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.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Where The Hell Is Kalamazoo?

It's somewhere up north in a state that's shaped like a mitten, that's where.

Man oh man, it's cold in Kalamazoo. Cold and leafy. It's all due to this one huge lake nearby, which affects things like temperature, precipitation, and daily astrological forecasts. Brrrrr. Pretty leaves, though!

During the majority of this trip, I was tired. I guess the jetlag thing threw me off. Plus, Michigan is pretty fast-paced: the residents of Kalamazoo drive as though they're late for a wedding. Despite the weather, which ranges in temp. from freezing to sauna, people there get out of bed and do things. Where I'm from, we spend hours preparing to do what we should do by analyzing whether or not we should do it. Kalamazoo people rake things up, take things for walks, harvest things (out of which they make jars of things), write books, and work full-time so they can pay for things. I don't know where these people summon the energy to also be hospitable.

Most hospitable was ginab's dog, Beatrice, who isn't used to people snoring away in the living room (or is she?) I think Beatrice remembered me a little. Because unless you're its owner, the dog doesn't get much out of you besides a good petting. But ginab's dog spent every night on the couch next to my bed. Maybe I'm friends with a dog. (A farting dog named Beatrice.)

Sometimes Beatrice farted alone at home while ginab and I ran around town, doing things. One evening, ginab took me along to observe her class. She's having her students write a research paper about fame. We watched scenes from a documentary about Marilyn Monroe, and afterwards the students discussed the things they saw and their own definitions of fame.

We were invited to a Halloween party. I was self-conscious about showing up, since I'm not in graduate school now -- I finished a few years ago. But I'd never turn down a party.

On our way to this party, we stopped at a supermarket to buy a sixer. We were waiting in line when ginab decided that we needed masks and headdresses as well, because ginab knows how to have fun. I just love it when people inspire me to do things I wouldn't normally do.

As soon as I stepped inside, I was glad I'd costumed up a little, since this was a serious Halloween party, featuring smoke machines and round glowing balls and something in the bathtub that scared the shit out of me every time I went to pee. Among the attendees were two young ladies wearing those seventies running shorts with the contrasting piping, disco shirts, and roller skates; Hulk Hogan in some mighty fine pants; a hula-hooping ladybug; and an adorable bear with a bad attitude. The host was 100% convincing in his werewolf costume while the hostess, who was dressed up like an ice-queen, was not convincing at all because she looked like the queen of sweet sugar.

At the party I ran into an old friend who urged me to call my ex-roommates -- they, the ex-roommates, have a baby daughter now, and I've never met her. I ran out of time (short trip) and didn't get around to visiting or even phoning. I regret this, because both of these people are very dear to me. I sure hope this wasn't my last chance to see them. I'll send them a Christmas card.

But I did get to see my teacher, the bone-eye. She called ginab's to ask if we'd come over for a home-cooked meal. At B's place we ate bright yellow eggs laid by her own chickens, her brother's apricot jam, bread, crackers, apples, cheese, biscotti, and bacon. A royal spread. B asked us about our writing. Right now, I can barely keep up with this blog, but when I was in graduate school I wrote like crazy -- in a typical semester I'd pound out five awful stories for every good one. When I took B's class, I had a lucky streak, and everything I turned in was decent. Now, I've become a slow writer, and much less prolific. B brought up how important it is to take risks in fiction, and then I remembered why I was so productive when I had her for a teacher. And she said I might sign up for a workshop, since I'm not in a writing group. That sounded like a good idea.

I think B's husband put off leaving for work so he could see us. That was awfully nice, and I wish I could've spent more time talking to him. He seems like a super cool guy. He'd taken a really great photo of ginab -- it was up on their dining room wall.

Why, oh why didn't I bring my camera?! I guess I was tired & wasn't thinking.

One of the nicest moments of the trip was when Ginab took me to check on some flowers.

I met my friend J for breakfast -- that was also quite nice. He told me about this struggle he's having and how well the struggle is paying off. I could tell just by looking at him. He looks wonderful, and he seems pretty happy. I was so glad to see it. I hope I seemed happy, too, because I am happy.

The second nicest moment was when the three of us (j, ginab, and ing) shared childhood memories of things we did at our parents' parties. I'll tell you mine later, and hopefully Ginab will tell hers. Here's J's: At a party his parents were throwing, J was overcome with a powerful idea, so he ran into the kitchen where he emptied all the the boxes of cereal they'd stored there.

