Monday, November 04, 2013

Zombies and Change

I like Halloween. It used to be my favorite holiday. Now, it's more complicated what with the  having to do more than go to someone's house with a bottle of wine and call it an October. Now, the party is last on the list. Now, I think of costumes for the kids in September. Now, I time the ordering of pizza so we can do both the downtown and the trick-or-treating. Flagstaff has an awesome downtown Halloween with a scary house and games and booths in the square. Everyone dresses up. Even the grown ups. This year, I had to teach until 5:30. We got out a little early (my students took pity on my kids and talked very fast). I went downtown with my wings and my Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute slogan.
My wings were too big. I kept stabbing people in the eye.  I gave up on trying to follow Max and Zoe through downtown, left them to Erik and their grandparents and went to pick up pizzas. Our friends were meeting us at the grandparents' house for pizza (and wine. Don't feel too sorry for me) and then to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood where the candy is plentiful and the sidewalks extant.
I did not make it to the Halloween party at my friend's house. I have mostly reconciled myself to the idea that Halloween is for kids. There once was a little Halloween. Now there is a lot. Maybe too much. Cleo the dog ate half of Max's candy. Zoe, zombie-bride, was a little too scary. And a bit nonchalant about her scariness.

Speaking of zombies. Once upon a time I could not watch the Walking Dead. I had seen the I Am Legend and the dog scene.  I had a nightmare every time I saw a zombie on TV. But then, after the Boston AWP, I sat on a seat behind and to the left of someone watching the Walking Dead. I could see the show clearly across the aisle. He must have watched 7 episodes, from the series' beginning. I had watched the first episode with Erik, which was when I quit the Walking Dead. The mother coming up to the door, looking through the peep hole, was the source of the most recent zombie nightmare. But with the sound off, the zombies looked pretty unscary. When I got home, there was a Walking Dead marathon. I caught up.
Now I watch it every week. I watched it last night. I still have nightmares, or, rather, dreams. They're not so scary. Zombies biting my knees. A cure for zombie-ism. Zombies lining up to get a shot, complaining about the sting. I try not to think about the show before I go to sleep but I have questions. What do the zombies represent? Xenophobia? Contagion? Racism? Republicans? My mother-in-law suggested immortality. Also, do you always turn into a zombie if the zombies eat you? Like, if they eat all your entrails, do you have enough "stuffing" to walk around? How come most of the zombies seem whole? Do zombies have any memory? They can smell alive people? What about covering themselves in blood, like Rick did. Would that work? I liked the World War Z solution to the zombie problem. What solution will the Walking Dead people have? Maybe the swine flu will save them.
We keep talking about getting rid of cable but then we'd have to wait to see all the Walking Dead and that seems like an unlikely patience. But I changed my mind about zombies like I changed my mind about must-go-to Halloween parties. Maybe I can do it again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I'm trying to run longer distances. Still slow, but long. I have longish trail I routinely run. It's kind of fun, especially in the snow in shorts so I never get too over-hot. October is hard, for reasons I think I understand. It's the last hope of warmth until April, the last fully orange and yellow landscape, the last month before my birthday, the month my dad died. Bad news falls hard in October so when I saw the big tree lying across the trail, I looked hard for something dead, crushed underneath it. Nobody died but the word "crushed" stayed with me. Fall is crushing.
I had already seen a bone in the trail--some large animal's--probably an elk's. Cleaned to the white, scattered by what I thought I wanted to see. But if I saw what I wanted, well, that would be a great surprise but then I would also be maybe dead. I kept looking behind me for mountain lions. There were none. Both crush and relief.
Then I saw a deer arm hanging from a tree. A foreleg, I guess, in animal parlance. How did a deer get his leg hung in a tree. Maybe poachers. Maybe regular hunters, but I don't think you're supposed to clean your deer by hanging it from a tree. Maybe the deer was doing something weird. Jumping over a falling tree, getting tripped in another. Maybe he was trying to outrun a mountain lion but realized deer can't climb trees.
It was eerie but not gross. How animals die in the woods I don't really know but between that hanging hoof, that scattered femur, and that trail-crushing tree, I had a new plan, or at least something to think about surprise and routine and the inevitably of November and how we make it through October every year, even mostly with surprisingly good things to say about it.

Monday, October 28, 2013


October. Where did September go? And now October the 27th? Fall always seems so easy until you realize you've been waiting every day for some news and then it's winter and you have no news and the trees are already brown on the ground.

Summer is better than fall. Even with the rain in the summer. It takes a few months for me to get summer brain. The brain that says, swimming is easy. Typing is hard. Now I'm ready to swim all the way from Flagstaff to Tucson.

8 is hard. Zoe is 8 and therefore hard. My sister and her fiance call Zoe Zoe-Jesus. It's mostly true that she is light on a popsicle stick but 8. 8. 8 is when you order French toast and it comes with mushy berries and she won't eat the French Toast and you tell her to please have a bite so at least her brother will try his and she won't so he won't and you give her a look and then there are tears and three hours of being called mean. She's running a 5K next week. We went running on Saturday to practice. She walked along, touching the tops of the grasses, anointing each one with her Zoe-Jesus fresh touch. I said, "I question your commitment to this running." Maybe 8 isn't hard. Maybe I am.

Traveling should not be hard but neither should hotel pillows.

It only takes 20 minutes to whip up a batch of pumpkin muffins. Remind me of that when I think baking is hard.

Halloween is taxing my brain. Two years ago, black box theater. Good and easy. This year, the puns seem stretched like a limo. Could I go as a stretched limo? Could I go as stretched thin? Can someone stretch me thin? I'd be thin if I were tall.

I do not read as fast as I should. Nick Flynn's Reenactments is very good. Also, Nick Flynn is a good person.

People died a lot this week. Nick Flynn's dad. Lou Reed. A good friend of mine from a long time ago.

It is always thesis season, now.

8 bags of pine needles goes a lot quicker when your 8 year old helps rake and bag the pine needles. 8 does have it's advantages.

The leaves of the apple tree seem to hang on. Is that an apple tree? I've never seen any apples on it.

Apple season is the best. Honeycrisps are still the best. There are a lot of new apples at Sprouts. Pink ladies and honeycrisp still win.

I forced myself to go to New Frontiers, which, now that Sprouts is here and I have compared prices, has been overcharging me for years. Brown Cow Cream on the Top Yogurt at NF? $3.99. At Sprouts? $2.50. Butter, even at Fry's (Kroger-based) is $3.99 when it's not on sale. $2.99 at Sprouts. But NF did have these tiny Lady apples that were delicious as a tiny lady could be. A bit of redemption? Maybe. And their fish is better. But Sprouts--it has beer and wine.

Walking Dead plus The Good Wife equal too much anxiety for one night. Didn't sleep last night even with my good, non-hotel pillow although I tried to channel Nick Flynn's Robert DeNiro instead of the short, knee-biting zombie.

I must go now to pick up the 8 year-old who used to be the 4 year-old from her Girls on the Run. She will have math homework that changes units, asks you to multiply and divide, then describe in Spanish sentences how she came to those answers. She has to practice piano and read in Spanish and help me make her bed. She'll have to brush her her and set the table for dinner. Then write thank you notes. Maybe 8 is as hard on her as it is on me.

