Nostalgia for HOTEL AMERIKA, Vol. 8, No. 2

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Redwood City, California: Thursday, 19 October 2017

Vol. 8, No. 2 of Hotel Amerika was the trans-genre issue.

The opening piece was by Charlene Fix, “Less Than Zero”:

I know what Robert Downey, Jr. looks like and it’s not like you.
Yet he’s a ringer for you in this film, and we’re arrested,
handcuffed, booked, and sentenced to the couch for the duration.

Self’s piece in the same issue was “Ghosts”:

I dreamt about my sister, dead these many years. It seemed she was in a place of ghosts. In my dream I put my face up to hers and kissed her cheek and said, “I’ll always be your sister.”

Another piece in the same issue: “Alice Ages and Ages,” by Sarah White

ALICE IS OLD

She had the mirror removed years ago but has never stopped studying herself.

Finishing BARBARIAN DAYS

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is a 500-page memoir. Self has got to admire William Finnegan’s nerve.

The pace is unrelenting but it’s so well-written that self can’t stop.

Questions, as she races through the final hundred pages:

  • Does anyone die? Because Finnegan is so good at describing close calls: his own (of course he can’t die, lol. The author never does) as well as others. So she naturally assumes all these close calls have to culminate in a close call that ends up being a final call. So far, p. 466, no one has. Lucky!
  • When is Finnegan going to stop? When is he going to decide that he’s too old to surf? How does this story end?
  • Finnegan gets a plum job with The New Yorker. How? It’s never fully explained. Self sincerely wants to know how a committed surfer becomes a New Yorker writer, without giving up surfing. Or, surfing as much as he seems to do. One minute he’s traveling the world in the search for the perfect wave, the next he’s a writer for the New Yorker? Self wished there was a brief explanation of how he landed it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Three to Add to the Reading List

The first book is one which self initially approached with skepticism because the publisher is an academic press (Oxford) and she still remembers how they mangled a biography of Aung San Suu Kyi and doesn’t think she has forgiven them yet.

But anyhoo, there’s a new biography of Angela Carter (and gives cause to the 13 March 2017 New Yorker to share the interesting fact that she has been “pigeonholed as a white witch”) and self wants to give The Invention of Angela Carter, by Edmund Gordon, a go.

The next two books she’s adding to her reading list are from the Briefly Noted section (other books in the Briefly Noted section: The Schooldays of Jesus, by J. M. Coetzee, and A Book of American Martyrs, by Joyce Carol Oates): a biography called, simply, Jonathan Swift, by John Stubbs, and This Close to Happy, Daphne Merkin’s “memoir of struggling with depression.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

BARBARIAN DAYS: Sri Lanka

This memoir is like Jack Kerouac, but much much more enthralling. The author and his buddy, Bryan, go all around the world, living hand-to-mouth, and experiencing culture from the bottom. Only young Americans would be so laissez faire.

But, enough of digressions. Below, an excerpt from p. 289:

We pushed on, always edging west. We caught a ship from Malaysia to India, sleeping on the deck. We rented a little house in the jungle in southwest Sri Lanka, paying twenty-nine dollars a month . . .  I resumed work on my novel. We got Chinese bicycles, and each morning I rode mine, board under arm, down a trail to the beach, where a decent wave broke most days. We had no electricity and drew our water from a well. Monkeys stole unguarded fruit . . .  A madwoman lived across the way. She roared and howled day and night. The insects — mosquitoes, ants, centipedes, flies — were relentless.

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Night descends on a Philippine Sea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading BARBARIAN DAYS, p. 227

My fears were unnecessary. Nothing too heavy came. Instead, I caught and rode so many waves, through four or five distinct phases of the day, that I felt absolutely saturated with good fortune . . .

— William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

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Albion, California

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More BARBARIAN DAYS: In the South Pacific

The cast of characters in William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days is very New Age-y hippie. It’s been a long while since self has encountered one of these, which means San Francisco has really changed.

