raindrops on roses
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tom has wholeheartedly embraced the new food storage containers. He’s practically giddy.
Our lives improve every time Tom gets completely exasperated. When the rabbit ears fell off the TV in a tangle of wires set for the eight gazillionth time, we finally got cable. When our oddball collection of food containers toppled out of the cabinet onto him for the seventeen gazillionth time, I bought new food containers. Tom has forgotten his look of dismay when I opened my trunk and revealed the giant box of food storage containers. Now, he’s a big fan. I am satisfied but still feel guilty about my callous rejection of our old food storage containers. Are we worthy of snapwear?
I’m going to get sappy with Steve Blow, whose column today are what he calls “pet delights.” I would have been more predictable and called them “pet pleasures” but I’m overly-fond of alliteration. ("Delights" is a newspaper word. Like "sumptuous." And "abounds." If it weren't for newspapers, those words would be obsolete.)
Plus, I have to quibble with Steve assurance that we’ll all know the joys of grandchildren some day.
I like the idea anyway. Counting life's little pleasures is like counting your blessings, but less smug.
Steve says being “in for the night” is good one. I know exactly what he means. My own version of that is those mornings when I wake and realize I have work to do and no pressing need to leave the house. I can fall into my own little routine of oatmeal in the morning, walking Jack at 3, and moving to the couch in the late afternoon, for tea and British reality shows and writing. Delightful.
Jack’s back feet are a pet pleasure.
My Thanksgiving Day walk is a pet pleasure. Our tradition is to cook at home and have people over but I always manage to fit a long aerobic walk amidst (another newspaper word) the cooking and baking. It’s a highlight of my day. (Along with the National Dog Show, which is an inspired new Thanksgiving TV tradition.) Today is balmy and bright and families in the neighborhood were loading pies and kids into their vehicles, tossing footballs on the lawn, sitting out on their patios. Holiday is definitely in the air and I feel fine.
Getting a sleeve set in right when I sew is a pet pleasure. Every time I do it and it doesn't look like crap, I get to feel a little bit proud of myself.
Afternoon sunlight is a pet pleasure. And Texas sunsets...well, I've waxed poetic about those too many times here. You know how I feel.
I have much to do before guests arrive so I will leave you to consider your own pet pleasures. Happy Thanksgiving and all that.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
This is the time for crafting thoughtful queries to dream markets. For polishing fiction. For gathering the courage to look at the book proposal I started a year ago and have let languish for many months. (I’m terrified to look—what sort of mess is it?)
Maybe nothing will come of any of this—that’s why it’s so easy to let it fall aside in favor of dull-but-paying work. But if not for this pie-in-the-sky work, why bother being a writer? OK, it’s not really pie in the sky. It’s more a shot in the dark. But I believe. I believe something will hit someday. Yes I do. (Do you know how much I want just one, really big success? It’s true. My friends know it. I want my 15 minutes.)
So at this time of year, I bake and write and sew and write and eat and write and my brain unclenches and I feel loose and creative and kind of fat, actually. There’s already far too much chocolate in this house.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I went through something similar a few years ago, when I started a Yahoogroup with my high school graduating class. We all rushed into each others’ arms, figuratively speaking, and had long, lively discussions that culminated in a real-life reunion.
Then, for the most part, we drifted. The discussion board fell silent. Certainly many of us kept in touch with a few people, but the group hug ended, our nostalgia was sated and we all returned to the present with a few new old friends in tow.
Nostalgia is a strange drug. I do crave a connection with my past and find it very soothing to find people from back in the day are still around. And it’s ego-gratifying to learn that they remember me as well.
At the same time, nostalgia feels a little bit dangerous. It is an appreciation of the past, yes, but indulging in it too deeply seems an extended form of mourning for that which is gone and irretrievable. What does it mean to remember the details of the past? Perhaps I will write about these things some day (indeed, I am considering it) but beyond that … ?
The memories we are sharing this week are very dear to us all. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to get verklempt at some of the photos and memories, especially since many are of people long gone. And having other people fill in the (many) blanks in my memory also is thrilling, making my sketchy memories more vivid. It’s also fascinating to view this special time and place from different perspectives.
But I am already looking past this flush of nostalgic excitement to when we have worn the memories thin. Will we have anything to talk about then? I hope so. I hope all this adds up to more than just some new photos for my album and details for my reminiscences.
Reconnecting with people from my past is exciting not only because they were important to me then, but also because they are interesting people now. My wish is that the past and the present will combine to create a future.
primitive writing tools
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The first draft, with my editors' comments in non-repro blue pencil, is typed on low quality onion skin paper. My editing own marks are in blue pen.
