Monday, November 26, 2007

From NB, II

4.17.07, Santa Cruz, 9:36 am

I picked up a book to look through—maybe it will be a good reference or resource.
A Moon Travel Guide: Northern California Handbook by Kim Weir. From 2000. With an introductory essay by Ursula K. LeGuin, reprinted from her book Dancing at the Edge of the World (which I will seek today at the library, when it opens at 1 and I go to use the internet, all that email huddling in my inbox now, waiting desperately for me to come, to open, to read, all these terribly important things that I cannot miss…) And this essay is it, is perfect, ends with this:

“…Only knowing that we must have a past to make a future with, I took what I could from the European-based culture of my own forefathers and mother. I learned, like most of us, to use whatever I could, to filch an idea from China and steal a god from India, and so patch together a world as best I could. But still there is a mystery. This place where I was born and grew up and loved beyond all other, my world, my California, still needs to be made. To make a new world you start with an old one, certainly. To find a world, maybe you have to have lost one. Maybe you have to be lost…”

This place where I was born…it is not about historical novel or conventional or experimental or the anxieties I’ve let percolate and swish around. It’s not about memoir or family history or personal narrative—not to denigrate, or criticize, or say there’s nothing of that in this future—but it’s just. It just is—you know I like to define in the positive, rather than by what it’s not. It’s about making a new world from the old one.

“But what about making the world, this world, the old one?…Whether our ancestors came seeking gold, or freedom, or as slaves, we are the conquerors, we who live here now, in possession, in the New World. We are the inhabitants of a Lost World. It is utterly lost. Even the names are lost…”

This state is a myth, my family is a myth, my past, my ancestry, the sicknesses and successes, the murders and suicides, the patterns and children. You are all only myths. I can name or unname you, I can rename and rearrange. You are dolls and words on paper. You are an image I have of a man on a bed in a white room, a man on the floor in the backroom of a shop. A woman in a kitchen above a rumbling train, a child in a field breathing California. In California, even contradictions mean nothing. You can invent a family and a gender, you can heal in any way you choose. “California isn’t a place—it’s a need.” (Kevin Starr)

From NB

This blog will serve, is now serving, in part, as a way to document my process as I work on this next book. Next Book. New Book. NB. Many months ago I started a Word doc and called it NB; it's where all my notes and thoughts toward the NB have gone since. It's incoherent and often kind of beautiful, like most things. It's a way to Keep Track, like many things. This is from March. This is unedited. I don't usually do things like this, and by this I mean making private thoughts public. But this is only vaguely public, and I think it's a good thing, a necessary thing even. It's a thing that writers do you know:


It’s a big decision to make, a scary thing: to be a writer. It has all these associations and implications and above all: it means I have to try. It means I don’t half-ass. It means I grant myself certain freedoms and passes and I make certain sacrifices and exceptions. It means I accept some sense of struggle and wanting and really actually trying to make things happen. Maybe it means that rejections mean more because I want things more in the first place? Or maybe I’ll continue to not be too phased. I pride myself on my ability to not take things too seriously—it’s pretty damn important. But what does it mean to be a writer. For one, it means prioritizing it. Investing in it. Believing and focusing and admitting it. But back to prioritizing—my projects, my work, letting those things come before anything else. Writing more, reading more, putting my energy into my words again, and believing that I am working toward something. If there’s ever a time to change the way I work, the ways in which I perceive myself, it’s now, or now-ish. I think of people I know who, to me, are writers, whether big and successful or not so hugely successful, but incredibly dedicated and defined as such—regardless of success. Writing is just what they do, what they love and they let that be their thing. I can do that too, I know that I can, and I do believe I’m willing.

My Dad, the Cutest Man Ever

My freshly retired dad Doug bought himself an early Xmas gift from Jason and I. As in, we're gonna give him the money for this, his dream rickshaw, which is pretty much a kid carrier that he will use to carry not kids, but groceries. Says dad in an email to Jason "dougs delivery service now in business. did trader joes and longs this morn and everything went super smooth."