While he worked, J couldn't rid himself of the vision that sparked his idea. The vision was from a Wrigley's Gum commercial, one that ran pretty often at the time: four young-adult males run across a beach carrying surfboards with the word "Wrigley's" emblazoned along their lengths.

Once he'd constructed his cereal-box-board, J ran through the party and out the back door, singing the theme to Wrigley's gum. Once he made it outside, though, he tripped and fell flat on his face and went from elation to despair.

* * *

Man, I wish there was a way to gather together everyone I know. Seeing everyone again made me realize how much these ties and connections mean. I hope to do a better job of maintaining contact with people in the future, even if I don't speak to them for a long time. It's so great to know that we aren't alone in this world, not by any stretch.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Viking of Sixth Street, Old Joy, The Latest McSweeney's, and Ginab

As you might know I'll be visiting ginab this week, so I will be even more negligent in my blogging than I already am. But before I transfer my focus entirely to this upcoming trip, I wanted to tell you about a couple of things. First, here's Moondog:

Moondog is Luis Hardin, a musical prodigy who went blind when he was in his teens. In the early 1940s, after having studied all kinds of musical instruments, Moondog moved to New York and worked as a street musician, partly to raise the money to have his music transcribed from braille. He was a conspicuous figure on New York's sixth street not only because of his unusual handmade instruments and gorgeous compositions, but also because he wore clothing he made himself, including a furry hat with horns. Someone at work brought in this CD, The German Years, and now I'm completely hooked.

Here's a sample from one of Moondog's compositions called "Bird's Lament," which he (Moondog, I mean) wrote for Charlie Parker. I couldn't find MP3s of any other tracks on The German Years, which is a pity, because each song is unique -- "Bird's Lament" demonstrates only a fraction of Moondog's range. Each piece conjures a particular mood, though Moondog has a singular vision. It's as if Moondog were writing songs meant to communicate his psychological history -- we hear a soul as expansive as the harmonies he creates (using very few instruments to do so, mind you); fascinating rhythms that don't simply mark time because they, too, are melodic and serve to provide shifts and moods; and songs that come across, sometimes, as powerfully totemic, I guess because they often borrow from European folk. Many of his songs are mournful, and they seem to be about nature and life and death. Some pieces are rhapsodic in that they can sound loose enough to have been partially improvised (though I don't believe they were), and rhapsodic also because they're most certainly driven by an enthusiasm for their subjects. Perhaps you hear lamentation, Charlie Parker, and New York all at once when you listen to the sample. I do.

For those of you who've accused me of being extremely romantic I leave the lyrics from my favorite song on this album:


High on a rocky ledge lives a Mädel, Edelweiß.
She has a shadow, lovely as lace, and cold as ice.
High on a rocky ledge, I pledged my love to her.
Ev´ry time I climb up to Paradise.
How many times I´ve been up to see her, goodness knows,
Huffing and puffing, dressed in the warmest climbing clothes.
How many dances would be taken in my
Hopeless pursuit of the Schnee-Mädel-Edelweiß.
Then spoke a spirit, "If you would win your Lady Love,
There´s only one way: fall to your death from high above.
You will begin to grow in snow beside the one
You have waited for to be mated with."
Now, I´m an Edel, vice to my Mädel, Edelweiß.
Dying to be with her wasn´t any sacrifice.
we´re so deliriously happy on your ledge
Where I pledge my love to my Lady Fair.
You who are climbing breathless to see me and my love.
Snow flowers growing fonder on Lover´s Ledge above.
If you´ve the yen to pluck, then pluck us both,
For we who have lived as one, wish to die as one.

Isn't that dreamy?!

Next, I'd like to let you know about this great movie I saw with Matt, Byron, and Alan. It's called Old Joy, and it stars my absolute favorite songwriter, Will Oldham, who I'll be seeing at The Great American next Monday night!

Will Oldham's the guy stringing the guitar. Matty has a lot to say on his own blog about this movie, so I'll just give you the short version. First, it's excellent. Second, I think it's about how the quality of same-sex friendships change over time.

In Old Joy, two guys who haven't seen each other for a while go camping together. But something has come between them. One friend is now married and has a child on the way, while the other has remained single and uprooted. The single friend tries to revive their bond, but clearly there's been a tradeoff which has severed their former bond, and now they're bonded only by mutual memories and wistfulness.

