Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fauna (with no pictures).

At the end of the day, in Yellowstone:

The historian: (steering the Camry of Power into a pullout, so a speedster can pass us) I don't think I should be going much faster than this, do you?

Me: No. I was just reading (brandishing the ample documentation, newsletters, maps, warning leaflets, and whatnot that they give you when you drive into the park) that every year, 200 large mammals are killed on the road. Because of speeding. So 45 is perfect. Those guys are assholes.

The historian: ...and speaking of that,

Me: A WOLF! (which is sauntering down the middle of the road. It glances back at us, then crosses to the shoulder and down into a meadow.)

The historian: Think that's a wolf? Probably a coyote.

Me: Awwwwwwwww, let's say it's a wolf. (wrestling with my camera and its long lens, trying to point in the right direction, as we drive slowly by)

The historian: No, maybe it is a wolf. Looks too big to be a coyote.

Me: A WOLF. (failing failing failing to get the wolf into the frame)

The historian: Do you want me to stop?

Me: No. . . I missed it. I didn't get it. (camera all bulky and not really my friend yet, acting like it's a little too good for me in my fumbly hands.)

The historian: You sure? We can stop.

Me: No. Let the wolf be. (All of a sudden, wise in the ways of nature. Philosophical. Zen-like. Turning to The historian:) The WOLF.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The end.

This week, I've read the final novel in several detective/police series. I just finished The Troubled Man, Henning Mankell's final novel in the Kurt Wallander series; I also read the last novels in Robert B. Parker's Spenser and Jesse Stone series. On hand, I also have a new novel by Ian Rankin, whose final Inspector Rebus novel I read a while ago. I'm thinking about these final gestures--the final novels of the Rankin and Mankell series were decisions by the writers, who had, I'm guessing, come to feel these characters and the constraints surrounding their stories as a burden; Parker died last year, so these books were the last ones in the pipeline, (although I guess there's another Spenser novel that is "finished by" an assistant or something).

I found the experience of reading the Mankell novel to be unexpectedly upsetting, moving and sad, but also disturbing. I hope I'm not giving anything away when I say that Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus simply retired from police work in the final novel, but the fate of Wallander is not as straightforward (no spoilers here). I had to stop reading The Troubled Man for a little while this afternoon, because I realized that while I wanted to experience the resolution of the plot--what, after all, did become of the missing man, and who was he really?--I was not ready to say goodbye to Wallander, even though I found him to be a fairly frustrating character.

In the case of the Parker novels, and the character of Spenser specifically, I experienced something else again. I began reading his novels at another part of my life entirely, twenty-five years ago now. I always got around to reading the new novels as they appeared in my local library. After awhile, I knew that none of them would blow my mind, but the books were reliable in this sense: Spenser's voice was consistent, always; Parker knew and loved the great oeuvre of American hard-boiled; and he had a set of ideas to work through, about masculinity, about loyalty, about love, even. There was enough interest for me--and evidently for a lot of people, since he wrote dozens of books--that it felt like a small, if limited, delight to revisit the character, his scenes, his associations.

When I read that Parker had died, I felt a loss, personally. I read the last Spenser novel in the spirit of elegy, and in that regard, the experience of reading it was enhanced, or at least affected. (If you want to get a sense of how other crime fiction writers regarded Parker, read here and here.)

I am interested to know what my fellow Mankell-reading compatriots think of the final Wallander novel. It put me in mind of a wonderful B-movie-ish movie directed by George Romero, The Dark Half. (I loved that movie so much I bought it--in VHS!--but I did just discover in the course of my internet "research" on The Dark Half that both Siskel and Ebert could not recommend it. Tragic.) In the film, a writer who publishes literary fiction under his own name, but pulp novels under a pseudonym, writes what he hopes will be his very last pulp novel, then ceremoniously, and publicly, conducts a mock funeral for his pseudonymous "other half." It will not surprise you to know that, since the original story is written by Stephen King, the other half does not stay buried, and havoc--non-literary havoc--ensues.

I wonder, I wonder: will Mankell miss Wallander? Will the writer be sorry, finally, that his relationship with this long-time character, perhaps his other, has ended?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Idaho stats.