What you see in this photo is the joyous face of a man who no longer works from 5am-2pm in the Cargo department of American Airlines, as he's done for the past 37 years. 37 years. Doug turned 60 a few weeks ago. That's a big chunk o life doing the same damn thing every day of the week. And lo! Now he is free to ride his bike on every trail in San Jose, and to stop at Trader Joe's and fill his rickshaw with all the frozen fruit and nuts and dried apricots and soy pretzels and yogurt that it can hold.

Damn, the retired life's a sweet one.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dogs of the Mist

This is a cell phone shot of Buzz, alert and beautiful in Tilden. We went for a hike.

Oh, Things.

Willow the cat likes to sit on my lap/hands while I type. She's cute and looks a bit like an egg. And when she runs across the street, she looks like a hamster.

The Patriots are winning by a slim margin, which is a weird thing to know, and to write, because I don't actually care.

Aubrey is trying to convince me to have a glass of wine, but I'm declining in lieu of last night's beer fest at Cato's. That was a lot of IPA. This weekend has been a bit binge-y, in general. But that's ok.

West African dance is amazing to watch. I saw Mama Naomi's dance company, Diamono Couras, perform today. It was an AileyCamp reunion of sorts, and it was sweet to see the campers. They were a mix of excited and teenage blase. It was so great to see Sidney perform---he was so incredibly difficult this summer, such a pained, complicated, manipulative kid, and to see him performing with the company, reciting such a long spoken word passage---when he couldn't write a sentence in my class, and is so hindered by his literacy---was wonderful. All the kids were screaming his name.

Extreme Home Makeover is unwatchable tonight. I told myself that I need to take a break from consuming news stories about horrible senseless tragedies, because I am fairly obsessed, and it's damaging and disturbing, and the show definitely needs to be part of my boycott. So instead of watching the show about the children whose father was killed in a car crash and whose mother was shot by her abusive boyfriend, I'll watch football. Right.

Willow, it's hard to type when you're sitting here like this.

Dinner is almost ready. Aubrey is making it. I was going to eat with Rachel, Vanessa, and Amanda, but Vanessa's having a rough night. I hate that.

Talking to Kelli made me very nostalgic for Providence---I look forward to visiting, seeing her and everyone else, eating at Nick's and the Fez and Taqueria Pacifica and Hon's and walking around Brown and having awkward interactions with people in the Lit Arts department. And Bloody Marys at Twin Oaks. Yum.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On the Radio

Making the drive between Oakland and Santa Cruz, with frequent stops in San Jose, has provided me with ample opportunity to call people when I'm in traffic and listen to a lot of radio. For whatever reason (laziness) I keep neglecting to charge my ipod and/or restock the car with new CDs, and so I end up listening to the radio a lot, but the thing is I actually really enjoy the experience of continually scanning the dial to find something decent to listen to. When I'm southbound, I listen to KALX until it fades, which is usually around Hayward. Then I inevitably do a lot of NPR, but I'm often driving during Forum, and I don't like Forum. (Thing #4 That I Actually Miss About Living in Providence: WBUR's On Point, with Tom Ashbrook, which kicks Forum's ass in many ways.)

There's something to be said for trying to find something good on the radio, slogging through the Pussycat Dolls and commercials and morning show assholes, because when you're alone in the car and you have a good radio moment, it's pretty amazing. Tonight I had two.

1) I love Delilah. Delilah deserves her own post. Do you know Delilah? You do. You have to. She's the syndicated love song radio show host, the one with the buttery voice and unlimited capacity for schmaltz.

She's like Extreme Home Makeover x 100. She's wise and dorky and, as one comes to realize when one is weirdly obsessed with listening to her, a very damaged woman who often makes her wound-licking and -healing quite public. She's a foster mom who loves to garden and restore her old farmhouse. People call into her show and tell her their heart-wrenching problems, and she makes wisecracks and wise comments and then says "Let me play a song for you" and then plays like "Stand By Me" or "What the World Needs Now is Love." Her motto is "love someone." I first discovered her while driving cross country, since she's syndicated everywhere. Jason and I listened to her constantly when we lived in Providence. We would actually spend a Friday night sitting on our shaggy white rug drinking wine and listening to her talk and play shitty music and respond to all these people who called in about lost love or estranged parents or sick children or husbands in Iraq. One night we tried to go out and have an adventure in Cranston and ended up driving around listening to her show. One of her favorite songs to play is that horrible hideous "How Far is Heaven" song by Los Lonely Boys, which is so so bad, but that night Jason and I listened to it all the way through, without changing the station.

