Summer Lovin’ 2: Mitchell’s Ice Cream Parlor, San Francisco

Self had a writers group meeting (YAY!).  It is so much fun to talk about each other’s work; it’s been months.

Because self had a little time to kill before the meeting started, she decided to pop into Mitchell’s Ice Cream Parlor on San Jose Avenue.  The line was out the door.

She had to take a number:  Her number said 013.

The digital counter said:  088.

It took about half an hour for her number to come up, so she busied herself taking pictures.

For what could be more relevant to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme — Summer Lovin’ — than ice cream?

The inside of Mitchell’s is covered with murals like this one:

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Self tried her best to be unobtrusive while taking pictures of the clientele:

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She just can’t help it:  people are more interesting to her than almost any other subject.

Self means:  ordinary people.  Just standing around.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sebastian Barry’s THE SECRET SCRIPTURE, pp. 28 – 30

Must. Get. Through. This. Novel. At. All. Costs.

Because the next novel on her list is Richard Price’s Lush Life.  But she can’t get to it until she finishes this one.  That’s been her vow.  So, this morning, she manfully addresses “the book in question.”

The main protagonist, Roseanne McNulty, is an inmate in a mental hospital.  As she approaches her 100th (!) birthday, her doctor tells her that she may have one chance left for freedom: the old hospital is being torn down, and old records are being examined, hers included.  The doctor has suspected for quite some time that Mrs. McNulty was wrongly institutionalized; she’s not, in other words, mentally defective and neither is she suffering from some psychological disorder.

In the passage self is reading, the doctor decides to confide his thoughts about her incarceration to Mrs. McNulty:

Dread, like a sickness, a memory of a sickness, the first time in many years I had felt it.

“Are you all right, Roseanne?  Please don’t be agitated.”

“Of course I want freedom, Dr. Grene.  But it frightens me.”

“The gaining of freedom,” said Dr. Grene pleasantly, “is always accomplished in an atmosphere of uncertainty.  In this country at least.  Perhaps in all countries.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Last Workshop, 2014 Squaw Valley Writers Conference

The Squaw Valley Writers Conference ends tomorrow morning —  WAAAAH!!!

Self had the greatest time.

Here’s a picture self took at the end of the last workshop today:

Members of Workshop # 6:  Roxanne Barish (kneeling), Jean Bertelsen, Cathee St. Clair, Nicky Loomis, Today's Moderator Michael Jaime-Becerra, Vish Gaitonde, Wei Wei Yeo, Catie Disabato

Members of Workshop # 6: Roxanne Barish (kneeling), Jean Bertelsen, Cathee St. Clair, Nicky Loomis, Today’s Moderator Michael Jaime-Becerra, Vish Gaitonde, Wei Wei Yeo, Catie Disabato

The week simply flew by!

Self bought a copy of Michael Jaime-Becerra’s story collection, Every Night is Ladies’ Night:

Michael Jaime-Becerra moderated her workshop today.  He's a fantastic teacher.

Michael Jaime-Becerra moderated her workshop today. He’s a fantastic teacher.

Here’s an excerpt from “Lopez Trucking Incorporated,” one of the stories in the collection:

Evelyn’s going nuts in the passenger seat because Mario still isn’t done with her wedding dress.  My sister’s too nervous to drive, and since I’m the only one home, I’m taking her for her fitting.  Evelyn’s wedding is in four days, on Saturday, and she’s the kind of person who plans everything in her life, from buying wrapping paper for next year the day after Christmas to ordering all her keys by color and size.  She gets her craziness from our mom, and while I’ve had sixteen years to get used to it, Lupe’s only had two.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Contrasts 8: Fillmore Jazz Festival, San Francisco

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in the City.  Self was there to have dinner with friends at Roam Artisan Burgers on Fillmore Street.  It just so happened to be the last day of the annual Fillmore Jazz Festival.

Since the theme for this week’s Photo Challenge is the same as last week’s — CONTRASTS — self chose shots where the contrast between light and shadow, or the contrast between two different colors, was most dramatic.

The perfect place to watch the Fillmore Jazz Festival:  Roam Artisan Burgers, 1923 Fillmore Street.

The perfect place to watch the Fillmore Jazz Festival: Roam Artisan Burgers, 1923 Fillmore Street.

Most of Fillmore Street was closed for the annual Fillmore Jazz Festival.