Purchases: butter, cheese, Coke, potato chips.
Reading: British police procedural; 200 pages of The Bridge.
Wildlife: osprey taking a fish from the river; bluebird; unidentified ground creature, just out of sight; possible bats.
Naps: very satisfying.
Stillness: vast.
Stars: without end.

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Idaho,

where we have only just arrived in the dark, the sky is full of stars. The river is very high. It is cold, but warming up. I have already opened my arms wide wide wide the better to take in the big breath of the air. We are here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

On not writing.

The people, I am not writing. Not currently. (sparing you the obvious caveat, that I am writing, writing this. Not writing poetry. I think you knew that's what I meant.)

Why? That's the question on the lips of the people. Or of me, one of the people.

Here's my latest assessment of the--I'm not even calling it a problem, not yet:
  • sometimes you let writing get far away from you. (by "you," I mean, obviously, "me.")
  • when that happens, you have to be patient while you find your way back to it.
  • "finding your way back" means agreeing to be a rank beginner again, facing your lameness, pressing on. You've got to be strong for that business. Or resilient, same thing.
  • I don't worry--much--that I won't find my way back. I've been here before. I know how to get there.
In the meantime, I am working on feeling good most of the time. This means, for me, right now, walking with Bruiser, taking my bike for a spin, reading, cooking, stepping out into the green world, cultivating a feeling of unhurry, and most of all, letting go of the belief that if I'm not working really really hard, things are falling apart.

Philip Levine once said that if you take care of poetry, poetry will take care of you. Maybe that means, at this point, letting myself be open enough to it; making time and space for it; then getting down to it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

For heaven's sake.

Well, the people, I have notes for a fancy ass blog post that would probably take like nine pages to get out, because it is complex and intertwine-y and full of philosophical pauses so that you may reflect. But when I went to write it, I thought, gaaa! blah blah blah, I don't have the time left in my allotted years to write that post, which, I may still write it. But not tonight. Tonight, I am going to say the following: today, I
  • returned some red shoes I ordered online which did not, as it turns out, fit my IRL feet, to Urban Outfitters, and bought two cute and probably slightly junky rings with the return-o-money (that's a special category of money, in case you haven't heard of it);
  • had lunch with a friend;
  • left my cell phone AGAIN at a place that required fetching it (the historian was the designated fetcher), but did not realize this fact until later, see below;
  • gathered facts and data for two reports I still need to write (can you believe that? me either.);
  • met with a student who's doing an independent study book-making project or projects, we shall have to see how it all turns out in the end;
  • and only then realized that I had left my cell phone hither and yon;
  • and through my superior powers of detection and superb memory, realized where I had probably left it;
  • and stewed about it while I drove home, where I could call the place at which my cell phone was most likely residing in its lostness;
  • and called, and confirmed, and then called and e-mailed the historian to beg that he deploy his powers of goodness to retrieve, aka fetch, the roustabout phone, which is evidently filled with the desire to be lost;
  • and went to the movie with my daughter, because that was the plan, and a little item like a lost phone can't interrupt a movie plan.
The movie was excellent, the phone was retrieved, we had burritos and fresh salsa for dinner, and then took a neighborhood spin on our bikes.

Fill this in with complex intertwinery and some pauses, and you pretty much have my other post, I think, so I think I'll go ahead and skip it. Check in tomorrow for new possible cheap jewelry, a-la-minute dinners, facts and data, and shoes, probably red, and hopefully that fit.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

California sketches.

Day 2: Lunch at Neiman Marcus in Union Square. There are ladies there, of the "who lunch" variety. They make, for the lunch special, a crab sandwich, Dungeness crab on a soft sourdough roll, with wholegrain mustard, arugula, and a peach compote. When you ask the server to find out what's in the peach compote, he returns with the following list, written on a folded piece of paper in black ink: "white peaches, thyme, lemon zest, orange juice, honey, white onion, salt & pepper." You can, and should, eat every single possible bite of this sandwich, and tuck the peach compote list into your wallet.