If it was still September I would say things are going well but here it is October and I barely remembered to pull the pumpkin muffins out of the oven in time.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Flagstaff

It usually rains 6 inches per monsoon season in Flagstaff. This year it rained 13. I kept calling it the Pacific Northwest of Arizona. It made me think about Portland but it is different. In Portland, it rains all day from October to May with a brief dryspell in February. It may rain a little or a lot but the rain suffuses everything. It's a pervasive rain. It almost rains indoors. In Flagstaff, it rained not like a temperate rainforest but like a tropical one. Whole oceans of rain gathered in the southwest, spun around, turned over the peaks, got popped by them and fell down onto ground that, unlike the northwest, distinguishes solidly between ground and water. There's only so much the dirt will soak. The Ponderosas are used to a fifteen minute per day dousing. When it rains oceans, even they resist by pummeling you with pinecones, catching you with sap. Sandbags come out. Sidewalks buckle. Streets turn into rivers. Water is so rare here--especially here--we don't even have any rivers, that the ground itself seems to shrug its shoulders and ask, what the hell is this?

In June, the monsoons hadn't started yet. The clouds would circle and darken and break apart. I would stand on the porch and lean toward them. I would almost beg them aloud to please let go. Please rain. It was all I wanted all of June. It is so much easier to love the rain when the ground isn't used to water. Supposedly, in Flagstaff, there's an aquifer 300 feet under organic rock that socks up the usual snowmelt and rain. I'm going to be like that aquifer. I bought two rain barrels. I'm going to store up this rain. I'm going to Portland up this place and make it remember water. It's not a bad guy, unless your house is in the flood zone, I tell the Ponderosas, I tell the dirt. It's good. Think of what we can grow. Mushrooms and lettuce and woollybears and mosquitoes. It is a whole new world. We don't have to put up tomatoes this year. We can grow them all year long every day--this weird mixture of rain and sun will make it easy. Living will be easy. Like in Portland, where everything grows, even tomatoes, although they often never make it to red.

Sometimes we'd get two inches a day. Thunder that would make you check your ceiling for cracks. Lightning so close, you touched your hair. Pat down the static. Make sure you weren't on fire. You could sit, because it wasn't quite cold, on the porch for an hour and watch it rain and lightning and be the stranger you'd never met before, coming to town with a lot of money, a lot of horses, a lot of delicious cherries in his basket. You loved him because he was new and different and didn't make you worry about sunburn or drought.

My neighbor said it rained like this thirty years ago, when he first moved here. The monsoons are almost over. It might not rain like this again for thirty years. The clouds are swirling today and there is thunder in the distance but I can see ribbons of blue parting the clouds, reminding them who they are. Where they are. This is not the tropical rainforest. This is not even the temperate rainforest. This is Arizona and clouds should probably go back to where they came from.

It wasn't a regular summer. It was hard to go swimming. Max is tired of mud. Zoe is tired of clouds. But I do not think I will be missing a thing so much as I will miss this rain that is as big and loud and unbelievable as everything I've ever thought I wanted.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Every Year

When I go back to school, every year it seems, someone asks me, did I get any writing done? I stare at them. What? Writing? What is it? Is summer over? Did I tell you I was going to write? I am writing right now!
As you can imagine, they don't get a very straightforward answer and they probably only cared politely anyway but still it makes me wonder, what did I do? If summer is marked by the number of cherries eaten, it is abundant but unverifiable. If it is marked by a bunch of words, well, at least it happened. I have it right here in my word doc.
I took a screen shot of the files I'd made over the summer. Sadly, "Thrift Store no China" and "Moocs" had no actual words written in the file but a file name is writing nonetheless. The rest of them have something in them. Some more than others.

So, in case you run into me in the hall and I strike a face of complete battiness and look like i'm trying to catch mosquitoes with my mouth, here is a list of filenames I wrote including the filename "Written so far this summer"
Written so far this summer
Fiction Nonfiction
Thriftstores no china
Birthday Party Superfund
I Should write about small things
FGP Final Report
IV Bags
Tiny Pieces
NaU Quarterpage Ad
Nonfictio Bestseller SPD
Who is going to protect us now
Nonfiction authors
Utah and autism
Hard rain
There are only two inches left in
CV 3
Global warming blog
Walker, Nicole bio new
You can choose what you remember
Sabbatical grants
The problem with abortion
Pen application
Writing projects
Sexa dn Castros and Elizabeth Smart
Newspaper blog contacts
New york times drinking in the 80’s
I met Michael Martone
Max’s Lunch
Metaphors about Food
Hypocrisy and Kindness
Wine dreams
Micro folder
Micropreemies with essays on the inside
My gallery is showing the cool kids
Micro query
Tiny Houses
Where Animals Folder
There are only trains and washing machines
Categorically 2
Where are the elephants
It does not matter who you marry
Don’t Look like you’re looking

Lemon and Limes

Some of these I only futzed with--like Where Elephants and Neutrinos. I completely rewrote Microwine for a magazine. I also fully edited Micropreemies with such a comb of fine teeth that many of the words got stuck on the netherside of the comb. I just finished an essay. Should I send it?
I have already been rejected by The Believer for Fiction is Just Nonfiction that Hasn't Happened Yet. Why do they always write, "Thank you for your unwavering patience." My patience only wavers because they didn't take the magazine--not because I had to wait so long (not long) for the rejection. 
Some tiny essays got picked up and the big long Micropreemies did too. I tried to be really opinionated for the Huff Post but I am nothing if not conflicted about everything. 
I wrote a sabbatical proposal. Sometimes writing is a tool to wedge upon a future where someone will ask, did you get any writing done and you'll say, duh, I had to. I was on sabbatical.
It will be two years before anyone asks me that. 
May I look them more solidly in the eye--or at least take a screen shot of file names to pass around at that faraway faculty meeting. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Got Nothin'

In early June, Zoe's grandma took her shopping for summer clothes. Shirts and running shorts and a new skirt, new shoes. Max, who had been napping at her house with grandpa, woke up to find all her clothes on the dining room table. He turned to his grandma and said, "I got nothin'."  Ever since, she has been sure to bring him something home from her shopping trips but the phrase "I got nothin'" has been repeated often, with feeling, all summer long.

But here I am at the end of summer and feeling the I got nothins pretty hard. Where are my cherries? Where is my energy to finish this essay/sabbatical request (2015 seems pretty far away)/Faculty Activity Report/other essay/book edits/website/advisor list/syllabi? Where are my raspberries? My figs? My English peas in a pod? Sometimes scarcity begets abundance--e.g. if I can't get my raspberries at least I have my seventy-five varietals of apples but I cannot even get excited about apples.

I fear it's called the pre-school doldrums. I had a four hour meeting on Tuesday, convocation yesterday, back-to-school-night for Z. I am as bored as a boring blog post, empty as a plastic-green strawberry basket, evacuated as a blueberry clam shell, hanging by pea strings and a pot of flowering basil soon to go to seed.

