The Friendship Artist

Self is halfway through The Art of Leaving. She has been through the most gut-wrenching pages, and has learned from goodreads reviews that the author settles down, marries, has kids, becomes middle-class, content, blah blah blah. Therefore, self thinks it is *safe* enough for her to continue reading.

After the good Israeli boy who she dumped three times, (the last time in Miami, hope he doesn’t read this book), Tsabari has further affairs, one with a beautiful Italian woman, and another with a Canadian tourist she meets while backpacking around India. They travel together for two months, write, and she follows him to Vancouver. They get married (she needs a visa to stay in Canada). Alas, the marriage is short-lived, but Tsabari lands on her feet, like so:

  • I was wandering the streets of Vancouver searching for a reason to stay. I had just turned twenty-nine. Anand and I had broken up over a year earlier, and for the first few months, despite being broke and homeless, sleeping on friends’ couches, and living off damaged vegetables and expired dairy products, I was the happiest I’d been in years . . . I met Lydia at a belly dancing class in the community center.

This is what self finds so impressive about Tsabari: She never runs out of friends. In any country and in any city — whether it is Tel Aviv, Goa, New Delhi, New York, Los Angeles or Vancouver — there is always a friend ready to lend Tsabari her couch. And Tsabari spends a lot of time on different couches around the world. If it’s not a couch, it’s a rundown motel, where she makes love with her partner of the moment while cockroaches (sometimes rats) skitter across the ceiling. Sometimes, instead of cockroaches or rats, there are monkeys.

What a woman! Charging ahead, all systems go!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Pull Up a Seat Photo Challenge 2021, Week # 32

Here is another fun challenge, Xingfu Mama’s Pull Up a Seat.

Self was just in Carmel, so she will share a picture she took of a secluded backyard. They have amazing gardens there: tiny, most of them, but full of quirky, unexpected touches:

Sentence of the Day! Definitely, the Sentence of the Day

  • It brought back all the things she loved about South London: murder, drugs, someone who carried off a “no comment” with a bit of panache. — The Thursday Murder Club, p. 90

When Your Mother Has a Dream

Theresa Noise: “I knew it was time. I kept saying, It’s time. She’s getting moody. We’ve got to get ready.”

In August 1997, Theresa Noise sensed her daughter Alicia might be about to get her period for the first time. She was anxious to begin preparations for Alicia’s Sunrise Dance.

That’s when Theresa’s dreams began.

— pp. 115 – 116, Oak Flat: The Fight for Sacred Land in the American West

2016 Redux

Homeland Elegies brings self back to that time of innocence, pre-Former Guy, when we thought all he was good for was palaver.

Father: He’s not going to win . . . You’re smart enough to know that. He doesn’t even want to win. He’s trying to send a message.

Ayad Akhtar: I thought you said he was trying to start a channel.

Father: Same thing.

AA: He’s running for an election he doesn’t want to win so he can start a channel to send a message?

Father: The system is broken . . . I’m saying he won’t win, so you should calm down.

— pp. 18 – 19, Homeland Elegies

And then he did win.

Self still remembers how, on the evening of Election Day, she took Caltrain from Palo Alto to the City, and the packed train car was full of anxious buzz buzz buzz. She finally asked the young woman next to her what was going on.

The young woman said: “Trump’s winning. I’m scared.” The woman held up her cell. Polls on the East Coast had just closed, and the numbers were shocking.

The next morning, when self turned on her cell, the first message was: Your representation has changed. Then, a long long list of newly elected candidates ending with: The President of the United States: DT!

That night, the smell of pot was stronger than usual from the apartment above. Self remembers there were people hanging out on the fire escape, and she could distinctly hear their conversation: “Can you believe he WON? What’s going to happen NOW?”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Siena, Italy

Although it is rather unexpected to find a passage about Siena in a book about fine bourbon in Kentucky, self does have good memories of visiting this part of Italy with her niece, Irene, in 2015. Maybe later, when she has time, she can find a few pictures from that trip and add them to this post.

Wright Thompson travels to Siena so he can watch Siena play Florence. He’s met at a train station by his friend, Fred Marconi.

Rows of trees lined the road, pine and cypress. Castle keeps rose from the hills.

Marconi’s family has lived in Siena for at least five hundred years . . . and he is proud of his history. This wasn’t some old man talking. He was a forty-two-year-old graffiti artist who plays bass in a rock band. He’s got a Ramones tattoo. He baptized his three-year-old son on the 750th anniversary of the battle that took place on the peaceful field he was driving me to see.