The full article appears to be a photocopy of that original without the mark-up.
You should be able to enlarge these images by clicking on them, should you be so inclined. I wish I could find the published version but it's buried deep in the garage somewhere.
Not bad for a first time out, IMO. (A moment to remember the late Tom Hynds and his wonderful store). And gotta love my prescient last line: "Looking ahead to 1990: don't throw out that lava lamp."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
First, another trip to Maine, this time with friends. Does anyone look familiar to anyone? (Too bad about the coffee stains.)
A couple of random pages. That's my Grandma Fanny up in the corner there. The caption on the beach scene says "Labor Day 1981." The boat says "Jones Beach." This is good because it confirms for me once and for all that I moved to Dallas in early 1982. I never could quite remember. Sad, really...
And brother Nick.
Using my imagination.
I have no idea if this one was real or imagined, I just like it.
And finally, I was tickled to find this sketch:
Which became this mailer:
I sent this out when I first moved to Dallas. It got me lots of work, including at The Dallas Morning News, beginning the chain of events that brought me where I am today.
Tomorrow, I think I'll scan and post my very first story for the newspaper, which I also just found. I wrote it on a used electric typewriter I bought for $100 when I decided to be a writer in my spare time. I'm so old.
texas travel (and beyond)
Sunday, November 16, 2008
All is Calm
Soothing getaways in Texas and neighboring states
For all the joys of the holidays, they’re stressful, too. So much running and buying and cooking and partying and chattering and singing and overeating and overdrinking and over-everything… What you need most for the holidays may be some peace and quiet.
Let us help with some suggestions for places to go where you can calm the clamor in your head and recalibrate.
Back to the womb
If you’re in charge of decking all halls and cooking all figgy puddings, relinquish control to Watsu Aquatic Massage therapist at The Crossings spa in Austin. Done in a private pool kept at body temperature, Watsu massage requires putting yourself completely into the hands of the therapist, who manipulates you through the water, gently encouraging you to make like seaweed and drift, folding and unfolding you and then keeping you perfectly still, suspended in the water, for a mind-altering interval of total peace. (50 minutes/$120; 877-944-3003)
Neither here nor there
You know those picnic areas you blast past on your way to grandmother’s house? Not just the rest areas—we all stop there when nature calls. But even those spots with nothing but picnic tables and views can help take the edge off your drive.
When the kids are whining and your hands are locking into claws around the steering wheel and the car is trashed as a frat house the morning after, try one. They’re intentionally built in pretty spots and offer a break from the road to let the kids blow off steam, stretch your legs, and appreciate the scenery without a dashboard between you and the view. Actual picnicking is optional.
Tub on the range
Slip into the outdoor hot tub at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and try to decide which is more soothing—the hot water or the long view of rolling hills. This is among the premier hot tub sites in Texas. To enjoy it, book into the Wildcatter, a 1,500-acre property near Graham, Texas. The ranch recently added to its luxury suites, opening a hotel with 19 additional rooms. (940-549-3500 or 888-462-9277; rooms from $109)
Padre Island National Seashore is sea and shore and grass and sky and birds and little else. This is the largest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. Push south, past Malaquite Beach, and find a stretch of primitive shore to stroll while you let the wind (and there will be one) blow the clutter from your mind.
