Friday, August 31, 2007

Yesterday was my big adventure into the cultured and not so cultured world of downtown Portland. Before my doctor's appointment I lounged at the ol' swimmin' fountain and watched the weird mix of young children, grizzled street people, adolescents and businessmen all trying to take in the last bits of full-blown summer heat.

Then I accidentally came across the Oregon Ballet Theater practicing in a tent at the end of the South Park Blocks. Who knew? Apparently, they're out there every day practicing on stage while in front of them are rows and rows of chairs and tables for random passerby to stop and watch. When I went by later in the evening I couldn't help but think that some of those guys I'd seen at the fountain would find a very comfortable sleeping venue if they just slipped under the vinyl sides of the OBT tent.

Then I went to the new Contemporary Craft Museum and everywhere there were these signs warning me that touching harms the art. It was the most interesting thing in the museum, especially since it was a CRAFT museum full of theoretically useful things like chairs and robes and tea sets. Not that some of the things weren't lovely and meticulously made, but really, it just made me laugh.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jack LaLane may not be able to think of anything better to do with his books, but it's a beautiful summer night and I need to slip into bed and let the slightly cool breeze sneak in under the curtain. And then I'll read until I sleep and sleep until I read.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

This is where I'm supposed to be right now. I flaked out on my friend and sent him off alone for a camping trip I couldn't quite face. I was scared off by the prediction of cool, rainy weather and my own drive to stay home and write. I rarely have the compulsion to push through a gnarled mess of overwritten scenes and incomplete thoughts so I had to take it.

At the end of a day lost in words, there is part of me that feels like I've missed out. What beautiful scenery did I fail to admire? What great belly-laugh of a joke did I miss? And yet when I get that weird compression of time that comes with hard concentration, I only want more. Where can I lock myself away? Somewhere with a nice view would be good so that at least my subconscious would be able to enjoy the real world while the rest of me was lost in an imaginary one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

And there is also joy. . .

Grace Paley 1922-2007

"As for you, fellow independent thinker of the Western Bloc, if you have anything sensible to say, don't wait. Shout it out loud right this minute. In twenty years, give or take a spring, your grandchildren will be lying in sandboxes all over the world, their ears to the ground, listening for signals from long ago. In fact, kneeling now on the great plains in a snootful of gray dust, what do you hear? Pigs oinking, potatoes peeling, Indians running, winter coming?"
from "Faith in the Afternoon"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the last boy I babysat for. Back then, he was a little kid playing kickball with me in his backyard. His father was the minister of the church I'd attended with my family for years and years, though at that point I'd become a full-blown atheist. The boy was all dimpled joy compared to his thinner, more serious older brother. Soon thereafter, I escaped that corner of the country and largely forgot about the boy. The boy became a teenager. The teenager committed suicide.

I can't pretend not to know how a person can get so desperate, so determined. I can't pretend to forget that I once wrote my friends trying to convince them that it didn't matter if things would get better. The unbearable was unbearable. I'm thankful that they weren't so easily convinced. I'm thankful for my own fear.

Mixed in with the bits and bothers of my desk, I keep my Bennington diploma and have since I received it. It's not on display for others or there to feed my occasional bouts of nostalgia, but rather, as a reminder of a community to which I am indebted. There's plenty of monetary debt, sure, but there's also my identity as a writer that the people, place and process brought to me.

I'm thankful that I lived to find that identity and hopeful that, someday, I'll find a few words to prove me worthy of it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This is all the greenery I saw today. I've been inside all day rubbing my hands over other people's skin. Usually, I'm good at not absorbing my client's burdens, but it's been tougher lately. Maybe they're more burdened. Maybe I've got my guard down.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Here's the new Funk Shui album, Armored Vegetable. CD release show was last night. Great fun had by most. Three hours or so of sleep for me means few complete sentences. Now I can say that I wrote the lyrics to a song. Click here and listen to Artichoke. Listen to everything. Send an email to buy a CD. Or buy several so that Sean can keep me covered in diamonds and furs.

Speaking of which, I watched Blood Diamond the other night. Take Jennifer Connelly's atrocious bits out of it and it was a pretty decent movie. It was just gruesome and horrific enough to remind me that I should never complain about the weather ever again. It also gave me the tidbit of info that there's a false rarity attributed to diamonds. If you're shelling out the big big bucks for one then you've been duped by De Beers. Here's some more info.

