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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Here is a picture of the signs me made for the fiction section in the bookstore. Me likes fiction, a great deal. Me sits in me's room, in a beanbag chair perfectly molded to me's rounded spine and wonders,1 "How could me even dream of writing as well as [insert author featured in The New Yorker.]?

Me's not all bad. Me sometimes marvels at an image or pauses to look up and curse when something me's reading is really really good. Heck, me just gave money to a canvasser for Environment California. Isn't it nice that me cares about global warming and the erosion of the California coast?

But back to me, who as I said sits in me's chair with me's rounded spine, reading. Me should really spend time doing yoga stretches and me knows it, since me spends me's days climbing up and down ladders, lifting boxes, and shelving The Oxford English where it belongs, up high. Me has tired feet and tight shoulders.

Me thinks me looks frumpy in this photograph of me.

Yes, me should go to the gym. Me, however, likes spending time alone with me. "Me might benefit from a yoga DVD," me thinks.

Me doesn't realize it yet but me's getting the boot because I am getting sick of me.


1Since me spends a lot of time with me, me "wonders" and "thinks" a lot, as opposed to "says".

What We Are Capable Of

Today at the bookstore a customer told me about this. This is fucked up.

I didn't, at first, want to mention it. I wanted to spend my evening organizing and aphabetizing my CDs. So I did. I also hardwired my speakers and made signs for the bookstore. I listened to some really old Beck, and Sparklehorse, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Van Morrison. I rearranged my furniture.

I did not write, and I've finally revisited my habit of writing something daily. I did not read, and my habit (always!) is to read at least one short story per evening. This, even though I've purchased a bean bag chair so comfortable that I can write in it for hours at a time.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to get up in the morning. No, that's a lie, because I rarely wonder this. But just today, after hearing the story, I wondered it.

Here's What I Need To Keep In Mind

Stuff like this is an anomaly. We hear about one awful thing, and we remember it forever, and we trust the world less than we did before, and it shows in the way we treat one another. But think about how many, many times we've run across the street and the approaching driver has hit the brakes. If the driver is angry at us, it's because we have done something that endangers our own bodies, and no driver wants a piece of that. Drivers and pedestrians alike find the notion of an injured human extremely distasteful.

Here's My Secret and Paranoid Fear, Though

We in the United States have reached our capacity to cope with the awful things that are happening all over the world while we pretend that nothing is wrong.


In the face of everything, we should continue to be civil to one another, to try (often) to treat others as we would be treated if we were given their fate and not ours, and to strive with every fiber to remember those times we have felt love for another human being. I mean, to remember them vividly. Then we must remind ourselves that we are capable of this, too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Much I Don't Know About The Dahlia/Until There's No Longer A Hole

Tomorrow I have the day off, and I plan to spend one small part of it checking out the dahlia garden at Golden Gate Park.

I don't know much about the dahlia, but I know a bit about how it begins. When you plant it, the tuber from which it springs should be placed on its side in a hole you've prepared by enriching the soil with manure and compost. This hole should be four to eight inches deep, depending on the variety of dahlia you're growing. As the sprout grows taller, you fill in around it with very rich soil; you keep filling until there's no longer a hole. When I lived in Santa Cruz I planted a tree dahlia. In the span of one season it grew to eight feet, its tops graced with great purple blossoms.

But there's so much about the dahlia that leaves me uncertain. Like, why do they remind me of begonias? And I just can't decide which is more beautiful: the dahlia, with its anemone petals, or the spidery chrysanthemum. Also, I'm not sure how I feel about hybridization, though sometimes I see dahlias in peoples' front yards and I think hybridization's just fine.

Some dahlias look like enormous cosmos, others like pincushions or something that lives in tropical waters. Their colors are vivid and warm as though they've been dyed right into the petals. I'm guessing that it's a compositaceae, but I really don't know that. I'm also unsure about why this flower is considered, by some, a bit vulgar. I guess beauty, if not tempered by modesty, is considered effrontery. But how can a flower be modest?

