Archive for April, 2009

A thing I love

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

These three people slept and dreamed, while outside the house the moon grew large, and seemed to move across the sky until it was out over the ocean and growing smaller and paler. In his dream, someone is offering Myers a glass of Scotch, but just as he is about to take it, reluctantly, he wakes up in a sweat, his heart racing.

Sol dreams that he is changing a tire on a truck and that he has the use of both of his arms.

Bonnie dreams that she is taking two–no, three–children to the park. She even has names for the children. She named them just before the trip to the park. Millicent, Dionne, and Randy. Randy keeps wanting to pull away from her and go his own way.

Soon, the sun breaks over the horizon and birds begin calling to each other. The Little Quilcene River rushes down through the valley, shoots under the highway bridge, rushes another hundred yards over sand and sharp rocks, and pours into the ocean. An eagle flies down from the valley and over the bridge and begins to pass up and down the beach. A dog barks.

At this minute, Sol’s alarm goes off.

From Raymond Carver’s short story, Kindling (in the collection Call if You Need Me). I often try to explain to people why I love Carver so much, and I usually find myself incapable of doing so. When I was 16 I read my first collection of Carver stories (Cathedral) and I immediately fell in love with his writing. At times when I am feeling restless and unable to read long works of fiction, I turn to Carver and fall back in love again. I find Call if You Need Me a really, really wonderful collection: fiction, personal essays, a fragment of the novel he never finished, and some of Carver’s book reviews–which I particularly love for their sparsity and conciseness. Man, Ray, do I ever miss you.

Simple kinda life never did me no harm

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

At about 75 degrees my tolerance for the heat disappears and I collapse on the tile floor in my underwear. I spent a big part of the weekend doing just this. It feels good, and I use no energy to do so. I also periodically crunch ice cubes with the dog.

To escape the heat, I did one of my favorite things this weekend. I went to West Virginia! This means I did no reading at all, whatsoever (this is sort of a lie: I read volumes 3-4 of the Walking Dead and most of Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary–the former which still underwhelms me a lot and the latter which is so great I can’t even describe it. Doucet draws like a clusterfuck. There is so much on every page and in every panel that my little eyeballs get gigantic. Also I like that she is French Canadian, which is irrelevant. But the Walking Dead pretty much sucks & I can hardly follow the storyline or what order the panels/conversations are in, which strikes me as incredibly stupid, on my part AND on the part of the illustrators. However, because I am a glutton for punishment I will continue reading them.)

Either way, yes, I went to West Virginia in a sad attempt to escape my 85 degree apartment. I ate at least 3 donuts.

Donuts!

Donuts!

We drove down the Ohio River a ways. We stopped in Beaver. We made a lot of dumb jokes. I knitted a lot. The dog slept a lot. I ate a bunch of snacks. THEN BEST OF ALL: we went to the Fiestaware Outlet. I go here probably twice a year, because it is one of my favorite places on the planet. I have more Fiestaware than I know what to do with (seriously, cupboards of the stuff), but this doesn’t stop me from continuing to shop there.

Fiestaware Outlet!

Fiestaware Outlet!

fiestaware-071 I bought a few things that I don’t necessarily need, and a few things that will make excellent presents, and a few things that I actually did need, which was exciting. Everything looks nice in Fiestaware. It’s problematic.

This is an excellent day-trip. I recommend it for all who appreciate fine, minorly imperfect Fiestaware at a serious discount.

Also, donuts make this trip even better than it already is.

It is theoretically going to cool down this week, so hopefully I can crack a book or two without breaking a sweat.

I have 16 books checked out of the public library.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

I’m finding that way too often I read books and neglect to blog about them. Usually I blog because I am overly caffeinated and need to channel some caffeine-fuel into something. Lately I have been cutting down on coffee, which has been good for my teeth but most of all, bad for my brain.

In the past week I’ve read:

Tim Gunn’s Guide to Quality, Taste and Style

Daniel V’s Guide to How Style Happens

and

Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down Sunshine.

