Friday, July 03, 2015

The way, way back.

Tonight, we saw A Poem is a Naked Person, Les Blank's long lost film about (sort of) Leon Russell, made back in the heyday, in 1974, which was when I loved Leon Russell. Lots of people did. He was a session musician in Los Angeles, working with the famous Wrecking Crew and playing sessions with an amazing array of people (George Harrison, J.J. Cale, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra). He had a pretty great solo career for about ten years, after which it slowed down quite a bit.

Apparently Blank and Russell had some creative--and personal--differences, which meant that this film never was released until now. It was a gift tonight, to listen to the music again, in filmed studio sessions and in concert. A reminder of what a powerful performer he was. I saw him once in the 80s, with Edgar Winter (remember, RH?), in a small club in the mid valley. He was still great at the piano and in good voice.

A boy in my Mormon ward gave me a copy of Carney because it was his favorite album, and we were flirting a little bit, and maybe kind of were together for about a half an hour or a month. I listened to it constantly. I still have it in my limited collection of LPs from that era.

Nothing, nothing like music to bring back everything you felt, everything you were, when you were young and you knew nothing, and a boy gave you music as a gift, and forty years later you are still that girl, listening to an album in the dark.

Here's Rita Coolidge singing 'Superstar,' written by Russell and Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett (that's Russell's piano):

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Megastore recommends (summer food edition).

We haven't yet made it to the farmer's market this summer (this Saturday, we've promised ourselves), but I have been to Trader Joe's, which means that I have things to recommend to you for dinner:

1. Side dishes as main dishes. I stole this recipe list from a blog I read, and I immediately fell
see? side by side by side by side.
upon it as if upon the face of a long lost loved one. It's all sorts of vegetables that are supposed to be served on the side of something. What, I wonder? ( < rhetorical question) Well, around here, we like our vegetables in the middle of things. Or vegetables side by side. So, side dishes on the side of other side dishes? Anyway, let me recommend some other things related to this recommendation:

this guy is so, so healthy.
2. Raw, not cooked. This recipe, for summer squash, mandolined into ribbons and marinated briefly in the simplest vinaigrette, then adorned with basil and toasted pine nuts and goat cheese? So good. If you have ever eaten a rather chunky slice of zucchini in a crudités platter and thought, well., I urge you to try this. It tastes so fresh, so light, so exactly what you need when the day has been hot and you have schlepped yourself to Trader Joe's and back, and worked out, and so forth. You don't have to cook one thing. Well, I guess you have to toast the pine nuts.

pro tip: you really, really have to cook
potatoes before eating them.
3. Cooked, don't be ridiculous. This potato salad, you guys. It is the ne plus ultra of potato salad. First: loads of fresh dill. Second: loads of thinly sliced green onions. Thirdly: capers, which--sometimes capers seem kind of ridiculous, but they add a little salty, slightly pickle-ish je ne sais quoi to this, and it is good. But the dressing! It has tahini in it, which adds a slightly smoky, seedy element, which, combined with the French mustard lemon juice and some more dill, is just the best. People tend to be a little doctrinaire about potato salad, but this--this is worth changing sides for.

pretty, and good, and more than
pretty good, let's be honest.
5. Strawberries. When they are good, they are good, and by good, I mean there is nothing better. So have them, already, sliced into a bowl with a few blueberries and--hear me out, now--some kiwi. This makes a very refreshing finish to your dinner out of side dishes, and refreshment, the people, is what dinner is all about in the summertime. You know I'm right.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

In a recurring wave of arrival.

That's a line from the first part of "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror." As I was working on my poem the other day, I made a note to myself:

notes to myself.

So today, since I had an entire day at home, I went to my newly reordered shelves, and in a test of the efficacy of the reordering, I went to

  • the poetry section, 
  • to the As,
  • to Ashbery,
  • to the eponymous Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror.
It's a skinny little paperback, with the young Ashbery looking serious, knowing, and sexy on the cover. 
I thought you might like to see Bruiser.

I got this book in the fall of 1989. 

I love when I've made this note in the books of
yore--the date I read/bought the book.

I was TAing for a professor--helping to teach a course in contemporary American poetry--and we read this book, along with stuff from Ashbery's selected poems. It was my first experience with Ashbery, I think.