Perhaps the sight of actual students will restore me! Perhaps the lack of time to write will make me write. Perhaps I will drive from store to store, asking if they have just one batch of cherries in the back left for me.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I woke up this morning saying, Ego was I, ere I saw Elba. "Ego" is probably as true as "able" although it ruins the palindrome. And I love Ego the character on Ratatouille. He is arrogant and full of himself but I don't think his problem is ego. His point of view about food is that there is a right way and a wrong way to cook--but the actual cooking, the rightness and the wrongness, isn't about him. He comes around to liking Remi the rat's food not because he was wrong but because he was right, even though he cast aspersions upon the slogan "anyone can cook." Good food is good food. Ego didn't change his entire perspective, he just focused it a little harder, honed in.

I've been thinking a lot about ego lately. You have to think about it when a book comes out and you want it to do well and you only have your email and your Facebook to try to help it do well. You do things like check the stats on Amazon and Google yourself far too often. You remember back your image on the cover of a magazine and you loved the emails coming in asking you to visit and give talks and submit writing and then in the summer, no one is really emailing and not much is going on and there is this vast gorilla at your kitchen table looking at you like, well, this is boring. What should we do now for fun? Let's get us some attention!

At some point, the gorilla starts making so much noise, beating on his chest, that you realize what he is. He is ego and you is he.

I was watching The Buddha on PBS.  Jane Hirschfield and W.S. Merwin were interviewees. They each had the most beautiful skin. I wanted that skin but to get that skin, they kept telling me on the program, I would have to give up wanting the skin. I would have to give up skin itself. I would have to give up the I. And maybe the you.

Converted by PBS, I have been thinking. I get into little snits--sometimes with other people, mostly in my mind. But these snits are not pleasant.
Here are some examples: person in gigantic SUV leaves car idling in parking lot. I mutter under my breath about the planet being just slightly bigger than their car. Maybe they could leave that idling. But the truth is, they don't hear me. I'm just muttering. They might get a bad vibe off me but I haven't done anything except make myself feel better and more self-righteous. The complaint is all ego, no "activism." Really, I'm just being a jerk.

Another example: Erik and I got into a snit when he said about the Tupperware, "It's impossible to find a lid in here. man, someone has to go through this." and I got all mad because I go through it all the time, it's the most organized Tupperware drawer in the land! How could he say such a thing? And it is a fine Tupperware drawer but what am I really mad about? My ego. My drawer. My organization. All this my and I.

Another example: Not wanting my kids to get any bigger. This is perfect. I want to enjoy every minute. Slow down and come cuddle. It's true. I am wistful. But it's all ego. My kids want to get bigger. Time itself is a bad enemy. You wil never win.

Another: My sisters. Why do they get to take pictures of each other on bicycles without me? Ego. They are happy on their bikes, together in Twin Falls.

Another little back and forth with Erik: "This is the highest water year since 1919," I argue. "So far," he says. "That's what I meant," I said. "But that's what I said," he said. And the he saids, she saids go on forever. Who cares? I dig in deep with my ego-shovel and don't come back out.

Another: I said something nice about one friend's kids in front of another. I spend a night agonizing that I didn't say nice things about those other friend's kids too. Oh my God, Nicole. Who cares? She's your friend. No one is keeping score about the things you say in the afternoon and tossing and turning over the in the middle of the night except you. They have their own brains. Why should they trouble themselves with yours.

Another: The runner behind me who passes me. The author with the NY Times spread. My friend on NPR. Ego ego ego.

I don't imagine I'm going to make it fully Buddhist here but I do think that self-confidence is the other side of ego and that if you have a lot of the former, you don't need to have so much of the latter. Ego is like a big bubble that proceeds you as you go into to the world. It protects you from the truth that really, not much in the world is about you. But it also keeps a lot of the world away from you because you get into snits about Tupperware and no one wants to hear about your Tupperware drawer.

No one cares about your Tupperware drawer. That can be a lonely place where no one cares about your Tupperware but that doesn't mean they don't care about you. Your place in the Tupperware Hall of Fame might be permanently on hold, but the fact that there are people in your house, talking to you, is a better end of the deal.

I thought when first thinking of writing this post that I would argue that you need a bit of ego to write. Some hubris that someone who is not in the room does care about what you have to say. But I am going to go re-read Jane Hirschfield's Nine Gates to see how does one still imagine audience (like the Tupperware, an imagined audience is the person who is putting you in the Hall of Fame--probably your mother) without starting with ego. (Who will read this? Who?) One of the hardest things I learned about writing was caring how it works on a reader. Will report back when I figure this out).

As I work through this and try to reorient my thinking about the ego, as I try to grasp that Erik did not leave his towel on the bed because he has no respect for my towels but because he has no respect for towels (the my has nothing to do with it), I will have to cut myself some slack so not getting so worked up about trying to get rid of ego that I think I have it all figured out and then get a new ego about how good I got at getting rid of ego.

P.S. Zoe just asked, why are you so good at typing. Trying not to get all full of ego about my mad typing skills. Moving past ego is a process. A journey. It probably never ends.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wild Life

Erik's parents live about a mile south of us, just one road over. Unlike our house, which backs another, theirs backs the forest. The other night while we were barbecuing at their house, their neighbor came over to say he had seen a black bear in their backyard. Someone called Fish and Game but the neighbor just wanted to watch the bear. He gave him some cherries (probably bad idea?) and watched as the bear climbed a snag in Erik's parent's backyard.
I asked the neighbor if he'd ever seen a bear there before. He had seen another one a couple of years before. And, while out walking in the forest, he ran into a mountain lion. I had heard they were around but I guess it's not until you're standing close enough to someone that he can point and show you where he saw the mountain lion do you really believe it.
So, when I'm running in the forest now, I keep my eyes out for mountain lions. And for bears. I would say I'm about 4 anxious on a scale from 1 to 10 about running into some big wild life.

But for Zoe's birthday party, on Tuesday, her actual birthday, from 4-6 at the Starlite bowling alley, I was 9 anxious. I do not know exactly why I don't like hosting kids' birthday parties. I love to host parties at my house for grown ups. I think it has something to do with the venue. Each party place is different but they all seem to have a limit of 8 kids or then the price doubles. About half the people RSVP and about half of Max's friends come too. So I have no idea if it's going to be 8 or more or how much pizza to order and how many giftbags to stuff full of colored pencils and candy. Are the parents going to stay? Are the cupcakes going to melt? How long will it take me to make a vegetable tray from which exactly no kids will take a vegetable?

Fortunately, thanks to Erik and my friends who stayed and my in-laws who abandoned their bear-visiting house to help, it all worked out. The little kids were just one team on the bowling docket. The good bowlers helped the I-have-never-bowled-before bowlers. The pizza came. It got eaten. Zoe ate a carrot to appease me. Max played in the arcade. The bowling alley has a bar that had very bad wine for me to drink. It was, in the end, the best kids' party yet.

I hope this alleviates some anxiety, kicks it down to a 5 or so. Next year, Max turns four and I'm afraid he'll want a bowling party too.

Today, after much much micro essay writing, genre breaking essay writing and grant "final report" writing, rain barrel buying, and, now that the parties are over, I'm feeling pretty relaxed. As relaxed as the two deer that are lying in my backyard under the Ponderosa tree, as if there's not a bear or a cougar in the world.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What is a weekend? What is a summer?

