Blackwater/ Falluja

All morning (because self is still reading Dexter Filkins), she has been trying to imagine what it would feel like to say good-bye to a friend, then to see, two hours later, on a small TV screen in a bar where one has gone to unwind, that friend’s car engulfed in smoke, all four doors flung open wide, as if someone had dragged something — a body, maybe? Not your friend, surely this is a joke — out.

The car is just sitting there, in the middle of the street, how strange.

There is no connection between the friend you spoke to that morning and the image of that banged up car. None whatsoever.

Because when you said good-bye that morning, his car was absolutely pristine. In good shape. Maybe in need of a wash, but there were no holes in the sides.

“It just happened,” someone in the bar says.

Oh, like, a few minutes ago? And you’re sitting in a bar. Staring.

That’s so-and-so’s car.

How could anyone recognize a car as belonging to a friend when it looks like that? Like a burned-out wreck of a car? Like it’s been through a demolition derby? Who drives a car like that? Why would anyone?

And besides, the TV. Your friends never appear on TV. They’re so small-time, they’re not even. Not the slightest bit news-worthy. Your friends are just people. What an invasion of privacy. Did someone get their permission to film them?

 

Quote of the Day: Fort Bragg Public Library

Self was looking up books on sailing and ships when she overheard one library patron saying to another:

  • “I don’t care if I die because this is my second incarnation.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Just Before Self Walks to Mendosa’s Harvest Market on Lansing

Rain’s eased up. Good. Self needs to take a walk.

She’s been perusing her trusty notebook. The one she’s hoisted around from New York to Florence to San Francisco to Mendocino. The one where she jots down conversations she happens to overhear.

Here’s one that’s pretty interesting. She was eavesdropping on two young girls, riding the Metro North from Stamford, CT to Grand Central. This was sometime end of summer 2015.

We missed the first train by, like, a minute. Then Rachel found out she left her wallet so thank God we missed the first train. So she ran back to her car, then I found out I didn’t have my driver’s license . . .  sorry, I know we should have been on the train an hour ago. . .

Shit happens.

Yeah.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Late Last Night: A Disturbance

It’s late, self hears screaming from next door.

Hyper-sensitized, self is.

The doors here are metal. Must be for a reason.

Finally, a man exits the room next door, laughing.

“I hate you!” the woman screams. Her scream tails off, followed by the man’s loud laughter. “You love me!” he shouts back.

“I hate you!” the woman shouts.

“No! You love me!”

And it goes back and forth like that, neither the man nor the woman giving an inch. And self, who is always on the verge of calling the cops, is just so fascinated by this interaction that she can’t move.

The man has the last word. The elevator comes and he shouts: “I’ll see you in a few days!”

The woman makes no response.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Careful 2: The Habits of a Writer

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is CAREFUL.

Careful, according to The Daily Post prompt, can refer to many things: a photograph taken with care, a person being careful, or a task or detail requiring care.

The way this week has gone — dinner with Drew in Koreatown; a reception for Chamber Music Artists; Asian American Writers Workshop double book launch of Luis Francia and Midori Yamamura; and Penny Jackson’s play “Louise in Charlottesville” — and the pouring rain yesterday, self had absolutely not a spare moment. GRRRR.

But here are three pictures of what “Careful” means to self.

First, she never goes anywhere without her journal. She uses it primarily to make random observations.

Last night, on the train, a conductor seemed anal about the passengers’ “dirty feet.” Over and over, he admonished the passengers NOT. TO. PUT. DIRTY. FEET. UP. ON. THE. SEATS. Nearly drove self mad.

Upper West Side, New York City: Taking Notes in a Chocolate Shop on Broadway

Upper West Side, New York City: Taking Notes in a Chocolate Shop on Broadway

Her friend has a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side. She is a writer, of course.

You can always tell the quality of a mind by the quality of that person's bookshelves. These belong to a friend who lives in the Upper West Side.

