Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween candy in review (miniature candy edition).

Milky Way (Peanut
Butter version)
I didn’t actually taste the Milky Way (Peanut
Butter version). It just came in the big bag of Halloween candy, along with the Snickers.

Pretty shiny wrapper?
Peanut Butter flavor anything is mostly gross. 

Exceptions: peanut butter sandwich. Peanut butter icing on white cake. Peanut butter cookie.

There’s absolutely no good reason to mess with the original Milky Way.
Almond Joy
So cute. Little oblong shape with rounded edges. One petite almond in the middle of the oblong. Suave.
There is literally nothing wrong with the Almond Joy, except that there should be two more almonds, and they should all be spaced appropriately, so that the almond per bite would be optimal.

See notes re: additional almond redesign of Almond Joy.
Box of Dots.
Dots are not a good candy. They are sub par.

That said, in the ‘fruit-flavored’ category, Dots are my favorites.

That’s not even true. I actually prefer Jujy Fruits, but they are a dental hazard. Ergo: Dots.
Not actually ‘fruit-flavored.’ More like ‘fruit-colored.’

They’ll do in a pinch.

They’re cute in their little boxes.

I’m adjusting the grade to a C.
Kit Kat Bar
The break down the middle of the Kit Kat bar is its signature move, and it is a good signature. It resonates with good auditory satisfaction, as well as a formal sense of symmetry.

The crunch aspect is also not bad, not bad at all.
I have not had a dark chocolate Kit Kat bar, although they are rumored to exist. The milk chocolate Kit Kat is edible, entirely edible, but it’s also a little insipid. Especially if you ate several miniature Kit Kat bars, one after the other.

Why would you do that?

Because they’re there, that’s why.

Fine, B.
Twix Bar
None of the satisfying symmetry or break-down-the-middle pleasure of the Kit Kat.

But caramel. Whoever thought of that was doing some next-level thinking. The Twix Bar is better than the Kit Kat on a quantum level.

That’s right: actual physics says that the Twix is better than the Kit Kat bar.

(it’s physics when you just say the word quantum, right?)
No cons. Twix bar = excellent.

That is all.
Box of Milk Duds
Caramel plus waxy chocolate should not equal excellence.

And yet it does.

The caramel requires that the candy spend at least a moment in the mouth before chewing, because it’s hard, and you don’t want your candy messing with your fillings. While the caramel is softening,
the chocolate is melting. 

There’s timing involved. Timing and, let’s face it, artistry. Eating a Milk Dud is an art. 

I am a Milk Dud artist.
The only thing wrong with Milk Duds is:


Okay, sometimes, you get a box with only three Milk Duds in it. That’s basically foul play.

It’s my favorite.

—the mini box is so adorable.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Lovely things that came my way in the last few days.

1. This poem, sent to me by K.A.

2. This list of music documentaries--so many I haven't seen! But v. gratifying that all of my all-time faves are on the list. (via Girls of a Certain Age)

3. Listen, with the amount of stuff I have been buying lately, I cannot imagine why I shouldn't have these. For teaching, of course. It would be a business expense.

4. This glorious article, which makes me want to eat delicious, delicious bread right now. As opposed to all the other times, when I also want to eat delicious, delicious bread, as any sensible person does. (via NextDraft)

5. So lovely!

A photo posted by Benjamin Wieler (@bookbw) on

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Important facts about today.

My knife earrings came in the mail:

Knife-ier than I thought they'd be. #extradeadly

And I wore my new green velvet chelsea boots for the first time:


Also, I wore tights for the first time. First Tights Day is kind of a big deal around here.

I got some grading done. Well, a little grading.

At the end of the day, the historian and I made the epic journey out of the house on a school night. Degree of difficulty: medium difficulty, because, firstly, it was raining, and secondly, we're edging upon The Great Darkness, wherein it's dark by 6 or so, and basically because (thirdly) we're mammals, The Great Darkness means it's time to hibernate, I think? Anyway, we braved our most primal evolutionary natures and went out to a poetry reading, where I got to hear one of my favorite poets, Campbell McGrath.

