Funny how every time I go to my blog, I'm disappointed to see it's not updated. Like there are two of me, one who is a blogger and one who is a browser. I feel your frustration, schizophrenically.

At the moment, I am sitting in comfy my-morning-is-free attire eating oatmeal (the yummy flavored kind from a package) and drinking coffee from one of Mom's William-Sonoma mugs. They are beautiful mugs. They make coffee taste better - no joke.

And I am browsing through Greek recipes, trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. I am cooking for friends. Haven't done this in quite a while.

And I am listening to Greg Laswell, because it's hard to get tired of him. He makes for good morning music. Especially late-in-the-morning, I'm-up-but-still-considering music.

And I really was going to say something significant in this here blog post. Maybe next time.

Oh yes! I remember. Very significant. I carved a pumpkin last night, and let me tell you about genius!! I have found my calling. My gift. So we went to Disneyland the other night 'cause I needed to get an annual pass and, more importantly, my Mom had to check out the brick with her name on it in the entrance. A student (and his parents, obviously) bought it for her last year on her birthday. It just takes about six months for it to actually show up in the ground. So we took a picture of the brick, ate dinner at Cafe Orleans, and took a tour of the Haunted Mansion. Every time I see it all zany and spruced up for the Hallo-Christmas season, it's like a brand new experience. If you are even slightly interested in The Nightmare Before Christmas, you have to check it out. They've been doing it for years, but this was the first time I'd gone right before Halloween. Mom and I immediately determined that we had to carve pumpkins the next night in the exact faces that were decorating the hill on the way in. I changed my mind slightly as I held the carving knife last night. Jack Skellington now sits, in perfect pumpkin form, in my dining room window. Disneyland should so hire me. I had no idea.

Picture (hopefully) to follow.


pretty pictures

i guess i figured we hadn't had any pictures lately. no context for this one, but if you like it, find more here:



I haven't really posted much lately about my actual life, and it seems overdue. Very overdue.

I have already mentioned how I took the GRE last Saturday. I followed that up with an evening of book-snagging at the SCIBA Author's Feast. I was hungry, sore, and bone-tired by the end of it. But I did meet a lot of good writers, including the elusive Pseunonymous Bosch, the hilarious Dean Lorey, and the dignified, worldly-wise David Benioff. Oh yes, and Dean Koontz. It was good stuff.

The next morning, I drove to Carmel. Didn't get there till the afternoon, of course, especially since I slept in a bit. My brother had called in the middle of the night, so I still didn't get more than six hours of sleep. With only five hours of sleep the night before, this was becoming a problem. I drove safely, however, and made it just in time to dig Kathy out of the sand and bury Chaeli in her place. I was there for about eighteen hours and slept about five. It was beautiful and cold and cozy and healthy and good. Drove back and barely made it into work at five o'clock.

The next day, I wrecked my car. Driving near ninety on the 101 didn't do it - scooting through 7th on Redondo did. I will not tell you all my feelings about Long Beach drivers and Long Beach roads. Suffice it to say, it's enough to make me want to move. Far away, where the roads are wide and speed limits are reasonably set to 50. So now I'm driving Amanda's red farmer truck. I haven't told her yet. Perhaps she is checking my blog in Guatemala - I should really email her first.

The next day, I had tickets for a boat to Catalina and back where I was booked to read stories to a group of preschoolers. Emily gracefully drove out to join me - it would have been a hot and lonely day without her. I arrived at the dock without my tickets. They were left on the seat of the van that dropped us off. I told myself, 'that's it! not one more stupid thing ever! not one!!' Here's the irony: I'm reading these kids these Halloween stories, and there's one that I've set to music - because that's some stupid requirement for reading to preschoolers, song and dance routines that make you feel like a tool - and I tell them this song is to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And it's not - it's I'm a Little Teapot. I don't realize I said this till several hours later, of course, when I'm vaguely running through the morning in my head and I realize that Teapots and Twinkle Stars are not in the same melodic family.

So in this week alone, I have wrecked my car and thrown fifty dollar tickets away to my stupidity. And what is it that makes me cringe with inward embarrassment for the next 24 hours? The fact that I said the wrong song title without realizing it, and none of the preschool teachers corrected me. I have, apparently, gotten over the worry and stupidity of my other acts - what remains is the shame of this trivial thing. So are we caught up in our own appearances that a freckle will topple our dignity, while an error of judgment we freely justify. For shame.


After the GRE

So I took the GRE subject test in English Literature this Saturday. Found my way to USC alright, got lost on campus, walked in ten minutes late, remembered that this is California - even the GRE starts half an hour after the posted time to accommodate our laxity - and proceeded to prove my literary worth after ZERO hours of study. Read a wide, self-satisfied grin right here.