Anyhoo, Finnegan and a friend go bouncing all over the South Pacific, searching for good waves. And they have very, very interesting encounters.

With an American missionary who is also a surfer. With locals who take an “anthropological interest” in the author and his traveling companion, Bryan. Finnegan and his friend are so obsessed that when they find a good surfing spot, in Tonga, they surf every day.

Surfing seems magical when you’re just watching. Here’s the reality:

  • My hands and feet were a salad russe of coral cuts, and Bryan had a large, raw scrape on his back, the dressing on which I changed twice a day.

There’s a type of pairing I’ve seen on Boracay:

  • One of Parker’s oil field managers was a big, thick-spectacled Texan named Gene. He had a face like a turkey wattle, a scary smoker’s voice and a local girlfriend who was seventeen. Gene was pushing sixty. His girlfriend was a knockout but not happy. I overheard her telling the wife of a Parker executive that she was a half-Fijian orphan, and therefore a social outcast in homogeneous Tonga. She had turned to prostitution, she said. She was now desperate to get away from Gene. “Help me! Help me!” she pleaded.

As for the king of Tonga, Tupou IV: “He was an absolute monarch who weighed, reportedly, 440 pounds.”

Fascinating stuff.

Stay tuned.

 

 

#amreading: More of SURF CULTURE

“He went out from the shore till he was near the place where the swell begins to take its rise; and, watching its first motion very attentively, paddled before it with great quickness, till he found that it overlooked him, and acquired sufficient force to carry his canoe before it without passing underneath. He then sat motionless, and was carried along at the same swift rate as the wave, till it landed him upon the beach. Then he started out . . . and went in search of another swell. I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and smoothly by the sea . . . “

— Captain James Cook, in his Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, 1785

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Mendocino Headlands, Winter 2016

Stay tuned.

#amreading: More from BARBARIAN DAYS: A SURFING LIFE, by William Finnegan

How has self spent this Fourth of July? Her first Fourth in Sacramento?

She’s spent most of the day (it’s past 5 p.m.! How did the time pass so quickly?) looking up Game of Thrones Season 7 spoilers (lol), perusing Twitter, and eating quarts of ice cream. That’s right, self said it: she’s eating quarts of ice cream. And an It’s-It (It is soooo hawtt here in Sacramento!)

She is on p. 132 of Barbarian Days, William Finnegan’s Pulitzer-Prizewinning memoir of his surfing days. Here he describes what it felt like to work in a bookstore in Maui:

The bookstore was three small rooms on a rickety old pier at the west end of the seawall. There was a bar next door. Ocean sloshed under the floorboards. The couple who owned the store trained me and, having picked up danger signals from local authorities, fled Hawaii for the Caribbean, leaving me to run the place along with the draft dodger, one of whose names was Dan.

Hilarious!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

#amreading memoir: BARBARIAN DAYS by William Finnegan

Self loves that she is in California, that it is summer, that GoT Season 7 is about to begin (with Gendry, no less, lol — it’s been sooooo long!), and that she’s reading a book about a surfing life, William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days.

Aside from giving her lots and lots of beach feelz, the book has some pretty choice things to say about UC Santa Cruz:

UC Santa Cruz was an exciting place, but it was easy to leave. It was a new campus, a hotbed of academic experimentation. There were no grades, no organized sports. Professors weren’t authority figures but coconspirators. Maximum self-direction was encouraged. All of this suited me, but the place had no institutional gravity.

Funny to hear about a university’s lack of “institutional gravity” from a surfer boy, but anyhoo. It’s an interesting description.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Sunday, 2 July 2017

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Exhibition Catalogue, SFMOMA: Jim Goldberg’s “Raised By Wolves,” Photographs of Seattle’s Street Children (1995)

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A Parent of a Runaway, Quoted in the “Raised by Wolves” Exhibition Catalogue

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