Thursday, May 31, 2007

Okay, to balance out the grimness of yesterday's post, I offer you this: A baby bird in a camelia tree.

And speaking of birds, owls are everywhere. Or is this already a dated trend? It's still bird art, or rather, bird craft, so I don't like it. But it makes me wonder if owls are solely the domain of craft? The silhouette of a songbird seems more conducive to oils, encaustic and the like whereas the owl just begs to be done up in felt in tones of brown and orange or plastered on a t-shirt.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

This is one of many saucy photos of my grandparents (on right) and their friends, probably in the early 1930s.

This is my grandmother, mother (on right) and aunt, in the early 1940s.

This is my grandmother now at the age of 93, holding the floor plan for an assisted living unit.

Even though Angie gets stuck in a loop a lot easier these days, where she starts a story and repeats it several times in a row, she's still interesting. We stayed up one night and I let her tell all she had to tell about her immigrant father and step mother, and how she dropped out of school to work at Heinz and how she met the love of her life.

She talked a lot about how her parents died peacefully in their own home. There was part of me that wanted to slip her some extra, more lethal drugs and just tell her it would be okay. I don't think her daughters are ready for her to die. I'm not sure her body is ready to go either. But her mind is tired, her spirit is tired. She is ready. I wish we lived in a society where that was okay.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I spent a couple days with my grandmother, parents and aunts down in Walnut Creek this weekend. My grandmother has lived in a retirement community down there my whole life and then some. She is 93 and may not be in her little house much longer. Other than a slow, sometimes imperceptible exchange of photos propped up around the room, almost nothing has changed in this house for forty years. It is weird for me to think of not going there anymore which means it's got to be 100 times weirder for my grandmother to contemplate leaving. I have lots of thoughts on this whole process, but for now, I'd like to simply dwell on the unimportant and oddly precious artifacts of my grandmother's home.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

It seems like ages since I taught a Write Around Portland workshop. Last night we had a reading for the Spring Workshop participants. It was good to see my people and watch them defy the trembling in their hands in order to stand in front of a crowd of 200+ people and read their words. Predictably, those that I've come to think of as the angry troublemakers (as opposed to the talkative troublemakers) came, read their work and left without even making eye contact with me. Oh well.

One of the facilitators spoke about how he'd become a habitual thief of bravery at these readings and in the workshops. There was, indeed, a palpable sense of accomplishment and courage in the room. Removed from the chaos and hard work of facilitating, I found that spark that initially drew me to this organization. I left the reading with half a dozen ideas and bits of language eager for the page. The world became illuminated, in neither flattering nor harsh light, but in the temporary glow of a community collected, imperfect and hopeful.

This is a picture of Jared Lund who showed up at every workshop filled with patience, grace and an open mind. His poem and artwork are in the new anthology, Called to Speak Stories.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bird art, bird art, bird art. It's STILL everywhere, even though I'm pretty sure this trend is very much over. I'm so tired of it and I even own some of it. Now, I'm not saying nobody should paint a picture of a bird from here on out, but if you're going to do it, you're going to have to do something very new with it or something very very good. While I've often been a big fan of embracing your mediocrity, in this case, it won't stand up.

I have to take my own advice on this as well. As a person who is more or less trying to write a love story, taking the "good enough" stance I take with housecleaning, repairs, and dressing myself, is not going to get me anywhere.

So pick a new animal to paint and I will pick a new way to say I love you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

See how it glows! My manuscript, with beginning, middle and end, all crammed onto a handful of blindness inducing pages. It doesn't really deserve this ethereal glow, though it does deserve the blurriness. It's just a draft, which number draft I can't say. That would depend on what counted. But that's not what matters. What matters is that I have this thing that feels like a wildly imperfect whole. Its very existence infuses me with a vigorous sense of challenge. That's nice, but you can do better.

The other thing these pages whisper to me is Oh my god, you might actually finish this! What will you do then? This question came to me for the first time this morning. I didn't even now I was scared of this prospect, but aparently I am. No big surprise really. Finishing it will mean facing the truly daunting world of publishing. My instinct at this moment is to protect my poor little story from such brutes, but I'll have to get over that. Luckily, I have some time.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I can't believe I forgot to brag about my new bike! I got a great deal/trade for this bike just by walking into the Write Around Portland offices at the same time a bike mechanic was there volunteering. The organization's director asked me a massage question and, long story short, I got an amazing new ride.