You can always tell the quality of a mind by the quality of that person’s bookshelves. These belong to a friend who lives in the Upper West Side.

Finally, Dog-Eared Books in Valencia. This is one of the mainstays, along with the science fiction bookstore Borderlands, that have called the Mission District of San Francisco their home for many years. With the loss of other mainstays, like Modern Times Books, self cherishes these last hold-outs before the yuppie deluge:

Dog-Eared Books, Valencia St., San Francisco: Murals on the exterior walls are painted with books.

Dog-Eared Books, Valencia St., San Francisco: Murals on the exterior walls are painted with books.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Overheard Today: Last Friday of August 2015

Overheard at a coffee shop:

Customer to Server:  “Can you toast that three times?”

Server: ________

Another Server: “He means, toast that well.”

Lah-di-dah, oh lah-di-dah, it is such a fabulous day!

Stay tuned.

Books Self Is Interested After Perusing The Guardian’s Summer “Text on the Beach” Issue, 23 July 2015

Self used to do this. A LOT. Post about books she was interested in reading after picking up a copy of The New York Times Book Review (which she used to subscribe to. Until last year), The New York Review of Books (which she also used to subscribe to), The New Yorker (which she still subscribes to, but hasn’t read in six months) and The Economist (which she no longer subscribes to)

Anyhoo, after that very lengthy introduction, here is self with The Guardian’s Summer Reading issue, and after going through the whole thing, self has culled just three books. She must be in some kind of slump?

Here are her three:

  • Grey, by E. L. James — What what what? Self actually read the first two pages in Hodges Figgis in Dublin. And what do you know, she liked it! But The Guardian review is so silly. “Come again, if you insist . . . ” Self still wants to read it.
  • My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante — “The first part of the Neapolitan trilogy in which almost nothing happens.” (OK, these reviews are one-note and boring. Sorry, Jim Crace, Reviewer. Self will read in spite of)
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Let self dispense with the utterly dispensable: i.e., the review. And let’s just say, if this novel is indeed a riff on Gone, Girl, she likes. So “Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl On the Train” is a barrel of laughs.

Just for that, self is popping over to the London Review of Bookstore (Hey, last AWP Book Fair, in Minneapolis, she actually saw a table for the London Review of Books! She’s not sure if they’ve been coming every year, but this year was the first time she noticed them)

Side Note:  Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is in every bookstore window, all over Dublin and London. So happy for her. Promise to read the book, at least five years from now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Women in Heels

Self is short.

Short. Short. Short. Short.

Granted, short is not a disease.

Nevertheless.

On the question of heels. Last week, went to the Victoria & Albert Museum, lined up to pay 12 GBP to see exhibit on footwear called, if self remembers correctly: Shoes:  Pleasure & Pain.

Fabulous Chihuly: In the Lobby of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Fabulous Chihuly: In the Lobby of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The torture aspect was, in self’s humble opinion, very de-emphasized. Self has seen more torturous shoes (including one fabulous pair with moss growing on the heels) in Greenwich Village in New York City.

And now to “Jurassic World,” which self has not seen, but which seems to have triggered some very strong audience reaction to Bryce Dallas Howard’s choice of footwear. It seems she keeps the heels on, throughout the movie.

Now, let self ponder this a moment.

Self has seen, in Italy, women running flat out for a bus in the highest, stiletto-heeled shoes imaginable. They look great. Also, super-powerful.

She has watched episodes of “Sex and the City” in which Sarah Jessica Parker, post-baby, runs flat out down a New York avenue in Jimmy Choos.

Let’s not forget Jodie Foster in Spike Lee’s Inside Man, the one where she plays an oh-so-smooth New York lawyer representing the Rich Bad Guy who profited from the theft of Jewish assets during World War II. Self thinks that if she had a lawyer who wore four-inch heels as confidently as Jodie Foster’s character does (and Jodie’s legs are the best legs self has seen on film since — since — the woman in Brian De Palma’s Dressed To Kill), she would rest easy in the conviction that she would win all her cases.