Campbell McGrath.
I first read Campbell McGrath when I was reading an issue of BOMB on an airplane. The article had an interview and a couple of poems from American Noise. Those poems shook me up. I thought, I have got to read this book! 

I told Campbell McGrath this story, like a rank fangirl, tonight when I met him briefly after the reading. Oh well. What exactly was I supposed to say? I loved your villanelle about Charlie Parker. I could have said that, because I did, I really did. 

Also, I could have tried to strike up a conversation about poetry in America, whithersoever it may be going, syntax, line breaks, rhythm, and so forth. The prose poem. Or I could have simply recited this poem, which electrified me on that plane and continues to set a buzz going in my nerves to this day:

Box cars and electric guitars; ospreys, oceans,
glaciers, coins; the whisper of the green corn
kachina; the hard sell, the fast buck, casual
traffic, nothing at all; nighthawks of the twenty-four
hour donut shops; maples enflamed by the sugars
of autumn; aspens lilting, sap yellow and viridian;
concrete communion of the clover leaves and
interchanges; psalms; sorrow; gold mines, zydeco,
alfalfa, 14th Street; sheets of rain across the hills
of Antietam; weedy bundles of black-eyed Susans
in the vacant lots of Baltimore; smell of eggs and
bacon at Denny’s, outside Flagstaff, 4 am;
bindlestiffs; broken glass; the solitary drifter; the
sprinklers of suburbia; protest rallies, rocket
launches, traffic jams, swap meets; the Home
Shopping Network hawking cubic zirconium; song
of the chainsaw and the crack of the bat; wheels
of progress and mastery; tug boats, billboards, fog
horns, folk songs; pinball machines and
mechanical hearts; brave words spoken in
ignorance; dance music from the Union Hall; knots
of migrant workers like buoys among waves or
beads in the green weave of strawberry fields
around Watsonville; the faithful touched by
tongues of flame in the Elvis cathedrals of Vegas;
wildflowers and anthracite; smokestacks and
sequoias; avenues of bowling alleys and flamingo
tattoos; car alarms, windmills, wedding bells, the

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

In excess of three strikes.

This morning, I arrived at work one hour early for an appointment, spilled my warm beverage on my shirt, did an emergency washup in the restroom that resulted in cold wet shirt syndrome, then spilled my beverage again, this time on the floor, while fetching a fork from the utensil dispenser. Three strikes, I said, maybe even aloud, in the cafeteria, walking away from the spill as if it had nothing to do with me.

But let me start over.

Last night, I got into bed. I assumed my auto-sleep posture (state secret). I closed my eyes. I felt the imminence of sleep, for about twenty minutes, until the Awake Fairy tapped me right on the eyelids and said, fat chance.

I got up and added a bunch more lines to a poem I have started. Dubious lines, if you must know. I researched the source of the Los Angeles river (Bell Creek and Arroyo Calabasas). I wrote until I felt not just sleepy but exhausted. I was seventy-five, eighty percent exhausted. I came back to bed, assumed the posture (state secret), and fell asleep for real.

Five hours later, alarm. Not just the phone going off, my state of mind at what the day was likely to be. Spilled beverage, wet shirt, too early, and another spill. Not to mention hurty eyes and a tiny but naggy headache. I'm not complaining, this is just reportage. This is, like, the science of reportage. It's straight up data, man.

Years from now when they study the data set of today, they will find what any fool could have predicted: compromised productivity. Constant pulse-checking (pulse being a metaphor here--sorry about that, data!). Possible surges of self-pity. Clock-watching. Meeting meeting meeting, all of which were sleep-deprivation compromised.

In the end--by which I mean the end of the day--I came home, traffic seeming extra-sluggish, and fell, it's not too strong a word, into bed for an hour, which gave me exactly enough stamina to eat leftover pasta with pesto, and then laid around all evening, watching bits from Trevor Noah and Ghostbusters.