It was funny to watch the mechanic try to be diplomatic about telling me my old bike was a piece of useless crap. It served me well for the last twelve years (!) but I bought it for $100 off my roommate at the time, a woman who is many many inches shorter than me. I think it's done its duty and deserves to retire.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping that my "being in the right place at the right time" juju hasn't been used up on this nice, but barely noteworthy event.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I've been itchin' for a new tattoo lately and was searching online for people who had text tattoos to see the various typefaces, sizes, locations. I came across a site for literary tattoos which seems to be filled with young English majors and library science students. If I was seventeen again, I'd be all over that shit. Still, I love this librarian with a semicolon on her finger. Even more charming is the fact that it is her only tattoo.

Friday, May 18, 2007

This little Basquiat guy has been charming me all month from the calendar hanging next to my computer. I've never believed in the muse as such, but I feel like Mr.Everlast has been my silent guardian over these last few days, pushing me through the final chapters of my draft. Not since grad school have I felt so compelled to get something done, ignoring the pleading of the sunny park and the bad television and the smelly dishes. It's especially nice knowing that, as opposed to school, this has been purely self-induced.

In less than two weeks Mr. Everlast will be buried under June's picture and that seems like inspiration enough. How could it almost be June? How could I have given such little attention and care to my writing all these months and years? If I can show up and be professional with each and everyone of my clients as I have for the last eleven years, then I can show up at my writing job with the same level of professionalism. Wouldn't it be sad if, in the end, I turned out to be, first and foremost, a massage therapist and not a writer? If it was all because of laziness and fear?

So yeah, I'm going to try and not let that happen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

If you look closely enough, even my back yard can look tropical. Actually, with it hitting 86 degrees yesterday, it WAS pretty tropical around here. With Sean out of town on a job, it's feeling a bit like a vacation for me. It's the kind of vacation only weird artsy types and overworked mothers seem to like. Nobody talks to me. I barely go anywhere. I avoid the phone as much as possible. I work a lot on the things I want to work on and little else.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Art is a vast democracy of habit."
The Creative Habit. by Twyla Tharp

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last night much of my friend's large catholic family came out to hear Funk Shui play. Among her eleven siblings is a nun who hit the dance floor in full habit. On the same small dance floor was her brother and his girlfriend who looked like they were auditioning for a soft-core porno. And then there were the rest of us, mostly happy.

I'd never given much thought to what it must feel like to be up on a stage playing music, looking out into a crowd of family, friends and grateful strangers. It struck me last night what an addictive thrill that must be. I enjoy reading my writing to an audience, but people don't dance to a short story or raise their beers and whistle their approval if they like your sentences. Mostly it's just me sitting behind the curtains in the quiet of my room. I love the loud and obvious joy that comes with the gift of music. It is a powerful thing.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Let it be known that the tomatoes are in the ground, along with the basil. It might even be a little too early but I'm willing to take a chance if it means getting some produce before the end of October. This year also marks our first attempt at growing veggies in a real plot in our backyard as opposed to the narrow strip along the driveway full of mysterious, ashy, lead-paint infused dirt. Mmmm. Good eatin'.

On another note, check out Bill Moyers new show. Because we know how to PARTY on a Friday night around here, Sean and I watched the whole thing. But you don't have to be an asocial hermit to stay informed. You can watch a lot of the show on their site. I recommend the interview with Marilyn Young who helps Bill deconstruct a few insane and delusional statements Condy Rice made to Charlie Rose. Also check out the story on Pat Robertson's robot lawyers at Regent University.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Reading Proust has reminded me to walk slowly through the place where I live and look carefully. I like the sunset to twilight hours and if it is also the close to a warm spring day, then all the better

The neighbor's yard sprawls into forgotten corners where vines take over and mysterious manmade beehive huts disintegrate at an elegant pace. These people also have aristocratic chickens whose chicken castle glows red on cold nights. Their yard makes me wish I was their child, the vast tangle of a yard my own private playground.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I don't care what it says about me that I feel the need to pat myself on the back for finishing Swann's Way this morning. I'm just glad I finally read it and enjoyed it and can now have an inkling about what people are talking about when they mention Proust (you know, during all those conversations at the bus stop, the coffee shop and during commercial breaks of House). There is an exhausting thrill to the experience.

