#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.  ✨

#NightstandChronicle #Thirteen: The (Last) Japanese Lover

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One of the wonderful things about living in a community that doesn’t ideologically or culturally agree with me very often is that by some miracle all of the people who buy books for the libraries here do agree with me ideologically and culturally.  Even after nearly four years of living here, I am still surprised to find books recommended to me by The New Yorker and NPR on the New Arrivals shelves at the Carlsbad and San Diego branch  libraries, even though I am fully aware that most readers here are probably reading Patterson, King, or Fifty Shades of Gray.  Not that I’m condemning those choices:  they simply aren’t my choices, so I’m pretty secure in reading books as they come out.

But I received a shock of another kind when I visited the Carlsbad Library last Wednesday.  I was delighted to find the latest Isabel Allende book, “The Japanese Lover,” on the New Arrivals shelf, and also once again surprised; she had recently been to an event in Warwick’s bookstore in San Diego, so shouldn’t all of her books be on hold?  When I went to check out the book, however, it was blocked–it was on hold in the time it took me to find it.  The library let me have it anyway after a series of involving three librarians to override the hold, but I had strict instructions to “read it fast, because you can’t renew it.”

Not to worry, ladies…finally someone else shares my story taste, and I will do my best to get it back to them early.

#OnTheSurface #NightstandChronicleTwo

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I suppose that a girl could hide all of these things in a reading site like GoodReads, but I prefer to hash these things out just free form, an open letter, and maybe drifting to a variety of different topics.

It appears that I have given up the library ghost for a just a little while; I’m desperate to read the books I’ve brought here with me and that I’ve picked up along the way.  This stack is the current adventure—a little baseball history in the Kearns Goodwin book (yes, I miss my beloved sport already, sad sack that I am), and a little sazerac history (among other exotic libations) in “The Curious Bartender.”  The last book is more fitting for a coffee table than a shaker and spoon set, but I’m intent on working my way through it.  The photographs and large type are just as enticing as the knowledge, and most of mixology is over my head, so I’m just treating it like the fine arts:  wash over me, dear potable potent, and fix me for my existence in the world.  The first book was a portion of wreckage that I managed to salvage from the last trip to San Francisco during Litquake.  I’m not sure what didn’t fit about that trip, but the bundle of books that I brought back from the collection of the independent bookstores helped to ease the pain of ill-suited shoes and the rest of the abrasive parts.

The Kindle’s still got “The Sportswriter” open (chapter 8, so I’m moving, but luxuriating in it like a hot bath).  While I have finished the Obama devotional, I have started an inspirational tome called “A Year of Writing Dangerously,” a mixture of devotional, how-to, and light-the-fire-under-the-pants-of-the-writer that one sometimes needs.  I welcome a cheerleader, even the vague ones.  There’s also The New Yorker, as always, on there, and some Austen novels because I was lost without her.  Us girls need that level of well-articulated romance, and it wouldn’t hurt you fellas, either.

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Since this is my personal blog, and even though I have some coworkers who have access to it, I suppose I should also write of writing struggles, which right now are mostly at work.  When I first started at this job I was pretty much operating on a blank slate; there were certain expectations (a very small list of low ones, but, nonetheless expectations) that came with it, but everything else could be crafted by my creative self.  One of the goals that I set for myself, since this was a company who seemed a bit in the dark about what a WFM does (if you need to know, I would encourage a good Google session), was to send out a weekly correspondence to everyone who had a schedule and a supervisor with a description of how WFM could help them as employees and how attention to their WFM performance could help them with getting the shifts and compensation that they wanted.

