#GenerationGeneralizations

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Kids these days.

About a year after I graduated from high school a friend and I moved to southwest Missouri, to Branson, so that she could get her shot at country music and I came along for the adventure. Her manager asked me one night what my interest was in.

“Writing,” I answered.

“Writing music?” he followed up, thinking folks only moved to Branson if their interests had something to do with country music.

“No, prose,” I said, “like articles, stories, poems.”

“Are you even old enough to write?” he asked.

It was an odd question to me then, and an infuriating question to me looking back to the age I was when I got that question, at nearly 20 years old. By the time he asked me that question I had been writing stories and poems for 12 years, and now I’m sitting here having been writing things of some form or another (not counting letters and emails) for 38 years. At the time I was 20, her manager was my age now, and he was wondering, when I was stumped by his question, what a 20-year-old has to say. I was still flummoxed because I had been writing for so long already without even thinking that I needed to be a certain age to do it, like driving a car or voting. The question seemed…irrelevant.

*****

Sitting here at the 38th anniversary of my writing experience, I often encounter whiplash moving from either end of the spectrum. There are a hundred “best of” lists involving writers under 30, and anyone over 30 grousing about these lists on social media. There are a million click-bait articles on “what the Millennials have killed now” or even articles that compare all of the generations but the Gen X one, which sits awkwardly in the middle like a middle child forgotten. Even Ursula K. Le Guin, in her last essay collection No Time To Spare, talks about how the alums of her college graduating class were supposed to answer their “what are you doing with your retirement?” survey. She thought retirement was an incredulous idea; she was still writing right up to the end of her life. The essay touched on a variety of points on ageism in the young and old, and still we have this fight, in politics, in arts, in cooking, and in all forms of culture.

I have never understood pigeon-holing based on age. Most of my friends in Ohio and Missouri were older than I was; in California it’s about half and half. I am a Gen X person who always felt a little out of the loop on Gen X music, film, and books, so finding something from “my generation” feels a little false. My parents had a collection of vinyl that would choke a DJ, but they also were older than most of my friends’ parents and they came from older parents themselves, so I was raised on classic films, music, and TV shows. I can recite most Monkees’ episodes but have no clue what happened on The Love Boat. The only TV my parents let me watch was PBS, Sunday night Disney movies, and the early evening game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. I did sneak episodes of  Moonlighting, but that’s not usually a conversation starter (it’s one of those rare shows you can’t stream, by the way…not that I haven’t tried). I often just crawled back into a book…books were supposed to be timeless.

But even books have waves of energy in them, depending on when they were born. You can read Orwell today and feel remarkably seen and hopeless, all at the same time. But then again, you could read Bradbury and get the sense, somewhere off in the distance if you just resist, that you might see the way out, whether you were 9 and had that kind of time capital, or 90 and just had spare change left in your pocket.

*****

I can’t make the generalizations about generations that everyone else can; it seems to waste as much time (or more) than making generalizations about race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. The marvelous thing about knowing older people is seeing how they react to all of the latest innovations, particularly when they accept them and cherish them with a “look what I got to see happen” outlook. The wondrous thing about the exceedingly young is watching them discover stuff we put away years ago, things like vinyl and typewriters and old school DOS stuff and Polaroids. The wide and disparate variety means you could have an aunt who loves Fortnite and a niece who loves jigsaw puzzles. The more random the world, the better.

I find myself skipping the labels, the studies, the click-bait about Gen Z vs Baby Boomers, Gen X vs the Silent Generation (I don’t remember my father being all that silent, but okay), and everyone vs the Millennials. I prefer to see the possibility in every age, because I never know who will inspire me in their rites of passage.

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#ListeningUp

It’s a rare person not on the podcast craze in our time. I usually can’t go more than a week without hearing of a recommendation for a new one from one of my other podcasts, from social media, or from wait staff or bartenders. Occasionally I’ll get recommendations from friends and family, but for some reason they only recommend single episodes of something or start out recommending radio programs that may also be available as a podcast.