A good proportion of dahlia enthusiasts are male. Here's what I read in a used Rodale's: these enthusiasts -- at least, the ones who hang with other male horticulturalists -- aren't in their circles deemed "feminine" for loving this flower. After I read this I started to wonder about its author and what kind of secrets he was keeping. I wondered if these secrets had something to do with what lies in the heart of a dahlia.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Plea for Desert Sand

Desert sand is the antithesis of ocean sand, since ocean sand has become a cliché -- our cherished belongings disappear into it, the tides do their feminine moon-thing above it, the smell of it reminds some guys of screwing, and Rod McKuen advertised it. Don't get me wrong: ocean sand has endless shades and temperaments, and each runs the gamut from odd to arresting. The photographs in high-end travel brochures never try very hard to seize it.

When I plea for desert sand, I'm pleading geologic time in hyperspeed. It's no wonder so many people who live on desert sand are crazy. And words like dune, Nile, and Gobi will always sound full of history and promise, which in itself is worth a plea.

Desert sand is being undermined by greeting card photographers. Ocean sand did not bring its reputation on itself. Desert sand will ignore any smears against it with dignity. Ocean sand retains a secret dignity.

Step carefully on desert sand; desert sand is proof that the fundamentalists in Kansas are wrong.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Story by Amy Hempel,

who I've been reading a lot lately as a way of filling in the minutes before I sleep, while I drink my morning coffee, and as a way of procrastinating.

Okay, here it is:

The Man in Bogotá

The police and emergency service people fail to make a dent. The voice of the pleading spouse does not have the hoped-for effect. The woman remains on the ledge -- though not, she threatens, for long.

I imagine that I am the one who must talk the woman down. I see it, and it happens like this.

I tell the woman about a man kidnapped in Bogotá. He was a wealthy man, an industrialist who was kidnapped and held for ransom. It was not a TV drama; his wife could not call the bank and, in twenty-four hours, have one million dollars. It took months. The man had a heart condition, and the kidnappers had to keep the man alive.

Listen to this, I tell the woman on the ledge. His captors made him quit smoking. They changed his diet and made him exercise every day. They held him that way for three months.

When the ransom was paid and the man was released, his doctor looked him over. He found the man to be in excellent health. I tell the woman what the doctor said then -- that the kidnap was the best thing that happened to that man.

* * *

Maybe this is not a come-down-from-the-ledge story. But I tell it with the thought that the woman on the ledge will ask herself a question, the question that occurred to that man in Bogotá. He wondered how we know that what happened to us isn't good.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

That's The Way (A Riddle)

This was a season of fog and more fog, sometimes misting into rain. You went out there early, all socked in, the streets black with wet, and the sky was so close you breathed cloud. The car windows were obscured with droplets and the cypress next to the sidewalk let loose fat showers that felt warm and sticky. You wore a stiff waterproof overcoat and a rain hat, but the ends of your long hair curled and frizzed; there was no way to escape the fog.

Parking was tough in this city and twice a week the street sweeper came through, its muted hazards blinking, followed by a traffic cop who'd leave a forty dollar ticket under your wiper blade if you hadn't moved your car. Only a few people who made it home early found a great spot and didn't have to run out to the street in the morning to find a new one. The rest of the neighbors, like you, drove off to wait in a coffeeshop, damp and sweating over a bagel, trying not to count the minutes until the hours they were paid to be inside somewhere.

Inside for you was the bookstore, and every morning, after driving across town and parking your car, you opened the place and hauled three heavy wheeled carts packed with books out to the sidewalk that fronted the store. On misty days you covered the books with large plastic tarps which you bungeed down so the mist wouldn't creep in and warp the pages. Even the regulars you counted on to sell their used books didn't come out on foggy days because the weather was so discouraging. When it was slow like this, you bought every book you could possibly buy and even some that might be questionable in hopes that simply having them would drum up business. In this season, something seemed better than nothing.

But your main source of income came from the few hot titles, brand-new hardcovers that flew off the front display for a few weeks and then died. You rearrange them now, these new titles, wondering why the publishers chose so many ugly gray-blue covers with blurry nondescript photos of faces on them. No matter how you organize the books, they never look enticing.

