Month: April 2006 Page 1 of 2

Easily amused.

I’m looking at a picture of a road, thinking, “I’d love to drive down that…It’s so gorgeous,” when I realize that the caption says, “The road to St. Ives (Cornwall, England).” Hey, I’m an American. I don’t always realize that people don’t just make this stuff up.


As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives.
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits;
Kits, cats, sacks and wives –
How many were going to St Ives?

Update:
Okay, Penzance is in Cornwall, too. Feelin’ my ignorance today…

More poetry.

Just Listen
by Peter Johnson

I sit by the window and watch a great mythological bird go down in flames. In fact, it’s a kite the neighborhood troublemaker has set on fire. Twenty-one and still living at home, deciding when to cut through a screen and chop us into little pieces. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” his mother would say, as they packed our parts into black antiseptic body bags. I explain this possibility to the garbage men. I’m trying to make friends with them, unable to understand why they leave our empty cans in the middle of the driveway, then laugh as they walk away. One says, “Another name for moving air is wind, and shade is just a very large shadow”—perhaps a nice way to make me feel less eclipsed. It’s not working, it’s not working. I’m scared for children yet to be abducted, scared fo! r the pregnant woman raped at knife point on the New Jersey Turnpike, scared for what violence does to one’s life, how it squats inside the hollow heart like a dead cricket. My son and his friends found a dead cricket, coffined it in a plastic Easter egg and buried it in the backyard. It was a kind of time capsule, they explained—a surprise for some future boy archeologist, someone much happier than us, who will live during a time when trees don’t look so depressed, and birds and dogs don’t chatter and growl like the chorus in an undiscovered Greek tragedy.

On this date…

Meme via Hythia. I’m supposed to search Google for the date of my birth and come up with some births, some deaths, and some interesting facts.

Births:

1852 – Calamity Jane, American Wild West performer (d. 1903)
1881 – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French palaeontologist and philosopher (d. 1955)

Deaths:

1873 – David Livingstone, Scottish missionary (b. 1813)
1904 – Antonín Dvo?ák, Czech composer (b. 1841)

Events:

1886 – The start of the general strike which eventually wins the eight-hour workday in the United States. These events are today commemorated as May Day or Labor Day in most industrialized countries.
1930 – The planet Pluto is officially named.
1956 – The polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk is made available to the public.

May Day is exactly a half-year from November 1, All Saints’ Day. Marking the end of the uncomfortable winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere, it has always been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations, regardless of the political or religious establishment. May Day was also originally the Celtic holiday Beltane, the “Return of the Sun”. It is the third and last of the spring festivals. We can see traces of Beltaine when dancing around the maypole or sending a basket of flowers to your neighbor’s door.

Other holidays on May Day were also respected by some early European settlers of the American continent. The day also marks springtime celebrations such as:

* Walpurgis Night in Northern Europe, including the Finnish Vappu celebrations
* Beltane in Ireland and Scotland
* Roodmas
* Calendimaggio in Northern and Central Italy, related to the return of the sun and spring
* May Morning in Oxford
* Hamilton College hosts an annual music outdoor music festival known as “May Day.” However the name has no political connotations or association with other May Day holidays. Rather the name simply refers to the fact that the festival is staged in late April or early May.

In Hawaii, May Day is also known as Lei Day, and is normally set aside as a day to celebrate island culture in general and native Hawaiian culture in particular. In rural regions of Germany, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of May Poles, and young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air, wurst and beer. Motto: “Tanz in den Mai!” (“Dance in May!”).

Side Note: If anybody knows of a place where I can find the birthdates of fictional characters, let me know. I wanted to add some to the list, but I couldn’t think of any.

Side note:

More poetry.

Fears
by Felipe Benitez Reyes

By Gonzalo De Lerma

The sensation of being the only guest
in a grand hotel on the outskirts of the city
—and hearing the somnambulistic
elevator and a scream—
or being in an empty theater
or in a lonely plaza
of a lonely unknown city
weighed down with suitcases and no money
surrounded by escaped doves
from the studio of the worst taxidermist
that ridiculous melancholy of one who feels ignored
at the parties of younger people
whom he calls late at night
from a bar with the lights already turned off
and talks to himself about the comforts
of being an academic ghost
of an orchestra conductor

I fear, in the end, that I’ve kissed
The lips of a mistaken goddess

Note: from the email, it looked like the author was actually Felipe Benitez Reyes. It’s probably one of those Borgian things.