These are the ontological questions fo our time. Erik keeps saying that the hasn't had a day off for 40 days if you include his 11 days to China to film for work, the scraping of Max's ceiling, the painting of that room and the installation of that molding, the working with Robin on the Jewish Festival film and the reorganization of that garage. To wit, I say in response, I haven't had a day off since I was pregnant with Zoe but I shouldn't be flip because when I'm flip that means my workload gets upped a notch. When Erik works on the big remodeling projects, the small house projects fall upon me. Cleaning out the gutters. Raking the pine needles. Cleaning the utility room. As he caulks the baseboards, I scrub the front and side deck on my knees. I wash the car. I take out the garbage and the recycling. I open the wine.
I'm very tired. Perhaps not as tired as Erik, I didn't try to throw in a couple of 20 hour flights in there or a 40-hour-a-week job, but tired nonetheless.

It is all toward the good, I guess. It's summer and all school year long I have no time for utility room cleaning or stuff to thrift store taking or deck scrubbing (if you recall last year, I got the coveted job of painting the underside of the deck). I look forward to having the time to do the extra stuff but I do not think that when one dreams of summer break this is the stuff those dreams are made of. Plus, my 40-hour a week job is supposedly to write for 40 hours a week. I keep thinking I'll write for 8 hours straight but after I put the laundry away and empty the dishwasher and deadhead the geraniums I really, really just want to lie in the sun. But the monsoons came today so instead of lying in the sun or writing too much in a document format, I wrote here in the blogspace and spent an inordinate time on Facebook which is its own kind of writing and its own kind of gutter clearing and thus makes it feel a little bit like summer. Thank you blog. Thank you Facebook.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

James Agee's and Walker Evan's book is one of the best books I've ever read. It's also the book, next to Tina Fey's Bossypants, that I'm the least likely to finish. This book does everything I want to do in my Microproject--focus on an organism's small adaptations to their environmental challenge. In this case, the organism is the tenant farmer in 1936. James Agge's microscopic attention to these farmer's circumstances is as wondrous as it is meticulous and yet, as it sometimes also is, tedious. The first part of the book is wild, but not so wild as to distance the reader. Agee explains his ambition for the book. He recognizes its weirdness. He talks to the reader. He calls the wild and the weirdness "curious." "I spoke of this piece of work we were doing as 'curious.' I had better amplify this." He writes. "It seems to me curious, not to say obscene and thoroughly terrifying, that it could occur to an association of human beings drawn together through need and chance and for profit into a company, an organ of journalism, to pry intimately into the lives of an undefended and appallingly damaged group of human beings, an ignorant and helpless rural family, for the purpose of parading the nakedness, disadvantage and humiliation of these lives before another group of human beings, in the name of science, of 'honest journalism' (whatever that paradox may mean), of humanity, of social fearlessness, for money..." This self-consciousness, coupled with Agee's respectfulness, carries him far into the reader's attention span and far into the lives of these lives he so thoroughly puts on display. In order to satisfy his notion of honesty and reality, Agee does not objectively describe these peoples' clothes, houses, foods, sex lives. He describes them in complete detail. The honorable story is nothing less than the whole story. The whole story includes the amount of money the farmer makes each month and how much he pays back to his landlord, the lack of planing on the boards on the porch, the number and style of castiron pans hanging on the kitchen while, the number of unfinished sewing projects in a drawer, the clippings of advertisements from magazines of products that these families will never afford. Hundreds of pages of honorable detail.

Not a mote of dust goes unremarked upon. The fireplace that falls down. The stain on the pillows that suggest urine but Agee knows is only the manner in which sweat stains cotton. The lumpiness of beds. The distance between the dirt floor and the wood floor of the house. Agee knows that to create any sense of 'reality' every element of that reality has to be displayed. And yet, even he wonders if in any way he can accurately portray anything with words. What he says the camera, "solves simply" (208), he regrets the complication of words: "But it must be added of words that they are the most inevitably inaccurate of all mediums of records and communication," (209). But still he piles word upon word in this 390 page portrayal of three tenant families. Walker Evans records these same families with his simple solution, the camera. Why doesn't Agee just let Evans' photos do the talking, if they're so successful in solving the problem of accuracy.

But maybe accuracy isn't what Agee's really going for. Perhaps the minutia aren't rendered detail for detail in an attempt to get it right. Agee's spins the detail through his opinionated lens, giving the detail context and texture. Reality is one thing. An argument about the cruelty of this life is another. The tiny detail-as-list isn't the point. The tiny detail-as-argument is. A detail isn't objective in words as it may be in silver. Some of the plainer assertions are still that, assertions: "They yellow and green checked oilcloth is worn thin and through at the corners and along the edges of the table and along the ridged edges of boards in the table surface, and in one or two places, where elbows have rested a great deal, it is rubbed through in a wide hole" (159). "The iron bed is so weak in its joints that Woods has nailed it into the wall" (167). But sometimes the assertions turn to full blown argument about the house and the understood purpose of the house. "It is put together out of the cheapest available pine lumber, and the least of this is used which shall stretch a skin of one thickness alone against the earth and air; and this is all done according to one of the three or four simplest, stingiest, and thus most classical plans contrivable, which are all traditional to that country: and the work is done by half-skilled, half-paid men under no need to do well, who therefore take such vengeance on the world as they may in a cynical and part willful apathy; and this is what comes of it: Most naive, most massive symmetry and simpleness" (126). The house itself, plank by plank, suffers from being written-off, even before the house is built. In a book about write-offs, even the sawdust must be written. Someone needs to see it or it doesn't even exist. "I lie where I lay this dawn.) If I were not here; and I am alien; a bodyless eye; this would never have existence in human perception" (165).

The "I" is important here. The writer's discomfort with his own position, with his own subjective eyesight, with his own body interfering in the matter at hand, which, were at not at hand would be no matter, makes his attempt to get every detail right feel like it's a desperate one. "I am being made witness to matters no human being may see" (120) or "Make no mistake in this, though: I am under no illusion that I am writing this piece of experience dry. or do I even want to wring it dry. There are reasons of time, judgement and plain desire or, if you like, whim" (214). Agee is conflicted. Honored to be welcomed by this family. In tune with the hew of the house. In love with the way these people manage, despite, despite, despite. ""The lucky situation of joy, this at least illusion of personal wholeness or integrity, can overome one suddenly by any one of any number of unpredictable changes: the fracture of sunlight on the facade and traffic of a street; the sleaving up of chimneysmoke; the rich lifting of the voice of a train along the darkness; the memory of a phrase of an inspired trumpet; the odor of scorched cloth, of a car's exhaust, of a girl, of pork, of beeswax of on iron," (200) Of of of of he goes on. It's not just in the details that he makes an argument that this life sucks hard. He also makes a pretty good argument that there's joy to be found everywhere. The details aren't aesthetic signposts. They are maps to life--joy and horror--itself.

