Monday, July 31, 2006
I have no love for summer in all its drippiness and stickiness.
I am eternally overclothed for the season.
But if I must endure summer in all its sun and bloom,
then I endure it for only these reasons....
A summer garden, and early-summer roses.
Fresh herbs to delight our taste buds and noses.
More cukes and tomatoes than we ever could consume.
Lightning like sabers and thunder that booms.
The sound of kickball games out in the street.
The ice-cream truck and the ice-cream truck treats.
Nights on a sailboat drifting through Maine.
Picking the daisies -- making a chain.
Baseball and baseball with more baseball in store.
Not to mention summer tv and reruns galore.
Local musicians who play in the square.
Art shows and craft shows and every town fair.
Days packed with daylight, nights packed with stars.
And times made for driving convertible cars.
Fireflies and crickets, on nightly display.
Fireworks that light up the night like the day.
Sipping our lemonades out on our porches.
Holding our luaus with fake tiki torches.
Family picnics with steaks on the grill.
Opening the freezer and enjoying the chill.
Running through sprinklers, not minding the damp.
Sending the kids off to sleepaway camp.
Sandals and flip-flops and open-toed shoes.
Catching a glimpse of your neighbor's tattoos.
Mojitos and julips and other refreshers.
All light years away from the holiday pressures.
Cheap summer reading without any weight.
Letting the children stay up much too late.
Back to school shopping for notebooks and pens.
Trusting that fall will bring coolness again.
Sometimes it's good to get bad poetry out of your system. Like sweating out all the mental toxins, so only your healthy creative brain is left. And once in a while, when you write bad poetry, you come up with something in the middle of it that makes you smile. Me, I'm happy with: "lightning like sabers" and "catching a glimpse of your neighbor's tattoos." The first is reasonably descriptive, and the second just makes me laugh.
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I have learned that the consequences of our past actions are always interesting. I have learned to view the present with a forward-looking eye.
The copy of the book on my shelf isn't mine -- it belongs to an old friend Chris P, who leant it to me more than 7 years ago when we both lived in Los Angeles. If I ever track him down, maybe I'll return it....
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Apparently, it was the 4-H Balloon Festival and my route home went right through the middle of it. At sunset.
To the gods of pleasant surprises, I offer heartfelt thanks!
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
And this, as your free gift with purchase, from Scarlett O'Hara,
After all, tomorrow is another day.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "one word at a time."How can you argue with that? Simple, but sincere. Almost pithy.
We had our last coffee, flag raising, and breakfast on Thursday morning. We packed our belongings, then raised the sails one last time and headed for Rockland.
On this last sail, there were final photographs, emails exchanged, and promises to send pictures.
It was foggy and grey out on the water, and for me that was the perfect way to finish up a trip to Maine. I'd been missing the fog the previous days. We couldn't see any landmarks to know where we were along the way, or how far we had left to go, until we finally got to the Rockland lighthouse and knew we were minutes away.
We brought the sails down, and Enoch pushed us in to the "Journey's End" dock. Then it was just hugs all around, luggage in the car, and the long drive back to un-civilization, where we would develop our pictures, give out souveniers, and start planning our next sail.
I'm including my favorite of the photos I took. This was a young boy, about 10 years old, who rowed out to Victory Chimes on our first or second night of sailing. He rowed around us twice, and on his second pass I snapped this photo. Something about the way the water and light and trees and boat and boy work together seems to tell a story that I haven't found the words for yet.
By Wednesday I was sick of sunscreen, so decided I'd simply find the shade all day. Unfortunately we were heading South, so there was very little shade to be found on deck. Also, we tacked a lot (see the zigzag line I added to today's map), so the shade kept switching sides of the boat... as did I.
JJ (see day 2, the bride) makes jewelry, and makes her own lovely glass beads for earrings, pendants, bracelets, etc.... On the 3rd and 4th days of the trip, she spent much of her time making jewelry for every passenger and crew member on the Chimes. We got to choose beads from several bags of her glasswork that she had brought on board. I chose a pair of green earrings, and then JJ took another bead that I found remarkable and made me a pendant. It was fun watching the jewelry show up on passenger after passenger (and crew) as the trip went on.
I brought three books to read, and only read 1 page. I brought notebooks, and wrote one poem. I did some puzzles to pass the time, but other than that, mostly spent my time talking with friends or watching the horizon.
At the end of the sailing day, we came in to Pulpit Harbor. A few of the braver passengers and crew went swimming in the frigid Maine water, while the rest of us watched with no envy.
There were a few houses on the hills around the harbor, and another sailboat and a yacht joined us. We brought the flags down as always, round about 8PM, with the same solemnity as when they were raised that morning. We watched the sunset over one hill, with a lone pine tree silhouetted at the top. (Thanks to the Maine Windjammer Association, you can see a photo of Victory Chimes in Pulpit Harbor at sunset.)