I'm assuming, in an excess of optimism, that this will be a one time event. That I will wake tomorrow in full possession of my faculties, including the ability to hold on to my beverage and read a schedule. And then I will find my will to live and--let's hope--my will to grade, because the Lord knows I need to. Here's to the Awake Fairy finding her appropriate place on another side of the planet, and the sleep posture (state secret) doing its appointed work.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Found in a previous notebook.

I found my gray notebook, tucked into a deep pocket of my camera bag. Notebooks are like little archeological digs. Some notes, you can reconstruct the circumstance, and thus pick up the thread. Other notes are just mysteries. Here's a (lightly) annotated page.

(mouseover the emblems for notes and links:)


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Halloween candy: a hate-ode.

Today, I made the annual offering to the sugar gods. By this, I mean I bought approximately seven pounds of Halloween candy. I knew it was Halloween candy, rather than just big bags of miniature sized packs of Milk Duds, Kit Kats, and other, crappier candy, because it had ghosts on the bags. That much sugar IS scary.

And not just because it is handed out in the darkening gloom, to children dressed up like zombies, kitty cats, pirates, droids, and Darth Vader. No, it's because it has to sit at my house for days before the handing out even happens. I'm pretty sure this isn't actually my fault, that the bag got torn open before I even got in the car to drive it from Target home. Okay, I tore it open. And extracted two mini boxes of Milk Duds. And ate one of them while I was driving to Trader Joe's. And then ate the other one while I was driving from Trader Joe's home. I may have also sampled the Kit Kats.

The historian came home from his afternoon of good works. "Oh!" he said, and took out a tiny pack of chocolate-y whatnot.

"Hey!" I said. And all that that implied, such as don't you eat the Halloween candy before Halloween! And: I don't want to have to go back to the store and buy MORE candy! And: crazy rabbit, Kit Kats are for kids!

Not that I had eaten the Halloween candy straight from the big bag, and also from the trunk of my car. Or skulkingly ate those Milk Duds one two three four whilst driving. Or anything like that.

Candy is the worst. Small candy is the worst of the worst. It acts like it's redefining the whole situation by its tininess, winningly announcing: How can I hurt you? I'm so tiny! I'm miniature! And then you've eaten, like, six boxes of Milk Duds (approximately) and it's only four o'clock, and it's still six days till Halloween.

Well, there it is. Halloween is here. The enemy is in the house. And, as usual, the enemy is us.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday stats.

Hours spent at home today (between waking and bedtime): 3

Sugar pumpkins purchased at the farmer's market: 2

Hours spent at a part-time faculty workshop this morning: 3

Days since our oven worked: 21

Percentage of crossword puzzle finished: 5

Number of times I listened to 'Surf's Up' on the way to Orem: 5

Minutes I slept when I got home: 45

Scary stories I heard on This American Life: 4+

Number of movies we saw this weekend: 0

The time I hope to wake up tomorrow morning: 8:30 a.m.

Assorted things I do not approve of: horror movies. The vast amount talking about work I do. Failing to see movies on the weekend. Working, as in going in to work, on the weekend. Not getting enough sleep. The fact that my oven is out of commission. The fact that the previous fact means I have to go to GD Lowes and order on and arrange for it to be put.

On the other hand, things of which I do approve: a croissant at the farmer's market. Sugar pumpkins. The hope of an oven and, therefore, baking. Friends. Visiting my parents and my sister. Eating a sandwich. Laughing. A nap. Listening to This American Life. Getting a #nachoselfie from my Scotland daughter. Seeing pictures from my kids on Instagram. Talking to my kids in general.

Sunday looks like it will be even better than Saturday, and Saturday has been good. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Signs that you need a little more sleep on a regular basis.

1. Things sound louder. Even things that, technically, don't make sounds.
2. Your days are extra-swear-y.
3. Your skin hurts a little bit, like, on the edges of things.
4. Are you hallucinating? Or does the sun seem extra knife-y?
5. So much sighing.
6. Extra biting replies, that, if you're wise, you'll file away till morning, or, like, a month from now, so that you can reevaluate whether they were or would have been advisory. (the answer is no.)
7. All the food in the refrigerator looks like it can turn into nothing that resembles a dinner.
8. Extra envy.
9. The normal squalor = instantaneously unbearable.
10. Super-charged crying at the least provocation, like maybe a sentimental bit on a television show? Whoa.

