Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Now that Christmas, and also the day after Christmas, are over, I thought I'd offer a brief summation. First of all, there was shopping, which I accomplished with shocking efficiency (years of practice). Then there was decorating. You'll be pleased to know that this year, I bought a Christmas tree on December 18, as opposed to the hellish search I undertook for a tree when I tried to buy one last year on December 22. This year, it was all Fred Meyer, "I'll take this one, please," and it was 30% off.

Then there was baking. I delivered goodies to a dozen people. Bruiser ate an entire plate of cookies when we were out of the house for an hour. Merry Christmas, Bruiser.

Finally, there was entertaining. Because of the diplomatic entourage from the United Kingdom, we had to have a reception for the fam (25 or so people eating soup, chili, salad, and bread). This happened the same day we bought the tree. Actually, it was good we had the party, because I didn't want to start any Christmas activity until I finished my grades, but because of the Scottish invasion, I was procrastinating like nobody's business. If we hadn't had the party, we might not have had Christmas at all. As it was, I finished my grades just a couple of days late, but who's counting.

We also had a Boxing Day party, another 25 people or so, this time eating a gigantic feast, which included killing the fatted calf (i.e., cooking a big piece of meat, which I do once a year for this occasion) and all manner of delicious foodstuffs, including apple tarts and homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert, thanks to my handy countertop ice cream maker.

Today, I spent the entire day doing just about nothing. I read about two and a half beautifully written pages of Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude before I fell asleep at 10:30 a.m., waking up again at 1 p.m. I staggered into the kitchen and reheated some Indian food, then hung up some clothes that had been laying around since before Christmas. This necessitated another lie-down. For dinner, I turned the leftover roasted potatoes and broccoli into a delicious hash, which we ate with leftover salad and leftover french bread. I then had a productive evening listening to the Jazz beat a McGrady-less Rockets (when I actually watched, the Jazz didn't do so well, so I may have dozed a bit during the third quarter), then watching an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, which I am finding alarmingly addictive.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Delegation from Scotland arrives.

An extremely short member of the Scottish contingent walking with her escorts in the airport.

Scottish girl eats her porridge, in West Jordan.

Miriam plays an hymn to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Handsome Boy Modeling School.

(Either that, or the band is called Teenage Fanclub. I always get the two mixed up.)

Below, see the birthday party of my son (the one at far right with the ski cap and mouth so full of pizza he can't manage a proper smile). He turns seventeen on Thursday. Happy Birthday to him. (also happy birthday to Middlebrow and Dr. Write!)

Party supplies:

1. two bags of Doritos
2. two 2-liter bottles of Coke Classic
3. bag of Skittles
4. bag of Starburst
5. microwave popcorn
6. Two pepperoni pizzas (Little Caesar's)
7. Two orders of Italian Cheese Bread (ICB, for non-cognoscenti; also from Little Caesar's)
8. Gameboy, Nintendo DS, computer games
9. Excitable teenage dog

The after-party:

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Last Day(s).

As the poet Gail Wronsky once wrote,

The Spanish dancer said, "This is your last day."
"But," she said, "it is not your very last day."

[I invite the readers of the Store to contemplate the pretty much all-purpose utility of the above lines, which are contained in Ms. Wronsky's creative dissertation at the University of Utah from many years ago.]

Today is the last day of classes. I find myself feeling nostalgic for the class, choosing to remember the challenging, engaging, scintillating time we spent together. This nostalgia (dare I call it love?) for the class leads me to fend off a tear, sometimes not quite successfully, to write comments on the students' final projects and e-mail the comments to the students, as if the students care about my comments when the semester's over. Maybe they do. Anyway, I will miss my students from this semester. [Note: the photo above is of actual students on the actual last day of class, taken with my own actual digital camera.]

Today, twenty-five years ago John Lennon was killed. Click here to read John Lennon's FBI file, or you can check out this weird project that aims to recreate John Lennon's personality by programming an Artificial Intelligence engine with his words and thoughts. Alternatively, you could just listen to an old Lennon recording. Walls and Bridges is a personal favorite.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The mega-kitchen.

Tonight as I cooked our dinner (clean-out-the-refrigerator linguine and last-half-a-head-o'-lettuce salad) and then made granola, I contemplated the pretty much permanent wreck that is my kitchen. If you've ever had dinner here, you may not know this fact about the near permanent wreckage (although you may, and if you do, then please keep it to yourself), since for a dinner with company, we try to clean up nice. But day to day, there are dishes that, though clean, we never quite put away, since the historian usually loads and unloads the dishwasher, and I could be a little more prompt about putting the pans, etc. in their proper places.

Also, there is an insufficient amount of proper places for things in my kitchen. This may be because I am organizationally impaired, but it may also be because of my penchant for bringing more kitchen stuff home. To wit: new ice cream maker, innumerable serving pieces that were on sale for an irresistible price, ramekins, espresso cups. Also I save things like jars, because there's nothing more useful than a small-ish jar for transporting vinaigrettes, for instance, to a family party when you've been assigned a salad. Add to that the enormous amount of garlic we received from our farmer at the farmer's market. At this point, it's probably containable in one brown paper bag, instead of the myriad of brown paper bags in which we received it. But in the myriad bags the garlic remains, with all of the bags in a very large bowl that I bought at a consignment store (for an irresistible price).

Okay, all this is to say that, though such a rumination would generally put me in a soul-despising crisis of self-loathing, it has not, and here is why: soon, I will be baking. I have toyed with the idea of replacing the baking and delivering of baked goods to the neighbors with other holiday projects, such as ice cream making (also mass granola making), but I think I will probably bake the same stuff I always bake every year. Anyway, soon the kitchen will be a happy mess. There will be sprinkles and colored icing, dried fruit and nuts, yeast and butter. This year, my Scotland daughter will be here to help. Once she and I decided to take on a very complicated cookie recipe that resulted in checkerboard cookies of vanilla and chocolate doughs. They were so damn cute it was hard to eat them, even though they were good. I guess I'm probably not willing to go that far for a cookie. But to go as far as making dozens and dozens of various treats to give away?

Yes, I am willing to go that far. But first, I will clean up my kitchen--when you embark on a cooking project of this magnitude, it's best to start clean.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What Sharon Olds wrote to Laura Bush.

I don't usually write about politics here, but thought the readership of the Store would be edified by the following:

[at the conclusion of the letter she wrote, declining the First Lady's invitation to attend the National Book Festival:]

I tried to see my way clear to attend, as
an American who loves her country and
its principles and its writing--against this
undeclared and devastating war. But I could
not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I
knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would
feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to
be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush
Administration. What kept coming to the fore
of my mind was that I would be taking food from
the hand of the First Lady who represents the
Administration that unleashed this war and that
wills its continually permitting "extraordinary
rendition": flying people to other countries
where they will be tortured for us. So many
Americans who had felt pride in our country
now feel anguish and shame, for the current
regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of
the clean linens at your talbe, the shining knives
and the flames of the candles, and I could not
stomach it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

When your life is on fire, don't add more matches.

Here is some more advice you didn't ask for, although none of it, unlike the above, is Dr. Phil approved:
  • Eat more soup* in the wintertime. It's good for you.
  • If your dog occasionally dismantles the upholstery of your grandmother's old chair with his teeth, don't sweat it, because hey!--you have a dog.
  • It's really okay if you spend a significant part of your evenings horizontal in front of the television.
  • When the Jazz have their all-wannabe lineup in, just chill. You might as well.
  • It's completely fine to take all the credit--in your mind--when your students do something really cool.
  • Try to figure out a way to get more all-out singing in your life, even if it's karaoke.

*If you roasted tomatoes and froze them like I told you to this summer, the following is as close as it gets to instant food, but oh so much more delicious: Take frozen roasted tomatoes, put them in a pan with an equal amount of broth (vegan or vegetarian bouillon cubes are completely fine). Bring the whole deal to a boil. Put it in your blender and add a little milk. When everything's cooled down enough to blend without a blender explosion, by all means blend. You can do it briefly so there'll be a little texture, or at greater length if smoother is the way you like your soup. Okay, so when you've done that, then put it all back in the pan, bring gently to a simmer, then add some crumbled gorgonzola cheese. Let this melt briefly. Eat the soup with toast and you will be a better person for it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, the semester is about to end.

Not that y'all were unaware of this fact. I'm deeply engaged in list-making: stuff I need to finish related to teaching, related to committee work, related to the upcoming holidays, related to the fact that my daughter, her husband, and their daughter (my grand-daughter!) will be flying in from Scotland in mere days, related to the fact that my college daughter will be home for the holidays, and my soccer-coach son, too.


My students are working away, finishing their final projects and portfolios. Though I've returned a vast amount of student writing to the authors, there's a strange quiet a-brewing, the eerie silence of a storm of late, and then final, drafts about to whoosh in, tsunami-like.

I was sick this weekend, which I took as a sign from God that I needed to take a bunch of naps, and also that I should watch a flurry of Law and Order episodes in all the various acronymic incarnations. Which I did. I'm still a little under the weather [hand anxiously pressing brow for lingering signs of fever], but things are definitely looking up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Advertising is a science and holiday wishes.

Today, in the copy of Premiere that arrived like an early Christmas gift in my mailbox, I found an ad for the Mini Cooper car that consisted of two or maybe three stiff pages--the kind that make it hard to fold back the part of the magazine you've already read so you can read the magazine more easily. I tore the pages out, and discovered that the ad consisted of a regular page describing why the Mini Cooper is a car worthy of purchase, but also a template-cum-stencil, made out of flexible plastic, and another page called the "Practice Grid," the idea being that you should, I guess, draw/design your own car? One that looked like a Mini Cooper?