Some podcasts I have been listening to for decades; most of the NPR podcasts fall into that category. When I graduated from college I missed classes so much that I tuned into public radio nearly around the clock, a habit made even more intense by the fact that one of my part-time jobs out of college was data entry for a health insurance company. In the mornings I would tune my radio/headset combination to NPR while everyone else listened to rock or country music on theirs (this was Southwest Missouri in the early aughts; coincidentally I was the first person on the floor to know that 9/11 was happening because of my listening choice). I also listened to audio books during pledge season, picking out classic literature from the library.

After moving to California, my first manager there bought me an iPod as a performance achievement gift, and then I could download podcasts from my laptop into it and listen to them as I walked to lunch or during sightseeing adventures. Podcasts always seem to serve as a way to fill the silence; I had moved to California expecting worldly conversation and instead heard a lot of cell phone conversations that were watered down with bragging and filler words. Podcasts blocked out these disappointments, but they also blocked out a lot of the life that I loved in the Bay; now when I go out for a walk, or hop on transit, the earbuds stay stashed in my bag. But I still listen to a LOT of podcasts, even if I don’t listen to them as a multitask activity much anymore. They are like the old time radio programs of the early 20th century, and, yet, still like the classes that I miss at college.

Here are the podcasts I miss, love, and do my best to keep up with when I can:

  • The Writer’s Almanac – This one went the way of the dodo when its host was looped into the business end of the #MeToo movement, but I still listen to old episodes from time to time. The podcast was a 5-minute overview of famous literary and cultural events in history that happened that day, and was aired daily, weekday and weekend;
  • Fresh Air – This one goes all the way back to when I was still in college; Fresh Air is something my mother would catch occasionally so we would have something to share. My favorite interviews are the ones with writers and comedians, but they did have an interview last year with Springsteen that I loved, and Rachel Maddow is also a favorite (she’s been on twice);
  • (Speaking of Maddow…) Bag Man – This was a recent, limited series podcast from Rachel Maddow on the story behind Spiro Agnew’s troubled political career and his fall from power under Nixon. A lot of people remember Agnew as being caught up in the Watergate issue, but he actually had nothing to do with Watergate and was a loaded morality bomb of his own. This podcast actually falls into the “I miss my history courses” reason for listening, and Maddow is a sparkling storyteller;
  • The Daily (New York Times) – This podcast is one of my morning espresso shots; the opening sequence is about 20 minutes of in-depth coverage on one topical item, and then the host comes back for two-minute recap of top headlines. If I don’t want to listen to an entire Trump speech (who does), I wait until this podcast and let them give me the highlights;
  • Up First – This podcast is NPR’s version of The Daily, and is my other shot of espresso. Up First carries a variety of stories in their 20 minutes, however. Both The Daily and Up First are weekday podcasts, not airing on weekends (and in The Daily’s case, on holidays);
  • The California Report/The California Report Magazine – Like Up First and The Daily, but California news only, or how national events affect Californians. There are some lovely history segments, unexpected popular music tie-ins, and a healthy sense of humor with these folks, with just enough gravitas to make updates of the wildfires and the border crossings meaningful as well;
  • Recode Decode – Kara Swisher is one of my biggest heroes, and not just because she has a track history of holding top Silicon Valley leadership accountable. This podcast introduces me to new companies (employment opportunities?) and reenforces, with every podcast, the importance of letting your intelligence shine out, even if you aren’t always encouraged to do so as a woman;
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour – Another NPR favorite. I sometimes find myself annoyed at the easy criticisms for difficult cultural reviews on this show, but for the most part this show tells me about things I might miss in my radar;
  • Make Me Smart – Not NPR but commonly mistaken for being part of the NPR family, Make Me Smart is a half-tech, half-business podcast that kind of works as a companion piece to Recode Decode, with a twist; listeners are advised to send their expertise in for topics as well. There are interviews with topic experts, book club selections, and a special segment where interview subjects and listeners alike are asked the question, “What is something you thought you knew, but it turns out you didn’t?”;
  • All Songs Considered – I used to listen to this podcast a lot when I lived in the Bay because it was long (an hour plus at times) and had enough variety in music to make me happy. When I started a job in San Diego a coworker friend would recommend new music to me all of the time, so I took this podcast off my list, but when I moved on to another job and didn’t hear from him as much I went back to listening to this podcast. The hosts of this program have interviews, best of recent releases episodes, artist hosting episodes, and variety shows for holidays, and the banter is great;
  • Book Riot (any podcast) – Some of the Book Riot podcasts are audio, some are video, and some are by paid subscription, but all of them are good. Book podcasts can be pretty dry and hinting at profound, but these hosts have just enough humor to dress up any aspect of reading (and writing);
  • So Many Damn Books – Unrelated to Book Riot, but another good reader/writer podcast. This podcast features interviews and book recs (I particularly loved their gift suggestions for Christmas);
  • This American Life – Almost everyone knows this one based on associations with Mike Birbiglia and David Sedaris, but if not…this podcast is a collection of three to six segments on a common theme, sometimes topical, sometimes historical, and always quirky. I deeply loved a most recent episode on libraries, which they linked to the Room or Requirement in Hogwarts, and which I heard right after finishing Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, and it brought some tears and laughter;
  • 30 For 30 – Because, baseball.