After the sun had set, and the Irish music had again set in, we found ourselves being serenaded by a small party standing outside one of the hill houses. They sang "The Mermaid Song" to us, and we joined in on the chorus with "while the landlubbers lie down below below below, while the landlubbers lie down below!" Then we all faced out towards their house, and sang "South Australia" (see below for lyrics) at the top of our lungs and got tumultuous applause in return. Well truth be told, only one person sang all of it -- Paula, who was with the Irish musicians and has the most amazing and hearty voice -- the rest of us sang the chorus lines and did our best to stay on tune.
We played games below deck again before bed. Several people decided to sleep on deck, throwing sleeping bags and pillows into likely trample-free spaces. There were a few stars out, and the harbor was still. We let the boat rock us to sleep one last time.
We got underway early on Tuesday morning, so we could get to Stonington and go ashore before setting out under sail. They took passengers to shore 12 at a time in the yawl boat (Enoch). To get into Enoch, you have to climb a ladder down the side of Victory Chimes but the crew coaches you down so you don't miss a step.
Stonington, named for its history as a granite-quarry town, is a nice little town on Deer Isle, with some good antique and art shops in the center. The town is set on a hillside, and if you walk up a bit you can look out at the harbor which is dotted with fishing boats and sailboats. Snap one photo and you've got an instant postcard.
In the center of Stonington is the Opera House: built in the late 19th century as a dance hall, later converted to a theater, burned down, rebuilt, used as a community hall, left to fall into disrepair, and rescued and restored several years ago. It now serves as a playhouse, music hall and movie theater.
After a brief visit to Stonington we were back on board and ready to sail. The day was clear and the air had just enough chill in it to make it perfectly comfortable in the sun.
Sailing on Victory Chimes is best described as serene. The Chimes is a big boat, and not what I'd call nimble. So most times, she doesn't go very fast and there's not a lot of tacking.
This afternoon was different though. In the middle of our day, while I sat by the rail and looked out at the water and the islands, I noticed that the water was being pushed back by our boat, as usual, but also being pushed forward by the wind. So it was making strange peaks alongside the boat. Also, the noise of the sails picked up, and I thought to myself, people probably don't realize how loud sailing can be. And our boat was leaning decidedly to the starboard side.
It turns out we caught a particularly strong and unexpected wind. It felt like being in a storm, but without the rain or dark skies. The Captain and crew reacted quickly, bringing down two of our sails within seconds. (As a note, usually the passengers get to help raise and lower the sails, but in this instance we just stayed out of the way as well as we could.) One of the lines got free in the wind and was whipping against the forward cabin, but a crewmember grabbed it and wrestled it under control like a rodeo cowboy riding a bull.
With only one main sail up, we were back to serenity pretty quickly. I asked one of the crew if it was just too much wind, and she answered, "too much wind and too much cloth," meaning that we were giving a strong wind a lot of sail surface to push against. I talked later with a passenger who sails a lot, and she mentioned that the real concern is an uncontrolled gybe, where the wind suddenly changes the side of the sail it's filling, and the boom swings rapidly to the other side of the boat. This can 1) take out any people who might be in the path of the boom, and 2) push the boat so far the other way that the rail goes in the water.
The rest of our sail that day was sprinkled with smaller events -- porpoise and seal sightings, more islands and other boats, the usual meals and conversations. I was exhausted by 3PM (only later realizing I was dehydrated) and took a nap, which is rarer than rare for me. I had told another passenger the day before, "Never feel guilty for taking a nap on Victory Chimes, it's a sign that you're really relaxing." So I was happy to crash for a little while.
By late afternoon, we arrived at Holbrook Island Sanctuary and anchored for the evening. Some of the passengers went to shore for a hike -- it's a great spot for hiking and offers another great view of Penobscot Bay.
It was a cloudy evening, with the threat of rain. But the rain held off, and we had our lobster dinners on deck, followed by Irish music, and more great conversation. Below deck, we finished the evening with Scrabble, cribbage, and crossword puzzles before heading our separate ways for another soft sleep.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Our internal alarms, and the sounds from the galley and up on deck, woke us around 7AM. There was coffee up on deck, and the passengers drifted up from their cabins to greet each other and the beautiful morning.
At 8AM, the first mate called out "On Deck: Attention to Colors!" and we silently watched the ship's flags go up -- first the U.S. flag, then a flag that says "No guts no glory" and finally the Maine state flag and an Irish flag to acknowledge our trip theme of Irish music. With flags up, the bell was rung to announce breakfast and we made our way down to the galley.
I could write an entire journal just describing the food, but I'll leave it at this: over the course of our trip we were offered eggs, french toast, pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, ham, coffee cake, sticky buns, soups, salads, turkey, chicken, kielbasa, lobster, beef, all sorts of vegetables, desserts to die for, and more things that I just can't remember now. I'm not sure why we even bothered to bring snacks on board -- with Pam cooking, hunger is never ever an issue. So, breakfast was wonderful.
The Captain and Pam gave their first morning speeches, explaining the history of the boat, some of the rules, and what to expect. The most important question -- where are we going -- was answered as always: "we're going to Rockland... we're going to leave Rockland, sail, make a few stops somewhere along the way, and come back to Rockland."