For nature less raw, splurge on a tank of gas and head for the Matagorda Bay RV Park, inside Matagorda Bay Nature Park. This pretty 70-site park is on the gulf, within walking distance of the beach, Colorado River, and fishing piers. ($25 a night; reservations through Texas State Parks at 512-389-8900; for information 979-863-7120)
Basic maintenance enhanced
Sure, you can get a quick mani-pedi at your favorite strip center nail salon. But better to take a much-needed pause with a mani-pedi at the San Saba Spa at Lakeway Resort in Austin. Here, the chairs all face a wall of window overlooking pool and lake. Order a cocktail if you like, and fix your gaze out past the pool, past the terrace restaurant, to the calming waters of Lake Travis. (512-261-6600 , manicures from $40, pedicures from $65)
Calm after the storm
The San Luis Resort, Spa and Conference Center on Seawall Boulevard survived Hurricane Ike relatively unscathed and did its part housing relief workers. Now it's ready to welcome you back. Splurge on a stylish ocean-view room on the newly renovated 10th floor, called Club Ten. After a hot toddy by the fire pit at H2O, the resort's snazzy new poolside bar, retreat to the hush of your spacious room and indulge in all the amenities today's luxury standards require, from king beds to continental breakfast. (409-744-1500; Club Ten doubles from $269)
Where the wind comes sweeping
It’s rush hour traffic at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Pawhuska when the bison cross the road. This 39,000-acre preserve is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie on Earth, Most of this Nature Conservancy site is drive-through, but a couple of hiking trails lead out to the middle of the gently rustling sea of grass. In winter, look for migrating raptors such as bald eagles, rough-legged owls and short-eared owls. (Open daily dawn to dusk, free)
Lay down your head for the night high over nearby Bartlesville, in Frank Lloyd Wright’s circa 1956 cantilevered skyscraper. The Inn at Price Tower occupies floors seven to 14 of Wright’s tree-inspired building. (877-424-2424; from $145 double)
If petting a house cat lowers stress, imagine what petting a Eurasian lynx can do. The Little River Zoo in Norman, 60 wooded acres, is a rescue operation (though they don’t like that word), adopting lab monkeys whose jobs are done, exotic pets whose owners couldn’t keep them and animals from other zoos, for sundry reasons. Pop in on Christmas Day to bless the beasts. They’ll be waiting for you.(405-366-7229; Open 10-5 every day, tours are 90 minutes, $7 adults, $4 children, $5 seniors, free for under age 3)
Sounds of silence
Rent a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis from a local outfitter such Alpine Sports, near the Santa Fe Plaza (121 Sandoval St., $15/day) and drive about 13 miles into the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the Aspen Vista Trail, a wide, groomed 12-mile trail through the hushed, snowy forest.
The recently renovated La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa is six intimate acres laced with paths among gardens and adobe casitas. Tuck yourself into a room or suite with a fireplace (some gas, some wood-burning) and you’ll feel a million miles from the bustle of Santa Fe Plaza, just a couple of blocks away. Put in a few hours of holiday shopping then retire to your room, open a bottle of wine, and gaze into the fire. (866-331-ROCK or 505-986-0000, fireplace doubles from $297)
Going to the chapel
Thorncrown Chapel is a glass chapel in the woods, tucked into the Ozark Mountains by Eureka Springs. The 48-foot tall wooden structure is all windows onto nature. Designed by E. Fay Jones, the building is fourth on the list of the American Institute of Architects’ top buildings of the 20th century. (479-253-7401; Sunday service at 11 a.m. in Nov. and Dec., call or check the Web site for visiting hours.)
Garvan Woodland Gardens, in Hot Springs, is a getaway in its own right and has a chapel of the same soaring design, built by Mr. Jones’ architectural firm. To avoid crowds, visit in daytime because the gardens have an enormous and popular holiday lights show. (800-366-4664 or 501-262-9300; adults, $8, seniors $7, children $4, age 5 and under free)
Tell it on the mountain
Nothing stands atop Arkansas’ tallest peak but the Lodge at Mount Magazine. Rooms in the lodge all have views, but we suggest renting a one-, two- or three-bedroom cabin for a hot tub on the wraparound porch. No need to leave the mountain unless you want to; cabins have kitchens or dine by the giant stone fireplace in the lodge restaurant. (1-877-665-6343; cabins from $199)
Into the woods
By design, you might not encounter anyone at all except the people you’re with at Little River Bluffs, a nature reserve and retreat of three cabins on the Little Tchefuncte River (great for swimming in summertime). All three cabins have fireplaces and the Meadow Cabin has central heating as well. Explore the woods of the 50-acre property in St. Tammany Parish (some consider it New Orleans north), then retire to your cabin and cuddle. (985-796-5257; rates from $195 for two weeknights.)
Dig the swamp
Laid back McGee’s Landing, in Henderson, La., has decks right on the Henderson swamp. When celebs such as Robert Plant and Paul Simon want Cajun cooking without fanfare, they come here. Pop in for some alligator or gar balls or hunker down for a few days in cabin floating on the Atchafalaya. (Is it a houseboat if it doesn’t go anywhere?) No phone, no TV, just a screened-in porch—and heat, fridge, microwave and coffee maker. (337-228-2384; cabins from $100/night with a two night minimum.)
sunday morn porn
Jimbo! Can't you see she's not feeling well? Give her a break.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Long time wearer, first time writer…
I usually love your shoes and own many pairs, but I must complain about a design flaw in a pair I thought I would love.
The first time ever I saw your little brown ballet flats, the angels sang. Remember?
