to avoid. Other than the good connections, the only thing I really learned was, as Steve Almond said, "The path to truth is through shame" at least when it comes to writing a good sex scene.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Read the Times article about the Booker Prize winner Anne Enright.

"Oddly enough, Ms. Enright said, having children — she has two, 4 and 7 — has made her work easier.

“I find that the whole sense of anxiety and largeness, the sense that you’re writing everything, the allness of it, disappears completely,” she said. “You have just three or four hours a day, and you’re going to write a book, and it just shrinks the work into its proper proportion.”

Even though I have no kids and never will, I appreciate how practical and balanced this statement is. It helps that this woman looks almost exactly like my friend if he decided to do frumpy, Irish drag.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Whadya say? I have no doubt that Kucinich's resolution to impeach Cheney will fall flat in the Judiciary Committee, but why not make a little noise about it?

Read up if you need to, click here and sign the petition to impeach the motherscratcherwarmonger.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Wahclella Falls/Latourelle Falls

It's an easy hike into Wahclella Falls and on a late fall afternoon it's easy to lose the sun behind the canyon walls and lose yourself in the perpetually wet blue-brown-green of the place. Definitely a surreal landscape, one that would have convinced me of the existence of otherworldly creatures, both benign and sinister, if I'd seen it when I was six.

Latourelle Falls is an even easier dip off the Columbia Gorge Historic Highway. In the summer, the patch of neon lichen (or is it moss or fungus or something else altogether?) is nowhere to be seen. So go in the fall and marvel at the things that nature can come up with.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Funk Shui played the big, bouncy Crystal Ballroom last night. They get in the door there by being the chosen opening band for Super Diamond, a Neil Diamond tribute band. Don't question how this happened. Nobody in their audience has.

Here's Funk Shui playing Boss Bossa at their last Crystal show where a wide stage, bright lights and a giddy audience served them far better than the microphone on the video camera.

I'm sorry I missed last night's show, too tired to push myself downtown, too fixated on getting some writing done to be a good band girlfriend. This meager blog entry is my penance.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This picturesque scene, repeated throughout New England, does nothing but fill me with a sick, creepy feeling. My early Sundays were spent inside the squat stone walls of the Episcopal Church so the slender white towers of Methodists and Lutherans have no particular connotations for me other than a general sign that I'm back in the land of dread and loathing. I keep expecting to be over it, that I'll roll into town and feel sweetly nostalgic or at the very least, neutral, but my gut refuses to let go. No matter how pleasant my stay is, the old hate lingers.

The good thing about going back east, of course, is that it never fails to refresh my love for all things HOME, where I've got a cat and a couch and a few final days of sun.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Weddings are weird. While my friend's celebration was loverly and all, it was best not to dwell too long or look too closely at anything we were doing for fear of the whole day collapsing under all the absurdity. At least, it was best if I didn't look too closely.

Do these rituals change you, regardless of how deeply you believe in them? No, I think they have to mean something to you first, otherwise my friend's sweet, heartfelt ceremony would be on par with Britney's 24hr. Vegas marriage. And if you never partake in the shared ritual at all, then what?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This Halloween I'm going as a bridesmaid and the Halloween party is my oldest friend's wedding. Instead of shouting Trick or Treat at my neighbor's doors, I will be reciting an e.e. cummings poem at a romantic Newport inn. Instead of candy corn I will be eating fancy cake. Well, let's get this party started.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Too rarely, I step out into the woods after the rains have really started. Now, I know better. These are just a few pics from the Wildwood Recreation Area, a beautiful spot along the Salmon River out towards Mt. Hood. Here are some more pics.

Fantasy as a genre has never held much interest for me. I have a hard time getting worked up about creatures who don't actually exist. Fairies, elves, trolls and the like enter my consciousness only on rare occasion. One is when a movie like Lord of the Rings becomes nearly impossible to ignore or a movie like Pan's Labyrinth delights despite (or maybe even because of)its fauns and monsters. The only other time I think of fantastic woodland creatures are when I walk around in the wood land. I poke my nose down close to the mushrooms and moss and squint my way down a path of shiny evergreens and I can't help but imagine that I'm intruding on a landscape not really meant for my eyes. Of course, the world's forests would be better off now if we'd all believed a little more deeply in the fantasy and left them alone.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Less TV. More books. More writing. More staring dreamily out the window. The choice seems obvious, doesn't it? And yet sometimes at night, the lazy in me takes over. My butt fills with lead and I'm on that couch, dammit, leave me alone. This is going to have to change. Law & Order: SVU is a really horrific show. I watch it because it's on Saturday nights and I'm awake, sleepy but still awake. It's not just a waste of time, I think it's bad for me. The fact that Ice-T is on it is no longer amusing. I'm done. And now I'm going out to stare at gold leaves and hazy skies.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The cat is back. We negotiated the return of Xiao Lao Mao (little old cat) and have her set up in the garage while she adjusts to her new surroundings and her new name. Fluffalumps? No wonder she was an unhappy animal.

Sean and I now hover on the edge of being crazy cat people. We go visit the cat, lying down on the dirty floor in order to let her climb onto our chests. We feel badly when we leave her alone for too long. We bring her fish secreted away in napkins from our own expensive restaurant meals. Okay, so maybe hover is too generous a description. We have set foot, at east one firm foot, in the land of crazy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More beach. It's always good to have more beach.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I have great beach luck. Almost every time I go to Manzanita the weather is wonderful. We had 65 degree sunshine and very little wind. Our houseful of people coexisted beautifully with beach walks and hot tub soaks and lots of trash magazine reading (the above pic was a rare moment of book-reading). We ate well and drank even better.

