Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dang good day.

What made it good:

1. two workouts
2. good oatmeal for breakfast. The best, really.
3. great consults with students in the Student Writing Center. The best, really.
4. put on my new red dress. Again: the best.
5. considered what shoes to wear--and made the right call.

Then, I got to read at The King's English, and it was wonderful.

I was just about to write about how the literary reading is such a strange kind of event. But you know? I really felt so lucky tonight, lucky and happy. So whatever--the generosity and goodness and pleasure of this event--the affiliation, the kindness, the love--and if literary readings are strange, well then, so be it, because at least tonight, this one was so wonderful:

6. my mom and dad were there. Mom! Dad! I'm so glad you were there!
7. my daughter and her husband came, and brought floral good wishes from all the kids, and we went to dinner afterward--perfect.
8. so many good friends came. my friends are truly the best.
9. and acquaintances and people I didn't even know came. Thank you, everyone!
10. people I love who couldn't make it sent me kind notes, so sweet.
11. Ann Cannon the Great introduced me, especially precious to me since we have known each other forever. So good.
12. The King's English is a class joint, you guys. Let's all buy all our books there.

I'm like a bliss bomb right now. So happy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Los Angeles, I can't quit you.

This evening, I spent some time revising a thing I had to write. Specifically, I added examples, broke up dense sentences and paragraphs, toned down the disciplinary jargon, and made comics. To wit:

nothing defines genre like a know-it-all cat.

And also

Social Media World, where all the text is too small to read.

I think this graphic might be nonsense, but to be fair, the explanation I made of it might be nonsense as well.

In other news, my friends are in Los Angeles, the night before AWP, living it up eating amazing pastries and going to the Getty and eating other fabulous food. Also, there might be shopping in the offing.

Right now, I am revisiting all my bad choices, the ones that led up to this moment, wherein I am revising a thing I had to write while the epic party is going down. In L.A. One of my favorite places in the WORLD.

If I were in L.A. right now, here is what I would do. I mean, besides eat pastries and go to the Getty and eat other fabulous food. Besides that, I would:

1. Go up Laurel Canyon, and maybe take a wee hike.
2. See Midnight Special and I Saw the Light in a double feature at the ArcLight.
3. Go to the LACMA and see the Mapplethorpe and the Islamic Art Now exhibits.
4. Eat tacos at a taco truck.
5. Go to The Broad.
6. Obviously, hear people read and go to amazing life-transforming sessions at AWP.

Ideally I would have a car, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to

7. Go to Palm Springs and hike around the palm oases in Andreas Canyon.
8. Go back to the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.
9. Wander around Joshua Tree for awhile or so.
10. Drive back to L.A. for dinner, who knows where? someplace excellent.

Alas, I have lived my life as I have lived it. And thus I am not, nor shall I anytime really soon be, in Los Angeles. I am, however, giving a reading at The King's English tomorrow night. That is some pretty good solace there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How to make a good thing better: salad for lunch edition.

1. Make sure your salad is first rate to begin with. I recommend your finer greens with a solid heap of arugula, blood oranges, fennel, celery, those sweet little Armenian cucumbers, and a blue cheese vinaigrette.

2. Make sure there's a lot of salad. Lots of it.

3. Let it sit in your office awhile. I don't know, hours.

4. Do the student consultations for two hours.

5. Go to the writing center for one hour.

6. Think about retrieving the salad from your office before you go to a meeting, but then remember: you can only slide in for about 25 minutes of the meeting, and fetching the salad will make you late. So: no salad.

7. Go teach a workshop for an hour and a half.

8. NOW fetch the salad.

9. It's four o'clock? SO WHAT. At room, which is to say office, temperature, marinating (let's be honest) in its little tupperware, this salad is going to taste like God's own culinary masterpiece.

10. Don't bother eating like a lady. You're ravenous! Fork that salad in.

11. It's the state of ravenousness--that's what makes the salad amazing. Thrilling. Spectacular!

12. Go ahead and eat the salad with a chaser of Greek yogurt. Why not?

13. The deferred salad will power you through your four o'clock meeting, although not without a small bout of despair, a tiny internal meltdown, and a miraculous recovery, all within the space of a nanosecond. Your mileage may vary--I'm just going on what happened while I ate my four o'clock salad.