In looking at this poem today, I was startled yet again by how much of the poem I had forgotten, but in a curious way also remembered, just not consciously. Yet again, I find a poem has become a part of my cells. Its locutions and turns inhabit my own. If you don't know the poem, it's about a painting by Parmigianino titled 'Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror'; in the painting, because of the convexity of the mirror in which the painter sees himself, the face and head appear to be receding, but a forward-held arm appears large and imposing.

It's a long poem, but moments of it lift out of it and surprise me, moments like
The time of day or the density of the light
Adhering to the face keeps it
Lively and intact in a recurring wave
Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.
or like
You feel then like one of those
Hoffmann characters who have been deprived
Of a reflection, except that the whole of me
Is seen to be supplanted by the strict
Otherness of the painter in his
Other room. We have surprised him
At work, but no   he has surprised us
As he works.
A breeze like the turning of a page
Brings back your face:
Today has no margins, the event arrives
Flush with its edges, is of the same substance,
or this (this most of all):
...the 'it was all a dream'
Syndrome, though the 'all' tells tersely
Enough how it wasn't.
At the moment, I'm feeling lonely, and out of sorts. I had the day to myself and I worked away on this poem of which, if I'm truthful, the direction is fairly uncertain. I was glad to be able to work on it for such a long stretch, the only interruptions my distractible brain. I love this Ashbery poem, it's brilliant and challenging and it was a useful intuition, that the poem would speak to my new poem's predicaments. I plan to consult its transitions very carefully tomorrow as I think about the moves my draft is taking. It's a poem with a chilly, cerebral side, though. As is, evidently, the poem I'm writing. Maybe. I really can't say. Ashbery's swerves and feints, his give-and-take-away argument, are probably good mentors for me right now.

big long daunting poem.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Survival camp.

Basically, this lavender in my front yard contains, like, the hope for all nature:

I know I've posted a video of this lavender already this week. 
But the earlier video was of bees. And this video is of a moth. 
And yes, I know I already posted a video of a moth this week. 
But that earlier video was of an orange moth. And this is a 
video of a white moth, so: totally different.

…or so I like to think. Anyway, this pretty white moth is what I saw as I was about to get into my car to go into work for a meeting and then another meeting. This departure took place at, oh, 9:18 a.m. So before the full weight of The Heat of the Day fell upon us all. I saw the moth flickering there, on the periphery of my vision, and went to take a look.

As my brother used to say—at least I think it was my brother—about living where it is hot: ‘What hot? You get in your car where it’s air-conditioned, drive to work, go into a building that’s air-conditioned, work, and drive home to where it’s air-conditioned.’ Not that living this way has any bearing at all on the future of mankind or anything. Well, today, I got in my car, drove to work, had my meetings, then drove to meet my niece for lunch. This was all lovely, and of course, air-conditioned. Then, I went to Target.

The people, the automatic doors to Target are like a giant maw of cool, refreshing, refrigerated air. I felt it as the doors opened and closed and opened again, automatically. I was drawn into this cool, cool place, an oasis where you could buy a little blouse to go with a skirt for said niece’s wedding, or a new pair of reading glasses, or dishwasher detergent, or, like, gum, all in the refreshing coolness of a world of discount retail that is bathed in an impossible, unsweaty temperature. Anyway, I strolled around the Target, considering this and that, possibly lingering because of the AC.

And then I drove home (air-conditioned) and turned on the AC there.

I feel I should apologize for this post and for my dependency on cool air. But that’s how it was today. It was about shelter from the sun and from the heat, and cool air blowing in my face. Let me also mention the amount of cool, refreshing water I drank today. With ice in it. I guess it’s not supposed to be as good for you, with ice? But sometimes, America, we just plain need ice to make it through.

Monday, June 29, 2015


It's too hot for a walk. This is an objective truth.

Bruiser's desire for a walk literally makes him blurry.

But Bruiser is quite clear that he needs a walk. At 10 p.m., the time is now. We held him off for maybe 45 minutes after that, just to let the temperature fall a few more degrees.

there's AC in that house. just fyi.

So we gather our character and our fortitude and the leash. 

'Let's get a move on, you guys.'

We take a short route. Bruiser isn't as young as he once was (unlike the rest of us, whose youth springs eternal, although a mite grouchy with the heat, not that anyone's counting).

the moon, acting predictably beautiful.

Full, or almost full, moon--it's a beautiful night. Point conceded, Bruiser. Now let's get in there and make the most of that swamp cooler.


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