Yes…I do have a difficult time keeping up with all of them, and even listen to individual episodes of even more.

But they keep me learning, keep me curious, and keep me listening. 🎧

#NerdCulture

Sorry, Mom…not my f-bomb, but still my amen to Mr. Kennedy’s sentiment.

It’s no secret: my apartment is a structural testament to a deep love of books. I have multiple bookcases, one of them taller than I am, and multiple prints from the designer at Ideal Bookshelf, artwork of differing genres all over the apartment, even on the bathroom walls and over the kitchen sink. I have a pin-up calendar in the kitchen of Hot Dudes Reading, because I think the sexiest thing a man can do is read. (The other stuff a man can do is nice, too, but kind of down the list after reading, writing, cooking, and playing a musical instrument.)

This love of books has gained me some grief in my time…painted me as a hermit, a snob, and a…nerd. The last distinction was the easiest to take (hermit is a struggle because reading is often mistaken to be exclusively solitary an activity, and snob is hard to take because I like literary fiction but the super-pretentious stuff I cannot handle well), after all I have “my books and my poetry to protect me,” to start with from Simon & Garfunkel. The definition of nerd-dom from my past experience (whether with books, in high school band, or in my choice of PBS) has usually involved some kind of social banishment. Sometimes there would be other nerds, a breakfast club of us playing all the tubas and bullied by the football players.

It seems, though, as Dan has so eloquently stated above, that nerd culture has kicked out some of its base. In some cases, some of us have to apologize for liking Coldplay, the planet formerly known as Pluto, The Big Bang Theory, or (gasp) Shakespeare. Can’t I just like the sonnets and be done? But there’s proof now he didn’t write them. So Pluto and Shakespeare can go the way of symbols, like Prince or Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

Look, newcomers to my lifetime of separation from society…if you find my eyeglasses and my Bradbury suddenly so very fascinating, can you…let me have my Richard Bach and my Woody Allen and my Hemingway anyway? I promise to love the rest of your hipster crossover and borrowing, and let you continue to pretend that you have the same awkward default as Issa Rae. I’ll look the other way at your new-found love of Trapper Keepers if you don’t say that my definition of nerd, lived so long, isn’t enough. 🤓

*****

The past couple of weeks in my world have been a bit hairy at work, for reasons it’s best to keep confidential at the moment, so here’s how I’ve been medicating lately…

Reading, lately: A lot of chef, food critic, and restaurateur memoirs for some reason…but I am trying to give up a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs and therefore my excitement about food is a bit diminished, so I’m hoping to gain some food love back, somewhere.

Listening, lately: nothing in particular and everything in small doses…from Jidenna to Marcus Mumford covering Dylan to James Bay like an old blanket to Ahi to…Springsteen, always. Repeat gets abused.

Watching, lately: HBO’s Insecure, because, well, she IS a nerd, ain’t no hiding. A lot of baseball because the MLB put a For Sale sign on the rest of the season and instead of $25 a month, the rest of the year is $10. Not sure how much of that applies to post-season, but I guess I’ll find out, right? With the current work situation I watch a lot of dumb comedies, like Disjointed on Netflix and Never Stop Never Stopping on HBO, sometimes on repeat like the music.