Man, did I ever sympathize with this rift! I try to live as though there's a way around it, and I think maybe there is -- but only if friends stay in close contact. That's not always possible. Those of us who get older but don't start families wind up drifting on the fringes, I guess. Those who marry up might become a bit insular as their priorities change. You, of course, might not feel the way these two men feel. But I find something very honest about this film.

Finally, run to your local bookstore, find the literary magazines, and pick up the new McSweeney's! Read the latest Arthur Bradford story, in which a group of friends driving to a country wedding are flagged down by a man standing by the side of the road. He's been bitten by a snake, or at least he thinks he has. . . It's GREAT!

Okay, then. I'm off to my old stomping grounds, where I hear it may be snowing. I might get to see ginab work her magic with her writing students, spend some time with some good people, and enjoy that funky small-urban-town atmosphere.

See you soon!

Monday, October 16, 2006

"The interaction I have with the imagery is a representational action of brief, efficient,and non-intimate interludes of a more notorious nature,"

says my friend, Tina Heringer. Woah!

This is the collage my friend Tina put up at The Revolution Cafe in San Francisco. It's called Strange Men I Picked Up On The Street, not because Tina bagged all these guys (she could if she wanted to, though I understand she's taken), but because she really really did pick them up. On the street. I saw her do it. I did not pick up any strange men myself. I just watched her technique and took lots of notes.

Here's how it all began. Tina found the central image first, in an alleyway. She mounted it upside down because, she said, upside down he's "the most vaginal man" she's ever seen. I have to agree with this, though the sharp-looking French woman who sat across from me did not. She thinks the upside-down guy's rather phallic. Which, okay.

Anyway, Tina found this image, then she found another, and then another. Strange men drifting all over the streets of San Francisco, peeking from dumpsters, lying around in bins. And it seemed like more than a coincidence to her, these men she was finding. So she started making a collage.

Tina began mounting the images on the cafe wall about three weeks ago, and the collage has been growing. I saw it at the beginning, when it was much smaller, though I only viewed it from a distance, as I was a little nervous about the "cool people" sitting at a table right in front of it. Then a couple of weeks later, to my absolute delight, Tina stopped by the bookstore and invited me to come over to the cafe and help out, if I could.

As we walked to the cafe she picked up a few men, including one on a greasy McDonald's bag containing several french fries. There were more men along the way, some ripe for picking up, and some not worthy.

That day at the cafe, a bunch of things happened. Four of those things were pints of beer, which is worth mentioning. Also worth mentioning was the cafe's weird looking A-shaped aluminum ladder with its confusing extension system consisting of pull-tabs and holes, a system much too complex to be understood by humans who are used to typing on keypads.

We took turns climbing this ladder-thingie to affix the pictures to the wall with the duct tape Tina'd brought along. Tina is afraid of heights, so for the time it takes me to down two pints (i.e. an hour and a half, when I'm being polite, which I was), I assisted, since the whole piece extends nearly to a piece of steel conduit which runs along the top of the wall at a dizzying height of approximately thirty feet, I'm guessing. This endeavour was made that much more heroic considering that the cafe floor is made of solid concrete, embedded with pointy spikes.

It wasn't until the final night, when the collage had grown to the gynormous proportions in the first pic, that I took these photographs. I showed up right at seven o'clock, when Tina said the band would begin playing. At nine o'clock, when the band did arrive, I spotted Tina and tried to take pictures of her, but Tina is not a woman who enjoys being photographed. In the few I got, she looks kind of skeptical and annoyed, so I did not post them. But imagine a tall woman in sparkling thigh-highs who looks like a cross between Maria Shriver and your fantasy sexy librarian. If you stalk her because of my description, I will kick your ass.

I sat with Tina for a while and was thoroughly blown away by the sheer number of men she'd picked up and by the amazing genius band (her sweetie plays the piano, and I was surprised to learn that my coworker, the lovely Miranda, would be singing along, which she did, expertly).

At the end of the evening I owed Tina a beer, and I was TIRED!! I had to cut out without saying good-bye, because yo, my number was just about up.


