Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I was reading an article in Bust about Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore and their marriage. I've been obsessing over my old Sonic Youth music lately, having forgotten it for years and years. The music and the article reminded me of my old college friends, Tom and Victoria. They were in a Boston punk band called Showcase Showdown and now, apparently, are in a band called the SPiTZZ. I also went to junior high and high school with Victoria. I have a picture of us vamping it up as Solid Gold dancers hanging on my Fridge of Shame. I haven't kept in touch with these guys really, but I like to keep them in mind. They were married in full costume on Halloween in a Catholic church. Admirable. They are 35-36 and are still playing loud obnoxious music. Kudos. Victoria is also a doctor, I think, maybe a pediatrician. Amazing. I don't know if they still love each other, but at least in this picture from a few years ago they seem to be having fun. Hallelujah.
Sean and I won't marry ("Nobody wants to see that" as Doug Stanhope says) but I like the way my punk rock friends and my punk rock idols have made their own rules and somehow thrived.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've got too many of these sorts of random accumulations to count. Some ugly little piece of quartz that was given to Sean as part of a birthday present and a couple of postcard paintings. The pictures were given to me out at a bar one night, slapdash acrylics that an artist did so she could write the info for her art opening on the back. Never went to the opening. Don't even know who the woman is, and yet these have sat above my sink for several years. The lucky bamboo plant whose leaves are just peaking into the pic is also a random accumulation, left behind by my last roommate and though sickly for many months, it refuses to die. Does that mean my luck, while not particularly good, will not entirely run out either? Some of this stuff might go in a good spring cleaning/garage sale, but honestly, I like a bit of bric-a-brac. I don't often actually see much of this stuff, it passes through my vision undetected, but when I do focus down on one object or another my memory gets jogged and heaven knows it needs a little work out now and then.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fail better

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho (1983)

I have some thoughts about Zadie Smith's "Fail Better" article in The Guardian, but I can't quite face them again tonight. I read it several days ago and all I could think of was my own failing and not the better-ing. I prefer to look at Beckett's magnificent face. If he had been a soft, chubby man would he have written the same things? I love this picture and could stare at it, okay, not for hours, but much longer than most author photos. I think I must have a thing for craggly poetic smokers because I remember feeling the same way about the photo on Auden's Selected Poems when I bought it in college.

Friday, January 26, 2007

All these blue-sky pictures, you'd hardly know it was winter in Portland. I actually sat outside and read on my front porch TWICE in the last week, taking in the sun like a sleepy cat. What's that, you say? Cat? Why there have been no cat pics at all around here lately. And so I give you Mao in the same kind of gentle frenzy I've been in today. Sun crazy maybe. Flattered and fearful. In three weeks I'll be facilitating a workshop at Street Roots. I'm excited about it and have forbidden myself from any kind of real reflection on how I'm going to manage this. How many sweaters do I need to wear so that a room of people don't see my heart pounding at my ribs?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Oh, my cedar tree. My big old tree. It's one of today's sorrows that not only is my undersized yard too little for my oversized tree, but it is in danger of splitting and falling on any of a number of houses. It will have to come down and it will cost me the big bucks. Damn it. When I went out there with the tree guy I found a dead squirrel stripped of its skin lying in the needles on the ground like a gruesome omen. I will add it to the list of odd images that pin themselves to my dreams.

Tonight is my last night of training with Write Around Portland and this is, oddly enough, also a bit of a sorrow. Over our nights together this month, I have come to enjoy the time spent writing and talking about writing in each other's company. I'm looking forward to facilitating a workshop but I will also miss all the truly lovely people who have been learning the ropes along with me. I know that tomorrow they'll begin to fade in my fuzzy memory. I will only miss them now, before they're gone.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Maybe painting this complex a salmon pink did the whole thing in. I think the only business still open in this mish-mash of a building is a tiny hairdresser's place. I used to go the asian market here and buy weird fake meats in a can and these funny white rabbit candies that were both awful and addictive. I'm waiting for a developer to buy this lot out, tear it down and put up some condos. I wish, instead, that someone with vision and tons of dough turned it into something amazing and cool. An arts center with a music venue and artist studios. A community recreation center. Or maybe a giant discount store for mock duck and weird candy wrapped in edible rice paper.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cakegirl, a nickname no one ever called me. A movie we made that hardly anyone ever saw. An encaustic painting by Joe who soon thereafter gave up fine art and became a designer. And, when I googled it, an amazing array of internet personas. A person addicted to pain meds offering advice in a chat room. The title of a provocative drawing of a girl on her knees (oddly enough eating a sandwich and a soda from what I can tell). Various profiles on Amazon, Vox, a Martial Arts chat room and a cake decorating meet up list. Also a possible alias for a Spiderman comic character. My favorite is a profile on where Cakegirl is disgusted by the idea of a Hot Karl and wonders about dysentery.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Friday, January 19, 2007