All of this, and it’s still hot and sticky in San Diego. I still run air conditioning. This forgotten corner of the world is always sunny and festering like a Petri dish. I’m looking forward to autumn, well, someday. 🍁🍂

#NightstandChronicles #Continue #EightSecondsLeftInOvertime

Here, hold my spot.

June’s gonna get away from me and then I’m going to feel the failure more, so here’s a blog post in recap, a replay of a little ditty I like to call “So This is How We Treat Each Other Now.”

The ditty with verses about how during and after the election the catfish walked off wearing a red trucker’s hat, and you miss that catfish, but maybe them dumping you like a school lunch was the final indicator that maybe you shouldn’t have spent so much time getting attached to start with.

Not great timing, though.

So the introvert spends some time alone, finding out more about humanity in fiction than in people.  I hate doing that.  But I’m alone a lot anyway, alone in passions and in person, so might as well disappear into empathy:


I miss compassion.  And if you don’t think it’s possible to learn humanity from a novel, then may I present Exhibit A, which I am reading right now:


This book, like many others, utilizes a wild animal to demonstrate kindness.  One of the characters gets it.  The rest would rather not go there.  While I don’t advocate befriending foxes in order to have companionship, I am encouraged by the fact that foxes or rabbits or squirrels or seagulls don’t use social media.

Yep, it’s a blog…online, nonetheless…and I’ll drop the subject there.

It turns out that my friends can be found in the following pools:

  • People I work with
  • People I worked with
  • People I used to write with (2)
  • People I buy stuff from

Not a great pool.  Some great people in it, but they are busy, and most don’t read. The danger is, the ones who have the most time for me are the first group and the last.

Which means I’m working too much and I’m spending too much and I have no boundaries.  Alone time, then.  With foxes.  Not so much social media.  I don’t want to see who else has walked away because I’m me, and not, instead, loved me because I’m me.

On to what I have been doing lately, as Jamaica would start.  ✨

What I Have Been Reading Lately:  The afore-mentioned fox fable, written by a lovely Brit from the Guardian.  Between this lady, Jeanette Winterson, JoJo Moyes, and JK Rowling, the UK seems to have my ears these days.  I am still working on the Chabon book, though (Moonglow)…more like lingering in it.  Today’s library visit will hopefully include a book on Islamic issues and an old Edward Abbey favorite my brother got me hooked on about six years ago.

What I Have Been Watching Lately:  Still watching Last Week Tonight, still working my way through the entire series of West Wing (again; I usually do this about once a year), still watching a LOT of baseball.  I say “watching” but most of it is the free MLB game of the day playing on my phone and I glance at it if I need a distraction from another work nightmare.  The broadcasts are a boys club of guys trying to crack each other up and sometimes they succeed in getting me to do that.  The free game is rarely the Giants, which is probably a good thing; I still bleed black and orange, but years like this means I get back to the passion of the game in general…and other players in their glory.  Also, I am hooked to the footage of the Flash and the exciting installments of his wins and losses.

I’m also still watching Real Time.  Judge away, America; while you’re at it, I also like other stuff I’m not supposed to, like Hemingway’s fiction and Woody Allen films.  The floor is yours to throw stones.  Yes, Bill Maher does offend me from time to time.  But he wakes me up, too, like Friday’s opening segment with Maajid Nawaz.  Some of my teachers in university angered me beyond measure and got me thinking in the same semester, and I’m used to be offended in otherwise productive discussions.

What I’m Watching On Film:  Last weekend was The Edge of Seventeen–dark, but I love the actors, so that one’s a keeper.  (Pro tip:  I have to dock all movies with puke scenes as 4 instead of 5 stars, so this film had a blemish in case you are also of the nature that you don’t feel you should have to pay any kind of admission price for pieces where someone pukes/pees/poops/etc.). On the rental list is The United Kingdom (David Oyelowo strikes again) and I Am Not Your Negro, which I saw at an indie theatre here in San Diego but which I loved enough to watch again.  Also, I have been rewatching, over and over, the movie Paterson with Adam Driver and Moonlight.  They soothe me.  When movies about verse-writing bus drivers and violence soothe you something’s probably not right in Denmark, but that’s my inclination these days.

