Thursday, October 05, 2017

Away, and yet I am still my very own self, Episode Infinity.

 I am in a hotel in another city. Okay, D.C. It’s early, because even in another time zone in my own country, I’m a little bit thrown off. I heard what seemed like a knock at my door and I thought, ack I’ve overslept, which is a new “thing I’m doing,” I guess, part of the “everything has changed and probably for the worse” tour of my own life. But no, I had not overslept, there was no knock, it was still early. But, you know, the windows are light, or lightening, and so now I’m up in the gray quiet, alone.

What is there to do in a hotel room but take gratuitous selfies? Or blog, which maybe amounts to the same thing?

I told my friend that I would have a hotel room to myself:

I realized when I woke up that I had just spent the last 12 hours, almost, in the total quiet, my time belonging only to myself. And what did I do with this precious commodity, quiet and time alone? Well, I slept, of course. But also, I did much of what I always do—finding stuff on the internet. Answering email. Because I tried to leave town with lots of work already done, though, I didn’t find myself feeling torn by how much there was to do. When you’re in another city, a lot of what you usually have to do, you can’t do. My colleague and I ate a wonderful dinner before I encelled myself in my narrow chamber. Actually, it’s pretty swank. So, you know, monastic, but with really nice towels and a king size bed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Dear guy in the white Ford ahead of me at the Del Taco drive thru,

Dear guy in the white Ford ahead of me at the Del Taco drive thru,

I've lately been having a talk with myself about anger. About rage, really. About grief and rage, which are twins, obverse and reverse of the same coin, aren't they? I could say that my grief/rage is national, but really, it's international and national and local and personal. Things are messed up. They are awry, askew, they are going sour and turning violent, and the losses--psychic, human, animal, civic--are at this point past counting.

Yes, I thought about all these things as I watched your broad backside, white Ford ahead of me in the Del Taco drive thru, brake lights aflare, as the driver--that's you, guy in the white Ford--leaned on an elbow out the window, apparently having a tete a tete with the person whose voice I could faintly hear through my own window, as I waited to order my two fish tacos and a Diet Coke.

Of course I was in a time crunch. Don't be ridiculous, of course I was.

What could you have been discussing? On NPR, they were discussing whether the Las Vegas shooter was somehow affiliated with the Islamic State, which the Islamic State claimed he was. Could he have acted on his own, and Islamic State still somehow claim it, in some legitimate sense? What is a legitimate claim from Islamic State, vis a vis this particular crime? &c &c &c, and the brake lights were still lit up and you, guy in the white Ford, still leaned out your window, and you were still, apparently, talking about something taco or burrito related? What could this be?

I admit I felt a tiny ignition of anger. I was under a time crunch, you see, a meeting that was to begin in fifteen minutes, and those fish tacos weren't going to eat themselves.

Finally, finally, you inched ahead in tiny, infinitesimal inches. And, following you, I crept forward to the drive thru kiosk to say, Two fish tacos and a diet Coke, and Del Scorcho. Because they always want to know if you want sauce, and Del Scorcho is what my son once ordered, ergo: Del Scorcho is my sauce.

I raced into my building, sack of tacos in one hand and the Diet Coke in the other. I managed one bite of one taco before I dashed to my meeting.

And now, having wolfed my tacos like a wolf, I'm thinking to myself: what could you have been discussing at the drive thru ordering kiosk, facing that tinny little speaker as if it were the person speaking through it? Was yours a terribly complicated order? Did you find yourself in need of a rundown of all the possible sauces? Were you ordering for a starving militia? Who are you, guy in the white Ford ahead of me in the Del Taco drive thru? And what hunger brought you to this drive thru, where you tarried, and, let's face it, kind of messed with my crack timing?

But that's okay, because I don't have a rage/grief problem, so we're cool,


Monday, October 02, 2017

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

Remember when we used to have Walkmans and listen to Prince while we took a giant walk around the perimeter of the neighborhood? Remember when, in childhood, we briefly had a cat? Remember when we had a tetherball court in our backyard, and we practiced and practiced so that we could beat Diane S., who was the best tetherball champion in the sixth grade? Remember when we had a yellow ten-speed, and rode it to the beach before the fog had burned off? Remember when we had delphinium, cosmos, asters, roses, baby's breath all blooming in our garden? Remember when we had a Great Dane that ate the tomatoes off the vine, and the peaches off the tree?

Remember when everyone had a blog?

Well, I remember all of this. Mostly because all of it happened to me, but you can substitute your own events, and you'll, all of a sudden, remember when you were younger, too. And when you blogged, maybe. Well, maybe you never blogged, but I did. I blogged a lot. There were a couple of years when I blogged almost every day.

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I'm in my office, and I should do a little grading before 11 a.m., when I have a commitment. So I will, but before I do so, I want you to know that I have the following before me:
  • a stack of bookmaking books.
  • a copy of Anne Carson's NOX.
  • a copy of Ander Monson's Letters to a Future Lover.
  • a certificate of tax exemption for the next time I buy a passel of fancy paper for the Publication Center.
  • My lunch. 
  • a postcard of Hovenweep. 
  • broadsides galore.
  • a copy of the Eduardo Corral itinerary.
  • a kaleidoscope.
  • an opalescent glass globe.
  • Dayanita Singh's Museum Bhavan.
  • India ink.
  • a David Hockney print of his acrylic painting of Mulholland Drive.
  • a photo of the crowded Beijing Metro.
With everything happening in the world, I want to try--try--to keep choosing love, beauty, and joy, while also still flooding my congresspeople's offices with strongly worded faxes. I want to try.

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To Autumn, worth reading every autumn.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Middle of the middle.