Does this make anyone want to buy a Mini Cooper? I just don't understand this--like higher math or physics or (let's be honest) the finer points of photosynthesis. Or the literary tenses in French.

Anyway, the Management of High Touch Megastore wishes all readers a Happy Thanksgiving. There has been no unseasonal decor nor Christmas music around here. We don't believe in doing anything Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. In fact, I really don't like to do anything Christmas until about December 19, which explains the big fat postage bills I usually end up shelling out every year. (Where was I?) Yeah--happy thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005


As of last night, I have finished responding to dozens of student portfolios and dozens of pieces of fiction and fiction exercises, as well as student research project proposals, making me officially, at this moment, Caught Up. Such moments in the life of a teacher are celebratory. Such moments make one want to receive praise and possibly gifts. Even without praise or gifts, however, everything in life tastes sweeter.

For the feel-good dinner, I made homemade baked macaroni (penne, but I don't want to come off aspirational) and cheese and also baked custards for dessert. But the real cooking feat of the day was applesauce, made by the historian. The historian is a gleaner. He's the one who scours the vines for the last clumps of little green grapes; he picks the last, ripest cherries, fending off the birds; and he picked the apples despite the fact that many of them were wormy (on the bright side, this signals that we never spray--they're good for you!).

Anyway, he took the notion that we should make these apples into applesauce. He kept mentioning it over a period of weeks, but the time just never seemed right. For one thing, I thought it would take more time and effort than it did. Well, it's not all that hard: you cut up the apples (and cut out the bad parts), leaving skins and all intact, and put them in a pan. You cover them with water and simmer until they're tender, which takes no more than a half hour. Then you put the cooked apples through a food mill, one of which we happen to have, a really old one that we bought at an antiques/junk store in Cedar City. It worked beautifully. After you've milled the apples, which removes their skin and turns them into a pulpy sauce, you gently cook them a few minutes more, adding whatever it is you think you want to add. In our case, we added a little cloves and a little cardamom, which made a divinely spicy applesauce.

I helped find the food mill and thought of the spices. We would have added cinnamon, but we were fresh out--I ask you, what kind of household has no cinnamon but plenty of cardamom? This tells you everything you need to know about how I keep house. Anyway, the point is, this was the historian's project, and he made a mad success of it. Aside from the great pleasure of having homemade applesauce, we have a lesson: pay attention to those apples next year.

Finally, last Thursday, my son was named MVP of the Cross Country team at the annual end-of-the-season banquet. It was wildly disorganized but it was fun and it had a good outcome. Actually, perhaps that last is a better descriptor of housekeeping here in West Jordan.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

New Template and Poetry Reading.

At tea last week, my dear friend Ann noted that reading light-colored letters on a dark background was hard on her eyes. I'm chagrined that I didn't think of this myself--there are certain publications that I don't even pick up anymore because their fancy layout/typography was clearly designed by young mind-altering-substance users who believe their eyesight will never deteriorate.

Voila, the eye-friendlier new Megastore.

Last night, I read poetry at the City Art reading series. Always a funny experience, the poetry reading. For me, it goes like this: I get asked to read. I'm happy and flattered. A few weeks before the reading, I start to assemble a list. I remember that Hector Ahumada, the Chilean poet, once said you should always read only new work. Regardless of whether this is good advice, I allow myself only to select new work. My list of new work then sets the revision agenda.

If things are good, I start revising in a deliberate way well ahead of the reading. Things are really never good. I start revising the day before the reading. Or the day of the reading. Yesterday, I spent the day revising.

It was a good day. I was home with Bruiser, who, stunningly, had nearly nothing to contribute to the revision process. No advice about line breaks, structure, diction, whether a version of a poem was self-pitying or condescending. Nothing. Nonetheless, I forged on. By the time the reading rolled around, I had a dozen poems in pretty good shape.

About the time I'm done revising, aka a couple of hours before the reading, all my writing turns to shit. It's the same writing of course, it just takes on the unmistakeable appearance--the odor, even--of shit. I gather this sheaf of sad, bad poetry together, put on my best poet clothing, and head on down to the City Library. Too bad such a beautiful building is going to host such a terrible reading of terrible, terrible poems.

The nice guy--excellent poet Joel Long--who coordinates the reading series introduces me and says very kind, glowing things about me. If only he knew what awful poems I was about to read! Then, I get up, say a self-deprecating thing or two, then commence.

In the reading, the poems don't sound half bad. "Not half bad," say to myself as I'm reading, which distracts me a little. Occasionally I stumble over a word while encouraging myself mentally. Before you know it, I've read for 25 minutes or so, my little pile of not-so-bad poems depleted. I say thanks and mean it, and then I sit down.

The next reader gets up, my friend Kim Johnson. She's a wizard of wordplay. Her poems are dense and playful, lively, sharp. I'm able to give myself over to enjoying them because I'm done and I did okay. At least okay. After it's all done, there's milling about, friends and strangers who say kind words, and it's over.

So that's how it went down at the poetry reading.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Planning is for suckers (Part 2).

On the one hand, I have planned to purchase a counter-top ice cream maker for years now. Literally years. We have an old fashioned ice cream maker, the kind that you hand crank (as in, to crank). We have made cracking good ice cream with that thing, and in cold weather, too. We're no sissies. Yet I longed for the ability to make ice cream on a whim and without worrying my prince of a husband, since the cranking, past the first few minutes, is beyond me. Not that I'm some delicate flower, but really, our ideal ice cream making time is when we have a bunch of strapping sons and sons-in-law around to take a whack at the cranking.

I'm not sure why it took me, the queen of commerce, years to decide to buy this relatively modestly priced luxury. But on Saturday, the day before a dinner party, I ventured forth to Bed, Bath, Barroom, Barrel, Buggery and Beyond, and found it. It shone like a city on a hill, the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, a multifunction ice cream maker which makes frozen yogurt, ice cream, sherbet, sorbet or frozen drinks in just 20-30 minutes! and it has a 1.5-quart double-insulated freezer bowl, an automatic mixing arm, an easy-lock transparent lid, and an instruction and recipe book!

Too bad I brought the shiny new kitchen artifact home and did not open the box nor read the instructions. If I had, I would have found out that you have to freeze the double-insulated freezer bowl before you can make ice crea, which can take from 6 to 22 hours. 22 hours! My God. What about people who don't plan ahead? Didn't they think of that?

Well, I froze my freezer bowl for 6 hours starting on the morning of my Sunday family dinner, but said bowl wasn't sufficiently frozen to actually make sorbet out of the delicious concoction I had prepared (blueberries, orange zest, orange juice, simple syrup). What we had, then, was really more along the line of a super blueberry slushy. It kind of rocked, actually, because we ate it with the best brownies* on the planet Earth. We inhaled the brownies, everyone's lips were blue, we were satisfied.

*Melt 1 stick butter with 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat. Add 1 c. sugar, 2 eggs, and a snort of vanilla. Beat it. (just beat it.) Add 1/4 c. flour and 1/4 tsp. salt. Pour this confection into a buttered and floured 8 inch pan and bake at 325 degrees for 30 or so minutes. Katharine Hepburn is said to have originated this recipe. Whatever.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Indicators: The Weekend.

Basketball games watched: 0
Movies attended: 2 (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; New York Doll)
Number of chilies in my papaya salad at Thai Delight: 1
People eating dinner at my house on Sunday: 11
Number of dogs attending the dinner: 2
Items of clothing purchased: 0
Kitchen implements purchased: 1 (ice cream maker)
Hours lingered over the Sunday New York Times: 2.5
Pots of chocolate tea consumed at the Beehive Tearoom: 1
Episodes of Family Guy watched (with my son): 1
Rows knitted: 5
Student portfolios read (so far): 5

One of the best things that happened to me this weekend was an extremely realistic dream in which Bruiser could talk. What he said: "My name is Bruiser." I woke up laughing, which is a very good feeling. I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Inside the brain of a teenage boy.

So it was quick, the arc of try-out-and-get-cut for the high school basketball team. I surmise that some or all of the following factors played a role: my son is tall and skinny, but probably not quite tall enough and probably too skinny; the junior varsity and varsity teams are actually all one team, which meant that there were very few spots; the coach cut quite a few kids right off the bat, given what he knew about the kids he already had; the team went to the state championship last year.

All of this I surmise, because when you're sixteen and you're talking to your mom, you control the discourse. Here's how it goes: your sixteen-year-old son calls you at 11:45 a.m. on a day when you're working at home. He's stayed home sick. He wants to know if you want to go to lunch. Sure! You're so ready, at any moment of any day, to go to lunch or anything else with your sixteen-year-old son. You shut down your computer, because you were really just idling anyway, hop in the car, speed over to pick up your son.

He gets in the car and tells you that he's stayed home because he woke up at 4 in the morning, vomiting. Alert! You say, "Are you sure you want to eat?" Then you think, he has basketball tryouts! and he's been sick! So you say, "Are you going to tryouts this afternoon?"

And he says, "I got cut."

It's a reflex when you say, "Are you okay?"

And it's a reflex when he says, "I'm fine."

This is meant to close the conversation about basketball tryouts, with the finality of its fine, but you are a mom, and that means that even though you keep your mouth shut for maybe a whole minute and a half, you have to ask again: "Are you sure you're okay?"

And because he's a sixteen-year-old boy, he must reply, "I'm fine," with even more finality in the fine this time. So this time, you really do keep your mouth shut. Inside your head, though, you're having a whole one-sided conversation full of questions that would make him want to murder you, or at least prefer making a peanut butter sandwich to having lunch with you. How many kids did they cut? How big are the kids they kept? How many of them are seniors? Do you think this means you have no chance next year? Do you want to play rec ball? What about your friends--do you think there are enough of them to make a team? Are you sure you're okay? Are you really sure?