So here it is. . .my book!
I'm finally at a place where I needed to set it all out and look at what I have, what's missing and what I need to chuck. It was fun to write it out this way, though the smallness of this chalkboard isn't going to serve me too well in the long run. As soon as I finished this, I immediately started a similar project as a Word document, little boxes I could fill up with the details. I may also try scribbling it all out on a long scroll of paper pinned to the wall. I definitely need SPACE, the ability to add and delete as well as save all my fleeting notions. I picture myself in a big open studio, arms flailing, paper flying with a dramatic classical soundtrack rounding out the montage that ends two minutes later, novel complete. Release date, Fall 2008. Starring Robin Williams as the struggling writer and Anne Hathaway as his muse.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

For those who know me best, the idea of me as "The Queen of Good Enough" is not a new one. I have often spouted the phrase "Embrace your mediocrity." It sounds bad, but let's be honest, who among us is truly great? Certainly not me. I suppose I could cast this in a more Taoist light and say that I'm simply following the middle path, but that would be stretching it.

I've been reminded of my slacker ways lately when working at the new office space I'm renting a few days a week. It's truly lovely. The women who've created the space have an attention to detail that makes my home office look very homemade. It's not that my space is messy or filthy or rag-tag. I like it a lot better than some of the massage spaces I've been in. It is definitely good enough and it's definitely not great.

I don't know what's made me this way. When my father called me "DL," short for "Dead Lazy," was he imprinting an identity on me that I've been unable to shake or was he simply recognizing an inherent trait? A little bit of both, perhaps.

I'll never have a completely clean and perfectly decorated house. I'll never be as knowledgeable and thorough a massage therapist as i could be. I'll never get all the cat fur off my rather drab clothes or get to the gym as often as I should. I honestly don't care. I do hold out the hope, however, that I will exceed my own expectations of mediocrity and write something really good. Good enough is good enough only in the minor things of life.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Thirteen winters here in Portland and finally, I've come to terms with snow. When I left the Northeast I was 100% done with the stuff, even in its finest fresh and sparkly form. I hated the slush it turned into and the way it made everything colorless. When I woke up this morning an actual exclamation of surprise came from my mouth when I saw an inch or so accumulated on the roofs and streets and a steady drift still coming down. There was no build up for this, no panic splattered across the local news. We all simply woke up in the middle of a snow globe. Everyone out walking/sliding down the streets and sidewalks looked utterly delighted. And I was too.

The feel of a snow day is something special, like someone has tapped you with a magic wand and granted you freedom. I took the opportunity to drift off into my fiction without clients or phone calls or trips to the gym. The result was a few solid hours of good writing. Thank you snow.

Monday, January 15, 2007

What was and what will be

When I heard about the protests against a retirement condo replacing this community garden I knew I needed to take a picture of it. Then, for many months, nothing happened. The garden was still there, the old folk were tucked away in the condos they'd already built half a block away. Now, everything is gone. I think they left one tree, probably because it's actually on somebody else's property. I thought some compromise had happened, that the developer had agreed to keep a portion of the garden there, but clearly they have killed and trampled everything. Our ever-increasing elderly population need places to live, yes. But this just makes me horribly sad.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why I love my neighborhood

Winter 2005/2006

Winter 2006/2007

I'm missing a pic of the summertime mummy which sported a yoda mask.

Friday, January 12, 2007

These are two of the ghost bikes in Portland, memorial sites set up to mark the place where cyclists were killed by cars. They are both within a handful of blocks from my house and I pass by them on a regular basis. This being the little town it is, I knew one of the people who was hit, Noah, who worked the door at Biddy's where Sean regularly plays. I can't pass either site without thinking about the stupidity of such accidents and their astounding regularity.

While I acknowledge the usefulness of cars and trucks, mostly the way they bring me food and books and the way they get me to the beach, I still loathe the things. Along with wishing for giant foodstuffs rotating on the tops of buildings (see yesterday's post) I wish cars only existed in suburbs. At city limits you'd have to change over to bike or foot or light rail. That way all the car-crazy people would be banished to Beaverton where they could go ahead and crash their cars into each other instead of into the soft bodies of boys riding their bikes.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

This giant milk compliments the giant loaf of bread stuck to the top of the factory down the street. I would like it if all businesses had monster-sized versions of their products rotating from their rooftops.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The big storm of '07. About ten minutes of last night's local news broadcast was dedicated to this storm, how the plows and de-icers were ready, the bus tires were chained up, the schools were on standby. Well, it was beautiful and sunny most of the day and then it hailed for five minutes this afternoon. Thank god I stocked up on canned goods, batteries and candles before the drifts blew in.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Last January, Joe and I were the first ones on this beach one morning. It's a small spot at the base of the Mayan Ruins in Tulum. It was early enough that the water was a bit warmer than the air. The OCEAN was warmer than the air. I often forget that oceans can be for swimming. It was something I once knew and have forgotten. Sometimes I see people in the water on the Oregon coast and I think they must have a disease that prevents them from feeling the bitter pins and heart-stopping pain. That is, I used to think that until I saw a story about this woman who swam for 30 minutes in the waters of Antarctica. I find this form of extremism interesting. What kind of person craves an identity as "the only person to . . ." especially when the thing they are doing benefits nobody and brings them close to death? It's all very interesting.