After breakfast we had an hour to go ashore for any last-minute errands. Once again we made our way to Rite Aid (they must make a killing off Victory Chimes passengers!) and picked up the last forgotten items: toothbrush to replace the one I dropped in the trash, chapstick, hand lotion.... I also checked out the great bookstore in town, but they didn't have the specific book I needed that day. Did some window shopping on the way back, as it was too early for most shops to open.
At 10AM, back on board, we got the safety speech, then the gangway was removed and we got under way. The dock we left had a big sign: "Journey's End Marina" and I knew that would mean more when we came back in a few days.
We were pushed out past the Rockland lighthouse, which is as picturesque as any, and then we raised the sails and set out on an easterly course. The swells were big that morning, which made us really feel the water beneath us. We sailed for about 5 hours, passing Vinalhaven and Stonington and anchoring at Isle au Haut near Merchant's Row. (See my black squiggle on map to show approximate sailing route.)
We didn't go ashore the first day, as we were busy getting gussied up for the wedding. After dinner, the Irish musicians tuned up and started playing, while the wedding couple, JJ and John, got ready for ceremony.
John looked a little nervous while he sat on deck waiting for JJ.
The Captain, who had changed into his wedding-officiating clothes, regaled us with a story about a past wedding where the ring had somehow gone overboard and a crew member had gone in to fish it out. Was it the ring, or was it the Captain's notes for the ceremony? Different passengers heard that one differently, but the groom took it in stride nonetheless.
Pam walked JJ down the aisle while we all snapped photos as quickly as possible. It was a short aisle, and they walked at a good clip, so I only snuck in the one quick shot.
The wedding was quick and very sweet, with a waltz and bubbles (all the passengers were given bubbles in lieu of confetti) and champagne and a beautiful wedding cake. The bride wore much-admired rhinestone-adorned sandals. After the wedding, one of our SAC group gave the couple a card signed by all the passengers.
We listened to Irish music and learned an Irish dance similar to the Virginia Reel. We drank and talked and admired the evening. We watched the sun go down, which is impossible to properly describe, so I include a photo to give an idea of how perfect the evening was.
The night was filled with about 3 million stars, though I'll admit I lost count somewhere around 257.... We saw shooting stars as well. We finished off the night with a couple games of Scrabble below deck, and one last look at the stars before bed.
I wrote a wedding poem for JJ and John and included it in the card. I'll post it here for them to see again:
I watched two boats
sail their separate courses,
and thought how sad
that these two beautiful things --
and following parallel paths --
should nonetheless be disjoined
by all that sea between them.
Like clouds overhead,
blown across the same space by the same wind,
but separated by a slice of sky.
But then sometimes the wind
will catch one cloud a little more than the other,
and blow the two together,
when you watch the sailboats in the distance,
you'll see their paths cross,
their bows kiss,
their sails intermingle.
And you realize that
nor any space between,
can keep two --
who are meant to be one --
(This poem is protected by copyright. Please do not use without permission.)
Congratulations JJ and John and best of best wishes to you both!
I promised my fellow passengers (ahem, sailors) that I would post my travel notes and pictures, so I'll do that here, in 5 installments....
Day 1, Boarding the Victory Chimes
The drive to Maine was a little stormy, but easy traffic and a relaxed pace. I was so excited to cross the Piscataqua River Bridge from Portsmouth, NH into Kittery, ME because it marked our halfway point and meant we were within a stone's throw of the ocean for most of the remaining trip.
We got to Rockland just before boarding time at 6PM. It's my 5th trip, so I had no trouble finding the parking area and the dock. But I remembered past years when I wandered through town like a lost 5-year-old in a department store, not sure which way to turn, how far I should go, if it was okay to pass the coast guard signs.... I wonder if they could create some sort of tow system for new passengers, where they can pull in to the Rite-Aid parking lot, and get hooked up to a tow car like large planes or boats trying to dock.
How to pack for a 4-night boat trip: LIGHTLY. Which means: pants, shorts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, rain pants, rain jacket, hat, pajamas, socks, sneakers, sandals, underwear, lightweight long-sleeved shirts, warm jacket, bathing suit, towels, pillows, sleeping bag, sunscreen, shower stuff, toiletries, bug spray, sunglasses, books, crossword puzzles, notepads, pens, magazines, deck of cards, games, beer, wine, other beverages, snacks, camera, binoculars, earplugs and cash. Luckily it was just me and my mom in my big taurus, so we had the trunk and the back seat to handle all our light packing.