Most of Fillmore Street was closed for the annual Fillmore Jazz Festival.

The colors of this poster are so vibrant -- like the jazz festival itself.

The colors of this poster are so vibrant — like the jazz festival itself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Between 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s photo challenge is “Between.”

Here are two shots self took today, because she was thinking of the challenge:

Claremont, CA:  Downtown Farmer's Market

Claremont, CA: Downtown Farmer’s Market

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Self loves the apple cider and always gets some every time she visits son.

She’s also bought things from the spice vendor.  And Jennie gets hummus and other salads from a Mediterranean food vendor.

Self decided to throw in a picture from when she was doing a residency in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in May.  She was looking for shots of “between” that represented actual spatial demarcations:  between stalls at a farmers market or between walls or between earth and sky.  She looked through a whole lot of her Ireland pictures before settling on this one.  She was going to say it was an example of “between earth and sky.”  But now she thinks, not really.  It’s more of the way sunlight breaks through the clouds on a typical Irish spring day.

From a Farmyard Cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan, Ireland

From a Farmyard Cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan, Ireland

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Split-Second Story Five: A Tale of Two Universities

The WordPress Photo Challenge prompt reads, in part:

. . . we want you to become a documentary photographer and attempt to capture a candid moment of a person, place, or thing.

Here’s another set of split-second stories (love the prompt!)

First, Oxford, where the Saboteur Awards were announced on Saturday, May 31:

Jenny Lewis, Poet, Professor of Creative Writing at Oxford University, graced the Saboteur Awards 2014 to cheer self's being on the short-list for Best Novella of 2013!

Jericho Tavern, Oxford, last night:  Jenny Lewis, Poet, Professor of Creative Writing at Oxford University, graced the Saboteur Awards 2014 to cheer self’s being on the short-list for Best Novella of 2013!

Then, Cambridge, where self had been for just two days prior:

Open Market in Front of Great Saint Mary's, Cambridge, England

Open Market in Front of Great Saint Mary’s, Cambridge, England

Streets of Cambridge, England

Streets of Cambridge, England

The adventure continues, dear blog readers.

Stay tuned.

Twist 2: Walking Around (Still in Annaghmakerrig)

An old stone lintel next to a very big fern: on the grounds of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre

An old stone lintel next to a very big fern: on the grounds of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre

There’s a stone lintel that self passes whenever she goes to the Main House.  She finally decided to take a closer look at it today.  She was going to post a close-up of the carving, it looked like a piece of Mayan art to tell you the truth.

But her internet connection has been wisping in and out.

Instead, she’ll post an excerpt from a piece called “Shaft,” by Anne Enright.  It was in a hard-bound book she found in the dining room of the Main House (a compilation of writings by all the various residents who had been at the Centre, over the decades):

I always look people in the eye, you know?  This is just the way I am.  Even if they have a disability or a strangeness about them.  I look them straight in the eye.  And if one of their eyes is damaged, then I look at the good eye, because this is where they are, somehow.  I think it’s only polite.  But I am not always right.  Some people want you to look at their ‘thing’ and not at them.  Some people need you to.

There was that young transvestite I met in the street once: I used to know his mother, and there were his lovely eyes, still hazel under all that mascara and the kohl.  Well, I didn’t know where else to look at him, except in the eye, but also, I think, I wanted to say hello to him.  Himself.  The boy I used to know.  And of course this was not what he wanted at all.  He wanted me to admire his dress.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Where Oh Where, Self Wonders, Are These Voices Coming From

There are at least six books lying open on the desk self has baptized as her exclusive writing area.  It’s a glass-topped table above which hang two square paintings.

Everywhere she travels, self designates one particular spot as the spot in which she does all her writing.

The system works pretty well:  it’s like being in an office.  The desk is her equivalent of a work cubicle.  She has conditioned herself not to do anything but write when she is seated at this desk.  It’s a trick she acquired after reading about Pavlov’s dog.

Today, she began writing a story that begins (the voice is not her typical writing voice, must be the influence of Annaghmakerrig):

As for the crew, I can profess with the utmost sincerity and conviction that no captain could have wished for a more trustworthy and stout-hearted companion than the late Lieutenant O’Neill.  He fought a long and hard battle with dysentery but eventually succumbed, six days into our crossing of the Indian Ocean.  He leaves behind a devoted young wife and a son not yet two, both of whom were at the dock to wish him Godspeed on the day of our departure from Southampton.  In my long years of voyaging, never had I experienced a day as black as the one when we consigned Lieutenant O’Neill’s body to the embrace of the sea.