Actually, that's not exactly true. Tara and I read two or three poems on the floor of my bedroom a few days before. One of them is posted below, and was not remotely helpful - only personally inspiring. The other one was featured on question 23, or thereabouts. I know, I know - I'm not supposed to reveal the contents of the exam to a single soul. Like they're really going to rehash that one with that very number and everything. Whatever.

Anyway, what I really should have done was asked Tara to write out little blurbs for each big-name in literary theory. Something catchy and rememberable. That would have been a good idea. As it was, I didn't think of it at all, and she thought of it only several days after the fact. Anyone interested in a thorough overview of the major theoretical bastions should absolutely check out her blog post here. Anyone not remotely interested, anyone with contempt or carelessness or frustration or tearful confusion regarding literary theory should check out her blog post here. (hint: it's the same thing.) Have fun.


For this one, Babs, try Panilonco from Trader Joe's

Love among the Ruins
by Robert Browning

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward through the twilight, stray or stop
As they crop―
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
(So they say)
Of our country’s very capital, its prince
Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
Peace or war.
Now,―the country does not even boast a tree,
As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
Into one)
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
Up like fires
O’er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
Bounding all,
Made of marble, men might march on nor be pressed,
Twelve abreast.
And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer time, o’erspreads
And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
Stock or stone―
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
Bought and sold.
Now,―the single little turret that remains
On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
While the patching houseleek’s head of blossom winks
Through the chinks―
Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
Viewed the games.
And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
Melt away―
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
Till I come.
But he looked upon the city, every side,
Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades’
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,―and then,
All the men!
When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
Each on each.
In one year they sent a million fighters forth
South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
As the sky,
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force―
Gold, of course.
Oh heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
Earth’s returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
Love is best!


sunset from long beach

watching the clouds across the sky soak up the spectrum of the setting sun,
i cannot agree with you, milosz, that words have anything to do with these things.
enough with naming. the clouds confound my vocabulary, dancing as they do
in twos and threes toward the hills. the peninsula appears like a volcano
denying itself, all things being sucked into its peak as quiet fire and smoke,
a happily repentant pandora's box. i want no lover here on the beach
to admire the scene with me. i want a gaggle of children, wide eyed and open mouthed.
they would not distract but understand. they would see the panther and giraffe,
the distant dragon lit with its own breath, tongues of fire, a beautiful woman, and at last
a flock of giant storks, weaving and wending their way into the mouth of the mountain.

i went to the beach to cry a little (or a lot), being unnaturally tired - nothing more.
but this was more than me by far, and i forgot to tear until beneath the panoply above
i saw two kayaks swimming home. then my face crumpled for the simplicity of the scene
and the sudden awareness that someone else knew this sunset even better than me,
not observing, but partaking in its beauty. at the last moment, when i thought
perhaps i had seen it all, the wings of the birds lit with a last intense and fiery glow -
a parting bow to we little ones below. the cranes of the port look like toys in the distance
and all this urban business seems so remarkably small. i know, i know. i said no words would do,
and here i write a poem not half as good as you.
I have figured out why we grow palm trees at the beach. Because their narrow trunks and lack of low branches don't block the view! I am so clever...


It's about time...

Up before the crack of dawn to well-wish away my marathon-bikers, I follow these activities with hot chocolate and a curl-up in my dad's recliner. My cat is mad at me for a variety of reasons, namely for pinning her against the wall with the back of the hall door after she clawed up the oriental rug by the front door. So we are not on good terms at the moment. I am hoping she will forget both her misdeeds and mine - mine are so many more, and she is so well aware of them. Perhaps it is my hypocrisy that keeps her clawing up the rug. They learn by our example.

Should I tell you what I'm reading? That seems to be the theme of this blog. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I am not sure how well I'll do with finishing it. It's good, but it's more in the style of Pynchon than O'Connor, and I don't know how I'd do with Pynchon without a deadline. That's not true. Gravity's Rainbow has been sitting on my dresser for weeks, unopened, unread. There you go.

I have a goal today. It is a good goal. My goal is to remove myself from the stupor. To do one or two significant things that are healthy and productive and proactive and useful for the people and relevant to my dreams. That probably means something like writing one good paragraph or baking cranberry oatmeal white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Actually, that's exactly what it means. I should bring them to work tomorrow. Seal the love.



out in the darkness a lighthouse flashes on the point.
my heart goes out to it, battering toward it against my ribs
like a startled bat.
the lighthouse, my lover, all things indistinguishable.

i hover three inches over the earth,
all things refracted through my distraction
seem surreal, unreal, being temporal.
not that i grow any nearer heaven,
only further withdrawn
into my own imagination,
now tired from lack of fruition.

all things favored or feared,
otherwise unacknowledged:
the yellow mug, the severed limb,
and the myriad of faces i religiously forget -
these categories rule me.

while under it all (or over,
or choose your position, your preposition)
this strange flotation
making a mockery of my material -
calling out from the earth like a mythic beast,
teasing me with alternating delight and perturbation -
should i enter a monastery or an institution?
is this mysticism or delusion?