I'll divert my story a little here to talk about the boat. Victory Chimes is 106 years old, the last 3-masted wooden schooner on the east coast. She was originally built to carry timber, but began carrying passengers in the 1950's. The Chimes has about 20 cabins, a galley and dining area, 3 heads, and luxury-of-luxuries: 2 hot-water showers. There are 10 crew and up to 40 passengers on each trip. The cabins are small, but have electrical outlets, sinks, and pretty comfortable bunks. On deck, there are many spaces to sit and chat, sunbathe, or watch the islands and the wildlife as we sail. The Chimes doesn't have an internal engine to propel her, so if the wind won't do it, she uses the yawl boat (Enoch) to push her along. The captain is Kip Files, a lanky mustached man who has the perfect Maine look about him -- also a perfect Maine way of talking. "Cap" is wonderfully gregarious, and has many funny and rather colorful stories about his Uncle Enoch which he'll happily share when we're anchored and settling in for the night. The crew are there to sail, but work very hard at making every passenger comfortable and welcome....
We unloaded the car and brought our bags to the dock. I was ecstatic to see Mr. Stevens, the first mate, back for another year. Also, Pam, the best cook in the world, was on deck when we arrived. This was going to be a great trip!
We managed to stow our belongings under the bed and get reasonably settled. We made sure the next day's allotment of water and adult beverages were stored in the on-deck cooler, like good little girl scouts, always prepared. From there dinner, with the other Suburban Adventure Club travelers (a note, if you're in suburban Boston and looking for fun group events, check out SAC). And before going back to the boat, we made our penultimate Rite Aid visit, to pick up the things we forgot we needed: film, postcards, more wine... (girl scouts to the end)....
Back on the boat, we found baked goodies that Pam left out for after-dinner snacks. We hear that there is a couple on board who will be married by the captain the next evening -- this will be a first for us, and presumably, for them! The rest of the evening we sat out on deck meeting and greeting our fellow passengers, and listening to the harbor sounds.
Sleep that night was wonderful. We were rocking more than I've remembered in past years, but I took Bonine so no worries. Just pop in the ear plugs (the walls are thin on the boat, and you're sleeping with 39 other passengers) and get rocked to sleep. It's truly the most restful sleep imaginable.
In South Australia I was born
(To me) heave away, haul away
In South Australia round Cape Horn
We're bound for South Australia
Haul away you rolling kings
(To me) heave away, haul away
Haul away, you'll hear me sing
We're bound for South Australia
As I walked out one morning fair
Twas there I met Miss Nancy Blair
I shook her up and I shook her down
I shook her round and round the town
I run her all night and I run her all day
And I run her until we sailed away
There ain't but one thing grieves me mind
To leave Miss Nancy Blair behind
And as we wallop around Cape Horn
You'll wish to God you'd never been born
In South Australia my native land
Full of rocks and thieves and fleas and sand
I wish I was on Australia's strand
With a bottle of whiskey in my hand
In Yarmouth Town there lived a man,
He had a little tavern by the strand.
And the landlord had a daughter fair,
Pretty little thing with golden hair.
Oh, won't you come down,
Won't you come down,
Won't you come down
To Yarmouth town
Oh, won't you come down,
Won't you come down,
Won't you come down
To Yarmouth town.
One night there came a sailor man
He asked the daughter for her hand.
"Oh, I won’t marry you, she said,
I get all I want without being wed.
"But if with me you’d like to linger,
I’ll tie a string all around my finger
And as you walk by, pull on my string
And I'll come down and let you right in."
Well, the very next day at closing time,
The sailor man goes down to the strand
And as he walks by, pulls on that string,
And she comes down, and lets him right in.
Now he's never seen such a sight before,
The string around the finger was all she wore!
So all young men that to Yarmouth go,
If you see a pretty girl with her hair hung low,
All you've got to do’s pull on the string,
And she'll come down and she'll let you right in.
You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don't let yourself indulge in vain wishes.
Laurence J. Peter
The loneliness you get by the sea is personal and alive. It doesn't subdue you and make you feel abject. It's stimulating loneliness.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
There is nothing- absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
Kenneth Grahame (Ratty said to Mole in The Wind in the Willows)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Travel by sea nearly approximates the bliss of babyhood. They feed you, rock you gently to sleep and when you wake up, they take care of you and feed you again.
Our voyage had commenced, and at last we were away, gliding through the clean water, past the reeds. Care was lifted from our shoulders, for we were free from advice, pessimism, officialism, heat and hot air.
K. Adlard Coles
I loved cruising the coast of Maine. For one thing, it helped me conquer my fear of fog. Not that I have learned to feel secure in the fog, but at least I have learned how to grope without panic.
I've lots to tell about the trip, but for now, the computer screen will NOT stop swaying, so I'll just put up a quote for the day and come back tomorrow with the real content.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Here's another photo from last year's trip.
I've packed three novels, two Games magazines, and two notepads. I hope I remembered pens, but will now implant a sight memory to remind myself to check that later (when I see my striped shoulder bag on the bed, that will remind me to look for pens...). I don't know why this works, but it's at least 90% reliable for me.
We're back on Thursday night, at which point I may start posting a short series of "sailing in Maine" posts to get it out of my system. I'll be sure to take notes and pictures in case of moose or porpoise sightings.
There have been only two geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.
Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.