We make it over to Wendy's without further discursive blunders. The beautiful, mysterious brain of my sixteen-year-old son keeps its counsel, enigma control fully engaged. He orders his usual, biggie sized, and we go home to eat it and watch an old episode of the Simpsons, after which he vomits again--not ready to talk, or eat again, either.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


See, there's good, and then there's better. For instance, having sufficient satellite stations to be able to watch all (or nearly all) of the Utah Jazz games on TV is good. (Watching games at the arena--good; watching them at home on TV--better: cheaper snacks, more comfortable seats, no annoying people sloshing their beer at you. Watching the game in lower bowl seats--good [it's happened twice]; watching the game in upper bowl seats--better: no snobby elitists talking on their cell phones making business deals.)

But having sufficient satellite stations to be able to watch all, or nearly all, of the Utah Jazz games on TV is even better when your basketball playing son happens to drop by to watch the game with you. Immeasurably better. For instance, even though he tells me not to get all panicky when the Jazz miss their first shot in overtime, which ordinarily might be annoying (does it mean something that "don't freak out, Mom" is a sentence that all of my children use on me at one time or another? Jeez!), last night it was kind of funny, because we were having the "watching the Jazz" ritual, in which I get cautioned about freaking out, but with a smile. Also, at half time, we got to hear the litany of opinions--on Jerry Sloan and his slavish devotion to his rotations; on why Ostertag is infinitely preferable to Jarron Collins--that mark each year's Jazz discourse.

Finally, victory is rendered even sweeter when you get to hear the NBA.com post-game statistical breakdown voiced by the teenage basketball-playing son.

Oh, yeah--I was supposed to help him with an English assignment--something about Benjamin Franklin and a virtue and what he, my son, did over a few days to improve himself in that regard. I forget whether B. Franklin liked b-ball or not.

Fan Watch: my son will be trying out for the HS basketball team this week. Last year he made it all the way to final cut, and it was heartbreaking. For him, too. I'll keep you posted.

Note to any readers of this blog who don't like sports: I apologize. I wish I could figure out a way to write poetry about basketball. I'll work on it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Perfect day, abolished.

Here's how Saturday went: Bruiser knocked politely at our door so that he could come partake of the morning waking up activities. We got up, ate our breakfast (whole wheat bagels, toasted; tea). We went out, my husband for a bike ride, me for a trip to a couple of consignment stores in search of a yellow sweater, which may be becoming a quest rather than an errand. We went to Big City Soup for lunch. We saw Good Night, and Good Luck. We went to Ken Sanders' Rare Books and perused. We bought several excellent books (Galway Kinnell's translation of Francois Villon for me; a book on Coxey's Army for the historian). Then, we went back to the theater and saw Shopgirl. We rushed home, we took Bruiser to the dog park, leaving only when it was too dark to see and he was the last dog there. We came home and had soup and cheese toast for dinner. We watched the Jazz lose to the Suns--disappointment, but it was the Suns, after all. Then we watched two episodes of Six Feet Under before going to bed. It was a perfect day.

Today, however, The Weight descended. There's grading to do. Important manifestoes and assessment projects and textbook proposals to write. A package I should have mailed yesterday. In short, all the responsibilities that I shirked yesterday are crushingly present today. Yesterday felt light--even the sky, in between the movies, was streaked with gorgeous autumn sunshine. Today, the sky is heavy.

The cure to all of this is to dig in and grade, write, etc. Instead, I want to: take photographs of the leaves, paint, buy big sheets of rice paper and ink black shapes on them with a fat brush. Buy yards of white silk and paint colorful circles on it. Do yoga every day. Take long walks. Listen to each and every one of the new CDs I have recently purchased. Play through another couple of Haydn sonatas.

What I actually did: bought stuff at Target; made garlic french fries; took Bruiser to the dog park; counted how long until I can take another sabbatical (two years plus ten months). What I'm going to do now: watch the remaining two episodes of Six Feet Under.

Note: if I'm whining, so be it, as this is a blog, in case you didn't notice, and that means a license for narcissism.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It Lives! and It's a Pure Adrenaline Rush!

A., I have my computer back. You'll be glad to know that my data is "backed up," to coin a phrase.

B., After a soul-sucking afternoon spent in strategic planning meetings, I participated in these redemptive activities:
  • Took Bruiser to the dog park. In the post-daylight savings time, he ran around like there was no tomorrow for running, in the gloaming.
  • Made arugula pesto for dinner, plus really good bread, plus a really good salad.
  • Watched the Jazz play. In a conversation with Middlebrow today, I took his view under advisement, that view being that, despite the hopeful preseason rhetoric, the Jazz would be a sub-fifty percent team and this season would be bad. Well, we shall see. Say what you will, Deron Williams looked beautiful tonight, Mehmet Okur looked like a genius, we got a few desperate prayer shots that went in! Plus, Ostertag didn't look like a total lummox, or at least, he was a lummox that could block shots. Plus, even the players that are prone to disappoint had good moments amidst the usual chaos. All I know is, plenty of people were pretty happy around my house. And, it turns out that Bruiser is a basketball fan, as well. A Jazz fan.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Computer death watch.

9:00 a.m. OIT calls me (OIT=Office of Infernal Torture) to say that Dell has my particular hard drive on "back order." Expected delivery date: 3-5 days.

[the sufferings of the damned]

2:30 p.m. OIT calls me (OIT=Office of Ineffable Titillation) to say that they've decided to pull a hard drive from another computer and have given said hard drive to my computer and have re-imaged. I can pick it up tomorrow at eleven-ish.

[Don't tease me.]

I'll keep you all posted.

Maybe this is really why they invented literary theory.

Click here for a discussion of the Star Wars sextet as a giant postmodern art film.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The hell of it.

Okay, so there was good news when I got home on Friday--this e-mail, which should have been accompanied by strains of cherubic choirs singing:


We were able to back up data and re-image the laptop. Stop by as soon as you can, so we can have you log back in and copy the data back to the hard drive.


However, this morning when I stopped by the bowels of hell, by which I mean the area where the computer tech guys do their infernal work, there was more bad news. While my computer had apparently been healed by the laying on of hands, and my data saved, this morning it was still possessed by the hard-drive eating motherf***er that gave me the black screen in the first place. [Black Screen is roughly equivalent to Black Death in the Windows world.]

[expletives, many of them, deleted]

The good news is, they're giving me a new hard drive, and my data is still saved. By grace, and also by Jack and Jared. So right now, I'm sitting in a little lab in the Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, knowing that I should be grateful--and I am! I am!--but I'm also still a little peeved. Pissed, actually.

Well, anyway, the weekend was immensely brightened by the thought of my saved data. My son and I took a leisurely trip to Wendy's for lunch (I'll say no more about his eating habits, except to say that Wendy's represents the best of them), then to the local used CD store where we found much treasure. He's currently in the middle of a small Ben Folds obsession, and found the eponymous BFF CD (yes, dear readers, he used the word "eponymous"). I found, meanwhile, used copies of discs that had been on my list for quite some time: Juliana Hatfield's in exile deo and the Scissors Sisters. Additionally, CDs I didn't know existed, such as a new Rickie Lee Jones recording; and both Fiona Apple disks I'd been sort of looking for (the new one and the one before that, which I once had but I think one of my kids made off with). We saw two movies--Separate Lies, which was interesting but not fabulous, and Capote, which was both. I wrote a new poem for my writing group. The weather yesterday was sunny, and we got an extra hour of sleep.

To Monday was allotted the backsliding of bad news, and that's probably for the best. To borrow signifying nothing's witticism, I enjoyed The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Weekend.

Friday, October 28, 2005

In Which Technology Sticks a Shiv in my Heart.

Wednesday night my laptop crashed, and I haven't backed up my data. Not for a long time.

I won't bore you with all the important stuff that means I may have lost. It was a new-ish laptop. I never thought about it crashing.

Thoughtless, reckless, naive. Yes, all of these. I took my beautiful laptop for granted.

The tech guys all made concerned, then very concerned, noises when I told them what happened. There was a screen, a black screen, with these words: We're sorry for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start properly. After that, there were six options for rebooting, all of which returned me to the same black screen. My computer itself made pathetic humming and ticking noises as it tried to reboot.

I feel like I have no hands.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Two More Small Thoughts.

1. If there are Sustainability Studies programs at universities, should there not also be Profligacy Studies programs?

2. If there is a Mitigation Director at FEMA, shouldn't there also be an Exacerbation Director?

Small Gathering of Small Thoughts

Things I've recently learned.

1. How to knit. I used to know this when I was a girl. A few years ago, on a trip with my best friend, we bought very interesting yarn and some knitting needles to make smashing scarves out of, but I found that, while I still remembered how to cast on, I did not remember how to knit. So I bought a book. An illustrative explanation and photo put me back on the knitting path.

2. Bruiser thinks that bamboo knitting needles are a delicious snack.

Addenda to Best Movies of the Year So Far list:

Best Claymation film: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. How do characters made out of clay seem to be so light on their feet? Witness Victor Quartermain as he challenges Wallace to a fight.

Best Small Film: Forty Shades of Blue. I thought this film was terrific. It features Rip Torn (anyone ever see him in Songwriter? That's a gem and a half of a small film.), Darren Burrows, Ed from Northern Exposure, who has turned into a very handsome man (from a very pretty boy), and a melancholy atmosphere. It won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, and predictably, our local reviewer was sniffy about it. Ignore him. This is a wonderful film.