(incidentally, i still sin like a Gomer,
laugh with my mother, grow tired and hungry,
forget the hour, cosset my pet,
leave my clothes on the floor, open the window,
double-check the back door, email, forget to call,
let my tea grow cold, feed the fish,
forget the fish, leave the milk in the bowl -
oh yes, and i try to impress the straight guy at work,
that one, while avoiding eye contact in the most awkward
and obvious way.)

then, on the edge of sleep,
dreaming or not dreaming
out in the darkness
a lighthouse flashes
my heart crashes
beating my ribs with its wings.
i choke on its violence
i float three inches over the earth
all things forgotten.


window in the sub

Dear Nathaniel,

I am microwaving pie that Mom bought up in Oak Glen this week on her way home from the orthodontist. As I put it in the microwave, I was full of sadness that I was not in Oak Glen with her. Why did I not go? I was working. I want to see the trees turn. I want to wander slowly through autumnal gift shops. Under the water, you cannot sense the approach of the seasons. Even here it is difficult because, after all, it's California. But I can still sense it. After three seasons in Illinois and one in Scotland, it must be with me for good. Or at least for a while. Because I am all abuzz with eagerness for fall and winter, for turkeys and dried leaves and Santa. I should start cooking again this fall. Fall foods are my favorite. Baked squash dripping with melted butter and brown sugar, pumpkin soup... this year, if I have enough money, I will put together a holiday dinner for my friends. And we will drink Scandinavian mulled wine, which is the most wonderful thing I have ever tasted. But it's really expensive to make from absolute scratch. A million ingredients. And no, I will NOT go to IKEA for a cheap substitute!

Mike has gotten over her flea problem, it seems. Well, not entirely. She still won't go in my room, where the fleas took up happiest of residence in my sheep skin rug. But she was lying on the floor in the living room yesterday, and that is a big deal. I am assuming we told you she has fleas. The doctor gave her this magical oil that gets dripped on her neck and then seeps back up through all her oil glands and kills the fleas off on contact! Very sneaky. But there are still bazillions of them in the carpet, and she has been fearful of the floor ever since. Imagine being afraid of the floor. It makes life very difficult for her. Last night, she almost tried to walk from the recliner (I let her up there because of the fear) to the window sill by walking on the arm of the couch. Which, as you know, is absurdly narrow, being made of rattan or whatever that is. Eventually she gave up and braved the floor for a meerest second. She doesn't mind uncarpeted floors, of course, so she'll travel from the kitchen to mom and dad's room (which IS carpeted, but which has been vacuumed the most due to Mom's paranoia - she feels fleas everywhere - that Mike got over that room first of all) via the bottom of the bookshelf. This might make more sense if you were a little more familiar with the placement of furniture in the house...


Amanda flew off to Guatemala last week. I drove her to the airport before five in the morning, then came straight home and slept through most of the rest of the day before going to work at four and being grumpy till we left sometime after midnight - despite all my napping. It was good to drive her to the airport, though. I felt it was the only really good time I spent with her the whole week she was here. Not entirely... we went to my favorite coffeeshop, Portfolio, and had a feast of delightful foods and she studied Spanish and I wrote the beginnings of a story in my new red journal. But the rest of the time she was here, I was mostly working or in a grumpy mood. These moods must stop. They must have no hold over me!

While I am typing, my apple pie and coffee are getting cold. You are worth it, of course.

It is a hazy day. I can see the islands and some trawlers off the coast (I don't think they're really trawlers. I don't know what trawlers are, but I like the word.) but the sky is grey and the sun has little purchase on the landscape. There is a guy in the front yard laying sod. It's about time - we've had nothing but dirt for over a month. I am pretending that he cannot see me in my nappy hair and bathrobe, staring right back at him. He probably can't see much of me... I hope.

I love you and wish you were here. I really think of you so often lately. I am very glad I have a brother. And I am glad it's you.


note on the text: if any of my readers begin to think themselves superior and exclusive for having such an intimate view of my personal correspondence, temper yourselves with this knowledge: this is an edited version of the original, available only to my brother's eyes and the eyes of whatever people back in Washington are responsible for filtering submariners' email. so there.
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