Pitchers, like poets, are born not made.Albert Einstein:
You teach me baseball and I'll teach you relativity. No we must not. You will learn about relativity faster than I learn baseball.
Friday, July 21, 2006
When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.
The poem is "The Dream Songs # 14" by John Berryman.
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover, my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no
Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
I'm fascinated by thunderstorms. And always waiting for the next one to really impress me. But it's been a while since I've been truly amazed by a storm, where the lightning has struck less than a block away and the thunder has come like an explosion at the same moment. Where this kind of close strike has happened again and again, while I watched through the picture window and started asking myself about the lightning conductors I might be close to. I feel like storms used to be bigger. Sometimes I wonder if they are always hitting harder one town away from me, always veering off to the north or the south, as if I had a storm deflector insulating me.
My mother saw lightning cross the kitchen twice when she was a teenager, so she was frightened by big storms. I remember she would bring out the kerosene lantern to have on hand in case we lost power, and then she'd retreat to her bedroom and wait out the storm alone. Meanwhile, my older brothers and I would go out to the garage, open the door, and stand just inside watching the storm pass over our world. Sometimes we would venture out into the driveway, but mostly, we just wanted to be close, without actually daring the lightning to strike us.
When I was a child, I would stay in the swimming pool for as long as possible when a storm was coming. But that wasn't a fascination with storms, just a love of swimming.
I wrote an essay when I was in 1st or 2nd grade about thunderstorms. The lightning was the hare on roller skates, moving super fast, and the thunder was the turtle, following, but slow. I found the essay in some old school papers a few years ago, and it was pretty good considering how little I remember knowing at that age.
When I was about 10, I dreamed that I was struck by lightning while running home in a storm, and I died. People say you can't dream your own death, but I don't know about that. Well maybe I didn't die, maybe I just went unconscious and the paramedics were able to get to me in time.
When my maternal grandfather, Jim, was 5 years old, a cinder from a passing train flew into his eye. Infection set in, and then blindness. Eventually, his bad eye was replaced with a glass eye, which he wore for the rest of his life.
By the time I met him, Jim was a mild-mannered gentleman who drank coffee and ice-water, and who taught me how to swing a golf club. The earlier, wilder Jim -- before the coffee and ice-water -- was the one I knew only from my parents' stories.
Jim didn’t drink during prohibition because the bathtub gin would make people blind. But once prohibition ended in 1933, he began to make up for lost time. He was not a constant or even daily drinker, but he’d go on incredible benders when he would stay drunk for weeks.
He was also a mild gambler, playing the numbers game and entering various contests and sweepstakes regularly. My solid Scotch grandmother did not approve of his drinking or his wasteful gambling, and she’d give him a piece of her mind when he would stumble in drunk and low on cash.
My grandmother's sermons were wasted on Jim -- he was too drunk to care. When she got after him for wasting money on the numbers game, he would simply sway back and forth in front of my grandmother, wag his finger in front of her face and slur very slowly, “When I win my Forty Thousand Dollars… you’re not going to get one god-damn cent…. Well... maybe I’ll give you a buck.”
It’s no small thing to be known as the town drunk in a city as big as Hartford. But while Jim was a well-known drunk, he was generally harmless. So it's hard to piece together why my grandfather got kicked out of (and told to stay out of) so many bars. He was not loud. He was not violent. He was never one to pick fights.
But there was one thing.... During his barroom escapades, other, more belligerent drunks would sometimes challenge Jim to a fight.
“Okay then,” my grandfather would reply, and then with great deliberation, “Just let me take my eye out. I’d hate to see it shattered,” he’d say, pulling out the glass eye and placing it on the bar.
Onlookers would cringe, his challenger would gag, and the fight would be over before it even began.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
No, I don't mean little white lies.
I'm talking about the poetic Fib, the early 2006 brain-child of Gregory K. This poetic form has gained huge popularity in a short time, and has led to Gregory's recent book deal (bravo Gregory K!)....
The Fib is named for the Fibonacci sequence, because the number of syllables in each line must follow a Fibonacci pattern -- the most common being 1/1/2/3/5/8 (each number is the sum of the two numbers preceding it).
Here's an example I came up with earlier this week in all this blasted weather.
rise up from the west,
but offer no relief, no rest.
Note, this one rhymes but yours need not. Sometimes I just can't help myself.
If you think this is something you'd like to try your hand at, there is also a Fib Review that will be published online this fall. R.G. Rader is accepting submissions for The Fib Review until the end of August. Give it a try!
From the short story, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption"...
Wondering what I should do. But there's really no question. It always comes down to just two choices. Get busy living or get busy dying.And from the short story, "The Body"...
The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
The author is Risa Mickenberg and the book is just a compilation of quotes from New York City taxi drivers. The quote I'm providing here is from the author's introduction.
