This blog is welcome to anyone and everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Unless you don't like writing short stories or smelling bear. Or if you voted for the other guy. Also, I don't really like it when you leave up the toilet seat, so could you stop doing that? Muchas, muchas gracias.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Best Def Leppard Remix In The Known Universe

Merry whatever you celebrate, and X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X O X. Because if you didn't think Def Leppard could be more glamorous than they originally were, think again, suckas.


Friday, December 23, 2005

The Chronic -- What? -- Cles of Narnia

Check this out, yo. Google Maps is the dopest.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How To Open Your Mail, And Why

This morning I woke up with an awful cold. Stacked at the foot of my bed are the boxes of Christmas presents I received the mail, but I don't really need anything right now except the familiar handwriting on the outside of the packages. Maybe -- no, probably -- I won't get around to opening these presents until January comes.

But on the most inaccessible shelf in my closet I have a box filled with over one hundred and eighty old letters. These I received in 1994, the year I taught English in China. I was in the Peace Corps, and oh! I was lonely; a letter filled my life with a glory so bright I could run miles on this feeling, I could practically eat it. Just about every other day, then, in my p.o. box, I found sustenance. But sometimes there'd be stretches when no letters came and each passing day was like the interior of my empty p.o. box: gray and gloomy and small. After one of these stretches, though, maybe five letters would arrive at once and I'd tear them open, one at a time, standing there in front of my p.o. box, a glutton, a crazy person, laughing aloud, tears rolling down my face. Then I'd fold them up and slip them back into their envelopes. In a teahouse I'd read them again, more intently this time, and every interruption was unbearably annoying. When I was finished I'd tuck the letters into the secret pocket inside my jacket and, as the rest of the day passed, I'd think about what they contained and feel their edges. Later, at bedtime, I'd read them once more and then I'd write something back to him, something to make him smile at odd times.

The person who sent those letters is gone, and in his place a new man. Now, he writes to me in a shaky hand I can barely read, about matters I don't understand. This new man seems, at times, to be pleading with me, and at other times he's apologizing for things he never did. And now, I can't reread those old letters he sent to China. It's just too painful. That's what love has done to me.

It's started to rain and I have a pot of coffee going and toast in the toaster. I'm not too sick to get out of bed. I know a place down the street from work where I can buy a hot cup of soup. On mornings like this, that's sustenance enough. It has to be.

Friends, I'll open your gifts which yes, have arrived safely. In time, I'll open them up. The ones I packaged up for you are still on the way.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Biggest Kanakas in Hawaii II

Okelani's twin brothers, two robust young men, were the biggest kanakas in Hawaii. The sum of their biceps' circumferences ran a foot shy of a Malibu longboard. But Okelani Alii, a dainty young thing, was slight as a stalk of sugarcane.

When Okelani was twelve her breasts matched her body, two sunny-sides-up on a tray. But within three years they sprouted, then flourished, then ripened to full-blown casabas. Once she reached her feminine peak, the biggest kanakas in H-land vowed every young kane, kanaka or haole, would keep off their guileless sibling. So they shadowed their sister wherever she went -- across valleys and fields, under Manoa falls, and down to the pounding Pacific; over ridges and peaks and through coconut groves. Then at nightfall they tucked her in bed.

Okelani grew tired of her kanaka jailors and yearned to make love with a kane, but the leers she received from prospective mates lost their heat in proportion to distance. Remoteness depressed her and out of sheer longing she lost interest in leaving her house. At last the poor girl simply rested in bed, snacking on bits of jin dui. In time her figure plumped to a shape that resembled a very ripe pineapple. Minus the scaffold of her slender frame, Okelani's silhouette was less wondrous; she matured from an aberration of nature to a stately and full-grown wahine. And as a result the Alii twins stopped dogging their beautiful sister.

But since the kanakas had, for a time, trekked miles of arduous trails, Okelani's twin escorts slimmed down to stick-men (if stick-men pumped lots of iron). Though remaining the island's most strapping kanakas, they no longer prevailed as the biggest. And soon, the boldest and bravest kanes ventured out from behind their binoculars.

