#NightstandChronicle #Twenty #Writers as #HeroReaders

If you follow me in any other venue of social media, then you’ve learned by now, probably pretty extensively, that I am a huge fan of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton,” not to mention its Pulitzer-prize winning writer, Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Last night Miranda played Hamilton for the last time on Broadway, we presume, unless he fouls up his career royally in coming decades and has to create a theme park or something.  But that’s highly unlikely, and this morning Miranda is back where he was when he came up with the first Secretary of the Treasury as hip hop artist, which is the role of reader.

If I were lucky enough to ever speak to Miranda, I wouldn’t ask him to drop some knowledge.  I would ask him what he’s reading lately.  Not for nothing, mind you; I love a writer that can convince his wife to love musicals and produce a book about a libretto (see above) that’s almost better than the libretto.  We know he’s got the chops.  But asking him what he’s reading lately…that question feeds the writer as a reader, and feeds the asker as well as the answerer.


When I first moved to California in 2004 I lived on the border of Sunnyvale and Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley.  Of the two hamlets, I preferred Mountain View for some reason (still do; sorry, Sunnyvale), and I would sit in the coffee shops and walk in the bookstores there, feeling somewhat sane before hopping on Caltrain to head into the crazy City north of us.  One evening I had the opportunity to see one of my writing heroes at a Zen/meditation bookstore in Mountain View.  I had written with her books as inspiration for at least a decade at the time:  a writer named Natalie Goldberg, who is best known for Writing Down the Bones.  I’m not sure what book she was reading for at the time (I’m sure it can be researched by any publication she had right around 2004), but when they opened up the Q and A portion of the program I asked the question:

What have you been reading lately?

She came to a full stop in her breathing and her being for a moment, and then heartily thanked me for that question.  “That’s my favorite question,” she said, and then animatedly gave us some novel and memoir titles and talked about them with such enthusiasm you would think she had written those books herself.  Later, during autographs, she thanked me again.  

In every year since, I’ve asked writers that I’ve met at book-signings or Litquake events that question.  Every single one of them changes when they get that question, from idea-peddler to fellow reader.  Oh, they seem to say with their breath and the light in their eyes, you want to know THAT.  And then they start, tentatively, telling everyone within earshot about this novel or memoir or work of journalism until the tentatively wears off and we are all sucked into the joy of reading what someone else wrote.

I hope Miranda’s reading something wonderful.  I hope you are, too.

#NightStandChronicle #Nineteen #LaMer

So for a while last week I was nibbling around on the Seven Killings of Marlon James and messing around with a freaky horse scribble by Gaitskill and they were innovative and moving and…then I bought another book.  (The other two titles were library loans by the way…I’ll go back to them when I am done with their interruption.)  The book is mainstream and smacks of Tales of the City for Parisians and it’s not cutting edge but sometimes…sometimes you just need a bright and sweet French dessert.  The Little Paris Bookshop is just such a dessert.

It’s got sex and lots of love and lots of literary references and rich descriptions of rich food and magic and I needed this book about six months ago.  Sometimes the soul is stubborn.  I probably could have bought this book six months ago and been healed of all of this hassle.  But books show up when I most need them:  not before, not since.📚

So I’m spending my independent Independence Day reading it.  Then we’ll go back to Bob Marley and the crazy horse.


I spent nearly the entire day writing today, which is something that I haven’t done since my San Francisco writing group used to hold Saturday and Sunday writing marathons at a cafe in Duboce Park.  Those sessions were surreal; I always had to go home and ice my hand after (I was the only long-hand operator), but I burned through to the point where I would walk out smiling at everyone.  I’d take the N back to my neighborhood and get a repasado margarita at Pacific Catch and watch a Giants game and feel my soul shining like an empty drum.

Today, though, there was no light rail anywhere after, just a diabetic cat that needed his evening insulin and a leftover pesto sausage in the fridge and some sweet cherries for desert.  I still felt empty but for the first time not quite so lonely as I have since leaving the Bay.  That’s not to say I’m endorsing SoCal, but I felt as though I traveling through and not trapped for the first time in months.  I had put the phone away today, and wrote about legends that pass, even if the legends are just in a corner of the world and not global.  I was inspired by a movie that I rented for 99 cents from iTunes, a lovely little indie and romcom called Tumbledown.  I saw it last night and the legends idea hit me and I wrote half the night and all of today.  I didn’t care of the idea was gonna get tossed later, I didn’t care if it had been done before, I just played with fiction all day, not in a sense of working on existing projects but in a sense like I used to in college or in writing group.  Just get some magic on the page.  Just write something that isn’t therapy.