This practice went pretty well, and it was a rare oasis in the generally bleary aspect of my workweek, for it was a communication that many people were grateful for.  Somewhere along the line, though, I was encouraged to stop doing it (“you have bigger fish to fry, hon”).  I could pinpoint when this pivot occurred, but implicates the people trying to change the direction of the sinking ship themselves, so I left off.  My heart ain’t been the same since.  Turns out it wasn’t the rare refuge, it was the only refuge.  I have, at least in the workplace, been told to sit down and shut up.  You know, since I was at the very least good at it… “we can’t have that.”  Even my emails get corrected by the hour; one minute they are too aggressive, and the next minute they are too spineless.  There is no coaching of how they SHOULD read, just… “don’t write like that one or that one.”  In essence, I find myself thinking that I should remove the pearls from the swine and save them for…here.  When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a…well, you know the line.  Bad or good writing, here it is, for anyone or no one to discover, criticize, but NEVER SHUT DOWN.  And, I have a professional blog on the subject of WFM on WordPress as well, just there for the same reason.  Reason.  Not much of that around me these days.

It should be noted how culturally alone I am.  Sometimes it’s defined as culturally lonely, sometimes it’s defined as cultural solitude.  I’ve had a lot of time off in the past two weeks, and when I am anywhere and writing I can forget the alone part and feel as if I’m binding with something, somewhere.  Social media gets a lot of talk on that same premise; I have heard more than one criticism on a daily basis of each social media site I use.  They are, of course, from different people.  I have to admit that Twitter is my favorite—it’s the closest to my heart—but that may just be because I’ve found a way to follow and talk to like-minded people.  If someone I know isn’t on Twitter I’m cool with that; I also keep my other social media sites in hopes of keeping contact with a wide variety of people.

A wide variety of people is what I have found in my life.  Some of them are vastly self-promoting.  Some of them are full of quotes to inspire me.  Some of them love music, baseball, San Francisco, food, and cocktails, too.  I try to cater to as many of them as I can; not much happens in my life, but I try to take pictures, even of the mundane, so that I can keep my foot in the door.  I’m learning that affects people differently.  And, in the silence of the past two weeks, I learned that a) a lot of it is undesirable, and b) no one’s reading much of it anyway.  So maybe more it stays in a journal or in my phone memory.  The world can try to tell me to shut up, but I have a tendency to keep talking anyway.  It’s my audience I’m learning now, instead.

Speaking of audience, there’s a little blog that I follow called the “concrete weblog” on the Internet.  I used to hang out with its creator and writer in San Francisco, and for Christmas this self-same writer and creator wrote me a verse on the blog.  It was a lovely verse; if I was a proper kind of poet or had studied the poetry requirements better in university I would be able to tell you the format, but I’m no less grateful in my ignorance.  In answer to the verse, I miss my City too.  I miss walking out the front door of my apartment and greeting my neighbors coming back from their tai chi at the Park and turning the corner and finding an orange bridge on the horizon.  I miss walking two blocks to the bar.  I miss having sixteen options of mass transit to get around.  I miss Thai food, Chinese food, Indian food, tres leches cake.  I miss hearing languages spoken:  Korean, Spanish spoken by Chinese, Chinese spoken by Spanish, Russian, Tagalog.  But mostly I miss not having to write to feel less lonely.  I miss not having to write to lack solitude.

Happy 2015.  My exile continues.

#Reserved

(I kept myself amused this morning by imagining a breakfast restaurant called Hashtag. Probably not the first time for this idea, but the thought cracked me in my own world.)

I write this love letter to you from the Central Branch of the San Diego Public Library system. Specifically, I’m in the eighth floor Reading Room. The library is fairly new and is still suffering the fussiness of final touches–some days the latches on the restroom stalls don’t work, other days the escalators don’t work on all floors, the “Auditorium” sign was removed when the “o” fell off–but there is so much here for me to love in the place of the gaps.

I’m developing a routine, a rule-book of my own design:
First stop, the gift store, full of things you would find at a Paper Source or museum gift shop;
Next, the New Arrivals in Fiction;
Then, the fourth floor of fiction requiem;
Lastly, the Reading Room.

The Reading is a blend of the long study tables you would find at other libraries and a whole collection of chairs mismatched save for their color. The sofas, benches, easy chairs, chaise lounges, dining room table chairs, rocking chairs, wicker…they are all the same brilliant azure. Fifty different textures, and one color, like a Martha Stewart wedding for seating. All of the blue faces the windows, but the windows are walls, so all of us, even those of us in the middle of the space, can gaze off at the Coronado Bridge and hope for a muse over the Bay.