Small improvements to my life:

I now have three pairs of reading glasses, prompted by an unfortunate glasses misplacement episode last week. One pair for home, one pair for work, one pair for my purse. Bonus: the ones in my purse have pink frames.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I love this blog. I might secretly love it more than other, more important, things, which I shan't name (but which do not include members of my family, my dog, or my friends). However, as much as I had planned to write a report about the State XC meet, filled with thrilling details, I find myself feeling a tad on the slumpy side.

It's over.

Let me say, first of all, that Sugar House Park (something I learned today: Sugar House is two, count 'em, two words, and not one, which has led to untold errors on my part in the past) is huge. That is, if you've told your parents and two aunts that you'd "keep an eye out" for them. Even so, I was able to find the starting line and, as a result, my son. There were a big bunch of runners. I stood behind the starting line (mini-DV camera in hand, shooting steadily with no fancy tricks, and, I'm hoping, no gratuitous sky shots or shaky pans of trees and grass), so I got to see how the start worked--the schools all had a slot, and three runners could be on the line, with the remainder of that school's runners behind those three.

Add to the hugeness of SHP its hilliness, its rolling terrain. After the race was over, as we hiked overland to our respective cars, I was able to see just how tough a race it was. Anyway, after the runners started, I got to see them pass at four different locations. As always, you can hear the runners coming before you see them, because the noise of the crowd swells and rolls toward you. It's still thrilling.

But. At the state meet, you compete against runners you've not seen before in the season (or you might have seen them, but maybe only once). That means, for instance, that the super-fast Utah County runners, high on life, apparently, come outta nowhere (there's a joke that goes with that, but I'll have to share it later, as I have a race to report). So the West Jordan runners, who were looking good on the first and second pass, by the third pass (past me, anyway) had fallen behind. It was on that third pass that I saw my son pass Josh for the last time ever, probably.

The look on Josh's face actually gave me pain. My son told me over the weekend that he liked beating Josh, and he didn't like it, and that's exactly how it looked. It's arguable, I guess, who is the best runner--one who, on a good day, really is faster than everyone else, or one who knows how to win in the high pressure races. Still, it's hard to watch a kid that talented fall apart.

After it was all over, and kids were milling around by the hundreds, I found my husband, and then my son's dad and stepmom, then my own parents and my two aunts. We couldn't find my son. He finished the race, 3 miles, at 17:39. When I talked to him on the phone later, he told me that he knew he could have run the race faster--he'd had a stomach ache.

It's funny, really, how an event that's supposed to be the fulfillment of a whole arc of preparation can feel so diminished in the experience. My son ran a race in which, by at least some measures, only the best runners qualified to compete. He didn't run his best, but he ran respectably, and finished first again for his school. His coaches want him to train year-round--they think he can cut another minute or more off his time. Josh has run his last high school cross country race. The season's over.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I saw Elizabethtown this weekend, to which I had looked forward despite all the warning signs. I found myself not particularly disappointed in it, which is not the same thing as a recommendation, I realize. When I discussed it with my daughter, who'd been similarly looking forward to it, I told her that it was flawed--there were several critical things that appeared to have gone missing, such as scenes that helped us to see the main character's removal from his family, his mother's grief, and so forth. It gave a feeling of being simultaneously too long and incomplete. I found myself knowing this, knowing it aloud as I was watching it (sotto voce, of course, I'm not a barbarian!), even. Yet I enjoyed the film, found myself feeling it getting better as it gathered toward its ending. As we walked out of the theater, my husband and I agreed--the flaws were evident, yet we felt somehow satisfied by it even so.

The question is, why are some kinds of flaws sort of endearing, or at least endurable, and other flaws are the deal-breakers? For instance, I will never go to a movie again (the kind of remark destined to be contradicted within weeks, no doubt) in which stuff explodes in great sheets of flame while someone walks away from the conflagration in slow motion. Extra points off if there's loud cinematic music swelling.

I'm sure that I could probably systematize this--figure out what makes certain flaws bearable, even charming, and others annoying or even infuriating. In this case, I'm prepared to like Cameron Crowe's films (although, sadly, not Vanilla Sky), because I loved Say Anything, and I loved Almost Famous even more. (Side note: the kid in Almost Famous, aka Cameron Crowe, could practically have been me--CC was in high school at the same time as me, in a SoCal high school. My kids even think that the kid, whom they now refer to as "Almost Famous," looks like I did in HS. If you look at the correct HS picture, they're right--I think we even had the same hair cut.) So I'll allow all the flaws of Elizabethtown because Almost Famous went to my high school? --or something like that.

A short list of people whose flaws I am prepared to indulge--for now, at least:
  • Wes Anderson's, whose The Life Aquatic may be deeply flawed, but stuff made me laugh in it, anyhow, especially upon the second viewing;
  • Bill Murray's, whose range may in fact be limited, as critics charge, but whose melancholy gets me more than anybody's;
  • Joni Mitchell's, who may have turned into the biggest crank in all of popular music, but she is, after all, Joni;
  • Don DeLillo's, because of Underworld;
  • Anne Carson's--actually, what other people see as her flaws, I see as her virtues.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

. . . but 2005 isn't over yet!

In the spirit of The Best American Poetry 2005, published and in the stores by mid-September*, I am posting my Best Movies of 2005 list now.

Best Documentary: Tell Them Who You Are, made by Haskell Wexler's son. It tells you a lot about Wexler pere, while telling a very poignant story about family relationships and how complicated they are, by envy, resentment, and even love. Also noteworthy: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, March of the Penguins, and RIZE.

Best Small Film: Winter Solstice. It's so small you might not even realize it's there, but it's a lovely little thing. Beautiful performances by the actors who play Anthony LaPaglia's sons. Also noteworthy: Undertow, Saving Face, and The Ballad of Jack and Rose.

Best Movie in the "Great Performances, Ridiculous Plot Turn at the End" Category: The Upside of Anger. Who thought it would be a good idea to end this movie with a funeral? Also noteworthy: Layer Cake (although this may also fall into the "Best Gangster Movie" category, we'll have to see).

Best Movie to See With a Teenage Daughter: A Lot Like Love. Readers of the Media page on the hymnbook already know that I love a romantic comedy, a fact that I feel a little guilty about, given my superior aesthetic training (she says sniffily). However, this film has the utterly charming Amanda Peet (remember how good she was in Igby Goes Down?) to recommend it. Also noteworthy in this category: in her shoes.

Best French Movie: The Beat That My Heart Skipped. If you haven't seen it, make sure that you do. It's a remake of Fingers, which I never saw, but everything about this film felt utterly fresh to me. Also highly noteworthy: Look at Me.

Best Israeli Film, or Best Film Featuring an Assassin, or Best Film Featuring Former Nazis: Walk on Water. Actually, I don't mean to be flippant: this is a wonderful, very moving film.

Best Film to Feature Middle-Aged Kung Fu Heroes: Kung Fu Hustle.

Best Mega-budget or Hyper-Hollywood Film: It's a tie between Cinderella Man and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The diehard SW lovers will not hear me out on this, as they cannot venture into the misty past that predates Luke and Han and Leia and Chewie. I say, however, that this film has a tragic grandeur that was wholly unexpected, despite certain thankless roles (Natalie Portman deserves an apology from G.L., in my opinion). And in the boxing movie vein, I thought the fight scenes in this movie were awesome--kinetic and electric.

Best Animated Film: Howl's Moving Castle. Wallace and Gromit fans--and I am among them--may protest. I may have to revise the list. As of the end of the year, however, aka October 2005, Howl will have to do. A, it's Miyazaki; B, it was the only animated film I saw.

Best Movie That's Just Wrong to Enjoy: The Wedding Crashers.

And in the all-round competition, the nominees are: Happy Endings, Junebug, A History of Violence, and Mysterious Skin. I loved each of these films for their quirkiness and the ways I found myself surprised and moved by each. I saw Mysterious Skin sometime in the summer, though, and it has stayed with me ever since. It's a beautiful and disturbing film, revelatory without exploitation. For me, it's the best movie of the year.

*Who knows what happens to the poems that get published between, say, August and December 31? Do they enter a no-man's land of poems unworthy to be considered "best" or "American" or "of 2005"? If anyone can answer this question, then I'll know what to do with the movies I see starting this weekend. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 10, 2005

da Noise.

Tonight, Joshua Redman and the Elastic Band came to town. It turns out that Salt Lake, for being a town with the kind of nightlife that inspires some NBA players to turn up their noses, that caused sportswriters everywhere to groan when the All-Star Game was held here, has a great jazz series, and tonight was one of the greatest of all concerts.

The scene is definitely anchored mostly by middle-aged white folks, supplemented by younger mostly white folks. There's a fair amount of "cat" behavior--you know, the jazz head bob with the eyes closed, a little motion to the backbeat. One of the major sponsors/underwriters, Gordon, who runs a pharmacy and apparently nurses a serious jones for jazz, sits in the front row, swaying from side to side. I'd have to laugh if I weren't so darned grateful that he and a few others make the whole thing possible.

Anyhow, my friend Clifton, who's a fine saxophonist in his own right, has never been able to make the Joshua Redman dates; I promised a full account, so here it is:

Set list:

The Gauntlet (composer, Sam Yahel, who played keyboards--mostly Hammond organ)
[tune so new it has no name, also composed by Sam Yahel)
Greasy G (composer, Joshua Redman)
News from the Front (composer, Joshua Redman)
[unnamed standard--ballad]
Is This My Sound Around Me? (composed by Bobby Hutchinson, the vibraphonist)
Sweet Nasty (composer, Joshua Redman)
Encore: Unnamed Blues (requested by side-to-side-swaying Gordon)

The drummer, a fantastically inventive player, was Greg Hutchinson. All players: virtuosic, with a seamless ensemble. The Hammond organ as played by Yahel got a kind of bubbling, percolating sound going that worked beautifully through most of the pieces--the sound felt like some effervescent mixture of lounge, 70s funk, electronica, a little Moog action. Occasionally he switched to another bank of keyboards and got all kinds of other cool sounds out of those.