11:53 p.m., the people. Is it bedtime yet?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Short notes.

Dear meeting snacks,

You were colorful. You were peanuts and M&Ms and Diet Coke. You were impeccably sliced melon and lovely cheese. You were macaroons. You were vegetables and ranch dip. You were mini Reeses and peanuts, did I already say peanuts?

But no matter how many ways I arranged you on my succession of tiny paper plates, in three successive meetings, which took place all over town, you were not, nor will ever be, dinner. And that's a fact.

Thanks for trying, though,



Dear wreck of my house,

You don't have to say anything. I know. I haven't organized or straightened or cleaned, really, in weeks. Weeks? It feels like weeks.

However, I hope you don't think the above admission means that any organizing, straightening, or cleaning is imminent. 

It's really not,



Dear mending,

Do people actually mend anymore? I like to mend. I want to mend the tiny hole in this garment, the small seam that's come undone in the other garment.

Question: where is my needle and thread?

Question: when will I have the time?

etcetera etcetera, 



Dear complaining,

I am bored of how much of you I do, complaining. I am all ready to sign up for the new, non-complaining regimen, where it will be all everything is shiny! No, I will not tire you with any tiresome whining!

Yet, here I am. You, complaining, are apparently requisite. 

What's a synonym for requisite? Apt?



Dear week,

Aren't you over yet?

Seriously, get on with it,


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fight shoes cry nap run away.

Today, as I sat in the dungeon library basement Learning Commons, waiting for students to show up, I was instant messaging with a colleague:

But seriously:  you find yourself, in the dungeon/library basement/Learning Commons, twirling your redundant pencil, refreshing the calendar in Canvas, where students sign up for their appointments. You occasionally venture into the larger area to tentatively call a strange student's name, in case you have somehow missed him/her. But no: there is no Jeremiah present, although he has signed up to occupy your time during this twenty minutes. This twenty minutes wherein he is not present. No Jeremiah, no sign of him at all. Back to pencil twirling.

I did not fight anyone, except mentally.

I did not buy new shoes, although I did put some shoes in a virtual shopping basket.

I did not lay down and cry, though the day is not yet done.

I did not take a nap, and I did not run away far far from home. In fact, instead, I ate a salad, graded, consulted with the students who did show up (and I thanked them for showing up, because I felt grateful). I met with the Publication Center team and we made plans, big plans, and I took notes. I made a flyer. I had maybe one too many conversations in the hall, and I scurried to the gym where I executed my new plan to strengthen my shoulders by starting small with low low weights. Chatted with my Louisiana daughter. I listened to Sufjan Stevens.

And then I came home, and we ate leftover spaghetti and leftover green beans. Plus toast. And supplementary toast. Then I hightailed it into my study, where consulted with one two three four five six students, all of whom showed up to the chatroom, the very exemplars of promptitude. And took Bruiser for a walk and watched an old episode of Modern Family ('I was born a clown! if you squeeze me, do I not honk?').

Tomorrow promises to be even beastlier than today. Tomorrow may be the day I both buy shoes and cry, or fight someone, so I'm warning you. Watch out.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October day, in three thoughts.


Despite my once fixed and unbending plan to work from home on Mondays, I found myself driving to school at 9:30 this morning, for a meeting.

Before that, I lay in bed thinking about how I was really, really tired. My window, from my bed-vantage, looked gray. Looked like a message that said stay in bed. I talked to myself about getting up. And got up. And worked out and got dressed and in my car and drove to my meeting.