But a couple of hours into their first outing, I realized that these shoes are actually the work of the DEVIL HIMSELF.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Note, if you will, the back of the shoe, which curves up into a devious Achilles-shredding point. No flesh, no Band-Aid can hold up under this crippling, hard-edged curve. What were you thinking, Børn?
I have tried wearing these cute cruel shoes a couple of times since that first attempt, heavily fortifying my heels with Band-Aids. But I invariably ended up limping and finishing my day out walking from car to door in my bare or stocking feet, so anxious was I to free myself from the agony.
And so, the shoes must go.
They are barely worn, Børn, but should I donate them to charity, as I do my other not-too-worn clothes? Or is that just passing the cruel buck?
You have disappointed me, Børn. Deeply. In penance, I think you should walk a mile in my shoes. These shoes.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I don’t live in a different universe, I live in a different state. Excuuuuuuuuuuuse me.
I was supposed to feel ashamed of my shortcomings but screw it.
I often can’t get a word in edgewise around New Yorkers, either. I’ve got that whole Southern thing going on of waiting my turn to speak and sometimes found myself waiting for turns that never came. I just smile like a nice Southern lady and let people talk.
I’m trying to decide if I feel bad about all this or not. In the big picture, being able to step into Broadway against the light when a van is hurtling towards me at 50 mph is not a terribly important skill. It’s not even a skill, it’s cojones. I got your cojones, only they’re put to different uses these days. I can drive on Texas highways, for example.
What other skills have I developed in my years in Texas? I can chitchat about the weather. I can recognize the difference between real and phony friendliness. I can eat spicy food at any time of the day or night and identify any number of different peppers. I can speak entire sentences—paragraphs, even—without saying “fuck.” I rarely choose to, but can if I must.
Oh, yeah, only marginally related, but this reminds me of an incident last week, when Jack and I had a mix-up with three loose dogs on our walk. One was a big, muscular, scary bull terrier that ran across a street at us with a little black-and-white doggie buddy and his owner, a Hispanic teen boy, in hot pursuit. The third dog was trotting up to us from a different direction and managed to back away from the fracas that ensued when the two other dogs approached, despite Jack’s growling and lunging.
Jack got hold of the little black-and-white dog and shook it up real good to show the bull terrier how badass he is. Seemed to work and good thing—if Jack and the bull terrier had gotten into it, there would have been nothing anyone could do. The bull terrier stayed back, though (I also used my ultrasound zapper on him and that helped), Jack let the little dog go and we were able to move along,. But it was one scary clusterfuck, with both me and the teenager tugging at Jack’s leash to try to get him to drop the pup. (I really didn’t need the boy’s help, he should have been dealing with his bull terrier.)
At any rate, I did have a great deal of fun of yelling, "GET THIS FUCKING DOG OUTTA HERE!" at the top of my lungs on a Dallas street. And I do believe Jack and I have clinched our reputation in this neighborhood. Don’t fuck with either of us. I may suck at jaywalking but I can still cuss like a Yankee.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Change of subject…
The contractions in the newspaper business continue. I got three emails yesterday alone from the editor of the syndicate I write for about travel editors moving on, travel sections being folded into other sections. One editor who is taking a buyout urged others to keep fighting the good fight but that’s easy for him to say. There is no real fight anymore, it’s just scrambling for dry ground while the ship sinks.
You’ll miss newspapers when they’re gone and TV news talking heads are forced to just make shit up.
Change of subject…
How many old CD racks do you have floating around your house? As technology becomes obsolete, so do the peripherals surrounding it. What shall we use those CD racks for? They look like toast racks but who eats that much toast? My brother had a big standing wire CD rack he was getting rid of but before he chucked it, we set it on the coffee table and considered the possibilities for a while. The only even marginal idea we came up with was for storing jewelry—you could clip earrings on it and with hooks, hang necklaces. In the end, though, he threw it away. Whoever comes up with a solution to this question could make a million dollars. And then move on to repurposing cassette tape racks.
Change of subject...
Looky, the goddam shoe wheel now comes in pink. Perhaps that would make a good gift?
Tom actually unpacked the giant box of food storage containers. Hold me, I'm frightened...
Change of subject...
Speaking of gifts, surely you know someone who would love this. Or maybe this.
OK, I think I've run out of random thoughts for the moment.
contemplating social comparison
Thursday, November 6, 2008
We all do it. No, don’t argue, we do. Upward social comparison is when we compare ourselves to people who are somehow considered better than us, downward is the opposite, of course. We probably all do both. We do a little upward and that makes us feel bad, then we do a little downward to cheer ourselves up. But then we feel bad about thinking ourselves better than someone else so we do a little upward to put ourselves in our place. And then we feel bad and do a little downward….