What I’m Listening To:  for starters, today with the current social situation, this.  That song is a recurring theme in my life, and I take full responsibility.  Also, a band called First Aid Kit has a lovely song called “I Found A Way” that paints me over so that I can sit in a shadow and nod my head to the beat and agreement.  Also, the remastered Sgt Pepper’s, and the solo album by Dan Auerbach (don’t strain yourself; if you are trying to place that name then here’s a hint–Black Keys).  I have got a dosage of country from the latest season of The Ranch on Netflix, a wonderfully senseless show that I can also play while working to keep from getting spooked (like cattle might), and danced a little in my living room with Garth Brooks’s “Friends in Low Places.”

I do get out, too…dancing on Friday night to a jazz band by the harbor…walks down the jacaranda lane of Kettner…fireworks…cattle drives to promote the local county fair.

Still looking for humanity, after all.  ♥️

#TheAwkwardInBetween or #EmpathyOnEitherSide

This is awkward me, a fish out of water in Northwest Ohio, in 1990:


I was a fish out of water because I read The New Yorker, my favorite author was Dorothy Parker, and I was a farm girl, although I tried to fit in by wearing acid-washed jeans and filling in as the school mascot at basketball games and wrestling matches occasionally. (Go Panthers!)

This is me, an awkward fish out of water in Southwest Missouri, around 1998/1999:


I was awkward in Missouri because I was an independent who mostly voted Democratic, because I was a Unitarian, because I loved literature so much that I was throwing away thousands in student loans to study it, and because between semesters I still worked in agriculture (cattle ranch), although I tried to fit in by bleaching my hair platinum and riding a scooter and not telling people what Unitarians believe.

This is me, an awkward fish out of water, in the Alamo Square neighborhood of San Francisco, 2005:


I was awkward because folks with less computer savvy than I had were calling me Amish because I was from the Midwest, because I didn’t know how to order a burrito, because I was white, because I still loved literature so much that it hurt (can’t seem to shake that one), because I believed in God’s love (Unitarian again), because I was an independent and therefore not Democratic enough, and because I was still a virgin at the age of 32.  I tried to fit in by dying my hair red and eating all kinds of exotic food and sleeping with men who didn’t value me.

In other words, I’m awkward everywhere.  I’m least awkward in San Francisco, but I’m still awkward.  I’ll not defend any of it; to Midwesterners I’m elite coastal, to coastal I’m a backward Midwesterner.

No wonder empathy is at a premium.

I make the joke on my Tumblr description that I don’t travel; I just up and move.  A constant pounding on my self-esteem has made that less of an action statement moving forward, but I read an article in The New York Times over the last week that restored some of my identity.  In the article, the reporter asked then President Obama about how books helped him survived the presidency.  He explained that books have always helped him in some form or another, because some settings he has found himself in have been “isolating.”  He described books as being friends when it was difficult to find the traditional definition.  He described an hour of reading nearly every night while he was in office as a way for him to slow down and gain perspective in a job that seemed determined to hit him rapid-fire.  He even spent a couple of years in college with only books as his social life, on purpose, and teaching himself how to write from reading great writers.

You don’t say, Mr. Obama.

Polarization is a given now, but I’m grateful for the chance to be awkward, to keep finding reading as an acceptable aspect of my personality, and to have that be something I don’t apologize for but encourage in others.  I’m a farm girl who loved the city, a city girl who misses singing Aerosmith tunes to the cows during round-up (beef cattle tend to prefer “Rag Doll” or “Dream On” from my experience; not big Armageddon soundtrack fans).  

I’m awkward in-between…aren’t we all?  Or am I the only one?