More Texas.

You know, I left out the funniest part of being in Texas. Everything is decorated almost exactly as if it were in western South Dakota. Swap out the Native American influence for Hispanic, and there you have it.

Friday: Dallas Zoo, currently a tropical paradise.

We were walking along an outside corridor formed of netting and fence. Directly over us is some kind of hawk, who is eating a rat. By “eating a rat” I mean “noisily ripping it into rat sushi.” Little pieces of things are lying on the ground underneath. Lee and I watch it for a while and move on.

But wait…There’s a group of four little boys, about four years old or so, with a couple of adult women. We quickly double back.

“What’s that?”

“Oh, look! It’s a bird!”

“What’s it doing?”

The women give this little “eek” and hustle the boys off quickly. “Don’t look–“

But they’re little boys, and they see exactly what they’re not supposed to see, and they crane their necks as they’re being driven away.

“Cooooooool…”

Friday night we ditched the group and went to a restaurant at the hotel, Ama Lur. Very tasty “southwestern fusion” food. Dessert came in shot glasses. No, it was really dessert — I had lemon panna cotta and Lee had chocolate something-whose-name-escapes-me-but-I-should-know. The creme thing with the sugar crust.*

Saturday:

By the end of Saturday night, we were done. I went to a meeting, took a nap, and went shopping; Lee worked on his story and stared out the window at the pool.

For everyone who’s asked (my brother), yes, there was steak that night for supper. It wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. I would much rather have had some from SD or Iowa. I remember that restaurant right next to our place in West Branch…throw a chunck of meat on the massive grill pit, wander around, just smelling it cook, pull it off and dump about a cup of sauteed mushrooms all over it…yeah, not that.

I had a wonderful time listinging to Lee’s sarcastic comments. Man, he was ready to vamoose. Not that I wasn’t, but he was done.

Sunday & Monday:

Got up, wrote story, packed, got on the plane. Lee doesn’t like roller coasters, and even I was a little nauseous getting off in Denver. Back to Sioux Falls, give Ray a hug, get back in the car for Flandreau, spend the night, wake up, frantically search for toiletries, get in the car, go. We listened to an audiobook on the way back, and that helped. Snow through Denver. Scary roads. Colorado Springs dry, dry, dry.

Tuesday:

Tired. Lots of loose ends at work to clear up before the end of the month. Other stuff going on…got groceries, came home, and collapsed.

*Food writing is hard.

Chocolate Shop.

A friend of mine is visiting a quaint little college town the other day, wandering around with a friend of hers in the late evening when they discover a chocolate shop. The sign says the place closes at eight, but it’s still open. The owner tells them he just likes to give people something to do.

Looking over the rows and rows of fluffy raspberry-creme truffles, chocolate-covered espresso bean topped cappachino truffles, juicy, red chocolate-dipped strawberries, fudges of any and all descriptions, and way too much sublimated eroticism embodied in chocolate form in general, they hear the phone ring.

The owner picks up the phone and say,

“Hot tub, huh?”

“And you’re naked?”

“I’ll be home as soon as I’m done with these customers.” He has this huge grin on his face as he rings them up.

Resort.

We have arrived in Texas for the service conference. Those of you in Storyball, yes, I have my story done (sort of? I need to look up people’s names and make sure they haven’t been killed off yet), I just need to type it up and post it.

Dallas:

  • Much greener than Colorado. Think Iowa green, or Missouri green.
  • Decorative themes are rocks, leather with brass studs, and dark wood tones. More Old West than the Old West.
  • People are vociferously friendly.
  • Hair is big, Tina Turner big.
  • No, I mean really frikkin’ green.

It was fun watching Lee’s face as he looked out the window. The first plane was some kind of Canadian puddle jumper, which was good, because the big jets just don’t feel like you’ve accomplished as much getting off the damned ground.

They say that everything’s bigger in Texas. Feeling a bit peckish…think I’ll see if they’ll make me a cow.