When Redman plays, I often feel that he's adding new capacities to the instrument. He loves the full range of his sax, hitting syncopated and percussive notes--like snarls or snorts. You felt like the music was being invented right there on the spot. One thing that makes this ensemble, and Redman in particular, special is that you always can feel the architecture of the song even during the most spectacular improvisations. "Greasy G" started with a five minute long solo--sax without accompaniment--full of surprises, but you felt a kind of inevitability when the band kicked in to anchor the song. The song was already anchored in the phrases of the improvisation.

In "News from the Front," Redman used some electronic means (a sequencer, maybe?) to create very cool sonic effects in the intro to the piece, but I have to say that the new sounds that came out of the horn as he was blowing it himself were the most amazing effects of all.

Speaking of monster performances: the Region XC meet was today. As I walked into the park, I spotted my son pulling on his singlet. He came up to me and said, "My coaches told me that if I finish in the top ten, I get to go to state even if my team doesn't qualify." I blurted, "Can you do that?" Two minutes later, I was standing on the hill looking for the varsity girls to come around the bend, thinking, that wasn't the most supportive thing to say! (After the race, all the parental units--mom, dad, both steps--agreed that we had had the same thought, so I didn't feel so bad.)

There were six schools competing, and about 40 varsity boys runners. Two schools have seriously good programs--Bingham and Copper Hills, both also rivals of West Jordan. I'm thinking, okay, Walker, run your best race (also exactly what his dad told him--there are no original thoughts when your kid competes in high school athletics, by the way). The team's stretching, they're warming up, they line up, they're off. The race is on terrain, not a track, but after they start, they make two full circuits of the park, then finish near the starting line. So after the first circuit, Walker was fifteenth, with Josh, the best runner on West Jordan's team, at tenth but fighting not to lose position to another runner. Zach was behind Walker, but not by much. After the second circuit, though, Walker was thirteenth.

We watched as he took the hill (he told us afterward that he might be the best in the region at the hills--yeah, me too!), and even though it was far away, it looked to us like he might have passed Josh. After all the runners finished the second circuit, the crowd shifted back to the chute that would take the runners uphill to the finish. The first couple of runners were from Bingham--they're beautiful runners, the second place finisher just seconds behind the first, both of them running easily and with great form. I was looking for the first glimpse of a white singlet, then I spotted it. At first I thought it was Josh, and thought, I must have seen wrong, Walker didn't pass him. But then, we could tell--it was Walker.

I looked to see if I'd missed another white jersey, but no--he was coming in first for his team, and he was number ten. He finished strong and ran his best race ever--17:27 for the 5K. Zach came in maybe three seconds behind him. Josh was a few second behind that.

The best news of all: West Jordan's teams, both the boys and the girls, qualified to run in the State meet next Wednesday. As Walker stood up with the top ten finishers to receive a medal, and the official declared that West Jordan's team would go to State, he held up his arms to celebrate with all the other West Jordanians. No "I" in "team" is how I hear it.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

My New Life.

As Signifying Nothing notes, a great feature of academia (if you can call the community college "academia," not that I'm disrespecting my place of employment) is the many recesses of various kinds we get. No actual paid holidays, but they have the effect of holidays.

My husband the darling historian (my adjective there may be roving, I'll have to get that checked) and I drove to Idaho, a place where my dreams are increasingly focusing. For instance, the nice folks who own the Grub Stake Market are thinking about selling it after 25 years in the biz, and I'm considering what my life might be like as a grocer to hunters, fishermen, and snowmobilers. (I'm thinking I'd sell homemade soup in the deli in the wintertime, and my line would be "Soup at Eleven, Till It's Gone." It gets catchier the more times you say it.)

We left the Salt Lake valley on Wednesday evening, with enough pre-trip errands and checklists that I thought my head might explode before I got a chance to chill. Because we left late-ish, we stayed in Pocatello, only 150 miles or so. That meant that the next morning, we had a chance to drive around in the railroad portion of Poky, and stop in at The Walrus and the Carpenter bookstore. It's a very low-tech place--the proprietor, Will Peterson, is a world-class whistler and a darn fine guitar player. Between the two of us we bought about $300 worth of books for only $110. Tons of great stuff, including three used Ruth Rendell mystery novels, purchased as I was inspired by a story in the NY Times regarding her newest book. After that, we were on to West Yellowstone.

West Yell has always been a trashy tourist-y place, in my experience, and that's largely because we always went there as a tiny break from our noble family cabin, to consume ice cream and buy crap at the dollar store. This time, we stayed, figured out a decent place or two to eat (tough going, I'm afraid). We went into the park and saw a herd of buffalo right by the side of the road, and I mean actually on the road (by=on, apparently). Also plenty of elk.

Largely, this was an experiment in finding out what the summer place is like when summer's over. It was a success, in my view: first of all, we had an entire national park to ourselves (well, more or less). Second of all, we had nice chats with people we wouldn't have chatted with, as we wouldn't have been staying in a motel in West Yell, since we would have been staying in our cabin, our cozy, nest-like little cabin that protects us from any conversations. Thirdly, we drove to Bozeman, MT, which is kind of a cool town. We drove a different way to Bozeman--up through the mountains past the Hell Roaring part of the Beartooth Wilderness--than the way we drove back to Island Park, past Norris and Ennis through the Madison Valley, all of which was revelatory. After all the times I've traveled to this region, to have discovered so much about it was a real gift.

The last night we stayed in a little riverside inn just down the road from our cabin. Hanging out by a river is amazing. It was raining and the sky was heavy. As we were bringing our stuff into the room, we saw several people on beautiful horses crossing the river, with their dog swimming alongside. They each said hello to us in turn, as we stood in the doorway to our room overlooking the river, as they stepped onto the riverbank. It felt like something out of another life.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Planning is for suckers.

I have bragged, and recently, that there's a certain kind of bread--a classic french-style baguette--that I can now make in my sleep (other things: corn bread, muffins, bechamel sauce and variations). I put my own brag to the lie today when I started the bread with just about twice as much water as I needed. I kept adding flour, thinking, "maybe there's extra humidity today." Humidity my ass. I just wasn't paying attention.

At the same time I was making what ended up to be twice as much bread dough as I thought I was making, I was also making raspberry jam. In the middle of ransacking the kitchen for more flour, I grabbed the book I recently located in my cleaning/reorganizing/sorting extravaganza--the book I thought I had lost--about home canning. This, in the middle of the jam-making. How interesting to find out that raspberries are low in both pectin and acid! Useful information to have before you start squeezing lemons and adding sugar and setting all this, along with expensive berries, to boil.

I did manage to scrape together enough flour to make double the bread, but only by opening a bag of spelt flour. [Interesting (or maybe not) aside: spelt is a grain that has never been hybridized, and has been around for millenia. Also kamut, but that's another topic, and another grain, really. When I was in Vermont (at the Artist's Colony, when the Leaves were Turning), they had the most amazing spelt bread, made with a starter instead of commercial yeast. Mmm, especially with butter.] Revenons a nos moutons [French reference for my readers who know French, although I cannot remember the literary work whence this witticism derives, sorry]: this meant that our pizza dough had a certain nutty graininess. All told: the jam set despite the low pectin/acid content of raspberries, perhaps because of added lemon juice?; the pizza was great (yield: two large pizzas, one pepperoni, one veg, a pan of cheese/garlic bread, a bonus loaf of bread for good measure); the kitchen looked like a tornado hit it.

The bones of this narrative pretty much comprise my life, all the decisions I have made from early to late. I start something, to be reminded that with my slap-dash preparation and too-much-going-on-at-once attention span, I'm not much in control of what's going on. Another thing I always say about myself: I look at something--a painting, a beautiful photo, a piece of fabric, some delicious dish at a restaurant--and say, how hard could that be? It's my motto. So I forge ahead without really ever counting the cost or considering how long it will take, or what I really need to know, or even what I really need, before being able to accomplish the thing. Bookmaking, jam-making, dissertation-writing, moving house, blah blah blah. One time I flew to Orange County for a brief conference without my hotel information, thinking that others from my college would be on the plane and staying in the same hotel. I arrived at John Wayne Airport, apparently sans college colleagues, knowing only that I was staying in a Marriott somewhere near an IBM company building. It took my darling and much more level-headed younger sister to find out where my bed was. It's all how hard could that be? or things will sort themselves out, then doing the thing, often sloppily, but often enough, it turns out, successfully enough.

Planners, by which word I mean both people who plan and those fat books people carry around, make me itchy, mainly because they make me feel shoddy and inferior. Planners think about how many kids they should optimally have, and sock away money for those one or two or one and a half kids to go to really good colleges. They don't work on too many committees and they finish their dissertations. On the other hand, think of the everyday thrills: will the raspberry jam set up? Yes! Will this dough ever stop being wet, and will we have pizza? Yes! And bread! Will I wander the streets of Orange County? Or will I sleep in the clean sheets of the Marriott, whichever Marriott that may be?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

XC@JD: the 'zine.

Following counterintuitive's practice of using acronyms (SUMB=swearing under my breath), we decided to speak in acronyms although XC@JD (cross country at Juan Diego) was really as far as we took it. Juan Diego High School, for those of you who don't venture into the south part of the Salt Lake Valley, is the new complex built by the Roman Catholic Diocese, and includes a church, a Catholic Center, a primary school, a middle school, and a high school, and is very deluxe. They sponsored an invitational meet this morning.

