#Post2016


Ah, yes, year in review.  I didn’t have such a bad 2016, although it was disappointing.  I took a chance and tried another job, one that pays better and has cheaper insurance and sits closer to the home base (would we really call it home?) and allows me to work from home occasionally for the first time, but…like the last job it isn’t the job description I was promised.  I was promised analyst, and I’m still Band-Aid girl for the agent statistics, making up numbers to cover up boo-boos, and a different set of leadership is scratching their heads wondering why desired results can’t be obtained.

There were other disappointments, too, but they were more of learning experiences.  I would go into greater detail on these little growth spurts, but they are probably going to carry into 2017 and some days I fall off of them like their surfaces got slippery.  Rome wasn’t built overnight and I’m sure they had to stop occasionally due to rain.

I’m about halfway through my own personal Colesium, you might say, and I had to tear down another parking garage before I could start building this thing, so I’m a bit behind.

But I’m getting more efficient at the brick-laying.

*****

To revert back to the standard updates in the posts…here is what I have been doing lately (the continuous nod to Jamaica Kincaid):

Books:  I’m reading The New Yorker, New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post, but never fast enough.  I’m also working my way through Barbarian Days:  A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan.  I’m reading this book for the same reason that people see the movie Raging Bull when they don’t like boxing; I am not a fan of surfing and probably never will be and yet this book kind of fills in the gaps like caulk.  Finnegan is one hell of a writer, and I love his stuff in The New Yorker, and occasionally he “diversifies” as he calls it in the text and you get less surfing and more of the rest of it.  It helps that I now know where most of these places are (minus Hawaii, and I’m not sure I want to take that one for a spin).  I think of Finnegan’s passion for surfing as comparable to mine of baseball; we can hold our own at a bar with our respective topics of expertise, but we will mute ourselves after a bit if a blow-hard steps in.

Sometimes humility is better, although it’s more and more seen as weakness.

Music:  For some reason I’m on a Florence + the Machine kick (blame the film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), but other stuff beats on–Miranda Lambert (damn, Jo’s back in country stuff!), Childish Gambino’s latest album, Beyoncé on shuffling repeat.  A week or so back I was on an “Angel of the Morning” kick (covered by various artists).

Film:  I enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children more than I thought I would (kind of wary of Mr. Burton’s films, but this one and Big Eyes were pretty good).  I’ve watched a little Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, naturally, and a movie called A Dangerous Method that seemed a bit on the clinical side for being all about sex and Freud and Jung.  I saw Fences and was fine until Viola Davis got in Denzel’s face and my struggle with 44 years of men helping themselves to me made me cry.  That was nothin’ compared to Moonlight, though, which, for a movie that has very little CGI and no storm troopers was the best piece of cinema I have ever seen in my life.  No “probably,” no “in my humble opinion;” I’m owning this one.  Moonlight was complete genius.  We’ve seen film after film of minority communities, of drug culture, of LGBTQ issues, of feminist struggle, and then a director and a playwright from the same part of Miami get together and get it right.  They just effortlessly execute it and make it look like “Duh, this is what you meant,” and the pure, bald-faced news of the story was like Viola Davis’s speech in Fences for TWO HOURS.  There’s an introvert in Chiron, an unloved in Chiron, an observer in Chiron, and there’s a part of every life in him.  Someone finally got the engine streamlined.

Social media:  I’m present less and less on all of the platforms, and spending more time sitting in coffee shops, bars, and restaurants actually talking to people.  Yesterday was magical (magestical?  I saw Hunt for the Wilder People too) in that I took a Lyft (ridesharing as a microcosm) to a newish restaurant in Carlsbad called Campfire (recommended by friends in the East Village) and sat at the bar.  I have been sitting at the bar for years; bartenders are a wonderous lot to me, and not just for the booze.  As I was munching and imbibing, two little boys climbed on the bar stools next to me and ordered shots of milk.  One boy was 4 and the other was 6; the 4-year-old was from here and quiet, and the 6-year-old was from the UK and could speak the Queen’s English and Japanese.  These are the wonders I moved west for, and some days I find them.  

I find I have more time to read and write as well, being off the snark sites more and more, and at some point it’s probably just going to be my blogs and that’s it.  So…much…judgment on social media.  I’m reminded of high school, and I hated high school.  My happiest days were college, where my best friends were classmates and professors and a former Californian who told me I didn’t know anything from university and that I should feel lucky to have any friends or lovers at all because I wasn’t beautiful and took after my father in looks so I was just going to get worse.  “Not nice, actually,” Natalie from Love Actually would say, but in those days I thought she walked in water because of where she was from, as though California birth is a stamp of worldliness in itself, so I followed her around between semesters and after graduation hoping to meet her expectations.  I started losing myself when I lost college and lost my mother in the same damn 18 months; I loved college because I was working full time teaching and going to school for literature.  