14. The postponed salad, plus yogurt chaser, will power you through your second workout. That's because you are t-o-u-g-h tough.

15. And then, when you get home, sweaty and triumphant, leftover Indian food will totally seal the deal, hunger-wise.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Where is hightouchmegastore?

[after Jim Harrison, 'Where is Jim Harrison?']

She woke up, checked every ache, drank water, slept again.
She stripped the sheets from the bed and
hefted a bag of white beans in her hands.

Peeled a dozen blood oranges and sliced
a fennel bulb on a mandolin, slicing more slowly
when her fingers got close to the blade.

She staved off the notion, yet again, that she was too old.
She worked at her list like a dog worrying a bone.
She wandered the aisles of a megastore.

She walked to church then back home again,
sang a testament she can't set aside.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Long week, part 2: the dog walk at midnight.

It's 11:45 p.m.:

Me, calling from the other room: Sweetie? It's 11:45.

The historian: [who has been watching television stroke resting: stirs]

Me: Shall we go for a walk?

The historian: YES.

[rustling, then light cursing from the other room:]

The historian: [to himself:] I left my shoes in the car. I have to get them.

Me: If only you had a pair of back up shoes. Like some people in this house.

The historian: Do you have back up walking shoes?

Me: [PLEASE.]  Of course I do. I have back up pretty much every kind of shoes.  [pause:] You need a new pair of shoes. [knowing perfectly well that a shopping trip is a horror to the historian:] You could get a new pair of shoes tomorrow.

The historian: I had a plan to get a new pair of shoes once...

Me: ...I remember...

The historian: ...then I found that pair of shoe laces...

Me: ...and you were all, New pair of shoe laces? That's practically a new pair of shoes!

When we stepped outside, we could feel the storm-edge in the wind, me in one of my billion pairs of walkable shoes, him in his new shoe laces. 

The historian: Feels like it's going to storm.

It really did. And on the back-home half of the walk, snow started to evidence itself out of thin air.

Me: See? You can see the flakes up there--look, in the lamplight.

The historian: No... [and then:] Yes. 

[For anyone who's interested, Friday Poem Day will occur on Saturday this week.]

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Long week, with a peroration of cookies.

FACT: yesterday, I had to drive across the valley, and back, three times. THREE.

FACT: there is yard work to be done, house work to be done, work work to be done.

FACT: I think I am still tired from spring forward.

FACT: all this whining is making me thirsty!

I came home today after workout two and slid right into my chair to talk to students one two three four five on the internet

[FACT: I talked to students one two three four five today!]

and then I roasted some green beans and steamed some artichokes and cut up some strawberries and we ate a dinner that also included a grilled cheese sandwich and a leftover enchilada. And THEN we watched the Jazz lose to Oklahoma while I also took a short basketball nap.

And THEN I made galettes sablés. (This recipe is fancier than the one I made, from The Joy of Cooking, but it's the same basic idea, although I actually like my recipe better. But that's a post for another boring day.)

America, I submit to you that, while everyone now knows that sugar is literally your mortal enemy (I'm not arguing! I'm just saying it in a snotty tone!), a cookie really can save the day. Not that my day was heinous, but I admit to feeling world weary and un petit peu triste. Frankly, also, those strawberries seemed to cry out for a vanilla cookie. And lo, I did arise from my basketball nap and hearken unto their cry.

Which is to say: I put butter and flour into the bowl of the stand mixer, that absolute champ of a kitchen appliance, and let the whirring turn the butter/flour situation into sand. Then: three egg yolks, some sugar (a judicious amount), vanilla, a tiny bit of almond extract, more whirring, etcetera etcetera and then I rolled the dough into long cylinders to chill. And then bake, cut into slim little round cookies. Comme ça:

que suave.
I believe I baked twenty four of these cookies, and there may be two left. In our defense, you know, basically, they saved us from melancholy and distress, so why wouldn't we keep eating them? 

Also in our defense, they are tiny. And delicious. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

stuff I need: a partial list.