When I first moved to California in 2004 and lived in Silicon Valley, my brother and I would go to the ocean on the weekends:  him to fish from the rocks, me to sit at picnic tables or in the Jeep and write.  I had a collection of gel writer pens in jelly-like colors and I would listen to the soundtrack from Practical Magic on my pink Nano and write about wonder and how to keep it.  Today all I could think about was one of those fishing trips to Sonoma, just north of Point Reyes, where the Jeep was at a dangerous slope and I knew that if I tripped the emergency break I wouldn’t ever be homesick for anything ever again.  I was homesick for Missouri then, for knowing where stuff was, just like I’m still homesick for the Bay now, but felt that I could overcome with a bright green Uniball and Nick Cage.

The only thing in common with both that day and today was no social media.  I checked a Snapchat from a friend a moment ago, but other than that I haven’t touched the phone all day.  Reading, writing.  If I stay off the FOMO trip I feel more connected to that person in Sonoma.  I find more wonder.  The sweet cherries are better, the cat is more loving.  I pick up one of the Stabilos pictured above and the legend continues.  I would hate to give up social media entirely (after all, that’s where this ends up, too), but I don’t know how to do it anymore.  Maybe I do it a whole lot less until I figure out how.

Happy Independence Day, from whatever you are breaking from.🎆

#NightstandChronicle #Eighteen #Chided

Seems like I’ve used that picture before, but, what the hell, let’s do it again.

What a week for the Internet, which I originally typed in lower case because you’re supposed to now, and that my phone auto-corrected to capitals, because it doesn’t get the memos from time to time.  Heck, I’ll Capitalize The Whole Damn Sentence To Make Up For E.E. Cummings If You Want, Phone.  The lectures abound.  Every day since the tragedy in Orlando (the acerbic person would ask “Which one?”–that town has had a bad time of it) there’s been a lot of heavy-handed shoulds bandied about, but I’ve heard a lot of those without current events lately, too.  I’m not supposed to care what other people think but I am supposed to be a citizen of the world.  I’m supposed to be me but no one can physically stomach the me that I am right now (including me).

What is a girl to do?

Well, for starters, I am not going to advise.  I’m in no position to do that, and…I’m also in no mood to take advice.  I still think the sexiest thing anyone can do is admit vulnerability, or, if they possess complete command of the universe, ask what they can do to help.  I’m alone in that thought, though, I reckon.  So I’ve reached back into the past for a little help to stand alone and like everyone wants everyone to do.

When was I invincible?  When did I not give a flip if I failed because I never thought I could?  High school.  University.  I don’t think it was a youth thing–I was most confident at university because the topic of conversation was Literature with a capital L, and the folks I was talking about it with didn’t put on obscurity like a double-stitched suit of pretension or didn’t return my side of the conversation with a blank stare of “Wait…are you talking about a book?”  I have five stacks of books in this room waiting to be read because I’m trying to understand folks “not like me” and watching all the hip stuff on Netflix and HBO Go and iTunes and I get lost when I do that.  At university the hip thing was reading the novel and being able to gush on it like it was a prehistoric Orange Is The New Black (which started as a book, if I’m not mistaken).  No -isms, just, “I had a girlfriend like Miss Havisham once.  Discuss.”

Walking away from readers ain’t the answer.  I think the chiding of “find someone not like you” needs to stop benefitting anyone if one person is doing all the adapting.


The personals ad/Tinder profile would read like this:

  • Reader/writer looking for another reader/writer;
  • Preferably someone who reads/writes in a different voice than me;
  • (Should be pretty easy, right, since I’m supposed to listen to my own voice);
  • Wish list:  curious, doesn’t mansplain, good listener, has an unabusive sense of humor.

Too much?

What do I care?  That person would be the rainmaker.


What have I been trying to read lately?

  • Still catching up on the fiction issue of The New Yorker;
  • “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill;
  • “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” the Bob Marley novel by Marlon James.  Damn thing’s like trying to read Junot Diaz, but I love it;
  • “Hamilton” by Ron Cherow (there’s a reason Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired, I found out quick).