As I said before, this was a trip to celebrate where we are now before things start to change (once again and always). And as it turned out, the changes are already underway. Our friend announced her pregnancy. Next fall, if we can manage another outing, there will be at least one infant in tow. On we go. . .

Friday, October 12, 2007

Off to Manzanita for a belated birthday celebration. This will be the first time I'm at my usual beach spot with a full house of friends. There was the sudden realization that things might be really different this time next year. Friends who are married might have babies. Friends who are in relationships might be married. Single friends might be in relationships. I predict that Sean and I will be in about the same place, but the world swirls around us, things change, and we're going to take a moment this weekend to hang out and enjoy where we are right now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

If only I could clear away the wires and roof tiles, the posts and gutters, all the low, ugly bits of our lives spent hunkered down next to the ground. Sure, we'd be wet and have no electricity but wouldn't the sky be delicious?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Poor ol' Willa. I called today to make a reservation at the Sylvia Beach Hotel and was told that the Willa Cather room will be a Tolkien room by the end of November. I'm not happy about that. Give Robert Louis Stevenson the boot, I say. Each of the hotel's rooms have an author associated with them. There are only four smaller, less expensive rooms, Willa's being one of them. So instead, I went with Gertrude Stein. I've got no problems with Gert and ultimately, it doesn't matter much. I plan on spending most of my time in the upstairs library tucked into a chair that faces out on the ocean. I'm bringing my novel with me, in whatever state it's in by the end of next month. I'm hoping to have another draft done by then so that I can arrive on the stormy beach with a giant stack of words, ready to be blown and twisted.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Good morning. This is a clip of the drummers that accompanied the 2007 Memory Walk for the Alzheimer's Association. They raised about $130,000 and woke up everyone within a ten block radius sleeping in at a swanky hotel, crappy dorm room or in the back pew of the Lutheran Church. My participation felt unnecessary, but it was still nice to be out in the briefest bit of good fall weather.

While the skies here are slate gray and wet now, I noticed much of the rest of the country is brutally hot. A 35 year old man from Michigan died running the Chicago Marathon today in eighty-eight degree heat. Eighty-freakin-eight degrees. What the #?!

Needless to say, it's a good reminder to be happy with what you have. Take the day and slip into it whether it be wrapped in a new wool sweater or waving a folded paper fan.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I have no proof that the inside of the woman's house looks like this, but I have suspicions. Yesterday, the owner of the sweet cat found the note Sean left her and called us. Despite the fact that the note said she was open to giving the cat up for adoption and the food cart employees were under the impression that the cat needed to be adopted, the woman just wanted her cat back. She lives in a house with no front stairs. They were reclaimed by the earth. We insisted on meeting her face to face to give the cat back and had to creep through a hugely overgrown backyard and wait for the woman to make her way to the basement door where she refused to let us in. The door to the house at the top of the stairs was shut tight.

The sweet cat immediately dug into a dish of food the woman put out for her and argued that the cat wouldn't be 16 years old if she was being abused. Good point. I told her to get a collar for her cat so people didn't think it was stray or abandoned. She was worried that we were crazy people who just went around collecting cats. I think she was projecting.

Obsessive hoarding fascinates me. Again, who knows if this woman suffers from this, I only suspect. She keeps a job, looked and seemed normal enough, but was extremely hesitant to let us anywhere near her house. What's going on in there? What will happen to the poor sweet cat, the cat that would rather sit in the rain than go inside her owner's home? We will have to be satisfied visiting the cat under the tarp, one more resident on the street of shattered hopes and broken dreams.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I came home this morning from running an errand and found Sean lying on the garage floor with this cat curled up on his chest. He is a SUCKER. A sucker for love, baby. The best kind, really. I don't know what this cat's name is yet, but Sean rescued her from down the street where she'd been hanging around in the rain under the tarp of a food cart on Hawthorne. Apparently she was being halfheartedly tended to by an elderly woman with MS in a nearby house, but both the woman and the workers at the food cart were looking for someone to adopt this sweetie. She (I'm not sure if it's a she, but there aren't any obvious signs to the contrary) is very skinny and very sweet and temporarily living in our garage. She will have to be a mostly outdoor cat in the long run, but for now she seems pretty content to curl up on a warm, dry blanket and eat some good food. Sounds about right to me too.

Monday, October 01, 2007

No picture again today. That's because Apple's got problems. My imac G5 died yesterday and there's a really good chance that it needs a new power supply. That's the same part that I had to replace a little over a year ago. It's the same part these particular computers have a known problem with. While my baby gets fixed, I'll have to get on a campaign of complaining. Does Apple not understand that I have valuable time that needs wasting?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Happy rainy bluster of a birthday to me. So, I've completed the circle. One year of writing in this little space, not every day as I promised, but often enough, I'm sure. Thirty-seven. It's neither here nor there, really. I had to steal this picture since I woke up to a dead computer. It's prettier than the gray here anyway.

It's 4:30pm. I need to turn the lights on to read. The heat has just started to rumble up from the basement. I'm opening the wine.