In the front yard, these things are still blooming: cosmos. The last of the skyscraper roses, like champions. Like Icarus in a blaze. A red penstemon, the same one the hummingbird frequented in August. Michaelmas daisies, the ones I keep tearing out, but inefficiently. A lone and ecstatically beautiful clematis bloom, purple. One or two scabiosa. Geraniums, red. Zinnias, red. A hydrangea, lace cap, which still has its dried blooms constellating over its green leaves.

I thought, finally, the weather I've been waiting for. Weather for things that are in their last hours. Weather for melancholy.


I sent review copies of my book to some editors. To some friends far away. I wrote a note to insert in each. The notes to editors, formal. Or in the neighborhood of formal. To friends, with affection. With gratitude. Now my box of books is significantly depleted. My book my book my book. I took them to the postal robot and it and I made quick work of the postage and the mailing. I had to send three to a foreign land. That takes talking to a postal worker. This postal worker had--I'm sure he has not even the shred of a memory of it--taken the very manuscript from which the book was made from me countless times, as I mailed it to competition after competition. This was before electronic submissions. This book has a long history with post offices.


My son just started a new job. His hours are upside down--a little bit after dinner and into the night. When we arrived home from up north, I texted him:

In reality, though, we were able to have lunch today, after I mailed all my books off. We had smothered burritos at La Luna. On the way to the restaurant, he played me this song:

 The first two lines are:

Why's everyone still singing about California? 
Haven't we heard enough about the Golden State?

No, I said. But then I kept listening. I kept thinking about Los Angeles, and how Los Angeles is one of those elusive subjects that I've never written about, or not really. I kept thinking about how the Los Angeles poem--or essay or something--is the poem I need to write. Lines, or the harbingers of lines, started coming to me, while I listened and silently disputed the poem's argument.

It's about California, even though he says we've heard enough about it, my son said.

Classic strategy, I said, talk about something by saying you're not going to talk about it. I've listened to the song several more times today. I might have a poem happening.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The architecture of clouds.

After days of the most brilliant sun, we drove home today in clouds that were so close it felt like you could pull one down into a thin, thin fabric. A curtain. A veil.

cloud architecture from lisab on Vimeo. (music by Cloud Cult)

The power lines paralleled and crossed, an intricate loom. We wove alongside, the highway its own warp to the wires' weft. The cloud a fiber not yet spun to thread.

What held them together, just drift.

What held them together, just friction between cloud and cloud.

What held them together, an attraction to hillside, to mountaintop. To the cut field.

We drove west and then south. To the left, to the right, above us, before us, light and shadow shifting, and always in the shape of a cloud.

Friday, October 16, 2015

I definitely could, and definitely all day. Tomorrow, too.

We spent the day outside in the presence of monoliths and meadows, under a brilliant brilliant sun. Trees and grass. Moving water.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's all over but the proofreading.

In a motel room in Driggs, ID, I have finally finished my portfolio.

the drives. whence comes the documentation.


Tomorrow, on to monuments not made by human hand. Made of stone and fire and water. That's all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Song of the little road trip

how much work did you do today,
the day before fall break?
and what did you eat
for breakfast?

was it healthy? or your usual?
two-a-day? or one-a-day?
did you submit
your portfolio yet?

and what are the names
of the things you forgot?
did the traffic slow, and then
pick up again,

and slow and then
pick up again?
what color was the light
when you took

the turn to the north?
do you know where you'll be
staying? what did you buy
at the vending machine?

what's your prediction for
the quality of your fall break sleep?
have you devised the rubric
by which it will be assessed?

are you still writing
in your Pocatello motel
room? are you? still? tell
the truth: does the bathroom

smell like cigarettes?
when you go to the mountain,
what tribute will you give it?
will you lumber like a bear

down the village street? will you
drive over the pass in the dark?
who will be your bodyguard?
who will be your long lost pal?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My current online shopping life.

Today, the historian's son's wife texted me, saying

dreaming of shopping is my dream cardio.

Things I know for sure:

1. When I'm stressed out, I take things extra-personally. As you may or may not know, taking things personally is one of my signature moves. So, you know. Extra-personal, with extra extra-personal sauce, spiked liberally with extra-personal. And a shaving of extra-personal for a garnish.