Still, though, sometimes in the afternoons the fog would lift a little, just enough to make you think the sun would finally come through, and when this happened more people would stop to admire the books displayed in the windows. And just when things seemed like they were looking up the fog would settle in again and the sun would retreat, first looking like a flashlight with weak batteries, then spreading to something less distinct, a broad area of brighter fog that seemed lit from within.

Q: What quality of something is better than nothing?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Oy and vey!

Things have been coming together and splitting apart. I can't say which is the dominant thing. But I long for a normal life full of boredom and free time and mundanity.

First of all, I've been stepping in it a lot lately. I hope it's PMS. Today, for instance, I pulled into the Safeway parking lot. I despise Safeway. It's Safe, and it's the Way. I went there to buy groceries because I had nada in the 'fridge, aside from the leftover Hunan Chicken from a couple of nights ago, which I spent with someone cute.

But I'm taking a vow of healthiness (or so I thought), meaning I wanted something in the refrigeradora with some omega-threes, plus some nonfat, lo-cholesterol, whole-grainy stuff. And I didn't want to drive all the way across town to Trader Joe's, which I sort of love, because why pollute the air with the extra driving?, and anyway, I wanted fresh veggies.

So I pull into Safeway, the first item on my list of to-do's, and I'm accosted by this dude who wants money for food. Which is kind of irritating, especially as he's drinking a canned soda and eating something expensive from a plastic-and-foil bag. I said no, I didn't feel like treating him to dinner, and I slammed my car door shut. These kinds of situations leave me feeling a little guilty and distracted. Which explains why once again, for the second time in so many months, I locked my keys in my car.

Thank the lordy or whatever that my Mattyfriend talked me into getting a cell phone! I called Triple-A, then waited it out in the sun. Soon after, a tow-truck-thing pulled up, and I signaled the driver. After I thanked him for arriving so promptly, he said, "Lady, I have no idea what you're talking about." And I sighed & let him know that I was super-sorry, I thought he was the dude who was going to save me. He said that no, he wasn't, and then he stalked into the store, and there I was, leaning against my dirty car, and there went the perfectly lovely ass of my perfectly lovely jeans with the pretty lace embroidery on the pockets.

So then this guy who originally asked me for money? He pretty much commented on my every move as I checked my rear axel in case I'd been one of those clever people who sticks a magnetic holder there with a spare key inside (I couldn't remember if I had or hadn't, and lo! I hadn't). He offered me some of his pop. Dear god! It was grape!

The tow-truck driver came strutting back out of the store to eat his fried chicken in the parking lot, and he kind of watched me, shrewdly, as did a whole host of other stocky and married-looking men, but nobody approached me, because I'm sure I looked premenstrual and out for blood at this point. As I was.

Then Mr. Fried Chicken decides that he will unlock my car, for free!

At the end of it all, two hours behind schedule and fuming, I have half a salmon and lots of spinach in the 'fridge, plus my freezer is stocked. I've now finished the book I was supposed to have read for the book club I'm meeting on Tuesday. Things are good, I think. . . The universe may not be looking out for me, but maybe I'm supposed to look out for myself at this point and this is all a great big lesson. It'd be so nice, though, to have a moment or two to be something other than an adult.

I often think that I was not meant to endure the hardships that other adults suffer on a daily basis. Believe me, I know my outlook is incredibly childish. But I worry about the tiny details, not the big stuff. If you were to find yourself on The Titanic, know that I would be among those who'd claw my way past you and to the lifeboat, complaining the whole time. And if I failed to save myself, I'd jump off the side. Man, though, I sure admire you noble people out there! Perhaps this is why I've never decided to have children.

An endnote:

Matty says that I live in "the ghetto". I've never agreed with this, though today, in my present state of mind, I noticed a few things. Like, there were pigeons eating cheetos out on the sidewalk in front of my place. These weren't, mind you, a bunch of Cheetos deliberately scattered, but these haphazard orange bits, plus an abandoned bag. All this was happening in front of someone's white fence. On which the owner of the fence (I assume) had spraypainted "NO PARKING".

After all that, I leave you with a picture of some dancin', and some hot buns.