Friday, August 17, 2007

This is the Keller Fountain Park. You can dunk your feet or fully submerge yourself or soak up some sun on the concrete. I wish I had a small one in my back yard, minus the teenage hoodlums and crying children. I raced to it the other day, fearful that summer was in town for its final few hours. Thankfully, it's still here, mostly.

I'm still sitting here with thoughts of Liam, or mostly, thoughts of his family and the people who work at the Writing Seminars. But they are thoughts, not words right now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Liam Rector 1949-2007

I got one of those group Bennington emails late last night with the news that Liam Rector had killed himself. I searched for news that said otherwise, that somehow it wasn't true. It's hard to imagine the Bennington Writing Seminars without Liam's lecture on the Vortex or his joy in showing his favorite "Glengarry Glen Ross" clip or his looming, stage left presence above the lecturing students and guests.

While searching for the good news I never found, I pulled up a couple of his poems. Eerily, these are the first two I read:

From The Cortland Review

So We'll Go No More

So it's fare thee well, my own true love;
I'm leaving you behind. And not
For the early, for the young reasons, but

For these late, last, ill reasons. I'm almost
Kaput! Yea, you'll get no more of me....
Cancer, heart attack, bypass�all

In the same year? My chances
Are one out of two! And I'm fucking well
Ready, ready to go. To go!�how often

I've operated that way. That way
Almost the entire caper, the way
For people, places, things:

Abandon, abandon, nay abandon before
Being abandoned. But we've, we've
Stayed. You the third wife for me, I

The second such boy for you, and I love
Looking directly into you, as we look
Directly into this last get-go. We all

Have the talent for leaving, like it
Or no. And oh, how rich it is, how fine
To finally inherit!: the final thing

I was looking for, as it turns out,
The great power of leaving
All the breathtakingly brief all along.

From Pif Magazine

The Remarkable Objectivity of Your Old Friends

We did right by your death and went out,
Right away, to a public place to drink,
To be with each other, to face it.

We called other friends - the ones
Your mother hadn't called - and told them
What you had decided, and some said

What you did was right; it was the thing
You wanted and we'd just have to live
With that, that your life had been one

Long misery and they could see why you
Had chosen that, no matter what any of us
Thought about it, and anyway, one said,

Most of us abandoned each other a long
Time ago and we'd have to face that
If we had any hope of getting it right.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This makes me VERY happy. Plucked from my own backyard, I'm thinking of making it my new, though short-lived, pet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A playhouse for only $38,000!!

NPR had this story on over the weekend about wealthy mothers who are having large families. "Competititve birthing" they called it. I also read about this trend at Slate and have even read about occuring in slightly less wealthy suburban families over at MSNBC.

"Why not?" asks one woman.

Am I simply outside the realm of understanding here? Am I just a crazy lady without a biological urge for children who simply doesn't get it? Or are some of these people just blindly breeding without any sense of larger responsibility?

What about the world into which they are delivering these large number of children? Just because the world population growth has slowed doesn't mean that everything is hunky dory. We will hit 400 million in the U.S. before 2050. Your kids will be rich and have gone to the best schools (well-educated? That's another question) but chances are they will also be ravenous consumers. Do these parents think that it's not their problem? I guess it isn't. It will be their kids problem.

Honestly, I'm just confused about this. Is the biolgical urge so strong that it wipes out reason? Could these women not redirect some of their energy and massive cash flow into volunteer work? What about adoption?

I know that I'm pessimistic about the world's future. It's not that I think complete and total collapse is just around the corner. It's that I think a slow, insidious deterioration is not only likely but happening right now. I also think that the personal is political. That's not just a slogan. I believe it. I believe our actions have larger consequences and that it's important to make a moral decision about bringing three and four and five kids into the world. I'd honestly like to hear a moral argument for this. Maybe I'm missing something.

Oh,and also, please forgive me if I have completely insulted you with this rant. Sometimes I feel like a republican at a table of anarchists or like myself at a table of my wealthy relatives.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

My grandmother used to worry about me not knowing how to cook and not wanting to learn. As a woman skilled in simple but delicious Italian cuisine it was frustrating for her to know how much I loved food but hated being in grocery stores and kitchens. "If you won't learn, then you're going to have to marry a man who knows how," she would say every time I visited.