Monday, January 08, 2007

If I can't have seaweed floating in a pretty blue sea then I'll take a spiraled fern and some moss-soft rocks.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

This is one of the "Marine Series" prints on canvas from my friend, Joe, at jefdesigns. It makes me think of Mexico which is always a good thing. The whole series is very cool. The man also makes beautiful lamps. And what is more important in these dark, soggy days than good lighting and thoughts of swimming in a warm ocean? It may not make the months FLY by, but it sure does help.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I always wanted to live on this street. It's just a few blocks from the first house I lived in here and, though it's hard to tell in the blahness of winter, it has a charm that the already charming streets around it don't have. It's very narrow and the houses are close together. The trees arch over the road and everything feels very cozy. In the summer it always reminds me of a street in a beach town. I always imagined that I would actually be friends with my neighbors if I lived on this street.
And now I do live on this street, only not on this block. The charm here only runs a few blocks before emptying out onto a busier, broader, double yellow lined section of the street. Really, I'm lucky to live in the neighborhood at all, so I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that when you wish for something, be very very specific. I was supposed to learn that from some fairy tale or Bewitched episode or something, right? Well, lesson learned.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Everything is so quiet this morning. So few cars, so few people. Did I forget a holiday? Did I miss the warning to STAY INDOORS? It's one of those ugly flat days anyway. I don't blame the city for trying their best to ignore it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tonight I did my first volunteer training to become a facilitator for Write Around Portland. They are an amazing group that runs dozens of writing workshops every year, along with running readings and publishing anthologies of the participants' work all for a diverse group of folks who wouldn't otherwise have access to such things.

Tonight I did my first ten-minute writing from a prompt. You'd think I'd come across this sort of thing in my writing life, but no. I've always avoided any kind of "free write" scenario. The workshops this group runs makes heavy use of the prompt, write and read lay out, so I'm going to have to get use to it. I wanted a challenge for myself and now I've done gone and gotten it. I let my heart bang against my ribs and did it. There was a fair amount of panic in having to be there, in a circle of strangers, writing without thinking too much and then reading what I'd written without shaking too much, but I did it. And honestly, what I wrote was better than I expected it could be. And I participated more than I thought I would. And I liked the other volunteers. Maybe this is the leaf. Watch me turn it over.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Not long ago I finished reading Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex which is set in Detroit. It reminded me of one of my favorite procrastination techniques: Looking up pics of abandoned Detroit buildings. I've only been to Detroit once many many years ago but in my few hours there I was instantly awed by the beauty and pathos of what I saw. It's just all so weird. I got this particular pic from The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit site. I could easily do without ever seeing another photo of a band standing in a run down building or on some forgotten train tracks, but I find these unpeopled photos amazing. I can't help but be fascinated by the enormous scope of the neglect and all the history it entails.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I've been the tall girl since seventh grade. Or so I thought. I remember there were these twin boys who were taller than me in junior high and my equally tall friend, Theresa, who moved away in eighth grade. And yet, when I look back at the few pictures I have of that time, I don't seem so huge. Of course, comparing myself to my 5'9" sister (on the right) isn'exactly a fair display of what it felt like to be surrounded by boys who were struggling to reach past 5'2". I was probably 5'7" then, inching steadily up another three inches, hovering over my friends and enemies until ninth grade when a few more of the boys finally caught up. It's hard to choose which of the various ills was the truly defining trauma of those years. There were bad haircuts, acne, glasses, braces, bad fashion sense (even for 1982), being the new kid, being insanely shy and insanely tall. I feel bad for that girl as if she wasn't me.

Even back then, I wasn't entirely aware of my height. Of course, every now and then some wit would ask me about the weather up there and the full burden of it would climb onto my shoulders. That's when I started the tall girl slump. Of course there was also the big boob slump, the fuck you slump and the tissue paper heart slump. Do seventh grade girls still do this? Or has the teenage slut look made them all falsely bold?

Nowadays, when a really tall woman is in the same room as me I feel a ridiculous flash of competitiveness. You think you're tall, bitch. . .why don't you take off those heels and we'll really see what we're looking at? Every day I work to erase the muscle memory of those junior high hallways and untie the knots in my shoulders that feel like bone. But still, on a night like this New Year's Eve, when I looked around the dance floor, I couldn't help but notice that I was the tallest girl there, tallest person around practically. I love being tall, especially on dance floors. It scares off a certain kind of unwanted attention. And yet, I can't help but wish that, just once, I was that cute little petite woman who knows how to shake it even in stilleto heeled boots. A little bit of that twelve-year old longing snaps across my skin.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Kitty Mao greets the new year with suspicion

Learn more. Listen more. Laugh more. And put the cat on a diet.