See what self means about “different from her usual”?  She wonders if she can strong-arm one of the residents into reading it, in that inimitable Irish brogue.  Because when she reads aloud what she has written, in the solitude of her farmyard cottage, she isn’t sure she quite pulled off that hat trick:  it is very hard indeed for a Filipina to try channeling Three Years Before the Mast.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

A Poem from TAKING MESOPOTAMIA, by Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis’s collection, Taking Mesopotamia (Oxford Poets, 2014), is such a powerful book.

It is part memoir, part excerpts from family history, part interview, everything written out in the tersest of poetry.  From the Preface, self learned that Jenny’s father, Second Lieutenant T. C. Lewis, participated “in the Mesopotamian campaign of World War I as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, the South Wales Borders, now the Royal Regiment of Wales.”

The Hawthornden reunion with two of her fellow writers (who self hasn’t seen since June 2012, but who remained in touch) in Hawthornden was at the British Museum, April 27, when Joan and self caught Jenny’s passionate and altogether mesmerizing reading (She’s the ex-girlfriend of Michael Palin, and self kept looking around the theatre on the off-chance she’d get to see this Monty Python regular in the flesh. But no dice.)

Here’s the poem “October 1916″:

Two lots of mail from home with some letters
for me, at last, giving news from Glamorgan.
Mother unwell for the past few weeks, although
she puts on a brave face as usual. Sister Betty is
still on her drive to collect wool for the knitting
of balaclavas: I said they’ll be back to front no doubt!
Here we are stuck in the desert while their lives
keep on almost as usual there in dear old Wales
except it’s now a place where there are no young
men and people tell each other no news is good news.

Self makes a promise: Next time she is in London, she will make it a point to visit the Imperial War Museum.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Letters 4: Stonehenge, A Language We Still Don’t Understand

Apologies, dear blog readers, for stretching the meaning of this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: LETTERS.

On The Daily Post site, the instructions are:  Share “a snapshot of how we communicate with one another, even if we don’t speak the same language.”

Stonehenge, which self visited yesterday, is a heartstopping monument. The stone pillars meant something to the early Britons. What, we still don’t understand. But just because we don’t know or don’t understand doesn’t mean we can’t recognize the power.  The power of the natural.  The power of the Not-Speaking.

The Approach to Stonehenge. Is. Across. A. Sheep. Meadow.  Please.  My heart stopped at the sight.

The Approach to Stonehenge. Is. Across. A. Sheep. Meadow. Please. A heart-stopping sight.

Around the monument are meadows.  On which graze herds of shaggy sheep.  And self knows that numbers are not letters (duh), but numbers, too, are a form of communication.  In this case, they signify ownership.  Someone owns these sheep.  And this is Sheep # 925’s 15 Minutes of Fame.

Flocks of sheep surround the monument.

Flocks of sheep surround the monument.

The stones speak so powerfully to Pat Shelley (pictured below) that he leads small-group tours there year-round (except for a few weeks off here and there).

The language isn’t just in the stones themselves, but in the site:  the absence of what Shelley called “human garbage” or detritus means that the land here was not close to a human habitation.  Archaeology is the study of sifting through the various human waste of centuries.  As an archaeological site, therefore, Stonehenge is amazingly pristine.  It was meant for the one purpose only — what, no one knows for certain.  But the land is full of clues:  barrows, henges, places where the meadow grass grows thicker than in other places.  The land must have been sacred to this people once.

If you join Mr. Shelley’s small-group tour, be prepared for loads of walking.  But self is convinced that the only way to approach the site is to experience it:  to walk and look at the chalk-y ground, to sight hills and barrows, to view the monument from afar, in freezing wind.  And, only then, approach.

The landscape was shaped in the long-ago time.  Here the land, too, is a kind of language.

Pat Shelley, who led the tour.

Pat Shelley, who led the tour.

There is a Visitors Center, which is completely redundant.  Who wants to look at pictures of Stonehenge when the thing itself is just outside?

What self finds so powerful about the monument is that we still don’t speak the language, but we relate to the emotions.  Can you imagine what the people must have felt, after they positioned the stones?  And this was without the benefit of cranes or lifts or diggers or what-have-you.  The enormity of the physical effort involved — it’s simply astonishing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

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