1. a croissant for breakfast
2. to fall asleep instantly
3. a better book to read
4. to dial it right back to spring break when things were calm
5. this day to have had 100% less trips all over the valley
6. time to finish the GD draft of the poem I'm supposedly writing
7. a new TV show to love
8. to drive right now to Los Angeles
9. possibly a house in Los Angeles
10. a sweet dream
11. a long, spiraling conversation with no limits
12. about a billion flowers
13. a perfectly still hour.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

spring snow scenes.

This morning I drove across the valley to have breakfast first thing with my daughter and two granddaughters. Bruiser was a little more anxious than usual--stormy weather makes him feel a little apocalyptic these days. He stopped in every doorway, waiting for me to come with him. Slow progress getting out the door.

As I pulled out of the driveway, the precip (as we like to call it around here) lightly pelted my windshield. Within a few blocks, the rain was sleetish. By the time I got on the freeway it was snow, wet, slushy snow, which only got thicker and whiter the further east I drove.

I walked into the cafe, basically shaking myself off like a dog. Gwen spotted me.

We ordered our usual--me, an omelet; my daughter, the egg white veggie special, no mushrooms; Gwen, pancakes.

'Let's make it a short stack,' my daughter said.
Gwen is wearing my necklace.

'Short stack! Are you a short stack?' I asked Gwen.

'No, you're a short stack,' she said. Working on her retorts.

The snow swirled and eddied, a lesson in chaos theory happening just outside the glass.
Naomi, nibbling on pancakes like
a big girl.

'Gwen's going to have swimming lessons,' her mom reported.

'Are you going to be a swimmer like your brother?' I asked.

'Ummm, yuh,' she said. 'I'm going to swim like a mermaid. Do you swim like a mermaid?'

I hope so, this summer. Whenever this snow and sleet and icy rain stop happening.

- click for commentary -

I wore shoes that were not appropriate to the day. I didn't think the snow was going to be so wet, and

so much.

When I got home from work, and working out, I hustled myself back into my street clothes for caucusing. We motored over to the local elementary school--entirely walkable, but the cold, and the snow. There were already people lined up out the door, along the entire length of the school and the parking lot, onto the street and around the corner.

What is happening, I asked myself.

'What is happening?' I asked the historian.

So we lined up with our neighbors, the Democrats, and waited for an hour to get inside, then almost another hour to get our ballots. While we were waiting, I kept seeing photos on social media from my friends all over the valley, and even into Utah County, that their caucusing places were overflowing. It was like a giant bliss bomb of hopeful politics exploded in flowers and democracy.

smells like hippies + freedom

The sky tonight is full of billowy, light-filled clouds. The sky behind the clouds is lit up. It's not black, it's blue. The moon is hiding in a cloud lair.

On the ground, Bruiser is capering on the snowy lawns. He loves the snow.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Short letters to praiseworthy things.

Dear my tidier desk,

Because spring break was so restful and yet so productive, yesterday I found myself with enough time to remove the following from your surfaces:

  • various and random pieces of paper
  • a pop up ABC book
  • cords galore
  • various writing implements
Actually, I did not so much remove them as organize them to the sides of the workspace. And I did throw some things away, a big bag of them. But mostly, I organized them to the side.

Still, my tidier desk, today I was able to work right here, without mad clutter driving me to less productive work arrangements. I felt sharper. I felt like a mug full of sharp pencils. A mug, in fact, very much like the one sitting upon you, in one of the tidy corners I have arranged. To the side.

My tidier desk, you are emblem of a true fact about me: I will never be tidy. But I can be tidier. And that has made all the difference,



Dear new way of making popcorn,

Historically, there was some ancient popcorn making machine, which you plugged into an outlet, and which required cranking the popcorn, and which conceivably and regularly led to burns. Next, there was Jiffy Pop, which always seemed like a miracle on TV but which I never experienced in real life. At least, I don't think I did. There's that problem of commercials seeming like memories.

Then (skipping forward to modern times) there was microwave popcorn, which is basically the devil's snack, although it's certainly true that I have eaten plenty of microwave popcorn in my day. Dusty tasting, prone to weird scorching, gritty microwave popcorn.

Then, there came the revelation of popping your corn in a pan upon the stove, which was simultaneously retro and forward thinking. You could use your delicious and flavorful oils. You could even use coconut oil! So delicious! And yet, so requiring you to shake the pan on the stove endlessly. So redolent of hot oil in the house! So delicious, it's true, and yet, there, it's your oily pan being all larger than the outcome seems to have warranted!