My son did very well--his best time so far in a true 5K--!7:47. Zach, however, streaked by him at the very last and beat him by a fraction of a second. Those of you not following this story will be enlightened to know that Zach is the formerly second place runner that Walker has been beating in the last few races, now restored to second place, for who knows how long.

This is the last race before Region, which is on October 10. On the training schedule, there are a bunch of training runs, including "run the Region course" and "run the State course." Last year at Region, the first-place runner for my son's high school had a bad race, so the team didn't qualify. We're hoping that this year will go better, and that on October 19, we'll all be at Sugarhouse Park cheering the West Jordan team on.

Today's a day that required split second timing on everyone's part. It's one of the last few market Saturdays, and I have agenda items to accomplish before the winter. In squirrel fashion, I have nuts to store--really, actual pecans from the organic pecan growers in Hurricane. I had to buy some more tomatoes to roast, more basil from which to make pesto to freeze, etc. So we had to get up early enough to be downtown by 8. We hauled our produce down to Draper and Juan Diego, caught the beginning of the junior varsity boys race, then the varsity girls. We were finished with the varsity boys by 10:45 or so. My adorable husband the historian is helping his son move into his first house today, whereas I have been facilitating two 'zine workshops for the Utah Progressive Network's Youth Activism Summit. Whereas when I left the house, Bruiser and my son, just arrived home from the race, had stretched out on the couch for a rest or perhaps even a nap.

I have been on my own case this whole week because I offered to do two two-part workshops. Nobody asked me to be this volunteer-y--it was, like, "Will you help us by teaching a 'zine workshop?" and I'm all, "Sure, why don't I do two two-part workshops, to be spread out over two days?" Whose ass was I actually kissing by being this helpful? Of course, it's all turned out fine, and I'm enjoying it very much. The youth activists, several of them anyway, know more than I do about 'zines. For instance, did you know there's such a thing as a "distro"? Here's one to check out: http://www.microcosmpublishing.com. This place serves as a distributor for a bunch of indie products, such as t-shirts, posters, books, 'zines, stickers . . . as well as a manufacturer of personalized buttons and stickers. It's a cool site, and helped me understand a little more about how some 'zines might be circulated on more than a micro-local level.

My own experience with 'zine-making has been connected with my experience as an imaginative writing teacher. In my intro classes, we generally finish the course by making a class 'zine, which involves collaborating on various elements of the 'zine, but allowing a lot of latitude in individual page designs. I have always loved the eclectic effects such 'zines have. The youth activists, however, had amazingly creative ideas for their 'zines. What about a 'zine that focused on public restrooms in SLC? Photos and reviews. It could spin out into issues about other types of public spaces. Or a group of high school aged punks doing a 'zine about the bands, both local and touring, that come through SLC. These guys had already thought a lot about the project.

I think I should do a 'zine about Saturdays at the megastore household. I might call it "@the megastore." Certain people would be out and about doing good works, such as helping people move and lifting heavy items, or teaching people who already know about how to make 'zines how to make 'zines. Others are taking a nap with a dog after having run 3.1 miles in their best time ever. I would definitely have photos, and there would be witty captions. Or perhaps poignant captions. Ou sont les neiges d'antan*? One never knows, really, how many more races in the season there will be to run, or at which to cheer.

*"where are the snows of yesteryear?" Francois Villon

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Home Food Preservation Front.

Even though all the cool kids are bowling now, my adorable husband the historian and I have stayed at home, making grape juice from our very own grapes.

You'll be edified to know that, in the home food preservation arena, I have also been roasting tomatoes*. I took a pile of sweet cherries from our trees and preserved them with lemon juice and some sugar--they are pretty much the nectar of the gods on vanilla ice cream. While I've been messing up the kitchen, I've also made granola, a total of three plum galettes, cookies, a cake, and more cookies over the last few weeks. (Anyone coming to the Five-Year Plan meeting tomorrow gets cookies, by the way. You'll have to come to find out what kind.)

I have nothing profound to say about the home food preservation project. There were years when I had several dozen jars and I filled them all with tomatoes and peaches, pears, apples, and grape juice. Also a jam-making episode that was financially ill-advised, if delicious. There were years when I looked at all those jars and thought, man, I can buy canned [fruit, tomatoes, etc.] and save myself the damn trouble. And then, there was the year when we canned all the peaches off my aunt's tree and took digital pictures to prove we did it (not for my sake--the recipe my aunt submitted to her church's cookbook was for tacos, and featured instructions like "Put the dogs in the car and drive to Taco Bell"). This episode occurred a couple of years ago, and since then we've been doing it.

I must say, however, that the grapes in our backyard are amazing and make amazing juice. We are slob viticulturalists, in that we let the grapes grow wherever, whereas the extension service folks like to tell you to prune your grapes severely, like an old-fashioned schoolmarm. Not us. Our grapes grow in and through the apple and cherry trees and all over. One time when my mom was visiting, she brought in a tiny bunch of the most delicious green table grapes--the kind that, when they're ripe, you can crush them in your mouth, tongue on palate--and said, "Did you know you had these little green grapes?" No, we did not. Now we guard them zealously--it's a race against the wasps, who can leave a bunch of grapes decimated (in the etymological sense of the word), the fragile little hulls of the grapes left to mock you. And we love our red grape juice so much that we're reluctant to share it, even with the children.

We got a dozen jars of juice from this year's harvest, which also involved an unfortunate and rather severe pruning shear injury when my husband was trying to balance on a ladder and reach over the back fence to cut the last few bunches. I heard him swear with great vigor as he extricated himself from his extreme harvesting posture (I provided the first aid). That's just how far we're willing to go for the juice.

*Roasted Tomatoes: Oven at 375. Take as many tomatoes as you want to roast, blanch them and remove the skins, cut them into fourths. Place in a pan that's big enough to hold all the tomatoes, plus the other stuff you're about to add, but before you put them in the pan, put some olive oil at the bottom of the pan. It's for a good reason. Okay, now put the tomatoes in. Add as much garlic as you think appropriate to your tomatoes. Also fresh basil, and don't be stingy. Salt, pepper, more olive oil. Give everything a good stir so that the oil bestows its blessing upon everything. Roast for two hours or so, stirring occasionally (okay, once, sometime during the two hours). You want the watery juice to disappear, leaving you with slightly caramelized, dense tomatoes. Cool. Use as many as you want right away, and freeze the rest in ziploc freezer bags (sorry for product placement). These are so much better than bottled tomatoes or canned tomatoes or any other kind of tomato you might be tempted to eat in wintertime, you will not believe it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Not writing.

On Sunday it was my writing group, which meant that it was time to pull another poem together. I've often said that being in my writing group is the best way to make sure I write at least twelve poems a year, which is mostly true, though for a long time I've been riding on material I produced in the fall of 2001, when I was at the artists' colony (she says with a superior sniff. The Artists' Colony. In Vermont. When the Leaves were Turning.). Which can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. It's good, because I produced like 60 odd pages of stuff when I was there, most of it very rough and raw, and it's good, because I'm taking that material and working with it and making it into something, something very like a poem. But it's bad, maybe, because once again in my artistic life, I'm not exactly tearing it up with new material.

That characterization, of course, is not entirely fair, as I've written entirely new poems that I started from scratch in the meantime. Sestinas. Sonnets. Pantoums, even. So I should probably just be glad that I can get a poem together at all, and not search my soul, for crying out loud, about notions such as "artistic life" and "new material."

This new poem actually came out of stuff I wrote last summer, sketchy and bare notes. Notes like "burning our artifacts." Or "Feeling sick inside at missing my beautiful husband, my beautiful children—" Or a note like "last night my heart racing, sleeping and not sleeping in a dark enfolded by motel curtains (tenderly lain . . .)" (that last bit sounding pretty poetry-ish, I admit). Also a couple of lines from David Wojahn.

When I opened this set of notes on Sunday morning, I realized that sometime not too long ago I had amplified and embroidered them into a messy draft. How did I do this and not remember it? I find this happens all the time--sometime, apparently while I was sleep-walking or automatically writing or something, I open a file and do something new to the notes. When I open the document again, I see: Ah, so I turned that into a canzone. How/when did that happen? (Of course, I've never actually written a canzone, but I find I'm just as surprised by whatever I did write as if I had turned the notes into a canzone.)

I write all the time--it's like I never stop writing--but it's a little disturbing to find that poetry has crept into the least noticeable part of my conscious life. In part of the ongoing cleaning and sorting that is a new theme in my life (speaking of surprising developments), I found a file of old poems from a period when I wrote a poem a day, practically. I remember feeling then that the poems were being torn from me, like pages from a notebook. (Sorry--perhaps that metaphor's too torrential?) What would that be like now? I remember living in a constant state of heartbreak. Maybe, for the most part, I'd rather have poetry show up once a month on a Sunday morning, just hours before my writing group meets, to surprise me.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Men, Women, Clothing.

After reading sleepy-e's recent post "Dating for Dummies, Vol.2," I have been thinking about gender differences re: clothing. He says, "Women like clothes. I dare anyone to get huffy about this either. Bring it on, because you are lying and you will lose. Women like clothes. They like other things too, like puppies and unicorns and literary theory, but they especially like clothes." Here are my thoughts:

Part One. When I met my husband, his wardrobe philosophy consisted of the following:

1. Own two pairs of identical trousers (khakis).
2. Own ten shirts.
3. Own two pairs of the exact same--identical!--Rockport boots.
4. Wear the khakis for a week's worth of classes.
5. one shirt a day.
6. Take all the week's clothing to the dry cleaners
7. Repeat with alternate set of clothing.