Update:

  • There was evidence of a stuffed longhorn cow inside the resort, that is, we saw it; however, the only cowlike objects to be found were strips of beef for fajitas, which were normal size. Steak? What steak?
  • Texas chili was comparatively bland. Alcohol was plentiful. Coffee (even decaf) was the best mass-produced coffee I’ve ever had.
  • I feel like I am a cow. Our group is so big, we have handlers.
  • Kind of sad the way people flock to resorts in order to reduce the number of choices (i.e., risks) they have to make on vacation.
  • Also kind of sad to see the room service prices. Jack Daniel’s, $100.
  • They hired Huey Lewis and the News to perform last night. Good sax player. Huey Lewis has been kicked by a cow.
  • Oddly, the message I took away from last night wasn’t that I was appreciated but that I am a small, unimportant cog in a very large wheel.
  • I’m having fun anyway.

Bubba Hotep.

I guess you either like the movie or you hate it. I liked it.

Elvis (Bruce Campbell): No offense, Jack, but President Kennedy was a white man.
JFK (Ossie Davis): They dyed me this color! That’s how clever they are!

Writerly Ramble.

Spoilerly Alias stuff below.

I vicariously watch Alias. That is, Lee’s watching it, and he sometimes tells me about what’s going on. As he’s telling me about what’s going on, I’m thinking, “there’s a pattern here.” The first seaon, the solution to many problems was something called “The Third Alternative.” That is, when you’re in a situation where someone presents to you two alternatives, as in, either you reveal secret information or your daughter gets it, you create a third alternative, like, we both attack you instead. Okay, I’m good with that.

Then Lee started telling me about the second season, and something clicked. Sometimes the answer to a dilemma is that things are not what they seem. For instance, you’ve told your wife a secret, and she was dying of cancer anyway, but then her cancer goes into remission and you’ve been ordered to kill her yourself or she’ll face worse, the answer is to have plotted the whole situation yourself, so you can make a ton of money and smuggle your wife out to a safer location while everyone else thinks she’s dead. I mean, I’ve seen other stories use the idea that things aren’t what they seem–Iocain powder, anyone–but I hadn’t really put it together as a writer. “Hey,” I said. “This is a tool that I, too, can use.”

Lately he’s been telling me about the third season. I still haven’t got it figured out yet. It may, in fact, be that this is where the creator, JJ Abrams, goes beyond where I can keep up. I feel like he’s coming up with some kind of apotheosis for the main character, hidden in the middle of the soap-opera melodrama about the boyfriend who’s married to another woman, but I can’t see how he’s doing it.

What is he doing? How is he doing it? What ideas can I steal?!?

Eh. Don’t tell me. At least not yet.

In Antigua
by Kerri Webster

“In Antigua I am famous. I am bathed in jasmine
and pressed with warm stones.”
—Carnival Cruise ad in the New Yorker

In Albuquerque, on the other hand, I am infamous; children
throw stones and the elderly whisper behind their hands.
In Juneau, I am glacial, a cool blue where anyone can bathe
for a price. In Rio I am neither exalted nor defamed; I walk
the streets and nothing makes sense, voices garbled, something
about electricity, something about peonies and cheap wool.

In Prague I am as fabulous as Napoleon and everyone
knows it. They give me a horse and I tell them this horse
will be buried with me, I tell them I will call the horse either
Andromeda or Murphy and all applaud wildly. In Montreal
I am paler than I am in Toronto. In Istanbul I trip over cracks
in the sidewalk and no one rushes to take my elbow, to say
Miss or brew strong tea for a poultice. In Sydney they talk
about my arrival for days. I sit outside the opera house
waiting for miracles, and when none occur in a fortnight

it’s Ecuador, where the old gods include the small scythes
of my fingernails in their rituals and I learn that anything
can ferment, given opportunity, given terra cotta. In Paris
I’m up all night. Off the Gold Coast, I marry a reverend
who swears that pelicans are god’s birds and numbers them
fervently, meanwhile whistling. Near Bucharest I go all
invisible, also clammy, also way more earnest than I ever was
in Memphis. For three Sundays I wander skinny side streets
saying amphora, amphora.

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