On the other hand, there is always an exception to the rule. Exhibit A: Paula Patton, who in the most memorable scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (one of the sequels, the one shot in Dubai), kicks off her heels, leaves on the powder-blue shift dress, and FIGHTS. Really FIGHTS. Afterwards, she sits chatting with her group, all men. She remains barefoot, but still wearing that fabulous dress. The only indication that she’s been IN a fight (because, ya know, she’s as cool as a cucumber. Or at least her character is. She has antagonists like Lea Seydoux for breakfast. Honestly) are her bare feet.

And now we arrive at Bryce Dallas Howard, who in side-note self must say is one of the most unusually interesting-looking actresses working today.  Because her character, Clare, never takes off her shoes, we are left to debate the fine points of female fashion choices. Self means: Is it rational to keep on the heels when one is being chased by a velociraptor?

Self can think of many reasons why Clare would choose to keep wearing her shoes: (1) Jungle floors are slimy; (2) She does not have hiking boots in her closet, or even in her desk drawer at work, or even under her desk in her office at work.

A guest post by Lesley Holmes on clothesonfilm makes the point: “I think the makers of Jurassic world believed that showing a woman capable of running in heels was the same as showing us a capable woman . . . ” Of course! This is a very old Hollywood trope, just about as old as the idea of the director auteur (born with Citizen Kane, which means — a long long time ago). If you want to know how powerful a woman character is, just look at what she’s wearing on her feet, for God’s sake!

Self would just like to say that while she was in line in the women’s restroom at the Gielgud Theatre, during the intermission for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, self engaged a young woman in conversation, and then expressed admiration for her shoes. They looked just like the Sam Edelmans self bought last year in California, but this woman’s shoes were flats. The young woman looked at self regretfully and said, “They’re super-painful. See?” She slipped her right foot out of her shoe and there, plain as day, was the beginning of a blister. Aaargh! The things self sees in women’s restrooms! Which is neither here nor there. But it brought home the lesson that flats are just as capable of giving a woman blisters as are Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos.

Self realizes that she herself has very little to say about the wearing of high heels, but in Hollywood, the woman who wears the highest heels is usually the most powerful woman on the block. She’s just saying.

Stay tuned.

What Is Story?

Maple, 1989: A Painting in Lloyd Hall, The Banff Centre

Wendy Allen, “Maple, 1989”: Collage, Mixed Media, Lloyd Hall, The Banff Centre

A few thoughts self scribbled down after yesterday’s symposium/discussion between mentors and participants here in the Banff Writing Studio:

  • The end of a novel is not the end of a STORY.
  • The writer is not responsible for hope.
  • Sample story: Someone comes. They make someone miserable. And then they leave. (Or maybe they don’t leave. Thereby extending the misery? Wouldn’t it be so Deus ex machina for the cause of misery to just pick up and go?)

Self this afternoon finished reading the first story in the Bluestem Spring 2015 issue:  Meagan Cass’s “ActivAmerica.” Oh, it is a good one. Here are a few of the gorgeous sentences:

Out on the track, the cold settled over our bodies like wet cement.

*          *          *

“No weather exceptions for non-management,” the monitor told us, his face shining with Vaseline, heavy lines around his mouth, dark shadows under his eyes . . . “You’d have to check the binder . . . I think there’s a liability clause.” I didn’t want to know his story, what they were paying him and who was sick in his family and why he needed the money. I only wanted to kick him in the shins.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The $10,000 You Don’t Want to Spend (If You’re a Struggling Writer)

Reading Susan Kushner Resnick’s “The Heartbreak of Publicity: A Cautionary Tale”, in the November/December 2013 Poets & Writers (Clearly, self is way behind in reading magazines she’s been subscribing to for years and years). Read the rest of this entry »

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