"Words present us with little pictures of things, clear and familiar, like those that are hung on the walls of schools to give children an example of what a workbench is, a bird, an anthill, things conceived of as similar to all others of the same boat. But names present a confused image of people–and of towns, which they accustom us to believe are individual, unique like people–an image which derives from them, from the brightness or darkness of their tone, the color with which it is painted uniformly, lke one of those posters, entirely blue or entirely red, in which because of the limitations of the process used or by a whim of the designer, not only the sky and the sea are blue or red, but the boats, the church, the people in the streets. Because the name Parma, one of the towns I had most wanted to visit ever since I had read La Chartreuse, seemed to me compact, smooth, mauve and soft, if anyone mentioned a certain house in Parma in which I would be staying, he gave me the pleasure of thinking I would be living in a house that was smooth, compact, mauve, and soft that bore no relation to the houses of any real town in Italy, since I had composed it in my imagination with the help only of that heavy syllable, Parme, in which no air circulates, and of all that I had made it absorb of Stendhalian softness and the tint of violets."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The ice cream truck has arrived, turkey-ing up the straw. I wonder if the ice cream truck has been sufficiently exploited in horror movies. The way it always seems to be there, following you at every turn, feels about as creepy as an old clown doll. Admittedly, that's not much, but still . . .

Monday, May 07, 2007

Oh glorious sunny day. Think I'll put on my sandals and walk over to the library.

Not so fast there, partner. Do you think you're ready for such tricky footwear?

Apparently not. As I approached the corner to cross the street, I noticed a cyclist coming up to the intersection and a handful of other pedestrians waiting for the light and in all the confusion of forward motion and other people, sunlight and cars, I went down. Normally I would laugh at myself in this situation, but today all the witnesses were kind of glaring at me unsympathetically as if they were thinking, "Could have seen that coming a mile away." I had to wait until I got home before having a little chuckle at my gazelle-like grace.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

This lot used to house some mildly charming courtyard apartments. Of course, you can't stop progress especially when progress is synonymous with condo.

I wonder where all the artists will live, all the social workers and bicycle repair shop employees? Where do the baristas and pre-school teachers live in cities like New York and San Francisco?

Friday, May 04, 2007

If I kept a plastic head in my window it would definitely scare me every time I came home at night. Instead of a mannequin, I've been thinking of putting an IMPEACH sign in my window. There are a few clients who might react poorly to it, but none that would be offended or surprised. Then, I think of the IMPEACH bumperstickers I've seen and realize that my first reaction to them is–yeah, right. That'll never happen. And yet, more and more every day, impeachment seems like the only solution for returning some kind of sanity to our country. Click here for some easy, fun DIY impeachment fun.

I have always thought of myself as a part of a generation whose apathy rose largely from cynicism. I can't recall a time that political figures weren't there to be mocked. I even remember doing my own Jimmy Carter imitation as an eight-year-old. What has surprised me lately is the extent to which the state of affairs has affected my general mood. I thought my cynicism would allow me to care less, feel less. What I find is that the ongoing evil has begun to poison my daily life in a small but ever-present way. And yet my lack of faith in the politicians and the political process keeps me from feeling like I could possibly make a difference. That's a lame excuse, but it might also be the truth.

I'll probably still stick an IMPEACH sign in the window and write a few letters. It might help water down the poison for a minute or two.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I don't think I've ever actually seen a mothball, but I think this is what they'd call mothball-sized hail. This was yesterday's dose of it which came after a big thunder and lightening storm. Today we just got a wild cloud show. Now is the time when Portland's everlasting spring starts to wear thin. There are still tons of flowers and trees in bloom but the heater is also kicking in at night. Sandals and scarves sit in the same pile on my floor.

It's always easier to blame the weather for all the crankiness around here. . .
or it could be the funny hairdo I seem to sport in every single photograph, the same one I'm sporting right now,
or it could be the total lack of plot in my book,
or the neverending supply of hypocrites, religious and otherwise,
or all those dead people who shouldn't be dead.

The sun will be here soon and most of my crankiness will go away even though my hair is still funny, my book is still dull, the hypocrites are still alive and the dead are still dead. I am one of the lucky ones.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A month ago I was zooming across the open waters of the Bay of Banderas in a little boat. With each swell, the boat slapped against the waves and we all laughed at the adventure of it. After about an hour, the hills surrounding Yelapa emerged from the mist like Bali Hai.

On our last night in Mexico, we watched the full moon from our hillside home and forgot about time altogether.

Tonight is another full moon. There is much to do. The days disappear too quickly.