Here we are, just past the Fourth of July, with its blaze and hot dogs, its smoke and ambivalence. At least that's how it was for me. Luckily, I got to see my dad during the day, and we--the historian and I--went downtown to see a movie in total spontaneity. Also, ate pizza. The fireworks in my neighborhood went on well after midnight. Bruiser is an old man now, and is not a fan of the neighborhood fireworks. We postponed our walk till we thought it was all over, but no: one family had their entire ranks huddled in the dark on their parking strip, and set off a few rockets in the street. Green and white sparks fountaining up. We were maybe a hundred yards away. Bruiser drew up short, and looked back at us, as if to say, Really? REALLY? And we were all, I KNOW. When the family saw us, they held up their next conflagration until we had passed. Which was nice of them.

In my current roster of democratic (small d) actions, I include the following:

  • Writing to my senators all the damn time.
  • Reading prescient and pertinent articles out loud to the historian, who is a mensch and a champ.
  • Taking small comfort in good things.
  • Despairing, and at some volume, and then rallying. 

Small comforts: 
  1. the historian was working at a coffee shop, and saw a guy wearing an ACLU tee shirt. The guy was teaching his daughter, about ten, to play chess. The guy told the historian that he'd got the shirt at some ACLU event. So, you know, fellow traveler. Comrade.
  2. All those Secretaries of State, telling Kris Kobach to shove it, one way or another. 
  3. Talking to my dad and mom so often, hearing their stories, observing their responses to challenges. 
  4. Listening to an amazing podcast yesterday, with Danez Smith and Franny Choi interviewing Eve Ewing. 
  5. Writing, at least a little bit, every day. Thinking about writing. 

Eve Ewing talked in that podcast about 'desire-based narratives'--rather than writing about oppression and focusing only on what's terrible, thinking about, listening to, what the people involved want, what they long for. That seems small d democratic to me. An idea to conjure with.

It seems like our current predicament--what Danez Smith said called for them, all of us, to pack the apocalypse backpack every day (what's in yours?)--is going to last for awhile. I admit that I hoped that the appointment of a special prosecutor would be a hero on a horse situation, and even though I knew better, I hoped it would come quickly. But nope. (Or, in my favorite Twitter hashtag, which I think I personally devised, but maybe not: #NOPE.)

Anyway, the fire, and the fireworks, are ongoing, and we--I--must figure out not only how to endure, but how to engage, in a way that might possibly be productive. And that's how I'm spending my summer. Also: packing my apocalypse backpack. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Blame-mongering, or how I am spending my summer.

On the one hand, I'm pretty enamored of the Resist-bot. Because of it, I could fax my senators whilst on the road. I could practically stand in an ancient monument with my cell phone in hand, wave the phone in the air to catch a whiff of cellular network, then speak my truth to my senators in voice-to-text. Or, you know, yell my truth. And then, of course, carefully proofread, because voice-to-text, whew, so many misunderstandings.

Of course, I did not stand in the middle of an ancient monument and do this. But don't think I didn't consider it. Because of the rage, which leads inexorably to the rage-fax. It's a whole new genre, I think. Obviously, I blame DJT. Alternatively, and depending on the day: the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the afore-mentioned senators, that one representative who is standing down after having been reelected, which, on the one hand, phew, and on the other hand, who the hell does he think he is?

Emergent genre: the rage-blog-post.

All this rage isn't good for a person, I know this. I blame DJT and also all the above, and also my poor character which is, which must be, the reason I am not sleeping well, or enough, which throws all the rest of my carefully made plans into havoc. Carefully made plans: get enough sleep. Relax. Get into a writing routine. Creativity galore! Also, enough exercise. A calm and centered spirit. Etc. If there's not enough sleep, none of this will work. I also blame Bruiser, who has begun an occupation of our bed that shows no sign of abating. He is a sleep-space tyrant. Also, a sweet old dog, and who doesn't want to indulge a sweet old dog? I would never be so cruel, although I have recently purchased a memory foam dog bed that I am hoping will serve as an enticing bait-and-switch for said sweet old dog, because by God, I need more sleep, else the infrastructure of my summer plan crumble and I am left in the dust, for which I will blame, obviously, DJT. &c &c &c.

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Well, anyway, here we are at nearly the end of June. So far I have spent many sweet hours with my parents and sisters, walked where the ancestral Puebloans walked, smelled the sweet blooming desert flowers of Santa Fe, begun distributing copies of my book (my book!) to people. Booked one reading, am working on a second (and third, fourth, etc.). Reveled in the glorious mess that is our garden. Slept like a champion, mostly, whilst on our epic road trip. Read some really good books and some really enjoyable ones. Talked myself, several times, down from the ledge of anxiety that is the life of a writer (shouldn't I have my next manuscript ready RIGHT NOW? and if I don't have all the poems ready RIGHT NOW what will become of me? deadlines are passing right and left!). Found myself engaged in work projects that seem like they should wait till September, but no, they have to get started now. Seen many friends. Seen lots of family. Seen many more movies than I would have predicted, including Wonder Woman, which is a wonder.

I'd like to cordon off my rage-generator and its motive forces and its discontents from my ordinary (and extraordinary) joys with, oh, let's say, a hedge of dog roses and tea roses and floribunda roses and wild roses. Roses, in other words, thorny and sweet-smelling and petal-laden and high on blooms. It would be better for me, and better for everyone around me. It seems like, though, the world is whole, and everything is (as Lauren Hill says) everything, for good and ill. Here's hoping that dog bed strategy works, and all my rage-faxes join in a great river of resistance, and I--and you, too--wake up each morning having slept well, to greet the day and get to work.


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