Not one kanaka can tell you today who fathered Okelani's twin keiki boys. But the Alii clan secretly hopes they'll outgrow their great big kanaka uncles.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Biggest Kanakas in Hawaii

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Babe Alert: David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace, author of many outstanding story and essay collections, fan of all things David Lynch, "genius grant" winner -- and I hear he also wrote a couple of novels -- this guy is 100% babealicious. I mean it.

Dashing hotness aside, Wallace wrote one of my favorite stories ever. Included in his collection Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, it's entitled "Forever Overhead." The story takes place on the main character's thirteenth birthday, much of it narrated while, for the very first time in his life, the boy stands shivering in his bathing suit, his toes gripping the nose of the high-dive board. At the bottom of the access ladder, a long line of other divers wait impatiently for their turn. The boy's position becomes a metaphor for the anxiety and pure elation of crossing that threshold we call male pubescence. The membrane that separates boy from man, air from water, is pierced in one short, brimming moment.

Here's a ratemyprofessors review written by one of Wallace's lucky Pomona College students:

He really cares about helping his students to improve, and I learned a lot from him. Because he's pretty eccentric, his reactions to emotional elements of stories and essays can be kind of mind-boggling. Exhaustingly brilliant, very demanding, definitely worth it if you're serious about writing.

And oh my, is he ever serious about writing. Wallace is a supreme grammarian and stylist who not only uses extensive footnotes, but he even footnotes his footnotes, which leads me to believe we are a match made in heaven (or we will be, once I master Chicago style documentation).

Not only does Wallace have a great pair of legs, but he's ubercompassionate, always considering the reader. The purpose of fiction, he says, "is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves." Which, if you think about his use of the second-person narrator in "Forever Overhead," the reader gets full imaginative access to the House of David, including the fridge, the pantry, and the well-stocked freezer. Yowsa, wouldn't you say?

I haven't ever been within shouting distance of this elusive and handsome writer, but the imaginative access he mentions above could well be as sensual an experience as, say, waiting an exquisite forty minutes in line to have him sign your copy of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Rest assured, dear readers, his fingers would be strong, his nails meticulously trimmed. Perhaps, too, they smell of lemon and tennis courts and unboiled lobster.Until the day we meet and, inevitably, fall in love, I'll leave a candle in my heart's window. A superfantastic magic candle that doesn't burn down, I mean.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gary Coleman My Future

I once had this vivid dream I was dating Gary Coleman. For those who don't know him, he played Arnold Drummond on this eighties sitcom called Diff'rent Strokes. Coleman's character Arnold was a kid from Harlem adopted -- along with his older brother Willis -- by a caucasian millionaire. Mr. Coleman ran for governor of California in 2003. On October 7th of that same year, he was beaten soundly by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Coleman, who suffers from some variation of dwarfism, now does commercials for loan companies.

In the dream, I was sitting on a living room couch next to Gary Coleman. We were in my parents' parlor, or at least I understood that we were. This parlor didn't look like any room from my childhood, but it resembled those places: nondescript, quiet, and humbly furnished. My parents were relaxing in matching easy chairs, approvingly watching the two of us, Gary Coleman and me. Because my parents so obviously approved, I was trying very hard to love Mr. Coleman. But I wasn't feelin' it.

Gary Coleman was trying very hard to court me, holding my hands and plying me with small talk. He offered to have his friend, an underwear designer, make me some panties as some sort of engagement present. While he made this proposal, my parents nodded encouragingly. Then he gave me a box wrapped in gold foil paper, tied with a silver gossamer bow. I untied, ripped, and inside the box I found a pair of hideous panties made of snakeskin, leopard, tiger, and all manner of animal skins, awkwardly patched together. As my parents watched, I gave Gary Coleman a big hug & again tried very hard to love him. I remember thinking that maybe I could do it, in time. And then I thought, no, no I can't. Not ever.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Don't Worry, You'll Meet a Man

Why is it that every time I call my mother she asks whether or not I've been on a date lately? Is this typical mom-behavior? At one point I told her that no, I've decided I will never date anyone again for the rest of my life. I said it with utter conviction, too, as though I was telling her about some cult I'd just joined. My answer cut her, and I felt awful for doing it, but I couldn't help wanting to cause my mother pain. Her response was that I shouldn't worry, that some day I'd meet a man and marry him.