*****

Yesterday was the Women’s March series of protests around the world; and I have to admit I think we all needed that.  After all of the finger-pointing and polarization (see above) of the election, I honestly thought that maybe empathy wasn’t a part of the American fabric anymore.  But yesterday all kinds of folks showed up everywhere, on the coasts and in the rust belts, of all ages, ethnicities, orientations, genders, and all levels of awkwardness.  People who voted for Trump went, stating they wanted him to know he was on a short leash; people fighting all kinds of stereotypes went, voicing their distinction.  

So, in a sense, Trump did bring us all together; just not to back him.

Some media outlooks and cynics critiqued the events:  “What’s the point?  He’s still the president after you protest.”  All I could think of was the words of a Garth Brooks song from my Midwest years, right after the Oklahoma City bombing:


Sometimes that’s a good start.

Others ask us to “give the new President a chance.”  Fair enough, then my ask in return is this:  Where’s your line?  At what point will you be disgusted, too?  He’s bragged about sexual assault, he’s made fun of a prominent POW and a disabled journalist, he’s accused the last surviving leader of the Selma freedom march of “no action”…are you going to stop short of him assaulting puppies and children, or…you?  Where’s your line of “that was too far”?  He’s crossed mine; where is the one you’re letting him walk to so that I know when we’ll have your support?

Just asking…for a friend.

*****

Ok, if you made it this far, you’re ready for what I’m reading lately.  I’m still plugging away at the Finnegan memoir on surfing called Barbarian Days, and dragging out the last hundred pages because I am loving the narrative of this book.  You will still never catch me on a surfboard, but then I don’t need to surf to love this writing.

The New Yorker is still on the list, and yesterday the trains weren’t running so I visited the Carlsbad Library and checked out the latest Winterson book, even if it is Christmas-themed (I love her stuff just that much), and The Nix by Nathan Hill.  I shouldn’t have done The Nix; that one has holds and I only have it three weeks and the hardback is the size of a breadbox for Chrissakes, but…literature, shrug.  I’ll never shake it.  Me and the guy I voted for, finding friends in the pages.

In film I found some solace in the fight against a Holocaust-denier theme of Denial, a better understanding of Edward in Snowden, and I’m soaking up the last of Sherlock (ok, that’s not film, but close enough).  All the royal treatment on Netflix and Masterpiece/PBS lately has me hooked (that’s the history minor in college kicking in) as well.

And in the tunage department…still listening to Sharon Jones (because she’s alive as long as I keep her music playing, right?), Beyoncé, and Natalie Hemby.  If you don’t know Natalie go find her and listen to “Worn” from her Puxico album.  And there’s my Missouri coming up to the surface.

For now…doing my best to smooth in the face of my severity of awkwardness…take care.✨

#Gratitude and #GoodTaste


This isn’t a typical nightstand chronicle, although I’ll talk about books first and bury the lead for those who are fine with facing all manner of topics.

What I’m reading lately…Still working on The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro; I do not want this story to end.  This book and Alice’s rabbit hole seem to fit the year to a tee, and I want to make it last.  I have added a daily seasoning of The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times to my readings in The New Yorker.  All of this non-fiction/news is still in my bubble but is written in moderation…which I’ll dive into a little more here in a moment.

What I’m listening to lately…Miranda Lambert’s new album, Leonard Cohen in little slivers (sure, want it darker occasionally), and…the Hamilton Mixtape.  This Hamilton thing has been a blessing compounded on a blessing; first there is the history itself, then the book written on the history (a wry wonder of a thing that brings old to a surface of new), and then a musical written by a rhythm based on the book, and then a mixtape produced by a love based on the musical.  The marketing folks are releasing the album in pieces; every time a new track drops I am back at square one, learning the whole picture, learning more about myself, loving life a little better.

What I’m watching…I started The Crown on Netflix.  The first couple of episodes were rough going (I struggle with the baser side of bodily functions in movies and television), but I’ve powered through and am head over heels for the history.  The current episode I’m on is talking about the record smog that hit London in December of 1952 and…I’m fascinated with the thinly-veiled comparison to the climate change denial of today.

Which brings me to the meat and potatoes of this Thanksgiving post.

*****

This election was hard on the lot of us, wasn’t it?  Some of us got into it, others of us just counted the days until it was over.  And then it was over.