I wonder as I do not read every single word of the book, when it's late at night and I am making one page of progress on the book at night, if I am missing something. I am and I am not. The book is making me realize, by length and detail and time spent reading, that I will live this book, maybe the rest of my life, which is the point, I think of the minutia. Not reality but perspected life.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Quench Your Thirst with Salt by Nicole Walker



          Quench Your Thirst with Salt

          by Nicole Walker


            Giveaway ends August 03, 2013.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

      Enter to win

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Thirty-five dollars of English Peas

This has been a weird summer. I guess all summers are weird. The weirdest summers are usually the best and this one has some things going for it. I went to Utah in June. June is nice there. It smells like jasmine or maybe roses. Flowers. We have pine fresh scent here in Flag but not perfume. Mr. Clean instead of Chanel No. 5. It was both cold and hot in Salt Lake so it felt like both spring and summer. There were fresh peas there although not in the quantities I had hoped. There were cherries and peaches although not as good as I remember them being when I lived there now 7 years ago. I'm pretty sure my grandma took all the good peaches with her when she died last year. But there were peas.

On the drive home from Salt Lake, Zoe, Max, and I shelled and ate peas for two hours. A good distraction from the 8 hour drive.

Back in Flagstaff, we usually go to music in the park but we've had plans on Wednesdays. Not music in the park plans. That is weird. For 3 years running, we didn't miss many and now, we've missed them all. We'd go today but the monsoons started yesterday. It rained. 1.87 inches at the airport--a record. Not at our house, but still. Lots of rain.

Speaking of rain, usually I sit on the deck and write all summer long although I'm pretty sure that's a myth since last year, we remodeled the deck. This year, there was too much wind to sit outside happily and now it's already wet. I'm not sure what year it was I wrote all summer long but that was a weird year too. Today, there are some neighbors rebuilding their deck very loudly which makes me not want to write at all. Even this typing seems precarious. Maybe it will rain and they will have to go inside (I am inside. Typing with the windows open. Hoping that we beat yesterday's record today. So far, only a few drops.)

Last year, I did find peas in Flagstaff at New Frontiers. I only bought one pound of them. Thus far this summer, I've bought seven pounds. At $4.99/lb, that's kind of a big expenditure but perhaps the best thing I've spent money on this year. Max and Zoe and I ate another pound just an hour ago. It's definitely near the end of pea season but maybe I can afford one more pound.

I've given up trying to afford organic blueberries. I like to eat, with Max and Zoe, a pound of blueberries a day. At $3.00/lb, I can afford this. At $3.99/pint--which is what they are at New Frontiers--not so much. Here's to hoping the good stuff in the blueberries trumps the pesticides.

Erik came home from China with some nice jade animals for the kids and an embroidered picture of panda bears that an artist at the top of the Great Wall stitched right before him. I have not had an embroidered picture of a panda before. I told him not to buy too many gifts when he was there because I don't want to support the ivory industry--Jade carvers and panda bear picture embroiderers I hope are immune to the ivory craze. I'm grateful for my pandas.

I'm not getting much writing done. Like zero. Less than during the school year. I blame the teaching and the book promotion and the end-of-the-school year business that doesn't seem to end. But there are these little blueberry and pea eaters running around who pretend to take naps but really would like to know what we're going to do for fun next and we haven't been to the concert in the park yet this summer so I think it's time for me to pack up our concert in the park snacks and go. It won't rain too much. Or it will. Either way, it will probably be fine even if a little weird and a little wet.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Since You're Gone

The Cars have many songs. Some of them are bad like "Let the Good Times Roll." Some of them are mediocre, "Let's Go" and "Best Friends Girl" but at least one of them is great.

Cars - Since You're Gone by jpdc11

I've had "Since You're Gone" stuck in my head since Erik left for China 8 days ago. Actually, I've had it in my head longer. I left for Salt Lake on May 29th and was there for two weeks. This may be the longest I've been without a boyfriend--and is definitely the longest Erik and I have been apart. It's been illuminating. I think Erik is something of a crankiness filter. The world is a little to much with me. The sun a little harsher. The sound of the roofers hammers a little louder. The drag of it not feeling like summer a little draggier.

It's been so long I think I will forget everything that happened while he was gone. And since he's my memory too, this list will be swiss-cheese at best. But still, since you're gone:

I read some books. I reread both the Into Thin Air and Into the Wild Krakauer books. I read Brent Hendricks's book about his dad's body being one of those that went uncremated at the Tri-state crematorium in Georgia. I read Laura Gray-Rosendale's College Girl, which was a very good and very hard to read book about a woman raped in college--she's also my colleague and is a very amazing writer. Also, Let Us Know Praise Famous Men, which is the best book of all time, again.

I ate dim sum. In Salt Lake. Not in Hong Kong, with you.

Took the kids swimming 4 times.

Lost a cowboy boot. It's red. If anyone has seen it, please let me know. It is size 7. Max's size 7.

Lost Zoe's hat. Found Zoe's hat.

Lost my red 7 year pen. Found my 7 year pen.

Went to drinks with my friends from graduate school at: The Annex, Criollo, The Zane Grey room, and Flag Brew. Flag Brew was the best because I ate the poutine. It was delicious. The Quebecian fry sauce.

I missed my college reunion. I didn't mind so much.

I loved my online class but I think I over did it a bit.

I tried to blog for the big boys but I am not a boy so I'm having a hard time.

Some magazines asked me for work. I tried to give them some but I am low on writing work because all my writing has been in the form of comments to students or to former students or to would-be blogs or to would-be essayists writing me about where to place their writing. It has been a very businessy writing life.

I went to drinks with my grad school students which was very fun and very sad because they are leaving for more grad school.

Max got his first professional haircut. He liked it just fine.

Zoe reads Monica Brown's bilingual books all day. She also can jump rope very fast, thanks to your mom.

The kids are sleeping upstairs on camping pads which I know you think is crazy but they like it and I want them near but not too near because they flip flop when they sleep in my bed and keep me up all night.

We ate dinner on the back patio.

4 Magazines emailed wanting work. But this entails work. And the finding of work and the polishing of work. The revising of old work which means I'm not writing new work. One day, this will all be less work, yes? You too, with your China work and bat work and monthly show work. And this Max's bedroom work.

I pushed them on the swings for 27 hours (not straight although I like pushing them on the swing--I could maybe do it for 27 hours straight if there was some great World Record Prize at the end).

I did not win any prizes but Quench finally made it to Amazon (cover problems. The shipment got lost in the warehouse. Amazon isn't that nice to Small Press Distribution). For a minute, it was 28,264 in popularity. That will probably be it's high point so I will cling to it like a prize.

Paige and I took Val's kids and your kids to Lagoon. You owe me one.

The flooring is at the Home Depot. I am about to go pick it up.

I have learned to live with the chaos that is Max's room upended and scattered through the rest of the house.

I sent a mass email to my friends about my book and no one has yelled at me for doing that yet. In fact, I'm getting a nice note a minute. I love my friends.

I have to read two theses and I am behind.

I drove to Sedona and back to take the kids swimming and to see my grad school friends one more time.

I had an existential crisis about why it doesn't feel like summer yet and perhaps that is that, no more summers that feel like summers for me. I don't know why I have so much business to do. Forms. Letters. Ads. Marketing. Marketing! In the summer!