After lunch, downstairs, when you attempt to purchase a Chanel lipgloss in a neutral, non-sparkly color by the name of "Giggle," you will need to have a Neiman Marcus credit card, an American Express card, or cash, because the MasterCard and/or Visa you actually have in your wallet is too déclassé, too gauche, too cru, not enough cuit, apparently. But that's all right. That sandwich makes it all right, and you happen to have the cash.

Day 3: Cake. Because it is your friend's birthday, cake must be obtained. This means that, after your excellent lunch (for her, an egg salad sandwich, with tomato and olive tapenade and smoked salmon, on semolina bread; for you, ancho chili braised pork shoulder on the creamiest polenta ever devised by human hands), you go back to the counter and order up two cupcakes (for her, chocolate with chocolate frosting; for you, a banana cupcake with cream cheese icing). Each is wrapped in its own little white box. Because we are no longer hungry (sandwich/pork/polenta), we bring the cupcakes with us. And then we go hither and yon, here and there, checking out this and that, until cupcake time arrives.

But the sun has also arrived, and the heady crown of icing on the chocolate cupcake is a slick of melted butter, leaving only a little glisten of chocolate on the cake itself. Alas.

But because you are in Sonoma County, great bakeries abound, and thus all is not even close to being lost. Also, your quick-witted friend, the birthday girl, happens to know where cake is to be obtained. A chocolate cupcake for her, a coconut cupcake for me: happy birthday! And then, it is high time to catch a late afternoon showing of Bridesmaids. Cheers to that.

Day 4: this, that, departure, arrival. We get up and eat a medley of toast--cinnamon toast and meyer lemon rosemary toast. Berries and creme fraiche. Because, two days before, I had mistakenly thought that I didn't really need this book, we go back to Copperfield's to rectify that error, where I also buy another detective novel, a book about cake, a copy of Boom, and a book of poems. Lunch. Then on the shuttle to Oakland.

In San Rafael, travelers to Oakland de-board the bus, then step onto another, a transition that takes but a few minutes. At the platform, there are a dozen, or six, young men, boisterous, in good spirits. I think to myself, I am not one of those people who find boisterous young men to be threatening. But I feel a little cautious, all the same.

At the Oakland airport, which joins a small but select list of small airports that are a pleasure to fly to and from, one of the Delta people comes and, before I can get my confirmation number out, checks me in at the kiosk and prints out my boarding pass. At security, there are exactly two people ahead of me. We saunter through. I take off my rings and put them in the bin. A young man tells me, in a friendly advisory way, "Rings won't set it off. You don't have to take them off. Unless you're wearing a ton of them." I buy noodle salad and read my magazine.

And now I'm home. I woke up this morning feeling dehydrated, and also as if I'd had bad dreams. Also, disoriented. I forgot about a meeting I was going to have this morning--my colleague and I had agreed to meet on the Thursday of the second week of June. Is that now? It's, like, week 1.5, was my feeling this morning. By one o'clock or so I more or less had my bearings. And now I know I'm home because, for dinner, (a) I made soup, (b) I baked bread, and (c) I am baking a cake as we speak.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


So, this week has included, thus far:

1. vacation Monday, which ended with
2. ceiling collapse/need a new roof Tuesday.
3. roofer consultations and bids galore.
4. visit to grandchild's classroom for class opera The Friends (excellent, by the by).
5. lunch with grandchild and fam.
6. second lunch with colleague and friend.
7. book group.
8. breakfast with daughter and grandson.
9. food shopping for
10. baby shower for other colleague and friend.

As full of delights as this list is--and it is full! heaven knows, busting out all over with delights!--I need to get to work.

The historian and I just had a little midday phone call, because (a) more roofing talk, and (b) I left my phone at a store across the street from where I had breakfast this morning. He said, "So what have you got to do today?"

To which I replied, "I have a whole list":

1. straighten (this verb includes a myriad of stuff and messes)
2. wash (the whites and the sheets)
3. make videos (which I owe, in a sense, my college...therefore, I have procrastinated and resisted--one of my small handful of key, signature moves)
4. sew (I have inventoried the piles of fabric I have accumulated over the years. I am going to make things out of this fabric. Some things.)
5. cook @ 4. For the baby shower.

So it's time to get cracking.

Notice how there's no writing in that list? I wonder: what's that about?


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