Well, here's Sean's dinner creation as proof that I did as I was told (okay, not the marrying part, but close enough): Fresh crab bruschetta with mushrooms and avocado.

Happy. Happy and fat.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Can you find all the bars in this picture? There are five in clear view, one on the way and a couple more not in the pic. Welcome to The Stumble Zone also known as my neighborhood. It really is an insane amount of liquor to squeeze into one block. It's hard to imagine that the new restaurant going in on the corner will be able to get a liquor license in this overly saturated market, but maybe the OLCC likes to keep it all in one spot. Now, if only the cops were also in that one spot when the bars closed and the jerkwads started their WOOO-HOOO-ing.

The WOOO-HOOO! is a weird phenomenon. It's kind of like shining a flashlight in someone's face. It seems like people (well-shnookered people) have an extremely hard time not doing this despite all the reasons not to. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to be done about it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Can you imagine any admirable leader making this kind of bar-room brawl gesture?

Sometimes it feels like we are a whole nation of ill-behaved babies from the way we treat our friends and neighbors to the way we view other countries and cultures. It seems to me that part of being an adult is being thoughtful, taking others into consideration and not acting rashly. Or at least, that's what I used to think. I'll have to redefine that as being a good person. Sadly, being a good person is not the same as being an adult.

Being good can be difficult and we are a country addicted to ease and convenience. We are addicted to "saving face," to not looking at our mistakes or at the darker side of our behavior. I see this not only in our leaders but in people I know. I see it in the folks stumbling out of the bars at night and in myself.

I wonder if there is a way to reverse this trend, to do the more difficult thing and grow up.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fire and Ice.
Camping in Western Oregon is often a chancy affair. Drive out into the woods in the middle of summer and you're as likely to get a cold, drizzly day as anything. Well, we missed the rain, but got the ol' cold and cloudy. Scoot a couple inches closer to the fire. Put on your sweatshirt. Have another shot of whiskey.

Of course, staying in town hasn't proven to be much better weather-wise. Our usual stellar summer has become blotchy and dull. I just have to remember that it's better than being flooded. Better than being scorched. Whine and grump if you must, I still think we live in paradise (currently appearing with a lower case "p").

Saturday, August 04, 2007

My backyard. Finally stepped out and had a look.

I get into the mossy forest and feel the magic of it resonate with my six year old self. The little patch of woods and the little creek that ran behind my house in Pennsylvania would fit a million times and more along the trail I walked today. And yet, immediately, I get that tug that wants to play in the water and pretend to set up house in the curves of the rocks. I am a city girl at heart, but there is something about these trees and this river that rings against my bones.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Apparently, bridges fall down ALL THE TIME in the U.S. but they aren't usually very dramatic and therefore get no media coverage. Roads are boring. People don't want to elect officials who promise to put money into old things when there are so many shiny new things to be had. The media doesn't want to spend time on talking about the decay of our infrastructure until there are people dead, good photo ops and stories of triumph to fill up their newscasts.

It's not any one group's fault. I blame it on the short attention span of our whole country. I blame it on our lust for flash and melodrama. It would require so much more than we have at this point to get a majority of people interested in ANYTHING even vaguely slow and difficult.

I have no idea what the answer is to this gross apathy that I am plenty guilty of myself. Turn off the TV? Read more books? Extoll intelligence as much as we extoll mediocre half-dressed talent? What the hell, it might be worth a shot.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Zucchini flower. Squash blossom. To-may-to. To-mah-to. All I know is that if you dip these babies in some batter and fry them up they're some yummy. Personally, I like them a lot more than I do the squash. Then again, dip the zucchini in some batter and fry it up and it goes down pretty easy too.

Speaking of fried food, I got caught up in Shaq's reality show last night. How nice to see a celebrity put his power to good use by challenging obese kids to lose weight and challenge the state of Florida to stop passing off junk food as a balanced school lunch. I wish more celebrities would take this route when they felt compelled to have their own reality show. I won't rant about reality TV now though. That would take away from thinking about the pretty squash blossoms. . .