I went to Twin Falls, where I have never been, and your daughter caught 12 fish. I got to hang out with my sister and her boyfriend and pretend to have a book release party. Perhaps today is the official party (ah. That's one of the problems with June. All officially a party.)

I hung out on my mom and sister's new patio with my mom and sister. That was almost summer. But then I had to grade.

I had my friends from work over for drinks and dinner and I made a vegetable gratin which was OK but not 1000 percent as good as the one at Coppa.

Angie, who couldn't make it to the friends from work drinks and dinner, took me out to drinks and dinner, so two nights of fun for the price of one.

I'm going to Coppa with Jane next week.

I have so many emails I should be writing.

I would like to go make some art.

Come home. Perhaps that will inspire me to do so.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Books are different

It has been fun. Too fun. Now that school is out and the book-release-in-Tucson-and-Flagstaff kerfuffle  is dying down, I'm all antsy and excitable. I knew the fun times would be addictive. In Tucson, I got to do all of my favorite things: stay up late talking with my good friends, drink wine by their pool, get dressed up, go to dinner, watch everyone else drink Manhattans, read, answer questions with my new BFF Brent Hendricks (check out his amazing book A Long Day at the End of the World--about bodies, including his own father's, not cremated at the Georgia crematorium). Brent and I were asked questions after our reading like how do sex and death relate and how does the desecration of nature act itself out on the body? Brent answered in French, saving me. We also attended Ander Monson's class where Brent reminded me that all good writing comes from obsession. There are some moments in my life where I felt like a rock star/princess. This was one of them.
However, when I came back I realized how neglectful I have been when I host readings. I do think the writers I bring feel well-attended to, but I don't do enough to get audience attendance. It's hard to compare Tucson where they have the Poetry Center and an audience will come out even on a Monday night during the busiest time of the semester to hear someone read to Flagstaff where we have our readings on campus, in our Liberal Arts building which is tucked inside campus deep and there is no real tradition of a reading series. That said, I came back from Tucson doubly determined to make sure more than 12 people show up at Michael Martone's reading tomorrow night. I emailed everyone I knew in Marketing, at KNAU, at the local paper. They all responded with great ideas and helped spread the word and my chair bought a KNAU day-sponsorship and my colleagues sponsored scholarships for students to take the workshop and Seth Muller at the paper interviewed Michael and I hope beyond hope people come out for the reading because I want Michael to feel like a rock star/princess too.

When I returned from Tucson, I thought the rock star/princess times were over for me but then they were not. My friends at work through me a book release party that involved cake decorated as the cover of the book. They bought flowers. My students brought more flowers. People bought the book. 30 copies. All I had. The best part is, people seem to be reading the book. My son's day care teacher bought two copies--one for her daughter, one for herself. They're both reading it. I warned her it was kind of dark. She said, my daughter loves dark. When I picked Max up the next day, she said she was up all night reading the book. She loved the connections between childhood and places, or sex and death, as Brent Hendricks would put it, in French. Her daughter had already finished it. One of my friends texted me, "I was knocked by your words!" and another friend wrote "I love the strange connections. And how, now that you've made those connections for me, they are no longer strange, but magical and certain." It would be nice and all to get some press reviews but really, these four people, along with my mom who read it with such great generosity, are enough to make me feel not like a rock star/princess but like I have not wasted my life writing. And there was cake!

Now if only the Martone reading is full-to-the-brim, and he leaves Flagstaff feeling like a rock star/princess, I will consider the Taurus term of 2013 to be a success!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Clarksville to Nashville and back again

I went to Tennessee because that is where my book is. The nice people at Zone 3 Press at Austin Peay State University worked hard to get the book out and they sweetly invited me to read. Since neither Erik nor I had been to Nashville, we decided to fly in, drive to Clarksville and then spend the weekend in town. We flew into a tornado with winds that could not compete with Flagstaff winds, but were apparently more spirally. And wind with rain is more intense than wind without. It rained like a downpour in Portland and a monsoon in Flagstaff and a cloudburst in Boston all put together. Double-speed windshield wipers as we drove through the limestone hills of Tennessee. Water poured off the rocks into tiny waterfalls and it has been a dry spring in Arizona so the water seemed like a gift but also a curse because no one goes to readings on tornado days with rain.

We met Barry Kitterman, the fiction prof, and Amy Wright, the nonfiction prof, along with two students for dinner before the reading. Erik and I arrived late and wet but we left dry and happy for the reading. The reading was not entirely without an audience. The audience who was there were attentive and kind and even one person said the reading was brilliant so I really required no other audience. I signed some books and then Erik and I hung out in downtown Clarksville. Downtown Clarksville isn't quite full of nightlife. It's bigger than Flagstaff but, Barry explained, because it's so close the Nashville, everyone goes into the city for dinner and music, draining the town of it's would-be nightlife. The downtown was cute but Barry was right. The bartender was windexing the table next to us at 9:45. She turned the TV off. We left before anyone flickered the lights at us.

So we too, after I went to Amy Wright's poetry class where the students were fun and lovely and smart and I remember that teaching/interacting with humans is better than reading from a book, drained the town of Clarksville of our presence and headed to Nashville. Our hotel (Wyndam resorts. Sales pitch in the morning at 10:30!! We wisely avoided) was by Opryland which is NOT close to downtown but we found our way there and began a three-day tour of tiny bars with lots of music. Some bars were big. Three floors. Three bands. Most of the bars were tiny--split-level galleys that still managed to host two bands between the set of 7 stairs. We stayed at the tiny bars and drank Bud Light since it's hard to drink anything else when you have to drink most of the night and day.

The bands are good. No one was bad. But they all played cover songs almost entirely. They played them well and I get it. The audience wants to sing along. At one bar, a group of women in their seventies who reminded me of my grandma's sisters, sang along to country songs. The covers were not bad. Sunvolt. Old Crow Medicine Show. Garth Brooks. A Carrie Underwood song that made me think I should listen to more Carrie Underwood (I had, before this, listened to zero Carrie Underwood). They played that "Don't call me darlin' darlin'" song a bit much. I heard some song I'd never heard but was obviously a cover about a heartbroken mama which I liked a lot. They covered Jane Says--possibly with a little too much first-had knowledge and Purple Rain--with perhaps a too little purple. Hank Williams. Merle Haggard. Songs we listen to on Outlaw Country on Sirius. But I was surprised how few original songs anyone sang. But band wants the audience to be happy and knowing the words makes an audience happy and a happy audience tips the best. But no wonder no one can break out of there. They move from bar to bar, singing the same covers but who is going to sign someone who sings someone else's songs?

I think about this and the reading I gave. It takes a lot to get the energy up to go to a reading by someone you've never heard of to hear her read an essay that she promises has porn in it but the porn within is probably too uncomfortable to enjoy as porn. No one would fly me out to cover someone else's work--to read Barbara Kingsolver or Jim Harrison, for instance.  I probably wouldn't have made much on tips either (book buyers are giving tips, in a way, so I guess I did all right). But even if my book doesn't break out and get many readers or many reviews, it feels a little more promising than what I imagine it feels like playing bar after bar, so well, so beautifully, with such stage presence, and just hoping that one day you'll play your own songs. Still, they had an audience. A loud, singing audience. That would be nice too.