Something in that win immediately created an ending for me.  I was tired of smoothing over wrinkles.  I was tired of making myself available in a world of screens where I worked so hard to be available to everyone and where I was still lonely.  So I backed up a little.  I put Facebook away.  I find I can’t get away from Twitter or Instagram, but it’s easier to find something hopeful there.  And I read and write a lot more.

Alienation.  I was raised on a farm in the Midwest where the overwhelming literature was Reader’s Digest condensed books and Good Housekeeping magazines.  I have a mistrust of intellectual elites and a mistrust of the cultural opposite of intellectual elites.  I love things in moderation, and things created in moderation.  I love food with flavor profiles beyond sugar and salt, but when the McRib comes back in town I have to have at least one.  I rest in the middle of a cultural road where both sides are the dictionary definition of extreme.

I voted for Clinton because she wasn’t Trump when the candidate I really wanted is still in the White House.  I was willing to settle for Bernie, but Clinton was better than Trump.  I fell in love with Obama, and still love him, because he was a writer first.  I fell in love with his writing first; the first black President was just icing on the cake to me.  If voting for him and supporting him means that I’m an elitist, then I’m an elitist.  A writer in the White House was my dream come true, even if they don’t always have the best qualities for leadership (the working alone, the measured approaches sometimes too slow for critics to accept as progress).  I imagine that an entertainer in the White House is a dream come true for others (Reagan, and now Trump).  I had eight years of possibility and hope.  That’s gotta last me.  And that explanation has to last me.  If I’m alienated for the next four to eight years, then that’s a definition of a culture shift I refused to see.  That’s my fault.  That’s what I live with.

Do I find Trump in bad taste?  Yes.  I find him in bad taste because of his wild mood swings, his lack of humility, his shape-shifting opinions.  I am fully tired of his extremes.  He is all sugar, all salt, in a world of diabetics and heart disease.  He serves as a great fix for the moment, an instant gratification, a McRib 24/7.  He serves as a fix once in a great while, but his extremism poisons me, and how he got here poisons us all.  I need my vegetables.  I need ice cream with hints of vanilla and cocoa.  I need pumpkin pie that tastes like pumpkin and spice, not sugar and lard.

On the flip side, I don’t want to be criticized for how I love what I love.  If I’m crossing a T wrong or dotting an I with a heart, I get to have that foundation.  If my contribution isn’t intellectual enough, then maybe we can assume I’m erring on the side of compassion instead.  I’m a safe zone.  If it’s no longer safe to wear a safety pin, I won’t; but don’t be surprised if I question other trends or keep them.  My goal is life in moderation, so not too much in the head, not to much in the gut reaction.  

Good taste isn’t elite.  It’s moderate.  It’s not normalization.  It’s balance.  I’m grateful for any good taste I can find.

Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃🙏🏻

#NightstandChronicle #TwentyTwo #AfterYou


It happens more than one would think:  writer stands in shower or sits at table with toast and Twitter and starts the potter’s wheel of a blog post in her head, all detailed and neat and maybe with little strands of sparkle in it…and then someone comes along and bumps the camera, jars the table.  C’s become G’s and hearts flip.

‘Twas me, this morning.

I got up early because I’m in charge of the diabetic cat this weekend, ministered to him, made my bed, padded out to the living room with the Writer’s Almanac and a cup of green tea, threw open the doors and windows to cool the joint before hell visits us around noon.  I curled up in my wide chair with a soft blanket that the cat likes to make love to and turned on CBS Sunday Morning, which was a tribute to Charles Osgood.  I figured on poignancy.  I figured a few tears.  Sunday Morning got me through the transition from Missouri to Cali twelve years ago, homage to Charlie.  Ads were on, pre-trumpet.  I opened my Twitter app.