Because I am supremely biased and adore Tim Gunn, I liked his book. I haven’t talked about narrative voice since I was a wee non-fiction major in college, but HOLY SHIT his voice is strong in this book. I wish he were my relative or maybe lived in my closet and could dispense valuable fashion advice. Like could warn me not to wear short shorts with red cowboy boots or something. My blind bias did not hold for Daniel V: while I would give anything to kiss him on the lips (sorry OMC!!!) or wear one of his dresses, and while I found this book quite lovely and well-done (in addition to being beautifully bound), I kind of thought it was tedious and boring. Stick to dresses, dude. Let Tim do the writing.

Hurry Down Sunshine was the kind of book I absolutely had to read in three days. I needed to finish it. I had to know what would happen. Greenberg’s daughter Sally was inexplicably “struck mad” (his words) one day when she was 15, and upon her (adult) approval, he decided to write about the experience. Sally is a brave, muttering, strong character, and her story is both devastating and a little inspirational. I was impressed that Greenberg could write so well about something so close to him. This wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but I was certainly propelled to finish it quickly.

I finished up with school for the semester last week, which accounts for my free reading time. I do honestly read a lot that I don’t blog about (because it wasn’t that compelling, or I wasn’t caffeinated enough, etc), but in an effort to maintain this as a record of my yearly reading, I am making a mental note to start at least mentioning things that I read.

My Fledgling love of sci-fi (bad pun)

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Sometimes when it’s insanely nice out I get a little depressed, because I would secretly rather be inside reading. This weekend was one of those times. It pained me to do so, but I forced myself outside. I went to the dog park numerous times. I went on many walks. I went to a barbecue. I sat on the fire escape. I drank beer. I obsessed over knitting lace WHILE drinking beer WHILE sitting on the fire escape:

Lace ribbon

Lace ribbon

This pattern is so fun and joyful to look at while working on it. It is like a magical surprise of happiness with every new row.

It finally turned gloomy yesterday, and I was able to sit around doing nothing to my heart’s content. I finished all of Preacher. I am sort of crushed to be done with it. I really, really savored volumes 1-6, but I FLEW through the last three because I was so excited to find out what was going to happen. I was like a little kid with this series.

Yesterday, listening to records and drinking copious amounts of coffee, I also finished Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. It’s kind of like Twilight’s sophisticated grandmother. Butler is obviously an established writer and has a greater grasp on, say, coherency and language than Stephanie Meyer can ever hope to. I don’t ever read science fiction (and I don’t really know why not–I would probably like it), but I enjoyed this immeasurably. Butler is a really sparse, meager writer, but her grasp on storytelling is phenomenal. In Fledgling she has created the fantastic, scary world of the Ina (like vampires, only not) and I was extremely sad to have left it. My finishing of Fledgling coincided with the end of the weekend: the saddest time of all, multiplied by two because I am now bookless. I don’t know where to turn. I feel empty and a little naked.

What next?!

When Pittsburgh will be loved

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I am a total fool for a good book review. When Dwight Garner (NyTimes, 3/31/2009) AND Sally Kalson (PG, 4/8/2009) loved Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s political memoir, When Skateboards Will be Free, why, I thought I would love it too! I love a good memoir, after all, and when Garner mentioned that Sayrafiezadeh GREW UP IN PITTSBURGH, why, I dashed immediately to my public library and requested the book immediately.

I found myself feeling immensely lukewarm towards this book. I read it in the backseat of my parents’ car, going to visit my brother in Toronto and while returning from said visit. I also enjoyed part of it in the immigration detainee office at the Buffalo border crossing (this is the second time in two trips to Ontario that I have been detained. Do I scream “criminal” or something?), which was deeply ironic given the subject matter. Maybe my dislike of this book was colored by my mother incessantly asking me what I was reading, or how again to make a purl stitch (the woman is apparently incapable of learning to knit). No, that couldn’t be it. I have been reading over my mother’s questions for two decades.

My love for Pittsburgh is so great that it is sometimes a little sad and scary. My love for Pittsburgh can sometimes overwhelm my sense of reason. However, when Sayrafiezadeh wrote that his house on Ophelia St. was one block from the Monongahela River, I cringed. Um, try three blocks, one major highway, railroad tracks and at least one mile from the Mon, yes. When he wrote that the Mon was untrafficked and empty, I cringed. What?! Are barges invisible?! Likely much of his memory of Pittsburgh has dulled in 20 years. Sure. I can accept that. Likely some of of his writing about Pittsburgh is hyperbole. I can accept this. I like a nice non-fiction device as much as the next James Frey. But a portrayal of Pittsburgh this inaccurate, this ugly and deceitful, this I cannot accept. I demand accountability from those who dare to write about Pittsburgh.