I can't begin to explain, no matter how often I say it, that I'm FINE. That happiness is possible and even likely if I don't spend one night a week trying to eat in front of someone else. Sure, maybe he'll love the awkward way I hold my chopsticks, then he'll ask me to eat with chopsticks again and again until finally, months later, he'll get down on one knee and propose. And I will have to say no, I'm sorry, I can't go on pretending I'm fine with this whole chopstick-fumbling thing. I will not marry you.

Or maybe I'll say yes. Yes, because I'll have the image of my mother's disappointed face in my mind. I'll marry some stranger I've dated because yes, it would make my mother so happy.

I may visit my mother in January or February, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she'll try to set me up on a date, which she'll disguise as something else. It will involve plates of cheese and crackers in front of her fake fire, the doorbell, a male guest. I will get absolutely plastered, of course. He'll be a divorced dentist who wears a heavy cable-knit sweater, he'll be stone-cold sober, and he will eat a LOT of cheese and crackers before he leaves. After he's gone, my mother will exclaim that he's very NICE, isn't he? The next day I'll wake up with a hangover and we'll walk her pooping dog. The air will be fresh, the sky blue. She'll tell me how sorry she feels for the guy, whose wife left him for someone else.

I know, I know: my mother loves me fiercely. She just can't stand that I'm alone, and have been for a while, and probably will be for a while longer. It kills her. But can't moms who love their daughters see that aloneness is just this condition, that it doesn't have to be awful -- it just happens? Can't they have more confidence in their daughters? I LIKE being alone. I'm getting used to it. Maybe it even suits me.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My Favorite Titles To Say Aloud To Bookstore Customers

1. Another Bullshit Night In Suck City
2. The Ethical Slut
3. Everyone Poops
4. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
5. Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch
6. On Bullshit
7. Sentimental Heartbroken Rednecks
8. The Bastard On The Couch
9. The Butches of Madison County
10. No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again


I used to be a volunteer ranger in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah. After that I took other trips to that prickly desert land where I bathed in the Colorado River and filled my jug from the slow, metered drips of clean-water seeps.

In a land that barren, rocky, and vast, the difference between sun and shade was the difference between blindness and sight. Every raven that flew over and every fleeting cloud cast a deep shadow on the canyon floor. I could mark time by the line between bright and dark, and I did, I had to, because it was vital to stake out where I could comfortably sit and at what times of day I could sit there, waiting for visitors who'd hike three steep miles to see the ancient Horseshoe Canyon pictographs. Some of these hikers were suffering from heat stroke, and I was there to lead them to shade.

There's something deeply primitive -- or maybe I mean elemental -- about such places. I felt, as I've never felt since (though I expect it will come back to me if I make it past seventy), that we are subject to the earth's slow chronology. That time spent thinking and watching the thunderheads emerge over the rim of a cliff wasn't time wasted. It was just time passing. It was history.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Isn't Richard Ford a Dreamboat?

Richard Ford, author of many brilliant stories, Pulitzer- and Pen/Faulkner-winner, guy-who-hunted-ducks-with Ray-Carver, is a Huge Fox! I rode my bike for miles to see him at Capitola Book Cafe, and, figuring him for a leg man, I wore short-shorts and sat in the front row. During the reading he sweated profusely. You know why? Because he was (and is) hot. So he was sweating profusely, wiping his hands on his polo shirt as if he was nervous, but no, he's a famous and handsome writer. If anything, he's nervous about all the ladies in the audience drooling at once. Me, though? I was super nervous, because I was determined to meet him in person.

After the reading, I waited in line for twenty minutes, sort of stretching my legs and trying to catch his eye. Then, finally, it was my turn. Mr. Ford asked me what he should write in my book. I knew what I wanted him to say but instead, I just sort of croaked my name at him. He signed, leaving a sweaty fingerprint on the page, and that was that.

