Monday, March 27, 2006

Chicago miscellaneous in lieu of full report, to come at a later date.

The beer drinkers toast the tea drinkers at India House.

Chicago bull.

Arty art museum shot (orange metal sculpture with a foreground of flowers?).

Haughty art museum city-slicker lion won't give the time of day to rube visitors (or is that just me?).

Figures in an empty fountain (Art Institute courtyard).

There's no place like home. (Alternative title: Gratuitous cute dog picture.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You'll just have to take my word for it.

Today, which was all hurry hurry because tomorrow it's off to Chicago, I ended my last class, finished creating the last discussion thread for it, sent the last student e-mail, and hightailed it out of the building lickety split so that I could race down to Orem and catch the second half of my son's soccer game. [Insert mental picture of lanky kid playing on the left wing, making a perfect cross to put the ball right in front of the goal where one of the other players fails to score.] Because of the spring snowfall, today was utterly clear, the mountains on both sides of the valley etched out of snow and air. At least that's how it seemed.

There's a point on the way south when you can see Timpanogos sort of peeking between two nearer mountains. I was driving along in the Chev, not minding the little shake it gets when I hit sixty-ish, not minding how incredibly tired I was from a night of not sleeping and coughing, not minding any of it. I felt I was just sailing from gorgeous vista to even more gorgeous vista. This is Utah, my friends. I remember the exact moment, twenty years ago or more, when Utah started seeming like home to me--after a long visit to my family in L.A., which used to seem like home, with the kids in the VW bus (an old one--), windows down, music blowing. On days like today, it doesn't seem like there could ever be a more beautiful place. As beautiful, maybe, but not more.

So I got to the 8th North exit, which wasn't the right exit--Center St., I thought. (Orem-ites, I know you know I've made a mistake here, but just shut up and let me finish my story.) So I wended my way around the unbelievably crass streets of Orem, which never met a city planner, evidently, south to Center St. and over to the high school. Which, as it turned out, was Mountain View High School. Fine, except I was supposed to be going to Timp View. Lots of views in Orem. What the hell. Of course, I have no idea where Timp View actually is, despite plenty of years spent in the Provo-Orem area. I sighed, did a little lite swearing, got a Coke and started home.

That entailed traveling west on Center Street to hook up at the freeway. Dear reader, the surface of Utah Lake stretched out before me shone like something really shiny and extra silvery. All afternoon, after the no-sleep night and the hurry up day, Utah handed me one vision after another, and for no good reason except that the world felt like gleaming.

I shot a couple of pictures from my car while I was driving, but they were predictably inadequate. (Note to self: don't take pictures while driving at freeway speeds at rush hour. It's not safe.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I sense a disturbance in the Force.

Here was my blueprint for spring break productivity:
  • responding to 10 preliminary portfolios each day
  • writing my CCCC presentation
  • taking care of various sundry details, none of them too taxing
  • spending time with my college daughter, who is also home for spring break
  • sleeping adequate amounts
  • seeing my son play soccer
Here's what I've done during spring break:
  • slept adequate amounts
  • read the paper
  • done the NYTimes crossword 2x
  • seen two movies I've already seen (Syriana and Capote) with college daughter
  • eaten dinner, lunch, and breakfast with college daughter (breakfast also with college son)
  • eaten dinner out with the historian and college daughter
  • responded to 0 portfolios
  • written sketchy notes for CCCC presentation
  • seen 0 soccer games due to crazy March snow
  • bought stuff
  • hung out with Bruiser (dog park: 2x)
I have, however, written up my AWP notes for anyone who's interested, and published them here.

Here is my lovely college daughter after breakfast:

Here is my CCCCs presentation so far:

Here is a sample of my preferred spring break intellectual activity (listing really good movies in blocks of ten, with occasional add-ons):

Monday, March 13, 2006

AWP: the rules.

Conference rule #1: Stay in the conference hotel. Otherwise, you have to think about walking-appropriate shoes as well as the fact that your route, unless you go blocks out of your way, takes you near, very near, the homeless shelter. Not that there's anything wrong with that. On Saturday morning, I got going a little earlier and found myself walking to the conference about a half a block behind a guy who clearly had checked himself out of the hospital only moments before. My route also took me past several bars:

Yes, that marquee does say the Strokes. For what it's worth.

The benefit, however, of staying in the non-conference Marriott was that I could hear music coming from the clubs in my vicinity. It was cool--around nine p.m. each night that I was in my room at that time, I could hear and see the party going on. If I had been at the conference hotel, I would have had the advantages of the conference hotel bar, where clearly the action was all happening.

Conference rule #2: have a conference buddy. I don't find this to be necessary for the 4Cs, which I feel like a pro at attending. However, AWP always makes me feel like a geeky amateur in every possible sense. If you check out Dr. Write's post, you can see the advantages of this conference strategy.

Conference rule #3: avoid all sessions at which you will be encouraged to reverence the Word. This could just be me, however. I find myself allergic, actually, to such sessions.