So when I discovered the method of putting the kernels and the oil in a tiny bowl, and stirring them together with your finger along with salt or whatever you put on popcorn--sugar, if you're a barbarian--and then dumping that into a brown paper lunch sack, folding it twice, and microwaving it for two and a half minutes, my popcorn making experience was transformed.

So suave. The utensils are proportionate to the outcome. The popcorn is delicious.

I'm assuming we have science to thank for this--thank you, science!



Dear getting the reports written,

I'm not saying they're finished finished, but I am saying they're drafted. They were the last thing on my spring break list, and they are now in the hands of the feedbackers. 

All I'm saying is, I wrote the paragraphs, okay? I pasted in the tables. I organized the headings using Microsoft Word Styles. 

All I'm saying is, I've done my part, and that's me, striking those reports through on my list, both my digital list and my mental list, and there's a little part of my soul that just opened a window and breathed the clear sweet air of freedom.

I said FREEDOM and that's what I meant,


Friday, March 18, 2016

Poem Friday: Frank X. Gaspar.

I ran across Frank X. Gaspar's book Night of a Thousand Blossoms at my friend's house a few years ago. I read a few poems and liked them, then bought a copy of the book for myself and spent mornings one summer reading them. I liked their expansive lines and the way he easily brought in his learned, well-read perspective without ever seeming to show off. I liked that I could imagine him reading, or thinking, or writing, someplace in a house in the late evening, when the early shift of people--people with day jobs, families, well-established routines--had gone to bed, and the late shift--the people who were out all hours, working in the night, coming home to dark houses--was still on the job. He was on the late shift, it seemed to me, ruminating and meditating.

This poem, "The One God Is Mysterious," is in Night of a Thousand Blossoms. It reminds me of the poem that begins Linda Gregg's Chosen by the Lion, "The Ninth Dawn," in which the speaker meditates on human suffering in the classical myths, and suggests that
                                         The gods
want the honey in the hive, are willing to have
the lovers destroyed. There is a grand design
pulsing around their perishing. 
Gaspar is not as dramatic as that, but the impulse is similar, to find in ancient texts--in this case, an illustration of a Babylonian sculpture--the rhyme with one's own experience--one's 
own memory of excess and extravagance,
of abandonment to the weight of everything
that pulls me down to ruin, those same ticks
and voices that lift me up and fill me with breath.
I want a life in which art, or history, or contemplation, makes 'every dark wish lie down with every bright wish':

The One God Is Mysterious

Frank X. Gaspar

from an illustration of Babylonian sculpture
The king and his queen are feasting.
They recline, sumptuously, on long divans
and are attended by naked servants. They
can have anything they want, this much is
clear, and I believe they have been having
sex with one another and with the servants.
Why wouldn’t they? Who among the servants
would not be honored to help? And it’s Babylon
after all, and doesn’t Babylon exist in your
memory? Isn’t Babylon the clear rumbling
of your heart at ease with its every craving--
not the way it is now, fenced off with spiked wire
and old pipes, with signs telling the pedestrians
to beware:  the litter, the old cans rusting. No,
this is my own memory of excess and extravagance,
of abandonment to the weight of everything
that pulls me down to ruin, those same ticks
and voices that lift me up and fill me with breath.
And don’t you want to drink the breath of your
beloved? And his beloved? And her beloved?
You see how it goes. The One God is mysterious
and He has made me crazy. Maybe I am the king
or the queen. Or one of those sculpted figures
that bend so sweetly toward them, so graceful,
so finely formed and desirable in every way.
I remember being desired like that, and desiring
like that also. And I remember my heart in its deep
voice, commanding. Now that my common neighborhood
is tucked in for the night, the cars parked in the driveways,
the blinds drawn and everyone’s drapes closed and the garage
doors locked, I can breathe easier. Now, in Babylon,
you see what is possible. The queen and her king are
dining, forever, in a gray frieze, but even so, they make
a fire in us, they free the ache from my shoulders,
they make every dark wish lie down with every bright wish,
they bring a great comfort to the harried in this land.


Related Posts with Thumbnails