2. When I'm taking things personally--extra-personally--I start and do not send about a billion emails. The aggression I thereby keep on the inside is epic.

3. When I'm feeling the epic aggression on the inside due to the started-but-not-sent emails, I buy things online.

To wit:

dagger earrings. as my colleague notes,
'taking stabby to a whole new level.'

What can I say: these earrings are not the end of the shopping, either.

But I am, in fact, taking things less personally as of this evening (it rises and falls, like the tides), and am feeling, thus, less pent up aggression on the inside. It probably has something to do with being home, and having worked out twice, and having walked the dog, and having eaten food at my own table, and being with the historian, and its almost being bedtime. These are just my hypotheses.

In fact, my aggression level on the inside is low. It barely registers on the Aggress-o-Meter. And I believe that wearing little knives dangling from my ears will be just the ticket. I can't wait. I also can't wait

  • to turn in my damn portfolio
  • to get caught up on my grading (when I'm dead)
  • to clean up my study (after I'm caught up on my grading)
  • to drive into the north tomorrow for fall break
Wait for it: an onslaught of scenery photos! and behind that camera, I will be so chill!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Three songs.

Sitting at the bed with the halo at your head
Was it all a disguise, like Junior High
Where everything was fiction, future,and prediction
Now, where am I? My fading supply

'Did you get enough love, my little dove
Why do you cry?
And I'm sorry I left, but it was for the best
Though it never felt right
My little Versailles'

What kills me about this song is the way it is both plain and soft spoken. How it is sung as a secret, or a whisper. I've listened to it again a few times recently, and it made me think again about songs that felt like that--quiet songs, with a heartbreak in them.

This is a cover of the Thompson Twins song. It's lovely. I remember the Thompson Twins version best, and I like it more, because the voice of the singer Tom Bailey is more papery, more murmurous. This hush is truer in my memory than in the actual song, which is punctuated with synth blurts.

But the voice, the voice only barely discloses its confidence.


Jimmy as if you didn't know by now 
Let me tell you a thing or two 
Everybody might have someone 
But everyone falls in love with you...  

He'll say you get just what you get 
The simple truth is always the best 
Don't you see what's done is done? 
And there's somebody for everyone

The interlocution between Shawn Colvin and Lyle Lovett in the chorus of this song is one of the most beautiful things ever recorded, in my opinion. Even when I haven't listened to it for years, it opens up an ache, a quiet room where you can fall apart all over again.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Short letters.

Dear short week,

Oh how I love the way the way, after Wednesday, the calendar looks empty. Like a marble in a cardboard box empty. Like I just finished the last of the ice cream empty. Like I've moved all the furniture and rugs out of the room empty.

I would tell you the things I'm going to do on those days. But right now, I just want to hear the echo of the words fall break on the bare walls.

Hear how that sounds? Isn't it beautiful?



Dear my rank advancement portfolio,

You are full of statements. Statements and arguments and evidence. Of pithiness and wit. So much so that I feel a little vertigo. So much self-regard! So much mirror-gazing! So many artifacts! So much blah blah blah!

One thing: I would like to be shut of you.
Two things: I'm gonna have to go through you so minutely that my head already hurts.
Three things: I still have to put you on the website! Gaa, links!

I am a serious, serious, admirable, accomplished person when I read the story I've told of myself in your pages.




Dear auto-correct,

I have had just about enough of your meddling nonsense. Please! how can you correct what you don't understand? How can you anticipate my mistake when there is no mistake in the offing, probably!

Here's what I want you to do: stop overreaching. Stop jumping the gun. Be the typographical equipment of a diffident guy, who, when he sees something actually wrong, shrugs, gestures vaguely, and says something like, that? there? maybe you oughta take a look at that, I don't know. Doesn't meet your eye.

So accusatory. So judgmental. So quick to point the finger, auto-correct. Did you ever stop to think that I might catch that stuff myself, eventually? That maybe I don't need you correcting me all the time, usually?

(but please don't let me do anything truly egregious,)



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