Sunday, July 26, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation

For the first time in as long as I can remember (which, let's be honest, could be as recently as last year) I took a week off of work without packing my bags and hopping on a plane to visit family or friends or tropical beaches. My nails grew long. Hours and hours were drowned in heavy summer heat and along highways as I drove my broken-footed friend to work or my birthday boyfriend to water. Even more hours were spent trying to sleep off an exhaustion that never quite left me and watering a garden and watching a cat. My little, uncomplicated life.

Looks perfect, right? This is Benson Lake which sits RIGHT off of highway 84 in the Columbia Gorge. The water was about as warm as you're going to find in these parts, but shallow and muddy-bottomed and accented by the roar of passing trucks. Not bad for a desperate dip, but not generally recommended.
After drying off and heating up, we set out for The Treefrogs show at the Laurelthirst which was being recorded for posterity. The air conditioner was broken and nobody could open their mouths without commenting on the steamy heat of the place, but I liked it. I felt like I was in New Orleans, sweating cheap beer and loud music.
The next night, Sean's Afroknot bandmate treated us to a birthday dinner at Urban Farmer, one of the hippest spots in town where her boyfriend works. Sean and I loved the deserts most of all. I'm particularly pleased to be associated with people who are willing to pose for a corny phallic photo in the middle of a swanky meal.
After one camping trip at the beginning of my break got canceled due to unforseen emergencies I was banking on the camping trip at the end of my break. When I went to rent a car, I discovered every single car was spoken for. We borrowed a truck from the above super-generous bandmate and headed out as early as we could manage. My favorite camping spot proved to be everyone elses as well. Not a spot to be had without some sort of fist fight. "I knew it," Sean said and it was true. He was convinced of our curse which has ruined about 50% of our camping attempts. The saving grace of our day was a shallower and therefore warmer swimming hole than in years past. I stayed in the water. Stayed and swam against the current and stayed and floated on my back for the first time ever in Oregon waters. We loved it and went home happy with our little difficulties.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing Advice

Last week was the Tin House Workshop held at Reed College. Every year I hop on my bike at least once a day and pedal through the summer heat to the auditorium or the amphitheater to I sit in on lectures and a few readings without paying the thousands of dollars to actually participate in the workshops. Sometimes the bike ride is barely worth it. Sometimes I walk away with a few gems. This year one of my favorite panel discussions was on Beginnings with Karen Shepard, Walter Kirn and Dorothy Allison.

Dorothy Allison listed the three top motivators in fiction as Fear, Lust and Curiosity. "If you can get someone scared, horny and uncertain you've got a franchise."

Walter Kirn spoke eloquently about how beginnings are about closing down your options, and letting the reader know, with confidence, how to read your story. "Beginnings are shadows that are cast across the whole of the story."

Karen Shepard gave perhaps the most useful nugget of advice and that was the simple idea of policing your sentences. "Interrogate them. What are they telling you?"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Tattoo

A lady on a book? The man getting a tattoo next to me wanted to know what it meant. What did his tattoo of a skeleton riding a pig with an apple in his mouth mean? I didn't ask, fearing the answer. Make up an explanation if you need one. I guarantee it will be more interesting than my own.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


The garden has tipped over into wildness. The spinach and arugula bolted a week or so ago. The volunteer tomatoes are bowling over the wildflowers while the sunflowers bully the tomatoes. The nasturtium flow like water from their inch of soil. The bamboo seeks the sky.

Now if only I could hide the way the cat does, nestling into a spot between the flowers that smell like Good n' Plenty and the silver-blue grass. Nobody can see me. Nobody knows I'm here. Just watching and waiting and napping.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Eagle Creek

I'm waiting out the neighborhood fireworks tonight. I thought some calm green photos from my hike up the Eagle Creek Trail a few days ago would help distract me from the explosions. Icy water to cool my tired feet, the endless rush of Punchbowl Falls and the sweet cure of dappled light. Aaah, that's better...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mao grows bored with an article in BOMB magazine about "Nights of Horror" - the sado-masochistic cartoons made by the creator of Superman.