All of this is to say that there is a stretch of Highway 17 that seems to get nothing but Spanish language stations and Delilah. Banda y rock en espanol y some lite rock station that always always has her on. So tonight I was doing that dark drive home to my parents' house in San Jose, and I was scanning the stations, and there she was. Like an old friend. Right there, hanging out behind a redwood tree, waiting to play me bad songs. I got this giant smile on my face when I found her, and then she played a song. And it was Los Lonely Boys, and I laughed out loud, alone in my car, on foggy 17, and totally listened to that entire fucking song. And I thought about driving around Cranston, going to Job Lot and Hon's and places with names like Meatball Mike's to do karaoke with weird New Englanders. And I felt fond of those times but so so happy to have Delilah here, in California, where we all belong.

2) Delilah cut out around Los Gatos, if not a bit before. I lost her right after this woman with a wicked Texas drawl called in to talk about the blessings of being a foster-turned-adoptive mother. D played something to celebrate her, and I got static. Then I called Jason, and we talked about Nancy Drew books until I was almost home. When I got midway down Pine Ave., nearing the park and my general childhood stomping grounds, I turned the radio back up right in time for the beginning of "Baba O'Reilly" and I was very excited. Suddenly there was no one on the streets, it was just me, and everything was a little bit misty and the streetlights had this particular glow, a familiar warming of the night, and the park was on my left right when Roger Daltry is all "Out here in the fields! I fought for my meals!" Clearly I did not exactly fight for any meals, nor is River Street Park a 'field' per se, but I couldn't resist the Moment, and I rolled the windows down and drove all slow around the neighborhood. It smelled like San Jose, like Willow Glen, like wet onions and houses. There's the barrier by the creek that didn't used to be there and people kept driving off the road into the water. The creek where we found the porn in the tree after an almost-flood. There's the Cat House that we used to walk by, the one with a million cats that would come out to rub on you and say hello. There's the scary house with the covered windows, and there's where I used to babysit and watch Spice once the kid went to sleep. Total Teenage Wasteland.

Thank you, radio.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Name of This Blog

When I was in Grad School I had a blog that enjoyed a brief-yet-fairly-robust life; it went away at some point, for reasons I can't recall, but I do remember that a) I liked writing it b) people seemed to enjoy reading it c) maybe I often wrote when I'd be drinking a bit too much d) I wrote some really long rant about the Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction (see 'c') e) it was called Experimental Soup Making, because it was created during a time when I was making a lot of soups—it was my first winter in Rhode Island, it was fucking cold—and pretty much all of them were recipe-free concoctions (messes) that I threw together based on fridge/pantry contents. And I was really into these soups, and I still am. It being almost-winter here (you wouldn't know from the California sun that keeps showing up), and it indeed being experimental soup making time, I've decided to make Experimental Soup Making, II. The Second. Part Two. Deux. Again. Hello. Welcome.

Also, f) the old blog existed during a time of great personal creative proliferation, by which I mean, I was writing a lot. Granted, it was all I had to do—I was in school to do just that—but I want to be that way again, or some version of that. Some kind of prolific (that should be the name of this blog entry, but that would be too obvious. I feel like I'd have to take that line out if it was the title. I think I'm overthinking blogging. But I think that's actually another reason to do this: I overthink most things. And I underthink a lot of important shit. Like writing.) And that's the point: I need—want—to be writing again, actively, intentionally, mindfully. And if I just write a cool blog that gets really popular, it'll get published, and I won't actually have to write anything else. That's the plan.

Just kidding.

On that note, I have to go kickbox.

Thanks Amra, for reminding me of The Fact of Blogs.