All in all, I had a good conference--I got a ton of great stuff out of the sessions I attended. (I'll post my notes on my website and post a link here later for anyone who's interested in hearing about this.) I also took an afternoon and saw a very cool collaborative installation at the Austin Arthouse, as well as an interesting and even inspiring show of various Christo drawings, models, and documentaries (made by Albert Maysles et al).

best reading I heard at AWP: Donald Hall.
when I was ready to come home: Saturday afternoon.
when I did come home: Sunday morning.
second best reading I heard at AWP: Cornelius Eady and Mark Doty.
number of NYTimes crossword puzzles I worked while at, or enroute to, or coming home from, AWP: four.
what I really, really want to do now at my place of employment: start a publication lab.
what I feel a lot more motivated to do now as opposed to before the conference: send my work out.
what I imagined and in my heart of hearts believed that Red River street smelled like on the morning before I left: beer and urine.
number of books I bought at the bookfair: six.
number of times I admired my own work now appearing in Caketrain!: just once.
inspiring meals I ate: two.
books I read: three (but they were all books of poetry, so factor that in).

A few more relevant photos:

The trees were starting to bloom.

Stencil 1.

Stencil 2.

Slam poet, kidding him or herself.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

For my son, who took the test on The Great Gatsby without actually finishing the book.

From the March 6, 2006 New Yorker:

Martin McDonagh, high school dropout at age 16, author of The Pillowman and widely regarded as the preeminent Irish playwright of his generation:

"Maybe it was best that I hadn't really been forced into reading books I didn't like at school, because I retained a love of literature," he said.


Finished with: a huge pile of student writing in draft form.
Sick of: explaining yet again to a child why I got divorced.
Ready for: oblivion-inducing, soul-numbing amounts of television.
About to: leave for a conference in Austin.
Will be back: when I'm good and f***ing ready, or Sunday, whichever comes first.
Will miss: all children, dogs, and husbands at the megastore.
Look forward to: scintillating and gossipy posts from the world of creative writers.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar outrage.

Things I do religiously that are evidence that I'm a pop culture whore:

1. Read the annual "Best and Worst Dressed" issue of People magazine
2. Read the annual "Most Beautiful People" issue of People magazine
3. Read all manner of trash fashion magazines
4. Watch--and, what's more, care about--the Academy Awards.

There was much anticipation in the megastore basement tonight, as children, spouses, aunts, cousins, and dogs gathered around the family television to watch the Oscars. The evening, however, was fraught with difficulties and obstacles. First of all, we thought that the broadcast started at 7 p.m., like any civilized major event, but no, it started at 6 p.m. That meant that all the food preparation I had intended to do in 1.5 hours needed to be done in .5 hours. That's 30 minutes, and it included making brownies. Luckily, the technologically enhanced youngest son saved the day by reminding us that we could Digital Video Record, aka DVR, it, which was genius, because it also meant that we could fast forward through the commercials.

Bruiser made himself a nuisance, sorry to say, by expressing his insistent opinion that he should be able to eat off everyone's plates. He managed to snag whole slices of buttered bread and a brownie before the evening was through. Otherwise, he was engaged by having a hilarious, three hour sparring bout with a dachshund, the dog of my daughter and her husband. My children bickered throughout the broadcast about who was being most annoying (my vote: several way tie).

Then the DVR ended before the actual broadcast did--precisely as they were showing the Reese Witherspoon Best Actress clip. Somehow, apparently the DVR believed that the Oscars would be over in precisely 3 hours. Bastard DVR! In the chaos that ensued, several people shouted at the techno-genius son to get us back at the live broadcast and make it snappy, at which point he shouted, "Shut up all you mother f-ers!," which was the high point of the evening for my aunt, which is why I love her so. (For the record, he did say "f-ers," pronounced "effers." We have standards here.) We got back to the broadcast just in time to hear that Crash won for Best Picture. The horror.

It's all nonsense and bullshit, but I still watch it--laugh at the funny stuff, cringe at the crap, tear up at the sentimental stuff, feel moved by things like hearing Robert Altman talk about his life making films. I may, however, edit the guest list for next year. Note to self: I may want to enjoy my nonsense and bullshit in peace and quiet.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Zero movie weekend.

This weekend, our total movie viewing will be: zero movies viewed. Last night, we went to the University to hear my oldest son sing the role of the Prince in an utterly charming setting of Cinderella. Tonight, we're headed down to the foreign land of Utah County, where my twin nieces are being baptized, and where a family party will be held afterward. The performance last night was lovely, the party tonight will be lovely, but no movies!

For many other people, the prospect of a zero-movie weekend wouldn't be unusual. I gather from most of my friends and acquaintances that they do not anchor their lives in seeing movies on the weekend, for various reasons: Netflix, babysitting issues, laziness (only joking, friends and acquaintances! just joking!). Plus, as I hear it, movie attendance has been on a steep decline for many years now. I, however, for many many years have thought of the two movie weekend as the norm--even my civic duty, doing my part to keep the struggling movie theaters afloat.

More, it makes me feel anxious when I don't see movies. Things might come and go, without my having seen them. What about that? Some movies I have to give myself time to consider seeing. Sin City was one of these, which came and went without my having seen it. Mostly, though, because I go to the movies so much, I see previews, which means that I'm primed to see them when they come. Plus there's a certain amount of movie-related reading that I do. All in all, my life feels somehow incomplete if there are not movies to round off the week. At least one!

Tonight if we weren't going to the baptism/family shindig, we'd probably be going to see The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. I hope you'll all join me in crossing our collective fingers that it hangs around for a couple more weeks.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What's new.

1. loaf of spelt bread
2. half gallon of organic whole milk
3. copy of The Companion Species Manifesto
4. what I'm giving up for Lent: saying "yes"
5. longer days
6. warm weather
7. bare legs
8. piles of key limes I'm going to make lime curd out of
9. soccer season
10. March


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