I had opportunity to do a lot of social comparison at the writers’ conference I attended a couple of weeks ago. Nothing like being tossed into a group of other writers to get me thinking about my place in the food chain. I see-sawed up and down madly in my own head, from cocky to cowed, cowed to cocky. It was the hardest part of the conference.
Social comparison is not fun but it can be useful if you use the upward social comparison for motivation, to set goals and to fine-tune your ambitions.
At the conference I had to cycle through feelings of inadequacy before I could think rationally about the comparisons. Once I stopped feeling chopped livery, I started carefully considering the careers of the more successful writers and figuring out whose careers I would want and who spent their time doing work that is unappealing to me. This is helping me figure out in what direction to ratchet up my career.
One writer in particular is published all over the damn place and I have suffered terribly in social comparison with her. But when I started looking closely at what she does, I realized that while I envy her income, I would not particularly enjoy doing the kind of work she does. This was a nice epiphany because it allows me to now admire her success without envy. And it helped illuminate the path ahead for me.
Social comparison can be brutal because no matter how successful (or pretty or thin or rich or whatever) we are, there will always be others who are more so. That can be discouraging if we let it. I try to find motivation in social comparison. “I want to be like that!” It's not easy to take the positive route but I try.
Oddly, I have found myself making social comparisons with Barack and Michelle Obama. It sounds silly, but I am fascinated by them—by their intelligence, their ease with their social and professional stature and by what they have that I don’t (aside from Ivy League educations).
I guess social comparison is what draws some voters to people like Sarah Palin. The ego is soothed to see someone we can relate to in a position of power, whereas an elite intelligence makes us feel thick and slow. (Palin is clearly an elite politician, but that’s a different kind of smarts.) Some people resent any sort of conversation they consider highbrow and interpret it as some sort of personal insult. That is the destructive side of social comparison and it’s tiresome. I have no patience with pretension, but I don’t mind struggling to lift myself up. The payoff can be big.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The idea that we will have a president with whom I agree on the basic matters of how our society should function makes me almost giddy. Well, it would make me giddy if I didn’t feel so worn down and bruised by the endless campaign.
I will always defend Texas from Yankee scorn but at the same time, living blue among the red, atheist among the religious right, feminist among the whatever the hell anti-feminist women think they are—is wearing. I’ve spent so many years biting my tongue, trying not to argue belief systems (logic doesn’t work, that’s why they’re beliefs) and loving the sinners while hating the sins that I now suddenly find myself with the urge to call “bullshit” right and left.
The other day at lunch, a friend said she hated both candidates but that she was afraid of Obama because he’s a SOCIALIST and she didn’t want him taking her HARD EARNED MONEY and giving it to HOMELESS PEOPLE who JUST DON'T WANT TO WORK. I muttered something about the working poor and then summed it up by saying, “We have a philosophical difference,” and changed the subject. She’s a friend, after all. But my wussiness has bugged me ever since. My only consolation is that she had already voted so I didn’t actually miss an opportunity to convert an undecided.
Still, I’m starting to wonder if my decision, made long ago, to avoid making waves in my adopted home, is the right one. And I find myself increasingly unable to just keep my mouth shut at opinions that annoy me. In a way, Obama’s victory feels personally empowering, a validation of beliefs that I’ve had to keep my mouth closed on for so many years.
So, you know what I’m saying, don’t you? I’m about to be more annoying than ever.
And by the way, Yankee friends--Obama lost Texas but he won Dallas County. And that makes me happy.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
What would it be like to be Barack Obama, so close to being the first African-American president of the United States of America? I mean really. Stop reading, sit very, very still, and try to imagine what that might feel like.
And Michelle? How does it feel for her, to have the guy she wakes up to every morning that close to being the first African-American president of the United States of America?
And imagine being Obama's grandmother, taking her last breaths, knowing that her little boy was that close to being the first African-American president of the United States of America.
My gosh, the accomplishment of being elected president at all is breathtaking, minus breaking the color barrier.
Quite often, dying people manage to hang on just long enough for an important event—wedding, holiday, birth. I thought about that when I heard about Obama’s grandmother dying. Maybe she didn’t want to know. Maybe seeing Barack come this close was enough joy for her and she didn’t want or need to know the outcome of the election. Maybe not knowing was preferable to the chance that she would live to see him lose.
We’re all so sick of this election, I hesitate to bring it up at all. But to leave it unmarked would be wrong. And I am moved by it. I am verklempt.
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