I met Tina a couple of months ago, at work -- she was filling in temporarily, while we were short-handed. I liked her immediately & continue to like her, with immediacy, though it's tough to reach her by phone. Not that phone-reachability is a necessary virtue. Not like the-ability-to-pick-up-men. (By the way, she did not pick up many men at work, but she did pick up a few. She was very discreet about this.)

Soon, though, I hope to repay Tina by buying her a beer. It's the very least I can do, because I guess I figured out that all this stuff around us? Artists notice it and make us look at it, and when we start to notice it, too, life is worth living.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Twenty (20?!?) Random Facts About Ing

I met Karen Littlewhen I first started blogging. She wan't big on blogging in the beginning, but now she has like twenty of them, and she writes fiendishly. I met her after I searched the blogs using the word "bookseller."

Karen tagged me with this thing where I have to post TWENTY random facts about myself. That's a lot of facts. She's already posted her own twenty, and she's glad they weren't all "medically inclined," since she's studying to be a doctor. Dogs love her, which is the sign of a very good person.

Karen has this cool friend, The Electric Orchid Hunter, an orchid geek who wants to learn to speak Zulu and who loves the works of Jane Austen.



Each of the men I've been close to throughout my life has been deeply afraid.


Each man was kind-hearted and wounded.


Each owned a firearm.


In October (was it?) I met Matty, who's a really brave guy, and a war hero!


(I lied about the war-hero part.)


Of the scared men I mentioned, one comes first in my mind.


He was a Private in this gnarly, fucked-up war.


The other scared men I knew had private wars.


I eschew private wars because I just don't believe in war as a way to solve conflicts, inner- or otherwise.


To believe so is insane.


It's like my grandpappy said: "You can't sweet-talk a squirrel with a hickory switch."


(Actually, he never said that.)


Every day I, myself, become a little less scared, and it's really exciting.


So even though I shouldn't be spending money, I think I'm going to get a bike rack for my car.


I want to go on a trip somewhere quiet where I can hear crickets at night and birds waking up in the morning.


I want to watch the sun set.


I want to see diamonds all across a body of water.


I want to run for miles on the edge of a cliff.


But here's what I need to know: do women have midlife crises, too?


And if so, does that mean I'll start losing my hair?


(I'm not really concerned about hair-loss, as my mother still has a fine head of it.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


So many things have happened to me over this past week, but I haven't found the time to write about them. So I'll just tell you about one thing, since it's on my mind a lot. A secret: I started smoking again, maybe a month ago, or maybe a little more. American Spirits (which have no additives -- they're the healthy cigarette!), yellow pack.

The night before last, I decided that I had better things to do with my spare time than smoking, so I quit again. And as you can probably read into this, I'm jonesing pretty hard. This time, it's a sentimental jones, where each brand seems to signify an era.

I've stuck with American Spirits the longest, mainly because I like them and they're not impossible to find. There's something about the guy on the pack that implies smoking is ceremonial and therefore all right. It's true that smoking feels ceremonial sometimes, as does a beer after a hard workout. Today is the first rainy day of the year, so it seems as though something ceremonial is in order. I spent my evening with Matty, and I ate whatever I felt like eating. Meaning, absolute junk. I will revert back to salads and fish once the feeling of deprivation passes.

Before American Spirits, I smoked Hong Meis. These babies were only three cents a pack, and they were s t r o n g . I was thoroughly, thoroughly hooked on Hong Meis for about a year. If it wasn't for them, I might have become addicted to eating or sucking my thumb, I don't know.

Hong Meis were preceded by Export A Lights,

which I could find without much problem in Seattle. These Canadian cigs had goooood filters, and I loved the flat, square box and the tightness with which the tabacco was packed. They were the best quality cigarette I regularly smoked. Funny, then, how readily I took to Hong Meis, which tasted like something that cows once slept on.

And finally, here's the thing that got me started in the first place:

My father's brand, Winston's, which I smoked in the woods across the street. This was always at night-time, and usually it was raining because that's where I grew up: in the rain. I hoped nobody would see me. Someone did, though -- the neighbor, a Mary Kay Cosmetics saleswoman, who tried to rat me out to my mother. Little did she know that my own mother started smoking herself when she was fourteen, and my grandmother didn't care a whit.

That's all I'm going to say about cigarettes for now. I've started working out and doing lots of yoga as a way to curb the desire. I can't say I know where all of this is leading or why I decided to quit right now, at this point in time, but it seemed important this week that I make some changes. Something's got to give, I guess.