On the one hand, there's something to be said for going home to my regular work and my students and my not stage life. On the other hand, I have another reading on Monday in Tucson and I will be wearing my cowboy boots and maybe do one cover song.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Next Small-to-Medium Things

Thanks to Marcia Aldrich at Back Hand Blog and Dr. Write for tagging me to participate in this blog-tagging thing called “The Next Big Thing.” All of the participating writers agree to answer a set of questions in common and then tag five other writers to put forward as the “Next Big Thing.” It’s a way to bring attention to writers in a friendly chain of tags.

I like the idea of this mob blog push. Everywhere I look, there's a next big thing.  There are many things. There are many books. If the books were smaller instead of bigger, more books would fit. My book comes in at 136 pages. That seems small. Maybe medium.

What is the title of your book? 
Quench Your Thirst with Salt. The small title is "Quench." Or maybe "Death and Water in Salt Lake" or possibly, "How to leave Salt Lake and come back" but that one gets big again. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Granite is hard, bodies are soft; water is soft, bodies are hard; the dominant culture presses down, the subculture pushes up; boys are everywhere, fathers are missing--no wonder the Wasatch Fault is so earthquake prone.

What genre does your book fall under? Essays. 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
Growing up in a place where subduing the landscape is as practiced as subduing the people who live there is a hard thing. A person is shaped by that hardness. Is a person as malleable as a mountain? Is she as well-defined as cracks in the granite? Is she as useful as a valley of water pipes? Shaped by the dominant culture and by parents fighting against that subculture, taking the subculture to an extreme, escaping the whole thing, this book is about how I try to stand some ground in a shaky family situation on the dry edge of the Wasatch Fault. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Four years. Or maybe twenty.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
My dad who died and my mom who lived.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book is available now for pre-order at Zone 3 and will be available soon through Small Press Distribution and Amazon.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
I am reading Amy Leach's The Things That Are. It's not much like that but maybe a little. Gretel Ehrlich The Solace of Open Spaces. Steve Almond's Candyfreak--my book is not about candy but is about concrete things that transport youTerry Tempest Williams. Paul Auster. Nabakov's Speak, Memory. Jeannette Winterson. All her books. Yes. She's the first inspiration. Kathy Acker. Joni Tevis's The Wet Collection. The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. Ander Monson's Neck Deep and Other Predicaments. Pam Houston's Cowboys Are My Weakness. Steve Fellner's All Screwed Up. 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 
Should James Gandolfini play my dad? Faye Dunaway my mom? I'd have my daughter Zoe play me as a kid but that is too much metaphor even for me. Charlize Theron can play adult me and my sisters to flatter us each, obviate sibling rivalry, and to complete the whole Adaptation/all people are one metaphor. Or maybe sandstone. Sandstone could play me--it is rock but it is  pretty malleable, for a  rock.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Utah's liquor laws, erotic fantasies, how to decide to have kids, sex offender databases, man-made lakes, oil, fish, Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Utah, Bear River Bird Refuge, the Great Salt Lake, Chardonnay, red wine, vodka, Public Image Limited, VW Fastback, Jetta, Karman Ghia, flamingos, Mormons, Las Vegas, water rights, irrigation, wolves, cows, ranchers, snow, Hawaii. 

Tagged:  Tammy Stewart Greenwood. Lisa B. Steve Fellner,  Ander Monson,  Pam Houston, Steve Almond, Patrick Madden, Margot Singer, Steve Tuttle. Amy Wright,  Matthew Batt and Mary Anne Mohanraj because I want to know what these people are working on. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

AWP. A recovery.

A friend of mine has abandoned AWP until it gets its head together and starts hosting a winter conference in a non-wintry place--like Hawaii. AWP claims (claimed? Once? I overheard through gossip) that hotel rates and conference space is cheaper in the winter in wintry places. Boston hotels, at $200/night, are twice as much as the not-too-divey hotel we stayed at in Phoenix in February. There's a reason Phoenix exists. For golfers and conferences.

Boston is like Siberia it is so far away from Flagstaff. Traveling from one cold place to another isn't usually so bad but since I always must fly by way of Phoenix, in March, I hesitate to get on the connecting flight. Why not stay in Phoenix. Phoenix is a sin but if you're already there...

Hundreds of flights in Chicago had been canceled the day before. I would learn later that hundreds of flights would be canceled in Boston on Thursday. But on Wednesday, the flying was fine. I arrived in Boston once again grateful that by flying anxiety managed to keep the plane from crashing into the deep blue sea (or, Lake Michigan, in this case).

I took the subway from the airport because I was already spending too much money on this trip. The subway always seems like a good idea until a shuttle and a transfer and a lack of escalators become involved. One time, at a similarly cold and east-coast conference, I dragged my suitcase and my 45 lb carry-on back and forth between Embassy Suites, trying to find the right hotel. I tore ligaments in my 45lb-bag-carrying-shoulder. This wasn't that bad. I could carry my suitcase up a flight of stairs. The prospect of a fine hotel room spurred me on.

The hotel room was only OK though. No bathtub! I like to take a bath in cities surrounded by water. I don't feel as guilty for wasting water as I do in Flagstaff (I still take baths in Flagstaff, I just feel guilty doing so). Plus, plastic cups? Plastic mini-blinds? Oh hotel of $200. Not so luxurious.

Skip ahead a bunch because no one needs a novel of anyone's AWP. I met students for drinks. Yay. I was in bed by 10 which was 8 in Flagstaff which made it seem like this would be one of the more restrained conferences. But that was Wednesday.

Thursday was the best day. Met with David Shields, Michael Martone and Robin Hemley--my nonfiction power mentors. Made a mental map of presses I had business with. Found Zone 3 booth--no books had arrived yet. The quick pre-release, pre-launch digital copies had come off the press (or out of the printer) all skewampus. New books were on their way. Good. Bending Genre books--looking good at the Bloomsbury table. Checked on Thin Air table. Students seemed organized and willing to spread the NAU MFA word. I found Dr. Write. We made laps around the bookfair.

On my way to meet Peter for lunch, I found Steve Tuttle and Jeff Chapman and Robin. As usual, Jeff persuaded me to walk with them to their lunch. How does he do that? I kept walking with them even though Peter was meeting me in two minutes. I sat down with them at Pho. Pho came fast. I didn't order. I left to walk through the wind-driven snow to find Peter at the Salty Pig--The one destination meal I had in mind (thanks to Ali Stine). I had run past it in the morning on my first run in nor'easter type driven snow. I surely could find it again. I walked left. I walked right. I walked backwards. Eventually, I made it back to my hotel from where I forged ahead again. The Salty Pig, it turns out, was two blocks from my hotel. I made it. Peter made it. His cab driver had gotten lost too. I felt vindicated in my ability to get lost and then get unlost. We ordered the chacuterie platter--porchetta thinly last, pate champagne, homemade mozzarella (straccialettea?), pickles and olives and salad for $13! Boston was going to be a bargain! Also, Peter brought me Donald's new book and bought lunch. I owe Peter.

