#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.🎆

#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.🎶

About the List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…when all the critics and the publications and even academies start naming the best stuff in the arts for 2013.  I love reading these lists.  Sometimes I start with these lists when I decide what to read next.

I hate making lists, however.  So this post may be the world’s worst list compilation.  I will try my best to just write on the list as art form, in sentences and paragraphs, but what may emerge is a list of my own–not intended but sure to occur.

Some of my favorite art is in list form.  Ambrose Bierce’s “The Devil’s Dictionary” is a great example.  On the music side, some greatest hit collections are fantastic, and sometimes simplicity does the job (“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Greatest Hits of George Michael”).  Some movies play like a list–I’m thinking mostly of documentaries at this point, but Wes Anderson films sometimes manifest themselves in what sounds like a list read out loud.  But I can’t do it well.  The list in of itself requires limitation, something I get enough of on a daily basis.

Every so often I’m asked by a friend or follower on social media to come up with a list of my favorite books, movies, music, writers, etc.  Somewhere in the requirement of the list there are the words “of all time” or “in your life.”  I back away from these requests and most others; when Facebook first started I was pretty faithful about it, but such loyalty tended to backfire.  I couldn’t keep to the number of items needed, or my answer changed depending on where I lived or where I worked.  When I get the question now I either pass silently on it or recommend that folks look at my GoodReads queue or Rotten Tomatoes activity.  When I find a music website that is similar to GoodReads and/or Rotten Tomatoes, I’ll probably refer folks there as well.  

All books, all movies, all music changes my life–even the worst garbage in the world.  V.S. Naipaul taught me not to waste my time with V.S. Naipaul.  “2001: A Space Odyssey” taught me that Kubrick was a genius, but I didn’t want to watch all of his movies in a marathon or I might go off the deep end.  I haven’t finished “Anna Karenina” the book, and never will, but the 2012 movie was a spectacle I didn’t want to miss.  

I love Springsteen, Saunders, Sloan, Cooper.  And, for clarification, that would be Bruce, George, Robin, and Bradley.  I tolerate more in some artists than others…I looked forward to Mel Gibson in “The Beaver” because of Jodie Foster, and while I completely dislike Henry James, I adore the writing of Edith Wharton.  There are few Francis Ford Coppola movies that I can sit through, but I love his wine, his Cafe Zoetrope, and his daughter’s films.

I loved the mindset of Steve Jobs…even though he was a jerk.

The bad and best…they both shaped me.  To make a 10-point list of them would be a display of mass confusion for the reader, because I am awful at lists and because it would include Bukowski right next to Jong, Garcia Marquez in the same breath with Hemingway.  

My discovery is delightfully my own.  But, if you want the short list:  I’m on GoodReads, Rotten Tomatoes, etc, and so on.