What am I listening to with it?

  • Hozier’s “Better Love” from “The Legend of Tarzan” soundtrack;
  • Paul Simon’s latest album;
  • Muse, just all over the place;
  • Ages and Ages, “They Want More”;
  • A Jamaican remix of Cyndi Lauper’s “I Drove All Night” (Marlon James in bleeding into other areas).

And…writing…always writing. ❤️

It’s A Slow Night, and Here’s An Extra Letter Back To You

There’s an extra post this month because I was feeling a weight on my chest, a play I have to call, a calling I probably should take.

Liz Gilbert had a journey to countries that started with I’s.  Cheryl Strayed had a 1,000 mile walk.  Helen Macdonald tamed a hawk, kinda.  I sit on social media cheerleading the stories of everyone else’s life, when I can catch them.  Thanks to the algorithms and analysts (I can say that; I’m an analyst) it takes a lot of detective work to find your stories, read you all like a puddle of tea leaves, wonder what I can do to help, to connect…

It appears I can’t connect.

Not right now, actually.  

On a repeated collection of not right now’s, actually.

The majority of my days are spent watching everyone else’s life like a stalker or a cat-lady in hair rollers with her “stories” on the tv, or picking up the phone and pressing the power button to see if folks who don’t remember me miss me, or hoping to make my life hip enough one day a week (yeah, Instagram, that day is Saturday and you know it), or finding a way to bond with yet more technology that will be passé tomorrow to everyone but me.  Why?  Is it just a dry spell?  Or is this nature’s/God’s/the muses’ little way of saying, “Quick, while no one is watching, let’s go kill some time until they return.”

There’s something that doesn’t settle well in that, though.


When I was at Missouri State and minoring in history my women’s history professor assigned us some unconventional activities in addition to the stacks of books we had to read.  We had to attend a political event in the city, and at one point we had to write a paper about a female community leader that inspired us.  The leader could be dead or alive, but the assignment required sitting down and interviewing someone who was or knew about that person, so that we didn’t keep our heads stuck in books.

I chose my mother.  She was influential in her community, and she inspired me.  I carefully formulated some questions and new a couple of them would be controversial:  Mom’s family (including me) was never enthusiastic about her having a business out of her home.  We touched on that (that’s for another blog), but there was one answer to another question that blind-sighted me and I didn’t expect it to.  I asked my mother why she started her business; was it because she loved people and/or loved farming so much?


She started her business because she didn’t want to be one of those moms that guilts their kids to come home or visit more often, and the business would be where she could put all of that passion.  (My father should have come up with a similar plan, just saying.)  I stopped short when she gave me that answer, and I think of that answer when I feel alienated in my life, wondering if the lonely times are a good time to walk away from what the rest of the world thinks is brilliant so that I can have a place to put my passion, too.  Problem is, that approach only solves half the problem.  What about the next friend or lover that walks into my life?  Do I just wait for them to leave?  Is it the life of a monk or recluse that I have no choice but to have?

Last year a friend of mine pointed out to me that the things I like tend to feed my loneliness.  “You have to admit that writing and reading are group stuff.”  And when they are group stuff, they have disappointed, with some rare but not consistent exceptions.  Here’s the rub:  give up the reading and writing for bars, coffee shops, parties, clubs if you want to avoid being lonely.  Find friends.  Seek out group stuff to do.

I try.  And then I realize that it ain’t me, babe, and I’m lonely in a room full of people.  I’m lonely wanting someone to read with, cozy up with on the phone or on a couch:  “Listen to this” and no one wants to do that.  I’m lonelier at parties.  I’m an introvert:  one person at a time, please.  I’m an introvert that tried to grow and include a bunch of people in my life and now have to heal when none of them want to talk.

I thought social media would cure that.

It’s made it worse.

And going back to writing to kill time until either the previous crowd returns or a new crowd shows up is slowly killing me.  I keep coming up with plans for social media to play nice, but then I realize the playing nice is to make the rest of the world more comfortable and hopefully draw them to me.

The plan shouldn’t be “in the meantime.”  The plan shouldn’t be a “fix.”  The plan should be to remember who I am, to remember the people and passions I love, without apology.  The world is too cool for that.  The world doesn’t stare at its phone waiting for text messages, notifications, Snaps.  The world has a life.  I don’t have one of those.