People have suggested that I go back for my Masters, and I’ve thought about it.  It is time to write, though, and I would have to follow more prescriptions in going back to do that.  I feel depleted on the social platforms and remember reading and writing as my community at university; it’s been brought to my attention that I’m being anti-social in this aspect, but…social sites have turned anti-social.  One half hates the other half because both halves want the whole, and listening occurs less and less.  I have to admit that I would be shocked if more than one friend in my circle read this open letter to the world, but I’m the listener in the crowd of them; it’s not so much that I am more and more anti-social, but it’s getting too difficult to have a conversation or connection.  I don’t consider it giving up as much as finding out if there are people out there who think I’m worthy of a conversation instead of just worshipping folks for putting up with me.

It is possible…I have to believe that.  I cannot settle for less…less I don’t want to live for.

Dear reader, may you have a blessed and wonderous 2017; you are deserving of it. 🙏🏻✨🎉

#NightstandChronicle #TwentyOne #Meditation


I seem to be hooked on British stuff lately judging from the Nightstand, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  They may have Brexit, but we have Trump and a shooting by a cop every other day, so it’s six of one, half a dozen of another in my book.

Ishiguro is virgin territory for me–I’ve never read him before.  Get it out of your system and chide me now for the lacking in my literary exploration; as is my way, I don’t read books anymore unless they have a vitamin or mineral missing in my soul that I’m craving.  As to the Samuelsson memoir:  I’m working my way through Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” on Netflix and I’ve reached Ethiopia.  Bourdain may be a food god, but he’s got his cultural and literary prods as well.  (In other news, Bourdain wrote an intro to an excerpt of “Down and Out in Paris and London” in the latest issue of Lucky Peach, and when I found that out I felt a little more than validated.  Everyone likes Bourdain for the food–I stay with him for the writing and the relating to the world.)

*****

I’ve been playing chicken online for a couple of weeks or so; Jo tends to do this when she isn’t loved unconditionally.  I had been coasting through my morning meditations and that means letting the app play while I closed my eyes.  Sometimes I woke back up when I finished the session.  You don’t sleep through meditation; that’s the deepest form of resistance.

And then this afternoon I watched a baseball game batter by batter instead of “getting through the innings” and I realized the meditation was working.  Meditation, for me, is going to be like my thyroid meds; I am stuck doing it for life, and if I don’t do it then there may not be much life left.  I had coasted through baseball, work, waking hours in general for months now, and suddenly, this afternoon, watching a game that may not mean anything in October, I found the beauty of each pitch.  I stopped holding my breath through the ninth.  

I hesitate writing about this, but the other option is to give up social media until Lent, or through Lent, or in general.  I found I’m lousy at that, and I’m tired of self-censoring.  I also hesitate to write about this because then the adage bursts through in comments:  “If I hear one more person endorse or evangelize meditation I’m going to throw up.”  “Mediation doesn’t work for everyone.”  And other unrelated comments that will be designed to make me into an ogre.

You’re right, dear skeptic:  meditation does not work for everyone.  It does work for me.  It has taken 75 days of doing it daily to admit that, even though every day has not been a gem.  It has saved my life like it will never do for anyone else, because meditation is not designed to “fix” anything.  It’s my form of prayer in reverse.  I can breathe through so much of the judgment and ambivalence laid in my lap with meditation.  And I realized that I have been doing it my entire life, and when I deviate from it, I am not me.  

When I was a kid, I would do a lot of staring into middle distance, and my mother would leave me to it.  I was a bright kid and got good grades and the practice of checking out occasionally throughout the day worked for me, so she left it alone.  Once a friend in Missouri pointed it out as an aggravation, and my mother came to my defense:  “That place where she goes…that’s where her stories are.”  That’s still true, whether my mother is here to defend me or not.

About a week ago a similar point was made; someone confessed to me that they didn’t know “how I did” solitude so well.  The answer for me is simple and lost on most everyone else:  I’ve had to at various periods in the past.  When you are on the farm wanting and wanting of a city, wanting of a certain kind of music, wanting of a certain kind of connection…when you are in an apartment just off campus and wanting of a story, wanting of a belief, wanting of a culture…when you are in exile in a desert wanting of a relationship, wanting of an experience, wanting of a love…you stare into middle distance during these times and make peace with the wanting.  You find a memory to anchor you, and sail around it in that middle distance, and you use that little anchor to write better, be calmer, trust change. 