I would only recommend this book to: Browns fans, haters of Pittsburgh, socialist wannabes, and people who are not related to me because my relatives love Pittsburgh far more than me.

I took this picture last summer. It is South Oakland, the dirty ghetto that Sayrafiezadeh once lived in (apparently within view of the Mon river). I love this view, I love this neighborhood for what it was, and I love this city. Aspiring memoirists, you can stay in Brooklyn.

South Oakland

South Oakland

I just wanted to say:

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Itinerary for Traveler:

OMC

Lainer

Fri, 15MAY09 CO20351 L PITTSBURGH
(PIT) 11:30AM NEWARK EWR
(EWR) 12:58PM ERJ-145
Fri, 15MAY09 CO887 L NEWARK EWR
(EWR) 4:55PM PANAMA CITY

Gonna see myself a canal. Shiiiit.

Of the suburbs

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Something that makes me smile:

“It is the bottom of the day, the deep well of shadows and springy half-light when late afternoon becomes early evening and we all want to sit down in a leather chair by an open window, have a drink near someone we love or like, read the sports and possibly doze for a while, then wake before the day is gone all the way, walk our cool yards and hear the birds chirp in the trees their sweet eventide songs. It is for such dewy interludes that our suburbs were built. And entered cautiously, they can serve us well no matter what our stations in life, no matter we have the aforementioned liberty or don’t. At times I can long so for that simple measure of day and place–when, say, I’m alone in misty Spokane or chilly Boston–that an unreasonable tear nearly comes to my eye. It is a pastoral kind of longing, of course, but we can have it all.”

From Richard Ford’s the Sportswriter.

To whom would I recommend this book? Not people who want a quick read–this book took me a little under a month to finish. People who aren’t necessarily the best kinds of people. People who sometimes find small bits of wonder in every day things. Frank Bascombe is my favorite kind of hero: the one who’s entirely unaware, the one who isn’t even really a hero at all. I loved this book. I’m so happy to have finished it–it was rough there for a bit.

Let me hear you sing.

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

My very sweet, hunky & oft-mentioned manfriend (OMC) summers in Panama and a myriad of Central American countries. This sounds more exciting than it is. In reality OMC is an archaeologist. And digs up pottery shards and puts pictures of white-tailed deer in his dissertation and talks about the emergence of hierarchies in Central America. And blows me away with his genius. This means two very important things:

1) You want him on your trivia team (seriously)

2) He knows how to cook (once I mentioned that he couldn’t make sandwiches and while that is true, he honestly can cook very, very well)

I had a dumb, grumpy day yesterday, which was why I was thrilled to come home to some Costa Rican goodness on the stove. OMC whips up gallo pinto like it’s his job, and while it is simple to make, it’s insanely delicious. I think you basically make some rice (we prefer brown rice, the rice of champions), add some black beans, tomatoes, garlic, red onion, and cilantro and call it a day. I am told that OMC, when in Costa Rica, likes to eat it for breakfast. Whatever floats your boat.

gallo pinto

Dinner!

Additionally, he surprised me with Kat Von D’s new book (which I have been secretly salivating over). My love of trashy television shows is nothing new to my legions of devoted readers, nor to OMC, and thus I have already started happily leafing through it.

Post-spicy & tasty dinner eatings and a nice trip to the dog park with my beloved and extremely fast mutt, we went with neighbor-pal Andu to see Dan Higgs at Morning Glory (in Morningside, my old haunt). I am so disappointed that this place wasn’t here when I lived in Morningside. It is lovely and cozy and warm, and Higgs was a fucking maniac (which is my highest compliment) and made us sing aloud. Last night reaffirmed my love of Pittsburgh. So often I fall out of love with this place and want to claw at my face to escape, but geez, leaving the house and seeing old friends sometimes does make it all better.

Bean enjoys spring-time

Bean enjoys spring-time