The first thing that hit me in the death of Jose Fernandez is what hit many:  to question a logic the universe doesn’t possess.  Why?  Well, shit, if we could answer that question, then we could answer why the Syrian photo boy lost his brother in the shelling that he was famous for…we could answer for Orlando, Zika, this ridiculous political season.  Still, it’s hard to dislodge from asking, over and over, why Fernandez?  Why kind of sick joke is that, fates?  The man attempted to defect from Cuba twice before he finally made it in 2008, but getting here involved him saving his mother from drowning in the passage and saying goodbye to his grandmother.  (If your sinuses need clearing, Google his reunion with his grandmother when he was first signed with the Marlins.). He was expecting his first child with his girlfriend.  And, probably how most of us became aware of all of this (because how else would we know stories like this of each other, particularly of the masses of individuals struggling to get to the United States?), he was an impressive starting pitcher, with a good humor that some other starting pitchers could use (Bumgarner, I’m trying not to look at you).  There is a GIF floating around the net this morning of a pitch to Tulowitzki in which Tulowitzki hits the pitch back to Fernandez, and Fernandez fields it so quickly and neatly that Tulo asks, “Did you catch that???”  “Yes,” Fernandez says around that grin of his (only one better was Tony Gwynn’s), “Yes, I did.”  But of course, Tulowitski; why are you asking?

So that bumped the camera lens.  I shut off the TV.  I sat with all the player condolences on Twitter, the news of the cancelled game (was Fernandez supposed to start today? No matter), and then the beginnings of people using this death as a reason to talk about a life in the evils of illegals…and that’s when I turned it off.  The polarization started, I knew what was coming next, and I needed to remember that grin.  The grin, the pitching, the fielding, all of which I wouldn’t have known without the rest of his efforts.

*****

Time to remember that guy by talking about other loves and passions than baseball.  

I finished Fates & Furies last week, and I normally mourn books that are written that well.  I normally don’t read for a while afterward.  But I thought I would try something new this time, read something I knew wouldn’t live up to the amazement I felt for the Groff book, so I picked up the Moyes sequel to Me Before You, a word play of a title in After You, and it’s been the best thing.  I think this “rebound read” has been even more enjoyable than Fates & Furies BECAUSE of Fates & Furies, like a literary pairing of two great tastes that taste great together.  (Huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter.  Huge.). It’s the best thing for several reasons:

  • It’s no Fates & Furies, and if it were I would probably off myself from the intensity;
  • The book is about the experience of being changed/challenged by someone and then of them walking away, leaving you with the judgmental/unhelpful majority of folks in your life.  I’ve experienced this twice since 2011, and it’s nice to have a novel that I can sit with and sort out this stuff with in some way;
  • Moyes has the capacity to make me laugh in some pretty unorthodox ways, like most British authors.

Hence, the “fluff” piece becomes the help piece.  I don’t know what’s after After You, but it may well be Olive Kitteridge, as that’s the story currently dealing me my morning compassion during breakfast on HBO after I finished Sonic Highways.

In writing, I am hashing out a short story of a strange collection of pedestrians called “Afoot”–we’ll see what becomes of that, but I’m losing myself in writing it, which I haven’t done since university days.  Regression ain’t always bad.

Movies lately have been re-runs, comfort viewing of flicks that I know won’t assault me with vomit but will help me believe in some kind of romance again, but for new stuff I’ve rented the original Magnificent Seven and have my sights on the remake.

Music is a hodgepodge of favorites lately…with the new Springsteen memoir I am listening to him a lot, with the recent binge-viewing of HBO’s/Foo Fighters’s series Sonic Highways I found my way back into New Orleans and country music (Nashville and Austin episodes), not to mention a dabbling of Nirvana (Seattle episode).  One of my favorite podcasts, All Songs Considered, has been drifting into a lot of hip-hop lately, so I am hooked on a British dude called L.A. Salami (that’s his real name) and Frank Ocean.  I found a video of the Dixie Chicks covering Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” in London, and have been abusing Lemonade and Not Ready To Make Nice because of it.

My next post may very well come from San Francisco’s Litquake literary festival, so I’ll part with this:  I’m cutting my hair today.  I’m also burying the lead on revealing that in case anyone who has met me or knows me in real-time reads this (unlikely, but ya never know), but it’s taking on its own symbolism:  a cross between a Tess of the D’Urbervilles reason and a method of starting over, a promise, a helping hand gesturing through a door held open by a beautiful man with a grin all over his face and a pitching arm of steel.

After you, Jose. ⚾️✨