“This was one of the biggest battles in the Middle Ages,” he said. “It was September fourth, 1260. Dante talked about this battle in The Divine Comedy and said it was a terrible day. The Sienese turned the Arbia River into a red river of blood.”

Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last, p. 20

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

To Roam

Self learns new things every day.

The study of animal movement, once relegated to the margins of biological research, has shifted towards its center. In 2006 a group of scientists gathered at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem to sketch the outlines of a new approach that would simulate movement as one of the central features in the behavior of animals and the functioning of ecosystems. They called the new field “movement ecology.” The following year Wikelski and his colleagues started Movebank, a public database where scientists can share their animal tracking data. Animal trackers add about a million data points every day.

The Next Great Migration: The Beauty of Terror and Life on the Move, Chapter 8 (“The Wild Alien”)

How To Look Like You Belong, in Hotel George V, Room 815, Paris

First, don’t ask for directions, just head on up to the room in question. And don’t fuss too much at the door to the suite. Just go right in.

A hotel maid will pass you in the hallway, she will glance at you but keep on walking. Expect the hotel manager in 10 minutes.

When the hotel manager lets himself into the suite (accompanied by “muscle” of course, this is a five-star Parisian hotel! Rooms cost upwards of $1000/night!), you will say, “Bonjour!” You will introduce yourself, you will say you’re a friend of whoever, and you will demand, DEMAND, the name of the manager, and then you will ask to see his ID.

Bearing, bearing is absolutely important.

Also, a silk scarf.

If it is autumn, then a beautiful autumn coat.

Just think “classic.” Be “cordial, but aloof.”

After all that, I’m sorry to say the manager will probably say something rude like “I would like to see what you’ve taken from the suite” and also mention the “small issue of” the bill.

You should say, “Of course!” And hand over your credit card.

And then you must keep smiling, even when they charge “three-thousand five-hundred euros. A night.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The “Fishwife Call”

If Lamorna Ash had written about nothing else except the pubs of Newlyn and the eight days on a fish trawler with six (or was it seven) Cornish fishermen, this book would have been worth the read. But we are only on p. 40, so one can only imagine what other Cornish memories lie in store!

So far, on this eight-day fishing trip, Ash has made reference to Moby Dick and something by Conrad, this interspersed with anecdotes about the crew (Kevin, a flaming redhead and the youngest of the crew is, naturally, the cook. First night’s dinner is “chicken burgers and lovely fucking peas.”)

Speaking of Moby Dick, self read that book for the first time in her first quarter as a Creative Writing Fellow at Stanford. Everyone else was reading Raymond Carver but, self being so obstreperous, she read Moby Dick. It took her, she thinks, something like three months, and she was in pain the whole time.

The trawler’s name is the Filadelfia –why? Next thing self knows, she is trolling her archives for pictures of Philadelphia, her favorite American city next to her own, the city where Dearest Mum attended Curtis (Dearest Mum was only 11 when admitted, and became super-famous, a famous like Britney Spears! For winning the New York Times International Piano Competition, at 14. Her teacher at Curtis was a Madame Mengerva, who told Dearest Mum she should never get married, which is why, when Dearest Mum was 21, she eloped and ended up having five children with Dear Departed Dad)

On p. 40, self reads about the Fishwife Call, that lovely seafaring tradition where “whoever is on watch puts the kettle on, makes mugs of coffee and then heads down to wake the snoozing crew for the next haul” with a hearty ‘Alrightfuckers!’

So interesting.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Eight Days on a Fishing Boat from Newlyn

Lamorna Ash is a beautiful writer. Self appreciates the precision in the following description, especially “they will repeat this performance over fifty times more in the week to come”:

Dressed in their oilskins, the men head out onto the uncovered deck to spread the nets ready for the first haul. They will repeat this performance over fifty times more in the week to come. The ancient, bird-like being heaves her wings back up, pulling the chainmail-clinking nets high up into the air above us, before dropping them down into the water with a smack. They break its surface and disappear beneath. The nets will remain sunken for the next few hours, stroking along the seabed, gathering fish into their cod-ends.

The salt-licked wind makes my eyes red . . .

Dark, Salt, Clear: The Life of a Fishing Town, p. 33

And since self has so many pictures from her own trip to Cornwall in 2019, she’ll just throw in one more, why not?

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