I have things that I love and people that I love but I don’t have a life.

Pardon me, then, if I put the phone away.  Pardon me for posting less…we, you and I, have hit an impasse where I’m sure a show that’s streaming on Netflix or a term that I don’t understand on a hashtag is better than my re-tweet or share.  I’m fine with that.  You have your passions and I have watched them and had them too for a while and now I have to go back to mine…not until you remember me, but permanently.  I need to read a book without guilt, and I need to write a book and about 50 short stories that I have ideas for just to see if they are viable.  I need to stop pressing the power button on my phone in hopes of seeing something besides the lock wallpaper:

(An example of the current wallpaper.  And he’s getting old fast.)

I’m not curling up in a cave somewhere.  I’m not closing my accounts, or ignoring communication.  But there’ll be less checking.  I’m connecting in the way that I had hoped I would.  I just wanted connection.  I’m going to try reading a while, now, on sites like GoodReads and WordPress and magazines.  If you want to talk, I still have that fancy email feature all the kids rave about, and if you’re lucky enough to have my cell number and it’s an emergency, call me and leave a voice mail.  If it’s not, text.  Comment.  Message.  I’ll still check all of this stuff, but not nearly as often as folks have grown accustomed to or…enjoyed.  I gotta have a break if you’re gonna take one from me.  I love you all, but I gotta find me again, so I stop losing myself to keep people who don’t stay.

Be well, and find your passion.  ❤️ I will see you here again as soon progress is made.

#NightstandChronicles #Seventeen #BackToReading

It’s a time of transitions for me, both in daily ritual and in settings.  I have started my new job, which means that for the most part I am the latest starter in the household and the latest returner.  I find myself squeezing in way too much before I take off on my trek to work in the morning (my workplace is closer than the train station, so I walk); I want to exercise, so I do, and I want to write, so I do, and I want to meditate…well, you get the picture.  I figure that if I wear myself out then I don’t have time to think too hard about what and who I miss from working at the last place.

We introverts get a bit needy in wanting to hang onto what is safe, you see…and sometimes what we want to hang on to doesn’t want to be held.

So, I walk myself through this part of my life, a part that may take me back home to the Bay.  If it doesn’t, then I keep trying other ventures–while I have a passion for what I do for a paycheck, I would, as the bumper sticker proclaims, rather be writing.


I am still milking the Macdonald book, as you can see–it’s too good to rush.  For the end of April’s Independent Bookstore Day I picked up a copy of The Buried Giant to get to at some point from the San Diego Library Store.  The beautiful thing about that shop is that even though it has a lot of knickknacks in it there are occasionally books for sale as well, so…I sort of have an independent bookstore.  All profits go to the Library, anyway, so, yes, I buy from there every time I go to write somewhere on the upper floors.

The Gaitskill book is from the Carlsbad library, which I have a harder time making time for even though I am in Carlsbad almost all of the time these days.  I hope I’m able to renew that one–I’ve made a little progress, but it’s a lingering book like the Macdonald book.

The cat calls and whines…I love being the default babysitter when I’m trying to get a few words in.  As the kids like to say, Tata for now…❤️

#NightstandChronicles #Sixteen #DiscoveringPrince

This is the part of my life I call “catching up with popular culture.”

Questlove was on one of my favorite podcasts, Fresh Air, this week, talking about Prince and his childhood.  He talked about being duped by his parents into thinking classic rock was current stuff, and when he started elementary school the other kids and his teachers snapped him out of that quick.  I have a similar experience when something big happens in the music world; I was raised by parents and a grandparent who loved country, classical, and Tom Jones, so my experience with blues, hip hop, metal, and rock keep entertaining people.

So, confession:  my exposure to Prince was pretty minimal.  That’s the guy with the symbol for a name, right? I would mentally acknowledge, but I never listened to him much with the exception of “Purple Rain” (my favorite part of that song is the high notes at the end…some disappointingly shallow aspects of me admitted now).

Then Prince died and I decided to listen to all his stuff on my iTunes subscription.

Holy fuck.

(To be fair, the same thing happened when Amy Winehouse died.)

That playlist wasn’t enough, and I rented the movie “Purple Rain.”

Holy fuck redux.