If he got a new shirt, he used to say, that would mean he'd need to get rid of one of the old ones. It was simultaneously a philosophy and a closed-system science. I really admired it and still do.
Part Two. Needless to say, in every respect, I approach clothing myself in a fashion directly opposite of my husband's. I don't resent him for his philosophy/science/practice. I appreciate the diversity of human beings. I found, and find, his method of costuming himself to be utterly endearing. Meanwhile, today I made a second trip to T.J. Maxx for a skirt that I had made the terrible mistake of not buying two days ago. It fits into no system or science, though I do have some thoughts, and perhaps they are philosophical, about sweaters, jackets, and shirts I may wear with it. And shoes.

Part Three. Let me add that my son, the same one who's running these days, came up with the brilliant notion three years ago of buying five of the same pairs of shorts (red) and five of the exact same tee shirt (olive green). His philosophy was that, like most cartoon characters, such as Bart Simpson and Pepper Ann, he should wear the same clothes every day. A uniform, if you will. Anyone who can fail to appreciate the platonic beauty in this scheme needs to get a clue.

Part Four. Even cargo shorts, tee shirts, and basketball shoes are costume, no more fake or less fake than, say, dockers and a laundered shirt. Repeating the same clothing day in and day out is an elegant and admirable conception, regardless of the nature of the attire.

Part Five. Okay, I do like clothes.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Today was the Wasatch Rendezvous meet at Cottonwood Recreation Center. It's a great way to spend a Saturday morning--the junior varsity runners go first, then they have the varsity runners go, the seventh-place runners competing against all other seventh-place runners, the sixth-place runners against all other sixth-place runners, and so on, up to the first-place runners. Each school determines who runs in which place, and there were about twenty-four schools competing.

My son's coaches determined that he should run with the first-place runners. When the coach pulled him aside after training yesterday to tell him so, he told me, he replied, "Why?" The coaches wanted to give Josh, the kid who's been in first place for his school all season, except for the last meet, a chance to relax a little. He's been struggling, and last season, when it came to the Region qualifying meet, he choked, and the team didn't qualify. But the coaches also wanted to see how my son would do.

He got a little bumpy start--the official asked all the runners to step back from the line a bit, and my son looked to the side just as the starting pistol went off. He pretty quickly took up the seventeenth spot, and that's where he finished. The course was 2.9 miles, and he finished at 17:08.8, which gave him a 5:49 minute mile. Not bad at all, but not what he had hoped. When we spoke to him afterward, he was disatisfied with his performance. When he'd taken the hills--and it was a very hilly course--his legs had felt tired. "I feel like I could have run better," he said.

We noticed that, with so few kids running, maybe the first ten or so runners had a pack to run with, and there was a bit of position-shifting among that group. My son, however, occupied position seventeen with quite a bit of space between himself and the sixteenth runner, and quite a bit of space behind him as well. In that position, I guess, it's up to the runner to push himself to go faster, to cut into that distance. One thing I love about watching any of my kids play sports is seeing them take their experiences and figure out what to make of them. A less-than-stellar performance can be the occasion for figuring out how to take your game to the next level. I'll be interested to see what and how my son learns from this race. At some point, he'll tell me about it--I won't ask.

We watched Josh run with the second-place runners. His time was about eighteen seconds faster than my son's--so it's pretty clear that he's still the fastest runner on the team, though the top three kids on the team all finished within twenty-five seconds of one another. I've always enjoyed watching Josh run--he's tall and lean, has an easy stride; but he's lost some confidence this year--the expression on his face looks more uncertain. I wonder about the strategy of switching kids around in situations like this. I'm pretty sure the coaches weren't trying to play mind games with these lads, but that doesn't mean that the runners' minds weren't being played, nonetheless.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The small rain down can rain.

Yesterday, I watched my son come in third in a 3-miler. It was a beauty of a finish--he pulled ahead of the fastest runner from his school, thus finishing first for his school for the first time ever.

We hypothesize that he may have given himself an edge by shearing off his enormous head of hair. Think dandelion. Think Big Head O' Fluff. Think Black Power 'fro, except on a scrawny white kid. He informed his dad that he needed a cut by Wednesday, the day of the meet. Yesterday, when he tore past me at the start, I didn't recognize him. Think pencil, think Q-tip.

In the middle of the race, it started to drizzle, as the weatherman said it would, and then it started to pour. I personally had dressed for the forecasted weather by wearing flimsy and inappropriate clothing, covered with a raincoat. At the end of it, the runners were all drenched and so was all their gear, both what they were wearing and what they'd stashed under the bleachers for protection. It was so wet that one kid actually slid in horizontally across the finish line.

It was a pretty great day considering I had to change my clothes when I got home. He finished the race in 17:17, not a bad time at all. He's running like he's got religion. He's running like he believes.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Five Dollars.

Last night, my husband came out of his study after making an examination of our finances. "Let's not write any more checks until we get paid, all right?" he said. "Unless you can think of anything we might need to write a check for."

Let's see, I thought:

We get paid on Thursday. Today I spent $2.24 at Wendy's (diet Coke, french fries) and $0.42 at Wild Oats (filtered water refill). I have about $5.16 in my wallet, give or take a few cents. Here are some things I think I might need to write checks for, beforeThursday:
  1. limes
  2. the New York Times
  3. a brown corduroy skirt
  4. a beaded belt
  5. caramel colored trousers
  6. snacks
  7. miscellaneous other stuff

Obviously, I don't need to buy any of this stuff before Thursday, not even the limes. But I feel a slight sense of panic, so I go into stores to take a look at the stuff. Then, I don't buy it. I'm sure that there's a discourse of late capitalism that has inscribed me, but I don't really want to hear about it. This brief moment of panicky clarity has suggested to me that I may need a moratorium on stuff.

In a related development, I had the fleeting but recurring thought that I should probably curtail my late night sitcom watch, which is what I use to ease myself into sleep. It doesn't last for hours, but it starts pretty late. I'd like to be one of those yoga-doing, centered, non-material girls; instead, I'm a sitcom-watching, stuff-buying American. Here I am.

Luckily, we didn't have the check-writing moratorium before I bought a pound or two of purple plums this weekend at the farmer's market, which I turned into a delectable plum galette. What a lovely phrase--plum galette. It's fortunate that there is leftover plum galette to ease me through three more days (!) with only five dollars to my name.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Yesterday, I attended--as a spectator--the Murray Invitational Cross Country Meet. My youngest son, master of summer school and of last quarter intermediate algebra and therefore qualified to compete for the honor of his school, runs on the varsity cross country team.

Having been (a) a girl and (b) a snob when I was in high school, I have exactly zero athletic credits to my name (not counting the swimming, walking, and weight lifting I have done as an adult, and may do again if I can fight the demon sloth). So I have consistently found it amazing that all of my children have played/participated in all manner of sports, and have found one of my highest callings in life: to be a fan. For years, I was a soccer fan (matching up with the enormous number of hours and days and afternoons and evenings I spent watching my kids play it), and learned a great appreciation for the beautiful game. We've had flurries of basketball, more intensive of late. Track meets. And now, cross country.

A cross country meet might seem, at first blush, like a boring event, but your first blush would be sorely mistaken. Yesterday's meet, which had kids traveling from all over Utah to run, is a perfect example. They divided the runners, who probably totaled well over a thousand, into freshperson, junior varsity, and varsity divisions, with the women and the men running separately in each division. So six races, each a 5K. Translated, this means that you don't get to watch your kid run every part of his/her race; and you have to watch a ton of other kids run, mainly because with that many kids running, you can't exactly target your arrival to coincide just with the one race.

I sat with my son's dad, chatting away about teaching English, for the better part of two hours. At some point during that period, his wife also arrived. While one race was being run, the runners for the next race would be gathering at the starting line, stretching, jockeying for position. Meanwhile, you'd hear a roar come up from the crowd across the park, which meant that runners were approaching. You'd see them, several hundred yards away, and then they'd draw nearer. The noise where you were sitting would swell. As runners passed in front of you on the home stretch, you'd cheer for everyone running by. Once the big bunches of runners had finished, you'd cheer for the stragglers, especially for the stragglers.

By the time the varsity runners had lined up for the final two races, it felt like the excitement had intensified. The women finished their race, then the men's took place. Part of the reason the last races are more exciting is that the best runners have faster times, so there's less down time between the time they disappear from view and reappear for the finish. It was damned thrilling. It turns out, for me at least, that when you're trying to keep a look out for a particular kid, you can feel almost overwhelmed with sensation: the noise, the speed with which they approach and pass you, the feeling you have of not wanting to miss any of it.

My son ran his best time yet yesterday. He finished the race at 18 minutes, 0.9 seconds, which put his mile at 5:47. We all caught up to him as he was walking with his teammate Zach, a fine runner. For a long time, my son had run third for his team, behind Zach, but yesterday finished a few seconds ahead of him. He had the card the officials had given him, citing his time and placement overall (second for his school, 95th overall out of who knows how many runners). Zach wandered over to where the rest of the team was standing around. My son was clearly feeling great. After a couple of minutes, he decided to find the team, too, and figured he'd be able to catch a ride home with Zach. We all wandered off to our separate destinations in the beautiful but fading fall light. And if you think that's an overly aestheticized ending, too bad you weren't there, because that's exactly how it was.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cleaning and Sneezing.

Readers of this blog who've been waiting breathlessly to find out if I ever cleaned my office, an announcement: The Office Is Clean. It's the kind of accomplishment that I feel inordinately proud of. No one needs to pat me on the back for this, as I have been congratulating myself for it all day long.