The next time you're in a taxi, ask the driver what function truth serves. Ask why evil exists. Ask if jealousy contradicts love. At first, it might seem a little strange to ask a person who can't even find the Holland Tunnel to give your life direction, but try it. Keep your mind and your bulletproof window open. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "In every man, there is something wherein I may learn of him." Or, as one cab driver put it, "If you're a smart person, you can see what's smart about the next guy. If you're secretly afraid you're a moron, okay, then to you, everybody's a moron."Part of the reason I love this book is because I have had the best conversations with taxi drivers, and not just in New York. The best by far was the New York cab driver who told me, in a way I can never fully do justice, how I could be just deceptive enough to get hired to a job I wasn't fully qualified to do. And how I could continue that deception long enough into the job for me to gain the experience that would make me qualified, thereby, creating a no-harm no-foul result. I was 21, just graduating from college, and utterly fascinated. I wish I had written down some of the exact words and phrases he used, but I'll happily take Taxi Driver Wisdom as a surrogate.
This will be my 5th sailing trip in 4 years. Here's a picture from last year -- this isn't the boat I was on, but another boat that was in the same harbor one night.
We'll be sailing up through Penobscot Bay. No real destinations, just going where the wind (or if needed, the motor) takes us.
If the thought of sleeping on the ocean for a few days and doing practically nothing whatsoever sounds appealing, here's a link to read up on windjammer sailing in Maine. I will be on one of the boats listed on this site.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
The feeling often comes over me that I am not at all remarkable; it is fun to plan a career, but in all probability, I shan't turn out a bit different from any other ordinary person. I may end by marrying an undertaker and being an inspiration to him in his work.I think this quote captured me with the phrase "being an inspiration to him in his work." Not that undertakers don't need their sources of inspiration, of course.
"Do you constantly misplace things? Do you have trouble focusing in the classroom or at work? Do you get distracted more than you would like? You may be suffering from Adult Attention Deficit Disord--"
At that moment, the commercial was cut off and a new commercial started. I thought to myself, "Damn, if I did have ADD, I don't think I'd find that funny."
Monday, July 17, 2006
My father has always loved Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer books. "We lost another giant," he said to me tonight. Then he went on to describe some of the more entertaining moments from the books... (I'm quoting my father, who is loosely quoting his memory of two of his favorite scenes)
In one, he explains what happens when you stick a shotgun in the mud and then take it out and try to shoot someone with it. The gun explodes in your face and blows your head apart, plastering your eyeballs to the side of the barn where they can look down at your dead body.
In another, he describes the damage done by a close range shot to the back of the head from a 44. The hole in the back is small and clean. But on the other side, the hole is so big you could stick your head all the way in and look around without getting your ears wet.
With images like these in print, who needs dead teenager movies?
Mickey Spillane Dies at 88
The best of magnetic poetry, but without having to get up and walk to the fridge:
Poetry in Motion: Nice because it limits you to 20 words, which is great discipline for the serious poet. (A caution, the poetry.com folks who host this one have gotten some mixed reviews on their approach to poetry and poets, so wander with care, or just stick to the Poetry in Motion daily challenge, which is what I do.)
Shadow Poetry: I've not played with this one yet, but it looks very similar to the previous, only no word limit and all sales tactics on associated site seem pretty blatant so avoidable.
For either of these, if you end up stringing together something that looks like brilliance, be sure you take a moment to write it down before you close the magnet thingie down. Otherwise, you lose your work. I've lost a few that way.
So... try out the Generator for some fun, read the 11 tips, skip the original work posted, and have some, well, not fun... but you know....
Before I get to the quote, a recommendation -- pick up some of the DVDs of The Muppets if you have a chance. Still fabulous viewing after many years, and a chance to see Roger Moore, Danny Kaye, and many others at some of their oddest moments. The Roger Moore and Miss Piggy love scene is pretty classic.
Okay, here's the quote:
From Kermit the Frog, literally an extension of Jim Henson, comes a life-affirming decency, a passionate belief that there are stories to tell which don't exclude children and don't insult adults, which don't exclude adults but which don't insult children, which can be outrageous and innovative without being arch or misanthropic. There's anarchy here, but it's anarchy that celebrates rather than destroys.
I found this quote in It's not Easy Being Green and Other Things to Consider. Keep this and The World According to Mr. Rogers by your bedside and you'll never start or end your day angry (provided you also open them up and read them).
The poem is untitled, as were most (all?) of her poems. My favorite lines = 5 and 6. Enjoy!
I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!
Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.
When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove's door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!
Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Here are my 10 favorite nonsense words from my first try on Jabber:
Fluorescent Magenta, Girl of Distinction
A Romantic Adventure told from the perspective of an 8-year old girl with a big vocabulary
Everyone turned to watch when Fluorescent Magenta walked down Main Street. Even in a place as colorful as Green Valley, it was impossible not to notice the brightest and boldest girl in town....
Color Commentary (to be used like the old Swifties)
Esmeralda was positively green with envy.
Jack’s face turned beet red.
Fluorescent Magenta was feeling a little blue without her best friend.
Her mother had a sunshine yellow voice.
Her father was being blackmailed!
Chapter 2 (with a nod to Crayola)
There were 64 students in Fluorescent Magenta’s school year, and she was at the top of the pack....