Baseball is better.  British literature is better, for now.  I needed Vitamin See and Iron Mineral and the same dosage of middle distance every morning, dispensed with water. ✍🏼  

#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.

So…

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?

Nope.

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 #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.🎶

#NightstandChronicleNine #Bookworm

  
Since there’s a “No nails in the wall” clause in my sublease at home, I am utilizing my work desk shelves (every cubicle has one) to build a bookworm.  At first I thought I would do it just for the summer, but I got carried away with cutting out the circles out of multi-colored cardstock and now I have no choice but to make a never-ending worm, one that in the wild would rival the lifeforms of the tree groves and mushroom patches in the forest.  I added three more books to the links this month:  “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, “Life After Life” by Karen Atkinson, and a re-read of “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg.  I try to read the Goldberg book every year, and sometimes I succeed.  Reading books on writing helps me to keep the pen moving.

Currently I’m almost invested in three books and the articles in The New Yorker, a sad fact that nothing is probably going to light me up for a while after “All the Light We Cannot See.”  That book is my favorite of all time, a declaration I have never been able to say before, and a distinction I’m still getting used to.  Curse the writer that makes a masterpiece look easy and read easy; now I don’t want to read anything ever again.  Still, I’m trying.  In addition to The New Yorker I am also trying to read:

  • A biography of Flannery O’Connor;
  • “The Book of Unknown Americans”
  • “Some Luck” by Jane Smiley

Smiley is a full-circle read–I saw her latest in the racks at the Carlsbad library, I met her four years ago at Litquake, and I’m going to Litquake this year.  I don’t want to repeat history, but I find joy in seasoning the present with it.

*****

Speaking of writing, I’m steeping in my writing side lately.  I’ve found that I am a better person when I do, like remembering to take vitamins and get enough exercise.  The average human is obligated to perform several bodily functions to keep from breaking down, and writers can add scribbling to their list.  At least, I can add scribbling to my list, or I get crabby and emotionally constipated.  (It’s okay if you say the analogy means I produce shit as a default–enough shit produces flowers and fruits on the farm, so I can take the analogy a step further.)  Since the weather has been hellish, and I am trying to save for a trip to San Francisco in October, I’ve been staying away from the usual San Diego jaunts and writing at an air-conditioned Starbucks on weekends.  So far it’s a lot of organization and sorting, but I’m calmer, and I’ve even got some creativity squeezed in.   

Here’s to expanding on that with the timing of the next post. *raises iced coffee in a toast*

#NightStandChronicleEight #BeachReads

  
San Diego has taken a turn for the worse and exchanged its regularly scheduled dry heat for something from the Midwest.  Drinking water is less of a priority, but the clinging to the preciousness of “it’s a dry heat” as a feel-good option no longer applies.  On Wednesday I went to a game at Petco Park and, despite the fact that the temperature in the seats and on the field never rose above 80, most of us were roasting and sunburned through the haze.

If the beach wasn’t crawling with people (most folks from Arizona, and I don’t blame them, as the dry heat argument never meant much to me either) I would be camped there with an umbrella and my stack of books.  Word on the streets is Penguin is offering a contest with two beach chairs, a blanket, a tote, and books; of course I signed up, but I’m still covered if the prize doesn’t fall into my eager arms.

Yes, Life After Life is still there, and I am back to being distracted by the library–therein lies the reason for the delay.  My little summer bookworm at work is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the library, but I thought I would slow things up a little and I’ve been reminded a lot lately of the segment of Invisible Man called “Battle Royal” when it’s packaged as a short story in the college anthologies, so I checked out the whole book.  It’s killing me to read and speaking to me to read and I know I will never know what it was/is like to live, so I am reading it.  It makes me angry.  I wish it made more people angry and motivated true change.

In the sidelines, too, are Life After Life, All the Light We Cannot See, the latest issue of The New Yorker, and a sample of the Harper Lee book that I am still debating on reading.  I hear it’s poorly written and therefore a fascinating study; part of me would love to know what my university professors thought of it.  If I were to take that whole book to the beach that would probably take me right into the sunset just reading to gobble the probabilities.  

Here’s to cooler climes, and a longer bookworm…*raises Sea Breeze*.