Moreover, my darling husband and I spent some of the evening (not all of it--we're not animals!) cleaning the basement in preparation for carpet cleaners who are coming tomorrow. I will spare you most of the details, but may I say just two things: (a) soda pop and (b) cat pee. Also (sorry, one more thing) (c) splinters of many woody items. I attribute responsibility for these egregious carpet horrors, respectively, to (a) teenage boys who should have been spilling their sody-pop in the club house aka shed, which was designated for such riotous living; (b) the cat; and (c) Bruiser. This may be his only character flaw, however.

We did find some good stuff, though. For instance, I found a pair of my underwear that I thought I had lost (static electricity, in a pile of clean towels, for heaven's sake, not whatever you were thinking); $15 (birthday money for my college daughter, so I'll send it to her as a little pick me up); and, along with the birthday money, a little bit of Christmas-era candy. Which I may have eaten, just a bit.

The sneezing comes of dog hair, probably, and certainly dust. When you're trying to pick up splintery items from the carpet, you're right down where the sneeze-instigators live. I'm sniffing in a most uncharming way. Lucky you you're not here to hear it.

But! all the sneezing will not be for nought (read the last two sentences for a bit of complimentary homonym action), as there will be clean carpet. It will be a companion to the sleek bamboo floor of the main floor. No longer will we have to descend into squalor.

Next: the sad, seventies den-style paneling in the basement comes down, baby. Who knows what terrors this project will reveal?

[As a footnote, I must add that I was very annoyed to have the POTUS make a speech tonight, as it postponed The O.C. for a half hour, and Without a Trace wasn't on at all. Does it make me shallow if these television shows are the pinnacle to which all in my week is directed? I feel all
. . . frustrated and incomplete.]

Monday, September 12, 2005

Peer Pressure.

Here's my Google poem, heavily edited, but hey, I've been to a workshop or two in my time:

Metonymic Bruiser Movie

for fans of West Coast beach party movies and 60's girl groups

Unreleased soundtrack for the movie:

A beautiful mixture
of wistful



bruiter of "Flies Inside The Sun" (Metonymic) ...
My name, Bruiser:
che, elettrificato rock bello

... browpiece browsick Brucella brucia
bruckle brugh bruise .--

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Things that are just a little harder than they look.

1. Working the Mac operating system (OS to you plebes).
2. Not making the window in which you're viewing footage completely disappear.
3. Pointing the camera at the subject you're trying to film, especially if said subject is fleet of foot and furry.

Dream Renewed.

The Bruiser Meditations is now a go-picture. Because of the great generosity of my son's friend David B., who sold me his old e-Mac because he wanted a newer, more powerful computer (newer, more powerful, younger, prettier . . . when does it stop?) at a bargain price, I now have the means to turn my dream into reality. Which is, precisely, a video essay about the paragon of doghood (dog-liness? dog-itude? doggiosity?), Bruiser.

When I say I have the means, what I really mean is I have Final Cut Pro and a DVD burner. As I have gathered from the abbreviated demo Dave gave me, I have plenty to learn. I expect to premiere this film (I'm aiming for a 3-minute piece) sometime in the next year. Or maybe the next eighteen months. Stay posted.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rolling Stone Update.

1. In the most recent Rolling Stone, the one with the actual Rolling Stones on the cover ("it's their best recording in 20 years!" except I'm pretty sure they said that about their last recording), there's a little piece on Burning Man, which pretty much confirms what signifyingnothing had to say about it. Now I really will have to invent my own festival with francesca.

2. What's the best grave you've ever visited? There's a little piece, also in RS, about rock star graves. You know, Jim Morrison, the Strawberry Fields memorial for John Lennon, Johnny Ramone, Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes. Karl Marx's grave is in Highgate Cemetery, which, come to think of it, I personally didn't visit--my husband did. But I've seen a picture.

3. Here's a question they only ask you if you're a rock star: "In what bar have you written the most songs?" Or, at least, no one has ever asked me this question.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cleaning my office, or not.

Today, I had a big fat span of time in which, with no meetings, an online class, and a commitment to be here in my office until 4 p.m., I could have finally brought myself to make order out of the whirlwind that is my office (see Hosea 8:7, "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind," which shows why the Bible remains relevant to my life, as it explains how my office got messier over the summer when I wasn't even here!).

But I haven't cleaned it, though there's still time--a little. That's because middlebrow taught me how to make new lists in the sidebar of my blog. Learning is more important than cleaning (words to live by). Also, I had to eat my lunch, which was ratatouille, but sans the polenta I packed last night, because I grabbed the wrong plastic container. And I had to have various conversations. And add pages to my website.

All of which leaves me with an office that contains a metric ton (I'm not sure what that really is) of
  • old student portfolios,
  • books I will never read or use again,
  • piles of paper to file,
  • old witty things I've posted on my door that have certainly outlived their amusement quotient,
  • binders with material from old conferences (sample: "Integrated Learning: The School-to-Work Connection," from 1996--held in Beaver Creek, CO, which was a damn beautiful site, though I'm pretty sure nothing came of this expensive conference to which my place of employment sent a gaggle of faculty and administrators),
  • assorted 'zines from my old creative writing classes . . .
I'm tempted all the time to hire one of those professional organizers who could come and shame me into more order. The thing is, the bamboo floor (floor warming party still to come!) has imposed order at home, but there is no equivalent here. Maybe that's what we need--a big renovation-style project in the office, one that will create an order-imperative. So far, even having students come into this chaos has not persuaded me that if I don't clean soon, I'll be permanently ashamed.

Monday, September 05, 2005


In honor of Labor Day, I'm listing today's work, which included:

1. Shopping for a teapot and a flash drive.
2. Folding a mountain of nearly, but not exactly, identical white athletic socks.
3. Packing my son up to go live with his dad.
4. Taking a grief nap.
5. Holding down the TV fan section for James Blake in the U.S. Open.
6. Finishing a lecture on voice for my fiction-writing class.
7. Reading and responding to a mountain of brief student exercises for the fiction-writing class.
8. Digesting a cheese enchilada.
9. Sorting through the archaeological dig that is our videotape collection.
10. Taking Bruiser to the dog park.
11. Preventing any simulated copulation action on Bruiser's part at the dog park.
12. Engaging in speculation about probability of future suburban blight at local retail/mixed-use development (location of cheese enchilada ingestion).
13. Contemplating the removal of a trace of enchilada sauce from a white tank top.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The idea of Burning Man.

Happy Birthday to me, as of a couple of days ago. I'm 48 now, and I'm at peace with that. No, really.

I ran into a former student who said he thought he would register for school this semester, but that he was going to Burning Man, and that would mean he'd miss the first week of school. I advised him (oh, Advisor Me!) to contact his professor ahead of time, and he'd probably be okay. And he probably will be.

I have a little fantasy about Burning Man, which I think would probably be a nightmare of grit and heat and not enough water for it to really be an enjoyable experience. But I retain a space for it every August in my cosmic year. I know a few people who've been there, and the little glimpses of it I've gathered I use to shore up my vision of it.

I have this theory that there's a holographic self that hovers and wavers on the border of the self we bring to all our responsibilities, relationships, and meetings. That self shimmers and never ages and dares to do all sorts of things. My sheer and dangerous self would be at Burning Man, or at the Burning Man of my mind, and would not be afraid of a little nudity. She would also live in Alaska, in the bush, without fear and without a specified end-date for the adventure. She would never worry about younger people and their beauty, because she is beautiful herself, just as she is. She knows that.

I like my life best when I feel the wild girl nearer.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hey, shut up.

This weekend, one of the last if not the last weekend of summer, my son remembered that he had to read a book for Honors English, and it had to be read before the term began, and he had to write an 800-word essay about it. We were in Idaho, where there are no bookstores (just kidding! but no bookstores within easy reach), so my husband, who happened to be driving up with my daughter and her husband a few hours from this belated realization, picked up a copy in Salt Lake.

The novel was The Chosen, by Chaim Potok in case you didn't know, a book I read when I was in my early college years. My husband started reading it on the way up and finished it on the way home (I'll let you guess how much my son "read," or perhaps you haven't met Spark Notes?). Anyway, between my husband's reading, and talking about it with him, which revived my own memory of the novel, and the conversation I had with my son as he was preparing to write his essay (oh, it can be done, and done well! I read the essay this morning--stellar performance), I have mulled over this question: what is the value of parental silence in raising children?

If you haven't read the novel, it's a father and son novel, with one son being raised by a radically orthodox Jewish father, the other being raised by an observant but less orthodox Jewish father. The two boys are friends. Anyway, the orthodox father, who is a rabbi, chooses to raise his son in silence, which means that he doesn't speak to the boy except when they are studying the Torah. He explains at the end of the novel that he knew his son had a brilliant mind but a heart and soul not capable of understanding suffering, and so, by raising the boy without conversation, he produces this suffering, which tempers the boy and makes him a more compassionate man.

Okay, on the face of it, this seems nuts and extreme. However, I found myself contemplating how much I have needed to learn to shut up as a parent. It's probably more along the pragmatic, "pick your battles," kind of silence, but I have learned (sometimes--other times, I'm sure I natter and nag on, accompanied by loud eye-rolling on the part of the relevant teen) to just be with the kid without talking. If the kid will let you be near, sometimes being near without saying much, or anything, is the best thing you can do.

For a variety of reasons, my son and I drove to Idaho alone, with the others coming a day later. We decided to pick several new CDs we wanted to hear and listen to them on the way up. It wasn't exactly silence, but the first disc on the Foo Fighter's In Your Honor gave us a lot to talk about, even though we barely said a word.


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