So, yes, I’m a music moron, but imagine “discovering” this stuff later, with different references leading up to it, a discovery that lends a different flavor profile to this wine called Life than what everyone else has.  I may be a music moron, but when these geniuses dawn on me, they dawn bright and warm me fast.

Rest in purple, Prince.  Thanks for your cultural and creative permission slip. 💜


As to what I’m reading and writing these days, now…

I am crawling through H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, because I can.  I open the book in bed or in coffee shops and read until the unbelievable prose draws me up short, like reins on a driving team, and then I re-read paragraphs, or look up and stare into the walls or out the windows around me, processing.  The writing is so good that I can’t even get to the stage of “wouldn’t it be great to write like this”; I just sit in a stupor, like I do with exquisite liquor or food.  I don’t want to fly goshawks myself, but if I’m to learn any lesson from this book it’s that if the writing is good enough it doesn’t matter if your reader wants to do what you’re doing or not…they’ll just appreciate your voice.

Which takes me to my writing (I’m reading other stuff too, but we’ll expound on those some other bright day).  For years I float in and out of these cycles of writing on what folks will read based on subject matter, and I’m painfully aware that my life is pretty quiet to be writing on.  But over the last few weeks, particularly after visiting a local piano bar and hearing a song from my days of moving from Ohio to Missouri (“Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn–I was just starting to get my musical sea legs) I felt was though I got the point that all of the self-help writing books spit at me:  write what you know.  The writing what I know will lead to writing about what I don’t know with somewhat of a foundation, so there’s no chance of resting in a comfort zone.  I need that support system of giving up my past in words, and I’m enjoying the process.  It’s more interesting for me to re-read, anyway.  So, H is for Hawk is another permission slip.  Hawks and Prince.  Who woulda thunk it.

Task time is freed up, too, because I don’t have to job search anymore.  The next phase is to work on getting published in some other form than this long-winded blog that you so generously spend your time reading.  That goal won’t stop the blog, but I’ll share where I’m headed here.  Hopefully it involves a better understanding of music.

Every day.🎶

#NightstandChronicles #Fifteen #ThanksToJohnCleese

My apologies on skipping February; one might say it was a dry month, or a short one, or a challenging one, and they would be right on all counts.  Mostly it was just the latter–I tend to fall into dark moods occasionally, and have been in one since the Tuesday or Wednesday before Valentine’s Day, and just slid out of it this week.  (I assure you, it had nothing to do with the holiday.)  Sometimes it helps during these times not to publicly write but just drop a picture or two on Instagram occasionally to let folks know the pulse is still there (if you’re interested, the handle at Instagram is jostraveler and I don’t self-censor much, so…you’ve been warned).

Meantime, art does it while I’m out; a lot of:  movies, music, reading, coloring, and journaling.  Cleese is long due some thanks in this; three years ago I came upon his You Tube video on creativity (and if you like Slow Readings you will enjoy the video, or if you’re a Cleese fan you will enjoy the video, because it’s quite long and very, very Cleese), and, recently remembering it, I loaded it on my favorites in YouTube and watch it about once a week.  Sometimes artists need someone to grant them permission, and Cleese is my blackboard eraser walking through the unforgiving halls of folks who don’t understand creatives and don’t understand dark moods.  Oh, sure, there are a number of folks in my life who apply either the, “Cheer up!” Or “Relax!” Approaches to problems, and Cleese helps with smiling and nodding to those “remedies” as well.  If you struggle with being understood as a creative, I highly recommend the video, and following it’s advice.

Another tonic is in finding the books, music, and movies that are relatable and understanding.  A recent read was “The Great Kitchens of the Midwest,” a book that made all of my California peeps chuckle at me since the “fly-over” states are featured in it, and their cuisine.  The strength in the book was that it saw nothing as sacred and nothing as profane, so a reader could find humor and empathy in both “foodie” stuff and tuna hotdish, in equal measure, provided the reader was either previous Midwestern turned coastal and/or open-minded.  A movie that lent that teaching was a recent viewing of “Blended,” in which the mass market culture is kind of snarkily shamed until a set of characters realizes that life and love and poetry can be found anywhere if you’re open-minded.  And in music I relaxed into the musical stylings of a former junkyard girl in the lead vocal of Alabama Shakes, both in her music and in a Fresh Air interview; the former farm girl in me got her points of view too well.