And riding home, my bare legs freezing, my Granta Book of the American Short Story stuffed into my backpack (my ex-boyfriend has long since sold it, I think), I thought about what he DID write. "To Ingrid, With Gratitude." It was much grander than anything I might have wished for, and much more distancing.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Mabel, Darling

Josh Northrup shoved through the saloon doors, his heart as heavy as a bag of water. Jolty piano plinked from the Victrola. Behind the bar, Orville Samcaster polished a glass. Old Man McCreedy and Silas Cray laid down their cards on a round wooden table.

Silas peered at Josh from under the brim of his oily hat. "Smells like you been rolling een death."

"Whiskey," said Josh to Orville. Orville poured him two fingers and slid the glass down the length of the bar. Josh threw back the whiskey, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and Orville wrinkled his nose.

"That's a mighty powerful stench on you, Josh," Orville said, "if you don't mind me saying it." He backed up a few steps.

"It's Mabel," Josh said. "She's gone to higher pastures."

Orville pulled the brake lever on the old Victrola. Silence.

"I been laying with her for two days straight." Josh set his empty shot glass upside-down on the bar, as though trying to trap something under it.

"God bless her in heaven," said Old Man McCreedy, crossing himself. Silas leaned back in his chair and adjusted his hat with a finger, exposing the pale line on his forehead.

"I mourn for you, Josh," Orville finally said. "She was real pretty, with them big blue eyes -- God takes the good ones first, you know." He reached for the whiskey. "Listen, you take the bottle. It's on the house."

Josh leaned weighty on the bar. Mabel's smell was all over him, attracting flies. "My onliest, truest love." Every man in the room had a dearly departed, and now even Silas bowed his head.

Then footsteps clacked on the back stairs and down sauntered Lizzie, all red ribbons, black garters. "Is the Victrola busted again, or . . ." she noticed Josh and patted her ringlets. "Why Josh Northrup, isn't this a pleasant surprise." She stopped abruptly at the bottom step, one small hand on the bannister, the other pinching her nostrils.

"You run along now, Lizzie," said Orville. "Mabel passed away, and Josh has spent the last two days doing his duty to what's left while her soul rises up to heaven."

"About that tradeetion of ours," Silas said, "ees eet really necessary?" Lizzie shot him a look of reproach so fierce that Silas hushed up, picking his teeth with a match.

"Oh, Josh!" Lizzie's eyes went soft. She fished around in the top of her dress and pulled out a vial of lavendar toilet water.
"Take this," she said. "It's imported from Kansas. Use all of it. And then you come visit me, if you need to." She left the vial at the foot of the stairs and clacked back up to her quarters.

A moment passed and soon, everyone's eyes started to water.

"Josh, I don't mean no disrespect," Orville said, "but could you go out to the well and wash up?" Josh settled on Orville's concerned face, then Silas slouching lean as a greyhound, then Old Man McCreedy in his Sunday best. Under the weight of his sorrow, Josh staggered out the door. Everyone breathed.

* * *

Plain well water didn't work, so Josh scooped a fistful of sand and scrubbed until his hands bled. But he couldn't clean away the scent of his Mabel any more than he could forget her. He thought of the the time Mabel saved him from drowning in the river. And the time Silas ended up with a slug of lead in his thigh for trying to steal Mabel away. Those cold winter nights made so much warmer, lying up against Mabel -- warmer then, when she was still warm.

Out on the horizon, over a grove of cottonwoods, four buzzards spiraled down, down, down. And there she rested with her blonde hair, her blackening tongue, her massive shoulders, the bloated corpse that was once his Mabel, gone, gone, forever gone, replaced by something putrid.

Josh pulled the tattered Bible from his shirt and threw it in the well. "Mabel!" he shouted, kicking tumbleweeds and tufts of grass, blasting the air with sand.

And under the Cottonwoods Mabel smoltered away, old store cheese, her hooves erect as bedposts. Buzzards pried her flank with their beaks. A dry wind played in her mane, whispering, "Mabel, darling."