#NewNightstandAddress


Looks like a dorm room, doesn’t it? But instead it’s an artist’s studio, and it’s in a metro location, so I am no longer roaming the countryside like a nomad, my life in a knapsack heavy with pens, books, and blank paper.  April was just moving, so, yes, I have been conspicuously absent (or not…depends on your dependence, I suppose), but this is a three-day weekend and I have some time and I have missed spending whole days reading and writing, so the NightStand returns, in the form of two wicker baskets at the head of a futon.

San Diego proper is still as sprawly as all get-out, but in the event of a natural disaster or extreme illness I could make my life continue in the span of a city block.  It helps to live next to a grocery store.  It also helps to have my gym across the street from the grocery store, and about four cafes in the area, and two ATMs, and you get the picture.  For less needs and more wants I have to walk farther: library at 8 blocks, ballpark at 6 blocks, harbor lights at 6 blocks.

This is my first foray into living among skyscrapers; even in San Francisco I lived by the park and among buildings that topped out at 3 or 4 stories.  Here I wake up in the morning and there are more than six buildings out my window that exceed 20 stories.  Their placement is such that I feel I live in a city but they don’t block the sunset or the occasional fireworks from Sea World.  The tallest of them, a condo building, has an art installation at the top; think of a lighthouse where the light runs a cycle of the complete spectrum of ROYGBIV.  The colors fade into each other, and cycle and cycle until about 3:30 am.  I know this cut-off firsthand; someone pulled the fire alarm in the building in error at that ungodly hour a week or so ago, and I got to meet a lot of neighbors.  My neighbors are animal lovers and a lot of them have medical issues, so finding the silver lining in such a strange evacuation was a challenge that night, but still…community.  Writers need community.

My day job is a bit of an attention hog these days due to the fact that I am often forced into the practice of metaphorically paddling a battleship with a toothbrush, but I’m working on that, too, now that I have personal independence.  In terms of the arts and crafts, though, here are the latest indulgences:

  • What I have been reading lately:  on the Kindle I’m still trying (unsuccessfully) to get through The New Yorker as it comes in and reading a novel called Carrie Pilby.  From that now close library I’ve been on a Toni Morrison kick (Beloved, which I have never managed to read, and God Help the Child, which is getting richer but isn’t my favorite work of hers), and from my personal paper library Moonglow by Michael Chabon.  Chabon has flipped the “fake news” garbage on its head; he calls the novel a memoir that may or may not be reliably true, therefore removing all doubt by adding it. 
  • What I have been listening to lately:  I’m apparently on a James Bay kick this weekend, but I also have the latest from Sia (her theme from the movie Lion) and the music of Chopin bouncing around in the earbuds, too.
  • What I have been watching lately: continuing with baseball (my Giants suck, yes, I’ll say it), and West Wing (there are seven seasons, after all), as well as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Real Time with Bill Maher.  In movies, I started The Secret Life of Pets, but that is going to be a long watch…not a great film.  I binged on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt last Sunday; Titus is still in fine form with his Lemonade tribute.  I haven’t seen many movies lately (it’s summer, not Oscar season, after all), but those that I have seen are a little French film on Netflix recommended by a friend called Blind Date (hence, my listening to Chopin) and I have the Oscar-nom film for Annette Benning on my iTunes rental.

For the time being, c’est moi.  More, hopefully, barring any drama, in June.  ✨

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#TheyShouldHaveSentAPoet

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One of my favorite movies (and, knowing the latest trend of presenting decades-delayed critical reviews of movies, one that the intellectual community probably hates) is “Contact.”  When the protagonist of the movie, Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, realizes her dream journey of traveling in space to “meet” another celestial civilization, she pauses at one point, staring out into a collection of celestial planets and satellites, and says, overwhelmed: “They should have sent a poet.”  Ellie readily admits, “No words, no words.”  

I’ve always chewed on that monologue with some flip-flopping of agreement and disagreement with Ellie.  You want to capture the whole experience, you send a poet.  You want the scientific data you’re looking for, you’re probably going to send Ellie.  The poet won’t know what to look for, thank God, and the scientist will miss a lot in watching what they’re looking for, thank God.  So there’s a gap to mind.  A BIG one.

On a recent interview on Fresh Air, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson (hell, let’s just stay with the space theme for a moment) is asked the question if his approach to science is to “dumb-it down” for the rest of us.  “The audience can tell if you’re dumbing something down,” he replies, and that helps bridge that gap between art and science in an intelligent, respectful way.  “Contact” did that for me; when you hear terms like “SETI” (whose founder, on a side note, just passed away this last week) and “Occam’s razor,” out in the world if you didn’t know them before that movie, you start to see the world in a different application.  The movie’s about science, it’s about rationality, it’s about spiritualism, and then it flips the whole world into that new application, and for the brief length of the film, you question something.  Maybe it’s the motive of the film you’re questioning, maybe the science of it, but you find opportunity in the poetry, you find opportunity in the science.

*****

I work in a call center as a workforce analyst, a position in any company that requires communication skills of the poet and the math skills of a scientist.  The poet often has to explain why a schedule looks the way it does, or why the metrics look the way they do, and the poet has to do this to a diverse audience of managers, executives, and the customer-facing call center agent.  This communication has to occur without a)insulting the intelligence of the other party, and b)talking over the understanding of the other party.  Often, I rely on analogies.  Imagine this scenario you might be familiar with, I say, and you’re close to what’s happened, or what will happen.  I have to know my audience a little…I have to know what is typically understood about the science…and then I have to take the person to the next level.  In “Contact,” the movie accomplishes this by presenting another striving character with a different celestial goal in Palmer Joss.  Both Ellie and Palmer are looking for the same things and insisting their own paths as best–there’s enough devotion to themselves and enough devotion to the discovery that they can meet each other and question each other.

What I often see on LinkedIn and other job boards is that the employer is looking for certain characteristics in an analyst.  Does any of it include poetry?  Any science?

A mathematician is a mathematician.

A poet is a poet.

If they meet in one celestial body…they are an analyst.

Mind the gap.