I've often hesitated in beginning a project because I've thought, "It'll never turn out to be even remotely like the good idea I have as I start." I could just "feel" how good it could be. But I decided that, for the present, I would create the best way I know how and accept the ambiguities.
A note on Mr. Rogers being one of my best friends -- no, he wasn't specifically aware of this, but I know that he would have readily said "of course!" if he had ever been asked if he counted me among his friends.
A note on the quote -- if you want to create something, DO. Whether it's a poem or a painting or a go-cart. Take the chance. If nothing else, the experience of creating is good practice and will make your results all the better the next time.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Fluorescent Magenta... Fluorescent Magenta... perhaps the most romantic name for a color imaginable to an 8-year-old. It didn't even sound like a color name, but more like the name of a young woman from a romantic adventure novel.
Who will save Fluorescent Magenta now?
What will Fluorescent Magenta do next?
Will Fluorescent Magenta find him in time?
Imagine, if you will, Fluorescent Magenta's family, the Shadetones, living in the suburban town of Green Valley:
Fluorescent Magenta Shadetone, our main character
Cerulean Blue Shadetone, her loyal older sister
Burnt Sienna Shadetone, her intrepid little brother
Mrs. Shadetone, her mother, who works at the crayon company
Mr. Shadetone, her father, who works somewhere unspecified
And the other people in Fluorescent Magenta's life:
Esmerelda Gray (not Grey, unfortunately), spiteful schoolmate
Jack Black, a rogue
Periwinkle Pleasant, a true friend, whose mother also works for the crayon company
Umber Trueheart, the new guy in town
I'll keep thinking on this. May have to tweak some of the character names, and then develop a plot, but just having the main character so "vivid" has to be a good start, I think.
The following is from C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. The book is a journal he kept during the months after the death of his wife. It is full of anger and anguish, and also in the end, hope.
All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality. And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after she is dead.
Reality flies in the face of what we believe to be true -- brings it down like a house of cards. And with the best love, or the best friends, this is good. It is good to have the reality always breaking into your ideas about those you love, and proving again and again how much better the reality is than you can possibly comprehend.
Friday, July 14, 2006
The first time my brother took me out for a driving lesson, I confused the brake and gas pedals and nearly killed our family dog. At that point Sam (the dog, not the brother) was already thirteen years old, racked with arthritis, and recently neutered. He had become lethargic, a slow shadow of the great husky/shepherd beast he had once been. But as I eased up the driveway, and suddenly zipped the car forward at an alarming pace (my brother shouting, “Brake! Brake!”), Sam moved faster than we’d seen him move in years.
Sam would only live another 6 months, finally throwing himself behind the wheels of a UPS truck parked on the icy hill outside our house, and daring the truck to put him out of his misery. Which it did, leaving a brown stain which would quickly be covered with a protective coating of new ice, and would serve as our memorial to Sam for the rest of the winter.
On a totally-out-of-left-field note, I just saw that my copy of The Princess Bride has the cover pasted on backwards and upside down. I wonder how many other people got the joke-shop version like mine.
(Aside -- did you know that Robert Browning's first book of poems didn't sell one copy? True. Even his mother didn't buy it at her local bookstore. Have you ever heard of anything more humiliating? How would you like to have been Browning and it's your first book and you have these secret hopes that now, now, you'll be somebody. Established, Important. And you give it a week before you ask the publisher how things are going, because you don't want to seem pushy or anything. And then maybe you drop by, and it was probably all very English and understated in those days, and you're Browning and you chitchat around a bit, before you drop the biggie. 'Oh, by the way, any notions yet on how my poems might be doing?' And then, his editor, who has been dreading the moment, probably says, 'Well, you know how it is with poetry these days; nothing's taking off like it used to, requires a bit of time for the word to get around.' And then finally, somebody had to say it. 'None, Bob. Sorry, Bob, no, we haven't yet had one authenticated sale. We thought for a bit that Hatchards had a potential buyer down by Piccadilly, but it didn't quite work out. Sorry, Bob; of course we'll keep you posted in the event of a breakthrough.' End of Aside.)
For anyone who's only seen the movie, if you have a love of writing and you enjoyed the story from the movie, I think you'll find the book is even better. If you haven't seen the movie, this is one of those rare cases where you can experience them in either order and it won't change how good each is.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
A man mailed a letter, and addressed the envelope as follows:
I spent most of my childhood with books. Often I would choose to read rather than play, would sneak a book and a flashlight under my covers at night, and would find it no punishment to be sent to my room with all those books. I was one of the kids who thought the summer reading challenge at the local library was 1) great fun, and 2) a cinch to win.
There is a certain kind of child who awakens from a book as from an abyssal sleep, swimming heavily up through layers of consciousness toward a reality that seems less real than the dreamstate that has been left behind. I was such a child.
- Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris
From 1975 till 1980, the following were the most memorable items in my reading list:
Encyclopedia Brown (series)
Little House on the Prairie (series)
Every other Alcott book (followed by great disappointment learning she was dead and there weren't going to be any more)
Heidi (and sequel)
Pollyanna (and sequel)
The Five Little Peppers (series)
The Borrowers (series)
Nancy Drew (series)
Dana Girls (series)
Cherry Ames (series)
Trixie Belden (series)
The Diamond in the Window
The Westing Game
A Wrinkle in Time
So far, my ghost is benign, though ill-mannered:
- He set off my Carbon Monoxide detector at 11PM on a Saturday night, causing me to call 911. I ended up with no Carbon Monoxide, but 2 fire trucks, 8 firemen, 2 policemen, and 4 rescue squad volunteers at my house. My ghost ended up highly entertained, I'm sure.
- He set off my smoke detector at 3:30 AM. I searched the entire house, and there was not one trace of smoke, flame, or fumes.
- He opened my kitchen cabinet, more than once. The cabinet is faulty, I'll grant you, but I left the door mostly closed, and when I came back the next morning, it was all the way open. My theory is that he died from misuse of cleaning products, or perhaps he just drowned, and is attracted to the pipes under my sink. (Note, it's possible that he lives in the plumbing most of the time, because he makes a loud clunk whenever the toilet is flushed, unless the plumber is in the house.)
- He apparently does not like the hot weather, because he has turned on my air conditioner at least twice. From full power-down, to running, without my having done anything! My next step is to unplug it, but I'm kind of scared that this will only allow me to confirm my haunting theory.
You'll notice I've decided my ghost is a "he." Perhaps a bias on my part, but these kind of pranks seem more male than female. I picture a female ghost being less playful, for some reason.
I'm now soliciting input for a suitable nickname for my ghost.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
We are meant to be here.
We step from one piece of holy ground to the next under stars that ask... imagine for one second that you could drop in on a past life. What would you like to find yourself doing there? What would charm you, make you proud?
Ask yourself that, and the question of what to do in this life becomes so simple it's terrifying -- just to do that thing that would charm you, that would make you say, yes it's the real me.
Do that and you're alive.
I transcribed this quote from the January, 1998 "Luminary" episode of Millenium (did anyone other than me watch that show?) -- the quote was a diary entry from a young man who had gone missing.
I think of journeymen pitchers in baseball, the hurlers who are not superstars, but are reliable, reasonably-skilled and hard-working... and who often move from one team to the next with some frequency. Itinerant skilled workers.
I find something fitting in the sense of the journeyman as not yet a master, and yet as someone who is flexible, adaptable, at times even more useful than the master. The phrase "jack of all trades, master of none" refers to the journeyman as a "jack." And in the background, the journeyman is often struggling to become a master -- but just not yet there.
I call up my love of journeys, and how much joy I take from driving nowhere.
I consider the journey of my life -- how each decision, large or small, has changed my path and brought me to the current road I travel.
I wish for the excitement of the journey, and to feel that life is always that adventure, even when it seems commonplace.
So when I sat down to create this blog, I thought about myself as a writer -- skilled, but no master -- and as a person -- still travelling through this life and wanting to mark the mileposts of my journey. And the title of my poem gave me the title of this blog.
(Someday I'll put the poem up on the blog. For now, I'm working on getting it published.)
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
From time to time, I'll post more thank you messages as they occur to me. For now, these will be a good start:
- Thank you for seeing more positives in me than I can see in myself.
- Thank you for putting everyone around you at ease.
- Thank you for teaching me the beauty of quiet generosity.
- Thank you for providing me reason when I am in chaos.
- Thank you for defending me fiercely.
- Thank you for sharing your memories.
- Thank you for challenging me to be clever.
- Thank you for your love of language.
- Thank you for being good company.
- Thank you for not letting me get away with too much.
- Thank you for demonstrating strength of spirit through adversity.
- Thank you for remembering old jokes.
- Thank you for remembering my past.
- Thank you for refusing to let old connections fade away.
- Thank you for being willing to sing off key.
- Thank you for your impeccably high principles.
- Thank you for laughing at my jokes, and for laughing at me.
- Thank you for opening your house to all the kids on the block.
- Thank you for letting me offer advice -- whether or not you take it.
- Thank you for growing up with me.
- Thank you for sharing sappy movies with me.
- Thank you for praising me and teasing me.
For today, something from William Faulkner's Nobel Prize speech, 1950:
I decline to accept the end of man... I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
I chose this quote today because it ties nicely in with the book recommendation I made a couple days ago (Once Upon a Town), which is a great reminder of the "courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice" of our past. Also, it speaks to some recent disheartenment of a friend, and is my way of saying -- we humans, we'll be okay.
Two quotes in this blog so far, and both from Faulkner. Tomorrow maybe I'll find a different source.
Consider this blog UNDER CONSTRUCTION for a while yet.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
If you want to feel hopeful about America, try this book. It's about "the best America there ever was."
Once Upon a Town -- the Miracle of the North Platte Canteen, by Bob Greene