Sometimes I watch the bridge as I write, but mostly I look up occasionally and light on Mexico, close enough to touch if I were Stretch Armstrong, visible in peaks and haze. I’m high up and the mountains are high up; we meet in the altitude. The water view is okay–more shipping cranes and trucking than beckon–but I look off at the mountains and dream of someday speaking Spanish. Rumor has it Tijuana is awful, but I wouldn’t know; I don’t have a passport.

Maybe this year.

The Right Stuff

As I write this, my brother is in the living room watching “Platoon.”  I’m not a big Oliver Stone fan (there are two directors that I would re-watch only one movie apiece from–Stone, for “The Joy Luck Club,” and Tarantino, for “Inglorious Bastards.”  The rest of their stuff I can do without), and I while I’ve been told what seems like two hundred times that this is a “classic,” it does nothing for me.

I’ve been told nearly that many times how great San Diego is, but most of the telling has been from the point of view of people who hate cold, or hate the relief of rain.  Most of the people who tell me are also not known for being the big nerd that I am–a woman with a love of good literature, good Gewürztraminer, and Bruce Springsteen music.  It’s no longer a matter of San Diego being lesser for me–we just don’t have the same tastes, and the same curiosity.  

Yesterday I turned my curiosity loose in Balboa Park.  I love Balboa Park but don’t get there nearly enough–if there aren’t slot machines or remote desert trails, I usually don’t make it to a place.  But yesterday I awoke at 6 am, walked to the train station, rode the train in the sunrise to Santa Fe station in San Diego (an old-fashioned station like one might find in foreign films or 40’s movies), and then took the trolley to City College Station.  San Diego reminds me of San Jose in its populated loneliness, a crowd of loners and hermits, no one making eye contact.  I was on the Orange Line to El Cajon, a car full of Saturday workers, it seemed.  They did not seem happy it was a Saturday.  I had to contain my wonder, wipe it off my face like a mask.

I could have boarded a bus at the station to get to Balboa Park, but, like my first forays into San Francisco, I don’t know the bus lines that well and wanted to read them from the street.  The days are getting cooler here, anyway; by cooler I mean that a t-shirt and shorts are now comfortable after the sun’s up, instead of avoiding travel in mid-day.  I walked from City College Station to the San Diego Museum of Art, a small gem about the size of my Legion of Honor.

I walked in and nearly wept.

Art is art, anywhere.  In San Francisco I went to the deYoung once a month at the least, but here I haven’t seen art museum art since my last visit to San Francisco.  Most of the art in Carlsbad has been sea-based:  weathered wood with half a layer of paint, shells, nets, sea-glass, etc.  This is beautiful stuff, but limited.  When I walked into the San Diego Museum of Art I see stuff not just of the desert or ocean, even though there are influences.  Diego Rivera had multiple paintings on the walls, but I couldn’t find Frida.  Georgia O’Keefe and Salvador Dali were in the modern art room (wing?  hard to say), and an exhibit on women and industry and war captivated me beyond measure.  Sure, yes, Rosie the Riveter, but have you seen the aviator war photos of the strong Margaret Bourke-White or the needlework of Nava Lubelski on stained canvas?  Have you seen An-My Le’s photos of 29 Palms that could be mistaken for Afghanistan?

Like the deYoung, the San Diego Museum of Art has a sculpture garden, and there is where I had lunch.  Over happy hour (between 11 am and noon on Saturday:  a glass of pinot noir, black bean soup, Moroccan shrimp, all half-price) I heard the clarion bells play “Roll Out the Barrell” and “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” odd tunes for such a heady park and for the hour that drifts away from morning like stale flowers.  It was San Diego, though, and not San Francisco.  I kept hoping for more, more authenticity…but then it came time to get back on the trolley and see San Diego trying to prove metropolitan-ness.  I wish it wouldn’t.