Then, I found Margot. We got ready for our panel. We did our panel. The room was packed. I was happy. Then, drinks with the Bending Genre crowd and finally saw Lisa B. She, Dr. Write and Margot and I had plans for dinner. Dave McGlynn and Jeff came along to Toro--a Tapas place. No seats! Very Spanish! We drank some wine and ordered some tapas. I, too, (see Dr. Write's blog), thought the bone marrow overrated. But the bones. They were big.

The next day, meetings and readings and some more good food with Dr. Write and Lisa B at Legal Seafood. I ate a lobster. It was good. Next year, the trip will be planned more in concert with these two for they know that going to the art museum and to the fine restaurants makes up for the too-long to a place-to-cold travel.
I was late for my readings. I regret that.

I missed dinner at the farm to table restaurant with Lisa B. and Dr. Write. I regret that too.

The Quench books that had arrived at the Zone 3 table sold out. The Bending Genre books sold out. Happy news there.

Saturday--a run across the Charles River in the sun. More meetings. Matt Batt! Atlantic Fish company for Dover Sole. Good meeting after that. Then. Hotel to collect luggage. Hotel bar for a glass of wine. Hotel bar very crowded for 3 o'clock on a Saturday. Boston all over was very crowded now that the sun had come out. But goodbye Boston. I saw you not so much. Some in the running. Some in the sun. Mostly in the subway. Back to the airport. Legal seafood again! At the airport. Salad with Crab. Most delicious.

The flight back was bumpy and my mental powers to keep the plane afloat seemed to falter a bit. I read books that Graywolf and Milkweed gave me. I watched Walking Dead over the shoulder of the guy in the aisle seat across and in front of me because I could see nothing else. I can't watch the Walking Dead! It's too scary. I have dreams about zombies. But, apparently, with the sound off, it's not so bad. I kept hoping he had one more episode. He only had 6. We still had an hour and a half of the flight to go.

My flight from Phoenix summer to Flagstaff winter was canceled. My student Chase kindly gave me a ride up the mountain. In fog. I have never seen fog in Arizona. I guess that compensates for the driving up to Flagstaff at 12:00 a.m. We got to my car at the airport at 2:30. Chase and I tried to sweep the snow off the car. It was frozen to the windshield. I think we both got frostbite. I drove home peering through the 6 inch hole we managed to scrape. A reason to park a car, similar to the reason to have the AWP Conference,  in Phoenix.

It was a very long trip. When I got back, I taught like a puppet. I meetinged like a lizard. I am recovering right now and wondering what to do on a Friday with not a 100 meetings scheduleed. Perhaps the trip was too short.

Edited to add: Wait wait wait! Other high point. Seeing Stephen Burt. Kissing Stephen Burt's cheek. Talking to Stephen Burt about how hard it is to leave kids. He said, "you have to leave them so they know you come back." I was not cool at all when I met Stephen Burt. I gave Stephen Burt a t-shirt. I love Stephen Burt.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Retro Week

I inherit the full-on dinner every night from my mother who I think was "encouraged" by my father to be more like his mother and cook a big dinner every night. Or maybe it was from her mother who got it from her mother who had to feed 12 people, her six still at home children, my grandmother who lived with her and her three daughters, including my mother, who ate a full-on dinner every night. I also get it from Mary Anne Mohanraj who cooks curries every night (except who in the comments says that her family gets by on Annie's Mac and Cheese and quesadillas half the time) and my sister who uses her new double ovens in her new house in Twin Falls to make turkey breast at 325 and roasted potatoes at 400 and on Chopped who every night makes delicious and crazy dinners in less that 30 minutes for an entree. Perhaps I read too much Facebook and watch too much TV to get ideas about dinner. But I don't like mac and cheese from a box that much and quesadillas are our go-to lunches. You can't have quesadillas twice in one day can you .(Can you? I don't know. There's so much you people, you television and Facebook and blog and double oven people, that you haven't told me.)
However, sometimes, my dad was out of town. And sometimes my parents went out and we had a babysitter and we had not a full-on dinner. Sometimes, we had TV dinners.
I'm thinking of having retro week.
Jiffy mix pizza.
Swanson's Pot Pies.
Swanson's Fried Chicken TV Dinners.
Totinos Frozen pizza.
Tater tots (my kids don't like tater tots. The traitors.)
Mac and Cheese (my mom used to keep the noodles plain for me, adding just butter and salt. The twins like the cheese sauce. She'd add that in later for them).
Spaghetti (no sauce again for me. She'd fry up some hamburger and serve that on the side for me. Butter and salt and pepper on the noodles. Don't judge! They say those with picky palates grow up to have refined taste. Which forces them to cook a full-on dinner every night).
Tacos. We had tacos every Friday night growing up. I do make tacos once a week. Maybe even tonight. (Pork belly tacos coming up on not-retro week.)

What did you eat then that you don't eat now that you wouldn't mind eating for nostalgia's sake?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January Lasts for 12 months

Three Januarys ago, Max was born. We thought he would be early. Zoe was so early, we thought Max would at least be born a few weeks before his due date. Or at least a few days. My mother and father in law came to wait with us. We waited. We had a solstice party. We had Christmas. We went downtown for the Pinecone drop in 9 degree weather. Still no Max. We waited. My in-laws had to go home soon. We waited some more. Finally, he was born on the 6th. That first week a January had a whole month in it.

The next three weeks--before I had to return to work--I read Wolf Hall. I read the whole book. The book should last a year. In this case, it lasted only a January. Babies are tiny and sleepy. By the end of January, Max had grown a lifetime. He was big and awake. By the time I went back to teach, it was still January. By then end of January, I had raised a whole son, read the whole of the Henry VIII's checkered past, begun and nearly ended entire classes, done all the press release work I could for my book of poems coming out in a month (in January? Another January month often called March), and watched all the episodes of Chopped on Food TV. By then end of January, January still had another month to go. 

This is Max's 4th January making him 114. He's way old, as he would say. His mom is way old. His dad is way old. His sister, the snow, the sun are way old. If you're feeling old, you should like January, for you can stay old as long as it gets. You can go to the doctor and get all the follow-up tests and scans and blooddraws completed to guarantee you will live until the end of time, or, at least, until the end of January. You can take time to proofread whatever books may or may not be forthcoming because they are due to be released in another January and you may not make it that long but for the time being the words will be double-checked and the white space and the squiggly lines too because January gives you enough time to look for even the typos (hear, here) you meant to make. January is long enough to be halfway through a semester and ninety percent done with the 7 year review that began just 7 days ago. It is long enough for you to read Hillary Mantel's next book. It is long enough to read all of Bill Carter's nonfiction. It's long enough to read 6 theses, 428 poems, 124 essays, and one hundred million emails. It is long enough for the good news to come and for the good news to go and the fact that you sent that book out a year ago and still haven't heard means really it's only been a month and you shouldn't be so impatient. It is long enough for your daughter to lose all her teeth and grow new ones like some magic, toothy Chia Pet. It is long enough for winter to have come and gone, spring to have come and gone and winter to have returned. It's long enough for Chopped re-runs to have re-run their whole Chopped Champions run. It's long enough for Hillary Mantel to write another 780 page book about Henry the VIII who is probably still alive because he was born in January and January never ends.