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.